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The Marked

Chapter Text

“God damn it!” Rose cursed as the three bottles of wine rolled off the display shelf. Blessedly, none of them broke. Unblessedly, one landed on her toe of her plimsoll. “Fuck,” she whispered fiercely as she danced about, trying to keep her foot in the air while clenching her fists at her sides.

“Rose, language!” a pretentious voice scolded from behind her.

“Sorry,” Rose apologized through clenched teeth. Bending over, she scooped up a couple of the bottles and returned them to their place on the display.

“If I’d had need of a lorry driver when I hired you, I would’ve instructed you to add more colourful expletives to your verbal repertoire,” Cassandra drawled. “As it is, I’m paying you to be polite and genteel, so if you’d please live up to those very realistic expectations I’d be grateful,” she added unnecessarily.

“Yes, Ma’am,” Rose replied, wishing for all the world she could actually say what she was thinking instead. Bloody pretentious…

“When you’re done picking up, relieve Madge at the till, will you?” Cassandra instructed before turning on her heel and heading into the back office. Cow.

Straightening up after the last bottle was replaced, Rose limped up to the front. “I’ve got it, Madge,” she said as she slid behind the smaller woman at the till.

“Thanks, love,” Madge said, giving her a tired smile before grabbing up her purse which she’d tucked under the register. “I’m off. Gotta figure out somethin’ to feed the kids and then get them both to footie practice,” she informed her. “I hate Mondays.”

“Yeah, me too,” Rose agreed.

And she did. She hated Monday. Not every Monday, mind. Pretty much just this one. The weekend had been a really, really tough one, what with Jimmy having his latest gig cancelled and her mum being on her case about wasting her life at the wine store… it’d been too much. And she really wasn’t looking forward to having to deal with Jimmy’s unrealistic expectations of her tonight. The flat was never clean enough… the food was never good enough… nothing she did was ever enough. Shaking her head, she sighed aloud. Why had she agreed to move in with him again? She’d already realized she didn’t really love him before she’d even done it. But he’d asked her to move in at a time of weakness, with her mum just having finished ragging on her for dating ‘a controlling, selfish arse,’ and in the end she’d said yes, mostly out of spite for her mum. That had been only a month ago, but she was already regretting it.

“Well - hopefully it won’t be too busy tonight,” Madge sympathized, pulling her from her depressing thoughts.

“Yeah,” Rose agreed, doubting her hopes would come true. There was a game on telly tonight and that usually meant a crazy rush at the store just beforehand.

“Bye,” Madge waved as she made her way toward the exit.

“Bye,” Rose called. “Tell Lily and Cyril good luck in their games,” she added.

“Will do,” Madge agreed just before the door closed behind her.

Watching after her, Rose stared out the window just across from the till. It wasn’t raining for a change, which was nice. At least today wasn’t all bad.

Kneeling down behind the counter to straighten the bags, she heard her manager’s pretentious voice rag on Jamie in the back for not having stacked the Australian Merlot in the right spot. Blimey. She was such a bitch.

Once again, Rose found herself wondering where she’d be right now if she’d taken her absentee dad up on his offer to learn the family business. She wouldn’t be here, that’s for sure. She’d probably be sitting in some big penthouse office at Vitex Industries right now getting her nails done.

The bells over the door jingled, pulling her from her thoughts. Putting on her patented ‘happy shop girl smile,’ she straightened up. Without trying, her smile immediately became genuine. “Donna!”

“Hello, Blondie!” Donna said enthusiastically, smiling back.

“I haven’t seen you in ages!” Rose observed. If her boss wasn’t lurking in the back she might’ve actually gone round the counter to hug her. “How’s my favourite customer?”

“I figured you’d probably picked a new favourite by now,” Donna replied apologetically, walking up to the counter.

“Never,” Rose assured her with a large smile.

“Aw, you’re a love,” Donna said, reaching the till. “I snagged a job as a receptionist at the dental office of my brother’s flatmate, so I was trying this new diet… no coffee, no tea, no fizzy drinks, no wine… you know - to keep my teeth healthy. It was a bloody terrible idea. All it did was give me migraines. Anyway - I’m embracing my stained and sugar soaked teeth and I’m working on increasing my alcohol tolerance again,” she admitted.

“Well, I’m glad you came in,” Rose admitted.

“Yeah - sorry for not dropping by. I knew if I came in I’d give in and buy a bottle,” she explained.

“Oh, no worries,” Rose said, waving her hand. “Can I help you find something, then?” she offered.

“Nah - I’m just going to pick up where I left off… with my usual plonk,” she admitted. “It’s still where I left it?” she asked.

“Yup - aisle three,” Rose replied with a nod.

“Thanks, love,” Donna said before heading in that direction.

Donna had been a regular customer of the store since Rose began working here a year and a half ago, and it wasn’t long into her tenure that they’d struck up a conversation one afternoon when the store was quiet. It was evident right away that Donna was a smart woman with a brilliant, dry sense of humour. Rose immediately liked her.

Coming back up to the till with her bottle of cheap Italian red, Donna put it down and pulled her wallet out of her purse.

“That’s €4.50,” Rose said automatically as she pulled a bag out from under the counter to sheath the bottle.

“What? Blimey! I hop on the wagon for a few miles and the prices go through the roof,” Donna complained.

Giving her friend a lopsided grin, Rose replied, “Nothing good comes of diets, Donna,” she said wisely.

“Apparently,” Donna grumbled, fishing a fiver out of her wallet and handing it over.

Opening the till, Rose switched the bill for some change. “Here you go,” she said, handing it over to the ginger across from her. “Partying tonight, then?” Rose asked, handing her the bagged bottle.

Donna rolled her eyes. “I wish. Dr. Smith opens shop at half bloody seven in the morning. No partying for me on weekdays,” she observed. “But at least the money’s good. Can’t complain about the benefits either. The doctor’s a bit odd, but then what boss isn’t?” she added. “Helps that he’s my brother’s flatmate - he can’t fire me without pissing off the landlord,” she observed.

“Well good for you. I’m glad you’ve found something you’re liking,” Rose commented, truly happy for her.

“Yeah - Oh hey, listen… I was wondering if I could drop off a flyer for your window? My brother is heading a campaign against Saxon’s latest bill that’s going through congress. You know - the one against people with the mark?”

Rose remotely recalled something about that in the news. “Is that the one where he’s trying to have them all registered?”

“Yeah. And you know what’s next, right? Hitler did the same thing with the Jews,” Donna pointed out. “From there it’s a slippery slope, as far as my brother’s concerned. And he’s probably right. I feel bad for ‘em; the marked. It’s not like they asked for it, did they?” she reasoned.

Rose nodded in agreement. In honesty, the issue of the mark hadn’t really affected Rose much up until now, so she’d really not thought much about it. Having one was relatively rare, as far as she knew. No one in her circle of friends was marked, though it was early days, she supposed. “Drop it by and I’ll ask Cassandra, but honestly I’m not sure she’ll be alright with it,” she offered. “She’s a bit backward, my boss,” she said lowly.

And she sure was. Had opinions on everything. Immigrants, the poor, food stamps… she’d clearly never known anyone outside her posh set of friends. As far as the mark went, Rose already knew she sneered at those who had it.

“Thanks. Well - I’m off. I’ll drop off that flyer tomorrow, if that’s okay?” she suggested.

“I’ll be here,” Rose assured her. Where else would she be?

The jingle of the bells over the door heralded the arrival of an older couple into the store. “See ya,” Donna called with a wave on her way out of the shop.

“Bye,” Rose called back, unable to reflect at all on their conversation before the newly arrived customers stepped up to the counter. “Excuse me, we’re looking for some wine.”

Rose looked around the store. It was a wine store. That’s pretty much all they had. Looking back at her latest customers, she put on her trademark smile. “Well, you’re in luck, then,” she said as cheerily as she could. It was going to be a long night.

OoOoOoOoOoO

Rose opened the flat door as quietly as she could and stepped inside. It was silent. Good. She really didn’t feel like dealing with Jimmy’s mood at the moment. The shift at the shop was everything she’d hoped it wouldn’t be. Crazy busy with far too many drunks coming in after the game to pick up a conciliatory box of wine.

Depositing her keys quietly on kitchen counter she opened the fridge and grabbed up the carton of milk. Opening the top, she stuck her nose in the opening and took a sniff. Still good. Well at least that was good.

Grabbing a cup from the cupboard beside the fridge, she poured the milk and took a long pull from the glass.

“Where you been?”

Jumping out of her skin and spilling her glass of milk in the process, Rose let out a distinctly undignified squeak. “Fuck! Blimey, Jimmy! You scared the shit outta me!” she chastised.

“Where were you?” he slurred, ignoring her recrimination.

“Working,” she answered sharply, not missing the drunken slur. “Fuck,” she said again, looking at the puddle of milk at her feet. Grabbing up a towel, she kneeled and began wiping it up.

“At this hour?” Jimmy countered, his eyes narrowing.

“Yeah. It’s only half twelve. I worked til midnight,” she informed him.

“Look,” he warned, “Don’t start gettin’ pissy with me. How’m I supposed to know where you been? All these bloody ‘friends’ of yours are callin’ you day an’ night. You could be anywhere,” he accused.

Closing her eyes, Rose tried to summon some patience. “Can we just leave this for tonight, Jimmy? I’m tired and honestly, I’m not up to arguing,” she shared. Turning on the sink to rinse the milk soaked towel, she stuck it under the running water.

“You’re always sayin’ you’re at fuckin’ work. You know what I think?” he slurred. “I think you’re takin’ money from your dad and you’re just fuckin’... slaggin’ off somewhere when you’re not here,” he accused.

Anger pinched Rose’s lips into a tight line. “I’m not taking his money,” she intoned. “You know I’m not taking his money and you know why.”

Jimmy blew a disbelieving breath through his lips. “Why? Because you’re too fuckin’ proud?” he baited. “My dad ran out on my pregnant mum - poor fuckin’ me. That’s such bullshit. I bet you’ve been holdin’ out on me, haven’t ya? You’ve probably been takin’ his money for months. You’ve got bloody wads of cash stashed somewhere and you’re off livin’ the life while I’m out there workin’ my arse off!”

“Leave it, Jimmy,” she intoned, forcefully wringing out the sopping towel in her hands.

“Don’t you fuckin’ write me off, Miss Vitex Princess,” he countered, his eyes narrowing. Moving in closer, he studied her face. “You’re fuckin’ around on me, aren’t ya?”

“Jesus. Really?” Rose said, throwing the damp towel into the sink. “Why would I move in with a bloke and then promptly go out and shag someone else?”

That seemed to tip him off balance a bit, and for a moment he looked at her stupidly before screwing up his face in anger. “Because you’re a slag, that’s why!” he accused. “And… you’re probably one of those god damn mutants as well!” he barked.

“Oh, my god,” she said tiredly.

“That’s it, isn’t it? You’re one of those reject genetic freaks! Usin’ your fuckin’ freaky head powers to make me attracted to you!”

Slumping a bit, Rose sighed. “Good-night, Jimmy.” With that, she stepped around him to head down the hall. She couldn’t argue with him when he drank - there was no point.

“Don’t you fuckin’ walk away from me, bitch!” he shouted behind her.

As much as her very last nerve was singing with agitation, she determinedly ignored him and continued down the hall. Anything she could possibly say was pointless. Better to walk away and deal with this tomorrow when he was sober.

She was about to step into the bathroom when he caught the length of her hair in his fist and yanked her backward, pulling a sharp cry from her lips.

“I told you not to walk away! Are you fuckin’ deaf?!” he bellowed, his face only an inch from her own as he held her by the hair.

“Let me go!” Rose demanded, reaching to try to dislodge his hand.

“You want me to let you go?! I’ll bloody let you go!” he hollered. Suddenly, he pulled her back, only to throw her forcefully into the wall.

Pain exploded as her nose and mouth hit the unforgiving surface and stars filled her vision. Thick liquid wet the skin of her face as she slid down the wall.

“Fuckin’ whore!” she heard Jimmy shout from somewhere above her. With that, a solid kick to her hip made her cry out. Another blow followed on the heels of the first, this time landing squarely in her ribs and causing an explosion of pain that literally took her breath away.

Heavy breaths issued from the man above her for a moment as she gasped for breath and braced for another blow. It didn’t come though. Instead, he began pacing. “God damn it!” he suddenly lamented. “God fuckin’ damnit, Rose! Now look what you’ve done!”

Lying in a ball on the floor, the terrifying reality her situation sunk in. He could kill her. She’d never, ever have dreamt he would be capable of this, but now here she was. And what was stopping him from finishing her off?

Vaguely she became aware of a knock at the door.

“Fuck!” Jimmy cursed. For a moment he stood above her. Agitation vibrated the air around him.

Another knock, more insistent this time, echoed through the flat. “Oi! Everything okay in there?” a weak voice followed.

“You stay here,” he whispered at her fiercely before stomping down the hall.

For a moment Rose lay frozen in her pain, trying to think through the haze of adrenaline. She should try to get out. Clearly she had to leave. She had to get help.

Gingerly she tried rolling onto all fours, but a stabbing pain in her chest made her stop and bite her lip to keep from crying out. ’Move! Move, or he’ll just come back and finish it!’ her own panicked mind supplied.

Determinedly, she held her breath and pushed away the incredible pain to climb to her feet. Grey spots danced before her eyes but she managed to stay upright. She had to make it to the door. Staggering down the hall toward the front of the flat, she screwed up her courage and edged up behind Jimmy who was talking to someone. “Everything’s fine, Mr. Donnelly,” she heard him slur. “Rose’s jus’ havin’ another temper tantrum. You know what women are like.”

An elderly man’s voice floated back into the flat through the small gap in the cracked open door, but she couldn’t make out what he was saying. This was her chance. Terrified but determined, she moved up behind Jimmy and, using every ounce of adrenaline pulsing through her, she pushed him, knocking him off balance. Grabbing the door, she threw it open.

On the other side, their neighbour stood looking at her in shock.

“Help me.” With that, she collapsed on the floor at his feet.

Chapter Text

Lying in the sterile room, Rose stared mindlessly up at the telly, trying to ignore the itch just under the bandage on her nose and the sting of her swollen lips. It’d been a long day, with nurses coming in and out of her room, checking her vitals and doctors coming in to let her know results of tests. On top of that, her mum had been there when she’d woken and had wasted no time in interrogating her between wiping her own tears and peppering her with worried forehead kisses. It took one of her kind nurses finally telling her mum that Rose should get some rest before she’d finally reluctantly given in and left for the evening. She could’ve kissed him, that nurse.

In all, she’d suffered a punctured lung, a broken rib and a broken nose, not to mention a broken tooth. The physical pain wasn’t even the worst of it, though. The worst of it all was the humiliation. How could she have been so stupid? How could she not have known he was capable of this?

Looking back now, she saw the warning signs. His jealousy. His temper. His need to know where she was at every hour of the day. At first she’d thought it was kind of sweet. That he cared about her so much that he worried for her. It quickly became tiresome, though, and even before she’d moved in with him a month ago she’d been losing patience with it. She’d honestly never thought though… how could this have happened to her? How did she end up here… lying in a hospital bed because her abusive boyfriend had beaten the shit out of her. It was barmy. Never in a million years would she ever have thought she’d be in this position. She’d wanted so much more for herself than this.

When she was younger she’d imagined herself having started Uni by now, studying something cool like art or design. She’d thought by twenty she’d have met some fantastic, supportive bloke who she’d be head over heels for. Instead, she was working in a thankless job making crap money living with a guy she never really loved. Inwardly she shook her head. There had to be more out there for her than this.

From inside her cloud of sad thoughts, she became vaguely aware that the soap she’d been numbly staring at was being interrupted by a ‘News Flash.’ George Alagiah’s authoritative news anchor voice further dragged her back to here and now.

“Good afternoon. We’re interrupting our regularly scheduled programing with breaking news. This afternoon, Prime Minister Harold Saxon’s controversial bill, Bill 316, was passed in the House of Lords. The bill states that in the interest of national security, all those with the mark are to be signed on to a national registry. Those on the registry will be required to submit DNA samples that will be cross referenced with those collected at terrorist incidents and crime scenes across the country over the last five years. It is estimated that this bill will affect upwards of 30 000 people in the UK. The Prime Minister is scheduled to address the press tonight from Parliament.”

Blimey. This whole ‘marked’ thing was getting ridiculous. For a moment she wondered what it would like; living with the mark. It would be awful, she was sure. Especially nowadays. Lately it wasn’t uncommon to see news stories of people with the mark being denied service in stores or even being beaten by paranoid, closed-minded arseholes. It was sickening. These poor people were just trying to go about their lives and take care of their families, just like everyone else. And it was bad enough that idiot protectionist rednecks were targeting these poor people, but even their own churches were turning against them, accusing them of turning away from God.

Not that her own family were much more open-minded, she’d discovered. The aunts and uncles she’d grown up with had always been sort of negative about people with the mark, but it wasn’t until Saxon had campaigned and won the election on anti-mark sentiment that their true colours began to show. Even her own Nan had surprised her and blurted out her distaste for people with it. “I’ve heard they read people’s minds,” she’d said. “Unnatural, if you ask me. If you ask your Auntie Sarah she’ll tell you it’s a sign of the devil… Satan’s way of bringing together his minions by making them attracted to each other. I think that’s a bit much, but, then, to each their own,” she’d added.

Her own Mom never really talked about it, that she could recall, and certainly never spoke negatively about those with the mark; not to Rose, anyway. She’d never really considered that fact before, but now that all this was happening, she realized how much she admired her Mom for that. She could easily have given into the kind of slander Rose was hearing so much of nowadays, but she hadn’t.

Personally, Rose honestly didn’t really see why so many people saw the mark as a such bad thing. From what she’d gathered, people who had the potential to be ‘marked’ only became so if they met a person they were somehow cosmically meant to be ‘bonded’ with. Frankly, as far as she was concerned, being attracted to someone because of some biological ‘calling’ was just as valid as deciding to be with someone. She’d bloody ‘decided’, and look where it got her! Still, she supposed if all the rumours about the mind-reading stuff was true, that would explain people’s fears. No one wanted to imagine their private thoughts were being heard by someone without their permission. Then again, all that telepathic stuff was probably a load of rubbish; lies cooked up to make people more afraid. It was all just sad, as far as she was concerned.

“... but that isn’t stopping the thousands of people tonight from coming out to voice their concerns about the bill.” The telly screen was now filled with angry protesters gathering in front of the parliament and 10 Downing, holding up signs like ‘Saxon Sucks,’ ‘Marked Rights are Human Rights,’ ‘Let Love Live Here,’ and ‘Not my Prime Minister.’

“This bill is affecting not only the Marked, but their families as well,” a decidedly good looking bloke with an American accent was saying to the news correspondent. “What’s to stop the government from insisting on genetic testing of affected individuals’ family members and then registering them as well as potential producers of ‘marked’ children?” the blue-eyed bloke expounded. “And this is all happening because people are afraid of what they don’t understand,” he said, shaking his head. “These are just people who happen to be a bit different. Why do they have to be demonized? These are fellow humans, not superpowered villains. If the human race is evolving we need to understand and embrace it, not fear it,” he explained.

“Rose? Oh my god!”

The sound of the worried voice pulled her from her thoughts. Turning her head, she found one of her best friends in the world watching from the door. Rose cringed. She SO hated being seen like this. “Hi,” she said, not even trying for a smile.

“Oh my god. Rose… what the hell happened?” Martha said, rushing to her bedside to take her hand.

“Jimmy happened,” Rose admitted, moisture springing to her eyes without her permission.

Anger instantly replaced Martha’s worry. “That fucking prick!” she barked. “That fucking, goddamn prick!”

Overwhelming emotion suddenly overcame her with Martha’s rightful anger, making her break down completely.

“Oh, sweety,” Martha immediately softened, moving to gently hug Rose’s head to her chest. The movement hurt her side a fair bit, but she barely noticed as she sobbed, relishing the comforting embrace.

“How did this happen?” Rose cried uselessly. “How did I end up this way?”

“Shhh,” Martha soothed, stroking her hair. “It’s not your fault. This was all him, yeah?” she ensured her.

Nodding in her embrace, Rose leaned in even more, letting the tears fall. They stayed like that for minutes before Rose allowed herself to pull back. “Sorry,” she apologized, feeling so bloody weak. Surely this was the lowest point in her entire life.

“Oi. You have nothing to be sorry for, yeah?”

Nodding, Rose snuffled, looking around for a tissue. Clearly reading her need, Martha moved to grab a box from a table across the room. “Here. Now listen. Your mum said the doctors are letting you out tomorrow,” she informed her as Rose blew her nose.

Rose laid her head back exhaustedly against the pillow. Tomorrow. She’d barely thought about what would happen after she got out.

“You mum wants you at her place, of course, but you’re welcome to stay at mine if that’d be easier?” her friend offered.

Blimey she was a good friend. “Thanks, Martha, but I can’t do that to you. You’ve got your Dad to worry about. You don’t need me crashing on your sofa,” she said.

“I told you, I’ve found my Dad a spot at The Pines Care Home. He’s moving this weekend. Look, why don’t you go home to your mum’s tomorrow and think about it. You’re not moving back in with Jimmy,” she said in no uncertain terms.

A small smile found Rose’s lips. “I know,” she agreed. “I don’t know why I ever thought it was a good idea moving in with him in the first place,” she admitted with embarrassment.

Martha smiled. “Yeah, well, none of us could figure it out either. I never did trust him. And I swear, Rose, he’s going away for a long time for this,” Martha vowed.

Worry suddenly flooded her. The idea of ever having to see him again, even in court, was repulsive. What if the charges didn’t stick and he ended up hunting her down?

“Oi,” Martha said, clearly reading her rising anxiety. “He’s in custody right now. He’s not going to hurt you again. Plus we wouldn’t let anything happen to you, Rose. None of us. Mickey, me, Jake… we’ve got your back, okay? We’ll help you get through this,” she promised. “You have to press charges, Rose, or he could do this again. He has to pay for what he’s done. We can’t let him ever do this to anyone else.”

Fear knotted in her stomach with the thought. She’d made it out, but what if… what if his next victim wasn’t so lucky? Martha was right. She couldn’t let this happen to anyone else. Reluctantly, she nodded and squeezed Martha’s hand.

“That’s my girl,” Martha smiled.

Shaking her head, Rose lamented, “It’s just barmy, Martha. I’d hoped… I’d imagined a much better life than this,” she admitted, tears once again filling her eyes.

“Oi. You’ve got nowhere to go but up from here,” she promised. “You’re smart, you’re young… you’ve got people who love you. Things will start looking up now that that prick is out of your life,” Matha assured her.

“Yeah, but it’s not just him. He’s just the icing on the bloody cake. I mean, look at me,” Rose implored. “I’m twenty-one years old, I never got my A levels, I hate my job, I’m homeless,” she listed, “...and now I look like a bloody wrestler,” she lamented, showing Martha her broken front tooth. “This isn’t who I wanted to be.”

Martha squeezed her hand again. “Oi. You can do anything you want, yeah? Look at me. I never thought I’d end up in med school, but here I am. You can do anything, Rose, once you decide to. You’ve got your mum and your friends… we’ll help you get there.”

Studying her mate, she let her words sink in. Martha was the ultimate in a role model. She’d lived on the Estate as well, but that hadn’t stopped her from working her arse off and getting her A levels. From there she applied for Uni and never looked back. If Martha could do it, so could she. She’d just sort of let life take her where it went instead of taking it by the reins, like Martha had.

“Now look,” Martha said, interrupting her thoughts, “I’m gonna go, but I’ll see you tomorrow, okay? I’ll come round your Mum’s place once you’re settled in. Then if you’re up for it, we can talk about getting you on the road to happiness, yeah?” she promised, pulling her purse strap up over her shoulder. Then, studying Rose’s broken face, she added, “You gonna be okay?”

Rose thought about that. Yes, she would be okay. Because this wasn’t going to beat her. In fact, it was going to make her stronger, she decided. Martha was right. At least she hoped she was right… that she actually had it in herself to make her life better. That she had it in her to take the world on instead of letting it trample all over her. “Yeah,” she said, pretty sure she actually meant it.

Martha gave her a bright smile and Rose found herself giving one right back before her lip slid along her teeth, exposing the new gap where there had once been a whole tooth. Right. Well - the first thing she was gonna do was get that dealt with. Jimmy had taken so much from her… there was no way she was gonna let him steal her smile as well. Maybe she could get her mum to make an appointment with Dr. O’Leary.

Thoughts of the elderly dentist in his dingy office made her wince. He’d always been so stern. Then it came to her. Donna. She’d gotten a job at a dentist’s office and seemed to like him. What was his name again? Smith? Maybe she’d give him a go. A new start, starting with a new dentist.

Why not?

Chapter Text

“Right. That’s it, Wilfred. If that tooth doesn’t settle in a few days, give me a ring and we’ll have you back,” the Doctor said, pulling off his latex gloves and tossing them in the bin. ”Otherwise we’ll see you back again in six months for your cleaning.”

“Will do, Doctor,” the elderly gentleman said, climbing out of the chair. “And thanks for getting me in so quick,” he added.

“It was no trouble. Anything for Donna’s family,” the Doctor smiled, helping him on with his coat.

Wilfred chuckled and looked at the Doctor slightly sideways. “Don’t say that too quickly,” he warned. “You haven’t met Sylvia yet.”

“Oh, I’m sure she’s not that bad,” the Doctor replied. He had heard of the infamous ‘Sylvia’ through Jack, but hadn’t yet had the pleasure. And from the sounds of it, ‘pleasure’ might be a stretch.

“Mmm. She’s my own flesh and blood, but even I steer clear of her sometimes,” Wilf admitted with a wry smile as he headed for the door. “See you soon, son.”

“Yes, bye, Wilfred,” the Doctor said with a nod.

Alone in the operatory, he stood for a moment and surveyed the room with a sense pride. As much as it’d been exhausting getting his own practice up and running, he was more than pleased with the results. Not only had it been getting busier since he’d established the office a few months ago, but he had to admit it was a relief not to have to worry about tip-toeing around his anal retentive ex-partner, Romana. Not that they hadn’t gotten along, but it was freeing to be able to make a decision without it being questioned every time. And now, with pleased clients spreading the word, he had more people calling and his numbers were growing more and more healthy. It also didn’t hurt that he’d hired Donna as his admin assistant.

As much as he’d initially had some reservations about her people skills, Donna had turned out to be his biggest advocate; spreading his name and passing out his cards to everyone she met. And she met a lot of people. In fact, despite his initial misgivings, she’d turned out to be about the biggest people person he’d ever met, which was a load off of his mind because, while he could hold his own in a conversation, he wasn’t usually one to seek out crowds.

“Your next patient is here,” Donna informed him, peeking her head into the room, “...and she’s blonde,” she added with a knowing grin.

The Doctor rolled his eyes. “Donna…”

“What?! Just sayin’,” she said innocently despite the fact the comment was anything but innocent. He’d made the mighty mistake of mentioning that he had a thing for blondes one night at the pub after a few too many, and Donna hadn’t let him ever forget it.

She was about to duck out of the room when he remembered, “Oi, listen, could you please call Dr. Poisson and let her know I can’t make it for lunch today?”

Donna gave him a withering look. “She’s gonna start thinking you’re avoiding her,” she warned.

She was right, of course. But then, that was exactly what he was doing, wasn’t it? “Yeah… just tell her I apologize and I’ll ring her later,” he requested. He just couldn’t stomach the idea of meeting her again and having to let her know he just wasn’t interested. They’d met through a colleague and with prodding from Jack he’d finally screwed up the courage to ask her out. Their first couple of dates had gone swimmingly, with her appreciating his jokes and him appreciating her, um… assets. He’d always been inexplicably attracted to blondes, and with her curvy figure, generous mouth and large eyes, she’d hit almost all his very secret physical desires in a woman. On their third date, though, he’d quickly decided looks definitely weren’t everything. “Honestly, John,” she’d said after scolding their dark skinned waiter for forgetting her side order, “I know Saxon is unpopular with some, but I think we’d all be better off if we gave jobs to our own people instead of trying to employ all of Europe.”

And that had done it for him. He’d made a sharp comment back about how diversity made the world a better place… that it was an opportunity for people to learn tolerance and open-mindedness. She’d simply shrugged his retort off and moved on with the conversation, but he didn’t. Not in his mind. Their date ended shortly after their meal, with him feigning fatigue. That’d been the last time he’d seen her.

“Fine. It’s your life,” Donna said, clearly judging. “Anyway, be nice to this one, yeah? She’s a friend of mine,” Donna directed as their dental assistant, Rory Williams, squeezed by her and into the room.

“What? I’m always nice!” he balked, letting Rory by to clean up after their last patient. “When have I not been nice?”

“Mmmm. Remember Mrs. Fel-Fotch?” Donna said with a raised eyebrow.

“What? I was nice to her,” he defended.

“No you weren’t,” Rory informed him as he puttered around him.

“You told her not to come back,” Donna reminded him.

“Yes, well… I was nice before that,” he countered. The old bat had insisted he apologize for pointing out her clear problem with halitosis. It was his job for pity’s sake!

“Mmmm,” Donna hummed before she disappeared from view.

The Doctor hrumphed quietly as he pulled up the next patient’s history on the computer. “This next one is a repair,” Rory informed him. Twenty-one year old female with a broken right central incisor.”

“Mmm. What caused the break?” he asked, perusing the history Rory had collected.

“She didn’t seem keen to answer that,” he said moving to stand beside the Doctor. “Her form says she was recently hospitalized with a broken nose, broken rib, and a punctured lung. Could’ve been a car accident, but I sort of doubt it,” he admitted.

“Oh? Why?”

“Just a feeling,” Rory admitted.

“Right. Okay, well, let’s go meet her,” the Doctor said, moving to the door.

Opening the door to the adjacent clinic room, the Doctor stepped in to find a very attractive… no. Scratch that. Not ‘very attractive’. ‘Extremely’ was more appropriate. An extremely attractive blonde sat staring back at him from the dental chair in the middle of the space. She was dressed in snug jeans and a fitted purple blouse. Wavy blonde hair spilled loose around her shoulders.

For a moment she sat looking at him, slightly wide-eyed, before she offered him an attractive, closed mouth smile. It wasn’t until her eyebrows raised in question, though, that he realized he was practically gaping. Purposefully closing his mouth he put on a professional smile, cleared his throat, and offered a cordial “Hello” as he moved into the room. “I’m the Doctor,” he added by way of introduction, extending his hand. “You must be Ms. Tyler?”

“Yeah. Hi,” his patient said, reaching out to clasp his hand in return.

On contact, a palpable shock of adrenaline and excitement shot through him, making him draw in a quick breath. Blimey. What was with him? Faced with one gorgeous blonde and he became a gobstruck, hormonal teenager again.

Before him, his patient appeared a bit flustered. Were her cheeks pinkening? Bollocks. Had he been so obvious that he’d made her uncomfortable?

“Uh, right. So… you’re Rose Tyler,” he reiterated stupidly.

“Yup,” she agreed again with an almost perfect smile. Quickly, though, she caught herself and covered her mouth with her hand.

“And you’re here for a broken front tooth, I gather?” he observed, forcing himself to try to at least appear detached.

“Uh, yeah,” she agreed.

“Okay, then. Let’s have a look, shall we?” he suggested, relieved to be getting into the meat of the visit and past his own awkwardness. Sitting on the stool beside her, he rolled a bit closer and tilted her chair back until she was looking up at him from a completely reclined position. Her caramel eyes seemed to linger on his lips as he leaned over her a bit. Or was he imagining that? “Open up,” he suggested, trying to ignore the sudden squirming in his stomach with the idea that she might actually be ‘looking’ at him.

Doing as she was told, his patient opened wide. Directing the light above her to shine directly in her mouth, he leaned over and had a good look. Annoyingly, it was slightly hard to concentrate on the task at hand, what with her lying there breathing and everything, but blessedly, he finally completed a cursory examination. He had to admit he was impressed. She had lovely teeth. There were no caries as far as he could see and just a minimum of plaque. She clearly cared for her smile, which made the glaring absence of half a front tooth that much more obvious.

“Well,” he said, pulling back to look at her, “it’s broken all right. But then, you knew that,” he said, giving her a small grin. “We have a couple of options here. We can do a bonding, which is the least expensive option and probably the best fit given your age. Not that you’re too young, mind. I mean… that is… you’re old enough for the other option. Of course you are,” he assured her. She wasn’t that much younger than him. Not that that mattered. And since when did he compare his patients’ ages to his own?

“Another option is a porcelain veneer,” he continued, forcing himself to focus, “which lasts longer, but is more expensive. There’s also a chance you may need a root canal for that tooth in the future, in which case the veneer would need to be replaced with a crown anyhow,” he explained as he pulled off his latex gloves, pleased he was able to be coherent for at least a moment.

His far too young (for him…) and attractive patient seemed to mull that over. “Well, I’ll be honest… I’m sorta low on funds at the mo, so as long as it’ll look okay…”

“Oh, yes - no concerns there. You look fantastic. I mean… you will. Continue to look lovely, I mean. No worries. No one will even know you’ve had an accident to begin with,” he blabbed, silently kicking himself.

Rose’s cheeks (...when did he start thinking of her as Rose?) reddened and she looked down at her hands. Oh shit. There was so much wrong with what he’d just said. He was about to apologize when she piped up, “Um, yeah, okay. Let’s do the bonding thing, then,” she agreed, still not looking at him.

“Bonding. Perfect. I, uh… I can do it today. Right away, if you like? I’ve got time right now,” he offered, oddly eager to win her over again.

“Really? Oh - that’d be brilliant,” she said, her hopeful ember eyes finding his again. Blimey. Her eyes were gorgeous. Captivating, really. It was almost like he could get lost in them…

“Doctor?” her voice beaconed, yanking him from his musing.

Coming back to himself, he swallowed self consciously. “Um, yeah. I’ll uh… I’ll just get our Rory. I mean, I’ll get Rory. He’s our dental assistant. He’ll get you ready and then we can get started,” he stammered. Blimey. He had to get it together.

“Alright,” she agreed, her honey eyes watching him as he backed out the door.

Turning the moment he exited the room, he ran straight into the person he’d said he was going to find. “Rory! The patient - Ms. Tyler… we’re going to do a bonding right away. Could you get things ready? That’d be brilliant. Thanks,” he said, quickly turning to dart for the lunchroom without waiting for a response.

A glass of water. That’s what he needed. He had to clear his head. Pulling a cup from the cupboard, he drew liquid from the cooler to chug it back in a couple of large gulps. “Get it together, Doctor,” he chastised himself aloud. It was like he’d never interacted with a real woman before, for god’s sake. She was a patient. Sure - an incredibly attractive patient as far as he was concerned, but a patient nonetheless. He had a professional relationship to establish here, which he’d always been very good at doing straight away. This time though, it was like all of his significant education and impressive intelligence flew out the window and he was left acting like a naive insecure intern again.

Taking another pull from the cooler, he drank another cup full of bracing water and stood for a moment to collect himself. Right. He was a dignified, knowledgeable man with a couple of degrees and a few years practice under his belt. Yes. Dignified.

Stepping back into the hall, he headed back to the operatory. Opening the door, he found Rory seated beside Rose’s reclined chair; all the required tools and materials ready to go.

For a moment he stood staring at the scene. Rory was awfully close to her, he thought. Too close, really, all things considered. Did he always sit that close to his patients?

Stepping in, he took another pair of gloves from the dispenser, moved up to the stool on the other side of Rose’s head, and pushed it closer to her; purposefully closer than Rory’s chair was. Sitting so his knee practically touched her shoulder, he took a moment to scratch an itchy spot on his wrist before donning his new gloves. Right. Time to get started. Taking a deep breath in through his nose, he let it out and forced himself to concentrate on the task at hand. Gathering up his mental courage, he looked down at his patient. Perfect, trusting eyes looked back up at him. And that’s all he needed to become focused.

Offering her a confident smile, he said, “Alright, then. Allons-y!”

OoOoOoOoO

The procedure didn’t take long at all, with time seemingly flying by as Dr. Smith alternatively poked and pushed material onto her tooth and shone some high tech light on it. It was to ‘cure’ it, he said, whatever that meant. Honestly, as long as he just kept leaning over her, she couldn’t’ve cared less; it gave her the opportunity to unabashedly stare at him, which seemed just… the right thing to do. After all, he was bloody hot. A bit older than her, he had a charming smile and damned perfect hair. He was lean, but that suited her fine. Frankly, if she was honest, she’d always been attracted to slim men for some reason, which was why she’d never found Jimmy as physically attractive as some of the other blokes she’d dated.

Jimmy. God. Not someone she wanted to be thinking about right now.

Pushing the image of him back into the recesses of her mind, she tried to concentrate on the sound of Dr. Smith’s voice; a lulling tenor that she found far too attractive. Too soon, Rose felt her chair being raised back up to a sitting position.

“Right, then, Ms. Tyler! All done!” Dr. Smith announced with an enthusiastic smile, snapping off his rubber gloves and depositing them in a bin nearby.

Running her tongue over her broken tooth, she found it felt just like it had before her, uh…. accident. Whole.

“Would you like to see?” the Doctor offered, bringing over a hand mirror.

“Thanks,” she said, not purposefully at all accidently touching his hand as she took it from him. A slightly giddy feeling rose in her with the contact. Blimey… she had it bad.

Unable to keep her gaze from lingering on his for a moment longer than necessary, she forced her attention to the mirror she was now holding up in front of her. Tentatively, she allowed herself a smile. And there it was. Her smile. It was back.

“You’re lovely,” the Doctor murmured from where he stood.

Rose’s breath caught in her throat. Eyes flying up to meet his, she blinked. Had he just said what she thought he’d said?

“Sorry,” he instantly apologized, looking like he’d just got caught stealing candy. “I meant - you know - your smile is perfect. Now. Now that we’re done,” he explained, colour rising on his cheeks.

Butterflies instantly took flight in Rose’s stomach as she sat in the chair staring back at him. He was actually flirting with her. Unbidden, she offered him a smile before playfully biting her lip with her newly bonded tooth.

Beside her, a man cleared his throat. Oh! She’d almost forgotten the dental assistant was still in the room. “Did you want to go over the care instructions, Doctor, or would you like me to?” he asked with an unexplained smile in his voice.

“Uh, I’ve got it, Rory, thanks,” Dr. Smith said seriously, nodding at his assistant. “Would you mind going to get the written version for Ms. Tyler, though?“ he suggested.

A small smile played on Rory’s lips. “Sure. No problem.”

“Er, yeah. Thanks,” Dr. Smith said as Rory passed him and left the room. Clapping his hands with some enthusiasm, he moved to sit in the chair his assistant had vacated. “Sooo… now that you’ve got a new smile, you’ll have to use an ultra-soft toothbrush and avoid alcohol based mouthwashes. You’ll also need to avoid any direct pressure on that tooth if you can. Avoid chewing ice, biting thread or biting your nails,” he advised.

Rose issued a self depreciating laugh. “I don’t know if I can manage that last one,” she admitted, bringing a finger up to her mouth to mime a nibble. “I’m terrible for that.”

His face lit up with that admission and he proudly held up his hands so his own nails were on display. “Me too,” he said, waggling his fingers before her. “Only when I’m bored, though,” he added.

“Me, it’s when I’m stressed,” she admitted. “Can’t stop biting ‘em. My mum used to swat my hand away, but it never stopped me,” she shared, showing him her thoroughly bitten nails. “I guess I’m just an anxious personality.”

“Really?” he said, studying her. “That’s a shame. No one should feel anxious all the time - or enough to bite their nails to the quick,” he clarified, nodding down at her abused nails.

“Yeah,” she said, immediately realizing her nails were this way right now because of the mess her life had been over this last while. “Bit of a hard patch lately, I guess,” she admitted.

“Oh, yes?” he said, clearly curious.

“Yeah. But… things are lookin’ up, aren’t they?” she stated. “After all… I’ve got a new tooth, right?”

“Absolutely,” he agreed, matching her smile.

“And I’ve got a great new dentist,” she added, matter-of-factly.

Looking impressed, he replied, “Really? Who’s that, then?”

Rose laughed. “Oh, just some bloke my friend recommended,” she answered, aware how incredibly flirty she sounded.

“Mmm,” he nodded. “Well, I imagine he’s pretty chuffed you’ve decided to give him your business,” he replied lightly, making her stomach tighten pleasantly.

Just then, his assistant opened the door and stepped in.

“Yes, well… anyhow,” Dr. Smith said quickly, immediately assuming a more detached demeanor, “that’s about it, I suppose. Uh - Rory, do you have the care handout for Ms. Tyler?”

“Right here,” Rory said, holding the sheet out for Rose to take. “Our phone number is on the bottom if you have any questions.”

“Thanks,” Rose said, taking the sheet. Along the top, the name of the office was written in big block letters. ‘TARDIS Dental’.

“Right, so… you’re all done,” Dr. Smith advised, holding his hand out to help her from the chair.

Unlike when they’d shaken hands earlier, the touch of his skin against hers this time didn’t release the tantalizing zing of adrenaline that’d made her toes curl earlier. It did, however, encourage the swarm of butterflies previously resting in her stomach to once again take flight. Unfortunately, though, the pleasant feeling was quickly followed by a sharp reminder of her recent rib injury as she tried to negotiate her way out of the chair. A pained moan escaped her before she could stop it.

The dentist’s concerned face immediately filled her vision. “You okay?” he asked, clearly worried.

“Yeah… sorry. Jus’... I’ve got an injured rib… nothing serious, but it’s a pain when I’m trying to move around,” she admitted.

“Oh,” he replied, looking down at her, his brows furrowed. “Sorry - I’d forgotten you’d written that on your medical history sheet.”

“Yeah,” she agreed, hesitant to say more. What could she say that would possibly be flattering to her in any way?

“Is there… anything I can do?” he asked, concern etched on his handsome features.

What an odd question. Had he figured out how she’d been hurt? Surely not. How could he have? Maybe he meant he could help her out with medication? “No. Just needs time, I’m afraid,” she said honestly. That it did.

Staring up into his handsome face… blimey, he was tall… she realized she still hadn’t let go of his hand. Hastily, she released her grip. They stood awkwardly for a moment before he broke the silence.

“Right. Well, I’ll just…” he trailed off, gesturing toward the door with his thumb, “... I’ll just check to see if Donna’s ready for you out there,” he stated. Turning he moved to the door. “You can follow me to the front if you like,” he offered, “and we can maybe set a time for your next visit? Not that you need one right away, but, you know… it’s never a bad idea to book your next cleaning while you’re here so you don’t forget,” he advised.

Following him out of the room, she couldn’t help but let her gaze drop to his bottom as he walked a bit ahead of her. Even through his scrubs she could make out he had a nice arse.

’Rose, for heaven’s sake,’ her inner voice chastised. ’So what if he flirted with you. He’s a professional adult with a real life and probably a wife. Screw your eyeballs back in your head and get a grip,’ she told herself unkindly. Thinking back, she tried to remember if she saw a ring, an indent or a tan line on his ring finger. She didn’t recall one, but then, that could just be wishful thinking.

Reaching the front, Dr. Smith spoke with Donna for a moment before turning back to her. “Okay! Well… lovely to meet you, Ms. Tyler,” he said, holding his hand out for her to shake. Feeling a bit odd doing so after mentally undressing him, she nevertheless did, and unsurprisingly found she didn’t want to let his hand go.

“Thanks, Dr. Smith,” she said, giving him her brightest smile.

“You can call me ‘Doctor’,” he advised, still holding her hand. “Everyone does. Dr. Smith sounds so stuffy,” he added.

Rose’s smile impossibly widened. “Right, okay. Doctor it is. And please call me Rose,” she suggested. “Ms. Tyler is my mum,” she grinned.

“Good!” he said with a wide grin. “Rose. Lovely. Yes. So…I guess I’ll see you in a couple of months then. For that cleaning,” he reminded her, letting go of her hand.

“Right,” she agreed. “Gotta book that,” she said, actually pointing a gun finger at him. Blimey, did she actually just do that?

“Don’t forget,” he warned, backing away.

“I won’t,” she promised.

With that, he turned and sauntered back down the hall and into another one of the operatories. Without meaning to, her eyes once again dropped to his backside.

“Oi. Rose,” Donna called, snapping her attention back front and centre. Before her, Donna sat shaking her head. “Really? Him? But he’s so skinny,” she pointed out, keeping her voice down for a change.

“What?! No!” Rose blustered. “He’s… I mean, he’s a dentist,” Rose said.

“Yeah, I noticed,” Donna drawled sarcastically.

“Yeah. And he’s… you know… smart. And probably never set foot on an Estate,” she pointed out. “Probably married too,” she said, before realizing who she was talking to. “Wait. Is he married?” she asked.

Donna smiled. “Wouldn’t you like to know,” she taunted.

“Donna…”

“No, he’s not. No girlfriend either as far as I know. Who’d want to marry that whisp of a thing anyway? Probably get a papercut if you tried to shag him,” she added.

Hmm. Not married. ’Drop it, Tyler,’ her less than supportive inner voice suggested. ’He’s WAAAAAY out of your league. Not to mention the fact that you’re still literally recovering from your last so-called ‘relationship’. All around, it’s a bad idea.’

“Did you want me to… I don’t know, tell him you left your number for him?” Donna suggested, eyebrows raised.

Rose sighed. As much as she hated to admit it, her stupid brain was probably right. She wasn’t in any shape to be a date for anyone right now, let alone someone as successful as the Doctor. “Nah. It’s okay. Best not,” she said.

Donna seemed disappointed with her choice. “Oh. Well, if you change your mind, you know where he works,” she suggested.

“Yeah. Thanks, Donna. Soooo... how much is all this going to cost today?” she asked, not excited to hear the answer as she pulled out her wallet. She hadn’t worked at all in the last two weeks, and with her doctor having told her she couldn’t lift anything for another four weeks, things were looking rather bleak financially.

“That’ll be £110,” Donna replied, looking up from her computer screen.

Sighing, Rose pulled out her credit card and handed it to the ginger woman on the other side of the counter. Taking it, Donna swiped it and handed Rose the machine.

Plugging in her PIN, she reminded herself why she was spending this money. She deserved her smile back. She deserved her life back. And she was going to make it a better one starting today, damnit.

Passing back the handheld money grabbing computer, Rose bid Donna farewell and left the office. Stepping out onto the pavement in front of the building, she took a deep breath of the cool, crisp London air. She felt… lighter. Hopeful. After all, today had already been a brilliant day already, hadn’t it? She’d spent the morning flirting shamelessly with a gorgeous bloke, she’d gotten back her smile, and now she was on her way to put the rest of her plan in place. And blimey, it felt good!

With a smile she started heading down the street toward the tube. Absently, she ran her tongue over her new tooth, feeling distinctly contended with the smoothness of it. Something else caught her attention, though, as she moved her tongue along her gums. A slightly raised patch just above her molars on the same side as her repaired tooth. It felt sort of… itchy. Tingly. That was weird.

‘Scratching’ it with her tongue, she found the feeling abated a bit. Odd. An allergic reaction to the material in her mouth? She hoped not. The last thing she needed was to start her new life with a blistered, swollen face. There was a thought.

No. What kind of thinking was that?! She needed to be positive. It was probably just a canker sore. No big deal. And so what if she did end up with hives and a puff-ball for a face? Even if that happened, she wouldn’t let it stop her from making life better for herself.

Continuing down the street she made a point of focusing on where she was headed next. To find out if Martha still wanted a flatmate.

Chapter Text

“Come on, Doc, we gotta go,” Jack informed him, coming out of his room and into the living room.

Looking up from the recipe he was going over on his phone, the Doctor shook his head. “I think I’ll pass tonight,” he replied.

“Again? Why? You’ve got something better to do on a Saturday night?” Jack challenged, looking pointedly at the mobile in his hand.

“I’m tired, Jack. I had that stupid conference to deal with all day and I’m knackered. Besides, I’d planned to stay in tonight to try my hand at making butter chicken,” he explained, showing Jack the recipe on his phone to prove his intentions.

Jack tilted his head and gave him a withering look. “Really? You’re passing on a night out to make butter chicken?”

“Oi! There’s nothing wrong with butter chicken,” he replied.

“There is when you plan to eat it alone,” Jack countered. “Come on, Doc. What’s with you? I know that things with Reinette ended badly, but you can’t hide yourself away now for the rest of your life,” Jack advised.

“I’m not hiding myself away,” the Doctor returned. He’d finally gotten the nerve to meet with Reinette a week ago and it’d been decidedly unpleasant. He’d tried to be delicate about it, but apparently she was unaccustomed to men calling things off and had told him as much. The encounter ended with her informing him that she’d only ever agreed to go out with him because she felt sorry for him and promising he’d never again find anyone with her breeding and looks who’d give him the time of day. Of course, he knew she’d been angry and so he’d tried not to take it too personally. It did shake his confidence a bit, though, he had to admit.

“I’m… I’m just not interested in going out and having you trying to set me up with eighteen different women over the course of the evening,” he informed him. And he wasn’t. Interested, that is. On top of his ego being a bit bruised, he’d just found he had no interest in going out and socializing with new people. Besides, ever since… He sighed. He just hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her.

It’d been a week and a half since Rose Tyler had come into the office, and his mind had been almost disturbingly preoccupied with her ever since. What she’d been wearing. The colour of her hair. Her eyes. Her lyrical voice. Everything about her. He’d almost gone as far as to look up her address in his files so he might drive by her place and possibly catch a glimpse of her. He hadn’t of course. It would be a gross violation of his professional code of ethics, not to mention completely creepy.

“Okay, listen. Let’s make a deal. You come out and have a few with us and I swear I won’t try to set you up with anyone, okay? Donna’s bringing Lee and she even talked Rory into asking Amy to come. You need to kick back a bit, anyway. What d’ya say?”

Looking up at his flatmate, the Doctor sighed. Maybe it would be alright. Distract him a bit from his ridiculous obsession with a certain blonde patient. “Oh, alright. But if you even so much as point out a good looking bird, I’m leaving,” he threatened.

Jack threw his hands in the air. “Okay,” he agreed.

Standing, the Doctor moved to the chair in the corner and grabbed up his suit jacket.

“You’re wearing that?” Jack asked, eying his suit.

“Yeah,” the Doctor stated, his brows furrowing. “Why?”

“It’s just… it’s a bit formal for Gallifrey, isn’t it?”

“Formal?” he replied. “I always wear this when we go there.”

“Yeah, I know,” Jack said, his meaning clear. His flatmate often ribbed him about his fashion sense.

“Look - it’s this or nothing,” the Doctor retorted, getting frustrated.

A distinct smirk found Jack’s face. “I think you know what I’d pick,” he said, waggling his eyebrows.

“Jack…”

“Come on. Let’s get out of here. First round’s on me.”

OoOoOoOoO

The pub was relatively quiet, but it was only seven, so Rose wasn’t surprised the place wasn’t bustling yet. Things usually started to pick up here around half seven or eight.

“Where should we sit?” Martha asked, looking around.

“How about a booth?” Rose suggested, nodding toward a comfortable looking spot along the wall. Heading over, they slid in and took off their jackets.

“I’m surprised Jake isn’t here yet,” Martha said, pulling out her phone. “He was the one who told us to be here early.”

“He’s probably stuck in traffic,” Rose informed her.

Checking her messages, Martha frowned and tapped on the screen of her mobile. “Nope. He’s not coming. Big numpty. He says he ended up on a field mission last minute and he can’t come,” Martha complained.

“Aw. That sucks. I feel like I haven’t seen him in ages,” Rose said.

“That’s because you haven’t,” Martha informed her.

It was true. Ever since Jimmy, she’d been kind of avoiding overtly social situations. Of course, her friends knew what’d happened, but until now she hadn’t felt up to having to face the inevitable questions, or worse; the avoidance of them.

“Well, that’s okay,” Martha said, placing her phone down on the table. “Mickey’s still coming.”

Rose smirked a bit. “And you’re not pleased about that at all,” she teased.

“Shut up,” Martha retorted with a grin.

Rose had known Mickey practically her whole life. His mum and hers had worked together at the salon for ages, and her mum had been like a surrogate parent to him when his own mother passed away. She and Mickey had tried dating at one point, but it became glaringly clear quite quickly that it wasn’t meant to be. That never stopped her from loving him, though, even if it was more like a brother than a girlfriend. That’s why she’d been so chuffed when Martha admitted one night that she thought Mickey was fit. Martha, of course, was brilliant, and she could think of no one more worthy of her lifelong mate than her. She’d made a concerted effort, after that, to make sure Mickey happened to be invited when a group of them were getting together, and tonight was no different. Now that she thought about it, though, it was weird that Mickey was able to come. “I wonder why he didn’t end up on that away mission with Jake,” Rose mused aloud.

“Different teams,” Martha said. “Mickey was transferred to another unit.”

Rose raised an eyebrow. “Hmm. You seem to know a lot about it,” Rose observed with a wry smile.

Martha looked purposefully away up to the ceiling. “Well, we may have been in touch since Skaro last weekend,” she admitted.

Ah yes. The infamous nightclub. She, of course, hadn’t gone. “Well, look at you!” Rose grinned.

“Yeah,” Martha said a bit shyly. “He’s… well, he’s great, isn’t he?”

Rose smiled. “Yeah. He is,” she agreed, tickled at the prospect of her two best mates ending up together. “I think you two would make a brilliant couple,” she admitted.

Martha looked down bashfully. “Thanks,” she grinned, before fixing Rose with a serious look and leaning in conspiratorially. “Listen, speaking of brilliant couples; I’ve been thinking. There’s this intern. He’s a year behind me, but he’s at least our age. Name’s Adam,” she began.

Rose shook her head. “No, Martha.”

“What? Rose, there’s no point in depriving yourself of meeting a nice bloke. Just because Jimmy was a complete prat…”

Rose sighed. “Martha - I just… I can’t.”

“Why? What would it hurt to just meet him? He’s completely fit. Slim, great hair, smart - just the way you like ‘em,” she prodded.

Rose allowed Martha a small chuckle. She definitely knew her taste in men. “Look, Martha…it’s not because I don’t ever wanna meet someone, but…” she trailed off. Maybe she should confide in her. The last couple of weeks had been a bit disconcerting, and frankly, she had to admit she was a bit worried. “Can I tell you something?”

Martha’s brows furrowed. “Of course. You can tell me anything,” she promised, reaching out to cover Rose’s hand with hers. “What is it? Is it Jimmy?”

“No. No, nothing like that,” she assured her. Martha had been almost obsessive about keeping tabs on the proceedings as far as his court case went and she’d made a point of tracking his whereabouts since he’d been released on bail. “It’s something else…”

“Okay,” she encouraged.

“Well… you see, there’s this bloke…” she began.

Martha’s eyes widened. “You’re seeing someone? And you didn’t tell me?”

“No! No… but… oh god. You’re gonna think I’m mad,” she lamented.

“I already know you’re mad. What is it?”

“Well…” How could she say it. There’s this bloke I met once and all I can think about now is him? Or… Jimmy broke my tooth and now I’m besotted with the dentist who fixed me up? Both sounded like a bad premise for a reality show.

She was about to go with a variation of the first option when a familiar voice pierced through the music being piped through the bar. “Rose?!”

With the entrance behind her, Rose had to turn her whole body to see who’d called her name, but it was well worth the effort. A wide grin immediately found her lips. “Donna!” she exclaimed, getting up to greet her. The redhead was headed in her direction from the pub doors with a tall, good-looking bloke trailing close behind her.

Giving her friend a welcoming hug, Rose couldn’t help but look hopefully behind Donna’s male friend to see if HE might possibly be behind them. Nope. Not there. Inwardly, Rose rolled her eyes at herself. She had to get a grip. Of course he wasn’t there. Donna and her date would hardly go out for drinks with her boss, would they?

“What are you doing here?” Donna asked, pulling back to look at her.

“I’m still off work so I’m out pubbing it,” Rose explained with a grin. “It’s so great to see you here,” she added before turning to introduce her drinking partner. “And this is Martha. She’s my flatmate and a brilliant doctor as well,” she explained.

“Not yet, I’m not,” Martha corrected, reaching out to shake Donna’s hand. “I’m working on it, though.”

“Too bad,” Donna said, seriously. “I’d love to move to a woman GP. The bloke I go to is about 87 years old and should’ve retired ages ago,” she shared. “Do me a favour and put me on your list for when you graduate.”

Martha grinned. “Sounds good.”

Realizing they still hadn’t been introduced to Donna’s friend, Rose looked at him and held her hand out. “And you are…”

“I’m Lee,” he filled in, offering his hand in return. “I’m Donna’s…” he trailed off, suddenly at a loss for words.

“... boyfriend,” Donna finished for him, beaming widely.

He didn’t know what he was to her? Seemed odd. Pushing the question aside, Rose finished shaking his hand and smiled up at him. “It’s lovely to meet you. So… are you two out for a night on the town, then?” she posited.

“Sort of,” Donna said, darting a look up at her partner. “We’re meeting a couple of people in a bit. But… would you two like to join us?” Donna suggested.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Rose hesitated. “I’d hate to intrude. We’ve also got a friend who’s coming as well,” she explained.

“Pssssh,” Donna blew through her lips. “It’s not intruding if I’ve invited you. We’d love if you’d join us,” Donna said, turning to look up a Lee who nodded his agreement.

Rose looked back at Martha who replied with a smile, “Sure, why not? There’s plenty of room here. Why don’t you and your friends join us at our table?” she suggested.

Finding the idea agreeable, Lee and Donna slid in to sit in the middle of the U-shaped booth and Rose settled in on the end across from Martha. After catching the waitress’ eye, they ordered their first round. Glasses of wine and beer were being served as Donna launched into a brilliant story about how they’d gotten here. It involved her dropping off her overbearing mother, taking a wrong right turn and having a very large beetle land on her while she was driving. By the end of her verbal account, they were all howling with laughter, which made Rose’s side ache fiercely. Still, the story was almost worth it the pain.

“Oi! What’s so funny?”

Looking up, they found Mickey smiling down at them. “Mickey!” Martha said, a bit too enthusiastically. She immediately composed herself. “Uh, Mickey - this is Donna and Lee; Rose’s friends. Donna was just telling us about her trip here,” Martha explained.

“Blimey, it must’ve been pretty wild,” he observed, pulling off his coat and sliding in beside Martha. Rose didn’t miss the flirty smiles they exchanged as he did so.

“It was,” Donna agreed. “Anyway… Oh!” she said, a smile lighting her features as her hand shot in the air to wave someone over from the entrance.

Must be the other friends she’d been talking about. Rose was about to turn to look when an audible gasp found her ears. Looking up, her own breath caught in her chest. It was him.

For a moment it was like time itself stopped and there was only the two of them. Her eyes poured over him; over his lean frame, his form fitted suit, his perfectly mussed hair… It was like looking at him quenched a clawing thirst she’d been denying. The feeling was so powerful she almost stopped breathing altogether. She was vaguely aware that she was slack-jawed and probably looked like she was in shock, but she couldn’t help it. It was only when a male voice exclaimed, ‘Ooo! A party!’ that the surreal moment abated and she realized there was actually someone else standing beside him.

“Just what the Doctor ordered,” the bloke in question exclaimed. With a grin, he clapped the Doctor on the back which seemed to jar him a bit. Blinking, the Doctor’s eyes seemed to focus before he finally (reluctantly?) looked away from her to acknowledge everyone else at the table. Had he been as lost as she’d been a moment ago? The idea made her gut tighten pleasantly.

“I thought you’d approve,” Donna grinned. “Everyone, this is my brother Jack and his flatmate the Doctor,” she introduced.

Mickey grinned. “That’s a bit formal, in’it?”

“It suits him better than his real name,” Donna explained. “Doesn’t it, John.”

The Doctor visibly cringed with the use of his given name. “Yeah, don’t care for it much, if I’m honest,” he admitted, looking down at his feet. “Boring.”

Without thinking, Rose blurted, “I like it.”

His eyes found hers again, and once again she felt like she was somehow being blessed with his attention. “You do?”

“Yeah. ‘S nice,” she said, unashamedly biting her tongue afterward.

He visibly swallowed as his gaze dropped to her mouth.

“Mind if we sit?” Jack asked, interrupting her conscious flirting.

“Oh! Sorry!” Rose apologized, looking up at the Doctor’s flatmate, really taking him in for the first time. Wait. He looked familiar.

Trying to recall where she’d seen him before, she moved to scoot out of the booth to let him in, but to her surprise he made to slide in beside her first. An immediate feeling of disappointment filled her. Damn it. Not having seen the Doctor for a week and a half had been surprisingly difficult, but now that he was here… so close… the idea of not sitting beside him was disturbingly uncomfortable.

On the other side of Jack, a decidedly disgruntled sound issued from the Doctor. Looking over, Rose found him looking at his flatmate with undisguised irritation. Once again, she felt butterflies take flight in her stomach. He’d wanted to sit beside her as well. Noticing her looking, his expression immediately softened and he offered her a smile, which she returned.

“Your tooth is holding up well, I see?” he observed, leaning forward around Jack to address her as people around the table struck up conversation.

“Yeah. Great,” she replied. “No troubles so far,” she added, once again taking stock of the shape of her mouth. There was that sore though. It was even acting up again. Itchy. Tingly.

“Great,” he answered, his eyes twinkling as he regarded her. “That’s… I’m happy you’re pleased with it,” he added.

“The Doc did your teeth, then?” Jack asked, purposefully looking at her mouth.

Smiling, Rose replied. “Yeah. He’s a great dentist.” Blimey. Could she be more obvious?

“Well, he certainly outdid himself this time,” Jack observed. “Look at that smile,” he added, his voice almost sultry.

Rose blushed a bit with the compliment as Jack turned more toward her. Beside Jack, she thought she heard a… did she hear a growl? “So what do you do?” Jack asked, ignoring the sound.

“I, uh… I work in a wine shop,” she offered. “But I’m doing classes. I’m gettin’ my A levels,” she added hastily.

“Hey - there’s nothing wrong with working in a shop,” Jack said, clearly aware of her self-consciousness. “My Dad worked in a shop his whole life.”

“Oh. Well, yeah. It’s okay. It’s a good job and everything,” she amended, hoping she hadn’t unwittingly just insulted his dad, “but I definitely don’t enjoy it enough to do it for the rest of my life,” she clarified.

“What would you like to do, then?” he asked.

“Well, I’d thought of design. Specifically decorative arts,” she said. “I’ve always thought it’d be fun to make functional things more interesting to look at, you know? So things like, I don’t know… like if the Doctor wanted to make a more child friendly room in his office,” she said, leaning more over the table to see him better, “I could design the tools to look more like animals so they’d be more kid friendly. Stuff like that,” she said, getting into her explanation.

The Doctor was also leaning in, clearly intrigued by her comments. “Really? You could do something like that?” he asked.

“Well, not yet,” she admitted, “but that’s what I want to learn.”

“That’s amazing,” the Doctor said, clearly taken with her idea. “I’d been thinking about expanding my pediatric practice,” he admitted. “That would be a brilliant way to attract families,” he expounded, his mind clearly whirring.

“Yeah,” she agreed. “I imagine it’d be helpful to have anything that’d settle little ones down when you’re diggin’ in their mouths,” she added.

“That’s an understatement,” he agreed. “I once got bit so badly I ended up losing my nail,” he said, holding up his hand to show her the nail side of his offended digit.

Rose leaned across Jack a bit to get a better look at the Doctor’s finger. “Aww. Now, you see? If you’d had a drill that looked like a giraffe, that might not’ve happened,” she pointed out.

The Doctor laughed. “I daresay it might not’ve,” he smiled, his hand still held in the air in front of Jack. His fingers were long and slender and instantly Rose’s mind imagined exactly where she’d like them to be touching her.

“Er… I, uh… I think,” Jack interrupted, now unintentionally being squished between them, “I think I need to use the little boys room.” With that, he gave the Doctor a very pointed look.

“Oh. Uh, yeah. Go ahead,” the Doctor said, climbing out of the booth to let Jack by. Rose didn’t miss the clap on the Doctor’s shoulder as Jack passed him. Looking back at Rose, the Doctor shrugged his shoulders gave her a breathtaking smile. “No point in me standing til he gets back,” the Doctor said, eying the space in the booth beside her, “Do you mind?”

“Of course not,” she replied, possibly too eagerly, as he moved his lithe body in smoothly to fill the spot beside her. He was sitting close now; so close she could smell his subtle aftershave and could almost feel his body heat emanating from the leg which nearly touched her own.

“I’m glad your bonding worked out well. Your smile is beautiful,” the Doctor said, starting the conversation in a way that made her toes curl.

A bit bashfully, she bit her lip. “Well, that’s thanks to you,” she grinned. Silence fell between them for a moment, prompting her to add, “I thought I’d make another appointment soon, though.”

“Oh?” he said, clearly interested.

“Yeah… I’ve just got this… I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like sort of a bump on my gums,” she explained before amending, “Actually, it’s not even a bump. It’s hard to describe. It’s sort of itchy. Tingly, like. Anyway - I thought it could be a canker sore or something, but I figured you could tell me,” she said as casually as she could muster.

The Doctor’s brows furrowed. “Hmmm. Could be a canker,” he agreed. “Still… you probably should come by the office,” he suggested seriously. “I’ll take a look for you. For free, of course.”

“Oh, no. You don’t have to do that,” Rose argued.

“Oi, It’s no problem. Just a quick look and I’ll be able to tell you. Won’t be a trouble at all,” he insisted.

Rose smiled. “Well, that’d be great. Thanks,” she replied.

Beside her she noted the Doctor was absently scratching at his wrist. What she wouldn’t give for those fingers to be scratching her… gripping her…

“Quit pickin’ at it,” a voice beside her chastised him. Turning, she found Donna leveling a motherly glare at him. “I may just be an admin assistant, but I still know better than to pick at a sore,” she told Rose.

“You have a rash or something?” Rose asked him reaching for his hand.

“Oh, it’s nothing. Eczema or something,” he explained, offering his hand to her.

She was about to look down at it, but a thorough spark shot through her with the contact, making her slam her eyes closed. It took everything in her not to moan. Beside, her, she felt the Doctor’s body stiffen as well. Opening her eyes, she gazed up into his and found him staring wide eyed at her. An almost palpable energy passed between them, making her squirm. It was… incredible. An overwhelming excitement - a giddy attraction - poured through her. Then, an incredible urge to snog him.

He must’ve felt similarly, because his eyes dropped to her lips then before raising back up to gaze into her eyes once again.

“Oi! Spaceman!” Donna’s voice interrupted, jolting them apart. “Move over,” she instructed, directing the Doctor’s attention to Jack, who stood beside him looking decidedly amused.

“Oh! Right,” the Doctor croaked, moving even closer to Rose so that his leg was now pressed solidly against hers.

Beside him, Jack slid in and reached over to grab the beer sitting in front of the Doctor. Leaning in, he whispered something in the Doctor’s ear. It was just loud enough that Rose thought she might’ve heard, “You can have the girl, but you can’t have the beer.” With that, Jack let out a muffled ‘oof’. Rose wasn’t positive, but she thought there was a good chance the Doctor may have elbowed him in the ribs.

Just then, a stunning redhead and the dental assistant Rose had met at the Doctor’s office showed up beside the table. “Hey guys,” Rory said, taking in the number of people in the booth.

It wasn’t long into introductions that Donna effortlessly took on the role of directing traffic; instructing Rory to pull up a chair at the end of the table and suggesting Rory’s friend Amy slide into the booth at the end beside Mickey. Everyone adjusted a bit to make room, leaving the Doctor to slide his arm around the back of Rose’s spot in the booth, which instantly made her heart rate increase. It was snug, but honestly, Rose was more than fine with any reason for the Doctor to move in even closer.

Conversation once again geared up as people got into the spirit of the evening. If Rose was honest, though, she found she could barely concentrate on any of it. It was like her mind was solely honed in on the proximity of the man beside her; every movement of his leg against hers… every brush of his hand on her shoulder. It was heady. And thoroughly distracting. She tried hard not to look over at him too often mostly because she feared getting ‘stuck’ staring at him again. His face, his hair, his freckles... it was like she had a deep desire to memorize him. Even worse, she felt an almost undeniable need to touch him. It took all her power to not reach over to take his hand in hers just to experience that incredible feeling again.

“Well, now that you’re all here,” Donna piped up beside her, gathering everyone’s attention, “Lee and I have something we want to tell you,” she grinned, inserting a dramatic pause by looking around at her friends before grinning inanely at Lee.

“Well...” Jack said, saying what everyone else was thinking.

“We’re engaged!” she announced, holding out her left hand. A diamond graced her ring finger, shimmering in the light as she waggled her fingers.

“What?!” Jack exclaimed.

“Oh, my god! Congratulations!” Rose exclaimed, turning to embrace her friend. “I’m so happy for you!”

“Thanks,” Donna said, pulling back to give her an ecstatic grin.

On the other side of the table Martha was tearing up. “That’s so lovely,” she croaked. Rose smiled. Her mate was such a professional, but such a sap at the same time. Mickey, she noticed, wisely took the opportunity to wrap his arm around Martha. Only for support, of course.

“Well, congratulations, you two. That’s brilliant!” the Doctor offered, his own arm ‘accidently’ slipping around her shoulder. Rose nearly flew out of her skin with the contact. Jesus. She wasn’t sure how much more self restraint she had left. If he didn’t stop flirting soon she was going to implode.

“Thanks,” Donna grinned.

“So when’s the big day?” Jack piped up beside the Doctor.

“Next year. Summer… probably June?” she said, looking at Lee, who nodded his agreement.

“Well, that’s fantastic,” the Doctor reiterated, squeezing Rose’s shoulder. Fuck. Melting. She was melting inside.

“Cor; what is that?” her friend piped up beside her. Looking over, Rose found Donna staring at the Doctor’s hand on her shoulder.

“What?” the Doctor asked, instantly removing his hand to slide it back onto the back of the bench. “Nothing! Just… it’s crowded in the booth. I, er… I had to put my hand somewhere…” he babbled, obviously concerned he’d socially overstepped somehow.

“No, you numpty,” Donna said, rolling her eyes. “That,” she reiterated, pointedly staring at his wrist.

Pulling his hand out from behind Rose’s back, he brought his arm down to examine his wrist. Despite her attempts to surreptitiously have a look, Rose couldn’t see what he was focusing on, as his arm was turned away from her.

“What is it?” she asked, still trying to catch a glimpse.

Looking up, then, at the Doctor’s face, she found him staring at his wrist, his mouth agape. “Doctor, what… ” she said, gently touching his arm. Instantly a feeling of fear and alarm overtook her and she gasped a breath in. Before she could even process the surprising emotions, however, the Doctor pulled his arm away.

“I… I have to go,” he said, his voice full of urgency as he nudged Jack to move. “I’m sorry,” he added, darting her a quick glance seemingly as an afterthought.

“But…” she trailed off as he forcefully pushed Jack to get him to move.

“I… I just remembered something I have to do,” he insisted, shoving past Jack as he climbed to his feet. He nearly tripped in his efforts to dash around a waiter who was serving another table, but he saved himself and managed to scramble out of the pub, leaving a table of confused people in his wake.

“What the hell?” Jack said, staring after his flatmate.

“What was that about?” Mickey asked from across the table.

Yeah. What was that about? A sort of worried ache claimed the pit of her stomach. Things had been going really well; she was sure she hadn’t imagined it. So why...

Donna was quick to answer, “He isn’t feeling well.”

Frowning, Rose looked over at her friend. He’d seemed fine a moment ago.

“Oh. Blimey - I hope it wasn’t the food,” Mickey piped up, looking down at his plate of wings.

“I hope not too,” Lee agreed, staring at his plate of nachos.

“I’m sure it’s fine,” Martha said. “Look - he hadn’t even eaten any of his appie yet,” she pointed out, directly their attention to the Doctor’s uneaten plate of chips.

“Oh. Okay,” Mickey said, sounding relieved as he picked up another bbq wing.

“I hope he’s alright, though,” Martha added, looking over at Rose. Staring back at her friend, Rose felt at a complete loss. She had no idea what was going on.

“I’m sure he’ll be alright. Jack… maybe you should go make sure, though, yeah?” she insisted more than suggested.

“Oh. Uh… yeah. I’ll make sure he gets home okay,” Jack agreed, gathering his jacket.

Every single atom she housed wanted to go with Jack, but she’d only just met the Doctor. She was hardly in a position to invite herself along. Feeling helpless, she watched Jack follow his flatmate out of the pub. Looking over at Donna and Lee she found them speaking in hushed tones. Donna knew something. And she was going to find out what.

Chapter Text

The Doctor paced his room, holding his wrist in a tight grip, as if by doing so he could somehow contain what was happening to him. Anxiety raced through his veins. This was insane! Ridiculous! How could this have happened to him? Surely he was too old now for this.

Looking at it for the thousandth time, he studied the inside of his wrist. He’d never seen one up close. It was the outline of circle, about the size of a 50p coin, with lines and smaller circles within it. It wasn’t the design, though, that was most astounding. It was the colour. It was a deep, effulgent blue. Beautiful. Breathtaking, really. But despite it’s beauty, it wasn’t a good thing. Not now. Not in this country. A mark.

Blimey. He shook his head. It explained so much. Rose. His Rose. Putting the ‘his’ in front of her name felt more than right. And if he was honest with himself, he’d known from the moment he laid eyes on her that she was the one. His. He’d just had no idea the depth of his attraction to her at the time. Now he knew. He was hers. She was his. They were meant to be for each other. On a cellular level. Apparently, in the large scheme of the universe, they were supposed to be together. And if this were a different time… a different country, even, this entire thing might be okay. He could go to her. Be with her. Gods… despite only having met her twice, it’s all he could think about. But right now, here in the UK…

The familiar soft click of the front door opening alerted him to Jack’s arrival home from the pub. Sighing, he pulled his hands down his face and plunked himself down on the bed. How was he gonna explain this to his friends? His patients?!

“Doc?” Jack’s voice called from the front hall. In moments, the sound of Jack’s footsteps approached. “Doc, you here?”

“Yeah,” he called. As much as he just wanted to be alone, he really didn’t.

In moments his bedroom door opened and Jack stepped in, looking truly concerned. “Hey. What was that about? You okay?” he asked from his spot by the door.

The Doctor took a deep breath in in an effort to calm himself a bit before shaking his head. “No,” he shared. “I’m really not.”

Jack’s brows further furrowed as he moved in to sit beside the Doctor on the bed. “What’s going on?” he prodded.

“Look,” he invited, holding out his wrist. On it, the circular blue herald of his genetic mutation seemed to almost shine.

Jack’s eyes widened. “What?! Jesus, Doc…” he breathed.

“Yeah. A mark. I’ve got a mark, Jack,” he said, unable to stay seated any longer. Standing, he began pacing back and forth in front of his flatmate. “What the hell am I going to do?” he lamented. “And what about Rose? What’s going to happen when we get found out?!”

“Okay. Okay, just… just take a deep breath,” Jack instructed. “Did it just show up tonight?” he asked.

“Yeah,” the Doctor answered, tugging at his hair with both his hands. “It’s been itching for days, but it just appeared tonight.”

“Alright, well, that’s good. That buys us some time,” he said.

“Time?!” the Doctor barked back. “Time for what? Jack - this couldn’t be worse for either of us! And what about my friends? What about her family? Blimey - I don’t even know if she has family!” he realized with disgust. He hardly knew this woman, and yet here they were, in this insane position.

“Hey - it’s not going to come to any of that,” Jack promised.

“What? What do you mean, Jack? You, of all people, know what’s happening to people with the mark right now,” he pointed out.

“Of course I do,” Jack returned. “That’s exactly why you couldn’t be in a better position compared to other people in the UK with the mark,” he pointed out. “You live with one of the leaders of the Inclusionist movement. Nothing will happen to you without them having to go through me,” he promised. “Saxon would have to be crazy to target you.”

Pausing his frantic pacing, the Doctor let his head fall back as he tented his fingers over his eyes. “I just… why me? Why me, Jack? I just got my own practice going. I’ve met a fantastic woman…” he trailed off.

“Yeah, you have,” Jack smiled with understanding. He knew. He understood what a mark meant. Both of his parents had had it. “And not all of us are that lucky.”

“Doesn’t feel lucky,” the Doctor lamented, plopping down again to sit beside his flatmate.

“Really?” Jack said, clearly skeptical.

Looking over at his friend, he had to pause. Was he lucky? Really? Of course, his first impulse was to argue, but if he really thought about it… really, really let himself feel it… he had to admit that Jack was irrefutably right. Every molecule of his body knew he was lucky. When he’d sat beside Rose earlier, he’d felt it. The pull of her soul on his. It was a feeling he’d never known he was missing in his life until now. Until he’d felt it with her. And if he was honest, he had to admit that he couldn’t imagine living any more of life without it.

It appeared his lack of answer was enough of an answer for Jack. “I thought so,” he informed him.

“The thing is, Jack… I’ve never felt anything like it,” he admitted. “When she took my hand it was like…”

“Electricity?” Jack offered.

“Exactly!” the Doctor agreed, gesturing emphatically. “It was incredible. And… electricity doesn’t even do the feeling justice. When I touch her…” he shook his head. “There aren’t words,” he admitted.

Jack smiled, looking nostalgic. “My Mom once told me it was like the stars had all collided and exploded within her at the same time,” he shared.

“Yes! That was exactly what it was like,” he agreed, shaking his head before asking, “Is it going to be like that every time?”

Jack thought about that. “I vaguely remember Mom telling me it happened strongest when they touched after they’d been apart for any length of time,” he answered.

The Doctor nodded, taking that in before asking the real burning question on his mind, “Jack, did your Mom and Dad; did they, er…” he trailed off, unsure how to put this. “Is it like they say? Could they read each other’s minds?”

Jack shook his head. “No. Not in the way the anti-markists describe it,” he promised. “They couldn’t tell what the other was thinking. It was more like… Mom once told me they could feel echoes of what the other felt,” he described. “It’s more empathic than telepathic.”

The Doctor let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, feeling more than a bit relieved. Blimey… he couldn’t believe he didn’t know this stuff already. He’d lived with Jack now for over a year and he knew so little about his cause. It was sad. And now, here he was, only now asking because it was personal, yet Jack was being completely supportive. Looking over at his friend, he was suddenly overcome with gratitude for having been lucky enough to have him as a mate. “Thanks, Jack.”

Offering his flatmate an affectionate smile, Jack patted his knee. “It’ll be okay, buddy. We just need to think about this and strategize, okay?”

Sighing, the Doctor nodded. “Okay.”

“Right. Now this is hardly the end of your practice,” Jack informed him. “It’s just a matter of a simple cover up,” he said, looking at the Doctor’s wrist. Following Jack’s gaze, the Doctor considered it. He supposed that could certainly work for a while.

“Okay, but... what about Saxon’s bill? Blimey. I’ll have to be registered,” he said, the idea sinking in only as he said it aloud.

“There are protests happening around the country right now against that very bill. It’ll get repealed. It’ll have to,” Jack assured him. The Doctor looked at him dubiously. “Hey - if I’m wrong, we’ll deal with it. In the meantime, we just have to fight it. Make it impossible for Saxon to do what he’s trying to do,” Jack said.

“Yeah, but… I don’t want to do all of that, Jack. I just want to run my practice and try to make something work with Rose. That’s it. I shouldn’t have to fight to be treated with respect or have to hide this blasted mark now everytime I leave the house. I should be able to be with the person I’m meant to be with. I should be able to live my life,” he shared, knowing full well how simple he sounded even as the words escaped his lips.

Tilting his head, Jack offered him a sad smile. “Yeah. You’re right. You should. It’s not fair. It’s not fair to you, to Rose, or any of the other marked people in this country. None of you should have to worry about being targeted or bullied or discriminated against. But I’m sorry, man. The reality is, you’re going to have to fight for those basic rights. The good news is you’re not alone. There are thousands and thousands of people who are supporting you. But now you have a personal duty to try to make the world more accepting. Your future depends on it. Rose’s future depends on it,” he added.

Rose. Her name invoked was enough to make him pause. The need to keep her safe felt bone deep. It wasn't just something to consider. It was imperative. He might’ve been slightly complacent about his role in supporting the marked cause before now, but that was going to have to change. No longer was he going to be able to just hand out the odd flyer while Jack fought tooth and nail for what was right. Not any more. If it meant keeping Rose safe… keeping her out of harm’s way… he’d do it.

Looking at his friend, he nodded his understanding. “Okay. I don’t know what difference I can make, but I'll do whatever I can,” he promised.

Clapping him on the back, Jack smiled. “Good. And listen; until things settle down with this whole Saxon thing, I think you need to keep your distance from Rose.”

“What?!” the Doctor replied, instantly rejecting the idea.

“You have to for now, Doc. Until she realizes she’s marked as well, at least,” Jack insisted. He was about to object when Jack continued, “Your mark is in a really visible spot, Doc. Not only that, but it’ll get bigger and more detailed the more time you spend with her. If you get found out by accident and you've been seen with her, it won't be a stretch for people to start questioning whether she has it as well,” he said practically.

The Doctor let the suggestion sink in. Every ounce of him wanted to go to her. Right now. Tell her what he'd discovered. Share what he'd learned and maybe she'd tell him she felt it too. But he knew Jack was right. Knowing she was marked would do nothing but cause her grief at the moment. If she still didn't realize she was marked, she could still go about her life without fear. She and her family would be free from danger. “Okay. I'll keep my distance,” he vowed. “I'll do whatever I have to do to keep her safe.”

Jack smiled. “I know you will. She’s your soulmate.”

“My soulmate…” he trailed off. Soulmate. The reality of the word sunk in, making him pause. Despite the fear of being found out, he couldn't help but feel a sense of marvel. He had a soulmate.

 

OoOoOoOoO

 

Rose sat picking at her food, looking distractedly out the window of the chippy she was sitting in. Normally she’d have scarfed down the bulk of her chips by now, but she hadn’t been able to eat much this last couple of days. Absently she watched as a small group of people gathered across the street in front of a small old church.

Sliding into the seat across from her, Martha ignored the remainder of the salad she’d ordered and grabbed up one of Rose’s chips, dunking it in the ketchup on the side of her plate. “Sorry I took so long. There was a queue for the loo,” she stated, popping the chip in her mouth. Looking at her friend as she chewed, Martha sighed. “Aren’t you going to eat anything?”

Shaking her head, Rose continued staring out the window at the small assembly as a minister exited the church and started handing out placards. Idly scanning the crowd, her heart slammed to a stop as her eyes landed on a tall, slender man with chestnut hair in the crowd with his back to her. With every nerve ending in her now hyperalert, she sat up straighter to stare more intently. Was it him? Instantly her stomach erupted with the flight of a thousand butterflies.

Before her, the target of her interest turned to look over at a woman standing beside him, and instantly the kaleidoscope of insects filling her belly flittered back down to the pit of her stomach. It wasn’t him. Of course it wasn’t.

Across from her, her friend sighed, clearly realizing what - who - she’d been mistakenly staring at. “Maybe you should just call him, yeah?” Martha offered, reading her mind.

Rose sighed. Her thoughts exactly. Still... “I don’t know…” she trailed off. It’d been four days since the pub and since she’d seen him. The Doctor. She’d sort of hoped he might try to contact her after he’d so hastily left the bar, but so far he hadn’t. She’d considered calling Donna and grilling her for information, but the more she thought about it, the less confident she became. She hardly knew the bloke, after all. Sure, she was wildly attracted to him, but that didn’t justify her stalking the poor man. He’d left the bar for a reason and he hadn’t tried to contact her. That said something. Something she very much didn’t like, but she still had to respect it.

“I do,” Martha said, interrupting her sad thoughts. “Call him. What’s the worst that could happen?”

“He could tell me to bugger off?” Rose posited.

Martha rolled her eyes. “Really? I don’t think he’d do that. You didn’t see the way he was looking at you the other night. He was bloody besotted,” she informed her, picking up another chip.

“Then why did he leave like that?” Rose asked, stating the question she’d been asking herself since he’d barrelled out of the pub.

“Who knows,” Martha replied. “But it probably had nothing to do with you,” she offered. “And you’ll never know for sure unless to you try to find out.”

Rose considered that. Somehow, she knew it would literally kill her if he rejected her. Okay - maybe not literally, but certainly figuratively. He’d been all she’d been able to think about now for weeks and the other night only reinforced the fact that her mind and body had no intention of letting go of the notion of being with him. “Yeah… maybe I will,” she agreed aloud.

“That’s my girl,” Martha smiled. “Now eat up. You’ll need your energy if you’re going to go talk to Doctor boy.”

Nodding, Rose picked up a chip and stared at it. “How should I do it, though?” she considered out loud. “I can’t just call and ask him what happened. And even if I wanted to, I don’t have his number,” she added.

“You could call his office?” Martha hazarded.

“Yeah, but… if I call the office I’d have to leave a message through Donna… it would be so awkward,” she thought aloud, absently popping the chip in her mouth. Biting down, the vinegar and salt coated fried potato instantly stung the sore on her gums. Fuck!

“What’s wrong?” Martha said, not missing the hiss of pain she’d sucked in.

Holding the outside of her cheek while she waited for the pain to dull, an idea came to her. “Martha… I’ve got it,” she said, a wide smile finding her lips.

“You do? You’ve got what?”

“I know how I can see him again. He offered to look at this sore I’ve got on my gums… said I should just pop by,” she grinned.

Martha pointed a finger in her direction. “Now that’s the solid kind of problem solving I like to see,” she said with approval.

Smiling in triumph at her genius, she sat up straighter. Looking down at her plate of chips, she pushed it toward Martha. “You finish these. I’m gonna get going while I have the nerve,” she decided.

“Alright,” Martha said with a large smile. “You go, girl! Call me right away afterward,” she insisted. “Oh - and you probably want to head back toward Dunst street, though. That ridiculous ‘Support Bill 316’ rally is supposed to start soon. If you go down Dunst you should avoid the worst of the crowd,” she informed her.

Rose looked out the window to find the small gathering across the street had blossomed into a full crowd. A few people were already holding up their placards, which Rose could now make out. ’If anyone worships the beast and receives a mark, he also will drink the wine of God's wrath’ Revelation 14:9-11. Another read, ’The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, whoever receives the mark of the beast.’ - God.

A chill ran through her. This lot was seriously disturbed. “Don’t these people have anything better to do than make other people’s lives miserable?” she intoned.

“Apparently not,” Martha answered. For a moment both of them watched the self-righteous crowd as they began making their way down the street toward the rally site. “But hopefully that Inclusionist group will put things right,” Martha said. “I heard there’s a big protest planned for this weekend. Maybe we should go,” she suggested.

Rose nodded. “Sure, I’ll go,” Rose agreed. “Next Saxon and his lot will be trying to deport medical students. Then who’d help me with all my guy problems?” she added.

Martha laughed. “Yeah, well, I wouldn’t put it past him. He might not deport medical students, but he’s made no bones about the fact he’s not fond of immigrants with darker skin. Who’s to say he wouldn’t aim his next political gun at my Nan?” she said stonily.

Rose hadn’t considered that. Right now most of the hate rhetoric was centered around the marked, but Martha was right. Because of Saxon, people were feeling less inhibited about putting words to their once hidden thoughts. Once the marked were ‘dealt with’ it would only be a matter of time before the attention of the extreme right turned to the next minority group.

“You should probably go if you want to try to see him between clients, my dear,” Martha suggested, pulling Rose’s attention away from the group outside. “It’s half twelve. If you leave now you might be able to get in before his 1:00 patient shows,” she suggested.

Rose nodded. “Right. Okay, well… I guess I’m off to see a dentist,” Rose announced. Pulling on her jacket, she grinned nervously at her friend. “Wish me luck.”

“Good luck,” Martha said, giving her a supportive thumbs up.

Returning the gesture, Rose headed out of the shop. Anxiety and excitement began to grow as she passed the last of the placard wielding crowd and continued down the street in the direction of the Doctor’s office building.

What would happen when he saw her? An image of the Doctor looking at her with undisguised distaste immediately filled her mind. Blimey - that was beyond being an unwelcome thought. The idea that he might be unhappy to see her again actually made her feel ill. Deciding that it wouldn’t help her confidence any thinking this way, she purposefully tried to imagine him gracing her with his attractive dimpled grin. Ahhh. That was better. Morphing the image further, she replaced it with the memory of him staring at her… his eyes dropping to study her lips. Deciding to embellish, she pushed the image further to imagine him leaning in to press his own, soft lips to hers. She’d reach up to run her hand along his lightly stubbled jaw and up into his thick hair as his lips played against hers, pressing a bit more emphatically with her encouragement...

A pulse of desire swept through her with the thought, making her almost dizzy.

Holy… she needed to take a pill. ’One step at a time, Tyler,’ she admonished herself. She needed to pull back and calm down. Whatever reaction he had - and sadly, she was pretty sure it wouldn’t involve snogging - she was about to find out. Pretty soon she’d see the Doctor again and would know one way or the other what her immediate future would be like. A good one with more of him in it, or one she didn’t want to even contemplate. One without him.

Chapter Text

The Doctor walked along Haymarket back toward the office, barely noticing the foot traffic headed toward Trafalgar square. It’d been four days since he’d discovered he had a soulmate and that he was marked. Four long long days. Four long days thinking of little but her.

Oh, he’d tried to take his mind off. Work was busy, which helped. What hadn’t been helping were Donna’s piteous looks every time he passed reception. He’d had to tell her, of course. She would’ve found out soon enough anyway, plus, she was the one who saw the mark in the first place, so it wasn’t like he could hide it from her. And to her credit, she’d been brilliant about it. She’d helped him cover it up the first morning with a large plaster and had gone out at lunch to buy him more for the next day. Still, despite her support, her looks of concern always sent his mind flying in the direction of Rose.

Evenings were even worse. Without patients to distract him, he found himself milling around the flat, pining. He’d tried to keep his thoughts occupied by reading journals and watching telly, and Jack had tried to keep him busy making placards for the protest that was planned for the weekend. All of his efforts, though, were fruitless. Every time he caught a glance of the plaster on his wrist his thoughts were catapulted back to Rose. What was she doing right now? Was she thinking about him too? Was she as uncomfortable as he was without her?

Finally making it back to the building, he trudged through the front doors and the lobby and headed off to the right toward his practice. At least he had a decently busy afternoon ahead. That would help distract him from the cloying need to see her again.

Opening the door, he scanned the waiting room. Up at reception a poshly dressed, middle aged man with puffy cheeks and wild eyebrows stood leaning against the counter, chatting with Donna. Or more like, talking her ear off, if the Doctor was reading her expression correctly. Inwardly he sighed. Mr. Winkitt. Damn it. This was one patient he definitely wasn’t pleased to see.

Jacob Winkitt was an American diplomat working under a very right-leaning U.S. government. The Doctor had never felt very comfortable with the man, who’d made no effort to hide the fact he thought the UK ought to follow America’s lead in terms of its anti-immigration stance. Still, he was a paying patient and a rather high profile one at that, and during his visits here he’d always been respectful.

“Afternoon, Mr. Winkitt,” the Doctor said with a nod.

“Afternoon, Doc,” he replied in a southern American drawl. “I was just tellin’ your lovely Donna here about the rally today. You comin’ out?”

Rally? He was pretty sure the rally was this weekend. Had he misheard Jack? Well, if it was today, he couldn’t very well go. He had patients booked. “Uh, no - I can’t,” he admitted.

“Shame,” he said. “Oh well - it’s my gain, I guess. Stupid tooth is drivin’ me crazy,” he explained.

“Right, well - I’ll be with you in a couple of minutes, then,” the Doctor promised, heading past reception and into the back to hang up his jacket and wash his hands. Mr. Winkitt’s voice floated back from his spot in front of Donna’s desk, making the Doctor wince a bit. He could only imagine the earful he was going to get from Donna once the man left.

Washed and ready, the Doctor headed back up to the front to collect his outspoken patient. Stepping behind the counter with Donna he grabbed up the waiting clipboard beside her and looked up to find her staring at him with wide eyes. “What?” he asked.

Leaning her head in the direction she wanted him to look, she widened her eyes even further. Blimey - something had her worried. Looking up in the direction she’d indicated, the Doctor found Mr. Winkitt now sitting down in the waiting room. But that’s not what made his heart start galloping in his chest. Beside him, offering the old politician a breathtaking smile, was Rose.

Dressed in a denim minidress with a flattering scarf and a denim jacket, she leaned slightly away from the bulbous man who was clearly invading her space. Her hair was playfully pulled into two loose braids making her look all the more lovely and all the more in need of his protection from the slimey lout currently insisting on her attention.

Without thinking, he barked, “Mr. Winkitt,” loud enough to make Donna jump in the seat beside him.

Startled, both Mr. Winkitt and the woman he… Rose… looked up at the same time. The jealousy and protectiveness that prompted the outburst instantly melted with the beaming smile Rose graced him with. Staring, he found himself immersed in it.

As he gazed at her, though, the reality of the situation hit him. She shouldn’t be here. She could be in danger here. But… is it possible she’d figured it out? Had she noticed a mark on her perfect skin somewhere? The idea made him irrationally happy. As much as he wanted her to be oblivious to it - to continue to live in peace not knowing she was marked - if she knew, then maybe… maybe they could...

Beside him, Donna loudly cleared her throat.

Oh. Oh yeah. Mr. Winkitt. “Er… Yes. Mr. Winkitt, I’m ready for you now,” he informed the man.

“Oh. Good,” Winkitt said, apparently oblivious to the Doctor’s initial reprimanding tone. Standing, he turned to Rose. “Lovely to meet you, my dear,” he said.

To Rose’s credit, she offered him a friendly smile in return. “You too,” she replied.

Turning to Donna, the Doctor whispered as Mr. Winkitt headed toward the hall, “What is she doing here?”

“She said you offered to look at a sore she’s got in her mouth,” Donna whispered back. “What’d you do that for? Jack said you shouldn’t see her,” she schooled him.

His heart sank. Oh yes, that’s right. He’d suggested she come by. So she wasn’t here because of the mark, then. “I said it before… before all this,” he said discreetly holding up his wrist.

“Do you want me to get rid of her?” Donna asked, clearly ready to do whatever she needed to do to help him.

“No!” he nearly barked. She couldn’t leave.

’She should go,’ his objective brain offered helpfully.

Squashing that thought, he said again, “No, I’m fine. I mean… it’s fine. I’ll have a look after I’m done with Mr. Winkitt,” he said more calmly.

“Doc?” Mr. Winkitt’s cloying voice called from the hall.

“Just… keep her here, alright?” the Doctor entreated his receptionist, almost desperate for her to do as he bid.

Donna let out a frustrated sigh. “Alright,” she agreed.

“Thanks,” he said, allowing himself to relax a bit. He’d quickly get Mr. Winkitt done and out of here and then he’d have a look at Rose. Just a quick look and that was it. It couldn’t hurt to see her for just a few minutes, could it?

Heading out into the hall, he met a slightly impatient Mr. Winkitt. “This way,” he said, walking ahead of him toward his first operatory. In it, Rory was setting up for the examination.

“Have a seat, Mr. Winkitt,” he instructed, a bit sharply. Rory looked up at him from his seat beside the head of the chair with a questioning look. Right. He needed to reign it in. Despite the fact the man had been practically mauling another one of his patients… HIS patient… he was a professional.

Throwing on a pair of gloves, the Doctor seated himself at the head of the chair currently housing the lecherous politician. Tilting it all the way back, he asked, “So what seems to be the problem today.” Good. That sounded professional and detached.

“Well, it’s my back molar, Doc. Started hurtin’ a while back, but now it aches non-stop,” he shared.

“Right. Well, let’s have a look,” the Doctor said. Clicking the overhead light on, he grabbed up his mirror. “Open up,” he instructed.

Examining the man’s mouth, he made quick work of the assessment. A massive cavity glaring at him from his patient’s upper left second molar was the cause of the man’s pain. “It looks like you’ve got some significant tooth decay there, Mr. Winkitt,” he explained, pulling back to look at his patient. “I’d recommend we fill it today, if you can spare the time.”

“That’s why I’m here, Doc. Do what you’ve gotta do - just fix it,” he directed.

“Right,” the Doctor agreed. “Rory, can you set up for the filling?”

“Sure, Doctor,” Rory replied, standing to gather the necessary tools.

Getting up, the Doctor headed for the computer on the other side of the room and began typing his assessment notes while Rory readied everything. He’d barely typed a word before his thoughts shifted to the woman in the waiting room. She’d looked beautiful. The fact that he was going to see her again made his stomach flip-flop.

“So what about you, young man?” Mr. Winkitt drawled, clearly addressing Rory. “You going to the rally today?”

Trying to concentrate, the Doctor forced himself to focus on the screen in front of him.

“No, I’m not.”

A short pause followed. “Should I take it that you’re not a supporter of the cause, then?”

The Doctor frowned and looked over. Rory was readying the dental dam. “No, I’m not a supporter, actually,” Rory explained, his voice level.

He wasn’t? The Doctor had been pretty sure Rory was an Inclusionist.

“Mmm. You know, they’re not like us,” Mr. Winkitt informed him authoritatively. “You might think they’re harmless, son, but your Saxon… he’s on the right track with this,” the American lectured. “They’re dangerous people. There’s no denyin’ it.”

The Doctor’s blinked. He wasn’t talking about the Inclusionist rally.

“If God had wanted people to have the mark he woulda created us that way from the beginnin’,” the politician continued. “If you ask me, this mark is Satan’s work, and Satan has no place in a decent society,” he concluded. “You agree with me, don’t you, Doc?”

For a moment, the Doctor was speechless. He knew some people actually felt that way, but to hear it out loud coming from someone with power...

“...these mutants should be registered,” the man was saying, having continued without waiting for a response. “Better yet, they should be moved to somewhere they can’t influence good folks with their damnable mind powers. I mean, think about it - why would anyone with an ounce of sanity decide to be a suicide bomber? They wouldn’t. The Marked are brainwashin’ normal folks into doin’ evil. Simple as that.”

Gobsmacked by the enormity of the sheer ignorance sitting in front of him, the Doctor simply stared at the hateful man. Fear and disgust warred in him as he considered his response.

Apparently reading the Doctor’s silence as ambivalence, Winkitt continued, “Now, don’t get me wrong. I know there’s probably the odd good one out there. I’m sure not all the Marked are corrupt. But just because a bin of rotten apples has one good one in it doesn’t mean we should keep the bin. Chances are, that one good apple is already goin’ bad anyway. And with the kind of powers the Marked have, we just can’t take chances,” he warned. “Surely a learned man like yourself can understand that,” he insisted.

The Doctor’s jaw clenched almost painfully as he made an effort to rein in his utter disgust and anger with the ape before him. He couldn’t even think of him as human. Surely a human being would never be so ignorant. Humans were obligated to be decent to each other. They had the ability to see past differences and to think beyond initial prejudice. And this was no human by that definition.

Striding to the head of the chair, the Doctor sat on his stool and picked up the large needle sitting on the tray beside him. This was it. He had to decide. Right now. Did he stand up for what was right or step back and watch as people like this continued to spread hate and falsehoods? There was no choice, really. Not for him. This was his opportunity. He may not be ready to show the world his mark, but he was ready to educate. He had to. For himself, but more for Rose. One day she would be found out, and his goal was to have this world accepting of her by that time. It was a dream, but he wasn’t going to stop until he saw it come true.

Holding the syringe up to the light, he made a show of studying it as he squirted a tiny bead of clear liquid out of the tip. Sitting taller, he squared his jaw and took a tight breath before jumping solidly into the fray with both feet. “I’m actually firmly on the other side of the fence on the issue of the Marked, Mr. Winkitt,” he stated. “Now open up.”

The man’s eyes widened, but he didn’t have a chance to respond before the Doctor was taking his lower jaw in hand to encourage him to open. Sliding the needle none-to-gently into the resistive tissue of the man’s hard palate near the offended tooth, he squeezed half the novocain out of the syringe. A pained hiss issued from the hateful lout beneath him. Drawing the needle out, he repositioned it and pushed more medication into the man’s gums. Withdrawing the needle completely, then, Doctor said quickly, “Rory, can you insert the dam, please.”

“With pleasure,” his assistant agreed, quickly moving to stuff the stretchy blue protector over the man’s gaping orifice.

Picking up the drill, the Doctor found himself actually considering starting to dig into the tooth without waiting for the freezing to completely take, but knew he could never do that, despite his sudden wish to see this man writhing in pain. No matter how ignorant he was, the Doctor couldn’t deliberately hurt him. Besides, he needed this man to see reason and torture didn’t generally work well for that purpose.

Rolling his chair back, he waited for the novocaine to take hold while his patient lay there, unable to talk. “You know, Mr. Winkitt, there are two types of people in the world, but not the two kinds you refer to,” he began. “Basically, there are people who are full of hatred and fear who spread lies and distrust for people who are different from themselves because they’re afraid of what they don’t understand. Then there are those who recognize that differences don’t need to be feared and that diversity makes us stronger as a species. Those people try to understand ‘the other’ in the knowledge that as human beings we are always better together than divided. Someone like you… someone with power and influence… you should be standing up for all the people you can affect. You could do so much good… you could pull people together instead of trying to tear them apart,” he insisted. “The Marked… I can promise you; they’re not out to create suicide bombers and kill innocent people. Most of them just want to live their lives in peace with the people they’ve bonded with. That’s it. That doesn’t make them evil. It makes them human.”

Glaring up at him from his helpless position in the chair, his patient’s nostrils were flared and his eyes burning. He clearly disagreed.

Right. Well, he’d said his piece. It was all he could do. And who knows. Maybe Mr. Winkitt would think about what he’d said and actually consider his words later when he wasn’t at his mercy. A man could hope, anyway.

Taking a deep breath in, the Doctor pulled his mask up and picked up the drill. “Alright. Let’s get this tooth dealt with.”

Leaning over his patient, the Doctor began the work of removing the decay and filling the man’s tooth. On more than a few occasions, he caught Mr. Winkitt staring up at him as he worked. He’d really pissed him off. Oh well. Too bad. He’d said what needed to be said.

The entire process took about twenty minutes, and as he worked, the Doctor’s thoughts drifted to the woman waiting for him out in the waiting room. Despite the nastiness of this encounter, he found his heart growing lighter with every moment that passed. He was going to see her again. Maybe touch her…

Time seemed to fly by with thoughts of Rose filling his mind, and before long, he was finished. “Alright, Mr. Winkitt,” he said, pulling his mask back down. “You’re done.” Getting up, the Doctor pulled off his gloves and threw them in the bin. “You’ll need to be careful eating for the next couple of hours; you’ll be frozen for a while yet and you’ll need to avoid biting your cheek by accident. Other than that, you’re good to go,” he informed him as Rory sat the man upright again.

Mr. Winkitt grunted, clearly unimpressed with his dental experience.

“Donna will have your bill ready on the way out,” the Doctor added, moving to open the door for his patient.

Standing, Mr. Winkitt took his coat from the hook on the wall and flipped it over his arm. Stopping in front of the Doctor for a moment, the politician regarded him critically before looking down pointedly at the plaster on his wrist. “That looks like a good sized injury you got there,” he said. “Hope you’ve had it looked at.”

The Doctor froze for a split second, but quickly recovered. “What? Oh… that,” he replied as nonchalantly as he could manage. “Burned myself. Bit clumsy in the kitchen, I’m afraid,” he added.

“Mmm,” the man hummed. Was there a hint of a smirk there?

“Have a good rest of your day, Mr. Winkitt,” the Doctor said, holding the door open a bit wider and offering the man as pleasant and disarming a smile as he could muster.

“I intend to,” he replied. Passing by him as he exited, his patient headed down the hall back toward the front, leaving the Doctor vibrating in agitation.

“What an arse,” he heard Rory intone behind him.

“Arse is too kind a word for him,” the Doctor replied, watching as the man disappeared from sight.

“How does someone like that sleep at night? I mean, blimey - Imagine spending life being so paranoid and angry,” Rory marvelled.

Paranoid. Yes, he clearly was. And now the politician was suspicious of him as well. Unbidden, fear skittered through him. He’d just pissed off a career politician who had the ear of some very powerful people. Had he just made the biggest mistake in his life - giving one of the American government’s employees a lecture on human rights?

You did it for Rose. You’ve done the right thing.’ the voice in his head offered. Yeah. He supposed he had. If he could help people see the error in their ways, he was doing what he could to make the world a better place for Rose. Protecting her was his new purpose in life. He had to keep that thought forefront in his mind. Protect Rose.

Yes. Protect Rose. And on that topic - as far as today went, he’d allow himself only a quick visit. That’s all it would be. After all, he couldn’t very well turn her away. It would be unprofessional to deny seeing her now that she was here. But after this… after this he’d behave. No more Rose Tyler until he could be sure she was going to be safe.

Rose. He was going to see her again. The very idea filled him with a delicious giddiness.

The tinkle of instruments behind him alerted him to the fact that Rory was still in the room. Right. Rory. He didn’t need his assistant just for a quick look in a patient’s mouth, did he? Clearing his throat, he suggested, “Why don’t you go get room two ready for my two o’clock, Rory. I’ve got a quick walk-in - I’ll just see her in here while you set up.”

Looking up from his task, Rory’s brows furrowed. “Are you sure?”

“Yup,” the Doctor replied, turning back to the computer. The Doctor rarely saw patients without his assistant standing by, but it wasn’t unheard of.
“Just a simple check in. No need for us both.”

“Alright,” Rory said, sounding doubtful. Finishing up with the tray he’d been refreshing, he set it down and left the room.

With the foul feeling of the last visit now all but forgotten in favour of Rose coloured excitement, the Doctor pulled her up on the computer. Her name blinked into existence at the top of her virtual file further pushing the interaction with Mr. Winkitt from his thoughts. Rose. His Rose.

Making himself walk rather than run, bounce or jump down the hall, he tried to remain collected. He mustn’t lose himself in the upcoming encounter and ravish his soulmate right there on the chair. He had to remember why he’d promised Jack he wouldn’t see her again. Repeating a focusing mantra as he walked, he headed toward the waiting room. ‘Protect her. Protect her. Protect her…’

Chapter Text

Rose’s heart rate finally slowed a bit with the disappearance of the Doctor and the man who’d been sitting beside her in the waiting room. When her eyes met his… she honestly thought her heart was gonna burst out of her chest. Unfortunately, though, she still had no idea how he felt about her being there. His expression had literally been unreadable. He’d looked… surprised. That’s about all she got from the open-mouthed stare he’d given her as she smiled like a complete loon at him.

Suddenly anxious, she stood and stretched her legs, finding she needed to move. Looking over, she regarded Donna, who was on the phone on the other side of the reception counter. Making her way over, she leaned on it and smiled at her friend.

“Really? Not til tomorrow? Can’t you come out this afternoon?” she was complaining. Looking up at Rose she rolled her eyes. Clearly not enjoying the conversation, then. “Alright fine. That’ll have to do I guess,” she huffed. “Yeah. Okay, bye.”

Hanging up, Donna sighed loudly. “Stupid photocopier is down. Again. Piece of rubbish, that thing,” she lamented.

“I’m sorry,” Rose said, commiserating.

“Yeah. Oh well, what can you do?” she said. “So how’ve you been? You still off work?”

“Yeah,” she answered, absently rubbing her still tender rib. “I can’t wait until I get all my A levels so I can get out of there for good,” she admitted.

Donna smiled. “I think it’s amazing what you’re doing.”

“Thanks,” she smiled back. “I’m pretty chuffed about it. ‘S hard work, though, all the studying,” she admitted, shaking her head. “I’ve been finding it so hard to concentrate lately too… it’s ridiculous,” she added.

Donna’s expression suddenly became a bit guarded. “Oh yeah? How come?”

Rose bit her lip. Maybe she shouldn’t say anything. Donna was her mate, but she was also the Doctor’s friend. It wouldn’t be right to put her in the middle of all this. Still…

“I, uh… I guess I’ve been a bit distracted since… since the other night at the pub,” she admitted, watching Donna’s expression.

“Oh yeah?” Donna said innocently.

“Yeah. I’ve been sort of, I don’t know, thinking about the Doctor a fair bit.”

“Really?” Donna said, sounding mildly surprised.

“Yeah. Look, Donna, can I ask you something?” she proposed.

Worry instantly replaced Donna’s innocent expression. “Is it about the Doctor?” she asked.

Rose paused. “Uh… yeah.”

“Then, no. I’m sorry,” Donna said, looking apologetic.

“What?”

“No… you can’t ask me. I mean, I’d rather you didn’t,” she admitted.

Rose instantly felt her cheeks redden. “Oh.”

“It’s just that, he’s my boss…” she trailed off.

“No… no I completely understand,” Rose said, looking off into the waiting room to hide her embarrassment.

“I’m sorry,” Donna offered.

“No, that’s fine. I’m sorry. I get it,” Rose filled in quickly. “I’ll just… I’m just gonna sit for a minute,” she said lamely, quickly heading for one of the chairs.

Fuck. Fuckfuckfuck. Why had she opened her big mouth? She felt like such a numpty. Now Donna was uncomfortable. Anxiety welled in her and to her surprise she found herself pushing back panicky tears. Damn it! She should just leave. What was she doing here, anyway? The Doctor had bolted the other night for a reason and clearly didn’t want her to be privy as to why or he’d have made an effort to contact her. Now here she was, sitting in his waiting room looking like a fucking stalker! Hot embarrassment filled her making the tears she’d been barely controlling spill over and down her cheeks.

Pulling her purse strap up over her shoulder, she made to stand up when Donna appeared beside her. “I, uh… mind if I sit,” she asked.

Oh fuck. Ducking her head in a futile attempt to hide her tears, she nodded. Sitting beside her, Donna sighed. “I’m sorry,” she offered.

Without looking up, Rose replied, “‘S alright. I understand,” she said quickly, sniffling as quietly as she could as her nose started to run.

“Oi... are you crying?” Donna asked, taking her hand as she did.

Unable to answer, Rose continued staring down at her hands as fresh tears tracked down her cheeks. “Oh, love,” Donna sighed, wrapping an arm around her. “I really am sorry.” Pulling Rose into her shoulder, she leaned a cheek on her head, which only made Rose cry a bit harder. “Shhh,” she encouraged.

“I’m sorry,” Rose apologized wetly. “I feel like such a numpty - bawling my eyes out here. I shouldn’t’ve said anything. It’s just... it’s been on my mind for days and I thought maybe you might know what I’d done that made him so upset the other night,” she admitted.

Beside her, her friend seemed to deflate. “You didn’t do anything,” she said.

“I must’ve,” Rose insisted. “I just don’t know what. And Donna… I don’t know why, but I have to know. I just keep thinking about it. I mean, I know it sounds daft,” she admitted, shaking her head, “but I really thought we were hitting it off, you know? Him taking off like that… I know I should just take the hint. I’ve tried to tell myself to just let it go and move on, but...” she trailed off.

Pulling back, Donna looked at her, as if sizing her up. “Look… I can’t tell you why he left. Not right now,” she admitted, picking up a box of tissues that were on the corner table beside her, “but I promise it’s not because he wanted to leave you.” Rose looked at her skeptically as Donna held out the tissue box. “I swear.”

Accepting the offering, Rose pulled a couple of tissues out of it. “So… he’s not angry with me, then?” she pushed, finding it impossible not to ask.

Donna smiled empathetically. “No. He’s not angry with you,” she assured her. “Far from it.”

Relief poured through her. If it was true, then maybe… maybe there was a chance. Rose smiled gratefully and nodded. “Thank-you, Donna,” she said, meaning it. She felt as if a huge weight had been lifted.

“You’re welcome,” her friend said. “Now let’s get you a glass of water and then you can go freshen up in the loo, yeah?” she suggested.

“Sure, yeah. Thanks.”

“Anytime,” her friend said said, patting her hand. Standing, she moved back behind her desk and began filling a plastic cup with cold water from the cooler there. Standing, Rose reached across the counter to accept it and took a few refreshing swallows.

“The loo is down the hall to the right,” Donna informed her kindly.

“Thanks.” Wiping her nose as she headed down the hall, she couldn’t help but pause at the door of the first operatory. A little flutter in her stomach told her to peek through the little window in the door. She wasn’t disappointed. Inside, the Doctor sat working diligently in the mouth of the pushy bloke who’d been hitting on her in the waiting room. She watched for a moment as he deftly manipulated the drill before allowing Rory a chance to suction the man’s mouth. He looked so confident and professional and delicious sitting there. Completely, completely delicious. Inexplicably, she suddenly felt an almost overwhelming desire to throw the door open, run over, drag him up by his scrubs, pull that mask off and snog him senseless. The thought sent a pool of desire directly to her centre, making her squirm a bit as she continued to watch him.

Just then, Rory looked up from their shared patient. Oops!

Backing away from the door before he saw her, she hurriedly continued down the hall toward the loo. ‘For heaven’s sake, Tyler… you can’t even wait a few minutes?’ she scolded herself. It was like she had no self control anymore. She was completely and utterly infatuated with this man and it was truly maddening not to mention a bit frightening. Surely this wasn’t normal.

Finally, standing in the loo in front of the mirror, Rose realized why Donna had been so insistent that she freshen up. Her mascara had run quite nicely and she looked a bit like a poorly racoon. Doing her best to wash off the dark smears, she patted her face with the available paper towels. Applying some fresh lippy, she looked again at her reflection and put on a purposeful smile. There. Better. Her eyes were only the tiniest bit puffy now and she looked relatively presentable.

Stepping back out into the hall, she made her way back toward the waiting room, being mindful to avoid peeking into the operatory again. For some reason she knew she’d end up staring, and she didn’t want to come off like a complete nutter before she even spoke with him again.

The waiting room was now occupied by a young dark haired woman reading a magazine. Returning to her previous spot, Rose settled in as the woman a few seats down from her put her magazine down and reached for another before settling back in her seat. Sneaking a look at the slender, attractive woman, Rose found herself very much disliking the fact that she was almost surely here to see the Doctor. She’d probably flirt with him, Rose was sure. How could a straight, single woman not? He was perfect. An image of him floated before her mind’s eye. His gorgeous mussed hair, his perfect sideburns, his pouty lip… it should be illegal for him to practice dentistry with single women. Or men, really.

For God’s sake. Was she really going to be jealous of the entire human race now? ’No. Just the ones who come to see my dentist, her mind supplied helpfully. Shaking her head at her ridiculous reasoning, she forced herself to take her phone from her purse and open a game app instead of continuing to size up the competition. Blimey, she had it bad.

Starting her game, she concentrated on pulling cards to their proper spots on their respective piles. The action was slightly hypnotic and she quickly found her whirring mind slowing a bit. She was halfway through her third game of solitaire when she became vaguely aware of someone leaving the office. Looking up, she found the bulky American exiting through the door. Butterflies took flight in her belly. That meant…

“Rose Tyler?”

OoOoOoOoO

Rose’s head snapped away from the door and her eyes met his own, making the air leave his lungs in a silent whoosh. Despite being devoid of oxygen, a grin decorated his lips as he stared at the vision sitting in his waiting room.

“Hello,” Rose said, offering him a truly gorgeous smile in return.

“Hi,” he replied simply, standing frozen in the middle of the hall. For a moment he just stood there, looking at her. It wasn’t until she ducked her head with a blush that he cleared his throat. “Uh, come on in,” he offered.

“Thanks,” she replied, standing and walking seductively toward him.

Okay - in all fairness, she wasn’t purposely being seductive, he realized. She just was seductive. Her beautiful smile and generous lips, her shapely figure and large caramel eyes… she was the epitome of sexy.

Forcing his eyes to stop raking over the woman approaching him, he turned and led her directly to the operatory he’d seen his last patient in and gestured for her to enter. It took all his effort not to place his hand on the small of her back to lead her in. “Have a seat,” he suggested, gesturing to the chair.

“Thanks,” she replied, sliding herself onto it, her purse clutched to her stomach.

For a stupid moment he artlessly stared at her. She was here. In his office. For him. By just being in here, she was effortlessly erasing the stain of Mr. Winkitt’s residual dark energy from the room. Vaguely aware he was grinning, It took another moment before he managed to assemble his Rose addled brain cells enough to realize he must look like a complete putz, ogling at her as he was.

Schooling himself, he moved purposefully to sit on the stool at the head of the chair. Rolling around so they could talk, he ventured, “So…” With that, he trailed off, realizing belatedly that he didn’t know what to say. He supposed he should start with some sort of explanation for his hasty exit from the pub the other night.

“So… I, uh… I don’t know if you remember the other night,” Rose inserted, pausing only for a moment before adding, “when you suggested I come by? This thing on my gums is really bothering me.”

“Oh, yes. Of course,” he said, as if he only remembered that part of the conversation right now. “Let’s have a look then,” he suggested.

Rolling himself back to the head of the chair, he tilted it back until she lay almost completely supine. Forcefully, he pushed back the ridiculously tempting idea of climbing on top of her and pressing himself against her as he captured her lips with his. Squeezing his eyes shut for a moment to clear the image, he grabbed up a pair of gloves and snapped on the overhead light.

“Okay, Rose. Open up,” he suggested, daringly and purposefully using her given name and loving the feel of it in his mouth.

Doing as he suggested, she opened wide. Belatedly, he realized he hadn’t asked which side the sore was on. “Show me where it hurts?” he suggested before inserting the mirror.

Pointing, she directed his attention to the outside of her upper left molars. Stretching her cheek with the mirror he looked into her mouth. What the - What was that?

Aiming the overhead lamp more directly, he once again pulled her cheek away from her teeth and peered in her mouth. A soft gasp escaped him. There, blessedly hidden from view from the rest of the world, was her mark. Like his, it was blue, comprised of a circle with smaller circles and lines. It was inexplicably beautiful despite it’s location.

Realizing that Rose was staring up at him with questioning eyes, he rearranged his features and cleared his throat. “Well…” he began, deciding immediately what had to be done, “what you have there is called a gum ulcer,” he lied. “A nasty one as well.”

Pulling the instrument out of her mouth, he sat back and pulled off his gloves to toss them in the bin.

“An ulcer?” she asked, as he pressed the button that elevated the head of the chair.

“Yup,” he said, popping his ‘p’ in an overconfident manner. “I can give you some salve for it, but it’s not a small one.” He wasn’t lying about the size of the issue, at least. “It’s probably going to be a while before it’s dealt with.” Again, not lying.

Concern coloured Rose’s features. “Is it going to be okay?”

“Oh, yes,” he promised. It would. He’d make sure of it.

“Oh good. So… a salve, then?”

“Uh, yeah,” he confirmed. A salve. Moving to the cupboard, he took out his prescription pad and scribbled the name of a gum numbing product. Handing it to her, he added, “Use this twice a day. Morning and bedtime.”

Taking it from him, she studied it. “Okay.”

A charged silence fell between them. This was it. It was either, ’Well, it was lovely to see you again, Ms. Tyler. If it’s still bothering you in, say, a month, you may want to check in,’ or, ’Sooo… what are you doing tonight?’ He knew which one was the right one. For her safety. For her well being. But he also knew which one was pulling at him by the root of his soul.

Before he could open his mouth, though, she said, “So… I was wondering if you would like to get a cuppa sometime? You know - since you had to leave the other night, I thought maybe…” she trailed off.

“Yeah, about that,” he started, “I’m really sorry for scarpering like that,” he apologized.

“Oh, it’s alright,” she assured him. “I was a bit worried about you, though,” she admitted.

The thought that she might be worried about him had crossed his mind, but he hadn’t allowed himself to think about that, since it only made him want to get in touch with her that much more. “I’m sorry,” he apologized.

“No, it’s okay. I was just concerned, is all,” she said, reaching her hand over to lay it on his.

The now familiar zing of attraction shot through him like a bullet, making him instinctively turn his hand over to wrap back around hers. The feeling of her skin on his was indescribable. It was like where they were joined was where he needed to be. Always. Like they should never be separated. Ever.

Rose’s eyes were wide and her lips slightly parted as she stared back at him. “I, uh…” she trailed off.

“I would love to go out with you sometime,” his mouth said before he could censor it.

A wide, brilliant smile lit her face. “Alright. What about tonight, maybe?” she posited hopefully.

Still lost in her presence, he replied, “That sounds brilliant.” He knew he was wearing a goofy grin, but couldn’t make his face follow his command to try to look at least a bit less smitten. Absently, he scratched at the plaster on his wrist.

Looking down, Rose caught the movement. “What happened to your wrist?” she asked, looking concerned.

“What? This?” he said, as if he’d just noticed it was bandaged. “Oh, I burned myself cooking,” he said, repeating the lie he’d offered Mr. Winkitt earlier.

“Oh,” she said, clearly concerned. “Is it bad?” she asked, pulling her hand from his to run her fingers gently over the plaster.

A gasp tore from him as a wave of arousal rolled through him with the contact. Instantly, her hand pulled away. The feel of her touch over his mark, even covered, … it had made him nearly jump out of his skin! For a moment he squeezed his eyes shut against the desire to take her hand in his to make her trace her fingers over his mark once again.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” he heard her say quickly. “It must really hurt.”

She’d misinterpreted his gasp as one of pain. Which was probably… no, definitely much less creepy that the real reason for it.

Opening his eyes, he quickly assured her, “No, it’s fine. Just tender, that’s all.”

Still concerned, she looked down at it. “Looks like it might be infected or something,” she observed. “You should get a doctor to look at it,” she warned.

Following her gaze, he looked at his wrist. Blimey. The skin around the plaster was reddened and… oh god. Peeking out just over the top of the plaster was a hint of blue. Fuck. It was getting bigger!

Quickly pulling his arm away, he stood. “Yeah, I probably should get it looked at,” he agreed, trying his best to look collected. “Maybe I’ll head to the clinic later today,” he added.

“That’s probably a good idea,” she agreed, moving to stand. Reaching his unaffected hand out, he helped her from the chair. Once again, they stood face to face, his hand still holding hers. This time, though, he wasn’t sure he was going to be able to summon the strength to let it go.

“So… tonight, then?” Rose asked, her tongue finding its way between her perfect front teeth.

Unable to stop himself from staring at her mouth, he found himself speaking before he could tear his eyes away. “Yeah. Tonight,” he agreed. “Perfect.”

Rose actually let out a small laugh, making him aware he’d been staring. Again. Finding her eyes sparkling merrily at him, he grinned a bit bashfully. Caught. “Uh, where should we meet?” he said in a futile attempt to hide his embarrassment.

“How about we meet at Gallifrey again?” she suggested. “As long as you promise not to do a runner,” she teased with a smile.

“Gallifrey. That sound brilliant. And I won’t. Run, that is. I promise,” he grinned back.

“Okay,” she said, letting his hand go, leaving him feel decidedly bereft. “I should probably get your number, then. You know - in case I need to get hold of you?” she suggested, pulling her phone from her purse.

Handing it to him, she smiled. He smiled back. Another adorable giggle issued from her. “You, um… you have to type in your number,” she advised.

“Oh! Right, sure,” he agreed, tearing his attention away from her beautiful face to stare down at the mobile in his hands. Doing as she suggested, he added himself to her contacts.

“I’ll text you so you have my number too,” she advised. “See you at seven?”

“Yes, of course. Seven. Sounds good,” he agreed.

Watching her leave the operatory, he found he wanted to follow her out into the hall. He didn’t though. He didn’t want to look as completely needy as he felt, after all. With her gone, the room felt more empty than he’d ever remembered feeling it. Blimey. The strength of his attraction to her was almost unmanageable. If he didn’t know the reason for it, he’d actually be properly frightened. As it was, he was in awe of the sheer power of it.

Sitting down on the rolling stool, he reached up and pulled his hands down his face. Tonight. He’d hoped that seeing her today would act a bit like the salve he’d prescribed for Rose’s gums; it wouldn’t be a cure, but it might ease his discomfort. It clearly hadn’t worked though. At all. In fact, the idea of NOT seeing her again almost immediately made him feel panicked. He needed her. More than that. He craved her. And he honestly didn’t think he’d be able to stay away from her even if he tried.

So. Seven o’clock tonight, then. Maybe… maybe it would be alright. Maybe, if they kept it discreet; if he made sure they went places they wouldn’t be seen by too many people - maybe he’d be able to still see her. He would just have to be careful. Clearly Gallifrey wasn’t going to be the best choice if they were not hoping to be seen, but after tonight he would suggest less obvious places to meet. Yes. That was it. He would just make sure no one knew. Surely he could manage that, couldn’t he?

Chapter Text

Searching his closet, the Doctor sifted through the sparse selections. He always wore either his brown or blue suit when he went to Gallifrey, but maybe Jack had a point the other night. Maybe his suits were a bit much for the pub? As much as he usually didn’t care much about these things, tonight he actually wanted to fit in more than usual. The less attention he and Rose received the better.

Reaching past his brown pinstripes, he grabbed up a pair of jeans and a white, long sleeved tee that would cover the expanded plaster on his arm. Putting them on, he moved to the mirror to study his image. Hmm. Tilting his head, he considered the look. Granted, while he’d probably be more comfortable in his suit, this was likely a better choice considering who he was going to see. He looked a little less ‘old man’ and a little more ‘young and hip’ in this kit.

Blimey. Did he actually just consider himself ‘hip’? ’Nothing ‘old man’ about that,’ he admonished himself sarcastically. Running a hand through his already ruffled hair, he grabbed up his wallet and phone and slipped them in his trouser pockets before heading out of his room.

“Hey, where are you going?” he heard Jack holler as he passed by the kitchen on his way to the door.

“Out,” he answered vaguely, slipping a foot into one of his chucks.

Stepping out into the hall, Jack took a bite of a rather substantial sandwich. “Yeah? Where? Who you meeting?” he mumbled around the food in his mouth.

“Gallifrey. Just meeting a friend,” he replied, tying his laces. For a moment Jack simply stood there, chewing his food. Feeling eyes on the back of his neck, the Doctor looked up. “What?”

“You don’t have any friends,” Jack stated matter-of-factly.

“What?” he replied indignantly. “Of course I have friends! I have loads of friends!”

“Yeah? Who? I mean, other than me, Rory and Donna?” Jack challenged.

Standing, he avoided Jack’s gaze and reached into the closet for his dark grey sports jacket. “I had a life before I met you, you know,” he argued feebly, pulling it on.

“Mmm,” Jack hummed. “No you didn’t. Not a social life, anyway.”

The Doctor huffed indignantly. “I don’t have time for this. I’ve gotta go,” he informed him, opening the door.

“Fine. But for your sake, I hope it’s just some nerdy dentist get-together that doesn’t involve a certain gorgeous blonde,” he warned.

“It’s nothing Jack. A friend of mine from high school is in town and rang this afternoon to see if I wanted to go for a pint. That’s it,” he lied, willing his face to look sincere.

Jack eyed him for a moment, but then relaxed a bit. “Right. Okay, but listen… be careful,” Jack warned, shooting a pointed look at the Doctor’s wrist. “A marked woman was accosted on the tube this afternoon. She was even wearing a plaster. Things are getting out of hand out there,” he informed him.

“Yeah, I’ll be careful. Thanks,” he said, instantly feeling guilty for being short and lying to his flatmate. Jack was only trying to look out for him. Unable to meet his friend’s gaze, he stepped out of the flat and closed the door behind him.

 

OoOoOoOoO

 

Rose bit her lip nervously and checked her phone for the sixth time in as many minutes. She’d gotten to Gallifrey early, and it was a good thing. Almost as quickly as she’d sat down, the place had filled up. It seemed the entire population of London was out tonight. But while it was good she’d managed to snag them a seat, it gave her that much more time to stew. What if he’d changed his mind? What if he’d come to his senses and decided to have a night in instead?

Playing over every moment she’d had with the Doctor this afternoon, she’d managed to convince herself she’d maybe imagined some of it. The look in his eyes when he saw her. The softness of his voice when he accepted her invitation. What if she’d been seeing what she wanted to see? What if he’d just been being kind? What if he just felt sorry for the simple girl who clearly had a crush on him? A thousand scenarios wormed their way through her mind about his motivation for saying yes to meeting her, and, not surprisingly, many of them weren’t positive.

“Here you go,” her waitress said, approaching with a tray and a pint she hadn’t even had to order. Was it sad that she came here so often that she didn’t even get asked what she wanted anymore?

“Thanks, Clara,” Rose replied, gladly accepting the cold glass from the woman she considered more of a friend than a waitress. Without pause, she took a long pull of the frothy beer.

“Oh my. Hard day, then?” Clara hazarded, watching her gulp down the large mouthful.

Letting out a relieved sigh, Rose smiled sheepishly up at her. “No, just…you know how it is. Life,” she said vaguely. “How’s Uni going?” she asked her friend, changing the subject.

“Oh, you know,” she said, tapping her pen on the notepad she carried, “I’m a ball of stress. Starting my practicum next week in a year six class,” she admitted. “What about you? How are the A levels going?”

Rose let out a sigh. “A lot of work, but good, you know? Anything’s better than the shop,” she added.

“Yeah, I get it,” Clara agreed. And Rose knew she did. Like Rose, Clara had gone to work straight out of school, but she hadn’t been long into her career as a waitress before she’d taken the leap and applied for Uni to become a teacher. Rose had practically idolized Clara for that; for being brave and self-assured enough to make her dream happen. It seemed crazy that now she, herself, was in the same boat; going back to school and looking to make a life for herself. It was barmy how something as awful as ‘The Jimmy Incident,’ as she was thinking of it lately, could have something good come of it in the end.

“Matha meeting you today?” Clara asked, handing Rose a menu.

A pleasant tightness filled her chest. “Not today. I’m meeting someone else,” she said, unable to keep the smile from her voice.

Clara lifted an eyebrow in interest. “Oh yeah? What sort of ‘someone else’?” she probed, clearly intrigued.

A giddy grin instantly spread across Rose’s face. “Clara… honestly, I shouldn’t say this, but… he’s perfect,” she admitted.

“Oh?” Clara replied. Looking around the pub before slipping into the chair across from her, she insisted, “Okay. Spill.”

“Well… he’s a dentist,” Rose began.

“Oooo - I like him already,” her friend said. “Nothing like a bloke with good teeth,” she added.

“Yeah. He’s… well, he’s brilliant. And hoooot. Tall. Slim. Gorgeous hair. Ugggggh. And Clara - I honestly don’t think I’ve ever met anyone I’ve connected with so quickly,” she admitted. “It’s like… he’s sweet, and funny, and brilliant…” she trailed off with a sigh.

“Well, that sounds promising,” Clara offered. “How long you been seeing him?”

“Well… this is just our first date,” she admitted, realizing how daft she must sound. Already head over heels for a bloke she barely knew.

“Well, I think that’s fantastic,” Clara said. “I knew before Danny ever asked me out that he was the one I wanted to spend my life with,” she assured Rose. Her eyes became slightly dreamy for a moment and her hand absently landed on her chest just over her heart. Then, giving Rose a considered look, she ventured tentatively, “Do you… feel that way about this bloke?”

An embarrassed smile found Rose’s lips. “I don't know… It’s a bit soon for that,” she answered, knowing this was the only sane answer. It wasn’t the correct answer, though. The correct answer would involve singing the word ‘YEEESSSS’ in a piercing vibrato that would shake the foundations of the pub.

Across from her, Clara seemed to deflate a bit for some reason. “Oh. Well - only time will tell, then,” she smiled. “I’m just glad you’re getting out again,” she said, her message clear. Clara was yet another one of her mates who was glad Jimmy was out of her life.

Blimey, had everyone known he was a prat but her? “Yeah, thanks,” she answered, absently touching her lip, feeling the ghost of the puffy tissue he’d put there not long ago.

“Well, I should get back to work,” Clara sighed, getting up from her chair. “I don’t want to get myself fired before I have a teaching job to go to,” she said, sounding like she was trying to convince herself. “I’ll come back for your order when ‘Dr. Fit gets here,” she added with a bit of a cheeky grin.

“Behave,” Rose chided, rolling her eyes. Clara’s reply involved a saucy wink as she moved off to look after a party of already tipsy blokes a few tables over.

Alone again, Rose looked down at her phone, worrying she might’ve missed a text from him while she’d been chatting. Nope. She’d gotten one from Martha, though. Opening it up, she read, ‘He there yet?’

Typing her sad answer, she pressed send.

A moment later Martha’s reply pinged. ’He’ll show. Don’t stress,’ she instructed. She knew her well.

’Trying not to. :P

She'd just typed the ‘P’ when her phone pinged again. It wasn't Martha this time though.

’Hi Rose. Just wanted to know how you’re doing. I'd really like to come out to see you. Your mother tells me you're doing better, but I would really like to see you with my own eyes. Please answer this time okay? I'm just worried about you, that’s all. Dad.’

Reading the text a couple of times, Rose felt the tiniest bit of guilt rolling around in her belly. Her Dad had been texting ever since her mother had informed him of her ‘accident’, which she’d chided her for. At first Rose had replied, just to get him to stop texting, but it hadn't worked and now, for some unknown reason, he suddenly felt the need to try be a part of her life. Well, as far as she was concerned, she didn't owe him anything - certainly not her sudden trust or the requirement she make him feel needed just because he felt guilty.

“Rose?”

She nearly jumped out of her chair with the sound of the Doctor’s voice. Snapping her eyes up from her phone, they landed squarely on the object of most of her waking her thoughts. Her good ones, anyway. Standing before her, looking completely delicious, he wore jeans, a long sleeved white tee and a charcoal grey jacket that made him look positively edible. “Sorry - I didn’t mean to scare you,” he apologized.

“No, that’s fine,” she smiled widely.

Grinning back, the Doctor pulled out the chair Clara had vacated earlier and slid into it. “I hope you haven’t been waiting long,” he worried.

“No, not at all. Just got here a few minutes ago,” she fibbed, putting down her phone. He didn’t need to know she’d been sitting here, stewing obsessively for the last twenty minutes.

“Oh, good,” he said, offering her a charming smile. “I, uh… I’m so glad you could make it.”

Rose smiled. “I invited you, remember?” she said cheekily, her tongue sneaking out between her teeth.

“Oh. Right. Of course you did,” he agreed. “I would’ve, though. Asked you, I mean. I just… you’re so… I mean, you’re probably busy. Being, you know… young. You probably get asked out all the time as well. Seeing as you’re so… I mean, you’re...” he stammered, gesturing vaguely toward her.

A little smile found her lips despite the effort she was making to hold it back. Obviously catching it, the Doctor paused self consciously before his mouth formed an embarrassed smile. “Sorry. I’m rubbish at this.”

Rose instantly felt badly. “No you’re not,” she assured him, reaching out to touch his hand. A bolt of electric attraction flashed through her with the contact, making her close her eyes for a moment as she sucked in a small gasp. So she hadn’t imagined it this afternoon. Or at the pub. That brilliant swoop of attraction when she’d touched him. Opening her eyes, she found him staring intently back at her. He’d felt it too!

“Rose…” he trailed off, seeming unsure.

“Yeah?” she said, her voice soft. Flipping his hand over so he actually held hers properly, he ran his thumb over the back of her hand. An almost tangible mix of fear and desire seemed to fill the air between them, making her brows furrow. It was like she was floating in a warm pool of conflicting feelings. It was disconcerting, but it only served to heighten her curiosity. “I’m listenin’,” she promised.

Then, for some reason, the feelings surrounded her calmed. And if she wasn’t mistaken, his demeanor seemed to soften. “I just wondered if you might want to go for a walk after we eat?” he proposed.

Offering him a reassuring smile, she answered, “I’d love that,” she replied honestly. Had he been nervous to ask her?

Clara showed up a moment later to take their orders, unfortunately resulting in the Doctor reclaiming his hand so he could look at the menu. For some reason, having him so close but not touching him seemed wrong.

Finally, with him having chosen fish and her having chosen a burger and chips from the menu, Clara left again and they settled into a slightly uneasy silence. “So,” Rose finally hazarded, “I guess you must get asked out all the time.” Oh god. Had she actually said that out loud? Real smooth, Tyler.

The Doctor actually looked confused. “Asked out?”

Rose blushed. “Yeah. Like, on dates. By your patients, ” she threw out. There was no saving herself now. Might as well go all out.

The Doctor actually blew air through his lips in a startled splutter. “Noooo. Not at all,” he said. “That’s not to say I haven’t ever dated, of course. Cause I have,” he seemed anxious to assure her, “just… none of my patients have ever asked me out before,” he shared.

Rose smiled. “I bet you’ve had loads of them hit on you though,” she said bravely; immediately, and oddly, disturbed by the thought.

This seemed to make him blush. “Naah,” he protested, a bit bashfully.

Rose smiled. “I sort of doubt that,” she assured him with a flirty smile. There was no doubt in her mind that other young women he’d examined were mooning over him. She certainly was.

Ducking his head, he clearly tried to stifle the pleased look that reflected how chuffed he was at her words. Clearing his throat then, he turned the tables on her. “What about you? How come you’re not out with some young, good-looking bloke tonight?” he asked.

Rose quirked her lips up in a coy smile. “I am,” she said, making her point clear, she hoped.

A true blush actually found his cheeks then, making her want to reach out and touch them. “Weeeellll… I’m not hideous, I suppose, but I’m hardly young,” he offered.

“How old are you, then, Doctor Smith?” she challenged, a bit reticent to hear his answer. If they were too spread in age, he may decide not to bother with her, after all.

“Thirty,” he admitted, his eyes betraying his anxiety.

Rose smiled in relief. “Thirty? That’s hardly old,” she assured him.

“It’s not?” he said, relief seemingly washing over him. “I thought… you being twenty-one… I’d seem ancient,” he pointed out.

Wait, how did he know…? Oh yeah. His office. Of course. He knew all about her. Her statistics, anyway. Well, there it was. He’d been worried about what she’d think about their age difference. “Hardly,” she assured him. “My mate Shareen dated a bloke ten years older than her. They had a great relationship,” she shared.

“Had?” has asked.

“Er, yeah. They’re split now. But not because of their ages,” she assured him quickly, mentally slapping herself. Great example to pick.

“Oh,” he said, a small smile playing over his lips.

Rose smiled back. “Are you laughing at me?” she posited, eyes narrowed.

“Maybe a bit,” he admitted. “So… does that mean you might consider maybe going out with me again after tonight, despite my status as a near senior citizen?” he proposed.

Rose laughed at that. “I might consider it. But only if you promise we can use your senior’s card when we go to restaurants,” she countered, cheekily.

“Deal,” he grinned.

Rose beamed in response. He wanted to see her again after tonight. Joy actually seeped through her entire body with the thought.

“Sooo… I know you’re twenty-one and I know you’re brilliant, but I don’t know much else about you, Rose Tyler,” he said, leaving the end open as a question to be answered.

Rose squirmed a bit. “What do you want to know?” she asked, not sure where to start. Just then, Clara showed up with their food. Setting down their plates and drinks, she disappeared as quickly as she’d appeared.

“I don’t know,” he said, picking up directly where they’d left off. “How about… tell me about your family,” he said, picking up his fork and knife to cut a bit of battered fish.

Blimey. No heavy subject there. “Well, there’s just me and my mum, really,” she said. “Dad left when I was a baby. Haven’t been in touch much over the years,” she shared.

“Oh. I’m sorry,” he offered.

“Yeah. When he found out Mum was pregnant with me he scarpered. Ran off to chase money,” she explained. “Was pretty successful at it too. The money thing, that is. He’s like this big, important businessman now,” she explained, picking up the vinegar to splash some of the tangy liquid on top of her chips. “He’s been in touch recently… offerin’ me money and work. Wantin’ to visit. But… I don’t know. Mum and I managed this long without him. And I’m not gonna take his money just to ease his conscience,” she added with a shrug. “Besides, when I make it, I want to be able to say I did it on my own.”

The Doctor smiled at that. “That’s sort of how I felt as well,” he admitted. “I, uh… my parents, they passed in a car accident when I was sixteen,” he shared.

“Oh my god. I’m… I’m so sorry,” she said, putting down a chip she’d just picked up and reaching her hand out to cover his. Accepting her touch, he turned his hand around to grasp hers back as if he’d been waiting for her to reach out to hold it again. “That must’ve been awful,” she nearly whispered.

“Yeah. It was,” he admitted. A sort of melancholy filled her with the admission. “It’s been fourteen years but I still miss them. They were good people.”

Unsure what to say, she settled for squeezing his hand a bit tighter. Clasping her hand a bit more solidly as well, he gave her a small smile. A warmth seemed to fall between them, which Rose tried to drink in. It was a grateful affection that lay like a blanket over them. “Anyway,” he said after a few moments of quiet, “after they passed, I went to live with my Uncle Rassilon for a bit, but he had it in his head I’d go to Uni and study political science and go to into politics like he had; maybe end up in the House of Lords as he did. But it really didn’t interest me. Soooo, against his wishes, I travelled a bit before I did a degree in physics. After that, well, it became pretty clear physics wasn’t going to pay the bills and I ended up deciding on dentistry. A whole universe in a person’s mouth. It fascinated me. So I studied that for the next few years. From there I worked in a shared practice and finally started my own. That’s pretty much my story,” he concluded.

“So… never married, then?” she said, attempting to sound non-chalant.

“Me? No. Never met the right person,” he admitted, looking at her. For some reason the comment felt like it was left open-ended as he gazed at her with thoughtful eyes.

Despite how barmy the idea was, she found herself ridiculously wondering if he was considering her to be that person. The very thought sent a whirlwind of joy through her that made her nearly giddy.

Across from her, the Doctor gasped a breath in and he stared at her, his eyes wide. Blimey - had her reaction been that obvious? Embarrassment suddenly encased her. Before she could find an emotional hole to crawl into, though, a definite palpable delight enveloped her. Confused, she looked back up at him. He was beaming.

Schooling his expression quickly, though, he asked, “What about you? Ever married?” he asked a bit cheekily.

Rose smiled. “Nah,” she answered. “Never met the right person either,” she told him.

“Oh,” he replied. “That’s good.”

“It is?”

“Weeellll, I’d hate to hear you’d already had a failed marriage at twenty-one,” he replied logically. “Any contenders, though?” he persisted.

Picking up her drink, she pretended to really consider the question. “Weeellll,” she said, echoing his drawled word, “there was this one guy…”

“Oh yeah?” he asked. Did he sound a trifle concerned?

“Yeah,” she answered. “Older than me, but he got the senior’s discount, so it was worth it,” she described, looking up in remembrance at the ceiling.

He laughed adorably at that, his hand gripping hers a bit tighter. “Right. Well, when you’re done with him, let me know. I was thinking you and I could maybe go out again sometime,” he teased.

Rose laughed. “I will,” she agreed before taking a sip of her nearly empty pint.

The positive feeling between them settled nicely as they both picked at their food with their free hands for a minute. It seemed neither of them wanted to do without contact at the moment.

“So… it looks like you’re healed properly, now then,” the Doctor ventured, filling the silence. Looking at him, her expression must’ve betrayed her confusion, because he clarified, “Your ribs and stuff, I mean.”

Rose blushed hotly with his words and self-consciously pulled her hand from his. How did he know about… damn it. Of course. His bloody file on her.

“Oh. I… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…” he stammered, clearly reading her anxiety.

“No, it’s okay,” she jumped in immediately. She should’ve expected this. He had her medical history, after all, and she’d known that from the beginning. “I… I just… it was a bad time for me,” she explained.

“No, listen… you don’t have to tell me. I’m sorry I brought it up,” he apologized.

Rose looked at her plate of food for a moment. She was so ashamed of what’d happened, but… why should she be? It wasn’t like she’d asked for it after all. Like Martha had told her time and again, it was his fault, not hers. Deciding right then that she’d had enough of blaming herself for it, she said, “It was my ex.”

All movement stopped across the table. Looking up, she found him rapt. “His name was Jimmy. He hurt me,” she admitted.

The look of concern on the Doctor’s face disappeared, replaced by one of contained anger. “What happened?” he intoned lowly, clearly trying to sound supportive rather than murderous.

Rose ducked her head a bit. Despite her decision to be done feeling badly about what’d happened to her, she found she still couldn’t look directly at him while talking about it. Shame still won out. “We lived together. It wasn’t for long. Only a month or so. I don’t know why I ever moved in with him, really. Mostly out of spite for my mum, if I’m honest with myself,” she explained, feeling it important that he know that. “I’d come home after work one night and he’d thought I’d been out with another bloke. Accused me of cheating on him. Told me… said I must have the mark and that I had to be using mind control on him or he’d never have been with me.” Daring a look up, she found his eyes intense and fiery. Maybe she should stop…

Clearly noticing her response to his energy, he seemed to purposefully pull it back a notch. “Go on,” he encouraged, offering her a concerned, but supportive, smile.

Unsure if she should, she continued anyhow. “I told him he was an idiot. Not in so many words, mind, but it still wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had,” she smiled ruefully.

He didn’t smile back. “What did he do?”

Taking in a large, calming breath, she confessed, “He threw me into a wall. Kicked me. Told me it was my fault,” she recounted.

A gasp issued from the Doctor and in a sure motion, he reached over and took her hand again across the table. Not surprisingly, emotion began to clog her throat, but she continued. “It was only because our neighbour heard the racket that… that I wasn’t killed,” she pushed out quietly, grateful for the hand to hold, but ducking her head purposefully to hide her moisture filled eyes.

Surprisingly, a wave of rage crashed over her with the admission, making her clench her teeth together. Inside her there was suddenly a war between her own sadness and a pulsing anger. She’d not truly felt this kind of fury about the entire thing before, but… but for some reason, right now, it just felt right. And justified. I mean, really… how dare he have done this to her? How dare he make her feel less than worthy of love and even life?!

A low growl caught her ear then, making her look up. Across from her, the Doctor’s jaw was clenched and his teeth practically bared. He looked like he was ready to hunt Jimmy down and skin him alive.

“Oi, it’s alright now,” she assured him gently, hoping to assuage some of the anger he was clearly feeling on her behalf. Lord knows, she was feeling it too, but it was over now. Done. She’d moved on. In fact, here she was, on a date with a wonderful bloke. Moving on.

Swallowing emotion, he visibly calmed as he gazed at her for a few moments. “You’re incredible, you know that?” he breathed.

The sentiment caught her off guard, and oddly made her throat tighten again with emotion. “I am?”

Shaking his head in what appeared to be awe, he said, “You’ve been through all that, and now look at you. Moving on with your life. Going back to school and looking ahead to the future. You’re… you’re incredible. I don’t know that many people would’ve picked up the pieces like that,” he admitted. “I know what I think doesn’t matter, or, it shouldn’t… but I’m so proud of you.”

Tears clouded her eyes for a moment as she regarded him. He meant it. She’d shared this horrific, terrible story about how she’d been unable to control her own life… how someone had taken her existence and tried to trample it… and he’d seen it as a story of triumph. And she supposed it kind of was. “Thank-you,” she said, her voice cracking with the feelings settled in her throat.

“Thank-you for sharing with me,” he said honestly.

Feeling her chin begin to tremble, she did her best to quell the overwhelming desire to burst into grateful tears right in front of him.

“What do you say we finish up here and take that walk, yeah?” he suggested gently, caressing the back of her hand.

“I’d love that.”

Chapter Text

Having finished their meals not long after Rose’s heartfelt admission, the Doctor escorted her out of the restaurant with his hand protectively on the small of her back. A large part of him wanted to pull her out of the pub, hide her somewhere safe, and go hunt this ‘Jimmy’ down to make him pay for the pain he’d caused this wonderful woman. Rational thought prevailed, however (barely, mind), and instead he walked at her side, trying to be content with the knowledge she was with him now. He would move planets to make sure nothing like that ever happened to her again.

Looking down at the gorgeous woman at his side, he couldn’t help but stare. She was really here with him. It was almost too good to be true. Taking her earlier consent to hand holding as still valid, he reached out to twine his fingers in hers as they walked, further confirming his unspoken commitment to protect her.

“Your hand is cold,” she pointed out, smiling up at him.

“Not anymore,” he said, unable to keep an affectionate grin from spreading on his face.

She smiled brightly at that and squeezed his hand tightly, making him smile even more widely. The feel of her smaller, soft fingers threaded through his own was heady. A cosmic confirmation of the ‘rightness’ of them.

They stopped in front of a couple of shops, gazing in at the wares on display. The Doctor chose a flower shop window to look through at one point, pulling Rose to a stop. “I’ve always wondered,” he began after a moment looking at the window feature, “do people with flower names hate getting the flower they’re named after?”

Rose seemed to consider the question as she gazed through the pane at the various arrangements. “I don’t know about everyone, but I kind of like it when someone gives me ‘my’ flower,” she admitted. “They’re pretty and smell nice,” she observed. “Don’t like the thorns much, through.”

“Aaaah, but the thorns are protective, aren’t they,” the Doctor observed, studying the roses in the display. “Without them, any old predator could take advantage. If you ask me, the thorns are kind of the most brilliant part of them,” he added, looking down at her.

Rose looked up at him thoughtfully. “Really?”

“Yup. What good would the beauty of a flower be if it couldn’t make sure it ended up getting to bloom?” he reasoned, looking back through the window.

“Doctor John Smith… are you sayin’ ‘I’m thorny?” she said, looking up at him with a raised eyebrow.

Trying to ignore the swoop in his belly with her use of his given name, he replied, “I guess I am. In the most fantastic way,” he insisted, looking back at her seriously. “In the way that makes you repel things that try to hold you back,” he added.

“Oh, she said, turning toward him fully. “Then I guess I’ll take that as a compliment,” she said softly, looking up into his eyes.

Oh my… did she just look at his mouth? Unbidden, his own eyes found her lips; opened slightly as her caramel eyes rose back up catch him looking at her. He was about to clear his throat and look away, but Rose took matters into her own hands by rising up on her toes to press her lips magnificently to his.

Surprise warred with excitement inside him with the contact, but he quickly overcame the first to allow the second to fill him. Opening up to her, he felt her tentatively dip her tongue into his mouth to twine with his. Arousal bloomed deep within him, prompting him to wrap his arms fully around her so he could feel her body flush with his own. Pressing herself more firmly against him, she ran her hands up into his hair, making him moan involuntarily. If they weren’t in public, he knew his hands would be cupping her bottom by now. As it was, it was taking everything in him to keep his itching fingers from doing just that.

A hooting whistle issued from across the street, dragging him back to full awareness of the world. Pulling apart quickly, they looked over to find a group of young men walking on the opposite sidewalk. “Good on ya, gov!” one of them hollered. His mates whooped loudly as well, making Rose giggle and look down at her feet in embarrassment. Blushing as well, the Doctor decided instead to own it, and gave them a proud wave of acknowledgement, prompting them to further hoot and laugh as they continued walking.

“Sorry ‘bout that,” he said, laughing a bit as he smiled down at the woman he’d just snogged in the street.

Giggling, she smiled up at him and reached out to clasp his hand. “I’m not.”

Smiling toothily right back, he admitted, “Me neither.” For a moment he simply stood there grinning goofily down at her before it occurred to him that he must look like a loon. “Er... Shall we?” he asked, looking leadingly down the sidewalk to suggest they move on. With a large smile, Rose gripped his hand tighter and hugged his arm close as they started walking again.

Strolling up Whitcomb Street with this brilliant woman on his arm, the Doctor felt lighter than he had in years. He’d just snogged Rose Tyler. His Rose Tyler. Of course, she didn’t know she was his yet, but that didn’t matter a tic to his buoyant soul, which was bouncing with joy at the very idea he’d just kissed his soulmate.

Chatting as they walked, they soon found themselves on Cockspur Street headed toward Trafalgar Square. The sidewalks were undeniably busier here, which seemed a bit odd for the time of day. He expected crowds during the day, but they usually thinned out after rush hour. “Something big is going on tonight,” Rose observed as they neared the Square.

Hmmm. She was right. Looking around, the Doctor spied a few constables milling about, one speaking animatedly with a bloke in a union jack tee and a baseball cap. A few others around sported the same gear. Before he could think much more about it, he found he and Rose were already nearing Nelson’s column, being swept along with a growing number of people toward Trafalgar Square. Looking around them, he began feeling a growing sense of unease as they continued moving. Then it clicked. Today. Mr. Winkett. The rally.

Now finding themselves headed toward the National Gallery, the Doctor looked up ahead and caught sight of a large banner strung up across the columns of the museum. Squinting, he was able to make out the words on the large poster. ‘Take back the UK!’ it read in bold, red capital letters.

Oh fuck.

How had he not figured this out by now?! All around him people sported red, white and blue hats, t-shirts and jackets. The union jack was everywhere. What the hell had he been thinking?

He hadn’t. He’d been utterly lost in Rose Tyler and his bloody libido.

Behind them a crowd of supporters swept them ahead toward the tightly gathered crowd. Feeling his heart begin to pound in his chest, he pulled Rose a bit closer to him.

“What’s going on?” she asked again beside him. She was quite a bit shorter than him and clearly hadn’t seen the banner yet.

Ducking down so his mouth found her ear, he said as quietly as he could, but loud enough so she could hear him, “It’s an anti-mark rally,” he explained.

Rose’s mouth popped open in surprise. “Oh my god,” she said, looking around them. The Doctor did the same. The demographics of the crowd would’ve been interesting if he didn’t feel sick to his stomach at the moment. Age was definitely a defining feature of the crowd. There were a number of young people, possibly Rose’s age, but most appeared to be at least thirty. Many were middle aged folks and some were senior citizens. The most obvious descriptor that would apply to pretty much all of the people surrounding them, though, was ‘white’. There wasn’t one person of colour in his vicinity. He was also confident that the ‘whiteness’ of these people was complete. There was no chance anyone here harboured a trace of fluorescent blue under their Union Jack jumpers. No one but him, that was.

“Good evening!” someone shouted from a podium set up at the top of the Gallery steps. The Doctor’s brows furrowed. That voice…

Looking up, the Doctor focused on the individual at the podium, dressed regally and professionally. It was a man he’d met many times through his uncle. Grayvas.

The crowd roared to life, then, and placards that had been lowered suddenly flew up into the air in response. ‘The Devil’s Work should be halted!,’ one said. Another to his right read, ‘Unnatural, Unsafe, Unwelcome!’ Under the words were a series of crude blue circles with lines and smaller circles drawn in and around them. Droplets of red blood dripped from the shapes.

Tucking his bandaged arm closer to his body subconsciously, he felt his anxiety rise even further. They had to get out of here.

“Welcome to the second part of today’s ‘Take Back the UK’ rally!” The crowd cheered loudly as placards bobbed up and down all around them. “If you were here this afternoon, you’ll know all about the work the Prime Minister has done so far in his short time in office to protect our country. Well, tonight we have even more cause to celebrate. This afternoon, Prime Minister Harold Saxon introduced a new, and much needed, governmental branch which will answer directly to him. It will be known as the UK Security Agency and its first order of business will be to ensure our population is safe from those marked individuals who are primed to incite violence. The name of this first important operation says everything, my friends. It has been dubbed ‘SMITE’ - Stop. Marked. Incited. Terrorism. and Evil!”

Fanatical cheers filled the square with this pronouncement, prompting the Doctor to hold Rose’s hand that much tighter. These people actually believed the lies they were being fed by this government. It was terrifying.

“The UK Security Agency and its first crucial operation are essential to the security of our nation. For this reason, I am incredibly honoured to announce that I have been named the Agent in Charge for SMITE.” Once again, the assembled throng cheered their support. After a moment of waving and nodding his head in appreciation, he finally continued, “Of more import, however, is that, this afternoon, the Prime Minister announced that a current member of the House of Lords - an esteemed and revered member of our Queen’s government - has been appointed the head of the UK Security Agency. Tonight, we are lucky enough to have him with us! I would like you all to put your hands together to welcome… Lord Dalton Rassilon!”

A whoosh of air escaped the Doctor as he gaped at the man mounting podium. “Rassilon,” he breathed, his eyes glued to the man on the stage. Rose looked up at him, perhaps recalling the name from earlier.

The enthusiastic crowd cheered loudly and film crews edged closer to the stage, vying for the best spot to capture the history making moment, as the man on the podium raised his arms in greeting. “Thank-you! Thank-you!” he called, as the crowd began to quiet. “It is a great honour to have been chosen to head up this important branch of government,” he stated. “And in this role I have already begun to put policies and procedures in place that will enable SMITE to keep detailed records of the Marked; including their locations, political histories, affiliations and family connections,” he continued to renewed cheers. “No longer will marked individuals be allowed to simply roam the streets, free to induce havoc. They will know that their every movement is being monitored. They will all think twice before even considering committing a crime in our country!”

A roar of support rose from the masses around them.

“This is mad,” he heard Rose say beside him. Yes, it was. Completely, completely mad.

“And our mandate won’t stop there,” Rassilon promised. “We will no longer tolerate weak-willed immigrants to simply go on living in our country without censure. It is our contention that these people are more susceptible to the influence of the Marked. We’ve seen this time and again - with the suicide bombings and missions taking place all over Europe - the Marked take advantage of immigrants’ poor knowledge of our culture and use it to gain control of their minds. For this reason, immigrants who’ve taken up residence in our country within the last five years will be similarly monitored and registered. Only once we have control of the Marked will we be able to entertain the idea of allowing their free movement once again,” he said.

“Oh my god,” the Doctor breathed. How could people who’ve been tasked to lead this country be so callous? So short-sighted? And how could they live with themselves - passing on lies to an eager and unknowing populace? It was one thing to harbour a secret dislike for a culture or a group of people - and that was sad enough. But to have it out there… to have such hatred and fear supported and nurtured… it was honestly terrifying.

When the cheers of the now riled crowd began to ebb, Rassilon continued, “And now it is time to move ahead with our Prime Minister’s plans. Tomorrow, all marked individuals will be required to present themselves at any one of the hundreds of newly opened SMITE offices where they will submit to DNA sampling and will disclose their markmate’s name. We are rolling this out very quickly in an effort to identify and contain dissidents who might be considering violence against any of our people. If you, or anyone you know, is aware of a marked individual who does not submit to registration, it is your duty to report them,” he reminded everyone listening. “It’s time to make our countries safe again. It’s time to make our countries great again. It’s time to Take. Back. The. UK!” he shouted, pumping his fist with each punctuated word.

The masses went wild with that, whooping and howling their appreciation for the sentiment. “Kill the Marked!” a bold bloke nearby shouted. Around him a few other men pumped their fists and repeated the sentiment over and over.

“We have to get out of here,” the Doctor intoned, taking in the escalating fervour with alarm. Squeezing Rose’s hand to let her know they were moving, he tugged her close beside himself and turned to make his way through breaks in the crowd. Blessedly, Rose seemed more than willing to follow his lead, and with effort and not a small amount of time, they were nearing the edge of the mob. They’d almost cleared the last of the rabble when a young man’s voice rose above the rest. “Oi! It’s one of them! One of those marked bastards!”

Fear absolutely encased the Doctor and he froze in his tracks. Beside them, a man in his thirties, shouted, “Get him!”

Before the Doctor could even react, the throng around them darted away from himself and Rose; headed en masse toward a teenager with a large plaster on his neck, standing off by himself at the very back of the gathering. Seeing them running in his direction, the kid high tailed it as fast as he could away from the approaching mob. Rose and the Doctor both stood watching the horrible display as they chased the terrified teen off and around a side street.

“Oh my god! That poor kid! I didn’t even see a mark on him,” Rose said, astounded.

“It was covered up,” he said, swallowing thickly.

“What? How…”

“Come on,” he insisted, pulling her in the opposite direction from the poor bastard the mob had been chasing.

“But… we have to tell the police,” Rose insisted. Up ahead a bobby stood, having words with a small group of young, riled up anti-markists. Breaking away from the Doctor, Rose headed in the cop’s direction.

“Rose!” he called, terror filling him. He had to get her out of here!

“Excuse me,” she called, running toward the officer and the hopped up blokes he was speaking with, “A group of men were chasing a marked boy,” she puffed as she edged her way through the group of young men toward the constable. “They went that way,” she instructed once she reached him, pointing toward the side street they’d seen him run down.

Urgently threading his way through the crowd to follow her, the Doctor saw the officer look over in the direction Rose had indicated. The group was long gone. “They were chasing a marked person, you say?”

The Doctor’s heart bobbed up into his throat. Noooo.

“Yeah. There must have been five or six of them. I’m sure they wanted to hurt him,” she elaborated as the Doctor moved to stand protectively beside her.

“Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say! Fucker had it comin’, didn’t he?” one large youth muscled forward to exclaim.

“Fuckin’ mutant!” another shouted behind him, inciting the others to hoot their agreement.

Whirling around, Rose’s small countenance became larger than life as she stood nose to chest with the bloke standing closest to her. “He was a child, not some ‘mutant’.” she snarled. “And who’s to say you don’t end up marked one day? You’re… what? Eighteen? Nineteen? You’re hardly out of the woods yet, are you? You could be one of them, yourself!” she said pointedly.

The officer saw fit to step in at that moment. “Oi, that’s enough now. Take a step back,” he warned both Rose and the young man in her face.

“I’m no fuckin’ mutant!” the bloke snarled, ignoring the cop’s warning. “What’re you so worried about some fuckin’ terrorist mutant for, anyway? You’re probably one of them! A ‘Tag Slag,’” the arsehole snorted, turning to his friends for support. They all laughed raucously with their mate’s use of the derogatory term prompting Rose to stand her ground.

“And what if I was?” Rose challenged, facing the bloke squarely with hands on hips.

No. no. nonononono...

“If you were, I’d make sure you knew your place,” he sneered, taking a menacing step forward.

“Okay, sir, I’m going to have to ask you to step back,” the cop warned, this time, moving to stand directly between the young man and Rose.

Needing to remove Rose from this escalating confrontation, the Doctor took her arm gently. “Come on, Rose,” he urged, adding quietly, “They’re not worth it.”

“The fuck did you say?” the riled bloke barked, his attention now trained on the Doctor.

“I didn’t say anything,” the Doctor replied calmly, backing away with Rose’s arm in his grip.

“He said you’re not worth it. And he’s right,” Rose put in, tearing her arm away from him. “But what IS important here is that that poor boy isn’t getting hurt right now,” she added, pointedly ignoring the towering youth to stare at the officer. “You need to call it in or something,” she demanded.

“Come on, Rose. We have to go,” the Doctor insisted now, taking Rose by the elbow. “Thank-you for your help, officer,” he added contritely as he urged Rose follow him.

Having no choice but to stumble after him, Rose tried to pull away but this time he held fast as he tugged her quickly along the street and away from the steaming anti-markist and his mates. “What are you doing?” she demanded, angrily trying to dig her heels in. Insisting she continue to follow him, he had to almost yank her to keep her moving. Nothing was more important than her safety, and if that cop lost control, those blokes would be on them in moments. They had to get out of sight. “Let go of me!”

Finally, rounding the corner near The Trafalgar Hotel, he did as she demanded, but only once he’d pushed her behind him against the nearest building. Only then did he dare to look around the corner of it to see if they were being followed. Blessedly, the officer clearly had managed to keep the moral-free cluster of bastards from pursuing them.

Without warning, a sharp shove from behind jogged him, making him stumble forward. “Don’t you ever do that again,” Rose snapped. Turning, he found her radiating a dark fury.

Guilt infused him. “I’m sorry, Rose,” he began before she jumped in.

“How dare you! You know what happened to me. I shared something… a terrifying thing that happened to me… and you do that?” she demanded. Tears sprang to her eyes, making his insides curdle.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” he insisted.

“No. No - you don’t get to be just ‘sorry’. I was sticking up for someone with the mark. Some poor kid who was going to be attacked for no reason. He can’t help it if he’s marked. They don’t deserve what’s happening to them and you don’t even care. Even if you hadn’t grabbed me, we’d still have a problem! But you did grab me… you knew what I’d been through and you… you...” she said, rubbing her arm where he’d gripped her. Turning, she stalked off, thankfully away from where they’d just come from.

“Rose… I can explain,” he pleaded, following close behind her.

“No… I can’t right now,” she insisted, walking faster. “Leave me alone.”

“But…” he said, trailing off as he slowed. He couldn’t chase her. It would send the absolute wrong message. He’d forcibly grabbed her and hauled her around against her will. Of course, he’d only been worried for her safety, but she didn’t know that.

Watching her disappear in the distance, he felt his heart slowly empty of warmth. His very reason for existing these last weeks was headed in the wrong direction. Away from him.

It’s for the best,’ his traitorous mind put in. His very soul knew the statement was wrong, but rationally, he couldn’t argue. She still didn’t know she was marked. Theoretically, she was still safe. Safer than she would be with him. Because he was definitely not safe. Not anymore.

Looking down at his jacket covered arm, the plaster he’d used to cover the vibrant blue mark still poked out the bottom of the sleeve. Unsurprisingly, given their proximity and romantic activity tonight, an addition to his already intricate mark had appeared in the form of a smaller blue circle attached to the larger one currently hidden by the plaster. The smaller, effervescent blue shape extended up to cover the bottom of the ball of his thumb. Hiding it was going to be near impossible now.

It was only a matter of time before he was caught.

Chapter Text

The alarm went off beside the Doctor’s head, but it hardly startled him. He’d been awake most of the night, tossing and turning and had finally given up trying to catch any sleep at all at around four in the morning. Putting his book down, he reached over and shut off the alarm, only to flop back onto his back again. Why had he bothered to set it? It wasn’t like he could work now anyway, he thought, holding his wrist up to stare at the intricate design that now encompassed a good part of his lower arm and the ball of his thumb. Who would want him working in their mouth now?

Folding his arms over his eyes, he lay unmoving for a while, trying to get lost in the patterns of light that flowed over the back of his closed lids. What the hell had he been thinking yesterday? He should’ve said no when she’d asked him out. But no. He’d given in to the allure of being with her and now look where they were. He’d alienated his soulmate and managed to make himself an even larger target than he’d been before.

A soft knock issued at his closed door, then, prompting him to answer, “Yeah?”

The door cracked open then, and Jack’s voice filled the room. “Hey, Doc. I heard your alarm go off… I wanted to catch you before you went to work. Wait… you going to work today?” he asked, obviously taking in his lack of readiness.

“Mmmphf,” he replied.

“Ooookaaaay,” Jack drawled. In moments he felt the edge of the bed sink under Jack’s weight. “Look, I just needed to know if you caught the news last night,” he broached.

Unfolding his arms, the Doctor looked up at his friend.

“Holy shit. What happened to you?” Jack said gracelessly. There was no question now that he must look as bad as he felt.

“I fucked up,” he admitted. No point in trying to hide it anymore.

“Why? What happened?” Jack asked.

Sighing, the Doctor sat up and held out his arm.

“Jesus, Doc!” Jack barked, standing up, his hands flying into his hair. “What the… I told you, didn’t I? I told you to stay away from her!” he reprimanded.

Wincing at the admonishment, the Doctor pulled his arm back, covering it with the blanket. “I know,” he conceded.

“I guess this means she knows about her mark, then?” Jack hazarded.

“No. She doesn’t know,” the Doctor shared.

“She doesn’t?” Jack said, clearly not sure he believed him.

“No, Jack. She doesn’t know. And she doesn’t know I have it either,” the Doctor assured him.

“Okay, well that’s something, at least,” Jack allowed, beginning to pace.

“Yeah,” the Doctor agreed. There was at least that.

“Okay, well, at least this is salvageable,” Jack reasoned out loud, “but you have to promise me you won’t see her again. You can’t, Doc. Not if you don’t want her to be found out,” he warned.

The Doctor nodded. “That won’t be a problem,” he said, his voice betraying his anxiety.

“Why?” Jack asked, clearly suspicious.

“Because I completely bollocksed everything up,” he admitted. “I saw Rose last night and I know I shouldn’t have, but she came to see me at work and then I just couldn’t help myself. I had to see her again,” he said, entreating Jack to understand. “So I met her at the pub-”

“You what?!” Jack demanded.

“I know. It wasn’t my idea, Jack. She suggested it and I couldn’t very well suggest we meet in a back alley somewhere instead,” he defended. “Anyway, we met at Gallifrey and then went for a walk, but…” he trailed off. Did he want to admit to Jack he’d inadvertently taken her to an anti-mark rally, for God’s sake? Not likely. “...but then I did something I shouldn’t have and she got angry and left,” he finished. It wasn’t a complete lie.

Jack’s eyebrows shot up into his hairline with the admission. “Holy shit, Doc. You must’ve really buggered up to make a newly marked woman actually want to leave her soulmate,” he admitted.

Flopping back, the Doctor pulled a pillow over his face and issued a frustrated growl into it.

“Well, look, man. It’s all for the best,” Jack said, trying to console him slightly. “You can’t see her anytime soon if you want her safe, anyway. A little break will be good for you both. And maybe she’ll find it easier to forgive your stupid arse once she’s missed you for a while,” he posited.

“I doubt that,” the Doctor replied, throwing the pillow aside.

“In the meantime, we’d better figure out what to do with that mark of yours,” Jack said practically.

“Do? What can we do about it?” the Doctor lamented. “It’s bloody huge now!”

“Yeah,” Jack cringed a bit. “Not in a great spot either,” he noted.

“I’d noticed,” the Doctor replied with obvious sarcasm. “It’s too big to hide with plasters anymore as well,” he added.

Jack looked down at his arm, considering. “Do you wear your gloves at work most of the day?”

“Yeah, but not all day,” he elaborated.

“Okay, but… it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch if you kept a pair on between visits?”

The Doctor thought about that. “Probably not,” he admitted.

“Alright, well - I think you’ll be alright if you wear long sleeved shirts with your gloves on throughout the day for now,” Jack reasoned.

The Doctor shook his head. “People are starting to get wise to those tricks now, Jack,” he pointed out, recalling the poor teenager last night at the rally.

“Yeah, maybe. But I can’t think of another way to hide it,” he admitted.

“Maybe… maybe it’s time to think about not hiding it,” he hazarded.

“What?”

“I just mean… you keep talking about standing up for Marked rights. Maybe I shouldn’t try to hide it anymore. Maybe I should be using it to try to get people to understand us better,” he reasoned.

Jack shook his head. “No. That’s a terrible idea.”

“Why? Why is it such a bad idea?” he pushed. “Don’t you think the cause would be better served if more marked people stood up and celebrated it instead of continuing to try to hide it?”

“Of course, and people are trying that. But it’s a dangerous move, outing yourself as Marked,” he warned. “If you’re putting yourself out there as a proud, marked individual, you’re inviting criticism, political targeting, or worse. Not only that… I don’t know if you’re aware, but your Uncle Rassilon has been named the head of the new UK Security Agency,” he said carefully, obviously thinking this was the first the Doctor would be hearing of this.

“Yeah, I know,” he shared.

Jack nodded. “So, clearly you can’t declare yourself as one of the Marked,” he said patiently. “If anyone gets wind that you’re one of ‘them’ - I hate to think of what might happen to you. I know it sounds far fetched, but I wouldn’t put it past Rassilon to make you disappear so your very existence wouldn’t reflect badly on him,” he proposed.

The Doctor huffed out a breath of air through his nose. “He wouldn’t do that, Jack. He’s a power-hungry git, but he hasn’t always been that way. We’re family. And he’s certainly not a murderer,” he said in his uncle’s defence.

“Mmm,” Jack hummed, “maybe not, but that doesn’t mean his followers aren’t,” he pointed out.

“I can’t believe that would ever happen,” the Doctor disagreed. “This government may be sadly misguided, but this isn’t bloody Nazi Germany,” he argued.

Jack huffed out a breath. “Doc, they’re registering people,” he pointed out. “How do you think Hitler got started? He didn’t just immediately round up all the Jews and annihilate them,” he argued. “It started slower than that. It was insidious. It started with registrations. Lack of prosecution for those inciting violence against the Jews. Then Jews were ousted from jobs in the civil service and newspapers. It was just before the Nuremburg Laws were passed that the media claimed Jews murdered Christian children. This shit is happening, Doc. Have you seen the latest on American ‘Fox News’? They’re picking up on the bollocks Rassilon spouted yesterday and are reporting that the Marked are behind the bulk of the terrorist attacks right now across Europe. That they’re responsible for the murder of innocent people. He’s even convinced the American president that the Marked were behind 9-11. This is it. We’re living Nazi Germany all over again, but this time Saxon is the Führer,” Jack warned.

The Doctor finally sat up, emboldened by Jack’s impassioned speech. “I just think the Inclusionist cause would have more strength if more marked people stood against Saxon to support it,” he said reasonably. “Don’t you think that, if more people had stood against Hitler from the very beginning, that things might’ve been different?” he challenged.

“Of course I do,” Jack replied, clearly frustrated. “But the ones who most needed to stand against him weren’t the Jews. Of course, they stood against him, but it was the population of Germany and the people of the world who should never have let him get away with his plans, not the Jews. Doc - you’re standing now where they stood then. No one around you should be letting Saxon do what he’s planning to do. And I’m going to see to it that we don’t go down that road,” he promised. “Stand up for your rights, but you need to protect the innocents here too. You need to protect Rose,” he entreated.

“Rose is safe,” the Doctor argued. “She doesn’t know she’s marked. She’s safe as long as she doesn’t know,” the Doctor replied, quoting the man standing before him.

“Yeah she is. For now. But once you out yourself, do you think Saxon or Rassilon will just sit by and assume your soulmate has run away? If you hold yourself up as a torch, they’re going to look for the match that lit it,” he warned. “And they won’t stop until they find her. They’ll check back with every patient you’ve ever had. With every person you’ve been in touch with over the last couple of years. How do you think that will end?”

Once again, the issue of Rose’s welfare brought a screeching halt to his righteous plans. Jack was right. If Saxon and Rassilon found out about his mark it would put Rose at risk. And that wasn’t something he could allow.

“I’m sorry, Doc. I know you mean well, I do. But this isn’t just about you anymore. You can still come with me to the rally on Saturday, but only because there’ll be thousands of people there. Other than that, you can fight, but you need to do it behind the scenes, okay?” he almost pleaded.

The Doctor considered that. What choice did he have? Finally, after few moments, he nodded his assent.

“Good. Now let’s see what we can do to get that blue beauty covered up.”

OoOoOoOoO

“Hi Mum,” Rose called, closing the door behind her and pulling off her jacket. “Mum?” she called again when she got no answer. Again, her call was met with silence.

Great. She wasn’t home. Why wasn’t she home? Checking her phone, she found it was already nearly five o’clock. She was usually home from the salon by now on Thursdays. Hmmm.

Hanging her jacket on a hook by the door, Rose slipped off her shoes and moved further into the flat. Glumly, she slumped into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door. Mmmm. Her mum had beer. Wait. Why did her mum have beer?

Oh yeah. She’d probably had Harold over again. He was a big beer drinker. Sighing, Rose took one, opened it and headed to the living room.

Sliding onto the couch, she put her feet up on the coffee table and took a large swig from the cold bottle in her hand. “Fuck,” she sighed afterward, looking blankly ahead. She missed him. She missed the Doctor.

But why?! He’d… he’d been a complete prat yesterday. Sure, he’d apologized, but hadn’t Jimmy done the same early on? When he’d criticized her in front of people and she’d called him on it?

’The Doctor hadn’t done exactly that, though, had he?’ a small voice in her head put in.

No, but he’d taken her arm forcefully, pulling her along like a bloody dog. It was humiliating. And frankly, it was frightening. After what she’d suffered at Jimmy’s hands, having someone physically coerce her was anything but okay. Not to mention the reason he’d done it.

She shook her head in memory. She’d been making sure the constable was going to help that poor boy, and the Doctor had taken it upon himself to decide that they shouldn’t rock the boat anymore. It was uncalled for. Those idiots needed to be called out for their ignorance and she had an obligation to make sure that boy was going to be helped. And frankly, if he was that opposed to standing up for people with the mark, how could she, in good conscience, go out with him again? She put up with that kind of ignorance from her Nan, but she couldn’t bring herself to believe that even her Nan wouldn’t call the police if she saw one of the Marked being assaulted. So what did that say about the Doctor? These people were being openly attacked in the streets now! What sort of person disagreed with making sure that didn’t happen? No one she wanted to spend time with, that’s for sure.

A sort of ‘hrumph’ sound escaped her with the thought. Git. Taking another swig of her beer, she rested her head against the back of the couch and stared up at the ceiling. Arse.

So why, if he was such a git and an arse, did she feel like the content of her soul was being drained drop by drop the longer she spent apart from him? Why did her heart feel like it was breaking into tiny pieces with the thought of not seeing him again?

“What the - Rose?” she heard from the front of the flat.

“I’m here, Mum,” she called back glumly.

In moments her mum appeared with a couple bags. “What are you doing here? Is everything okay? Is it Jimmy?” she almost shouted at her, clearly very worried.

“I’m fine, Mum,” she assured her quickly. “It’s not Jimmy, I promise.”

Her mum’s relief was palpable, making Rose feel badly for having frightened her. She’d been so supportive through all this Jimmy business. Sometimes she forgot how hard this must’ve been for her mum as well. “I just thought I’d pop by,” she assured her. “Martha’s visiting her family tonight and I thought maybe you wouldn’t mind the company?”

Jackie looked at her sideways for a moment. “Okay. You’d tell me if your visit had to do with himself?” she demanded.

“Yes, Mum. I promise.”

Apparently satisfied, she nodded. “Helping yourself to Harold’s beer, I see?” she observed.

“Yeah,” she replied sheepishly. “I’ll replace it,” she promised.

Sighing, her mum shook her head. “Don’t bother, love. He’s made himself scarce lately,” she admitted, before heading into the kitchen with her burden.

Getting up to help her mum unpack, Rose followed her. “Here, mum. Let me,” she offered, taking a grocery bag.

“Thanks, love,” Jackie replied, putting the other bag on the counter. “I had a craving for meat pie,” she admitted as she pulled the chicken pot pie from her bag.

“And crisps and dip, apparently,” Rose smiled, studying the large bag of salt and vinegar crisps she’d just pulled from the bag she’d appropriated.

“Don’t judge me, young lady,” her mum replied, clearly caught. “I gave up my diet last week,” she admitted. “No point, is there,” she lamented. “Bloody men.”

Rose looked over at her mum. “I’m sorry about Harold.”

“Yeah,” she said sadly.
Just then, the song, ‘Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart,’ issued from somewhere in the vicinity of her mother’s backside. Sighing, Jackie put down the cucumber she’d been pulling out of her bag and reached into her trouser pocket for her mobile. Looking at the screen, her eyes widened slightly before she declined the call and calmly slid her phone back in her pocket.

“Who is it? How come you didn’t answer it?” Rose asked.

Shooting her a look, her mum went back to methodically putting away her groceries before responding, “It was just Pete. I’ll text him later,” she said, as if this was an everyday occurrence.

“Dad?” Rose said, unable to keep her voice at all neutral sounding. “What does he want?”

Sighing, Jackie opened the fridge and put the cucumber in the crisper drawer. “He’s probably just checkin’ in. Makin’ sure you’re okay,” she admitted.

“Mum - please stop talking with him about me, yeah? He doesn’t deserve to know what’s going on. Since when did he really care? And why are you talking to him anyway?” she asked.

Jackie turned toward her. “I’m talking to him because it’s time to move on. So many years have gone by now and I’m tired of the way things have been. And he’s always cared about you, Rose,” her mum returned.

Rose’s brows furrowed. “Mum - you know as much as I do that all this sudden goodwill is about making himself feel less guilty, yeah? He doesn’t really care about us,” she insisted.

“You don’t know that, Rose,” her mum replied, moving to pull out a pan for for pot pie.

“Then why didn’t you let him help with money when I was growing up? It was because you knew he didn’t really care,” Rose stated.

“No, that was never the reason,” Jackie replied. “I just… I just didn’t want to have him involved in our affairs. When he left I knew I’d have to make it on my own. I needed to break ties with him for a while. Completely. That was the only way I’d be able to do it. I had to move on and I couldn’t have him involved in any way at all if that was how it was gonna be,” she said, turning back to the counter to take the pot pie from the package.

Rose stared at her mother for a moment. This was a side of the story she’d never heard. Still… it didn’t change anything. He’d still left them. She and her mum had still been stranded. “Well, whatever. I would still prefer if you just tell him I’m fine now and that I really don’t need anything from him, okay? He keeps texting me and I really don’t want to deal with him,” she admitted.

This prompted her mother to stop for a moment to look at her. “You know what, Rose? I think it’s time you try to put aside your anger with him, yeah? We’ve done fine for ourselves. I wanted to do it that way. But that’s no reason to hate him. Your Dad still loves you, even if things didn’t work out between us. And carrying around this anger you have… it’s not good for you. It’s time for you to face your feelings and talk with him. Move on, love. It’s important,” her mum advised.

Gaaaaaaaarrrrh. She really didn’t wanna talk about this. “Look, Mum, I think it’s just best to leave things as they are. At least for me. I can’t just overlook what he did to you. To us. Maybe one day I’ll see it differently, but right now…” she shook her head. “Right now, I just need to move ahead with my life. And you should too,” she advised.

Her mum scoffed. “Move ahead with what? My crisps and dip?” she lamented with a frustrated sigh.

“What do you mean?” Rose asked.

“I mean - it’s hard now, yeah? You’re gone. Harold’s buggered off… I’m lonely, that’s all,” she admitted.

Guilt filled her with her mum’s words. She’d been so caught up in her schooling and obsessing about the Doctor, she’d not made much of an effort to visit since she’d moved in with Martha. “I’m sorry, Mum. Look - we’ll find you a better bloke, yeah?” she assured her. “Someone brilliant,” she added.

Her mum smiled sadly. “Bit late for that,” she lamented.

“What? No it isn’t,” she assured her. “There’s someone out there who’s dying to meet someone like you,” she promised. “Someone great.”

Jackie huffed out a sad laugh. “Not for me, love,” she assured her.

“Oi. That’s enough of that talk. You’re brilliant. You don’t need a man to prove that, but if you want to meet someone, we’ll find someone who really appreciates you, yeah?” Rose said, realizing she was echoing her mother’s own words to her only a few weeks ago.

Smiling at the familiar words, her mum smiled. “Yeah.”

“Yeah. Now that’s enough of that talk,” Rose demanded. “You gonna share that pot pie or what?”

Her mum shook her head. “Knew I should’ve bought two.”

They spent the next hour watching telly and drinking Harold’s beer as they waited for the pot pie to be ready. Just as the oven dinged, Rose’s phone vibrated and issued a happy ‘bing, bing’ to let her know she’d received a text. Pulling it from her pocket, she stared down at the name. Fuck.

For a moment she stared at the screen, unsure what to do. “Who’s that, then?” her mum asked, getting up to tend to the pie.

“No one,” she said hastily, stuffing her phone back in her pocket.

“No one?” Jackie replied, looking at her daughter with complete suspicion. “You’re a bit jumpy getting a message from ‘no one’,” she observed.

“It’s just a friend, Mum. No one important.”

“Mmm, right. And I’m the Queen Mum,” Jackie said, heading into the kitchen.

Waiting until her mum was out of sight, Rose pulled her phone out again, completely unable to ignore it. Taking a calming breath she activated the screen and pulled up her texts, pressing on the latest one.

’Hi Rose. I know you don’t want to talk to me, and I know you probably hate me right now, but I need you know how sorry I am about yesterday. Maybe someday in the future, when things settle and if you let me, I’ll explain why I did what I did and maybe you’ll see your way to forgive me. I never wanted to hurt you. It’s the last thing in the universe I would knowingly do. Yours, The Doctor.’

What even…

“Here,” Jackie said, handing her a steaming plate of rice and half a chicken pie.

“Oh, thanks,” she replied, quickly setting her phone on the coffee table to take the plate.

Sitting beside her, her mum stared at her for a moment. “Well?”

“What?”

“What was that all about? You can’t fool me, Rose, I’m your mother. You’re upset. An’ you know i’m gonna nag you until you give it up, so you might as well get it over with, yeah? I told you who called me. It’s your turn now,” she instructed.

Slumping, Rose sighed. “Aw, Mum,” she said, picking up her mobile, “It’s… there’s this bloke,” she began.

“I knew it,” Jackie stated. “Well? Who is he?”

“Remember when I went and got my tooth fixed?” she began.

“Yeah.”

“He’s my dentist,” Rose admitted, looking over at her mum.

“A dentist?” her mum’s face lit up. “Well, that’s lovely, Rose,” she approved. Rose rolled her eyes. She knew her mum would get stuck on the occupation. Likely rich, probably well situated. “So what’s the problem? He’s not, like, forty or somethin’, is he?”

“No, Mum, he’s not forty.” She wasn’t about to tell her he was still a fair bit older than she was. “It’s… something happened last night,” she began.

A dark look quickly shrouded Jackie’s features. “What did he do?”

“He… he grabbed my arm. Dragged me away from the constable I was talking to…”

“What? What constable?!” Jackie demanded.

Rose sighed. “We were at the anti-mark rally, an-”

“What?!” her mum all but shrieked. “Rose Marion Tyler! What were you thinking?!”

“No, Mum - we weren’t there on purpose,” she tried to explain. “We just sorta… ended up in the crowd before we knew where we were. Then there was this bloke… this kid... he was being chased by these anti-markists - Mom, I thought they were gonna kill him. So I found this constable who was talkin’ with a bunch of young blokes and I was tryin’ to tell him what was going on, and then the Doctor… John… out of nowhere, he yanks me away from the cop and drags me halfway down the street,” she continued.

“Wait - what sort of young blokes was the cop talkin’ to?” Jackie probed.

“Just some anit-markist idiots,” Rose explained. “They were just a bunch of hyped up arses. I gave them a few things to think about,” she added.

“What?!”

“What, what?” Rose snapped back.

“So you’re at an anti-markist rally and you decide it’s a good time to lecture a bunch of bloody closed minded arseholes on equality?!” her mum marvelled.

“Of course I did,” Rose said, puffing her chest out a bit. “What better time would there be? These people are barmy, Mum. They honestly think the Marked are evil terrorists. They have to be set straight.”

Jackie took a large breath in through her nose, seemingly to calm herself down. “Look, Rose. I hate to say it, but your bloke did the right thing,” she explained.

“But Mum, those men - they were gonna hurt that kid! I had to make sure he was gonna get help. And as for those anti-markists - we have to stand up for what’s right, Mum. We can’t let these poor people suffer because the rest of us are too scared to do anything about it,” she insisted.

“That’s what the Inclusionist movement is for, Rose. Let them take this on. An anti-markist rally certainly isn’t the place to challenge a bunch of violent idiots. On top of that, it isn’t up to you to try to change their minds,” her mum put in.

Rose’s jaw dropped. “You can’t mean that, Mum. Of course it’s my job. It’s everyone’s job! I always thought the marked issue was so far from my life, but it can’t be anymore. Everyone has to do something, or these poor people are gonna continue to be victimized and worse,” she insisted. “I can’t believe you don’t understand that,” she added.

Jackie’s jaw tightened with the comment. “I understand more than you’ll ever know, young lady,” she chastised. “You don’t know half of what I’ve been through and Lord knows I don’t ever want you to. If you think life has been easy for me-”

“Of course I don’t, Mum,” Rose interjected. “I know what you sacrificed for me.”

“No you don’t,” she countered. “Not really. You think you understand the world, but you really have no idea what sort of sacrifices have been made for you. So when I tell you what to do so you stay safe, I expect you to listen to me!” she hollered.

Rose stood, her hands fisted, white knuckled, at her sides. “I may not have been old enough to appreciate everything you did for me, but don’t ever think I don’t appreciate you, Mum,” she insisted, “because I do. But that doesn’t change the fact that this issue is too big to ignore. What good is safety if it isn’t an option for an eighth of the population? And who’s going to be next? Blacks? Muslims? It’s only a matter of time before Saxon sets his sights on the next minority,” she argued.

Instead of the anger she’d expected back from her mother, her mum looked almost defeated. “I never wanted this for you,” she intoned.

Rose’s eyebrows furrowed. “What?”

“This. A world like this. I thought by now… I’d hoped things were moving in the right direction. Women’s liberation. Equal rights movements. The EU. It all looked so positive. But now look at us. Back to square one, it seems,” she said, shaking her head. “I wanted so much better for you.”

All frustration Rose had been harbouring instantly fell away. “I know. But there’s nothing we can do now but fight, Mum,” she entreated, sitting back down beside her. “We can’t let hatred like this win. If we do… how are we any better?”

Worry filled her mum’s eyes as she regarded her daughter. “Just… promise me you’ll be careful, Rose. If you’re gonna make a point, make a smart one. There’s a time and a place for everything, yeah? Don’t put yourself in harm’s way when you don’t have to. Promise me.”

A little smile found Rose’s lips. “I’ll be careful, Mum. I promise.” Leaning in, she wrapped her arms around her mother in a comforting embrace.

“You better,” Jackie threatened, hugging her back, “or I swear I’ll hang you up by your toenails.”

“That’s fair,” Rose responded, pulling back.

Nodding, Jackie patted her hand for a moment. “And look, Rose. I don’t know this ‘Doctor’ bloke, and Lord knows I’m not usually one to defend the men you date, but I can understand why he did what he did. I’m not sayin’ you should take him back. If you think this sort of behaviour is maybe a taste of what he’s really like, then drop him. But if you think it’s maybe out of character, though… think about givin’ him another chance, yeah? If it’d been me there, I’d’ve yanked your arse out of there so fast you’d have to have surgery to re-attach it,” she advised.

Nodding, Rose considered her words. She didn’t know exactly how she felt at the moment. What she did know, was that she needed to think about it more.

“Alright, well, we should eat,” Jackie piped up, interrupting her thoughts. “I wasn’t craving cold pie, after all.”

“Yeah. Let’s eat,” Rose agreed, picking up her plate to balance it on her lap. “I love you, Mum,” she said warmly without looking over.

“I love you too.”

Chapter Text

Rose sat at the cafe, waiting and nursing a coffee. She hardly felt like it, but she’d promised to meet Mickey today for late lunch. Not surprisingly, though, he was tardy. She wondered if Martha knew that particular trait about him yet; his perpetual unawareness of time.

Time. Blimey. If only she could feel so blase about it. It was Friday and it’d been two days since she’d last seen the Doctor. Two ridiculously long, almost painful days. And despite how angry she’d been the other evening after he’d manhandled her at the square, she found she was utterly unable to remain so. In fact, she was seriously considering going to see him. His text had seemed so… genuine. And on top of that, after what her mum had said last night, she could maybe understand why he’d done it.

Bringing her mug up to her lips to take another sip of her sweetened coffee, she spied Mickey entering the cafe. Waving him over, she stood to greet him with a warm hug. “You’re late,” she reprimanded.

“I’m always late,” he rightfully reminded her.

“True.”

Sitting down, they caught the eye of their server and ordered. Rose already knew what she wanted, and Mickey always ordered the exact same thing when they came here; chicken wings. Settling in, Rose didn’t waste any time before jumping right into one of her favourite topics. “Soooo… how’s Maaaartha?” she sang.

Mickey ducked his head. “Roooose-”

“What? Oi - you’re both my best friends in the world. It’s my prerogative to ask,” she informed him.

A little grin found his lips then. “She’s great,” he admitted.

“I knew it!” Rose said triumphantly. “See! I told you she was fantastic, didn’t I?” she pressed.

“Yeah, you did,” he agreed.

“So you gonna see her again soon?” she continued.

“We’re going to the cinema tonight,” he shared.

“Brilliant,” Rose said. “Take her to see that new one - the one with Chris Pratt,” she suggested.

“What? There’s a new Star Trek out?” he asked.

Rose offered him a withering look. “No, you plum. That’s Chris Pine,” she informed him. “No - go see ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’” she elaborated. “Martha loves the sci-fi stuff.”

“Really? She does?” he asked, seeming impressed. She knew he would be. “Are you sure?”

“Positive,” Rose assured him.

“Okay. If you’re sure she’ll like it,” he allowed, pulling out his phone to plug something into it. “Starts at 7:05,” he confirmed. “Do you, uh… do you wanna come along?” he hazarded.

Rose looked at him, her eyes full of condemnation. “Really? Mickey - you need to go out with her alone,” she instructed. “Without your ex,” she added for good measure.

Mickey nodded, defeated. “Yeah. You’re right. It’s just easier when there are other people around,” he admitted. “What am I gonna talk about with her for a whole evening? She’s loads smarter than me. What’s gonna happen when she figures out I barely passed my A levels before I got hired at Torchwood?” he worried.

“Oi. None of that. You’re one of the most intelligent people I know and you don’t need a degree to prove it,” she reminded him. “Not many people make it up the ranks as quick as you have at Torchwood,” she pointed out. “And that didn’t happen because you’re an idiot.”

“Happened in spite of?” he grinned.

“Noooo,” she said lightly punching him in the arm from across the table. “It happened because you’re intelligent and brave. Besides, Martha’s not one of those snotty academic types,” she assured him. “You don’t have to be anything other than what you are when you’re with her. Just be yourself. She likes you,” she assured him. “And if you’re not sure what to talk about, ask her about herself. Ask her how things are going at the hospital. Talk to her about her family. Ask her about pilates - she does it every Tuesday,” she added.

“Yeah, okay,” he agreed, still sounding unsure. The waitress came by then with their orders and a couple of glasses of water and set them down in front of them.

“So what about you?” he said once the waitress had gone. “Have you seen that Doctor bloke again since Gallifrey last week?” he asked, picking up a wing and taking a bite.

Blimey, it was hard to believe it’d only been a week since he’d done a runner from the pub. Rose sighed. “Yeah. But… it’s complicated,” she admitted.

“I’m not surprised. When your date ends with him runnin’ from the restaurant you know it’s not gonna be an easy ride,” he pointed out.

Rose rolled her eyes. “That wasn’t a date,” she informed him. “We had just sorta met that night. And that’s not why it’s complicated,” she added.

“Oh yeah? Why’s that, then? He married or somethin’?” he asked, picking up another piece of meat.

“No!” she answered defensively. “He’s not married, you numpty. Why would I be seein’ someone who’s married?!”

“Oi! Don’t get mad at me. You were the one who said it was complicated,” he argued. “What could be more complicated than that?”

Rose shook her head. “No - he’s not married. He’s… he’s…” what? Overbearing? No. He wasn’t that. Domineering? That didn’t fit. Protective?

Stopping all movement, Mickey studied her. “Rose, did he do something to you?” he hazarded, his defences clearly rising.

“No… not really,” she said weakly.

Mickey’s eyes darkened. “Not really? What does that mean?” he pushed.

“Well, he didn’t hurt me, if that’s what you’re asking. He… it was more… oh, god. I don’t know… protective, maybe? He sort of grabbed my arm and pulled me,” she explained.

“He grabbed you?” he nearly growled.

“Yeah, but… but I… I think maybe he did it because he was worried about me,” she elaborated.

Mickey’s nostrils flared. “It doesn’t matter what his reason was, Rose. He shouldn’t have laid his hands on you,” he insisted. “What’s wrong with his mouth that he couldn’t have just suggested you move?”

Rose thought back. He had suggested they leave, but she hadn’t really listened, if she remembered right. “I don’t know, Micks. I think maybe he actually meant well,” she found herself saying in the Doctor’s defence.

Mickey shook his head, clearly frustrated. “Why would you want to take a chance, Rose? One bloke like that in your life is already one too many. What if this guy turns out to be another Jimmy Stone? I won’t let you get hurt again,” he warned.

Guilt, affection and frustration warred in her with the comment. She honestly could never thank her friends enough for being there for her after what had happened with Jimmy. Mickey had done more than his fair share of letting her cry on his shoulder, not to mention helping her move into Martha’s flat and consoling her mum when she didn’t have the energy. He’d been the consummate friend. Still, though, he didn’t know the Doctor. He hadn’t received the text and he hadn’t heard what her mum had said about the anti-markists. All around, he really just didn’t understand.

Reaching over, she placed her hand on top of his. “I promise, Mickey. I’m not going to let anyone hurt me like that ever again, yeah?” she assured him. “The Doctor… I really don’t think he’s like that. I was really angry at first, when it happened, but after talking with Mum, I think I know why he did it,” she explained, feeling the truth in her words even as she said them.

Mickey shook his head in frustration. “I don’t like it, Rose. I’m just sayin’.”

“I know. And I appreciate you want to look out for me. But I think maybe he deserves another chance,” she said, feeling suddenly lighter having said it out loud.

Mickey pulled his hand out from under hers. “Yeah, well if he ends up bein’ a complete prick, I don’t wanna hear about it,” he warned.

That stung. Did he think that she was that stupid that she’d just walk right into the arms of another Jimmy Stone?

Clearly reading her sudden change in demeanor, he softened and reached out to take her hand again. “Look. I’m sorry. I get you like this bloke, but I want you to be safe. I couldn’t take it if you ended up in the same situation again,” he explained. “Just promise me you’ll at least give him serious shit for grabbin’ you, okay. Don’t let him think that’s something you’ll let him get away with,” he insisted. “An’ tell him if he does it again, he’ll answer to me,” he added solemnly.

A corner of her lips lifted slightly. “Yeah. Okay, I promise. And Micks… thanks,” she added.

A rueful smile decorated his features. “You’re welcome.”

“You’re the best, you know,” Rose grinned, anxious to appease her friend.

“Yeah, yeah. I mean it, though, okay? Be careful.”

“I will,” Rose vowed, squeezing his hand.

The waitress came by again at that very moment with refills for their water, reminding her that she had food growing cold in front of her. Looking at it, she realized that, for the first time in ages, she was actually hungry. Inadvertently Mickey had helped her decide that she was going to to see the Doctor again. Oh, she intended to confront him; to demand why he’d done what he’d done. But she just knew, somehow, that his reasons were noble. She was going to be able to forgive him. She was sure of it. And when they’d talked it out finally, she could once again allow herself to revel in the giddiness she automatically felt whenever she thought about him.

 

OoOoOoOoO

 

Rose hadn’t responded to his e-mail. Of course, he hadn’t expected her to, but he’d sort of hoped she might. Even a ‘fuck-off’ might’ve been better than her ignoring him.

Friday had flown by, with the Doctor’s practice being, thankfully, insanely busy. On top of his regular appointments he’d had a last minute emergency appointment that brought him a full twenty-five minutes past their regular closing time of 5:00. As per Jack’s instructions, he’d worn his blue gloves throughout the day over the plasters he’d already been wearing. The long sleeved tee he wore under his scrubs further covered the luminous blue mark, keeping him as safe as possible from being recognized as one of ‘them’.

Finally, with his last client closing the door behind him, the Doctor peeled off his gloves and slumped over the counter of the reception desk. He was knackered. Donna had already left and he’d told Rory to head out at closing time as well, as he’d had the patient well in hand. Now, with the space blessedly quiet, he closed his eyes and allowed himself a moment to relish the silence.

Unfortunately, dancing over his closed lids was a ghostly image of Rose. The fury emanating from her and the anger in her eyes once again burned in his mind. She hated him. How could she not? He’d been a brute and, as far as she was concerned, he was no better than the bastard who’d beaten her.

Groaning, he planted his face in his hands. It was going to be another sleepless night despite his exhaustion.

The tingle of the bell over the door heralded someone’s arrival in the clinic. Looking up, he found two men entering through the door. “Sorry, we’re closed,” he informed them.

“We’re not here for an appointment,” one of them said, pulling something out of his jacket. “Are you Doctor Smith?” he asked, holding up an ID badge as he approached the desk.

Squinting, the Doctor could barely made out the writing. “Who are you?”

“I’m Agent Kelnar. This is Agent Brolin. We’re here on behalf of the SMITE Unit,” he answered. “We’ve been advised that you might be an unregistered marked individual,” he said, eyebrow raised. “Is that true?”

Immediately a cold sweat broke out all over his body. “Who told you that?”

“Is it true, sir?” the agent repeated.

Swallowing, the Doctor looked from one man to the other. “What if I am?”

“Then you will have to come with us to be registered and you’ll receive a fine for not having registered by the deadline,” he informed him.

“And if I decide not to go with you?” he replied, feeling somewhere between fearful and indignant.

“Then you will be forcibly taken in and you’ll have charges brought against you for obstruction of justice,” the other man said.

“There’s no point in disputing the claim, Dr. Smith,” the one called Kelnar added. “We have intelligence that you likely have the mark on your wrist. Unless you can prove to us you’re not marked, you’re coming with us.”

Looking between the two men opposite him, he was suddenly gripped by the reality that he was well and truly fucked. He was discovered. Despite his and Jack’s best intentions, he was now officially one of ‘them’. Reluctantly holding up his hands in surrender, he allowed the agents a view of the part of his mark that covered the bottom half of his palm. No point in hiding it now.

“Come around the counter please. Keep your hands where we can see them,” Agent Kelnar instructed. Despite the adrenaline pumping through him, he moved calmly around the reception desk to stand a couple of feet from the suited men. “Hands behind your back.”

The Doctor’s brows furrowed. “Why? I’m coming willingly,” he pointed out.

Agent Brolin apparently didn’t like his question, because before the Doctor knew it, he found himself pushed up against the wall, his cheek pressing against the warmly painted surface. “He said, Hands. Behind. Your. Back,” the agent intoned, grabbing one wrist roughly to cuff him before cruelly tightening the manacle around his other wrist as well.

“You’re handcuffed for our protection,” Agent Kelnar explained.

“Your protection? I’m a dentist, not a bloody ninja,” the Doctor countered angrily as the Agent pulled him back from the wall. “And I’m hardly armed.”

“Not anymore,” Agent Brolin intoned, grabbing him by the upper arm to lead him to the door.

“What’s that supposed to mean,” he spluttered as he was pushed ahead.

“He means,” Agent Kelnar interpreted, “that with your hands behind your back, you won’t be able to control our minds so you can get out of this.”

“What?!” the Doctor balked as they entered the building lobby. “This is ridiculous! How would I do that, exactly?”

“You’re not going to talk your way out of the cuffs, Dr. Smith, so don’t even try,” Kelnar shot back.

As they led him through the lobby the Doctor caught a number of vaguely familiar people watching in surprise as he was paraded past. He looked like a criminal. And, he supposed, maybe a few of them actually believed he was one.

Exiting the building with Agent Brolin still gripping his arm tightly, he was led through the drizzling rain to a black, unmarked vehicle parked out front. “Get in,” Kelnar said as they reached the car and the other agent opened the back door.

Knowing there was no other choice, the Doctor reluctantly ducked his head and allowed himself to be guided into the back seat. Once inside, he was closed in and the agents climbed into the front.

“I want to call a lawyer,” he stated as Brolin started the car, turned on the windscreen wipers and eased into the traffic.

“Lawyers aren’t required, Dr. Smith. You’re not under arrest. You’re being processed,” Kelnar explained.

The Doctor huffed. “Seems pretty ‘arrest-y’ to me, what with the handcuffs and all,” he pointed out.

“Shut up,” Brolin directed irritably.

“You know - I’m not sure I will, actually,” the Doctor said decidedly. “In fact, I think you actually need to hear what I’m about to say. Because I don’t think you really understand what it means to be marked,” the Doctor put out there. “It doesn’t mean I’ve suddenly become a threat to the public. And it certainly doesn’t mean I’ve developed super mind control powers. It means I’m lucky enough to have met someone whom I care about more than I care about myself,” he explained. “That’s it. I can tell how she feels when I touch her. That’s it. I can’t read her mind. I certainly can’t read your minds or anyone else’s. I’m the same harmless, taxpaying bloke I was before the mark showed up. The only reason I’m here in this car is because people are afraid of what they don’t understand,” he insisted.

“God. Make him shut the hell up,” Brolin said, ignoring everything the Doctor had said.

Darting a look back to him, Kelnar turned back to his partner. “Ten quid he stops talking the minute we get him back to the centre.”

Realizing he wasn’t being directly addressed, the Doctor still didn’t let it stop him from replying, “Oh, and why’s that, then? Maybe that’s exactly where I should be talking. Maybe I should be talking to Rassilon. Or Saxon,” he expounded, now on a roll. “I should be heard by both of them. At the very least, your colleagues will hear from me,” he assured them.

“He won’t be so talkative when they ask him who the unlucky woman is who ended up with his mark,” Kelnar continued to Brolin as if the Doctor hadn’t uttered a word.

The Doctor froze as anxiety turned his blood to ice. Rose. They were going to ask him who she was. Of course they would. “I have no intention of telling anyone who my soulmate is,” he challenged.

Brolin laughed. It was a sick, dreadful sound. “You’ll tell them.”

The Doctor swallowed thickly. The Agent sounded so sure of that. “I’ll never tell,” he assured them. He knew he wouldn’t. He couldn’t.

“They all say that,” Brolin told him, “but we’ll find out in the end.”

Fear filled every corner of him. Rose. They were going to find her. And when they did… who knew what would happen? Right now they were just being registered, but what if what Jack was saying was true and this was only the beginning?

Looking out the window of the car, the Doctor aimed his gaze up into the grey sky. Summoning all his energy, he concentrated on sending a message out into the atmosphere in the hopes it might travel to where it needed to go. ’Rose… if there’s any chance in the universe you can hear me… if this mark does any good at all… you’ll feel me telling you this. Please, god, feel me telling you this… Run, Rose. Please, hear me. RUN.’

Chapter Text

Rose hung out with Mickey for a couple of hours before finally getting up the nerve to leave so she could find the Doctor and talk with him. Now that she’d made up her mind about needing to see him again, she knew she wouldn’t be able to wait until tomorrow to do it. She needed to get this over with; to confront him about what’d happened so they could either move on together or part ways.

It was nearly five o’clock by the time she emerged from the tube stop to step out into the drizzling rain. Peering out from under the hood of her jacket, she spied his office building up ahead. Her breath quickened. As much as she was nervous to see him again, a bigger part of her was almost giddy with excitement. It made no sense, but there it was. She only hoped that his explanation for his behaviour the other night passed muster, because she was practically desperate to forgive him. Every part of her just wanted to crawl into his embrace and never leave it. She ached to kiss him one more time. None of that could happen, though, if he didn’t have a very good reason for what he’d done.

Heading off determinedly toward the building, she quickened her pace as she drew closer. She was still a full building away when the main doors of his building opened and a tall, slim figure exited accompanied by two other blokes.

Her heart leapt up into her throat. The Doctor! A shivery thrill shot through her on seeing him. But… damn it. He was obviously busy. Probably going out with colleagues after work, she guessed as she watched the three men head to a black car parked out front. Fuck. She’d really wanted to talk with him tonight. The idea of waiting made her almost nauseous.

Watching as one of the Doctor’s mates opened the back door for him, she gasped a breath in as one of them guided him into the back seat. Handcuffs.

Her mind whirled. The Doctor wasn’t leaving with friends… he was being taken away by these men.

Without thinking, she began sprinting toward the vehicle, waving her arms. “Doctor!” she shouted as the car began pulling away from the curb. “Stop! Doctor!” she called again in vain, waving more frantically. The vehicle was now a good distance from her and moving away at a steady speed. Slowing to a stop, she pulled off her hood and stood breathing heavily as she watched in horror as the car disappeared. What had she just seen?!

’You just saw the man you care about being taken against his will - that’s what you saw!’ The idea sent palpable shock waves through her. It was not okay that he was in trouble. She had to help him.

Then a thought occurred to her. What if those were plainclothes cops? What if he was being arrested?

No. That couldn’t be it.

’Why not?’ her mind supplied. ’How do you know he didn’t deserve to be arrested?’

The thought made her pause. She supposed she didn’t. Could he possibly have done something to deserve this?

Her mind unhelpfully supplied her with a vivid image of the Doctor slamming her head into a wall and kicking her full force in the stomach and ribs.

No. No - he hadn’t done that. He wouldn’t do that.

’You thought the same thing about Jimmy…’

No, that wasn’t true. She’d just never considered the idea that Jimmy might ever hurt her. The very idea that she could ever be a victim in that way had never occurred to her back then. Now, though… now she knew it could happen to anyone. Still… she honestly couldn’t see it ever happening to someone at the Doctor’s hands. As much as Mickey had wisely tried to caution her, she just knew in her heart… in her soul... that he would never hurt her or anyone else. Granted - he still owed her an explanation for the other night, but deep down she already knew he meant what he’d said in his text to her. ’I never wanted to hurt you. It’s the last thing in the universe I would knowingly do.’ Maybe she was being naive, but she believed him.

Okay. So she’d decided then. Whoever those people were, the Doctor was in trouble and she had to help him. Right. Okay - so what should she do? Call the police? Probably.

Pulling out her phone, she dialed 999.

“Emergency. Which service?” the woman’s voice said when the call was picked up.

“Yeah, hello. I need… uh… I guess I need the police,” Rose decided aloud.

“One moment.”

Rose’s stomach tightened in anxiety. What if it hadn’t been the police who’d taken him? What if…

Her phone suddenly buzzed, indicating she had an incoming call. Pulling her phone away from her ear, she looked at the screen. Donna. In a split-second decision, she decided to hang up with 999. “Donna?” she said, accepting the call.

“Rose? Hi! Look - I was wondering if you were planning to go the rally tomorrow?” she asked. “Jack asked that I call some friends to get a few more volunteers-”

“Donna,” Rose interjected, “The Doctor… I’m at your office and these men - they took him,” she expounded in a rush.

“Whoa! What?”

“The Doctor - he was handcuffed and these two men took him. They put him in the backseat of their car and drove off,” she tried to explain.

“Oh, my god,” her friend breathed.

“I’d just called 999 when you rang,” Rose shared, “but -”

“What?! No. No - you can’t call the police, Rose,” Donna insisted. “Now I need you to listen to me, yeah? Where are you?

“I’m in front of your office building,” Rose replied, confused. “But we need the police, Donna. We have to find out where he is, and if anyone can help it’ll be them,” she added. “What if he’s been arrested? We need to find out where they’ve taken him.”

“No!” Donna practically barked on the other end of the line. “You can’t call the police, Rose. Please. Look - I’ll explain everything, okay? But I need you to listen to me right now,” she said, clearly tense. “You need to get out of there. Right now. Come to my place, okay? I’ll text you the address. I’ll call Jack and get him to meet us so we can deal with this,” she suggested.

A trickle of fear inched up her spine. “Donna… what’s going on?”

“Just… just come over, Rose. Please. We’ll talk when you get here, yeah?”

“Alright,” she agreed hesitantly.

“Good. Hurry,” Donna directed.

“Okay, bye,” Rose replied uneasily as she hung up. Donna had been so insistent she get moving - it made her skin crawl. She clearly knew something Rose didn’t.

Looking around, she took in the few people walking up and down the sidewalk she stood on. The windows of the building across the street were mostly covered with blinds and she couldn’t make out anyone staring out into the street. Cars and bicycles drove by with no one paying her any mind as far as she could tell. If she hadn’t just watched the man she was infatuated with being hauled off in handcuffs, she’d have no idea something dark and possibly sinister was going on.

In her hand, her phone ‘binged’, making her jump a bit. It was Donna’s address. Alright. Whatever was going on, she knew she’d better get moving. She only hoped her friend had some idea about how they could help the Doctor.

 

OoOoOoOoO

 

The air was stale and the smell of sweat lingered in the small grey room. Casting a look at the clock above the door, the Doctor sat uncomfortably in the chair the agents had placed him in after he’d been fingerprinted and after his mouth had been swabbed for his DNA. His hands were fastened securely to a table shackle lock. He wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Of course, they’d asked him who his soulmate was, but he’d steadfastly refused to give her name. That’s when he’d been placed in here. He wondered what they thought they’d achieve by holding him like this. He wasn’t going to talk. Not a chance. He’d never put Rose in harm’s way, no matter how long they locked him up.

Across from him, the door to the room opened and in walked two agents he hadn’t seen before. The thirty-something, dark-haired male had a file in one hand and a coffee mug in the other and the blonde woman, dressed primly in a pencil skirt and matching jacket, held only a mobile. Taking the seats across from his at the table, the rather attractive male agent put his mug down. “Doctor Smith - I’m Agent Diagoras and this is Agent Hartman. We’ve been told you are a marked individual who hasn’t been cooperating with the registration process,” he observed.

“I don’t know if that’s necessarily true,” the Doctor corrected. “I’ve given you all the information you really need to know. You don’t need to know my soulmate’s name. I’m the one being registered, after all,” he pointed out.

Studying the Doctor for a moment, Diagoras then opened the file he held and read aloud, “Right, then. Dr. John Smith. #40, 76 Totter’s Lane. Owner and Operator of TARDIS Dental. Graduate of University College London. Parents deceased. No children. No spouse... yet,” he said, looking up over his glasses. “Have I got that right so far?” he asked.

“Wow. You know so much about me,” the Doctor observed. “Did you swipe right on my Tinder page?” he asked saucily.

“Says here,” the agent went on, “that you recently hired someone to work for you. A ‘Donna Noble’?” he said, looking up, probably to assess the Doctor’s reaction.

“Donna is my office administrator,” he corroborated.

“Mmm,” the agent hummed, as if considering this. “I wonder if she might have something we should look at?” he hazarded.

The Doctor let out a snarfed laugh. “Ha! I pity you if you try to look at anything Donna has that she doesn’t want to show you,” he warned.

“I imagine she’ll be happy to show us whatever we ask her to,” the agent promised. “But perhaps she’s not the one we’re looking for. Maybe you go for more masculine types? The infamous Jack Harkness is your flatmate. Could it be you’re more than mere rent sharers? It wouldn’t surprise anyone if he is, in fact, marked. Actually, it would explain a lot, wouldn’t it?” the man goaded.

The Doctor looked between the two sizing him up from across the table. “You people are incredible, you know that? Why is it impossible to believe that someone without the mark might believe that all people should be treated equally, no matter what their skin looks like?” he proposed. “Whether Jack does or doesn’t have the mark makes no difference,” he continued. “What matters is that he is ready to stand up for what’s right. And what this is… this right here… this is NOT. RIGHT.”

Diagoras took a noisy breath in through his nose. “You know we’re going to have to have him in for an examination and questioning anyway, so why don’t you save us all the trouble and tell us. Is Jack Harkness your markmate?” he pressed.

“No. Jack is not my soulmate,” he corrected. “You can safely leave him out of this. You can leave Donna out of this as well,” he informed them.

“Ah, but here’s the thing,” the same agent said. “We won’t be leaving anyone you know alone until you tell us who your markmate is. Because one way or another, we will find out,” he promised.

The Doctor shook his head. “Isn’t it enough that my life is about to be turned upside down? I have done nothing except end up with this incredible gift on my arm, and now, for some twisted reason, I’m considered a threat to national security. Me! I’m a bloody dentist! What could I possibly do to harm anyone? Polish them to death?!” he went on. “And I promise you… my soulmate is no one you need to worry about. I’m far more dangerous, and I’m about as dangerous as Mr. Blobby,” he elaborated.

“We’ll be the ones to judge that, Dr. Smith. Just as we’ll be the ones to decide if your markmate is a threat,” the agent replied.

“No, I don’t think you will,” the Doctor shared. “Do you know why? Because I will never tell you my soulmate’s name. And you won’t ever figure out who that person is,” he added, careful to omit an identifying pronouns.

“Alright fine. We’ll have to do this the hard way, then. I just want you to know that, not only are you making this entire process harder on yourself, you are going to make it infinitely worse for your markmate once we find her. Or him. That, I promise you,” Diagoras proclaimed. “So this is your last chance, Dr. Smith. Tell us who your markmate is and you are free to go home and life will be much easier for you, your markmate, your friends and your clients,” he urged.

A shiver shot up the Doctor’s back with the cruel threat, but he remained silent as the two agents leveled glares at him from where they sat.

Finally, even as the silence became deafening, the chatty agent turned to his female partner. “Go ahead, Agent Hartman.”

Darting a look in her direction, the Doctor watched as she turned to look up into a camera mounted in the corner near the ceiling. “Doctor Crane - hook up in interrogation room B,” she directed at it, before turning back to face him.

Standing, the male agent looked at the Doctor piteously. “I’m sorry. I did try to warn you,” he said, moving to the door. Warn him? A new dump of adrenaline pumped through him as the agent left the room. The remaining agent said, “You’re sure you don’t want to change your mind? It’s not too late,” she offered as a man in a lab coat entered. With wide eyes, the Doctor watched the bookish looking, bespeckled bloke move around the table toward him, holding a metal helmet-like contraption.

“What is this?” he heard himself ask as the man placed the device on his head.

“It’s a Chameleon Arch, Doctor,” the woman answered. “It’s purpose is two-fold. Firstly, it stops any unwanted empathic or telepathic signals you might be trying to send, effectively turning you into a regular human while you’re wearing it and for approximately 48 hours after it’s removed. Secondly… well, let’s just say… it motivates those in our custody to cooperate,” she said, her voice sickly sweet. “Of course, our government would never allow us to use it to coerce someone into helping us in an investigation. This device has been okayed only for use to protect those of us working with dangerous marked individuals like yourself. In my experience, though, the wearer usually decides to share information not long after the CA is turned on. It’s quite painful, you see. But then, you seem to think you’re different, so who knows. You might last longer than most,” she said lightly.

The Doctor’s breath quickened as the older man pulled a small black mobile sized box from his pocket. Looking over to the woman who’d explained what a precarious position he was in, the doctor she’d called ‘Crane’ waited. The Doctor swallowed. Unable to even grip the edge of the table to brace himself, he found himself pulling uselessly at his bonds in an effort to free himself. It was all for naught, though. With a cruel smirk, the woman nodded infinitesimally at the bloke with the little black controller.

“Start it at six. If he doesn’t crack in an hour, push it up to seven.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” the elderly man said.

With that, the Doctor’s eyes slammed closed and a cry ripped from his throat as pain filled every corner of his mind.

Chapter Text

If Rose could’ve somehow forced the train to move faster to get her to Donna’s, she would’ve. Unfortunately, all she could do was wait as passengers got on and off at each stop until she finally arrived at Golders Green Station and made her way up to the street.

Thankfully, the walk to Donna’s from the tube was enough to help clear her head of the panic she’d been feeling earlier, which allowed her focus on how this needed to be dealt with. The more she’d thought about it, the more convinced she was that they had to go to the police. If the Doctor had been arrested, they had to find out what he was charged with so they could help him, and if, god forbid, it hadn’t been the police who’d taken him, they had to report it right away so he could be found.

Finally arriving at the address Donna had texted her, Rose pressed the appropriate buzzer and waited. “Yeah?” Donna’s voice issued through the tinny speaker.

“Hi, Donna. It’s Rose,” she supplied.

“Come on up,” Donna instructed just as the door unlocked with a buzz. Darting up to the second floor, Rose found Donna’s flat and was about to knock when her mate threw the door open and all but yanked her inside, looking behind her up and down the hall as she did so.

“What -” Rose started as Donna quickly shut the door behind her.

“Did you notice anyone following you?” Donna asked urgently.

“Following me? No. No one’s following me. Donna - what’s going on?” she demanded.

“Come in,” Donna instructed rather than answering her question. “I’ll explain everything.” Gesturing for Rose to enter, Donna was about to follow her further into the flat when the door buzzer sounded. Pushing the button, she answered, “Yeah?”

“It’s Jack,” the voice answered.

“Come up,” she replied, pressing the lock release button for a few moments. Moving into the living room, Rose looked around, waiting impatiently for Donna to follow so she could find out what was going on. The room was cozy and lined with pictures of what appeared to be family members. On a bookshelf off to her left, Rose spotted a prominent picture of Donna and Lee, smiling widely in front of the Louvre. His arms were wound tightly around her as if he was reluctant to ever let her go. It was a sentiment she now understood too well. Despite the newness of her affection for the man she was enamoured with, she wished she’d never let him go the other night. She regretted that she’d run away instead of offering him a chance to explain himself. If she’d stayed, maybe none of this would’ve happened, for all she knew. A sad tightness gripped her middle as she stared at the photo. What if the Doctor wasn’t okay? What if they couldn’t find him?

From the front door she heard Jack enter and moments later he and Donna joined her in the living room. “Hey, Rose,” he said, moving over to her without hesitation. Surprisingly, he wrapped her in a large hug. “Are you okay?” he asked. The question seemed odd given the circumstances.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she answered, confusion evident in her voice. “The Doctor though… Jack, I saw him being loaded into a car with handcuffs on,” she explained.

“Alright - what can you tell me about the car. What colour was it?” he asked, all his attention focused on her.

“Black. And there were two men. They were both a bit shorter than the Doctor, but not by much. They were wearing dark suits,” she offered, trying to recall anything else that might help.

“So, no badges or anything?” Jack tried.

“I couldn’t see that well,” Rose admitted. “I wasn’t close enough.”

“It’s okay. I think I know where he might be,” he admitted, scratching the back of his neck.

Rose’s jaw dropped. “Where?”

Putting a supportive hand on her shoulder, he said, “I think you should sit down.”

Rose swallowed thickly as anxiety skittered through her. This had to be bad. Backing up, she sat numbly on the edge of the couch and waited as he took a seat kitty-corner to her in an armchair.

“Rose… I have to tell you something. About the Doctor,” he began.

Oh god. “What?” she said, feeling both desperate and terrified to find out what he was going to say.

“Those men… they work for SMITE.”

Rose blinked. SMITE. What the hell was that? Wait. The other night at the rally…

“SMITE is the new government unit dealing with the Marked,” he said gently.

“The Marked?” she heard herself say as her brain worked to process what she was hearing.

“The Doctor… he has it. He has the mark,” Jack elaborated, his eyes boring into her own, looking for comprehension.

Rose’s eyes widened and all breath froze in her chest. Marked. He was marked? For one impossible moment a thrill went through her. But… did that mean…? But she hadn’t seen a mark on herself anywhere... she would’ve noticed by now if she was marked.

Numbly, she sat for a moment letting that thought sink in. If he was marked and she wasn’t, then that meant… Oh god. “But I thought… I thought we were…” she trailed off before practically whispering, “I thought he liked me.”

Jack’s brows furrowed. Beside him, Donna piped up, “He does li-” she started before Jack squeezed her knee in warning.

“Donna was gonna tell you that he does. He cares about you. But… what happened… it surprised all of us. He only just met her yesterday. Another patient,” he elaborated.

Rose felt her throat all but dry up and her heart shrivel in her chest. “A patient?” she intoned, her voice small.

“Jack…” Donna began.

“Donna - I think it’s best Rose hears this from us,” Jack interrupted, shooting his sister a pointed look before returning his attention back to her. “I’m sorry, Rose. I know you liked him,” he added, actually sounding pained about it himself.

Liked him. No. It was more than that. She’d been ready to give her heart to him. And now… now…

A soft hand found her back. “I’m sorry, Rose,” Donna said.

“Yeah,” she said quietly. It was all she could manage without a deluge of emotion barging past her hastily and poorly constructed wall of false courage.

“If you want to leave… if you want to go home, we’d completely understand,” Jack added.

Looking up, she found him looking sadly back at her. “Umm… no, it’s okay. I just… I just need a tic, yeah?” she requested, getting up. “Donna - can I use the loo?” she asked.

“Of course,” she answered, her eyes full of pity. “Back near the door on the right.”

“Thanks,” she said, quickly turning to leave the room. All but dashing to the loo, she flipped the light on and closed the door behind her just as tears rent their banks to slide down her cheeks.

How could this be? He was marked?! But… she was sure she hadn’t imagined it. He’d been attracted to her. They’d kissed! And now, all of a sudden, some random woman walks in the door and she’s tossed aside? An all consuming ache filled her with the thought, pulling the breath from her lungs. Feeling her legs weaken, she plunked herself down to sit on the toilet lid and cupped her face in her hands as fresh tears slid from her eyes and dripped through her fingers. She… she’d been so hopeful...so sure that they’d be able to have something together. And now… it was over. Just like that. He had the mark. There was no rhyme or reason for it, it seemed. Some other woman was walking around with the mark she wished she had.

Treacherously, her mind provided the image of a gorgeous, slim, dark-haired woman caressing a swirling blue mark on her forearm as she batted her eyes flirtatiously up at the Doctor from his dental chair. God. To think this woman had sat in the Doctor’s waiting room, just as Rose had, and had also been completely taken by his looks and his charm. She’d probably been as speechless as Rose had been when she’d first met him. Her stomach clenched. The idea of someone else holding him… kissing him…

A tangible pain pierced her heart, making her nearly double over. Fuck! This made no sense! She had no rational reason to feel this gutted, but here she was. It was as if someone she’d loved for years had died.

For a moment she let herself wallow in the pain of it, suddenly feeling desperately sorry for herself. Why couldn’t it have been her? Why? I mean - blimey… given the way she felt about him, how could it not be her? It would explain so much; the zing of attraction when he touched her, the inexplicable desire to be near him, and the emptiness in her heart when she wasn’t.

But it wasn’t her, was it? If his mark was big enough that he’d been found out, then hers would be very visible by now too if she had one. No… it wasn’t her. As much as the idea made her heart ache, he belonged to someone else. Someone who was made to love him. Someone who he would love back. Genetics had chosen someone else for him and there was no fighting it no matter how much it hurt. He wasn’t meant for her, and she needed to come to terms with that.

Pushing herself up from sitting, she moved to face the mirror. Mascara tracked from her reddened eyes as evidence of her loss. Shaking her head at the woman staring back at her, she swallowed and tried to stand up straighter. No matter how gutted she felt about what she’d just learned, she still wanted to help the Doctor. He hadn’t chosen to be one of the Marked. He just was. And from what she gathered from Jack’s explanation, he’d been collected by this ‘SMITE’ unit solely because of that; not because he’d done anything wrong. Now he was probably being held somewhere, getting fingerprinted and getting his DNA taken. He was being singled out as a threat and being treated like a terrorist in his own country for no other reason than because he was different.

Anger began to take over as the predominant emotion coursing through her now, and she welcomed it. Grabbing onto it, she bubble wrapped her heart with it so she could focus on what was important at the moment; getting the Doctor back safe and sound. Those bastards had no right to treat him or anyone, for that matter, like a second hand citizen. Someone had to fight for him and all the Marked, and damn it - she wasn’t going to sit back and hope someone else would do it. As much as her very soul felt betrayed by fate, she had to do the right thing. She had to do whatever she could to make things right. If she’d been the one bearing the mark, she’d hope someone would stand up for her and do whatever they could to make sure she was treated fairly and with respect.

Turning on the taps, she reach down and splashed cool water in her face. Washing off her make-up, she patted her skin dry with a towel hanging by the sink and looked back up in the mirror. Better.

Taking a reassuring breath, she opened the door and headed back to the living room. She was just about there when she overheard Donna fiercely whisper something to Jack. She couldn’t make out what she’d said, but she sounded pissed.

Jack replied with something she missed, but she caught the ending. “...but it’s for the best.”

Entering the room, Rose took in the two tense siblings. “What’s for the best?” she asked, sure she’d missed an important conversation.

“What? Oh… just… it’s for the best if we, uh… if you two let me go find out where he is on my own,” he explained, sounding oddly unsure about the comment.

“What? Why?” Rose asked. “Wouldn’t it be better if we were all there?” she posited.

“No. Definitely not,” Donna jumped in, now suddenly supportive of Jack’s plan. “In fact, I think Jack’s right. He has connections. Once he finds out where the Doctor is, he’ll ring us, right Jack?” she said, looking to him for confirmation.

“Uh, yeah. Absolutely. Right away,” he promised. “In the meantime, I’ll call Ianto and let him know I can’t help out prepping tonight for the rally. Maybe you two can fill in for me? I know he could use the help, and,” he added, looking at Donna, “I’d feel better if you two weren’t here tonight.”

Donna’s eyes widened. “Wait. You think SMITE would come here?” she asked.

“I know they will. Maybe not tonight, but soon,” he warned. “They’re going to be looking for his soulmate so they can bring her in as well. They’ll be interviewing everyone he knows,” he said significantly.

“Blimey,” Rose said, astounded and not just a bit frightened by the scope of this horrid movement. “Are they doing this for every marked person they register?” he asked. She couldn’t even fathom what sort of twisted fear would drive people to such extremes.

“I think there are going to be people they’ll focus on more than others,” Jack replied carefully. “And the Doctor… he’s going to be a target. Him being one of the Marked… it affects some big names in the anti-mark movement. I don’t know if he told you, Rose,” he said delicately, “but Rassilon is his uncle. And because of that the Doctor will have to be made an example of. Everyone he knows will be investigated,” he added.

Rassilon. Memories of the rally the other night came flooding back. That new leader of the SMITE movement who’d spoken to the crowd… that had been his uncle. Rose’s heart rate picked up. So it wasn’t just the Doctor and his soulmate who were at risk then. These people were going to make life hell for everyone the Doctor was involved with. And Donna… wait. “Donna… I don’t mean to pry, but… you and Lee. Are you two…” she trailed off.

“What?” Donna asked, confused.

“Are you marked?” Rose hazarded, hoping she hadn’t overstepped. After all, it was really none of her business, but she suddenly couldn’t help but worry that maybe Donna was in as much danger as the Doctor right now.

“Oh,” she replied, understanding, “No, we’re not marked. We’re safe,” she said, clearly understanding why Rose had asked.

“Oh. Well, that’s good,” Rose said, feeling relieved. “Still, maybe Jack is right. We should get you out of here. You could stay at my place after we help get things ready for the rally,” she suggested.

A spark of worry crossed Donna’s features. “No, I don’t think that’s a good idea. They, uh… they might be checking his patients as well,” she cautioned.

“What? Really?” She replied, alarm bells going off in her mind. “But if they do, they’ll find her,” Rose worried.

“Who?” Jack replied.

“His soulmate,” she reminded him incredulously. How could he have forgotten about her already. “We need to warn her,” she insisted.

“Oh! Uh… that’s a good point. I’ll find out her number and get a hold of her,” Jack suggested.

“Wait - wouldn’t it be easier for Donna to do it?” Rose put in. “We could stop at TARDIS dental on the way to your mate’s place and get the number,” she reasoned.

“That’s a good idea,” Donna agreed, jumping in before Jack could respond. “We’ll stop at the office and I’ll call her from there.”

Jack looked at Donna for a moment. Rose could’ve sworn some unspoken message passed between them before he finally nodded. “Alright. But be careful,” he warned, looking between the two of them. “And head straight to Ianto’s after. I’ll let him know you’re on your way,” he informed them.

“Call us if you find out anything, though, yeah?” Donna reminded him.

“Of course,” Jack assured them, heading to the door. Looking directly at Rose then, he said, “I’ll find out what’s going on, I promise,” he assured her.

“Okay,” Rose replied, watching as he left. A big part of her wanted to run after him and insist that she come along, but he was right. He’d be able to find out more without her tagging along. She just had to trust that he’d call them as soon as he knew anything. In the meantime, she knew she had to stay busy. She had to help somehow. And the best way she knew how was to help Donna contact the Doctor’s soulmate to make sure she stayed safe.

His soulmate. The woman who’d been blessed enough to have his mark. The woman who wasn’t her.

Chapter Text

Cold cement pressed against the Doctor’s cheek as he lay centimeters from a puddle of his own sick, trying to cope with the pounding ache in his head and the cramping in his chest. He’d woken a few minutes earlier but hadn’t yet found the strength to sit up. Instead, he’d pushed himself away from the wretched stink and lay back down, hoping the cool surface beneath him might ease the throbbing pressure in his skull.

When they’d said they were serious about the pain the machine they’d put on his head could dole out, they hadn’t been exaggerating. He’d never experienced anything like it and prayed he never would again. Agony was too tame a word to describe what he’d suffered. It didn’t surprise him that people broke down in short order and provided whatever information they demanded. He had.

Of course, he hadn’t provided her real name. Her safety was paramount. Instead he’d given them the name of a family friend who’d passed away years ago. It would keep them busy for a short time; hopefully long enough for Jack or someone to figure out how to get him out of here. If not, well, he supposed he was going to have to figure out a way to get out of here himself. He couldn’t go through that again. He wouldn’t survive it, he was sure. As it was, he’d managed to hold on for quite a while. He had no idea how long he’d been there, writhing in agony, every organ of his body seemingly on fire, but he vaguely recalled the man watching him marvelling at his will power.

Deciding he’d better try to at least sit up, the Doctor opened his eyes and slowly gathered his hands beneath himself so he could get into a more upright position.

The movement was significantly unappreciated by his brain, which decided to protest by pounding harder against his skull. Clutching his hands to his eyes, he closed them tightly and waited, desperately hoping the pain might ease slightly, and thankfully, after a few moments, it dulled again to a more tolerable throbbing ache, leaving him more aware of the uncomfortable pressure in his chest. Blimey. He felt like he’d been hit by a lorry.

Daring again to open his eyes, he looked about and took in his surrounding for the first time since they’d moved him from the interrogation room. He was in a darkened cement cell, about ten by ten. One harsh light shone down from the centre of the ceiling. A toilet was situated on the wall in the corner and small sink sat beside it. A slab stuck out from the wall with a thin foam covering it. On the wall above the door, a telly screen was mounted, angled downward slightly, and beside that, an observation camera was trained on him, blinking an ominous red light. Other than him and his sick, that’s all the room consisted of. That, and a door, which was no doubt very locked.

Leaning his back and head tentatively against the wall, the Doctor closed his eyes. How did he end up here? Weeeelll - he knew how he ended up here. More to the point… he never imagined he’d end up here. In a jail cell, lying in vomit, after having been arrested for meeting a fantastic woman. Unfathomable.

Looking down at his arm, he pulled up his sleeve and studied the intricate mark that had landed him here. It was now half the size of his forearm and travelled up to cover the bottom part of the inside of his hand. The largest circle was now surrounded by other smaller ones; some interconnected, others only touching. It was beautiful. Like her.

Running his hand over it, he closed his eyes and invoked her image. His Rose. Of course, she still didn’t know she was his. Or more like… he was hers. And he couldn’t be more grateful. Now he just desperately hoped she didn’t find out. The placement of her mark was going to be her salvation, because they would never think to look there.

For a moment he considered that; the placement of their marks. There must be some reason they showed up where they did. Did they manifest where the soulmate was most likely to see it? No. It would show up on everyone’s face then, wouldn’t it? Maybe in the most discreet place then; where the soulmate would see it but not necessarily everyone else? That would make more sense. After all, why else would Rose’s be in her mouth? It was a place he was very likely to see it and others wouldn’t. His was on the inside of his arm, probably because, if he hadn’t been ashamed of it, she would’ve seen it while he examined her.

Of course, he wasn’t ashamed of it. Not really. If the world wasn’t so terrified of ‘the other,’ he’d have been ridiculously proud to show it off. He’d met someone who was perfect for him. For him. They were genetically chosen to be together. It was brilliant. If only those who opposed it so vehemently could experience it. It was remarkable. Knowing there was someone out there meant for you. Someone you knew deep in your soul was right for you. Someone you’d give your life for without so much as the blink of an eye. It was an incredible gift. And he knew without a doubt that he’d never go back now. As much as this time in history was going to be a black one, he wouldn’t erase this evidence of his infatuation… his… dare he think it so soon?... his love… for one Rose Tyler.

The clunk of a lock being released yanked the Doctor away from his comforting thoughts and back to the darkness of here and now. In front of him, the heavy door swung open to reveal a square jawed, armed guard. Stepping into the room, he aimed what looked like a taser gun at him. “Stand up,” the agent instructed.

Doing as he was told, the Doctor gingerly got to his feet. The ache in his head doubled in intensity, nearly making him lose his balance, but he resolutely fought to stay standing. He wasn’t about to give these apes the pleasure of seeing his weakness.

“Hands in the air,” the guard barked.

Despite the discomfort in his chest, the Doctor raised his hands in a gesture of surrender and stood as tall as he could manage; his chin jutted in defiance.

Stepping to the side slightly, the guard made room for someone else to enter behind him. A familiar grey haired man in his fifties strode into the room. Grayvas.

Grayvas had been a staunch supporter of his uncle and had worked tirelessly behind the scenes to have Rassilon become a member of the House of Lords. The Doctor had never really known him well, though. He remembered him as a relatively jovial man who enjoyed a scotch and a cigar with his uncle in front of the fireplace. Seeing him the other night… seeing him here... it was confirmation that the world was indeed turning upside down.

“John,” Grayvas said by way of a greeting.

“Grayvas,” the Doctor replied, attempting to sound detached despite being held at gunpoint.

The older man studied his captive for a moment before he gestured to his colleague to lower his weapon. “I believe we’re safe for the moment, Agent Benton. The Chameleon Arch will have effectively disarmed our guest of his ‘weapon’ for the time being,” he assured his guard. “Isn’t that right, John?”

The Doctor let his hands fall to his sides in response but said nothing.

A smirk came over Grayvas’ lips as he took a few steps toward him. “Well this is some kettle of fish you’re in, isn’t it?” he marvelled, stopping a couple of feet from him. Shoving his hands deep in his trouser pockets, he tilted his head to the side. “John Smith. Marked,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “I never would’ve guessed. Mind you, your parents, they were always a bit odd to me,” he affirmed. “A bit too self-righteous for my liking. But then, they would be, wouldn’t they, if they were marked as well?” he put out.

The Doctor’s mind reeled. He hadn’t considered… hadn’t even thought about his parents in all this. They weren’t marked as far as he knew, but then, if his guess about the placement of the mark was right, it was conceivable that others might never see someone’s mark if it was placed strategically enough.

“But that’s neither here nor there, seeing as they’ve moved on from this world,” he said almost whimsically.

Further resentment bubbled in him with this bastard’s casual mention of their passing. His parents had been brilliant, caring people. Something this lout would know nothing about.

“Still,” he continued, “that leaves you, doesn’t it? Here in this cell because you’re refusing to cooperate with an investigation,” Grayvas said, shaking his head. “Did you really think we believed you’d given us the name of your markmate? We’re not new at this, you realize. No one gives up their markmate’s name so easily and you’re not the first to try to pass off a random name in hopes we’ll chase a wild goose. However, we’re aware that prolonged exposure to the Chameleon Arch leads only to irreparable damage, and we have need of you yet, so here you are,” he explained lightly. “It still boggles my mind though. John Smith - Rassilon’s nephew, obstructing justice. Hardly makes sense. Especially given that your uncle is trying to make this world a safer place. Rassilon is quite worried about you, you know,” he added, seemingly randomly.

“Is that so?” the Doctor asked, attempting to sound disinterested.

“Very much so,” Grayvas confirmed. “You see, given his position, you present a rather significant problem. Not only does he have a reputation to maintain, but he has the moral obligation to make sure he doesn’t play favourites. So you see his dilemma. You represent all that is wrong with the world and Lord Rassilon represents righteousness and security for our people. He can hardly let you go unprocessed. In fact, he has the moral duty to make sure you’re made an example of. You, the blood relative of the head of the UK Security Agency, must be made to cooperate. It will send a message to all who think opposing him is in their best interest. So, you see, there is no chance of you leaving here without disclosing everything we need you to,” he said significantly.

The Doctor sat staring at the smug man in the suit as his words sunk in. He was right. Rassilon wouldn’t let him go without his full cooperation. As much as he’d never have made his uncle out to be ruthless, he was beginning to see the truth of that idea. Jack had been right.

“So, that said, I’ll give you this chance to tell us who your markmate is. He or she will only elude us for so long and when we find the person you’ve been concealing, I can promise you things will go more smoothly for him or her if you’ve cooperated with us. And in the meantime, none of your friends will have to have to suffer because of your selfishness,” he said, nodding at the pile of vomit off to his side.

The Doctor stared at the familiar yet completely unfamiliar man lording over him. So now they weren’t just insisting on interviewing his friends, they were were actually threatening them with harm. It was mad! “You can’t do that! They haven’t done anything!”

Grayvas leveled a piteous look at him then. “Well, we know that’s strictly not true, don’t we John. After all - surely they knew you were marked. That means they were concealing a marked individual. That’s now a crime in this country. On top of that, our job is to uncover marked individuals who are eluding the law. Your markmate is one of those people. Unless you tell us who that person is, we’re bound in the name of our nation’s security to discover who that is using whatever means we feel are necessary.”

For a moment, the Doctor felt himself conflicted. Jack, Donna, Rory… they were all at risk if he didn’t tell these people about Rose. Despite that, though, he knew he could never release her name to these animals. He had to trust that Jack would do everything in his power to keep Donna and Rory safe.

“Well? What do you say, John. If you feel any sense of responsibility for the well-being of your friends, and of course, your markmate, you’ll make the right decision here. Tell me a name and location and this can all be over,” Grayvas promised.

Feeling a sneer rearrange his features, the Doctor allowed his disgust with this man… no - with this entire situation - to fill him, fueling his defiance. “Fuck you.”

A piteous look covered Grayvas’ face. “Shame. I thought you had more brains than that. I’d had such hopes for you as a teenager. Told Rassilon as much, as well. ‘That boy will be someone,’ I told him. I was right, of course. Pity you turned out to be someone he’d need to make an example of,” he sighed.

Turning then, Grayvas looked up at the screen over the door. “Turn it on,” he said aloud. In response, the telly lit up, revealing an image of an interrogation room. Seated on a chair at a metal table was Jack. A surprised gasp issued from the Doctor as he watched his friend look around the room.

“That’s the infamous Jack Harkness,” Grayvas informed him unnecessarily. “The leader of the Inclusionist movement and your flatmate,” he added. “Now, I imagine you’re wondering what he’s doing here. It turns out, he came by to look into your whereabouts, which means he knew you were marked and didn’t inform the authorities you hadn’t registered. Like I said - aiding a marked individual who is attempting to avoid registration is illegal in this country. On top of that, given your status as a marked individual, it is within our rights to search him for a mark,” he added.

“He has nothing to do with this,” the Doctor growled, now unable to project anything resembling calm. “Let him go.”

“Mmmm. I think not,” Grayvas said smugly. “It’s our job to protect the people of this country, Dr. Smith. And if you aren’t willing to cooperate, we’ll have to do everything in our power to make sure the innocents are safe,” he insisted. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do. You understand,” he said cordially. Turning, he left the room, shutting and bolting the door behind him.

Looking up helplessly at the screen above him, the Doctor felt bile rise in his throat. They had Jack. The frightening implications of that fact had only begun to sink in when Grayvas’ form appeared on the screen above him. Striding into the interrogation room on the telly, the greying man took the seat across from his flatmate. Behind him, two armed men moved in to stand on either side of the door. “Hello, Mr. Harkness. Or should I call you, ‘Captain Jack Harkness’? I hear that’s what your followers have dubbed you,” Grayvas said.

“You can call me a taxi. That’s what you can call me. And while you’re at it, you can let the Doctor go as well. You have no right to hold us,” he argued.

Grayvas smiled. “Actually, I believe you’ll find that I have every right to hold you both. You see, your flatmate has the mark. And you, coming here to look for him, means that you knew about it and didn’t inform the authorities there was an unregistered, marked individual living in your home. That’s obstructing justice, Captain,” the old politician explained.

“He doesn't know anything,” the Doctor shouted at the camera in his cell, willing those behind it to listen.

Jack’s face rearranged into a smirk. “You’re making a big mistake,” he warned. “How do you think the Inclusionists will react if I don’t show at the rally tomorrow? I assure you, it won’t be pretty for anyone.”

“Oh yes. Your little ‘gathering’,” Grayvas air quoted. “I believe that event is going to be a rather fruitless one, I’m afraid. But let’s not get into that. Suffice to say, while your absence may be noted, I doubt it will be long on people’s minds,” he added.

Anxiety iced the Doctor’s spine. What were they planning?

“Whatever you do, it better not involve unlawful detainment or interrogation of anyone in the movement,” Jack warned. “We have every right to speak out against a hateful ideology. The laws in this country protect everyone - not just Saxon and his paranoid followers,” he added.

“The laws allow our leaders to make decisions that ensure the safety of their constituents. The UK is about to become the world leader in homeland security thanks to Saxon and people like Rassilon.”

“Rassilon and Saxon are sick, sad, terrified individuals who have nothing better to do than instill fear in people who don’t know any better,” Jack replied. “The world won’t stand for this kind of discrimination,” he added.

“On the contrary, Mr. Harkness. The UK is the leader of the free world in this regard, and other countries know it. Look at the United States. Their president is watching us very carefully right now and will follow our lead when he sees the result of our movement. The UK is setting itself up to be the safest place to live in the world. All because we won’t tolerate these monstrous mutations and their plot to overtake humanity. And you, Mr. Harkness, are very squarely standing in the way of our nation’s safety. Unless, of course, you disclose the name of John Smith’s markmate. If you can see your way through to providing the identity of that individual, we may be persuaded to release you,” he suggested.

“Please, Jack,” the Doctor quietly pleaded.

Jack huffed. “I have no idea who it is. And why would I do that if I did? So you can lock her up as well?” he replied.

“Mmmm. So his markmate is a female, then. No, Mr. Harkness. It's so she can be properly registered. So we can ensure she isn’t a threat to our nation’s peace.”

Jack blew air through his lips. “Yeah… no. You’re not getting any information from me, so you might as well lock me up,” he suggested.

Grayvas looked at him with pity. “I was afraid you’d say that.” Then, looking straight into the camera so his face stared directly into the Doctor’s from the telly, he said, “You see, Doctor? You’ve decided not to cooperate and there are consequences that only you are responsible for. Keep that in mind over the next hour or so,” he suggested.

“What?” Jack said, now looking up toward the camera as well. “Doc? He’s watching? Doc -”

“Jack!” The Doctor shouted fruitlessly.

“Go ahead, agents,” Grayvas interrupted, signaling the two men by the door to move further into the room.

The men by the door instantly moved toward Jack and took him forcefully by the arms to pull him to stand. “Search him for the mark. Everywhere,” he added pointedly. “And when you’re done, feel free to make sure he understands what his time here is going to be like until either he or Dr. Smith tells us what we need to know.” Shooting a significant look up at the camera, a sick smirk filled his face.

“You fucking bastard,” the Doctor growled up at the screen.

Behind him, the men were cuffing Jack’s hands to the hooked protrusion on the top of the table. The chair had been removed so he now stood before the metal surface, bent over so his hands could be fastened there.

“Enjoy the proceedings, John. Of course, feel free to call out at any time for me and I’d be happy to take your statement, complete with your markmate’s name and location,” he instructed into the camera. Turning to the men in the room, he said, “Be thorough.”

With that, he turned and left the room, closing the door behind him.

Chapter Text

Waiting for Ianto to give them further instructions, Rose, Donna, Rory, Amy and Jack’s friends, Gwen, Tosh and Owen, stood together in front of the National Gallery after having helped unload piles of ready made placards from one of the other volunteer’s trucks. In an effort to distract herself from her ongoing anxiety about the Doctor, Rose had dived into the various tasks Ianto had asked them to complete with verve. She felt so bloody helpless just waiting to hear something from Jack - anything was better than doing nothing.

After Jack had left them last night, she and Donna had headed to TARDIS Dental so that Donna could contact the Doctor’s soulmate. Rose had known it might be difficult to be around while Donna made the call, but she hadn’t anticipated just how much. It’d pained her to hear Donna’s half of the conversation, if she was honest. It was the pregnant pause that Donna had clearly had to take after explaining the Doctor’s likely predicament that had prompted Rose to excuse herself, though. It was one thing to understand that the call had to be made. It was another to have to vividly imagine the woman’s grief at hearing the news that her soulmate was possibly languishing away in a jail cell somewhere.

Finally, with that over with, she and Donna had headed to Ianto’s place where he’d enlisted them to help organize things for this morning and where they’d waited fruitlessly to hear from Jack. Needless to say - she hadn’t gotten much sleep last night.

Looking around the square while they waited for Ianto to finish briefing another volunteer group, Rose took in the site she’d been helping prepare for the rally. It must’ve been an astounding amount of work to get everything and everyone organized for it. Just coordinating the crew of volunteers and city partners alone would’ve been a massive undertaking. Police already had the streets cordoned off in preparation for the march after the opening address, a stage crew had the sound system set up, and teams of folks had set up massive screens which were strategically placed around the square so presenters and speakers could be seen by all. She and other volunteers had put up the banners, including a huge one which was strung across the front of the Gallery pillars. “Make the UK free again!” was printed in bold, bright blue letters, surrounded by golden circles simulating some of the marks she’d seen on telly.

Ianto’s explanation of the rally site choice last night played in her head as she looked up at the impressive banner. She’d helped hang it in the same spot that the hateful, anti-markist slogan had hung only a few days ago. Apparently Jack had thought starting and ending the march at Trafalgar Square was especially appropriate because it had been stained by the anti-markist’s foul, protectionist messages, and it was their job as Inclusionists to reclaim it for ALL the people. Rose had to say she agreed with the sentiment. The anti-markists didn’t own this city and they certainly didn’t represent all of its people.

“Blimey, he’s a mess,” Donna said, jarring Rose from her thoughts to attend to Ianto, who had finally finished with the other volunteer group and was now striding toward them. He did look more than a bit frazzled, which was completely understandable. While Jack had arranged for a well loved, and newly marked celebrity to make the initial address, once the march was complete and the crowd reassembled in the square, he, himself, was supposed to speak. He was the face of this movement and she knew people were expecting him to inspire them to continue fighting the oppressive government legislation on the Marked. With him missing, that meant Ianto would have to find someone else to fill Jack’s impressive shoes. More than that, though, Rose suspected Ianto may have a more personal interest in Jack’s safety. She’d seen the way he’d looked when Jack’s name had been brought up last night and again this morning. He cared about him. Maybe as much as she cared about the man she wasn’t supposed to be obsessed with anymore.

“Alright,” Ianto said, now standing in front of the small group of them. “Thanks for your help with the placards. People are going to start showing up probably in the next ten minutes or so, I’d imagine, so I’d appreciate if you all could spread out on the grounds with a pile of placards each. Go ahead and hand them out to anyone who wants one. When you run out, feel free to come back here to the Gallery steps for the beginning of the rally,” he instructed.

Everyone nodded or verbalized their understanding before gathering up their placards and heading out into the square. Suggesting Donna go on ahead, Rose hung back as Ianto pulled out his phone to study the screen. “Anything?” she asked gently as she moved to stand beside him.

Looking up, maybe surprised she was still there, he allowed himself to show his worry a bit more. “No. Not yet.”

“Jack will be okay, I’m sure,” she said, trying to sound a lot more confident than she felt. “He’s probably on his way here now with the Doctor. They’ll likely show up at the last minute - you know; all dramatic,” she suggested with a reassuring smile.

A half smile showed his appreciation for her reassurance, but he clearly didn’t believe it. “I hope so.”

Just then, her own phone ‘binged’ the arrival of a text. Twin bolts of excitement and dread shot through her as she scrambled to yank her phone from her pocket. Studying the screen, her heart dropped.

“Who is it?” Ianto said, clearly hopeful.

“It’s not them. Sorry,” she offered, wishing she could’ve given better news. “I should…” she trailed off, holding up her phone in explanation.

“Oh, yeah. Of course,” he replied.

“I’ll start handing out the signs. Let me know if you hear anything, though, yeah?” she entreated.

“Yeah. Of course,” he said before turning to walk back up the Gallery stairs.

Looking back down at her phone, she pulled up the text she’d just received. It was her dad. Again.

’Hi love, I still haven’t heard from you, but I spoke with your mother last night. She said you didn’t call her like you said you would.’

Fuck. After all the commotion yesterday she’d forgotten she’d promised to ring her mum.

’Maybe you could at least send her a text so she doesn’t worry,’ he suggested.

Blimey - he had some nerve. Just because her mum had started talking with him again he figured he had a right to start parenting her?

’Anyhow, I just wanted to say that I’m coming to London to visit. I know you’re probably not keen on seeing me, but I thought we could at least maybe go out for lunch or something. I just need to see for myself that you’re okay. I know I have no right to ask, but please indulge me this once. I’ll call you tomorrow after I arrive. Please answer when I do. Love you. - Dad’

Rose sighed in frustration. This was so not what she wanted to be thinking about right now. Easing her dad’s guilt was the least of her concerns at the moment. Still, despite her annoyance, she couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit badly. The tone of the text was actually sincere and he even seemed a bit contrite as well…

Fuck. Dammit, Pete… why now? She had a job to do today and she had enough worries right this minute with the Doctor and Jack without having to think about tomorrow.

Clicking her phone off, she stuffed it back in her pocket and gathered the placards she’d collected. She’d have to think about her dad’s offer more later.

Heading off to stand near one of the fountains in the square, she was surprised to find people already beginning to mill about. Holding up a couple of her signs, she offered them to the first couple that strolled by. She stood for a few more minutes, handing out the odd placard before she thought she heard her phone again.

Unbidden, hope zinged through her as she hastily lay her armful of signs at her feet to pull her mobile from her pocket.

Quickly reading the screen, she felt her optimism drain away. It wasn’t the Doctor. It was her mum.

Rejecting the call, she keyed in a quick ‘Hi Mum. Busy now - sorry. I’ll call later. XO’ text, and sent it. She’d have to face the music later when the rally was over, but as it was, she was hardly ready to face the barrage of worry her mother would express over her whereabouts last night and certainly today.

Sighing, she pressed the button on the side of the mobile to make sure her ringer was on as high as it could go (which she’d already done twice this morning) before reticently putting it back in her trouser pocket.

It wasn’t long before more people began arriving and Rose found herself being approached for more signs. Lots of protesters showed up with their own placards and many sported blue t-shirts, hats and costumes that depicted their feelings about Bill-316, Saxon and SMITE. What surprised her most were the many, many people who had drawn a mark on their faces, arms, and other visible body parts to show their solidarity with those who showed up with their real marks proudly uncovered. She wished she’d thought of doing that.

As she worked, she kept her eyes peeled for Martha as more and more people arrived at the square. Rose had texted her last night and she had said she was planning to be here today with Mickey and maybe Jake as well. The crowd was swelling now, though, and there were thousands and thousands of people milling about, sporting their gear. It seemed pretty unlikely she’d find them now.

Before long, the square seemed to fill to capacity and Rose’s placards were all gone. With only fifteen minutes left before the first speeches, Rose made her way to the Gallery front, threading her way through the throng of people who were talking and moving to the music being pumped over the speakers set up around the square. Finally winding her way to the Gallery front, she located Ianto and headed over to stand with him, Donna, Rory, Owen, Tosh and Gwen near the side of the specially erected podium. She joined in just in time to hear Donna say, “Why don’t you do it?”

“Because I’m nobody,” he said with some frustration. Clearly catching Donna’s immediate admonishing look, he added, “You know what I mean. I have no clout. Jack is the face of the movement. People identify him with this cause and they trust he can get things done.” They were obviously at the point of giving up on the possibility Jack might show.

“What about Donna?” Ianto’s friend Gwen suggested, looking at her. “She’s his sister. Surely people will respect what she has to say as well.”

Donna balked. “Not me, sunshine!” she immediately responded. “No way am I talking in front of all those people. I nearly fainted when I had to make a speech in front of my year 12 English class,” she informed them.

Rose studied the group in front of her, wishing she had some solution. Leaning over, she admitted quietly to Donna, “I can’t believe I’m sayin’ this, but I wish my dad was here right now. I’m sure the founder of Vitex supporting the cause would be helpful,” she lamented.

Apparently the others standing around her overhead. “Your dad is Vitex?” Owen said incredulously.

“Yeah. But he’s no help, seein’ as how he’s in Scotland at the moment,” Rose shared.

Gwen shot Tosh a significant look as a sly smile lit her features. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” she asked.

“I can’t be positive, but if involves the Vitex heir voicing her support of the movement, then, yes, I am,” she grinned back.

Rose’s eyes opened wide. “Me?”

“No. No way,” Donna said, cutting them off.

“What? Why?” Gwen asked.

“Because… because… it’s just a terrible idea, that’s all. I mean, you aren’t really the Vitex heir, are you Rose? I mean - I haven’t ever heard you talk about taking over the company in the future?” Donna said, sounding oddly hopeful.

Rose’s brows furrowed. “Well - no. Not really,” she admitted.

“Right. Well, that settles that,” Donna said with finality. “We’ll just have to come up with another idea.”

Ianto studied Rose for a moment. “Donna… I’m not so sure it’s a terrible idea,” he admitted.

Donna’s eyes splayed wide and a very obvious look of warning crossed her features. “Ianto…”

“No, I mean it. Vitex employs thousands and thousands of people in this country. Pete Tyler is a name everyone will know and they’ll know what sort of sway he has over business development in the UK. Rose may not end up running the company, but she has the ear of someone with a lot of influence and the people will know it. I think she should do it,” he stated.

“I think so too,” Owen chimed in.

“Now… hang on a minute, everyone,” Rory tried before Donna jumped in.

“Well, I don’t think so. Jack wanted me to look after her and that’s what I’m doing. So no. She’s not going to do this,” Donna insisted.

“Oi!” Rose chirped, having to forcibly insert herself into the conversation, “Do I get any say in this?”

“NO!” Donna nearly shouted as Ianto voiced an emphatic, “Yes, of course you do.”

Taking a deep breath, Rose supplied, “I want to do it.”

“What? No!” Donna said again.

“Look Donna,” Rose said turning to her friend. “I don’t know why you think I need taking care of, but I’m a grown woman and this is my decision,” she informed her. “And if I can do anything to help, then I’m going to do it,” she said curtly, feeling more than justified. She hadn’t been able to do anything worthwhile so far to help find the Doctor or help this cause and damn it, if she was being given a chance to make a real difference, she had an obligation to do it.

“But -” Donna began.

“No buts,” Rose interrupted. “I’m doing this.” Turning to Ianto, she said bravely, “I want to help. What do I need to do?”

Chapter Text

The Doctor paced back and forth in his cell, trying to ignore the continued nagging pain in his chest and fighting panic. He’d not slept the night before after he’d been forced to watch Jack being tortured in the interrogation room. When Grayvas advised his agents to be thorough in their search for a mark, they’d truly taken the advice to heart. Jack’s sickening cries still echoed in his ears. The Doctor had cursed and railed throughout the ordeal, of course, but it made no difference. He’d even actually considered giving another false name to these people to stop the cruelty, but he knew that would only delay the inevitable. Of course, Grayvas’ suggestion that he could halt the proceedings by supplying Rose’s real name clearly had to be discarded. That wasn’t an option, which meant there had been literally nothing he could’ve done to spare Jack from the agony he’d suffered.

So now, the morning of the Inclusionist rally, Jack was sitting in pain in a cell somewhere else in this government sanctioned torture centre while thousands of people were showing up at Trafalgar Square to support the cause. And it was all because of him and his inability to stay away from one small blonde female. If only he’d listened to Jack in the first place, his mark would never have grown large enough for that bloody American diplomat to have noticed it. And he was quite sure it had been Mr. Winkitt who had reported him. Who else would have?

Now, rubbing at the spot above the pain in his chest, he thought back on the situation and wished he’d kept his bloody trap shut when the puffy politician had spouted off about the Marked. Would it have killed him to have shut the hell up? There was a good chance neither he nor Jack would be in this mess right now if he had.

But that was neither here nor there. There was nothing he could do about it now. He was here and so was Jack. If there was anything at all even minutely good about this situation, though, it was that Rose wasn’t here with them. He could at least celebrate that.

A clatter at the door heralded someone’s arrival, making the Doctor halt his pacing. Unsurprisingly, a guard entered the room first and was followed by the cruel bastard who’d called for Jack’s torture last night.

“Good morning, John,” Grayvas said with a sickly sweet smile. “I trust you’re rested this morning?”

The Doctor didn’t bother to answer, deciding instead to simply stare back at his uncle’s old cronie.

“Why yes, I am, thank-you kindly for asking,” Grayvas mocked, answering for him as he moved further into the room. Standing with his hands in his pockets, he surveyed the cell. “I thought we could chat again today, now that you know how very serious we are about national security. As you observed last night, your friend Mr. Harkness decided not to help us with our investigation, so he will be detained and charged with obstruction of justice. He’ll will no doubt be missed this morning at the little get together he’d organized to support your kind, but he has brought this on himself, I’m afraid,” Grayvas supplied.

“You’re going to regret holding him, Grayvas,” the Doctor warned, unable to keep quiet. “Do you think the Inclusionists will just accept what you’ve done to one of their most vocal leaders? All you’re doing by holding him is making Saxon look like a dictator and empowering his followers. And I suspect that’s not what your Führer really wants,” the Doctor pointed out.

Grayvas shook his head. “You see - it’s that sort of talk that creates animosity. What the Prime Minister wants is for this country to be safe from terrorists, and he will achieve that by making sure your kind aren’t free to create anarchy. The rational people of the UK know that. The rest of the population will soon discover that their sympathy for the Marked will only land them in trouble,” he explained.

The Doctor felt anger bubble even more fiercely through him with the vague threat. “And what is Saxon planning to do? Arrest half the population? Because, as you and your government will find out today, the good people of the UK outnumber the radical anti-markists, and they won’t sit quietly by while your militia arrests their friends, neighbours and family members,” he promised.

A sickly smirk decorated Grayvas’ face with the comment. “Actually, I believe after today, the Inclusionist movement will find itself grasping for supporters,” he assured him. “But right now, none of that should really be your concern. What should be concerning you is that we are planning to continue interrogating everyone you are connected with until we find your markmate. Not everyone you’ve had interactions with need receive the same level of interrogation your flatmate required, however I imagine you’d prefer none of your innocent acquaintances need go through any of this,” he proposed. “That’s why I’m here, yet again, to find out if you’d like to save them discomfort.”

Every cell in the Doctor’s body was vibrating with frustration now, but what could he say? Nothing. This man couldn’t be reasoned with. The very thought seemed to amplify the gnawing ache in his chest so that he actually held his breath for a moment.

“Are you alright, John? You seem… uncomfortable,” Grayvas observed, looking decidedly smug.

Despite being aware that his lips had curled up into a snarl, the Doctor held his tongue.

“Right. Well then, I suppose we’d best get on with things,” Grayvas said. Turning toward the door, he paused for a moment. “Oh... and just like last night, I’d be happy to halt the proceedings should you decide to cooperate.” Looking up at the screen above the door, then, he instructed an invisible entity. “Turn it on.” With that, he exited the room and the screen lit up. Sitting in the interrogation room chair, looking more than a bit nervous, was Wilfred; Donna’s grandad.

“No,” the Doctor whispered, his stomach knotting.

Grayvas entered the elderly man’s cell with his guard and in moments his ‘investigation’ was underway. “Wilfred Mott,” he said, extending his hand in greeting. “I’m Agent Grayvas. Pleased to meet you.”

Unsure how to respond, it seemed, Wilf reached out and shook the man’s hand in response. “I, uh… I’d like to say the same, but no one’s told me what’s going on here. Your people just showed up, flashed their badges, and before I knew it I was being driven across town,” he informed Grayvas rather crossly. “And I’m supposed to be at a friend’s place in a bit and she’ll be less than impressed if I’m late,” he warned.

“Of course, of course - and we’re very sorry about the sudden intrusion into your day, Mr. Mott. It seems, though, that we require your help with an ongoing MI5 investigation,” Grayvas replied, taking the seat across from Wilf’s.

“Don’t believe a word he says, Wilf,” the Doctor entreated the screen fruitlessly as he watched the interaction.

“My help? I don’t know what I could possibly help you with,” Wilf replied.

“The issue is an incredibly sensitive one; one that may impact the security of the entire nation,” Grayvas supplied, “and we’ve learned that you may in the unique position to help us.”

Wilf seemed taken aback by the statement. “Well, if it’s for the country I’ll do what I can, of course,” he offered.

“I’m sure you will - I’m not surprised by that at all, seeing as you’re a distinguished retired Captain in the British Army. Clearly you’re a man of integrity,” Grayvas slathered.

Bloody hypocrite. He wouldn’t know a loyal countryman if he bit him on the arse, the Doctor was sure. Wilf seemed to puff up a bit with the comment, though. “I try to be,” he agreed.

Opening a file and placing in on the table in front of him, Grayvas read aloud, “So, Mr. Mott. You live at #2, 104 Sunshine Lane, London?”

“Yeah. With my daughter.”

“Right. Your wife was Gloria. I see she’s passed. I’m sorry,” Grayvas said, looking for all the world like he actually cared. “Children are Sylvia and Irene. Grandchildren are Donna, Jack, and Jamie,” Grayvas listed.

“That’s right,” Wilf agreed.

“Mr. Mott, it says here that your granddaughter, ‘Donna Noble’, is employed at TARDIS Dental?”

“Yes. Just started there a few months ago,” he supplied.

“And how is that going for her?” Grayvas asked innocently.

“Fine. She likes it. Great hours. Good boss.”

“Mmm,” Grayvas hummed, putting down the file. “Is it true that your grandson, Jack, shares a flat with her employer?”

“The Doctor? Yeah, he does. He’s a grand young man, that one. Gives me a break on my polishing,” Wilf informed him, opening his mouth a bit to tap his front tooth. “Does a good job. Tells a good story as well,” he added with a smile.

Grayvas put on a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “So you’ve spent some time with him, then? Outside his office?”

“Some. He’s been home a few times when I’ve popped by to visit Jack. He cooked dinner once while I was there. Good cook,” he recalled, looking up in remembrance.

Despite the situation, the Doctor smiled a bit, recalling Wilf raving about his stuffed chicken breast dish. Said his daughter couldn’t cook to save her life and had ask half jokingly if he and Jack might be looking for another flatmate.

“Has John - the Doctor - ever mentioned any girlfriends? Significant others?” Grayvas prodded.

The Doctor’s heartbeat quickened. Had Jack mentioned Rose to his granddad? No. He wouldn’t.

Wilf appeared to think about that. “Uh… no. Don’t think so,” he replied.

“I don’t suppose there’s a possibility your granddaughter and Dr. Smith may be… involved?” Grayvas asked innocently.

“Donna and the Doctor? Noooo. No no no no,” Wilf replied. “Not that I’d be disappointed if they were an item, mind, but my Donna’s engaged to a young man named Lee. Spendid fella as well, that one. Hard worker. He’s not a doctor, mind you, but he’s still a catch, I reckon,” he added.

“Right,” the greying man replied, sounding a bit disappointed.

Ha! Take that, bloody wanker. Absently rubbing at the discomfort in his chest, the Doctor watched with mild satisfaction as Grayvas floundered for a moment.

“So your grandson hasn’t mentioned that the Doctor is seeing anyone?”

Wilf’s brows furrowed in thought and he shook his head. “I don’t think...” he started before he stopped midway through his own sentence and sat up straighter. “No, wait. Jack did mention one young lady,” Wilf corrected.

He did? Oh god. Fuck! Who?!

“Another dentist, I think. But that was awhile back,” Wilf supplied.

Another dentist?

“A dentist?” Grayvas said echoing the Doctor’s own question. Looking up significantly into the camera for a moment, clearly to flash the Doctor a ‘got’cha’ look, he pressed, “Do you recall her name, by any chance?”

“Was a french name, I think,” Wilf offered, clearly trying to recall. “Renee? No. Blimey - I don’t remember. Memory’s not as good as it was,” he apologized, tapping the side of this head.

“That’s alright Mr. Mott. Take your time,” Grayvas placated, clearly more than a bit anxious for Wilf to recall the woman’s name.

Wilf squeezed his eyes shut for a few moments, obviously trying to ring more details from his memories.

“Nooooo…” the Doctor breathed as he watched.

“Reinette! That’s right. Like the courtesan,” Wilf revised, clearly pleased he’d been able to recall the name.

Fuck.

“Not sure why you’re askin’ me all this, though. Why don’t you ask the Doctor himself?” Wilf asked.

“I’m afraid we can’t discuss that at this time. I can assure you though, your cooperation has been most helpful,” the Agent said, collecting his folder.

“Wait - why are you so concerned about the Doctor? Is he alright?” Wilf asked, worry evident in his voice.

Darting a look up into the camera, Grayvas replied. “I’m afraid the Doctor is in a spot of trouble, Mr. Mott. Let’s just say… he’s been a fair bit less cooperative with this investigation than you’ve been,” he replied. Standing, Grayvas turned toward the door.

“Listen,” Wilf put in, getting the man’s attention again. “I just wanna say… John’s a good man. He’s been a good friend to my Jack and he’s paying my grandaughter more than a fair wage and she’s not had anything bad to say about him,” Wilf offered. “Whatever is going on - whatever trouble he’s in, I’m sure it wasn’t his fault,” he added.

Grayvas offered Wilf a sad smile. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Mr. Mott, but Dr. Smith is not the innocent he appears to be. It turns out he is very possibly the mastermind behind two of the recent terrorist attacks in London,” he informed the elderly man.

“What?!” the Doctor spat.

“What?” Wilf unknowingly echoed. “That’s ridiculous. I’m sure there’s been a mix up. The Doctor wouldn’t hurt a fly. The boy’s not got a threatening bone his body,” Wilf assured him.

“If only that were so,” Grayvas replied. “Sadly, though, I’m afraid it looks like John Smith is not only a threat to his friends, but to the entire country.”

“But-”

“Good day, Mr. Mott.” With that, Grayvas strode through the door and disappeared down the hallway beyond.

Wilf sat at the table unmoving for a moment, shaking his head.

“Mr. Mott, you’re free to go,” the remaining Agent informed him.

“What? Oh - yes,” he replied, shaken from his thoughts. Then Wilf did something surprising. Looking up directly at the camera, he said, “The Doctor wouldn’t do anything like what you’re saying. An’ I’m gonna prove it.”

With that, he stood and gathered his coat before being escorted from the room.

Chapter Text

The March was well underway, with thousands and thousands marching the streets of downtown London with placards, bright blue t-shirts, and matching baseball caps. People from all walks of life had turned out - from working class to uni-students, and from people in wheelchairs to small children riding on their parent’s shoulders. People had even dressed up their dogs and brought them along for the event. It was a resounding success, to be sure.

As much as she was thrilled with the turnout, however, Rose was nearly nauseous with anxiety. A notable London West End actor, Jules Herdara, had made an impassioned speech that had fired up the crowd for the march and once the throng of people returned to the Square a local MP was slated to speak. After that, it would be her turn. Her turn to speak in front of thousands and thousands of people, all waiting to be inspired to keep fighting against the injustice this government was supporting.

Covering her face with her palm, she shook her head. Was she crazy?! What had she been thinking? She wasn’t anybody! Sure - her dad was famous. He was a gizillionaire with political influence and loads of contacts. She, on the other hand, wasn’t any of those things. She was a shop girl working on her A levels, for heaven’s sake!

Pacing back and forth beside the Gallery steps, Rose bit the nail of her left thumb, careful to avoid using her bonded tooth to do so. She’d forgone the march in favour of waiting for Ianto, Gwen and Tosh to finish writing her speech so she could practice it. Donna, though, had gone ahead and joined in the parade, clearly angry with the lot of them, which actually had Rose more than a bit annoyed.

Did she have so little faith in her? Not that she, herself, felt confident she could actually pull this off, like, at all, but given that the others all thought this was the best idea, the least Donna could do was pretend to be supportive. The organizers of this incredible protest felt she was their best choice and who was she to argue? She had to do her part, even if she doubted their wisdom.

’How, exactly, are you going to do that, though? How are you going to convince all these people of anything?’ a little undermining voice in her head supplied. Sighing, she nibbled the last of the nail remaining on her thumb and tucked into the longer nail of the finger beside it as she continued pacing. ’Maybe Donna’s right.’ Was she? She’d been so adamant that Rose shouldn’t help with this. Should she have listened?

Even as she mulled this over, she heard steps approaching. Looking up, she found Ianto and Tosh coming her way, speech in hand. “Alright, we’ve got it,” Ianto announced, handing it to her.

Rose took a deep calming breath before looking down at it.

“We’ve included a bit in there about Jack having asked you to speak on his behalf. I know that’s not technically true, but I know he would support this, so that’s good enough for me,” Ianto explained.

“It’s simple and to the point, with some real life perspective from a young, influential woman who is tired of the mistreatment of others,” Tosh put in.

Influential? She was hardly influential.

“Gwen should be back any minute with some clothes,” Ianto added.

“Clothes?” Rose heard herself say dumbly.

“There she is,” Tosh chirped, waving to someone behind Rose. Turning, she found Gwen approaching with a couple of shopping bags.

“Wha-” Rose started.

“Gwen will help you get ready,” Ianto said, gently guiding her toward approaching woman.

A bit out of breath, Gwen rushed forward and hurriedly took her arm to lead her toward the Gallery steps. “I picked up a skirt and blouse in two sizes - sizes eight and ten - I hope you’re one of those,” she stated.

“Uh - yeah. Ten is fine,” she replied, now feeling decidedly overwhelmed. “But… a skirt? Why do I have to wear a skirt?”

“You’re the Vitex heiress,” she informed her unnecessarily as they walked through the lobby of the Gallery. “You need to look the part.”

“I do?” she said, allowing herself to be thrust into the door of the ladies toilet.

“Yes. Now get yourself dressed and we’ll go over your speech,” Gwen advised before closing the door behind her.

“Right,” Rose said, now alone in the loo. Looking down at the bags Gwen had handed her, she blinked. She was the Vitex heiress. That was the reason they’d given her the task of making this speech. Because she was ‘influential’. Blimey. Of course, she’d known that was why she’d been chosen, but still, she couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable with the repeated emphasis on her status as Pete’s daughter.

’What other reason could they possibly want you to speak? You’re not ‘influential’ as an inexperienced shop girl. You’re influential as the daughter of one of the most powerful individuals in England,’ her mind supplied. You’re influential as the heir to a fortune.’

Rose sighed. She couldn’t argue with that. Dropping the bags, she leaned over and riffled through their contents. Two tops and two skirts, sizes eight and ten, as Gwen had said. Each outfit consisted of a simple, black pencil skirt and a black, polka dot business-like top with a ruffled v-neck. Simple and flattering, but not really ‘her’.

Shuffling out of her jeans and hoodie, she grabbed the size ten top and slipped it on before pulling on the matching pencil skirt in the same size. In the bag were a couple of pairs of shoes as well - both open toed black heels. Pulling out the smallest pair, she slipped them on her feet. Not a perfect fit, but close enough.

“You done?” Gwen’s muffled voice pushed through the door.

“Yeah. Come in,” she suggested, looking herself over in the mirror. She looked oddly professional.

“Oh, yeah. Lovely,” Gwen said approvingly, looking her up and down. Moving forward, she took the liberty of ‘floofing’ Rose’s hair a bit. “There. That’s better,” she said with some authority. “Now - you have the speech?”

“Yeah. Right here,” Rose informed her, picking it up from the top of the sink.

“Good. We have…” she started, looking at her watch, “about ten minutes before people start arriving back from the march. I think Ianto wants the speeches to start about five minutes after that. The MP for Flydale North is set to speak first and then you’re up. You ready?”

“Not really,” she admitted honestly, darting a look in the mirror again at her unfamiliar reflection.

Gwen smiled. “You’ll be fine, love. These people want to be here and they’re ready to support you. Just believe in what you’re saying and you’ll be brilliant,” she said with a squeeze of Rose’s arm.

Rose offered Gwen as confident a look as she could muster. “Okay.”

With that, Rose followed Gwen from the loo, out of the Gallery, and out into the morning air. A tightness clawed at her stomach as they made her way toward the make-shift stage to stand at the side of it. Blimey. This was really going to happen.

Looking down at the script in her hand, she read the first few words. ‘Hello, People of the UK.’ Rose swallowed hard. People of the UK. She was addressing all the people of the UK. Looking around the square in front of her, she took in the hundreds of people still milling around, waiting for the crowds to return from the march. Set up among them were news cameras. Lots of news cameras. Blimey.

“You okay?” Ianto said, startling her slightly, as she hadn’t noticed him approaching.

Swallowing, she nodded. In the distance, she spied the first wave of supporters returning from the parade.

“Alright. We’re set to start in about five minutes, but it might be closer to ten before most people are back from the march, okay?” he informed her.

Nodding again, she stared at the approaching throng.

“Listen,” Ianto said, still beside her, “it’ll be fine.” Looking up at him, she found him giving her a supportive smile. “Just remember… you’re doing this for all the people who are hurting right now because of something they have no control over. You’re doing it for Jack. And you’re doing it for the Doctor,” he said significantly.

Looking up at him, she realized he’d seen through her poor facade of simply being worried for a friend, just as she’d seen through his for Jack. And he was right. She was doing this for him. The Doctor. Not just for him, obviously. But she had to admit his safety and wellbeing was a big motivator, as was the fact that it was absolutely criminal what was happening to him. He was being held for no reason other than the fact he was different. Because he was special to someone.

That thought sent an unwelcome wave of sadness through her. Someone out there was aching for him right now. Someone other than her.

But none of that mattered right now. What mattered was that it wasn’t fair. What mattered was that the Doctor and hundreds of people like him were being held against their will and persecuted because of their genetics. It was a travesty and it was wrong. And she was going to make a difference today. She was going to take a stand and tell the world that the Marked deserved equality. She was going to do this for them. For Jack. For her friends. For the Doctor.

 

OoOoOoOoO

 

Wilf had been gone for about fifteen minutes, as far as the Doctor could estimate. He’d had been lead out of the interrogation room and, to the Doctor’s frustration, had been told not to fret - the nation would be in better shape now, thanks to the information he’d supplied. The expression on the elderly man’s face had at least suggested he wasn’t sold on that assertion either, which was slightly reassuring. Being Jack’s grandfather, the Doctor trusted that Wilf was too wise to be taken in by something as blatantly propogandic as what Grayvas had tried to sell him. That didn’t change the fact that his new adversaries were probably out looking for Reinette right now, though.

The Doctor closed his eyes and thumped his head back against the wall. Reinette. Blimey. He’d been quite confident he wouldn’t have to hear that particular name again after their parting. Little did he know that meeting ‘the right woman’ would mean having to worry about the wrong one again.

Unbidden, the memory of their last encounter floated through his mind. ’How dare you,’ she’d sneered, her face the very picture of indignance. ’Turning ME down? The only reason I agreed to go out with you in the first place was because I felt sorry for you, you know. My family were changing the face of Europe while yours were still dragging themselves out of the muck! But I lowered myself because I was on the rebound and I wasn’t thinking straight,’ she’d informed him, shaking her head. ’Well, I won’t make that mistake again. And you - good luck finding anyone ever again with my looks, education and breeding who’ll give you the time of day. You’re a self-involved git and if I ever see you again, it’ll be too soon.’ With that, she’d stormed from the cafe. The entire encounter had been decidedly unpleasant, and he’d rarely been happier to see the back end of someone before.

Now, though, whether she wanted it or not, it appeared that ‘too soon’ was about to happen. The good thing is that, even to these agents, it would become clear pretty damn quickly that there was certainly no love lost between them. The only mark that woman would ever have is the one of the beast, as far as he could imagine.

The clunk of his cell door being unlocked from the outside sent a spark of adrenaline through him, yanking him from his thoughts. Standing quickly, he squared his shoulders despite the continued discomfort in his chest, and waited as a guard entered with a taser gun once again pointed directly at him. Fully expecting to see Grayvas enter behind the man, the Doctor found himself suddenly frozen to the spot. Contrary to his expectations, it wasn’t Grayvas at all.

“Hello, John.”

The Doctor swallowed thickly. “Rassilon.”

For a moment he stood, staring at the man who’d housed him as a teen. He’d only spoken with him a couple of times since he’d moved out as a young man, mostly because his uncle had been so put off by his choices that he’d insisted he not contact him until he’d ‘come to his senses’. Clearly that had never happened. Being his only living relative, though, the Doctor had tried to reach out once when he was in Uni, hoping to maybe put their difference aside, but he’d been soundly rejected. It had hurt more than he cared to admit. Not surprisingly, he hadn’t attempted it again.

Looking around, his uncle took in his quarters. “Nice. Not quite what I’d hoped for you by now, but then, I suppose I shouldn’t be all that surprised. You’ve always had an issue with authority,” he observed.

A simmering anger began building in him, replacing the surprise of seeing the man he’d been trusted to as a youth. “Authority. That’s a presumptive title for the racists and markists who are driving this country into the ground,” he observed.

Rassilon smirked. “My dear boy. Once again you think you know better than everyone else, yet you know so very little.”

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or even a dentist to know that what’s happening here is wrong,” he pointed out.

Studying him for a moment, Rassilon’s eyes narrowed. “What you know is not fact,” he informed him. “There is a lot more to the Marked than what is shared with the public.” Sauntering over to the bed, he sat down. “Sit,” he directed, gesturing to the spot beside him.

Despite his morbid curiosity, the Doctor stood unmoving.

“Fine. Have it your way,” Rassilon sighed. Leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees, he clasped his hands and looked up at his nephew seriously. “We’ve found the young lady Mr. Mott mentioned in his interview. She’s on her way in for questioning,” he stated, studying the Doctor’s face.

The Doctor clenched his jaw, but said nothing. What was the point? They wouldn’t listen to anything he said anyway. Reinette was going to be brought in no matter how much he tried to convince them not to bother.

Rassilon’s eyes narrowed as he continued staring at him. “No comment? Well, we’ll see if that changes when she gets here,” he said nonchalantly.

The Doctor worked his hardest to remain impassive, simply returning Rassilon’s steady look.

Taking a noisy breath in through his nose, Rassilon leaned back against the wall, his gaze still unwavering. “Your father was marked, you know,” he stated randomly.

The Doctor blinked with the unanticipated words. “What?” he managed to blurt out despite his surprise. Since Grayvas had mentioned the possibility that he might not be the only one in his family with the mark, the idea had festered in his mind, but he certainly hadn’t expected to hear Rassilon confirming the hypothesis. Then again, he might not be telling the truth. This could simply be some roundabout way to get him to give up Rose’s name. Going with that explanation, he leveled Rassilon a stoney look. “You’re lying.”

“Am I? Mmm. Tell me, John. Do you recall ever seeing your father without something covering his stomach? I’m willing to bet he never walked around your home without a shirt on or at least a vest,” he challenged.

Not even meaning to, the Doctor’s mind reached to find a visual memory of his father’s bare chest and stomach and to his alarm, he came up blank. He couldn’t recall even one instance of his father walking around their home without some kind of shirt on.

“No. I thought not,” Rassilon said smugly. “You probably recall seeing more of your mother’s torso than you did of your father’s,” he pointed out.

He wasn’t lying. God. But… what about his mother? Where had her mark been? Then something occurred to him. Rassilon had said his father was marked. He hadn’t mentioned his mother.

“Ah. I see the wheels turning,” Rassilon said after a moment’s silence. “Finally working it out, then, are you?” he observed. “Yes, that’s right. Your father was marked but your mother wasn’t. You know what that means, don’t you?”

The Doctor’s mind whirled. If his father was marked, she would have to have been marked. How could she not’ve been? ’She wouldn’t have had a mark if she wasn’t your father’s soulmate,’ his mind reticently supplied. Oh god. But...if that was so, then… then… “What happened to his soulmate?” he found himself asking.

“Died. They met as teenagers apparently. They were quite young to get the mark, but there you are. She drowned while on holiday with her family,” he informed him.

Suddenly, the Doctor felt slightly weak and an uncomfortable cramp dug into his chest under his breastbone. His poor father. To have met your soulmate only to have that person torn from you… he couldn’t imagine the pain. Even being apart from Rose right now was difficult. To know he’d never ever see her again…

“He met my sister… your mother... a few years later. They married a year after that and had you not long after,” he recounted. “Never did see what Idris saw in him. I imagine she felt sorry for him. I tried to tell her he was using her… that he was simply afraid of being alone and she happened to be ‘at hand’. She was young and naive, though, and wouldn’t hear any of it. Thought the bloody sun rose and set on Christopher Smith,” he recalled.

The Doctor shook his head. “But… he loved Mum. I know he did,” he intoned, recalling scenes of his parents together - holding hands as they walked. Cuddling together on the couch in front of the telly. Laughing together over some silly joke. He hadn’t imagined it.

“He settled for her. He never really loved her. Hardly capable of it, are they? The Marked? Not real love, anyway. It’s all hormones and instinct for them. Or, you, I should say,” he revised.

“No. He cared for her. He really loved her. I know he did,” the Doctor argued, feeling slightly short of breath.

Rassilon shook his head. “You can think what you like. I know the truth, John. Christopher was a self-centred, arrogant arse who used my sister’s naivety and trusting nature against her when he lost his mutant mate. I never cared for him - your father. Not from the moment I met him. He always had an air of superiority - like he was somehow more intelligent than everyone else,” he sneered. “I was against their marriage in the first place, but if I’d have known he was marked back then, I’d have made sure it never happened,” he informed him.

“But why… why didn’t he tell me?” the Doctor nearly whispered, more to himself than his uncle.

Rassilon issued a huff through his nose. “Why do you think? He was ashamed. As he should’ve been. It’s an affront to all that is normal. And he knew it too. Kept it hidden from everyone except Idris. He finally came clean when you were a teenager, and when my parents found out they were livid. The stress of it all ended up killing my mother in the end. Died of a heart attack not three weeks later. All because your father was a mutation. You are a mutation.”

The Doctor shook his head. “No. No, I’m not. And neither was my father,” he corrected him. “We’re human beings like everyone else.”

“Mmm. Well, you see, that’s where you’re wrong,” Rassilon replied. “You’re not like everyone else. And whether you are actually a human being is still to be decided.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” the Doctor replied. “Of course we’re human. I’m as human as you are. So was my father. So are all the Marked. We eat, breathe, sleep, cry, love… the only difference is that there is someone specific we’re meant to be with. That’s it. That’s the difference,” he entreated.

“Ah, but that’s not the only difference, is it? There’s the matter of the telepathy, isn’t there?” Rassilon pointed out.

“It’s not telepathy,” the Doctor shot back. “It’s… it’s empathy. I can feel how she feels. Only her. That’s it. I can’t read her mind and I certainly can’t read anyone else’s.”

“Then there’s the issue of your physiology,” Rassilon continued as if he hadn’t said anything. “Your potential for more...extreme mutation.”

The Doctor blinked. “What mutation?”

Rassilon smiled. “You see… you don’t know everything, John. You’ve got so much of your father in you. Pompous and arrogant. Think you know everything there is to know. Well, it seems you’ve still got a lot to learn. And I believe it’s going to be my job to teach it to you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean,” the Doctor replied, trying to not to let his rising anxiety show.

“I mean that I’m going make sure you know what kind of sickness you have inside you, John. The Marked are basically ticking time bombs and it’s only a matter of time before the mild threat that they are now blossoms into a very serious threat against all humanity.”

“What?! That’s ridiculous!” John spluttered. “I’m not threat to humanity. If anything, the Marked are more peace loving than most. We know what it’s like to love unconditionally and it seems to me we need more of that in the world,” he argued, rubbing his chest.

“You have no idea what kind of threat you are. None. But you will. I promise you that,” Rassilon vowed.

Above the door, the telly turned on suddenly, making the Doctor jump. ”...get started!” a voice blared over the speakers.

“Ah, yes. I’d asked to have the rally shown in all the cells. Best that you lot learn we are serious about dealing with the Marked,” Rassilon informed him. “Come. Sit,” he invited, patting the seat beside him.

An image of a massive crowd gathered in Trafalgar Square filled the screen above them. People were hooting and cheering, waving banners and fist punching the air.

Backing up, the Doctor sunk down onto the edge of the bed. “What are you planning, Rassilon?” he intoned, staring with growing dread up at the assembled crowd.

“Oh, John. Best to just watch and see. I’d hate to spoil the surprise.”

Fear filled his heart. What was he going to do to these people?

On the screen, a young man John had met a few times at their apartment waved to the throng of people. Ianto, his name was. “People of the UK - are you ready to make a difference?!”

The crowd went mental with the greeting, making Ianto smile and nod his approval. “We - you and I - we are charged with a momentous task. It’s our job to reach out to our government and all the people of the world, and insist on tolerance and equality for every human on this planet. We’re here for the Marked, but not the Marked alone. We’re here for every minority who struggles for acceptance and equality!”

Once again, thousands upon thousands of people cheered, their voices raised in support.

“Unfortunately, the man who has made this even possible, your very own Captain Jack Harkness, isn’t here today. I won’t speculate as to where he is, except to say that he was last seen on his way to help one of the Marked.”

Startled and upset sounds issued from the people gathered. “If anyone has been in contact with him last night or today, I would ask that you please let us know,” Ianto entreated above the upset murmurs coming from the throng before him. “In the meantime, until he is back with us, we will carry on. Jack Harkness has been a tireless advocate for the Marked and has invested so much in this cause. Today we gather to support him and Marked as we insist that the government retract Bill-316 and allow the Marked to go about their lives in peace!”

The crowd went wild with the impassioned words and the noise of their cheers echoed off the nearby buildings. “And to encourage you as you go out to spread the word,” Ianto continued, “we have some more special guests who are ready to support you and this cause. First, I’d like to introduce a tireless supporter of the Inclusive movement. She is a prominent Labour MP who voted against Bill-316 and is continuing to work for Marked equality. Please welcome the current MP for Flydale North, Ms. Harriet Jones!”

The crowd cheered and whistled as the politician mounted the stage. “Thank-you! Thank-you! Good afternoon everyone!” she began as the crowd calmed slightly. “Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North,” she announced, holding up her lanyard. “I’m honoured to be here today…”

“It’s a shame Harriet couldn’t be persuaded to see reason,” Rassilon intoned beside the Doctor as they watched the screen. “She had such a promising career ahead of her.”

As the politician on the screen continued talking, the Doctor looked over at his uncle. “Why are you doing this? Did you hate my father that much that now you can’t see anyone with the mark living a normal, happy life?”

Rassilon’s face reddened slightly and his jaw tightened visibly. “Your father killed my mother and ruined my sister. In the end, I made it right. But that was only the beginning. It’s my duty to make sure your kind don’t ruin anymore lives. The Marked need to be contained and ultimately neutralized,” he sneered.

“What do you mean, you made it right?” the Doctor asked, ignoring the rest of the statement as dread knotting in his stomach.

Rassilon looked at him then. A cruel smile tugged at his lips. “How old were you when they passed? Sixteen? Awfully young to lose one’s parents. And in such a terrible car crash. Never did find out what had caused their car to mount that embankment. So young, too,” he lamented, followed by a series of ‘tsk’s.

Completely dumbstruck, the Doctor stared in abject horror at his uncle as pain ripped through his soul with the revelation. “You killed them,” the Doctor croaked through the hard lump in his throat. “You killed my parents.”

Just then, a voice cut through his pain, tearing his attention from his uncle and up to the screen above them. Looking down at them through the lens of a news camera, the last person in the universe he wanted to see on telly smiled confidently and determinedly at her audience. Rose.

“Hello, People of the UK!”

Chapter Text

Nausea threatened to win over Rose’s will to keep her food down as she watched the MP, Harriet Jones, finish her speech. Despite knowing she had Tosh, Gwen, Owen and Ianto’s support, she was about to be completely alone up there in front of all those people and it was taking more than a bit of effort to keep herself from running down the steps of the Gallery and as far away from this stage as she could manage.

“...and I will do everything in my power to continue to fight for the rights of all the people in my constituency. It’s time for this madness to end!” Harriet Jones insisted, punching her fist in the air.

The throng of people filling the square hooted and shouted their approval as she waved her way off the stage and Ianto replaced her at the podium.

“Thank-you, MP Harriet Jones!” he announced, his visage filling the meters high screens all around Trafalgar Square. “And now,” he said through the continued cheers of the crowd, “I’d like to introduce someone who, until now, had worked hard to remain anonymous. Someone who has never been one to seek the spotlight or fame. She is, however, heir to one of the most influential companies in Britain and, indeed, the world. She has agreed to speak today because, like us, she feels it’s time for everyone to stand up for what is right. Please welcome an influential supporter of this cause and the heir to the Vitex empire; Rose Tyler!”

“Go get ‘em,” Gwen said with a wide, supportive smile and a firm pat on the back.

Stepping up onto the stage, Rose put one foot in front of the other, forcing herself forward and onto the podium. Shaking her hand, Ianto whispered a supportive, “You can do it,” in her ear before stepping down and leaving her alone in front of the microphone.

Laying the speech she’d been given down on the surface before her, she clasped the wooden sides of the lectern and dared a look at the expectant crowd. A sea of people splayed before her, stretching out impossibly far, their faces turned up toward her and their hopeful expressions making her heart thump wildly in her chest.

Opening her dry mouth to issue the first few printed words, she found her voice had left her and for a terrifying moment she thought maybe she’d stopped being able to talk. Oh god.

The waiting crowd quieted then in expectation as she stood wordless in front of them. The urge to run was almost irresistible now, but for some inexplicable reason, she happened to look at the front row of people waiting her for her to speak and to her surprise, Martha and Mickey stood front and centre. Locking eyes with her flatmate, Martha smiled reassuringly and nodded her support. She could do this.

Could she, though?

Staring down at her friend, she swallowed. Martha looked so sure… so confident on her behalf. Trying to pull strength from her best mate’s supportive expression, she steadied herself. She could. She could do this.

Making herself smile, she took a deep breath through her nose and said in full voice, “Hello, People of the UK!”

The wave of relief she felt with the roar of support she received back from the crowd bolstered her slightly. Swallowing, she took another steadying breath and pushed ahead. “I am here today to stand with you and everyone with the mark as we put pressure on the government to cease the senseless discrimination that Bill-316 engenders,” she read aloud. “Jack Harkness had asked me to speak in support of the Inclusionist cause and of course I had agreed, because as the heir to Vitex, I am in a position that… that…” she stammered. “I’m in a position that I can make a difference…”

Looking up again at the crowd, she took in their faces. Their trusting expressions. She was lying to them. Was that what she was here to do?

Casting a look sideways at Ianto and Gwen, who were nodding encouragingly at her from the side of the stage, she felt herself flounder. What should she do? Feeling her heart once again trying to beat out of her chest, she darted a look down at Martha and Mickey. Concern filled her friend’s eyes. What would Martha think if she simply lied and kept reading what was on the sheet in front of her? What would her mother think? She wanted to do this today, but not this way. Not if she was pretending to be something she wasn’t.

“Actually…” she began again, not breaking eye contact with Martha, “...that’s not exactly true.”

A murmur began floating over the crowd. “I’m not here because I’m the heir to the Vitex fortune,” she admitted. “I’m here…” she began, seeing a smile forming on Martha’s lips, “I’m here without my father’s knowledge, but hopefully, not without his blessing once he sees this. And the reason he doesn’t know about this is because I’m here only on my own behalf.”

A rumble of wonder rose, but quieted as she spoke again. “I grew up on the Estate with my mum, living on her single salary, you see. We didn’t have much, but we had each other, and that was enough. I’ve worked in shops and barely got through school and am only now working on my A levels. I’m really no one special. I’m a shop girl with big dreams. Big dreams and amazing friends. And some of them… one of them… has the mark. I’m here for him. And honestly, I’m here as a concerned citizen of this country. I’m here as a someone with little or no real influence, but I’ve got a voice. So I’m here to use it, because what is happening around this country is wrong!”

Her audience roared to life with the encouraging statement.

“What I’m here to prove,” she said, now feeling more confident, “is that you don’t have to be rich, or famous, or influential to make a difference. YOU are making a difference today because you’re here - making a statement!”

The crowd roared to life again, further feeding her growing determination. “You are here, taking a stand against this paranoid, protectionist, unfair government that is targeting those who only want to live in peace! You and I know that the Marked aren’t terrorists. They are our neighbours. They are our shopkeepers, hairdressers and dentists,” she said, looking up into the crowd. “They are relatives and friends. They are human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Hoots of support clamoured from the thousands before her. Further bolstered, she continued, “Now, I’m not blessed enough to be one of the Marked,” she admitted, “but, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t be sad if I was. The friend I spoke of with the mark… he recently discovered he has it. I was gutted at first, but not because I was fearful or sad for him. I was devastated because I wasn’t lucky enough to be marked along with him. Some other, very lucky woman, who may be among you today, bears his mark. I should be so lucky. But I think this feeling is common among the Unmarked. People aren’t necessarily afraid of those who bear the mark… they’re maybe slightly sad that they don’t have what the Marked have. Someone who loves them unequivocally. The ability to feel what their soulmate feels so they can comfort them and celebrate happiness with them in a way that goes beyond what the rest of us can share with each other. But jealousy is no reason to isolate and deny the rights of others. The differences the Marked have to us are only those. Differences. And who among us can say we’re exactly the same as everyone else? We’re all different. We should be celebrating those differences instead of fearing them!”

People’s placards shot up in the air and cheers rose into afternoon sky. “We are here today to tell the government that we won’t stand for the markism and racism inherent in their policies. We are here to make a difference today! We’re here to stand up and tell the world that enough is enough! We’re here to support our friends, our neighbours and our family members! We’re here to support the Marked!”

With that, the crowd broke into raucous applause. Whistles and shouts of support and outrage filled the square.

A triumphant smile spread across Rose’s face as she surveyed the incredible group of people before her. They were here for the same reasons as she was. To help the cause. To support those who needed it. And she’d never felt as at home or fulfilled as she did in this moment.

 

OoOoOoOoO

 

The Doctor watched in horror as Rose’s angelic face filled the screen above him. Rose. Desperation poured through him even as the ache in his chest amplified. What… what was she doing there? Not only was she there, she was bloody speaking in front of the entire world - broadcasting herself as a supporter of the Marked! What the hell was she thinking?!

’She’s being brilliant. And brave,’ his mind put in. And reckless and stupid, he shot back. And blimey - where was Donna? Jack was here in this hellhole with him, of course, but Donna knew! Why had she let Rose do this?!

“Is something the matter, Doctor?” Rassilon asked, eying him purposefully. “You seem… upset,” he observed.

Immediately the Doctor shut down any reaction he’d unintentionally been broadcasting. Fuck.

Shooting a look up at the screen, Rassilon squinted up at the beautiful but unwelcome image of his soulmate. No. No no nononono…

“She’s… attractive,” he observed, looking back at the Doctor. “Blonde.”

The Doctor said nothing, but continued watching the screen in an attempt to appear disinterested in Rassilon’s rambling. It didn’t work.

“You’ve always had a thing for blondes, haven’t you, John?” he stated, knowing it was true.

Just then, from the screen above them, shouts other than those of support began drifting across the Square. The cameras cut to a shot of the entire area. Suddenly on the screens on either side of the stage, Rose’s image was replaced with that of a blonde man with piercing blue eyes.

“Good afternoon, dear citizens,” Prime Minister Saxon’s voice blared over the speakers around the square. “I’m afraid this announcement is not of a positive nature. For you, anyway,” he said with a sad smile.

“What the hell are you doing?” the Doctor said, standing, staring at the screen above him.

“We are doing what we must to protect this country,” Rassilon replied, remaining seated.

On the telly, Saxon’s face was filled with apparent concern for the assembled crowd. “It’s with a heavy heart that I have been forced to put through an injunction which disallows organized congregation for the purposes of supporting those who would incite terrorism,” he said, his face the very picture of sincerity. “Why am I heavy of heart, the people at home and my various advisors may be wondering? It’s because I believe that there are those among you who are merely victims in this. Some of you are good people. Perhaps your motives for taking part in this rally were somehow noble and justified in your minds. You may have sons or daughters, friends or neighbours who are affected by the mutation which is plaguing the world, and you feel protective of them. However, what you’re not realizing, is that these people… these mutations are dangerous. They are a threat to our way of living. They are not what God intended humans to be, and they will stop at nothing to destabilize our nation and this government so that they can end up in power. Their goal is to violently overpower us and make us secondary citizens in our own country,” he informed the crowd. “So even though some of you may not have meant to encourage terrorism, you actually have, and for that, I’m afraid, we have no choice but to register each and every one of you as terrorist sympathizers.”

“What!” the Doctor all but shouted at the telly. Turning swiftly, he rounded on his uncle. “This is completely mad! We don’t want to bloody take over the world - we just want to live peacefully in it! We want the same rights everyone else has,” he insisted.

Standing in response, Rassilon smirked. “You don’t deserve them. You and your sick, twisted kind must be conquered, John, not integrated. And as for my sanity, I assure you I’m quite in possession of my faculties. And of my freedom. Unlike you. And soon, unlike everyone attending that gathering, including the blonde you seemed so very concerned about,” he countered, shooting a look back up at the telly.

“Leave them alone,” the Doctor warned. “Leave them all alone.”

“Or what?” Rassilon responded. “You’ll use your mind control powers to kill me?” he taunted. “I’ve known the truth about those ‘mind control’ powers your kind have for a while now, but I’m not about to educate the masses. I am, however, going to educate you. There is more to the Marked than meets the eye. More than the public knows. My top scientists are discovering much about your kind and it’s fascinating,” he added. “I actually plan to make you intimately acquainted with our research very soon,” he informed him. “But that’s neither here nor there at the moment. Right now, I think we need to focus on the safety of your markmate, don’t you?”

“This is insane,” the Doctor informed him. “How do you live with yourself? How can you sleep at night knowing you’re responsible for the suffering of thousands of people?” he challenged.

“I sleep like a baby, John. And do you know why? Because I know the nature of the Marked. I’ve seen first hand what they are capable of. And it is my job to protect humanity from your kind, and that includes your markmate. Now, tell me her name and I’ll see to it her interrogation is, shall we say, more gentle than it would otherwise be,” Rassilon said significantly.

The Doctor stood frozen, almost shaking with anxiety. He couldn’t tell them. There was still a chance she might escape being brought in, or, if she was, that they wouldn’t even find her mark, given it’s location. Staring at his uncle, he shook his head slightly. “No.”

For a moment Rassilon looked back at him without expression. Finally, he looked down. “Alright. If that’s how you want it, John,” he said, sounding truly remorseful. “I’m sorry it’s come to this. I’d hoped that, even with your mutant genes, you’d have something left of common sense. But it looks like that’s not the case,” he lamented.

Sauntering to the door, he gestured for the agent standing guard to follow him out. “I may not see you again before… well, you’ll see. Oh… and I’ll make sure you have a front row seat for all the interrogations that are about to take place.”

With that, he left the room, leaving the Doctor alone with his mounting anxiety and the certain knowledge that if they hauled Rose in for interrogation he’d promise them anything in the universe to spare her humiliation and pain. Anything.

Chapter Text

The rest of the day passed without word of anything. The door hadn’t opened with threats of torture, the telly hadn’t lit up with images of his friends, and Grayvas hadn’t appeared with newfound accusations. In fact, it’d been hours since his uncle had left his room and despite his threats against rally attendees and promises of pain, it’d been eerily quiet. He’d been brought a meal not long after Rassilon had left him, which had, so far, been the only activity he’d been witness to. It was, oddly, quite unnerving, to be honest. Not that he wanted any activity, per se. It was just that, he doubted there was literally nothing going on in the background. In fact, he was quite sure Grayvas, Rassilon and their minions had been very busy since his last encounter and it was almost worse not knowing what was going on than being threatened with what was.

As far as the Doctor could tell, it was evening now, as he was beginning to feel rather knackered despite the adrenaline still coursing through him. Luckily, the ache in his chest had abated somewhat as has the lingering headache. If there was anything at all to be grateful for, he supposed that was something.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, he looked up once again at the blackened screen of the telly. Hoping it would stay black for the foreseeable future. Maybe they hadn’t found Rose. Or Donna or Ianto. Maybe they’d escaped the inevitable mayhem of the arrests coming out of the rally. At least he could hope.

A clamour at the door instantly caused a river’s worth of adrenaline to dump into his bloodstream. Thankfully, though, it was only one of the agents bringing him another meal.

“Stay seated and put your hands in the air” the vaguely familiar man directed, standing in the door frame. Doing as he was told, the Doctor assumed the surrender pose.

Reaching to his side, the agent picked a tray up off the cart he’d been pushing through the corridor and moved into the room with his meager offering.

“Benton, right?” the Doctor hazarded, his hands still in the air, vaguely recalling that this particular guard had been as close to pleasant as it got in here.

The agent didn’t answer, but paused slightly in putting the tray down on the ground in the middle of the room.

“I’m the Doctor. Weeeelllll… I say I’m ‘The Doctor’. That’s not my real name. But you know that, I’m sure,” he said in an effort to engage the man. “Still, I prefer going by ‘The Doctor’. Never liked my given name much. John. Joooooohhhhnnn. Yuck. I have to admit I like the way my soulmate says it though. It actually sounds… better. Nice, even,” he reflected, honestly. “What about you? Any nicknames? Ben? Ton??” he asked cordially.

“No,” Benton said, turning to leave the room.

“Listen, Ben,” the Doctor said, desperate to try to create some sort of connection. “I’m not trying to be a pain the arse, but obviously I’m not privvy to the latest news at the moment - I wonder if you could maybe let me in on what happened at the rally?” he entreated.

Benton paused for a moment before turning in place to face him.

“I mean - not that I care about anyone in particular, because I promise you; I don’t,” he said, probably a bit too emphatically. “Just… the Inclusionists - they just want us… the Marked… they just want us to be treated fairly, yeah? They aren’t rebellious folks in general. They just hate seeing people targeted for something they have no control over. You understand, right?”

Benton narrowed his eyes slightly. “The Inclusionists should be at home looking after themselves and their own families instead of spending time opposing the government. But honestly, Doctor, you should worry about yourself and your soulmate. Trust me when I say that if you give us her name, it’ll be easier for her,” he suggested.

The Doctor didn’t miss the Agent’s use of the word ‘soulmate’ rather than ‘markmate’. Seeing a slight tinge of hope, he entreated, “Benton, are you married?”

The agent’s brows furrowed, but he didn’t say anything.

“Right. I didn’t think so,” the Doctor said confidently. Taking in Benton’s hardening expression, he quickly amended, “No ring, tan line or indent, you see,” he said, nodding toward the agent’s hand by way of explanation.

“What are you getting…”

“Now, I’m assuming you’re not generally in favour of people with the mark. I, myself, am generally in favour, but then, obviously I have one, so there you are,” the Doctor interjected. “But before I knew I had it, I have to admit I didn’t think about it much. I was just a plain old single bloke, getting by and dating random women hoping to meet someone worth spending time with. Someone with a sense of humour who might put up with my unending gob. You don’t seem to have that particular obstacle, but I imagine it’s hard getting out much when you work for MI5, yeah? Work lots, play hard and all that?” he guessed.

“My personal life is none of your concern,” Benton said formally in reply.

“Right. Of course it isn’t. Except… it kind of is, you see? Because you’re in the same position I was in not long ago. Going out with people you’ve been ‘set up’ with by your mates, hoping you have something in common to talk about. Hoping she… or he… has a brain and isn’t just a pretty face. Working on the assumption that if you just keep plugging through date after date, you might just find the ‘right one’. But that’s it, don’t you see? You haven’t found the right one yet, have you? The person who makes you feel alive and vital. The one who makes you want to recite ridiculous poems or to wear matching jumpers with. You were like me only a while ago. Available. Unfettered. Unmarked,” he emphasized. “What I’m trying to say is… who’s to say you won’t end up like me? Because, I promise you - I had no idea I might be one of the Marked. I’m bloody thirty, for god’s sake. I thought I was well past the chance of finding myself with one of these,” he shared, leaning forward and holding up his arm to reveal the radiant blue circles that claimed him as Rose’s. “And now, here I am,” he added. “Here,” he reinforced, gesturing around him at the dark, grey walls, “in jail. Because I finally met someone. Like you might, one day. Maybe someday soon,” he hazarded, pushing the issue.

For a moment, Benton stood staring at the Doctor, his expression unreadable. The pregnant pause continued long enough that the Doctor actually allowed himself a speck of hope that he’d possibly gotten through to the man. Then, without so much as a ‘fuck you,’ the agent turned and exited the room, closing the door firmly behind him and engaging the lock.

Well, shit. He really shouldn’t be at all surprised. It was a slim chance at best that he’d manage to somehow ‘touch’ or otherwise even engage any of these people here, but he had to try.

Disappointed, the Doctor approached the tray Benton had left and picked it up. Hmm. Baked beans and dry bread with a cup of water.

Sighing, he brought it over to the bed and placed it on his lap. He’d been given a spoon, which he supposed he should be thankful for, so he picked it up and brought a scoop of the brown protein up to his mouth.

That’s when the screen above him lit up.

 

OoOoOoOoO

 

Rose found herself frozen in place on the podium as mayhem ensued before her. The screens throughout the square were filled with the sneering face of the Prime Minister while all around her, frightened people began to head for the perimeter of the square in an attempt to escape the promised harassment. Cries of alarm and fear issued all around as SMITE troops in full riot gear seemed to appear from nowhere to surround them on foot and in armoured vehicles.

“Come on,” Ianto’s voice commanded as his strong hand grabbed hers to pull her from the microphone. In moments she was being ushered urgently off the stage, but instead of heading down the steps of the Gallery, Ianto directed her, Gwen, Owen, Tosh and the Harriet Jones into the Gallery itself.

“Where’s Donna?” Rose worried aloud, suddenly realizing she wasn’t with them. Anxiety filled her. And what about Martha? And Mickey? Slowing, she fell behind a bit. She couldn’t just leave them.

Clearly realizing he’d lost one of his charges, Ianto slowed and looked back. “Come on!” he shouted, his shouts echoing off the gallery walls.

“I can’t! Donna’s back there, and I’ve got other friends out there too,” she explained. “I have to go back!”

“No - you can’t. They’ll be fine,” Ianto tried.

“I’m sorry - you go on ahead. I’ll catch up,” she insisted, turning back toward the front of the gallery.

“Rose!” she heard Gwen shout behind her as she broke into a run. She couldn’t leave Martha and Mickey. And Donna and Rory - what about them? They’d all been there for her and she wasn’t going to let them get arrested and catelogued because of it.

Making it back to the front doors, Rose pushed one open and darted back out onto the top of the gallery steps. The scene before her was surreal. SMITE agents weren’t just trying to gather information from the people gathered here. They were actively rounding them up and loading them into buses surrounding the Square. Some were resigned and compliant, but most people were either shouting in defiance or physically fighting back. It was a sea of angry, blue-clad Inclusionists and black armour-garbed SMITE agents and it was horrifying.

In a panic, Rose looked around desperately, trying to catch a glimpse of Donna’s fiery red hair or Martha’s burgundy jacket, but there were just so many people. Fear filled her. What if they had already been loaded onto a bus?

She was about to descend the stairs to pick through the throng of people on the ground when large hands gripped her arms from behind, making her shriek in surprise. “I’ve got her!” a male voice shouted to someone out of her view. “You’re under arrest for colluding with terrorists and inciting violence,” the agent all but hollered in her ear.

Fear and alarm bolted through her, but that didn’t stop her from raising her heeled foot to stomp hard on the man’s booted toes with a determined grunt. Sadly, though, her efforts yielded nothing, as her captor’s steel-toed gear had prepared him for such an attack.

“Let me go!” she demanded, wriggling in his grasp in an attempt to pull herself free. Unfortunately, for all her spent energy, all she managed to do was attract the attention of more agents, who quickly moved in to help their fellow. Shouts filled the air around her and in moments, she was being grabbed and pushed to the ground, her hands being cruelly yanked behind her back. The sting of cement scraping the side of her face and a hard knee pressing into her back made her wince as cool metal quickly enclosed her wrists.

“Get her up,” one of them commanded.

Without ceremony she was pulled up forcefully so that she barely managed to keep her balance. “Ms. Tyler. You’re just the person we were looking for,” he informed her. “Where did the rest of them go? Ianto Jones and Harriet Jones?” an impressively large agent demanded, looming over her.

“I don’t know,” she lied defiantly, standing as tall as she could manage.

The man before her grabbed her jaw in a vice-like grip and pulled her toward him. “Which direction did they go?” he demanded, shaking her head.

Despite the man’s grip tightening even further, Rose held her ground and glared back at him, saying nothing.

“Aaargh,” the agent growled, pushing her hard as he released her face. Falling back into the man behind her, she managed to stay on her feet. “Take her in,” the monolith commanded.

With that, she was grabbed up from behind and forcibly turned to head down the steps toward one of the waiting buses. “No - load her into Agent Kelnar’s car. Agent Grayvas has requested she be brought directly to interrogation.”

“Interrogation?” Rose piped up bravely. “What do I need to be interrogated for? I haven’t done anything wrong. Speaking up for equal rights isn’t a crime,” she challenged.

“Colluding with terrorists is, Ms. Tyler,” he informed her. “But I believe there are other matters you are to be questioned about,” he added vaguely.

Before she could respond, the men on either side of her dragged her forward and down the Gallery steps toward a waiting black vehicle just like the one that had driven away with the Doctor only yesterday.

Well, if there was anything good about all this, maybe she’d find out what had happened to him. She could only hope he was alright.

 

OoOoOoOoOoO

 

The Doctor’s jaw dropped and he lowered his spoon back onto the plate.

“You can’t keep me here. Do you know who I am?” the attractive blonde huffed, straightening her blouse.

“Yes, we know who you are. You’re Miss Reinette Poisson. Daughter of Francois Poisson, prominent businessman and entrepreneur. You’re 27. You’re a graduate of the University of Birmingham and you’re a successful dentist; respected in your field. Which is why it comes as a surprise to us that you might be mixed up in this sordid business,” Grayvas stated.

“Look, Agent,” she emphasized. “If you know so much about me, then you’ll know that my father all but runs the Square Mile. I’d suggest you rethink holding me here unless you are looking to have all the best lawyers in this city rain down on you from a dizzy height,” she threatened.

Grayvas sat across from her and offered her a condescending smile. “I assure you, Ms. Poisson, you are here only because National Security is at stake, and until you leave here, the law doesn’t apply. Now. We have a few questions for you,” he informed her before shooting a look up at the camera so that he seemed to stare straight into the Doctor’s eyes. “Do you know a man called ‘Dr. John Smith’?”

Reinette’s eyes widened. “John?” she repeated, sounding surprised. “Yes. I know him,” she admitted.

“And are you, or have you ever been, in a romantic relationship with him?” Grayvas continued.

Reinette’s expression darkened. “I don’t see how that’s any of your business,” she informed him, “but if you must know, yes, I was involved with John for a short time.”

“So you are no longer seeing him?” the agent asked, clearly skeptical.

“No. He was an egotistic, self-serving twat who cared only about himself. I broke it off with him,” she said, her jaw squared.

“Mmm,” the agent replied, looking at her. “Ms. Poisson, do you have the mark?”

Reinette startled at the question, looking completely affronted. “What?! No, of course not,” she replied hotly. “I’m not some mutant whore - I’m a Poisson!”

Grayvas appeared taken aback by the open disgust Reinette was displaying at the very thought, but he quickly recovered. “We have to ask. You see, John Smith, the man you say you are no longer with… he has the mark. And since you have admitted to being in a relationship with him, we must do our due diligence and make sure you’re not one of the Marked as well,” he informed her.

“Well, I never,” Reinette shot back. “How dare you even entertain the idea that my genes carry such a fowl mutation,” she declared. “Have you checked his bitchy secretary? Or his flatmate, for heaven’s sake? It wouldn’t surprise me if John was gay; he was completely useless in bed, after all,” she added.

“Oi!” the Doctor exclaimed at the screen, affronted. “I’m not that bad, am I?”

“We are checking into all possibilities and all leads,” Grayvas assured her.

“Good. Then do that. And when you find the poor marked chav he’s managed to snag, I want a full apology for all of this,” she demanded.

Blimey. Even finding herself on the other side of this movement, she still managed to be closed minded, the Doctor marvelled.

Grayvas smiled. “Yes, if you’re not his markmate, you’ll receive an apology from me personally,” he promised. “Unfortunately, we still have to establish that you’re not marked, I’m afraid.” Standing, Grayvas turned and opened the door. Two female agents strolled in, wheeling a covered trolley along with them. They both had gloves on.

“This is Agent Blon and Agent Racnoss. They’ll be completing a search to determine if you’re telling the truth about not being marked. Right. I’ll leave you to it, then. Agents,” he nodded to them in a ‘you can get started’ direction.

“What?! You can’t do this! I’m a Poisson, for god’s sake!” Reinette shrieked.

“I’m afraid I can do this. And, in fact, as unpleasant as this is, it’s imperative that we make sure you’re telling the truth. I assure you - if you aren’t one of the Marked and we are convinced you knew nothing of John Smith’s status as one of them, you’ll be compensated for your troubles,” he promised her. “In the meantime, though, I’m afraid this examination is warranted and sanctioned.” Looking up into the camera again, he smiled. Bastard.

Turning then, he left the room. “I’ll bloody sue you for this!” Reinette yelled at the now closed door.

“Take off your clothes, please, Ms. Poisson,” the short stout agent instructed.

Clenching her jaw, Reinette swivelled and stared at the two women for a moment, clearly considering her next move. Then, with a huff, she began undoing her blouse. “You’re both going to jail for this,” she informed them. “Both of you.”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Agent Blon replied, looking almost bored. “Trousers as well, please.”

With pursed lips, Reinette pulled her blouse off, undid her trouser button and zip and shimmied out of them as well.

Realizing he was still watching, the Doctor quickly turned his head away from the screen. He felt like a bloody voyeur, for fuck’s sake. It was disgusting what they were doing. Reinette was basically being accosted because she knew him. As much as he didn’t care for Reinette’s views, no one deserved to be treated like this.

Grunts of discomfort issued from the telly speakers, making him feel nauseous. When was this madness going to end?

Just then, the door to his cell opened. Looking up quickly, the Doctor found the object of his current disgust. Rassilon. “Hello, John. I trust you’re enjoying the show?” he stated, looking up at the screen.

The Doctor looked away, not about to be drawn in.

“Shame she has to go through this, really, seeing as she’s probably not your markmate,” he observed.

The Doctor’s eyes shot up to meet his. “What makes you say that?”

“Her reactions. They weren’t typical of someone being caught out,” he shared. “Grayvas would’ve cuffed her to the table if he’d truly thought she was a threat,” he added.

The Doctor’s jaw tensed. “Then why are you doing this?” he demanded, gesturing toward the screen. “You don’t need to keep searching her,” he insisted.

“And give up the chance to gaze on such beauty?” Rassilon said, gesturing at the screen. Unbidden, the Doctor found himself looking at it. The gloved agents were currently examining under Reinette’s breasts.

“You’re bloody sick!” the Doctor shot back, hastily looking away again.

“Am I? Well, that’s not sounding very grateful, John. You like blondes. Or is this not the particular blonde you’d prefer to be looking at?” he pushed.

The Doctor continued looking away.

“Mmm. I thought not,” he said. “Maybe you’ll be more interested in what’s going on in the next interrogation room, then.”

With that, Grayvas’ voice filled the room from the telly screen once again. “with your mother, Jackie Tyler, at the Powell Estates in London…”

Terror flew through him even before his eyes found the screen. On the telly, Grayvas was seated at a metal table and across from him, cuffed to the table, was the only person he now existed for.

They had her. They had his Rose.

Chapter Text

Rose was escorted by the agent they’d called ‘Kelnar’ into a uniformly grey cell with a metal table in the centre of it. Her heart rate hadn’t slowed since she was first collected at the rally and the current surroundings did little to help her calm. Leading her around the table, Kelnar stopped her in front of the chair facing the table and the door. “Sit down.”

Feeling she didn’t have much of a choice, Rose slid herself onto the cold metal chair.

“Hands on the table,” Kelnar instructed.

Lifting her cuffed hands reluctantly, she placed them on the table in front of her. Grabbing her right wrist, the agent undid the cuff around it and released her hand.

For a moment she felt a small surge of hope that he might be undoing her restraints altogether, but that hope was quickly dashed. Slipping the shackle through the handcuff handle protruding from the tabletop, he gripped her wrist again and slipped the cuff back around it.

“Can I make a phone call?” she asked, hoping he might let her call her mum. If she was watching the rally on telly she’d be sick with worry by now.

“No,” he answered simply. Then, without another word, he strode from the room and closed the door behind him.

Well, she’d tried at least. Still, that didn’t help the fact that her mum was going to be beside herself. Guilt wormed its way into her heart to take up residence beside the intense anxiety already nesting there. Her mum had warned her. She’d tried to tell her the anti-markists weren’t to be trusted. That they were intolerant and that all she was doing was making herself a target. Her mum had known it, and so had the Doctor.

The Doctor. Rose was positive now that the Doctor’s motives for whisking her from the scene with those anti-markists the other night were good. He’d always known what these people were capable of; he lived with the leader of the Inclusionist movement, for god’s sake. The threat was all too real and he’d known it the whole time. He’d only been trying to keep her safe. She didn’t doubt that now; certainly not now that he’d been arrested and she’d actually been abducted by these loons herself.

Dammit. This was definitely not how she’d imagined today would end. Ideally… naively… she’d imagined Jack would’ve turn up with the Doctor at the rally, early enough to hear her speech, and they’d have been blown away by her heartfelt words. They would both have thanked her and then the Doctor would’ve pulled her aside and explained he hadn’t meant to hurt her. He’d only discovered yesterday he was marked… if he’d have known he’d never have led her on. They’d have all ended the day feeling satisfied they’d done what they could for the movement - at least for now. Tomorrow would be another day. She’d spend it, and no doubt the next couple of weeks, trying to get over her crush on the Doctor, but it would be made easier by keeping busy fighting this insane, fascist government.

Instead, though, her day had ended in anything but triumph. The people who’d been brave enough to turn up and support the Marked today had been terrorized by their own government and any chance she’d had to make a difference in the coming days and weeks had been cut short by her arrest. God. She’d been so naive. She’d only wanted to help. All she’d wanted to do was to try to make a difference for the poor people this government was singling out to harass and oppress. She shook her head. It was barmy. Despite her best intentions, here she was locked in a cell, handcuffed to a table, about to be interrogated for being a terrorist sympathizer.

But she’d had to do it, hadn’t she? Of course she had. She’d had an obligation to the people who couldn’t speak up for themselves. She’d been given an opportunity to support them and she couldn’t have turned away. Even now, she knew that if someone turned back the clock, she wouldn’t change what she’d done. Except perhaps she may’ve been smarter about trying to go back to find Martha, Mickey and Donna. What had she been thinking, imagining she was gonna find them in that crowd? All that particular choice resulted in was her arrest, and now she was stuck in a dank, grey cell at MI5. MI5! As if she ever imagined she’d find herself here.

Looking around, she took in the room a bit more thoroughly. Aside from the metal table, there were three chairs - one she was sitting on, one was across the table and the last one was in the corner of the room. Above it, a camera was mounted high on the wall aimed squarely at the table. A red light blinked ominously, indicating it was probably recording.

A clunk issued from the door, then, making her heart jump nearly out of her chest. The man standing in the doorframe looked familiar, but she couldn’t place him. He was an older gentleman. More of a politician than a military type, she guessed. He held a folder, which he flopped onto the table before he scraped the chair out across the table from where she sat.

“Good afternoon, Ms. Tyler. I’m Agent Grayvas; Agent in Charge for SMITE,” he said formally, pulling a pair of glasses from his jacket pocket. Putting them on, he opened the file in front of him and began reading aloud. “Rose Tyler. Currently returning as a mature student to get your A-levels, you live with your mother, Jackie Tyler, at the Powell Estates in London…”

“Excuse me,” she interrupted, “but I believe I’m entitled to a phone call. Your officer ignored me, but I want to make a call.”

The man looked at her above his specs. “This is not a police station, Ms. Tyler. This is SMITE. And as a suspected terrorist sympathizer, you have no legal rights at the moment. Your request to make a phone call is denied,” he stated simply. “Now,” he said, looking back at his folder, “your father is Pete Tyler, founder and CEO of Vitex Industries. Is that correct?”

Disconcerted by his answer, Rose felt her tentative confidence waver. “Pete Tyler is my father, but I hardly know him,” Rose replied, working hard to sound less intimidated than she felt.

“Is that right?” Grayvas asked, studying her.

“That’s right. I live with my mum. Have done since I was small,” she replied.

“Hmm. So you’re saying your father isn’t an Inclusionist?” he prodded.

“I don’t know what my father is,” Rose answered briskly. “But you can count me as an Inclusionist,” she announced, sitting taller. Damn it - if she was gonna be charged, she might as well try to make a point.

“Yes, well, we gathered that was your affiliation from your speech. Very moving, by the way,” he observed.

“Thank-you,” she replied saucily. “I meant every word of it.”

Grayvas cocked his head slightly. “Ms. Tyler, I’m not sure you understand exactly how much trouble you’re in,” he observed. “Not only are you going to be charged with inciting violence,” he said before Rose cut him off.

“Violence? How did I incite violence?” she challenged.

“If you and your Inclusionist cronies hadn’t stirred the crowd, there could’ve been a much more peaceful end to that rally,” Grayvas pointed out. “But that’s not all you’re being charged with. We have it on good authority that you may be hiding something,” he accused. “Something that puts the innocent population of this country at risk.”

“Hiding something?” Rose said, trying to look nonchalant even as her heart rate sped up. What did they think she was hiding? Information about Jack? The Doctor, maybe? She didn’t know anything about either of them, really, except that the Doctor had the mark and Jack was the organizer of the Inclusionist movement. But they knew all of that already. Well, if they were hoping to get new information from her today about either of them, they were about to be sorely disappointed.

 

OoOoOoOoOoO

 

The Doctor studied Rose’s image on the screen, willing it to dissolve and for himself to wake up. This had to be a nightmare. Real life couldn’t be this cruel, could it?

“We have it on good authority that you may be hiding something. Something that puts the innocent population of this country at risk.”

“Hiding something?” Rose said, obviously trying to sound detached.

The discomfort in his chest that had been gnawing at him surged in intensity suddenly. Oh god. Her mark. She knew. Did she know?

Moving to sit beside him on the bed, Rassilon, stared up at the screen. “She seems a bit on edge, wouldn’t you say, John?” he observed.

“She seems fine to me,” he replied, working hard to sound only vaguely interested in what was happening on the telly. If Rose was going to get out of this, Rassilon couldn’t be encouraged to entertain the tiniest idea that she was important to him in any way.

“You remember her, of course,” Rassilon continued. “A patient of yours, I believe. A friend of your administrative assistant as well, I gather,” he catalogued.

On the screen, Grayvas leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. “Come now, Ms. Tyler. Let’s not beat around the bush here. We know who you were referring to in your speech. Your ‘friend’ who found out he was marked. So you might as well share what you know or, I assure you, I will find out anyway and it won’t be pleasant,” he threatened.

The Doctor felt himself tense despite trying to force his muscles to relax.

Rose seemed to think about it for a moment before slouching slightly. “Alright. I suppose it can’t hurt if I tell you what I know. It won’t help you anyway,” she allowed.

“Go on,” Grayvas said, leaning forward slightly.

“His name is Dr. John Smith. I found out he was marked only yesterday after I saw him being abducted by your people,” she shared.

She’d seen that? How had she seen it?

“And what do you know about him, Ms. Tyler?” Grayvas prodded.

“I know he’s a good man. He’s kind and concerned about people,” she said. “And I know his soulmate is a lucky woman,” she added.

Unbidden, the Doctor drew in a shocked breath. Was she going to admit it to these people? Out herself? No, Rose…

“Is she now?” Grayvas said, practically drooling in anticipation.

“Yes. I don’t know who she is, though, in case you were gonna ask,” Rose added significantly.

The Doctor blinked. She…

“I know she’s safe. That’s all I know,” Rose affirmed.

“Mmm. This is interesting,” Rassilon breathed beside him, making him hold his breath. A diversion. Rose was trying a diversion. Well, he was gonna help if he could.

“She doesn’t know her,” the Doctor reinforced, staring at the screen before turning to Rassilon. “She doesn’t know who my soulmate is,” he promised. “I only worked on her teeth a couple of times. There’s no way she could know.”

Rassilon looked at him sideways. “How, then, does she know your soulmate is safe?” he questioned.

The Doctor was about to answer with some nonsense when Grayvas’ voice filled the room again. “I find it interesting how you know she is safe, but have no idea what her name is, Ms. Tyler. Tell me… are you in a relationship at the moment?” he pressed.

Rose seemed taken aback a bit by the question. “No. Not at the moment,” she shared. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“But you have been in a relationship in the past? Maybe recently?” Grayvas continued, ignoring her question.

“Not really. I mean - I thought… but it didn’t work out,” she said, casting her eyes down. “He… he met someone else,” she admitted.

Who was she talking about? That Jimmy bastard? But she’d told him she’d left him because he’d beaten her. Had he been cheating on her as well? Or maybe she was only telling them this to avoid talking about why she’d really left that violent prick.

“Right. And what was his name?” Grayvas asked, picking up his pen.

Rose looked at the man across from her. “It’s not important,” she said. “He’s moved on. And so have I,” she added.

“Have you, now?” Grayvas said.

“Yes. And now I’m dedicating myself to righting the injustice the Marked are suffering because of people like you and Saxon,” she informed him.

“Well, aren’t you noble?” Grayvas stated with mild amusement. “You know what I think? I think you know more than you’re letting on and I intend to get it out of you. But first thing’s first,” he said, standing.

“No,” the Doctor breathed, momentarily forgetting his intention to look and sound unaffected.

Opening the door, Grayvas invited in the team the Doctor had seen search Reinette for the mark. “This is Agent Blon and Agent Racnoss,” he introduced as he had with Reinette. “They will be conducting a strip search to make sure you aren’t marked,” he informed her.

“What?” Rose said, sounding completely surprised.

“Standard procedure for everyone known to be an Inclusionist,” he informed her.

“But… you can’t do this. This can’t be legal,” she argued, looking between Grayvas and the two women.

“I promise you that it is quite sanctioned by the government, my dear. Now be a darling and cooperate with these nice agents. The entire affair will be much more pleasant if you do.”

Unable to stop himself, the Doctor turned to Rassilon. “You’re going to go through with this? You heard her - she even said my soulmate is somewhere safe. Why search her?” he entreated, trying and probably failing, to sound somewhat detached.

Turning to him, Rassilon studied his face. “You seem particularly concerned about his one, Doctor. Is there something we should know about her?” he queried, talking over the interrogation continuing on the telly.

“Of course not,” the Doctor spat back, trying to sound indignant. “I care about people. All people,” he clarified. “I didn’t want you to search Reinette and I don’t want you to search Rose.”

Rassilon smirked a bit with the Doctor’s comeback. “It’s ‘Rose’, now, is it?” he asked, clearly making a pointed observation. “Awfully familiar for a patient you’ve seen twice,” Rassilon observed.

The Doctor clicked his jaw shut. Fuck.

Rassilon turned his attention back to the screen, which the Doctor did reluctantly as well. Dammit!

Grayvas had left the room already and the agents were closing in on Rose who was still cuffed to the table. The Doctor watched helplessly as they moved in to quickly divest her of her skirt and knickers. Purposely, he dropped his head and looked at the ground. No. Please…

“Step out,” one of them instructed from the screen. “Spread your legs.” The sound of movement issued from the speakers.

“Mmm,” Rassilon hummed beside him.

A fiery anger flared in him with the lurid sound.

“You should really watch this, John,” Rassilon started before being interrupted by one of the agent’s voices on the screen.

“Stay still,” he heard her bark at his soulmate.

“She’s quite… attractive,” Rassilon continued, further enraging him. Biting his lip as he continued to look away, he willed himself to calm down but found it near impossible. How dare this… this cretin... this, this… sick bastard… look at Rose that way.

The sound of tearing fabric and a hiss of discomfort found his ears, making him close his eyes.

“Oh my. Beautiful breasts,” Rassilon commented. “Perhaps I should stop them and finish this search myself,” he added.

Gritting his teeth, the Doctor kept his head down. It was taking everything he had - every stitch of willpower - not to reach over and choke the life out of his uncle. As much as he wanted to literally end the man beside him, he had to keep it together. For Rose’s sake.

The sound of movement and grunts of discomfort continued to fill the room, making the Doctor nearly beside himself with anxiety for his soulmate. It was then that three horrifying words issued from the speakers above them.

“Open your mouth.”

Panic flew through him as his mind processed the command. Eyes shooting to the screen, his heart nearly tore in half even as fear gripped him. Rose was naked; her glorious body leaning forward against the metal table with her cuffed hands awkwardly beneath her. Blood dripped down her arm from between her shoulder blades as the agent behind her pushed Rose’s front more firmly against the tabletop. Gripping and pulling Rose’s hair so her head was tilted up, she held her firm so it was easier for the woman on the other side of the table to force her jaw open. A pained sound issued from his precious girl again as fingers dug into her cheek to pull it away from her teeth.

He wanted to scream. He wanted to yell at her to run. He wanted to kill them. Kill them all for doing this to her.

“Oh my god,” Agent Racnoss intoned, looking up at the camera. “I found one, sir,” she affirmed. “I found a mark.”

Terror instantly clogged the Doctor’s throat and thickened the breath in his lungs. A choking sound escaped him. They’d found it. They’d found her.

Rassilon grinned beside him. “Well. That’s something, isn’t it?” he said mildly. Turning his head, he studied his adversary. “And you could’ve saved us so much trouble,” he observed. “Still. Now we know. Rose Tyler. Dr. John Smith’s markmate.”

Chapter Text

“Tell me… are you in a relationship at the moment?” the agent in front of her asked.

Rose blinked. Her? “No. Not at the moment,” she shared. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“But you have been in a relationship in the past? Maybe recently?” Grayvas pressed.

A sudden and intense sadness welled up in her with the question. Had she? “Not really.” To her surprise, she realized she’d just said that statement out loud. Feeling she should clarify, she added, “I mean - I thought… but it didn’t work out,” she said, feeling the heavy truth of it. “He… he met someone else.”

“Right. And what was his name?” the agent asked.

John. John Smith is his name. “It’s not important,” she replied instead. “He’s moved on. And so have I.” The words were as much to convince herself of it as to placate this interrogating arse.

“Have you, now?”

The smug, condescending reply was just what she needed to find some reserve of confidence. “Yes. And now I’m dedicating myself to righting the injustice the Marked are suffering because of people like you and Saxon.”

“Well, aren’t you noble?”

’Yes. At least I try to be. But you wouldn’t know noble if it bit you in the arse,’ she replied in her head. Something in her told her to hold her tongue, however.

“You know what I think? I think you know more than you’re saying and I intend to get it out of you. But first thing’s first,” the agent said.

Standing, he opened the door. Two women entered with a covered tray; one was a stout blonde woman in her mid to late 30s and the other was an intense looking, high cheekboned woman around the same age. Both wore SMITE uniforms and were gloved.

“This is Agent Blon and Agent Racnoss,” her interrogator introduced. “They will be conducting a strip search to make sure you aren’t marked.”

“What?!” Rose exclaimed, her eyes widening.

“Standard procedure for everyone known to be an Inclusionist,” the older agent said, clearly pleased to be able to inform her.

“But… you can’t do this. This can’t be legal!” she tried. Surely no one with any morals at all would agree to this.

“I promise you that what happens here is sanctioned by the highest authorities. Now be a darling and cooperate with these nice agents. The entire affair will be much more pleasant if you do.”

Pleasant? There was nothing about any of this that sounded pleasant. “Listen…” she tried as the man turned to leave, “I promise you… I’m not marked. Not that I’d be ashamed if I was,” she qualified. “In fact, I wish I was. I wish I’d been blessed enough to be someone’s soulmate. But I haven’t been. Look,” she said, awkwardly tugging up her sleeves and leaning over her cuffed hands to unbutton the top couple buttons of her ruffley blouse to expose her collarbones and neck. “See? Nothing.”

The agent’s eyebrows rose and he nodded his head in approval before he raised his arms in an emphatic gesture and announced, “Well, then. Let’s call this all off and go home, agents. Ms. Tyler says she’s not marked!”

Both female agents chuckled.

Dropping the mock celebratory demeanor, the agent regarded her tiredly. “Do you think we’re that foolish that we’d simply take people’s word for it? And your little display of skin says absolutely nothing, my dear. As I’m quite positive you actually know, a mark can show up anywhere on a person,” he informed her. “Anywhere,” he added significantly.

Rose swallowed thickly. Anywhere?

“Do a good job agents,” the elderly man said, directing his charges. “Be very, very thorough.” With that, he left the room.

The agents remaining wasted no time moving in, making Rose instinctively try to close herself off. Her hands were still fastened to the table, however, making her efforts quite fruitless.

“Stand up,” the one Grayvas had called ‘Racnoss’ insisted, rolling the trolley over before pulling the chair out from under her.

Rather than end up with her knees on the floor, Rose stood. Before she knew what was going on the woman called ‘Blon’ had undone the zip at the back of her skirt and had yanked it down her legs. To her horror, then, she felt fingers slip under the seam of her knickers as well and they were likewise unceremoniously pulled down. “Step out,” the thick agent instructed.

Before giving her the chance to comply, however, the other agent tugged at her left leg to lift it, making her nearly lose her balance. Her high heel was yanked from her foot as her knickers were pulled down over her ankles. Her right leg was pulled off the ground a mere second after her left foot hit the floor so the same actions could be repeated. Beneath her, her skirt and pants were whisked away, leaving her naked from the waist down.

“Spread your legs,” Agent Blon insisted, kicking her legs apart and pulling them back further from the table so she now stood leaning forward, her hands cuffed and working to support her as she stood spread before the two agents.

Embarrassed heat coloured her cheeks and chest with the indignity as adrenaline coursed through her. Looking around to see if there was any way at all she might be able to get herself out of this, a blinking red light in the corner of the room caught her eye. The camera. Oh god. How many others were watching this as well? Hot tears prickled in her eyes.

The click of a flashlight found her ears as gloved hands touched her inner thighs. In moments her cheeks were pulled apart, obviously to see if any tiny mark existed in her privates. She squirmed away at first in an effort to stop them, but one of the women merely grabbed her harder and pulled at her more fiercely making her gasp. “Stay still,” she was instructed gruffly. There was no point fighting this, she realized quickly, as the women examined her. It would be over sooner if she just complied.

Giving up her struggles, she closed her eyes and tried to imagine she was somewhere else. She was… she was walking down the street, looking in shop windows. Looking at flowers. Roses. Imagining a warm hand in hers, she gazed in the window with all the flower arrangements…

A stab of pain shot through her back as sharp scissors pierced her skin making her hiss in a pained breath. The blouse she’d been wearing slid down and off her shoulders as the cut fabric fell to pool around her cuffed hands. Her bra quickly followed as a trickle of blood dribbled from the middle of her back to drip to the tabletop from it’s path down her arm.

“Stand up,” the woman on her right instructed. Doing the best she could given her shackled hands, she moved closer to the table so she was more upright. In seconds, hands were manipulating her arms so the agents could look under her armpits and down her sides for a mark. Lifting her breasts, one of them looked again, for any indication she might be one of ‘them’.

Once again, Rose closed her eyes and tried to picture standing before the flower shop. Looking up, in her imaginary world, she caught the Doctor’s expressive eyes looking down into hers and felt a contentedness spread through her, warming her like a comforting blanket.

Without warning, she was pushed from behind so her torso landed on top of the table; her own cuffed hands digging into her sternum. “Open your mouth,” Rose suddenly heard from someone standing in front of her. A cruel hand gripped her hair to yank her head back and in moments the smaller woman pulled her mouth open making her grunt. Squeezing her eyes shut, she couldn’t help but groan in pain as the agent tugged firmly at her cheek.

“Oh my god,” a voice breathed as all movement stilled with Rose’s cheek still pulled taught away from her teeth. “I found one, sir,” the woman pointing the flashlight in her mouth stated. “I found a mark.”

Rose’s eyes popped open with the statement. What?!

“Bring the camera over, Agent Blon,” the woman instructed.

The agent behind her let her hair go, but Rose didn’t move, as her cheek was still firmly in the other woman’s grip. Pulling her tissue impossibly further from her mouth so a camera could be inserted, Rose moaned with pain as the agents presumably took a photo.

Finally letting go of her face, Rose’s head dropped involuntarily so her forehead rested on the table. Discomfort, embarrassment, pain and amazement all vied for her attention as she worked to make sense of what was going on.

A mark. She… she had a mark? But… but how? Who?!

Of course, without any further thought she knew who it had to be. The Doctor. Nothing else made sense! The ceaseless longing she had for him. The cloying need to be with him and the senseless sadness she’d felt when she even considered not seeing him again. It couldn’t be anyone but him.

“Go get Grayvas,” she heard one of the women in the room say. With the whirlwind of questions circling in her mind, she barely noticed the cool air fanning her as the cell door opened and closed again.

But if the Doctor was her soulmate, who was this other woman Jack had been talking about?

Suddenly Donna’s words at the rally floated through her mind. ”Jack told me to take care of her,” she’d said. Why would Jack want her taken care of unless he was trying to protect her from SMITE? Unless he knew she was the Doctor’s soulmate? But how did Jack know she was marked in the first place? She hadn’t even known she was marked!

Then it occurred to her. There was only one way Jack could’ve known.

Rose’s eyes suddenly filled with tears. The Doctor. Her mark was in her bloody mouth! When she’d gone in to see him because her gums had been bothering her… it’d been her mark forming and he’d seen it! But that meant… that meant he’d known since… since before she even asked him out.

But why… why hadn’t he told her? Why?!

The pain of the revelation suddenly made tears rent their banks. He’d known and he hadn’t told her.

 

OoOoOoOoO

 

Barely able to pull air into his lungs, the Doctor stared dumbfounded at the screen. The terror he’d felt on the fear of her discovery was nothing compared to his fear for her now. Rose had been discovered. His Rose. His soulmate. She was now a target and there was nothing he could do about it. Except beg. Which he immediately set upon doing.

“Please, Rassilon,” he said, turning to his uncle. “Uncle Dalton. Please. Let her go. She’s done nothing to anyone. She isn’t a threat to you,” he pleaded unabashedly. There was no more time for subtlety, games or ego. He needed her released.

Rassilon raised his eyebrows. “I’m Uncle Dalton, now, am I? Mmm. Amazing how quickly things change. A few minutes ago I was evil incarnate and now I’m back to being a dear relative,” he marvelled.

“I’ll call you anything you like. Uncle Dalton, Rassilon, Your Lordship… anything. Just please, please let her go,” he entreated.

Rassilon released a huff through his nose and gazed back up at the screen where Rose’s naked form was still leaned over the table. Only one of the agents was left in the room with her now.

“A bit young for you, don’t you think, John?” Rassilon said critically, his eyes scanning her bare form. “So young.”

The Doctor swallowed, trying to stomp his disgust and anger into submission so he could work this moment to his advantage. “Yes. She’s young. She’s only 21. And it’s not her fault she’s marked. She had no say in that and neither did I,” he explained. “She’s an innocent, young woman who is nothing to you. You have me. You want to make an example of someone, make an example of me. Just… let her go. Let her live her life. No one has to know she’s marked,” he argued.

Rassilon studied him for a moment. “We already plan to make an example of you, John. Surely you’ve already worked that out.”

Just then, Grayvas entered the room, clearly eager to discuss the news about the Doctor’s soulmate. Obviously not wishing to interrupt His Lordship, however, he waited while his boss continued.

“And I’m afraid your Rose Tyler has created a rather sticky situation for herself, now that she’s openly supported the Inclusionist movement. There’s not going to be an easy exit for her. In fact, because of her now very public support for the Inclusionists, I believe she may be the perfect candidate to take part in our research study.”

“What? What study?” the Doctor demanded.

“Well, it’s funny you should ask,” Rassilon smiled. “Agent Grayvas, here, is in charge of the research division. Grayvas, tell the boy what the study is all about,” he all but purred.

Looking with some trepidation up at Grayvas, the Doctor felt his stomach clench. Whatever this was about, it was clearly anything but good.

“Absolutely. The point of the study is to measure the effects of various physically taxing stimulus on the manipulation of genetic expression in marked individuals,” he explained. Misreading the look of sheer horror on the Doctor’s face as being an expression of confusion, he clarified, “We’re determining what can cause the Marked to mutate in a more extreme way and we’re measuring the effects of each stimulus on the level of mutation,” he explained.

“So you’re experimenting on people because you think… what? That we can grow wings? Develop telekinesis? Shoot lasers from our eyes? Are you daft?! We can’t bloody mutate,” the Doctor spat in disgust. “We’re not aliens, we’re human beings, for Christ’s sake!”

“Ahhh, but how sure are you of that?” Rassilon inserted.

“What a ridiculous question,” the Doctor shot back. “Of course I’m sure! My father was human and so am I. Other than the mark and an empathetic link to my soulmate, I’m just like you and every other human on the planet,” he added.

“Ah. You see; that’s where you’re wrong, I’m afraid,” Rassilon informed him.

Grayvas nodded in support of Rassilon’s comment. “Your uncle is completely correct. You, yourself are living, breathing evidence that the Marked are much less like humans than previously imagined,” Grayvas assured him.

“What?! How am I evidence?” the Doctor challenged.

“You see, we discovered an unexpected reaction of the Marked to the Chameleon Arch,” Grayvas clarified. “The Marked individuals who had been subjected to it seemed to… change. At first we were alerted to continued chest pains, headaches, and shortness of breath. That sort of thing,” he elaborated. “It wasn’t until the Arch was used a second and third time on the same subjects that the mutations began becoming more obvious. Unfortunately, our first couple of subjects didn’t tolerate repeated exposure to the Arch, so we moved to trying other physiologically taxing agents,” he said, fully caught up in his explanation.

The Doctor’s mind reeled. “You people are… how can you do this? You’re torturing people! Who does that?!”

“Responsible leaders who care about the safety of the country. No… not just the country. The entire human race,” Rassilon stated. “Your kind are a menace. It’s just a matter of teasing out the extent of the threat and then sharing our findings with the world,” Rassilon stated.

“And to do that, we will show, without doubt, that extremely dangerous genetic mutations in the Marked can be brought on if the Marked come into contact with everyday toxins and physiological stressors,” Grayvas added. “We will prove that the Marked could purposefully encourage dramatic mutations on their own, putting their community and innocent people at risk. For starters, we know the Chameleon Arch acts much like, say, an electric current if applied directly to the scalp, so it’s possible your kind could attempt to bring on mutations in that manner, but we will prove there are many other stressors that can result in extreme mutations,” Grayvas supplied.

“And that’s where your very own Rose Tyler will come in,” Rassilon finished.

The Doctor blanched. They were going to experiment on her? Torture her?! “No! You can’t do that,” he commanded, standing. “You could kill her!”

“Yes, well… we hope not. That’s certainly not the plan. Not right away, at any rate,” Rassilon replied, pulling himself to stand as well.

“Rassilon,” the Doctor tried one last time, “Don’t do this. She’s just an innocent girl. You don’t need her for this,” he said, moving to stand directly in front of him. “Take me instead. Test me. What difference does it make who you make an example of? Use me!” he insisted.

A smug smirk tugged at Rassilon’s lips. “To be honest, John,” Rassilon said with mock empathy, “Grayvas here had initially insisted that you be the next candidate, but I’m not convinced it’s the right move,” he said.

“Of course it would be,” the Doctor argued, desperate to change his uncle’s sick mind. “I’m your nephew. Make me your poster boy for what the people should fear from the Marked,” he pleaded. Rassilon appeared to be waffling, so he pushed ahead. “It would be showing impartiality,” he tried. “And it would prove your hardened conviction that, no matter who they are… even if it’s one of your family... the Marked have to be dealt with.”

Rassilon seemed to actually consider the idea now, making the knot in the Doctor’s stomach loosen minutely. “It would please me to no end to publicly disown you and your mutant genetic aberration from our family,” his uncle allowed.

“You see?! I’m clearly the better candidate,” the Doctor pushed.

Looking to Grayvas, Rassilon raised an eyebrow. The Doctor darted his gaze just in time to see Grayvas nod infinitesimally.

Issuing a long suffering sigh, Rassilon finally conceded. “Yes, alright. You will be the next test subject,” he allowed.

“I only have one demand,” the Doctor insisted.

Rassilon’s brows furrowed. “Demand? That’s a bit presumptuous, isn’t it, John? I don’t know that you’re in the position to demand anything.”

“You won’t harm her. You won’t experiment on her. Even if I don’t make it. Do you understand?”

“And what, exactly, could you possibly offer that would entice me to make such a promise,” Rassilon replied. “Your demand-”

Grayvas stepped forward, though, interrupting Rassilon’s thought. “Wait, Dalton. There is one thing he could offer in exchange for such a promise,” Grayvas put out.

Rassilon seemed intrigued. “Go on.”

With an almost triumphant air, Grayvas turned toward the Doctor. “You will say, on camera, for all the nation… no… for the world to hear... that your government is right about the Marked. You will admit that you, personally, have incited violence and have encouraged terrorist acts by using your mind control and that you are confident other Marked individuals are using their powers for the same reasons.”

Looking between the two men, the Doctor felt his entire body drain of hope. He couldn’t possibly agree to that. It would destroy any hope of freedom and equal treatment for the Marked. “I can’t do that,” he said lowly. “I just can’t.”

The Doctor’s answer hung in the air for a moment before Rassilon replied cooly, “Why am I not surprised? He’s utterly incapable of putting someone else before his own pompous agenda. And someone he purports to care about, no less,” his uncle added, shaking his head. “I’m wonder if perhaps we should include Ms. Tyler in the research project now just on principle,” he added.

“No! You said…”

“I never promised you anything, John,” Rassilon shot back. “And since you are unwilling to sacrifice your lofty morals to ensure her continued safety, I feel no compunction to offer her clemency.”

“Rassilon… please,” he entreated, “I can’t do what you’re asking. It would put the Marked… no - People, Uncle Dalton, real flesh and blood human beings… it would make them targets for open hatred. People could be hurt - even killed,” he pointed out, desperately hoping to talk some sense into this man. He had to have some level of goodness in him?

“Then I suppose you’ve made your choice, John,” Rassilon said evenly before turning toward the door. In moments, he and Grayvas were gone.

Chapter Text

“Get dressed,” Agent Racnoss directed, throwing a blue hospital-type gown in Rose’s direction. Grabbing up the proffered garment, she quickly wrapped it around herself and tied the ties in the front of it so it covered everything important.

“So. Who’s the unlucky bloke, then?” Racnoss inquired with lifted eyebrows. Rose merely rubbed her tender, blessedly uncuffed wrists without even looking the agent’s way. “I heard it’s someone already in custody. I bet it’s that ‘Danny Pink’ bloke. Bet you go for the coloureds. Or maybe it’s that skinny doctor. What is it? Smith?” she tried. Rose couldn’t help but shoot the woman a glare. How could anyone be so callous about people?

“Ah. So it’s him then,” she said, grinning. Rose couldn’t help but think the woman would’ve made a better venomous spider than a human being. “You know he’s part of the research project, yeah?” the noxious agent said idly.

Rose looked up. “What research project?”

“Ah. Got your attention now?” Racnoss taunted.

“What are you doing to him?” Rose demanded as a wave of protectionism filled her. He was her soulmate. Her very own soulmate. And she’d be damned if she’d let anyone hurt him now that she knew he was meant for her. Of course, that didn’t mean she wouldn’t be demanding a very good explanation as to why he hadn’t told her about her mark.

“I’m not doing anything,” Racnoss said. “SMITE is using him as a test subject. At least that’s what I hear. Some experiment to find out -”

That’s when the door opened. A familiar man walked in… someone she’d seen before. Then it clicked into place. This was the Doctor’s uncle. Lord Rassilon.

“You may leave now,” the man said to the female agent. It took no time for the woman to respond and in seconds they were alone.

“What are you doing to the Doctor,” Rose demanded before Rassilon even had the chance to speak.

“My. A feisty one, then,” he observed. “I should’ve known John’s markmate would be someone with a healthy disregard for authority,” he added.

Without acknowledging his comment, Rose tried again. “What are you doing to John?”

“Well, I suppose it can’t hurt to share what he’s been up to for these past couple of days,” he acknowledged. Sitting across from her, he gestured toward the chair closest to her. “Have a seat.”

Doing as he directed, mostly in an effort to appear like she was ready to listen, she sat.

“We brought him in about…” he looked at his watch, “Oh my. It’s been over 24 hours. Doesn’t time just fly when justice is being done?” he quipped.

Rose didn’t reply, mostly so that he’d just bloody keep talking. She needed to know where he was. How he was.

“Anyhow… did you know that John is my nephew?” Rassilon said in a rapid change of topic.

Rose took a deep breath. “Yes. I knew.”

“Oh,” he replied, taken aback. “He told you, did he? Well…” he trailed off, seeming to consider this. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m sure he made sure you knew what a horrible upbringing he had at my hand,” he proposed.

“Actually, he didn’t really have much to say about you at all,” she pointed out. “He was mostly sad for his parent’s passing,” she admitted, recalling the Doctor’s distress when he talked about it.

Rassilon looked at her for a moment, clearly processing the comment. “I see,” he said. Then, in another rapid change of topic, he said, “You should know that John tried to hold back from identifying you as his mate, but failed rather miserably in the end. All it took was your face on the screen in his cell and I knew you were the his markmate. Never been good at acting, that one,” he said, looking up at the ceiling.

An unanticipated thrill shot through her with the comment, but she quickly admonished herself. This clearly wasn’t the time to celebrate that he was as protective of her as she was of him.

“Anyway,” Rassilon continued, “he is hopeless for you, but apparently not hopeless enough to make sure we wouldn’t add you to our research roster,” he admitted.

“What do you mean?” she asked, unable to hold herself back.

“I mean, Ms. Tyler, that he wasn’t willing to make a simple sacrifice in order to save you from a rather uncomfortable future. Sad, really, but not surprising. Your markmate is actually a remarkably selfish lad. Privileged and pompous, just like his father. When given the choice between saving you from the rigors of the research trials or defending his supposed ‘morals’, he chose the later. Sad, really. Though I’m really not surprised. He’s always been one for looking after his own agenda before considering others.”

“You’re wrong,” Rose found herself saying before she was even aware she was speaking.

“Am I?” Rassilon said, looking mildly amused.

“Yeah, you are. He protected me. From people like you. He tried to keep me from putting myself in harms way,” she retorted.

“Did he, now? Well, it’s odd, then, that you ended up ‘putting yourself in harm’s way’, as you say, by speaking so brazenly at the rally today. You’d think he’d have warned you to avoid such a public display of support for the Marked if he really cared about you,” he proposed.

Rose lowered her eyes. “If he’d have been there, I’m sure he’d have told me not to do it,” she admitted. “You already… he was here when I did it. And I didn’t know… I…” she trailed off.

“You didn’t know...what?” Rassilon asked, before obviously guessing what she was about to say, “You didn’t know you were marked? Is that what you were about to say?” The Doctor’s uncle huffed an incredulous breath through his nose.

“It… it was in my mouth,” she said. “I didn’t know it was there.”

“You can’t possibly expect me to believe that. Your markmate is your dentist. Surely he knew about it. He would’ve told you that you were his markmate,” Rassilon challenged.

Rose looked down at her hands. “He didn’t,” she said.

Seemingly considering her claim, Rassilon finally shook his head. “I’m afraid your story is rather unconvincing, Ms. Tyler. The man is genetically programmed to be with you. I doubt he’d have let you think you’re just another blonde chav to him instead to letting you know what you’re supposed to mean to him. Though, given his self-centeredness, I suppose it’s not out of the realm of possibility,” Rassilon considered.

“I’m not lying. And I don’t know why he didn’t tell me about it, but I’m sure he had a good reason,” Rose defended, not sure she sounded as confident as she meant to.

“Well, if you’re telling the truth, I imagine he would have to have a very good reason for keeping such a monumental fact from someone he should care about,” Rassilon said, letting that hang in the air for a moment. “But that’s really neither here nor there,” Rassilon continued. “What is important right now is that the man who is supposed to have protected you from harm has actually thrown you right in it’s way.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rose retorted.

“It means, my dear girl,” Rassilon breathed, moving to loom in front of her, “that he threw you right at me. Stand up,” he commanded, his voice suddenly hard.

Every single cell in her body ignited in alarm, but Rose sat taller, glaring up at the man in defiance.

“Did you not hear me? I said-”

But Rose didn’t hear the end of the sentence. All her attention was stolen by the sting of a full slap across her face.

Blinking stars away, she found herself reaching to touch where she’d been hit, only to have another, even more forceful smack land on her opposite cheek. Unbidden, gasp of pain escaped her with the contact.

“Now get up. You won’t like what will happen if I have to say it again.”

If she’d been frightened before, she now felt a brand new level of fear. This man had no qualms about hurting her, it seemed. Not that she hadn’t figured that out from the search they’d done for her mark, but she’d thought, maybe, at least the leader of this government run agency might show some level of control. This man, though, didn’t seem in the least worried to be leaving her face bruised, which meant there was obviously no limit to what they could do in here. There was clearly no one making sure the prisoners here were being treated fairly. Rose’s stomach knotted. What had that meant for the Doctor so far, then? What sort of pain had he suffered already?

A low growl issued from the man in front of her, prompting Rose back to the present. Without another moment passing, she climbed to her feet.

“There. That wasn’t so hard, was it?” he challenged, casting his eyes downward to study her. Despite Rose’s bag like covering, she felt remarkably exposed under this sick man’s gaze.

“I’m not sure if you’re aware,” he began, continuing his slow perusal of her form, “but the Doctor was seeing another blonde before you. Quite a remarkable woman, really. I actually had been tempted to place bets that she was his markmate, seeing as she was clearly much more appropriate for him. Well-off. Beautiful. Distinguished. Educated,” he listed off before pausing.

Rose’s belly tightened with the comment. She and the Doctor hadn’t gotten around to actually talking about his romantic past much. He’d certainly not mentioned this… remarkable woman.

“He watched her interrogation, you know. Like you were, she was naked through the procedure,” he pointed out, dropping his gaze to her own cloth covered breasts.

Instinctively lifting her arms to cross them in front of her, Rassilon instantly smacked them down, warning her with a stern look. “Don’t.”

Instantly, adrenaline shot through her, making her heart begin to race in fearful anticipation of his next move.

Leaning in, Rassilon breathed the next words in her ear, sending a shiver down her spine. “They searched her everywhere as well. They were… well, let’s just say they were very thorough,” he taunted, drawing a line down her arm with a long, cool finger. Biting her lip, Rose worked not to jump back.

“John seemed… very interested, I have to say,” he continued. “In fact, judging by his reaction to her, I thought he might be regretting how this ‘marked selection’ process played out for him,” he added. Backing away from her slightly to drag his eyes up and down her front in an apparent evaluation of her worth, he observed, “But, I suppose there’s no accounting for the expression of this… mutation.”

Despite being very aware that this evil bastard was purposefully trying to goad her, it was difficult not to let his words get to her. It was like he’d known her very deepest insecurities and uncovered them like a picked-at scab.

“Still. I suppose he’s not completely unlucky,” Rassilon said too softly. A large hand covered her right breast then, making her jerk back with a start.

Reaching out swiftly, Rassilon grasped her by the arm and pulled her back in even closer so her front pressed hard against his. Startled, Rose tried to insert her hands between them to push him away, but he held fast. Fisitng the fingers of his other hand in her hair, he yanked her head back fiercely before leaning in close to run his nose along the length of her neck up to her jaw.

A fearful sound escaped her with the sickening contact. “John will have nothing by the time I’m done with him,” he growled in her ear. “And the first thing he will lose is the chance for any positive memories about the first sexual experience he has involving you. I suspect he hasn’t fucked you yet. Am I right?” he breathed.

Oh god. Oh god, oh god...

“Am I right?!” he demanded, yanking her head back again cruelly so his eyes bore down into hers.

Clenching her jaw, she worked at reigning in her fear. This… prick… this sick, sick man wasn’t going to have the pleasure of seeing her beg. Forcing her anger to overtake her terror, Rose glared up into Rassilon’s pompous, evil visage. As forcefully as she could, she spat in his face.

Startled, he let her go, wiping at his mouth and nose violently as she fell backward to the floor. Scurrying up to her feet, she backed away and scooted around the table toward the door. Yanking it open, she plowed straight into the chest of a guard who’d been stationed there. Grabbing her, the agent held her firm despite her struggles to push past him. From behind, a large hand gripped her by the arm, pulling her backward and into the room again.

“You are going to be so sorry you even took a breath today,” Rassilon snarled. “Agent Benton - bring that new agent in. The one we interviewed. And fetch Dr. Crane.”

“Yes, sir,” the agent replied, moving off quickly.

OoOoOoOoO

“Arghhh,” the Doctor growled, ripping at his hair as he stared up at the screen. “Goddammit, Rassilon! Let her go!” he demanded as he had countless times since his uncle had shown up in Rose’s cell on the telly.

Clearly not hearing him, the man on the screen slammed Rose’s cell door closed again before dragging her cruelly back toward the table. His soulmate’s cry of fear and pain called to something in him so deep it was like he was living the terror and pain himself.

“No!” Rose shouted at his uncle, trying to resist being forced onto the table by grabbing at the talons fiercely digging into her flesh.

Without a word, Rassilon released her arm then, only to grab her fiercely again by the hair. Shoving her face downward, he bent her over the side of the table top and positioned himself behind her. With a feral growl, he yanked up her flimsy gown to expose her bare bottom to himself and the camera.

“Nooo!” Rose screamed, now clearly frantic.

“NOOOOO!” the Doctor shouted right alongside her.

Still holding his soulmate firmly, Rassilon looked up into the camera and into the Doctor’s eyes. “I could have her right now. Right here,” he snarled, rubbing himself firmly against Rose’s arse.

“You fucking bastard!” the Doctor yelled as Rose let out a frightened sound.

Reaching down, Rassilon squeezed Rose’s arse so hard she yelped.

“LET HER GO!”

Then, looking back up at the camera, Rassilon smiled demurely. “But despite her pleasing form and her clear desire for me, I’m above such vile acts,” he assured him, stepping back an inch and flipping Rose’s meager garment back over to hide her bottom once again. A sob of relief issued from his soulmate, despite Rassilon continuing to hold her still.

Just then, the cell door opened. “This man, however,” Rassilon continued, gesturing toward the man who now stood in the doorframe, “is likely not.”

The agent now staring at Rose’s half-prone form was a sturdy, sandy haired bloke. Cruelly, Rassilon turned Rose’s head and pressed it against the table again so that she faced the man standing by the door. A startled gasp escaped his soulmate, filling the Doctor with panicked fear. What?!

“Ms. Tyler. I’ve been made aware you’ve already met our newest hire, Agent Stone?”

“Hello, Rosie,” the bloke sneered.

“Noooo,” Rose moaned in terror as she made a renewed attempt to wriggle free of her captor. An emphatic thump of her head against the table, however, pulled a cry from her, but otherwise had the effect of stopping her from struggling further.

“This young man simply walked into our office earlier today after seeing you on television, you see. It seems he feels he was wrongly arrested for… what was it again? Oh yes - assault and battery,” Rassilon said significantly, looking up into the camera.

Assault and battery? Who-

Then it clicked. This was him. The bloke that had beaten his beautiful Rose to a pulp. Jimmy.

“He shared some very interesting facts about you, Ms. Tyler,” Rassilon went on, now addressing his precious girl. “Mr. Stone asserted that while you two were you were living together, you met someone else and began an affair. He shared that, during that time, he suspected you were not only cheating on him, but that you were marked. He further stated that you denied it,” he announced. “Is that right so far, Agent Stone?”

“Yes, sir,” Jimmy replied, a smirk decorating his fucking pompous face.

“Noooo,” Rose moaned again, sounding fully terrified.

“That rather goes against your story of not even knowing you were marked, doesn’t it?” Rassilon pointed out. “He also insisted that during your time with him, you used mind control to coerce him into doing violent acts so that you could have him imprisoned. That way you could ‘get him out of the way,’ so you’d be free to be with your markmate. You made him commit a crime and then made it look like he was a cruel, hateful man, when all he wanted was to be with you,” Rassilon said, tsk-ing in apparent disgust. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised anymore by what your kind is capable of.”

“Jimmy, please…” Rose entreated.

“Mr. Rassilon is right, Rose. You fuckin’ made me do it. This is all your fault. You did this to yourself,” he pointed out. “I was just a… a… pond in your chess game.”

“Yeeees,” Rassilon drawled, clearly barely containing an eye roll. Then, gesturing to someone outside the door, he stated, “Well, I suppose we should get on with things.”

A fresh wave of anxiety washed through the Doctor as a familiar white-coated bloke with glasses wheeled in the machine he’d been tortured with when he’d first arrived here.

Tugging Rose up to standing, Rassilon maneuvered her to sit in the chair at the table. Nodding to the guard the Doctor recognized as Benton, Rassilon moved aside to let the agent cuff Rose to the table once again. Once that was done, he smiled up at the camera. “No doubt this will bring back some unpleasant memories for you, dear boy, but I’m afraid the safety of our agents is always paramount. Can’t have her using her ‘mind control’ on any of us, can we, John?” he said, raising a sarcastic eyebrow.

With the use of his name, Rose’s head shot up. “John?” she echoed, her eyes wide.

“Oh - I forgot to mention earlier, my dear. John has been watching this whole time. Wave to the cam-,” he said before cutting himself off with a chuckle. “I guess you can’t wave at the moment. How about you just give my nephew a pretty smile, then,” he suggested, looking up into the lens.

“Doctor!” she shouted at the camera, looking desperate.

“I’m here, Rose!” he shouted back uselessly.

“Doctor - I… I wish you’d have told me. Why didn’t you tell me? I would’ve done more-”

“Blah, blah, blahhh,” Rassilon interrupted, walking around the table to the door. “Really, my dear? Still denying you didn’t know?” Turning to Jimmy and Benton, he directed, “Arch her. Call me when it’s done.”

“Yes, sir,” Benton and Jimmy both replied smartly.

Turning to the bookish looking gentleman manning the Chameleon Arch, he instructed more calmly. “Make it worthwhile, Dr. Crane.”

“Yes, sir. Absolutely, my lord,” he replied.

With that, Rassilon swept out of the room, pulling the door closed behind him.

Chapter Text

Knocking on the door, Donna stood back and waited, pulling her jacket a bit tighter around her. From behind her, Lee gave her a reassuring squeeze, which she welcomed by leaning back into him a bit. Honestly, she wasn’t sure if the chill she felt was due to the evening air or the looming pall of unease that had been shrouding the city since the rally this morning.

A shiver ran through her with the memory. People screaming and yelling, children crying, anti-markist supporters cheering and shouting profanities as Inclusionists were loaded onto buses; it'd been completely mad. It'd been pure luck that she and Rory managed to dodge the surrounding SMITE agents and had escaped the mayhem without a scratch. She would never forget that look on Saxon’s face, though. He was the very personification of evil. Of that, she was sure.

After a few quiet moments, her grandad spoke, jolting her from her memories. “Reckon she’s out?” he asked.

“Maybe,” Donna allowed, moving forward again to put her ear to the door. Blimey, she really hoped they hadn’t come all the way out here for nothing.

Just then, the wooden surface pulled away from her cheek making her quickly right herself. Standing on the other side of the door was a blonde woman in her early forties. This had to be Rose’s mother.

“Hello,” Donna said, putting on a friendly smile. “I’m-”

“Donna? Oh, thank GOD!” the woman said, pulling her in for an wholly unexpected hug. As quickly as it’d started, though, it ended. Pulling back suddenly, the lady’s face suddenly filled with concern. “You are Donna, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I'm Donna,” she assured her. But how-”

“No one followed you, yeah?” Rose’s mother interrupted, darting a suspicious look past her, her grandad and Lee, to scour both sides of the walkway.

“No, I don’t think so,” Donna assured her. They’d been careful to take as roundabout a way as possible here from Lee’s place to avoid that very possibility.

Apparently satisfied with her answer, Rose’s mother quickly waved them in. “Come in come in,” she insisted.

Filing into the narrow hall, her grandad had barely closed the door behind them before Jackie was filling them in. “They said you might come,” she announced. “I’m Jackie Tyler, by the way. Rose’s mum. But then you knew that,” she conceded. “Any news about my Rose?”

“I’m sorry, no,” Donna admitted. “I wish we had some. But we are going to do everything we can to bring her home,” she added, looking to Lee and her grandad for support. Taking their cue, Lee and Wilf both nodded in agreement.

Offering a sad smile in acknowledgement of the statement, Jackie’s eyes suddenly glistened. “Thank-you,” she managed, pushing her lips into a thin line in an attempt to hold back her tears. They all stood there for a moment longer before Jackie suddenly broke the silence. “Oh, for heaven’s sake,” she began, “I haven’t even invited you in,” she said, “Please,” she said, gesturing for them to move further into the flat.

It was only a few steps before Donna heard voices coming from the living room up ahead and in moments she was confronted with a room full of people. To say she was surprised was an understatement.

“Donna! Lee!” Ianto sang out, running to give her a hug.

In moments the entire room seemed to be bearing down on them, welcoming them with hugs and cheek kisses and “Thank God you’re alright”s.

“Blimey,” Donna finally was able to gasp once enough people had pulled away from her. “I can’t believe you’re all here!” she admitted, taking in the room. Not only had Ianto found Rose’s mother, but it seemed he’d brought with him Gwen, Owen, Tosh, and-

“Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North,” the prim, but slightly harried looking MP said in greeting, holding up her lanyard as she offered Donna her hand.

“Um, yes, I know who you are,” she acknowledged. ”Hello again.”

Behind her two other familiar faces emerged to greet her as well. “Hi, Donna,” Martha said in greeting.

“Oh, thank-god,” Donna said, pulling the woman in for a hug. “I’m so glad you’re alright,” she shared.

“Yeah. Me too,” she agreed with a lopsided smile. “You remember Mickey?” she added, looking over her shoulder at the man standing directly behind her.

“Yeah - hello again,” she said.

“Donna, where’s Rory? I thought he was with you?” Ianto interrupted, clearly concerned.

“Don’t worry - he escaped the rally with me,” Donna quickly assured him, “but after we got back to granddad’s he headed back to his girlfriend Amy’s. She hasn’t been well, and he didn’t want to put her at risk, so he’s taken her to Scotland to see her family,” she explained.

Ianto released a relieved sigh. “That’s good.”

“Sit down, sit down,” Jackie’s voice piped up from behind her. Turning, she found a kitchen chair being placed directly behind her.

“Thanks,” she replied, before doing as she was bid. Lee and her granddad were similarly invited to be seated and cups of tea were placed in their hands before Jackie took the seat beside hers.

“Mickey was just sharing what he knows about SMITE,” Ianto said by way of introduction to the conversation as he sat across from them.

“Right,” Mickey said, taking over. “So, SMITE took busloads of protesters to their headquarters, as you saw,” he shared. “They’ve been interrogating and then releasing most of the people they took from the rally, but they’re holding anyone they feel is a possible threat. Unfortunately that would include Rose,” he said, looking solemnly at Jackie. “Captain Jack is being held as well, as is the Doctor, as you know.”

“How do you know all this?” Donna asked, surprised by his insight.

“Mickey has contacts at MI5 because of his job,” Martha shared.

“That’s right,” Mickey agreed. “Anyhow, the good news is that there may be a way we can get them out of there.”

Donna felt a surge of hope. “Well, what are we waiting for?” she urged.

“It’s complicated,” Gwen put in.

“Yeah,” Mickey agreed. “You see, we could probably figure out a way to break in and drag them out of there, but then they’d just be considered fugitives and so would we,” he explained. “The only way we can make this work… I mean, really make a change, is if people find out what they’re really up to in there,” he added. “It’s the only way we can show what this anti-markist government is aiming for. It’s the only way people will stand up for the Marked.”

“What do you mean? What’s going on in there?” Jackie inserted, clearly distressed.

Reaching over, Donna took her hand. She didn’t know exactly what was happening in the bowels of the SMITE building, but she had a terrifying theory. It was confirmed with the truly mournful look on Mickey’s face. “I mean… it’s probably not easy for them in there,” he tried.

Jackie’s eyes welled with tears. “Oh, god…”

Hugging Jackie into her shoulder, Donna rubbed her arm. A stifled sob issued from Rose’s mother through the hands covering her face. “Shhh. We’re going to get them out of there,” Donna promised, meaning it. She had no idea how they were going to achieve it, but she wasn’t going to stop until they succeeded.

“So what’s the plan, then?” Tosh asked. “Obviously we can’t just march in there and demand to see their prisoners. How are we going to prove they’re being mistreated?”

“That’s not the worst of what we have to prove, unfortunately,” Mickey added significantly, tossing a look at Jackie. “My source at MI5 tells me there are bigger things going on at SMITE. Things that prove the government is trying to justify mass genocide.”

The room quieted with the weight of the statement. After a moment, Ianto spoke up. “What can we do?”

Mickey looked around the room, taking in all of their faces. “We have to use my contacts at MI5 to infiltrate SMITE and gather evidence. Video footage. Documents,” he listed.

“Documents?” Jackie said, incredulously. “We don’t need documents - we need to get my Rose out of there,” she insisted, sitting up straighter. “We need to save my daughter and that Doctor and your friend,” she demanded.

Grief filled Donna’s chest with Jackie’s words. She felt the same way. Her own brother was in there. Every cell in her body was telling her to just fuck the rest of the world. They had to save him. They had to get him, and the Doctor and Rose out of there. But her head knew better than her heart. This couldn’t just be about getting their families and friends out of there. This had to be about that and making a bigger change. Surely they could do both.

“Ms. Tyler… Jackie...” Harriet Jones stepped in, “I honestly can’t imagine what you must be going through. And it’s killing me that people are suffering in that blasted place,” she continued, “but unless we prove they are doing something wrong in there, people will just continue to support this government. They’re trying to create fear in people and it’s working. We need to prove that they’re the ones we should be afraid of.”

Jackie swiftly rounded on the MP, “And what do you know about this?! It isn’t your daughter that’s being tortured in there,” she accused. “Don’t tell me I have to put the good of everyone else ahead of my baby!”

“Jackie,” Mickey stepped in, “We’ll get Rose out of there. We’re going to get them all out of there as soon as we can, yeah? I promise. Rose is my first priority, okay?”

His words seemed to hit their mark, but that didn’t stop Jackie from threatening his life… no - all their lives... if he failed in his promise. Donna smiled. It was a sentiment Donna could get behind.

“So, say we get this evidence,” Owen put in, “and I think that’s a long shot, by the way… what happens then? We can’t just show up at the BBC and hand them USB sticks. We have no idea who to trust over there right now. How many of them are anti-markists?”

“Well, that’s where we were hoping you might be able to help, Jackie,” Mickey said.

Jackie’s eyes widened. “Me? How can I help?”

The sudden sound of the front door opening instantly alerted everyone in the room. “What-” Jackie said, standing in alarm. Standing right along with her, Donna’s breath quickened as Mickey moved stealthily toward the hall. Reaching in his jacket… blimey! Was that a gun?!

Suddenly, a suited balding man in his forties appeared, blinking in surprise.

“Don’t move!” Mickey commanded, aiming an actual gun at the intruder.

“Jacks, what the hell is going on?!” the man demanded, his hands flying up into the air.

Without warning, Jackie suddenly dashed toward the bloke and wrapped him in a bone crushing hug which he emphatically returned.

“Wha-” Mickey started, lowering his weapon.

“That’s Pete Tyler,” Martha said, moving over to Mickey’s side.

“Ohhhhh…” he replied, now understanding. “Just the person we were looking for.”

 

OoOoOoOoO

 

The Chameleon Arch hummed along as if nothing more was happening in Rose’s cell than perhaps someone was heating food. All the other sounds issuing from that dark, grey space told a very different story, however. Those sounds coming from the woman he loved most in the world… they told the most horrific story in the universe. Her cries spoke of unjust torment and unrelenting agony. Her wails pleaded for mercy on her behalf and her anguished keening demanded her release. But no one was listening it seemed. No one but him. Oh, and he heard it. He heard every call for him. Every plea that he please, please help her.

Crouched in a ball, rocking back and forth, he made himself watch the screen above him as her torture went on and on. He had no right to look away. He deserved to share in every moment of her torment. It was his fault she was there. If it weren’t for him and his bloody gob, both of them would likely be free tonight. Instead, he’d landed them both here and she was suffering for it. Beyond suffering. The agony she was experiencing right now was a feeling he would never ever forget. She was burning.

“Put it higher,” he heard Rose’s ex insist as he walked around to kneel beside her chair; his sick, leering grin proving he was loving every moment of his soulmate’s pain.

“No! You can’t!” the Doctor insisted, jumping to his feet.

“I don’t think that’s wise,” he heard Dr. Crane reply, looking across Jimmy to consult the other agent.

“Oi,” Jimmy said, standing and moving to confront the doctor. “I gave you an order, yeah? Now make it go higher,” he commanded.

“No!” the Doctor cried. His precious girl was already writhing in the chair; her head thrown back and her mouth open. Her eyes were screwed shut, as if squeezing them closed would block the pain. It was pure, uncensored anguish. Any more and she’d die. He knew it in his heart. His soulmate would die.

And he couldn’t let that happen. Not ever. That was something he also knew in his soul. He could never allow that to happen if there was any way he could stop it. And as much as he knew he mustn’t put the lives of other Marked on the line for his own selfish need of her, he knew now he was a lesser man than that. This was about Rose. Only Rose. He would deal with the consequences of his actions later. First he had to ensure she was safe, then he’d worry about the state of the world.

Drawing up his resolve, he stood to his full height and raised his voice. “Rassilon! Listen to me! I… I’ll do it! I’ll say whatever you want! Just stop this!” he shouted.

On the screen, the older gentleman shook his head. “It’s too risky,” he said in response to Jimmy’s command.

“Oh for God’s sake, old man. Get out of my way,” Jimmy commanded, none-to-gently pushing the man aside to step in front of the Arch. Staring at the controls before him, he reached out and turned one.

An excruciating scream tore from Rose’s throat.

“NOOOOOOOOO!!!!” the Doctor shouted, pulling at his hair as Rose continued howling in agony. “Rassilon! STOP!”

“Turn it off,” a voice of reason insisted from the screen. Benton.

Rose’s eyes were now wide open. Golden flecks sparkled and flicked in them as the current from the machine coursed through her mind.

“STOOOOOP!!!!!” the Doctor shouted again uselessly.

“I said, TURN IT OFF!” Benton hollered, striding over to push Jimmy out of the way so the doctor could once again take over control of the Arch.

Clambouring back into his place at the controls, Dr. Crane hurriedly fiddled with the machine, and in moments the hum of the Arch died off. Rose slumped down unconscious in the chair.

“Holy fuck,” Jimmy breathed, seemingly amazed.

Hot tears coursed down the Doctor’s cheeks as he stared, horrified, at the telly. Rose. Rose...

Moving to her side, Dr. Crane checked her pulse.

“Is she still alive?” Jimmy intoned.

The Doctor held his breath. Please. Please…

After a moment, Dr. Crane looked up solemnly at both Jimmy and Agent Benton. After a moment, he bowed his head.

The Doctor’s breath froze in his chest and his entire body went numb. She wasn’t gone. She couldn’t be gone. His entire existence… the reason he had now for being… it was her. If she was… if she was dead....

“Call Rassilon.”

Chapter Text

“Call Rassilon,” Dr. Crane’s voice said solemnly through the speakers.

NO! She wasn’t gone. She couldn’t be gone… the Doctor’s mind denied fervently. She was alive. She had to be.

“Why?” Jimmy asked.

“Because he wanted us to let him know when it was done,” the doctor replied.

“Oh my god. She’s dead, isn’t she?” Jimmy said, his eyes wide.

Looking to Benton, Dr. Crane’s jaw tensed. “No. She isn’t.”

A desperate sob of relief escaped the Doctor with the statement. Closing his eyes, another sob followed. Thank God! Thank fucking God!

“Blimey. That’s amazing. How can she still be alive after that?” he heard Jimmy say.

“You’re bloody lucky she’s alive,” Benton replied.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jimmy challenged.

“It means that if she’d died, Lord Rassilon would’ve had your head,” he replied.

“Yeah? Well… she didn’t, so lighten up,” Jimmy retorted stupidly. “She’s gonna be fine, right Doc?”

The Doctor moved closer to the telly, desperate to hear the answer he needed. She’d better be fine, he projected, knowing full well he’d personally make sure there would be no one in that room left that way in the end if she wouldn’t be.

Dr. Crane merely looked up at him. “She’ll recover in time. Get her a wheelchair. She’s not going to be walking to her cell anytime soon,” he replied.

Juxtaposing spears of fury and relief punctured the Doctor’s chest with the reply. Desperate relief in the knowledge that she’d recover. Fiery rage at the people who had caused her pain.

“Right,” Jimmy said, looking around. “Where do you keep them, then?”

“Oh, Good Lord,” Dr. Crane sighed, looking at Agent Benton.

“I’ll go get one,” Benton volunteered. With that, he left the room, apparently in search of a wheelchair for his broken soulmate.

That’s when the animal that Rose had once trusted moved to the door and closed it. Looking back at Dr. Crane, he directed, “Help me get her on the table, will ya?” Scooting back around to Rose’s side, he uncuffed her wrists from their bindings.

Horror pierced the Doctor’s heart once again. What was he planning?

“What for?” Dr. Crane asked.

“What do you think?” Jimmy replied, leaning Rose forward in the chair. “I’ll take her under the arms. You get her feet.”

“Lord Rassilon said-” Dr. Crane began.

“I’m sure Benton’s calling him right now. He just wanted to know what it was done, yeah? Well, it’s done,” Jimmy countered. “Now help me.”

The Doctor’s heart pounded in his chest as he watched the older doctor stare at Jimmy for a moment, clearly unsure. “Oh, for Christ’s sake,” Jimmy huffed, moving to hoist Rose from her chair by himself. Unceremoniously, he slumped her over to the table and dropped her across the top of it.

“This is not what Rassilon directed,” Dr. Crane pointed out, clearly not pleased with the direction this was going.

“He didn’t not direct it either, did he?” Jimmy countered, undoing his belt.

The flustered doctor stood taller. “This isn’t sanctioned, Agent Stone,” he warned.

“I’ll tell you what’s not sanctioned,” Jimmy challenged, levelling him a glare. “This fucking chav mutant isn’t sanctioned,” he said, gesturing at Rose. “Her and her… mutant friends…they want us dead. They don’t deserve to be fucking sanctioned for anything! What they deserve is to be fucked up the ass. That’s what they deserve. And I’m gonna do just that” he insisted, moving to roll Rose over onto her stomach.

“This… this is... I’m going to tell Agent Grayvas,” Dr. Crane warned, moving to the door.

“Fine. You fucking do that,” Jimmy retorted as Dr. Crane left the room, slamming the door shut behind him. Climbing up on the table, Jimmy knelt above the Doctor’s soulmate.

Dread and frantic anxiety nearly stole the Doctor’s breath as he watched Jimmy undo his zip. “Rassilon!” the Doctor shouted, moving to the door to pound on it. “For fuck’s sake! I’ll do it, I said! Stop this! Goddammit!!” he demanded.

Adrenaline shot through him as his cell door clanged beneath his fisted hands. Slamming open, the door pushed him back as an armed agent marched through it, aiming his weapon at the Doctor’s chest. “Rassilon!” the Doctor barked before the man showed himself.

To his frustration, however, it wasn’t his uncle. “I hate to disappoint, but I’m afraid Lord Rassilon is rather busy at the moment,” Grayvas informed him as he swept in.

“Stop this!” the Doctor demanded, flashing a frantic look up at the screen. On it, Jimmy was pulling down his trousers and pants.

“Stop what?” Grayvas said, looking up at the screen.

“That!” the Doctor shouted, pointing up at it. “Fucking… stop him!”

“My dear boy… I don’t see anything happening in that cell. All I see is your soulmate, unconscious after having to be subdued,” he observed, with mock confusion.

“Grayvas, for all that’s holy… please,” the Doctor begged, frantic tears filling his eyes.

“My dear boy, I would love to. All I need is your assurance you’ll do as we asked. You’ll tell the world that you’ve used your mind control to make others commit terrorist acts and that you know for a fact that other Marked individuals are doing the same.”

“Agent Grayvas?” a man’s voice interrupted from just outside his cell.

“Just a moment, Dr. Crane,” Grayvas answered without shifting his gaze.

On the telly, Jimmy’s pale arse filled the screen. He was gripping Rose’s hips and dragging her bare backside up to his front.

Abruptly, a squeezing pain seized the Doctor’s chest and his brain seemed to expand in his head, making him grunt.

“Well?” Grayvas’ calm voice said. “Will you do it?”

“Yes! Yes,” the Doctor gasped. “Help her! Please!” he entreated even as the crushing heaviness in his chest and mounting pressure behind his eyes made him drop to his knees. Black spots mixed with golden motes of light began swimming before his eyes.

“Agent… go stop the proceedings,” Grayvas directed the guard beside him. “It seems the Doctor would like to be helpful after all.”

Any relief he might’ve felt about Jimmy being stopped was held completely in check by the crushing fire in his chest and the mounting, intolerable pain in his head. Unable to keep himself upright, the Doctor felt himself slide fully to the ground. It barely registered, however. Nothing could compete with the lava coursing over and through him that completely consumed his attention.

“Well. This is interesting,” he heard from somewhere outside himself. “Dr. Crane, would you be so kind as to get a gurney? I believe we should move him to the lab.”

A muffled affirmative answer reached his ears, but that was the last thing he heard. In moments, he was unconscious.

 

OoOoOoOoO

 

Rose lay on the sandy ground, slowly opening her eyes so as not to aggravate the nausea that threatened to overtake her. The roll of crashing waves and distant thunder played in her ears, seemingly trying to soothe the unease that seemed to be nested in her chest. Where was she?

Turning her head slightly, she found she was lying on a beach. Sea water was lapping at the shore barely ten feet from her prone body. Specks of luminescent blue flickered off the tops of the waves as the sun hit them. What was most striking, though, was a dark, rolling fog that clung to the ocean barely a mile out. It looked like an oncoming storm that had forgotten what it’s original purpose was. Peering out, Rose tried to figure out if it was getting closer. Nope. Didn’t look like it at the moment. Odd.

A sheet of lightning lit the sky in the distance and thunder rolled again, but this time she could’ve sworn she heard her name in the rumbling, turbulent vibration echoing off the water. ‘Rose.’ It was ominous, but at the same time, oddly soothing.

It occurred to her then that she should probably try to get up. No matter how unusually comforting the dark clouds seemed, she was lying on an open beach, which was probably not the most prudent place to be when such a massive storm seemed to be looming. Making to move, though, she found suddenly that she had no desire to. Every muscle in her body was limp. Something was telling her she was safe here. Nothing could harm her here.

’Rose...’

Looking out over the water, she studied the roiling, almost beaconing, darkness. It was like a protective blanket that was poised to shelter her from… from what?

“Ms. Tyler?”

Rose looked about. This wasn’t the reassuring roll of thunder encasing the soothing murmur of her name. This was something else. Someone else.

“Ms. Tyler?” the voice repeated.

Something in the tone of it made her want to dig herself into the soft sand and hide, but for some reason, she instead felt her body actually lifting from the ground beneath her. Boneless, her body seemed to drift above the powdery beige shore, moving further from the ocean and the seemingly watchful storm.

She wanted to complain and even thought about fighting to stay, but in honestly, she felt completely depleted; as if every ounce of energy she once had had been forcibly removed. Frustrated by her body’s lack of cooperation, she closed her eyes and acquiesced to being pulled from the comfort of the beach despite her objections.

A soft foam pressed against the back of her head and in moments a harder surface found her back.

Opening her eyes again, a harsh light found them, making her squint. “Ms. Tyler,” the same voice repeated once again. Blinking, the image of a long faced bloke in his late twenties swam before her.

“Oh good,” he said quietly, for no reason she could fathom. Leaning in close so his mouth was close to her ear, he whispered, “You’re alright now. I’ve given you a painkiller. Should take the edge off,” he promised before pulling back.

Edge? What edge?

“Dr. Crane will be by shortly to have a look at you,” he announced. Shaking out a blanket, he draped it over her before leaning in once again. “You’re going to be alright,” he added nonsensically.

Looking up at him with clear confusion, Rose studied the man before her. “What time is it?” she asked, not sure why she’d asked it.

The bloke furrowed his brows. “It’s late. Nearly one in the morning,” he replied. He looked familiar. Dressed in military gear, he looked for all the world like… like…

Then it hit her. SMITE. She’d been taken by SMITE. Visions of the rally flashed before her. A tense car ride. A cold grey room. The Doctor’s uncle… Jimmy!

In a complete panic, Rose commanded every muscle she had to cooperate with her demand that she sit up. She had to get out of here. Despite her insistence, though, her torso barely managed to clumsily roll off the bed, making her entire body flop over into the waiting arms of the man at her bedside.

“Whoa!” he said, catching her and returning her to the uncomfortable slab she’d been lying on. “You need to relax. You won’t be walking anywhere for a while yet,” he warned.

“Who are you?” she slurred, alarmed by the raspiness of her voice and the remarkable effort it took to form words.

“Agent Benton,” he replied, rearranging her blanket. “You need to rest, or you won’t make it out of here,” he suggested, looking at her meaningfully.

What…

“And you’d do well to cooperate more from now on,” he said with more volume, standing to his full height. Turning, he headed for the door.

“Wait!” Rose called as best she could.

Turning, Benton raised an eyebrow.

“The Doctor… is he okay?”

Darting a barely detectable look up at the corner of her room, the agent seemed to reinforce his expression in a stolid facade. “He’s stable. For the moment,” he shared.

“Stable?” Rose repeated, fear gripping her. “What does that mean? You mean he wasn’t stable? What’s happened to him?!” she demanded in slurred words.

“He’s just that. Stable. Now I’d suggest you worry about yourself. Your Doctor will be fine as long as he cooperates,” Benton assured her, leveling her a focused look. “And I’m sure he will.”

With that, the agent left her room, leaving her alone, lying on the bed. A sickness pushed through her as she stared up at the ceiling feeling completely helpless. Somewhere in this blasted place her soulmate was… was… God. Was he in pain? What had they done to him that had left him merely ‘stable’?

Feeling her arm beginning to prickle in pins and needles as she lay awkwardly on top of it, she shifted slightly on the so called ‘bed’ she’d been placed on. The movement seemed to wake nerve endings that had either been sleeping or lulled into false calm by the painkiller Benton had given her. Suddenly becoming aware of a smoldering burn deep in her chest, she took a deep breath to try to ease it. All that did, however, was seem to fan the embers.

Willing herself to ignore it, she tried to take stock of the rest of her body. Her head ached dully and the muscles in her neck were sore. She felt decidedly nauseous and her stomach ached. What grabbed her attention most, though, was the throbbing ache down below. Experimenting, she clenched slightly, making her hiss in a breath with the sharp sting of it.

Oh god. Tears sprang to her eyes. Desperately unwanted memories of seeing Jimmy in her cell… his sick glee in watching her being tortured… it all came flooding back. That machine… she must’ve passed out. The last thing she remembered was crying out, trying to push the pain back as the machine drilled dull spears into her skull to electrify her mind. After that… nothing.

Had he… did he… did they???

No. No, she couldn’t think about that. She wouldn’t. Without warning, moisture prickled in her eyes.

Focusing, she closed them and purposefully pulled up an image of her Doctor. His sweet, toothy smile. His slim body, His gorgeous hair. His soft lips. A full vision of the man she was made for now filled her mind. The man she would save from this place.

She had no idea how she was gonna do it. She was as much a prisoner in here as he was, after all. But there was no way she wanted to exist anywhere in this universe knowing he might be suffering. She was going to get him out of here, even if she had to die doing it.

Chapter Text

The disinfectant smell was what pulled him from the still, dark blanket of unconsciousness. Blimey, it was pungent. But… what was that other smell? Taking a deeper breath in, he tried to suss it out. What was that?

Peeling his eyes open, the Doctor blinked the grainy sting away before looking around. He was in an operatory much like one of those in his office. An X-ray machine stood off to the side and a counter nearby sported a tray of instruments. A sink stood in the corner, cupboards lined the walls and the operatory chair he occupied sat square in the centre of the room. Unlike the comfy ones featured in TARDIS Dental, however, the one he now found himself in had much less appeal. Not only did TARDIS chairs boast more padding, but they were much less… restrain-y; a fact he noted when trying to pull his hands up to rub his eyes. An important and positive feature of this room, though, was that there didn’t seem to a camera mounted anywhere in it. Definitely a welcome omission. Apparently they didn’t see the need to film people as they were poked and prodded. Odd, though, that he was alone. Not that he was saddened by the fact. Anytime he shared space in this place, terrible things happened.

The same scent he’d noticed earlier was suddenly stronger and now completely identifiable. Toasted bread. And jam. Raspberry jam, if he wasn’t mistaken. His mouth watered. Blimey, he could sure use some food. At a time like this he was almost ashamed to find himself thinking of eating, but honestly, he actually thought he may have never smelled anything so delicious in his life up until now. And… blimey. Was that tea he smelled? Taking a deep sniff, he savoured the scent. Good old English Breakfast, if he wasn’t mistaken. Looking about the room again, he scanned it for the tray of food he was sure must be on a shelf close-by.

Nope. Nothing. No tea, bread or jam-y products in sight. Blimey. Was he having olfactory hallucinations now? It wouldn’t surprise him. Not after… after…

After what? What had happened in his cell, exactly? He remembered Rose unconscious on the screen. He remembered Jimmy Stone ravaging her and he remembered begging. He remembered that very well. He would’ve given them anything. And blessedly, he remembered them agreeing to make him stop. After that, it got hazy. He recalled… pain in his chest again. Yes. And… and his head. The pulsing agony pounding in his skull. And that was it. And now here he was. Smelling toast. Definitely not a good sign in the absence of said crisped bread product.

Murmuring voices suddenly caught his attention, and before he could even brace himself, the door of the room opened, revealing an agent he hadn’t seen before. “You’re right about that,” the man in the labcoat quipped, apparently speaking with someone just outside the door. “Anyway - I’ll update you on my progress as soon as I have anything new,” he finished, waving farewell to the other person in the hall. Closing the door, the round face, bespeckled bloke turned and moved to sit in front of a computer terminal at the counter without even casting a glance his way. It seemed acknowledging the only other person in the room wasn’t a priority at the moment.

After a moment of silence, save for the clicking of computer keys, the Doctor decided he might as well take on the task of beginning a conversation. Er… “Toast.” It wasn’t the most common greeting, but he thought he might as well start with something worth talking about.

The word apparently alerted the bloke, making him turn around. “Pardon?”

“Toast. I smell toast. And jam,” he added.

“Really?” the bookish looking fellow replied, apparently suddenly very interested in him.

“Erm… yeah. And tea. I could be wrong, but I’d guess English Breakfast, am I right?” he tried.

“Blimey,” the fellow said, rolling closer to him on his stool. “How long have you noticed it? The smell, I mean?” he asked, enthralled.

“Since… oh… two minutes before you got here. Give or take a few seconds,” he added.

“Well, that’s… that’s just…” he began, his jaw agape.

“...breakfast?” the Doctor tried.

“Brilliant!” the bloke finished.

“I’m the Doctor, by the way. And you are?” he offered.

“Dr. Malcolm Taylor,” the bloke replied offering his hand.

Offering an apologetic smile, the Doctor looked down at his hands, which were thoroughly unavailable for shaking.

“Oh, right. Sorry,” Malcolm apologized. “But that’s amazing, sir. I mean - wait,” he said, reaching for a pad of paper and a pen. “On a scale of one to ten, how strong would you say the smell is. That is, if one is very very faint - almost imperceptible, and ten is like it’s right under your nose,” he explained.

Tiring of this but not willing to put this fellow off, the Doctor played along and took a large breath in through his nose. “I’d say it’s… about an eight, really,” he replied honestly, once again marvelling at how intense the smell was, seeing as how the offending food didn’t appear to be in the room.

“Blimey,” Malcolm replied, scribbling something on his notepad. “Do you know, you’re the second one who’s reported an increased olfactory sensitivity? That toast is in the subject’s room three doors over, for pity’s sake,” he said, looking completely pleased.

“The second one?” the Doctor queried aloud.

“Yes. The second marked person. Extraordinary,” he said, shaking his head. “And you haven’t even undergone a second physical trial. Absolutely stunning.”

“Yeah. Stunning,” the Doctor agreed. “So listen, Dr. Taylor-”

“Malcolm.”

“Malcolm. I, uh, I wonder if you might consider helping me with something,” the Doctor posited.

Malcolm’s face grew solemn. “I can’t promise anything to test subjects, I’m afraid,” he said. “Against the rules.”

“Right. Of course,” the Doctor said quickly, “Just… I was thinking. Do you think you could maybe check on my soulmate? She was… something happened to her before I was brought in here. I just need to make sure she’s alright. Please,” he entreated.

Clear anxiety rose in the man sitting before him. “Oh… I don’t know,” he said, darting a look toward the door. “I’ll see.”

“Thank-you. That’s all I ask,” he replied, hoping this man might help him out at least that much. He just needed to know she was alright after what had been done to her.

“Yes, well…” Malcolm trailed off, turning back to his computer. “I have to finish reviewing your test results,” he informed him as he rolled himself back in front of the screen.

“Test results?” the Doctor inquired innocently.

“Yes. We ran a number of tests on you while you were unconscious,” Malcolm shared while he typed.

“Really? What kinds of tests?” the Doctor inquired, trying to sound only mildly interested.

“An MRI, CAT scan, blood work, cell biopsies… the usual,” he replied, not turning around.

“Oh. Interesting. I imagine there wasn’t anything particularly exciting about my results, then? Typical, old human stuff?” the Doctor queried.

It seemed he’d asked the right question. Instantly, the scientist turned in his chair. “It’s funny you should ask,” he began, suddenly animated. “It’s extraordinary, really. We’ve never had anyone mutate without adverse physical stimuli to trigger it. That, in itself, is astounding enough. And what’s remarkable isn’t that your cells were triggered to generate entirely new neuronal connections to support brand new physiological function; we’ve seen that before. What’s mind boggling is the sheer… expanse of your synaptic connections. I mean - there are connections between areas of the brain we’ve never seen before! In fact,” he said, rolling his chair over closer and lowering his voice, “I’m not positive, but I believe you may even be developing an entirely new brain structure. At first glance, I thought it was a tiny tumour growing on your hippocampus, but MRI imaging and CT scans don’t support that theory. In fact, while it’s still incredibly small, barely detectable, really; it’s got neuronal connections to all of your other major processing centres. I’ve not told anyone yet - I’m waiting to verify my findings,” he confided.

Alarm shot through him with comment. “So… are you saying that my brain is actually growing new structures? Malcolm… that’s incredibly not good. It’s absolutely the opposite of good, even!” the Doctor spluttered.

Malcolm shook his head emphatically. “I don’t think so,” he countered. “I think it’s… it could be… this could be evidence of evolution, Doctor. Real, honest to goodness evolution happening before our eyes,” he said, his eyes wide with wonder.

The Doctor shook his head. “You know what I think? I think these bloody torture sessions are probably triggering growth of tumours that are affecting brain function and that you’re just seeing what you want to see,” he countered. “We’re not mutations, Malcolm. The Marked are just people. We might be people with heightened empathic abilities, but that’s about it,” he argued.

“No. No, no, no… you’re wrong, Doctor,” Malcolm insisted. “Look… okay. You smelled that toast and jam before I even opened the door to the hall, didn’t you?” he pointed out.

“I smelled it,” the Doctor agreed, “but that doesn’t make it a mutation. In fact, maybe you don’t smell it because your olfactory talents are inferior to begin with,” he challenged.

“No. That’s not it. Okay… let’s try this. I have a theory about… well… let’s just try something,” Malcolm said, pushing a button on the side of the Doctor’s chair so that he lay back completely. “Close your eyes.”

A wash of adrenaline flowed over him with the scientist’s request; a reaction the scientist noticed. “Oh… don’t worry. I won’t hurt you. I wouldn’t do that,” he added, as if for some reason the Doctor would definitely have to believe him if he added the caveat.

The Doctor paused. He really hated the idea of not seeing what this bloke was up to, but if he was going to win him over at all…

Closing his eyes, he waited.

“Right. Now I want you to take a deep breath. When I say ‘go’, I want you to just lay there quietly. Once some time has gone by, I’ll say ‘stop’. Then I’m going to ask you some questions. Understand?” he asked.

Nodding, the Doctor took a deep breath.

“Go.”

The quiet whirring of the computer’s fan was all he heard in the room then, save for the occasional click of some instrument or other coming from a different corner of the space.

“Stop,” Malcolm’s voice instructed out of the blue.

Opening his eyes, he looked at the man sitting beside his chair.

“Right. Now I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to answer without taking time to think. Answer with the first thing that comes to your mind,” Malcolm instructed. “How long was the interval between when I said ‘Go’ and when I said ‘Stop”?”

“87 seconds.”

“That’s correct,” Malcolm responded, nodding.

The Doctor frowned. It was?

“In minutes and seconds, how long has it been since you woke up in this room?”

“Twenty-one minutes and nine seconds,” the Doctor replied instantly. His eyes widened. Blimey.

“I’ll verify that in a minute, but I suspect that’s spot on,” Malcolm said confidently. “What time is it right now in your current geographical location?”

“Um…”

“Don’t think. Just answer,” Malcolm instructed. “What time is it?”

“8:10 am.”

“How many seconds?” he asked, looking at his watch.

“14, 15, 16…”

“Exactly bang on!” Malcolm informed him, triumphantly.

“Blimey,” the Doctor heard himself say aloud. “But how-”

“It’s that growth I was talking about. The one on your hippocampus. It’s known that the hippocampus is responsible for processing memories, but it’s long been thought that the time processing centre of our brain rests in the hippocampus as well,” he shared. “Given the expanse of neuronal connections, I hypothesized that your ‘tumour’, as you call it, is actually a new, more developed brain structure that is meant to handle information about time in a much more complex way that humans have ever been able to do. At the moment, I have no idea what you’re completely capable of… you may actually be able to tell the future for all I know! But that’s what I’m hoping to find out,” he explained with complete enthusiasm. “What I’m not sure about is exactly why you’ve developed this structure when no one else has. I’m guessing it’s because of the psychological stress associated with your mutation. You actually generated new cells because of an intense emotional reaction to an adverse psychological stimulus. I’m told it’s a breakthrough in the research. Now we just have to confirm the extent of the changes that have taken place,” he informed him.

A sort of languid fury settled in him with the flippancy of the comment. “Malcolm… do you actually know what that ‘psychological stress’ was?” the Doctor challenged.

Malcolm grew quiet before turning back to his keyboard to continue typing.

The Doctor pressed ahead. “I’ll tell you what kind of stress it was, Malcolm. I was made to watch while my soulmate was tortured,” he informed him. “Tortured. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that. I had to watch as they fried her mind with that bloody Arch and then raped her right in front of my eyes,” he snarled, feeling hot moisture prickle in his eyes. “She screamed over and over, Malcolm. She called for me. Can you imagine that? Standing there, watching as the person you love most in the world wails in agony and there’s not a bloody thing you can do about it? Well, that’s the ‘stress’ they so flippantly told you about, Malcolm,” the Doctor bit.

“I… I’m sorry,” Malcolm said, his voice small.

“Sorry? You’re sorry?!” the Doctor exclaimed. Instantly lowering his voice, he snarled, “You’re apparently not that sorry, though, are you Malcolm? You know how I know that? I know that because you’re here. You’re here helping these monsters while they maim and torture other human beings somewhere else in this very building,” he accused.

Malcolm shook his head. “No. You don’t understand,” he said, still facing away from him.

“No? So you’re saying you’re not helping them? You’re not furthering their agenda by giving them ways to defend their ridiculous premise that the Marked are somehow dangerous to humanity?” he said, incredulously, unable to keep his volume from rising. “Hmmm. That’s odd, Malcolm. Because from where I sit, that’s exactly what I see,” the Doctor charged.

Rounding on the Doctor, Malcolm swirled in his chair. “You don’t understand, Doctor. You really don’t,” he accused. “They have my family. My whole family,” he said tightly, shooting an accusing look toward the door. “I’m not here because I want to be, okay? I’m here because I have no choice. I’m here because if I don’t do as they ask, they’re going to process my parents and my sister as Inclusionists. They’re promised that they will be ‘thorough.’ Do you know what that means, Doctor? That means they will make it painful. I can’t do that to them,” Malcolm said, his voice breaking. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.” Turning again, the scientist stared, unmoving, at the screen.

Silence sang loudly in the space for a full minute before the Doctor hazarded, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“No. I know you didn’t,” Malcolm replied, his voice quiet.

“But Malcolm…you can’t keep doing this for them,” the Doctor said, matching the scientist’s tone. “They’re going to use your work to convince people that the Marked are dangerous, evil, non-humans. They’re trying to increase their support for a mass genocide of the Marked. Surely that’s not what you want?” the Doctor entreated.

Malcolm huffed. “Well, that’s rich, coming from you.”

“What?” the Doctor replied, confused.

“How are you any better?” Malcolm challenged, turning to face him. “You’re the bloke who agreed to confess to a terrorist act he didn’t do just to save his soul mate. How is that any different from what I’m doing? You’ve agreed to tell the world that you and other Marked people are able to control people’s minds. That you are responsible for making people commit atrocities,” he reminded him. “And you don’t think that will impact the way people treat the Marked?!”

It was then the full weight of his promise fell on him. The Doctor swallowed. Of course it would. He knew that. He knew what the ramifications were of such a confession when he agreed to do it. What Malcolm was saying was true… he was no different.

“You’re right,” he said lowly.

Malcolm blinked, apparently surprised by the Doctor’s confession.

Looking down, the Doctor added, “And I have no right to demand more of you than I do of myself.”

Malcolm stared at him for a moment before finally saying, “No. No you don’t.”

The Doctor nodded. What more could he say. He had made a deal with the devil and so had Malcolm. They were both damned and there was no saving them. Not if they continued on their current trajectory.

If they continued on their current trajectory…

“Malcolm…” the Doctor began, an idea forming. Lowering his voice to a whisper, he said, “What if… what if we did what they asked of us… but didn’t?”

Malcolm’s eyes widened and he seemed about to speak when the door to the lab opened, making him jump back from his patient.

Stepping into the room, an unfamiliar SMITE agent leveled a glare at the Doctor before addressing Malcolm. “I’ve been instructed to collect this subject. He’s scheduled for another trial,” he announced.

“What? No… no, no, no...it’s too soon,” Malcolm informed him, standing up. “He’s not yet completely recovered.”

“Grayvas has instructed he be brought to Trial Room B,” the agent insisted, moving to release the Doctor from the chair.

“But… I’m not done all my tests,” Malcolm tried.

“I have my orders, Dr. Taylor,” the agent responded, hauling the Doctor to his feet. His legs were wobbly, but blessedly able to bear his weight.

“This is ridiculous,” Malcolm retorted. “How am I supposed to gather data if I’m not given the time to do it?”

“Take it up with Agent Grayvas,” the guard advised him, dragging the Doctor toward the door.

Malcolm said something then that offered the Doctor a sliver of hope. Sighing, he piped up, “Well, maybe more trials will yield something useful,” he quipped. “You can tell Agent Grayvas that I’ve got very little of interest so far on this patient.”

The agent grunted an acknowledgment before leading the Doctor out of the room. Just before they rounded the corner, however, the Doctor cast a quick look back. Malcolm was nodding solemnly at him. It seemed they had an agreement.

Chapter Text

Rose sat in her cell, biting her nails and trying not to give in to panic. After Agent Benton had left her last night, Dr. Crane dropped by to check her out. If she hadn’t been so weak and exhausted she might’ve been more frightened to see him, but as it was, she was barely able to stay awake through his examination. After he’d left, she’d fallen into a fitful sleep, trying to get back to the beach she’d dreamed of earlier with its oddly comforting storm front. She did finally manage to find it in her sleep, and she blessedly revelled in the repose of it until the clang of her door opening alerted her that someone was coming in. Luckily, it had only been breakfast being deposited in her room, rather than someone ready to torture her again.

Since that time, she’d been served lunch and she imagined tea might be offered relatively soon. In all of that time no one had stepped into her room. Overall, it was all too quiet, and it made her wary. What were they waiting for? Surely they had more in store for her today. Or better said, surely they had more in store for the Doctor today. That was more accurate, wasn’t it? Because she now knew why they’d used that machine on her. They’d been using her to get to the Doctor. They were torturing him by torturing her. None of this was even about her. While Rassilon had been threatening and hurting her, the Doctor had been forced to watch. His uncle had been taunting him the entire time and she was simply a pawn. The idea made her completely furious, not to mention terrified. She was furious for obvious reasons. She was terrified because they hadn’t bothered to use her to torture him since yesterday. That meant they’d gotten something they wanted from him, and that’s what had her so worried. Had he promised to help them somehow? Did he offer himself as a sacrifice in exchange for her?

Her mind whirled and once again, anxiety threatened to overwhelm her. She needed to see him. She had to tell him… she had to somehow let him know that he mustn’t do anything they say. She needed him to know that whatever they told him...whatever they showed him... she didn’t want him to help them no matter what. Their agenda was so much bigger than simply threatening her. They weren’t going to stop until all the Marked were identified and subjugated. It was so much more important that he do whatever he could to thwart these people than to try to save her pain. They were gonna cause her that anyway. He had to know that.

A rattling at the door alerted her to the arrival of what was probably the last food she’d see today. Getting up, she waited as the door swung open. Sure enough, it was indeed her supper. This time, though, unlike the other meals she’d been given today, the agent serving it was Agent Benton.

“Stay where you are,” he directed her, as most of them had done. Obeying, she stood as he deposited the tray on the floor in the middle of the room. Standing back up, the agent looked at his watch, and then, unexpectedly, he shot a look up at the camera in the corner. Following his lead, Rose did as well. To her surprise, the red blinking light was… it was gone.

“I don’t have much time,” Benton said, hurrying toward her, making her flinch back in surprise. Ignoring her reaction, he added, “I’ve set up the system to stop recording from this camera for three minutes.”

“Wha-” she began.

“There’s a plan to get you out of here. I can’t tell you how or who is involved in case they discover something’s going on, but I can say that if all goes well, by tomorrow night you’ll be somewhere safe,” he informed her.

Rose’s eyes splayed wide. “Tomorrow? But… what about the Doctor? What about the other prisoners here?” she asked.

“I can’t say anymore than I’ve already said, I’m afraid. Just…” he said darting another quick look at his watch, “Just that there’s a larger plan.”

Panic welled within her, as Benton moved to stand. “No! You can’t leave me like that. I know you can’t say more, but please… please can you get a message to the Doctor?”

Benton’s face was impassive for a moment, but then, blessedly, he nodded.

“Tell him I’m alright, yeah? Tell him not to do… not to feel he has to try to save me from anything, okay? And please… tell him I’m not leaving here without him. Tell him that,” she insisted.

“Ms. Tyler…” he started.

“No… you tell him that, yeah? Cause I won’t leave here if he’s not with me,” she insisted.

“Okay,” he agreed, darting another look at his watch. “I’ve got to go.” Turning, he headed for the door.

“Agent Benton…” Rose called as he made to leave. Turning, he anxiously looked up at the camera. Checking it, she found the red light still out. “Thank-you.”

Nodding, he left the room, closing the door behind him.

 

OoOoOoOoOoO

 

The Doctor woke to burning pain and total blackness. Whatever he was lying on was moving. Panic shot through him. Where was he? Why couldn’t he see?

“I’m not kidding. You should’ve seen him,” a deep male voice issued from somewhere near his head. “His eyes. They were, like, glowing. Glowing! I’ve never seen anything like it, I swear,” he marvelled.

“Fuckin’ mutants,” someone else said. Suddenly the surface he was on shifted. They’d turned a corner.

“I know. I mean, who knows what this guy can do, right? He can probably shoot lasers out of his head now or something.”

The other guard laughed. “Is that why you put that over his head? Blimey, man - I thought they’d fuckin’ gouged his eyeballs out or something,” he said, continuing to chuckle.

A zing of relief shot through the Doctor. He wasn’t blind; just blindfolded.

“You go ahead and laugh. You didn’t see it,” the first guard warned. “I’m not taking any chances,” he added.

“Yeah, well, I wish I could’ve been there,” the second man put in. “Just to see one of these fuckers get what’s coming to them,” he added.

“It was… gross,” the first man responded, clearly not as enthusiastic about the proceedings he’d witnessed. “God. He really screamed…”

Yes, he had. He’d screamed. Over and over. It had been complete and utter agony. Agony. It was the only word that did any justice to the experience.

“And he fuckin’ deserved to,” the profane guard informed his partner. “You know how many people this mutant’s probably killed? Hundreds, maybe,” he informed his colleague. “Don’t feel sorry for him.”

“Yeah. I guess. Just… it looked like it hurt a lot. I only dropped a power drill on my foot once. Couldn’t walk right for a couple of weeks.”

To say it had ‘hurt a lot’ would’ve been an insult to his torturers. They’d set out to make it more than simply ‘hurt’ and they’d more than surpassed their goal. At first, when they’d been taking him away from the lab earlier to deliver this latest dose of hell, he’d been sure they were about to use the Arch on him yet again, and that thought had had him thoroughly frightened. Little had he known. Not that the ol’ Arch was anything to scoff about, mind. He very clearly recalled how sure he’d been that he’d rather suffer anything other than that again. Now, though… well, let’s just say he had a healthy respect for the relative docility of that particular machine.

The second bloke chuckled. “Yeah, well, this bastard won’t be walking right for a very long time. They did a shit load more than drop one of his foot, didn’t they,” he added with a snort.

They certainly had. A violent shiver flew through him. He’d been strapped to a table, had a series of electrodes and monitors attached, had a two by four plank placed under the balls of both feet and then had long screws slowly drilled through the nail beds of his toes so that his feet were fastened to the wood underneath. Apparently, that alone hadn’t achieved whatever result they were looking for, because once they’d done that, they decided to pull off the remains of the toenails that had split under the pressure of the assault. He didn’t recall anything after the second nail was plucked from the soft tissue beneath it.

The sickest part was their reasoning for torturing him the way they did. “It’s a way that any of your kind could hurt themselves to initiate mutations,” he’d been told. As if anyone would purposefully choose to do this to themselves. The idea was ludicrous.

Finally arriving back at Malcom’s lab, he took a deep breath to brace himself as the gurney bumped over the lip on the floor between the hallway and Malcolm’s laboratory. The jolting movement had the anticipated effect of causing his feet to pulse in a throbbing ache that made him nauseous.

The bed rolled to a stop and one of his guards moved to unstrap him.

“What’s happened to his eyes?” Malcolm inquired, sounding concerned.

“Just a precaution,” the deeper voiced guard supplied, having the decency to sound a bit sheepish. In moments, the pressure around his head was released and light found his eyelids. Tentatively, he opened his eyes, squinting up against a light pouring down from the ceiling.

“Sit up,” the smaller, ‘cursier’ guard demanded after he’d undone the restraints.

Doing as he was told, he sat up slowly and, working to ignore the pain, he very carefully swung his legs over the side of the bed.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” Malcolm exclaimed.

Looking over, he found the man blanched, staring at his feet. Casting his own eyes downward, he discovered what had him in such a state. His toes were mutilated. Bile crawled up his throat at the sight of them. He certainly felt what state they were in, but he hadn’t laid eyes on his feet yet. Now he wished he hadn’t.

“Why didn’t they bandage him?” Malcolm asked, clearly appalled.

“Said you’d do it,” the taller guard replied.

“C’mon - move, ya fuckin’ mutant,” the other agent directed, giving him a little shove forward.

Swallowing, the Doctor carefully slid off the side of the gurney so the heels of his feet touched the ground. Shooting pain beginning at the tips of his raw, blood encrusted toes instantly travelled up his legs making him suck in a massive breath.

“Go on,” the same agent insisted impatiently.

Doing his best not to contact the floor with anything but his heels, he took a couple tentative steps toward the chair in the centre of the room. He only managed three altogether before he dropped to his hands and knees with a pained grunt, eager to take the pressure of his mangled extremities.

Quickly moving to help him, Malcolm was stopped by the little swear monger.

“Don’t help him,” the profane agent insisted, putting his arm out to block the scientist. “Let him crawl on the ground like the bloody snake that he is. Fuckin’ terrorist bastard,” he cursed.

Taking a breath to try to focus on moving rather than on the continued shooting pains in his feet, the Doctor moved gingerly on hands and knees toward the chair.

“That’s it, you fuckin’ mutant. Now you know how your victims felt, crawling out of the rubble of the shops you had blown up. Not so fuckin’ cocky now, are ya?” he taunted, moving to walk beside him as he crawled. “Are ya?!” he demanded, slapping the Doctor firmly on the side of the head, making him grunt.

Part of him wanted to turn his head and bite the filthy man’s leg with every ounce of energy he had left. The rest of him, though, knew that would be a spectacularly bad idea. Deciding to follow the advice of his forebrain instead of his hindbrain, the Doctor held himself in check and focused on getting himself to the chair. Finally arriving despite the man’s continued jeers, he managed to pull himself up into the seat without using his feet. Remarkably, he didn’t find it as difficult as he thought he might.

With his victim now where he was supposed to be, the guard the Doctor mentally had renamed ‘Agent Foulmouth’ apparently decided he was done taking jabs at him. “Get him fixed up,” he instructed Malcolm as he grabbed one side of the gurney and began pushing it toward his comrade. “Grayvas wants him again in an hour.”

“What for?” Malcolm asked. “I have my tests to complete,” he complained.

“Dunno. I’m just the messenger,” the agent replied before shutting the door behind him.

“Bloody idiots,” Malcolm intoned, looking after them. Making his way to the counter, he began loading up a tray with various bottles and implements. “What they hell are they thinking?” he mumbled crankily.

Pulling over a rolling table, he took a seat on his stool and moved into examine the Doctor’s feet. He shook his head in disgust. “Cor, what did they do to you?”

“You don’t want to know,” the Doctor admitted, reticently looking down once again at his mangled appendages.

Malcolm sighed. “Alright. I’m going to freeze your feet so I can clean and disinfect the wounds,” he shared, pulling a needle off the cart. “This is going to hurt,” he warned, looking over at the Doctor.

Nodding his understanding, the Doctor took a steadying breath and braced himself as best he could. The first needle slid into the skin between his ankle and his heel, making him emit a pained hiss. The top of his foot was next, which he suspected would’ve been quite a bit more painful if the first needle hadn’t already started to freeze the area. Malcolm did the same for his other foot right away, and it wasn’t long before all feeling in both feet was blessedly gone. From there, his wounds were washed and bathed in antiseptic; a process he was sure would’ve caused him to once again pass out if he hadn’t been completely numb.

Finally, all bandaged, Malcolm slid his stool backward and looked down at his work. “I’m sorry they did this to you,” he said, guilt filling his features.

“Oi. You couldn’t have done anything about it,” he informed him. “Thanks for fixing me up, though,” he added.

Nodding, Malcolm looked at him for a moment. “How do you feel?” he asked.

The Doctor knew exactly what he was asking. He wanted to know if he felt there’d been any developments after this last round of torture, in terms of his ‘abilities’. It was a good question. Giving himself a moment, he tried to take stock. He was… hmmm. Wait. “There is something. Something... different.” It was the only way he could think of summing it up.

“How so?” the scientist asked, unable to hold back his clear interest.

The Doctor examined the feeling further. “Well,” he said gathering his thoughts into words, “except for my feet, obviously, I actually feel remarkably good. Maybe sort of… sharper,” he added thoughtfully. Closing his eyes, he took a breath. “Everything smells… more. And I’m not sure, but I think I can hear better,” he admitted, closing his eyes and purposefully putting effort into trying to attend to sounds in the room. He could make out small sounds like the hum of the light bulb above them, the nestling of paper in the bin, the barely perceptible grind of the wheels of Malcolm’s chair against the floor with his smallest movements.

“What about time?” Malcolm asked, obviously now caught up in the excitement of discovery.

Recalling Malcolm’s experiment, he was about to put some effort into figuring out how much time had passed since he’d been wheeled out of the lab earlier to right now, when the answer jumped to the front of his mind. Three hours, twelve minutes and eleven seconds. Blimey. Focusing in on purpose, trying to hone in on the sensation of experiencing the moments passing, he felt a sudden, bizarre sort of rush. Molecules of… what? Moments? Did moments have molecules? Millions upon millions of them… they were streaming by, around and through him, creating a flood of buoyant energy he could actually feel.

“Well?” Malcolm demanded impatiently.

The Doctor’s eyes popped open and he looked at the man before him in almost fearful wonder. “Malcolm… I can feel time passing. Time. How can I feel time?”

Malcolm’s eyes widened in wonder as he visibly swallowed. “Oh my god. You’re… you’re growing the ability to sense the fourth dimension,” he breathed. “Doctor… I know this is going to sound barmy, but… I want you to try something,” he suggested. “I want you to look at me.”

The Doctor’s brows furrowed, but he did as the scientist asked. “Alright.”

“Right. Now,” he said, looking intently at his patient, “I want you to concentrate on me, but not with your eyes. Concentrate on me with time.”

The Doctor blinked. Look at him through time. Time.

Deciding to try it, he stared at Malcolm and concentrated. Nothing happened. “This isn’t working,” he shared.

Malcolm’s brows furrowed. “Okay… try this. Close your eyes.”

Complying, he did.

“Okay, now focus on that feeling again. The awareness of time moving,” he suggested.

Honing in on the novel sensation without much effort, the Doctor let himself sort of ‘swim’ in it. Blimey. It was… incredible.

“Now… keep your mind there and open your eyes. Don’t lose your focus.”

Doing as he was told, his eyes opened to find Malcolm’s face in his field of vision. But while his eyes were clearly only seeing Malcolm’s face, there was a sort of… overlay… a ‘film’ of sorts draped over the visual representation of him. “Blimey.”

“What do you see?”

“It’s… oh yes… it’s completely brilliant,” he breathed, unable to tear his attention away from the ‘vision’ before him.

“What? What is?!” Malcolm prodded.

“I can’t… I can’t describe it,” he said honestly. “It’s like… threads. Glittering sort of ‘ropes’ all around you. They’re…” he reached out and ‘touched’ one in the air before him. The line lit up a bit more brightly and instantly a barrage of images shot through his head. He gasped loudly and jerked back. The sensation immediately dissipated.

“What? What happened?” Malcolm pressed, clearly excited.

“You… you got married,” the Doctor said, looking at him in wonder.

Malcolm swallowed thickly. “Go on.”

“He’s someone you work with,” the Doctor recounted before a realization hit him. “No. Not work with,” he corrected, looking at Malcolm in amazement. “Someone you will work with.”

They both sat looking at each other for a few moments in stunned silence.

An energetic knock on the door made both of them startle. Pushing his glasses back up on his face after he’d nearly jumped out of his skin, Malcolm answered loudly, “Come in.”

The door swung open to reveal Agent Benton. Strolling in, he closed the door behind him.

“I’m not done my examination yet, agent,” Malcolm warned. “Please tell Agent Grayvas that I need more time.”

Looking back toward the door, Benton shook his head. “I’m not here for Grayvas,” he informed them. “I’m here for Rose.”

Chapter Text

The Doctor blinked. What did Benton mean he was ‘here for Rose? “Is she alright?” he demanded, sitting up straighter.

“That’s what I’m here about. She’s fine. She wanted me to make sure you knew that,” Benton shared.

The weight of a thousand planets seemed to lift from his shoulders with the news. She was alright.

“She also asked that I make sure you know not to do anything for her that you shouldn’t,” he said solemnly. “I think it’s good advice.”

Blimey. Did she know? How did she know what he’d been planning?! Or… The Doctor paused all thought. Could Benton have been sent in here by Grayvas or Rassilon to check his intentions? To make sure he wasn’t going back on his word? It was the most likely scenario, if he really thought about it. After all, Benton had stepped in to help Rose with the Arch when things got completely out of control, but what kind of animal wouldn’t, after all? And if his intentions were so good, surely he’d have intervened before then instead of letting an innocent woman be tortured to any degree.

No… he definitely didn’t trust this one. Not yet. “Thank-you, Agent,” he replied, working to sound genuine. Best he and Malcolm keep their plans to themselves.

“And look, you should know,” Benton added, lowering his voice, “they’re coming to discuss the results of his tests before they do the filming,” he warned Malcolm.

Blimey. Did they suspect Malcolm as well?

“Alright,” the scientist replied. “But there’s not much to tell, I’m afraid,” he stated, dutifully keeping his word. “Pretty much only the usual changes, really. There’s no doubt Agent Grayvas will be disappointed in my findings.”

The Doctor cast the scientist a worried look. He dearly hoped he wasn’t leading this poor man into a trap. Darting a look back at Benton to check his reaction, he found the man nodding.

“I’d imagined as much,” he replied. That comment could mean anything. It could mean he didn’t believe the Doctor was anything special to begin with, or it could mean that he had either hoped or suspected that Malcolm would under-report his findings. “And, I’m assuming,” Benton continued, “Rassilon will be surprised about the content of the upcoming broadcast,” he added significantly, looking to the Doctor.

The Doctor swallowed. So Benton had guessed what he’d been planning. “I don’t know what my uncle might feel,” he replied carefully. “I do know, though, that I have to be sure Rose will be alright while I do this. My performance is dependant on it,” he replied, choosing his words very purposefully. If Benton was checking in for his uncle, he’d just assume the Doctor was posturing. If he was actually there to help, he’d know what he meant; I need to know you’re going to make sure she’s safe.

“I understand,” the agent answered. “But you have to know, Doctor-” he began. The door flew open halfway through his sentence. In the doorway stood his uncle, flanked by two guards. Looking between the men in the room, Rassilon’s eyebrow cocked in question.

“Lord Rassilon,” Malcolm said, jumping in. “Welcome. I was just readying the subject for you.”

“Good,” he said, before looking over at Benton with his eyes narrowed. “I thought I’d asked you to ready Interrogation Room B. Why are you here?”

“The room is ready, my lord. Agent Grayvas asked that I check in to see if the subject was conscious since I was already headed this way to gather supplies from storage,” he explained.

Rassilon seemed to consider his answer. “Right. Well, carry on. He’s clearly alert enough for the broadcast. Let Grayvas know all will proceed as planned,” he instructed.

“Yes, my lord,” Benton replied before marching past him and his guards to head back into the hall beyond the door.

Striding further into the room, Rassilon gave the Doctor a sickly smile before glancing down at his bandaged feet. “I’m told you’ve just finished the drilling trial, John. Particularly nasty, that one,” he observed. “It’s so unpleasant, in fact, that up until now I’ve not allowed it to be used. If anyone could manage it, though, I knew it would be you. And look,” he said, gesturing vaguely in his direction, “You did.”

The Doctor stared stonily at his uncle.

“Come now, John. Smile. It’s over and you survived it. And I’m sure you’ve given us some spectacular data as well,” he conjectured, looking over at Malcolm.

“Um, actually, I haven’t gotten much testing done. It’s only been forty-five minutes since he got back,” Malcolm informed him.

Rassilon’s lips pursed and he cocked his head slightly. “Surely you have some useful information to impart; if not from this session, then from the last?” he prompted.

The Doctor watched as Malcolm clearly worked to look thoughtful. Nodding his head finally, he shared, “Well, he has exhibited an impressive increase in his olfactory and auditory senses. There’s also been an increase in lung capacity. That’s about all I’ve noted so far, though.”

Rassilon regarded the scientist with an impassive expression. “Perhaps the stimulus hasn’t been strong enough,” he suggested, darting a purposeful look at the Doctor’s feet. “Or could it be that the researcher in charge of this subject isn’t sufficiently motivated to uncover more significant changes?” he proposed.

Malcolm visibly swallowed. “I swear, sir, I’ve done my best. I… I just need more time. I’m sure we’ll find something,” he babbled.

“Mmm. Yes. Well, I imagine you’ll make better use of your time from now on. Especially since there is so very much on the line,” he added significantly. Moving toward the door, he paused. Turning back, he said, “How is your darling sister, by the way? What’s her name again?”

Malcolm’s jaw tensed. “Nella.”

“Yes, that’s right. Nella. I trust she’s well?”

“Yes.”

“Good,” he replied. He let that word hang in the air for a moment. “Agents,” he boomed, instantly changing the atmosphere, “gather up my nephew, will you? He has a job to do.”

“Yes sir,” Agent Foulmouth replied. Moving in, he and the taller guard flanked the chair. “Stand up,” he commanded.

The Doctor looked at the man, feeling his heart rate climb. He couldn’t. Raising his fist, the guard snarled “I said…”

“Gentlemen!” Rassilon’s voice interjected. The guard’s hand instantly dropped. “Please treat my nephew with some respect. He’s about to do our country a great service,” he advised.

“Yes, sir,” both the agents replied.

“In fact, I want him cleaned up and dressed. The people need to see how very fairly we’re treating our inmates. And get him a wheelchair. It would be a shame if he fell unconscious again before his television debut,” he instructed.

“Yes, sir,” they both replied again. The taller guard instantly made a bee-line for the door, presumably in search of a wheelchair.

“Oh,” Rassilon said, reaching into the vest pocket of his suit. “We were going to have you make a speech, but I think it’ll read better as an interview,” he informed the Doctor, pulling out a piece of paper and unfolding it. “You’ll need to touch on each of these points. The details will need to be exact. Memorize them,” he instructed, handing him the sheet.

Reluctantly, he reached out to accept it and skimmed the contents. There were no surprises, but what he was expected to claim responsibility for was alarming all the same.

“You’ll agree to any accusation I make and you’ll elaborate with the points I’ve given you,” Rassilon instructed as the Doctor read. “If I have any sense you’re trying to send any covert messages, I will take decisive action. I trust you know what I mean by that,” he added ominously. “I don’t need to tell you what’s at stake, besides the future of this country.”

He certainly didn’t. What was at stake was all he could focus on. It was the only reason he hadn’t thrown this blasted script right back in Rassilon’s face. Rose. If only he could be sure Benton was on their side and that he’d gotten through to him. He had Malcolm, of course, but the scientist was hardly a military strategist, and he still hadn’t had a chance to make sure he knew to look out for Rose while he was filming. Still… he had to trust in what little hope he had.

Realizing Rassilon was waiting for a reply, he offered, “I said I’d do it. I’ll do it.”

“Good.” Turning, Rassilon headed out the door just before the larger of the two guards returned with a wheelchair.

The Doctor took a large steadying breath.

Showtime.

 

OoOoOoOoOoOoO

 

Barefoot and still wearing the hosptial gown she’d been given yesterday, Rose was escorted down a hallway, handcuffed and flanked by two guards she’d been served meals by. Saying she was worried was a massive understatement. She was terrified.

Since Agent Benton had come in earlier, she’d been feeling more hopeful. There was a plan. She had no idea what it was or who was involved, but at least someone out there was trying to help them. She’d gone over all the possibilities for rescues in her head and had come up with a few, but the mostly likely scenario she’d conjured involved Mickey somehow. She knew he worked for a government agency along with Jake, but the most he’d ever been able to say about it was that it involved national security and that there were ‘field missions’ sometimes. At any rate, they were the most likely to be planning something, she figured. The point was, the outlook for the future had actually seemed a bit brighter since she’d been told someone was trying to help.

Now, though, as she was marched through the dank network of hallways, the light at the end of the tunnel seemed to be dimming. All the plans in the world wouldn’t matter if she didn’t make it through whatever they had planned for her next. What bothered her more, though, was that whatever was planned for her, it was likely being done to manipulate the Doctor. The very idea made her want to scream. Why was it love could be used to fuel pain and hate? It was so unjust!

Rounding a corner at the end of a long hall, they headed toward an open door with the ominous title of ‘Interrogation Room B’ posted beside it. Rose’s heart rate picked up as they neared. Beyond the threshold, the only thing she could easily make out was a spotlit metal table. The rest of the room was shrouded in shadows. Instinctively, Rose’s pace slowed as they approached.

“Move,” the grey bearded agent on her right instructed, pushing her on ahead through the entrance and toward the eerily lit slab set up in the middle of the room.

If she’d been terrified before she’d come into what was clearly an operating room, she was now beyond petrified. At least three carts topped with ominous looking instruments lined the walls and a couple of larger machine-like contraptions sat just beyond the operating table, seeming almost eager to be utilized.

Backing away from all of it, purely out of self-preservation, Rose bumped into one of her escorts, who immediately shoved her back toward the metal table. “Get going,” he insisted.

Panic welled in her. She had to get out of here. Turning to face her guards, desperate to get through to them, she tried, “Look...you don’t have to do this. I’m just a person, yeah? Another human being,” she entreated. “I only want to live my life. I’ve never hurt anyone and I wouldn’t. We’re all just people,” she added, taking a step toward the younger one, who looked slightly less intimidating.

Instantly pulling weapons from a their jackets, both agents pointed them at her chest in unison. “Don’t come any closer,” the junior agent directed.

Stopping her advance, she tried to throw her hands in the air before remembering they were fastened behind her back. “I can’t hurt you, for God’s sake; I’m handcuffed!” she frustratedly pointed out.

“Get on the table,” the same agent insisted, as if she’d said nothing.

Backing up, she tried again, “Please - I’m just a girl. Like any other girl. I could be your daughter,” she said to the slightly older man. “Or your sister,” she insisted, directing her statement at his partner. “Would you do this to one of them?”

“MOVE!” the younger guard barked, holding his weapon out with more insistence.

Her back hit the gurney even as the agent issued his command, making her jump. With much effort, given that her hands were still bound, she scrambled up onto the table behind her, working to keep panic from taking over completely. “Please don’t,” she pleaded again as one of the guards approached.

“Lie down and face the other direction,” the bearded one commanded.

“Please,” she said again, even as she moved to comply. There was no point resisting. They both had weapons and they didn’t seem too worried about using them.

Turning to face the opposite wall, she heard the guard nearest her move closer. Fiddling with the cuffs behind her back, he freed her hands, only to grab the top one and fasten it to a strap on the side of the table. “Roll onto your back,” he instructed.

Doing so, she watched as his partner rounded the table to take her other wrist. “Please… you don’t have to do this,” Rose tried again as the younger one moved to her feet to strap them both down as well.

Finally, with their captive literally at their mercy, the junior agent rounded the top of the table and looked down at her. “You know what? I don’t have to tie you down like an animal. You’re right. I want to. You’re an abomination. Satan’s minion here on earth. And whatever happens to you lot - you deserve it,” he said. With that, he and the older guard turned and left, leaving her alone in the oppressive, severely lit room.

Despite the fact she was laying still, she felt her heart racing in her chest as she stared sightless up into the light focused down on her. Whatever journey through hell they had planned for her, she had a gnawing feeling she might not live to see the other side of it. She’d barely made it out of the last session alive, so in a very real sense, this could be it. Any hope of freedom… of seeing the Doctor again… of having a life with him… it could be gone. And why? Why? Because of ignorance. And fear. And arrogance, and protectionist rhetoric. She could very well lose her life simply because people didn’t like change. They didn’t like things that were different or new. And they didn’t like the fact that they might need to accept that they weren’t the centre of the bloody universe. And it was barmy that in all of that, all she wanted… what most of the Marked probably wanted... was to live life in peace.

A tear formed in the corner of her eye and cascaded down her temple. How could it be that a shop girl from the Estates was here, being tortured for being a threat to humanity? That the man she wanted to be with more than anything was somewhere in this place, being made to watch as they hurt the person he was born to protect and care about? How had humanity come to this? All she wanted was to be free and to be with him. Was it such a terrible thing? Was it so awful that she had been blessed with a soulmate?

An ache so strong it nearly stole her breath away filled her chest. The Doctor. If only she could see him. Touch him. Feel his hand in hers. If only she could tell him in person how she felt now that she knew they were marked for each other.

Closing her eyes, she tried to imagine being with him on the street as they strolled. No. Not the street. On the beach. She wanted to imagine being with him on the beach she’d found herself on before Benton had woken her. On that sandy beach, sheltered from the universe by the warm, insulating storm.

It took no time to picture the scene, but it wasn’t enough. She wanted to feel it. Feel it like she had before in her dream.

Focusing on purpose, she tried squeezing her eyes shut. Concentrating, she did her best to imagine the feel of the wind in her hair. The sand beneath her bare feet. That seemed to do the trick.

Around her the beach formed more fully and she swore she could actually smell the ocean. In the distance she eyed the familiar storm. It loomed over the water and now over the beach, but this time it was closer than it had been in her dream. It was less settled. More menacing. And it was moving toward her.

’Rose.’

Brilliant flashes of light pulsed within its depths, serving as a warning. The threatening flashes of light weren’t meant for her, though. She could feel it like she could feel her heart beating in her chest. The electrifying warning was meant for others. For her, the storm offered the rumbling thunder. The reassuring vibration that called to her.

’Rose...’

Focusing on the murmur of the echoing thunder, she continued staring at the storm as it drew closer over the ocean and over the distant sand.

That’s when she saw it: the figure of a man that emerged seemingly from inside the billowing black cloud covering the beach up ahead.

The man in the distance walked with assurance and a determination Rose couldn’t help but feel bolstered by. His strides made short work of the long beach and before long she could easily make out the tussled hair and long, lanky frame. It was her Doctor.

Realization instantly poured her full of adrenaline and she shot forward, running toward the very person she’d been longing to see. Sand kicked up under her feet as she sprinted and she felt her lungs begin to burn, but she couldn’t slow. She needed him more than she needed breath.

As she neared him, though, her excitement turned to worry. Something was wrong. He wasn’t… whole. Slowing to a stop a good ten feet from him, she worriedly studied his opaque form. “Doctor?” she tried.

“Rose.” The word issuing from his lips held so much more information than her title. It held his relief, his hope, and his obvious worry.

“You look like a ghost,” she said, unable to keep the anxiety from her voice. Moving closer, she reached for him. While she wasn’t completely surprised, she was truly disappointed when her hand slid right through him.

“I’m just an image. No touch,” he informed her.

“But… is it really you?” she asked.

“It’s me,” he assured her. “I think, I mean - I have an idea how this is happening… how I can be here with you… but I can’t explain it right now. I think it’s to do with what’s happened to you. And to me...” he trailed off.

Alarms instantly filled Rose’s mind. “What?! What’s happened to you?” she demanded as every protective instinct she had sprang to life.

“It’s okay, Rose,” he assured her. “I’m alright now. They… they’ve done things,” he said, lowering his eyes. “Someday I’ll tell you,” he said, before bringing his eyes up again to meet hers. “But what’s happened; it’s triggered a change in my brain. And when they… when they hurt you…” he trailed off, emotion choking off his words.

“Oi. I’m okay now, yeah?” she said, not willing to share the actual danger she was currently in.

Nodding, he continued, “When you were hurt your mind changed as well, I’m guessing. I’m pretty sure that’s why we can do this now; be with each other in our minds instead of just feel what the other is feeling,” he explained.

Rose thought about that. “Does that mean we’re, like, telepathic now? With everyone?” she asked, suddenly very concerned with the implications.

“I doubt we could do this with anyone else. It’s because we’re soulmates,” he explained.

Rose looked up into his opaque deep brown eyes. “I wish you’d have told me,” she said earnestly.

Tilting his head slightly, he gave her a look of since. “I’m sorry.”

“I know.”

“I thought… I thought it would keep you safe if you didn’t know you were marked. I was wrong. I was so wrong,” he added; sorrow evident in his features.

“Yes you were,” she agreed. “But hey,” she said, deciding to have mercy on him, “at least I know now, yeah? That’s all that matters.”

“No. It isn’t,” he disagreed. “What matters is that you’re alive. What matters is that… that I need you to be safe. And… and I don’t know if I can promise that I can protect you,” he admitted, his eyes glistening.

“Oi!” she said, instantly protective. “I’m okay, yeah? Whatever happens, promise me you won’t let them use me against you. I know that’s what they’re trying to do. But I’m a big girl. John. And I need you to be strong. And that means I need to know you’ll do what you have to do no matter what, yeah? Stand up to your uncle. Do whatever needs to be done to help people,” she insisted.

“But… but what about you?” he asked.

Rose’s heart nearly melted in empathy for him. They were making him make a choice. She could feel it in every ounce of her being. And she wanted to hurt them for torturing him like this. “Doctor… we’re soulmates. Whatever happens, I’ll be with you. Forever, I’m guessing,” she assured him.

Tears rented their banks, then, making his already shining form that much more ethereal. “No. I can’t…” he said, clearly aching to hold her as much as she wanted to hold him.

“You have to, Doctor. I don’t know what they’re making you do, but whatever it is, do NOT put me before the Marked. We owe it to other people like us to try to save them from this. We can’t have a future that holds this kind of pain for them. If that’s something you can help with, then you have to,” she insisted. “And if you put me before that, I will never forgive you. Do you understand?” she said, trying to be firm despite the emotion creeping into her voice.

Looking at her in an obvious bid to get her to recant, he found himself disappointed. She wasn’t going to, and she used every ounce of her energy to communicate that to him. The sky seemed to emanate the message, the sand beneath them seemed to support it, and the ocean seemed to echo her words. It was like the entire beach was somehow infused with her determination.

Apparently, she wasn’t the only one that felt it, because he finally backed down. Nodding, more tears coursed down his cheeks.

As much as her determination had been communicated a moment ago, a new feeling flowed over her. Sadness. Despair. Reaching out, she tried to wipe the tears on his cheek, once again finding herself unable to touch him. “I… I love you,” she admitted, looking up into his sad visage.

“Quite right, too,” he said with a sad smile. “And I suppose, in case this is my last chance to say it… Rose Tyler…”

A savage sting snapped her brutally back to reality, making her cry out in surprise and pain. “Wake up, Ms Tyler.”

Blinking against the harsh light glaring down from the ceiling, Rose finally made out who had spoken. Grayvas. A ball of anxiety formed in her throat. It seemed the show was about to start.

Chapter Text

The Doctor had been made to shower, which had been no mean feat. His guards had set up a chair in a bathtub, ‘helped’ him onto it, and had turned on the shower so that luke-warm water fell in piercing drops onto his hypersensitive skin. Unfortunately, it wasn’t only his skin that was getting rained on from above. The bandages encasing his feet were quickly becoming soggy victims of the deluge as well.

Deciding to ignore it for now, the Doctor reached for the soap provided and scrubbed himself down, trying to be careful not to further aggravate his epidermis. Why his skin was suddenly so delicate, he wasn’t sure, but he suspected it was yet another change his body had been dragged into with the near constant torture he’d been forced to endure here. Of all the changes he’d experienced, this was one he was hoping wasn’t permanent.

With no shampoo available, he used the soap he’d been given and did his best to create a lather in his hair by rubbing the bar into his tresses. That done, he closed his eyes and leaned back, allowing the water and stringent suds to rid his scalp of the sweat and oil that had accumulated through this entire ordeal.

And that’s when he felt it. No sooner had the water begun to slide through his hair did an overwhelming feeling of longing nearly steal his breath away. “Rose,” he heard himself breathe. The very shape of her name on his lips brought with it a feeling of almost fierce protectiveness, pushing forward the anger he hadn’t stopped nursing for those who’d caused her harm here.

Suddenly, in his mind’s eye, a swirl of blues, greys and beiges circled before him, creating a glittering canvas seemingly made just for him. Unable, and frankly, unwilling to pull away from the scene developing before his closed eyes, he waded into the warm essence of it and allowed himself to be immersed in the vision.

In moments, the whirling mass of beaconing colours settled to form into an oceanfront beach. It was beautiful. Glittering translucent blues capped calming waves spilling onto the shore and seashells littered the ground around him. The sun shone down, warming his face and the sparkling sand that stretched out ahead of him was as fine as he’d ever seen it. A balmy, but oddly distant, wind played over him.

Unexpectedly, and unsettlingly, then, a grave rumble of thunder boomed behind him, making him turn. He was met with a deeply bruised, agitated darkness that loomed over the sand and sea in the distance. Lighting lit the murky clouds rolling in its depths, reinforced by more of the resonating thunder that had initially got his attention. There was no doubt this storm could make ruin of the entire beach if it ventured closer.

Instinctively, he backed away from the ominous clouds and the disturbing feelings they engendered. They weren’t what drew him into this vision.

Purposefully turning back to face the inviting side of the beach, he looked out over the water, allowing its undulating waves to wash over the anxiousness that the storm had reinforced in him. Once again, though, he became aware of the unusual quality of the wind blowing over him. It whipped at his hair and blew his suit jacket open, but he couldn’t really feel it. It was like - he knew it was there in his mind, but his body wasn’t actually connecting with it. Come to think of it, the entire place had that same quality. Inviting, but sort of… intangible. Like he was watching it on the telly instead of standing in the middle of it.

That’s when something caught his attention in the distance, pulling him from his analysis of this place. A figure on the beach. He couldn’t make out the person’s face at this distance, but without any doubt he knew exactly who it was. In his soul he knew. It was Rose.

And that’s when it dawned on him. It wasn’t Rose. That is to say; it was Rose, but so was this beach. So were the waves. The air. The wind. Everything good about this place was actually his Rose. That meant…

Turning his head, he looked over his shoulder to find the storm clouds still looming. That must be him. That must be where his mind was joining with hers. He must be in her mind somehow. Had… had she called him here?

Yes.

He didn’t know why, but suddenly he knew that to be true. It was like the asking of the question was it’s own answer. Rose had called him here. But… how could she? How could this be happening? Maybe… maybe the changes he’d experienced… the ones he’d hoped she hadn’t also experienced… had allowed them to connect this way now. The idea was startling… and, quite frankly, unsettlingly brilliant.

Suddenly a feeling of rising excitement surrounded him, and it was quickly followed by the twin manifestations of elation and relief. The emotions were so strong they nearly made him gasp. He was experiencing what Rose was feeling; and it was… incredible.

Purposefully breathing in the charged, Rose infused air, he allowed himself to give over to the thrill of seeing her. Using his own relief and need for her as fuel, he headed determinedly toward his soulmate. And with every step he took toward her, and away from the storm he’d apparently brought with him, the more the anger and fear he carried dropped away. She was all that mattered here.

Still some distance away, Rose began running toward him, sprinting down the beach with abandon; the brilliant, shining smile decorating her face becoming more clear as she neared.

But not clear enough. Disturbingly, the feeling of distance or intangibility he’d felt earlier instantly came rushing back as she closed in. She was… opaque. It seemed, if they were indeed in her mind - if they were somehow reaching out to each other telepathically - then the connection mustn’t be complete. Maybe they were physically too far away from each other? Or perhaps this was as solid as a connection between them could ever get?

“Doctor?” she said, slowing as she neared. She obviously sensed the oddity as well.

“Rose,” he said, unable to come up with any other words to say. It was really the only word that mattered, though, anyway, at the moment.

“You look like a ghost,” she said, reaching for him. Disturbingly, her hand slid right through him and he felt nothing.

“I’m just an image. No touch,” he explained, realizing the truth of it even as he said it.

“But… is it really you?” she asked.

“It’s me,” he assured her. He went on to explain what he thought was going on… why they could meet like this. But it wasn’t long before the conversation steered toward the subject he now wished he’d discussed with her long before now. He apologized for not telling her about the mark. “I thought it would keep you safe if you didn’t know. I was wrong. I was so wrong,” he admitted, feeling the full weight of his mistake. Of course, his apology was too little, too late. He knew that. And he deserved whatever reaction she saw fit to have.

“Yes you were,” she said.

He nodded in sad agreement.

“But hey,” she said more softly, “at least I know now, yeah? That’s all that matters.”

The Doctor shook his head. “No. It isn’t. What matters is that you’re alive. What matters is that… that I need you to be safe. And…” he paused, trying to contain the fear welling in him, “and I don’t know if I can promise that I can protect you.”

“Oi! I’m okay, yeah?” she insisted. “Whatever happens, promise me you won’t let them use me against you,” she added, somehow reading more deeply into his mind than he’d imagined she could. “I know that’s what they’re trying to do. But I’m a big girl. John. And I need you to be strong. And that means I need to know you’ll do what you have to do no matter what, yeah? Stand up to your uncle. Do whatever needs to be done to help people.”

It was like she was staring into his soul with a microscope. She’d figured out exactly what was tearing him apart and she’d gone in determined to help him do the right thing. But she didn’t know what that meant. She couldn’t possibly understand what she was asking. What she was demanding of him… it would tear him apart in ways she’d never be able to fathom. “But… but what about you?” he said, completely unable to put his fears into words.

Her gorgeous face became the very picture of affection. “Doctor… we’re soulmates. Whatever happens, I’ll be with you. Forever, I’m guessing.”

That wasn’t good enough. Forever wouldn’t be enough… not in the way she was thinking. “No. I can’t…” he admitted, feeling actual tears cascade down his face somewhere far away from this beautiful beach.

Words issued from her lips, but he could barely hear them over the pounding of his heart. How could he simply watch her being torn apart when he could stop it? He knew in his mind how important it was that he held his part of the bargain he’d struck with Malcolm, but now…

“And if you put me before that, I will never forgive you. Do you understand?” Rose’s voice insisted, pulling him from his internal pain.

She would never forgive him. Looking into her serious visage, he found himself believing her. If he put her before all the other marked people out there, she’d not thank him for it. If he chose her over them, and even one of them died because of it, she wouldn’t forgive him. Not ever. He could feel it in the very sand beneath his feet. The fact of it wrapped around him like a determined blanket.

And he couldn’t have that. If there was an afterlife, he wouldn’t want to be part of it if he had to exist in it without her approval. Disappointing her was as much an option as was assisting in the torture and death of thousands of the Marked.

Defeated, he nodded his ascent, even as his own warm tears mingled with the cool water pounding down on him in the real world from the showerhead above.

Reaching out, she tried to wipe the tears on his cheek, but quickly gave up. Then she said something that made his very soul reach out of his body to entwine with her own. “I… I love you.”

“Quite right, too,” he replied tearfully, awkwardly trying to counterbalance the seriousness of the moment, but immediately regretting it. Recovering quickly, he added, “And I suppose, in case this is my last chance to say it… Rose Tyler… I-”

But she was gone. The beach was gone. The wind and the ocean were gone. Spluttering, his eyes flew open, only to be instantly washed out by water pouring down on him from above. Squeezing his eyes quickly shut again, his hands flew up to wipe them just as the ‘whoosh’ of the shower curtain being pulled back reminded him he wasn’t alone.

“You’re done,” Agent Foulmouth informed him.

Blinking away tears and cold water, the Doctor tried to fully bring himself back to this plane. Everything in him wanted to return to the beach and stay there, though. With her. But that moment was gone now. This bathtub… this deluded man standing over him… this was reality now.

Without the Doctor having to ask, the agent turned off the faucet and thrust a towel in his direction. “Hurry up,” he commanded before standing back and looking up at the ceiling with crossed arms.

Right. Time to dry off. Wiping the remnant of shower water and tears from his face, his mind darted back to the beach and Rose’s last words. Damn it! Why hadn’t he said it right away? No… he had to be a smart arse, didn’t he? ’Once again - you’re an idiot,’ his mind informed him helpfully as he toweled himself off as best he could.

Realizing he’d better deal with the sopping bandages on his feet before exiting the tub, he reached down and loosened one of the soggy wrappings. Unravelling it cautiously, he looked at his toes as they slowly came into view, and… blimey.

“What the fuck?!” Agent Foulmouth balked, clearly alarmed.

The Doctor swallowed. He was somewhat frightened himself, if he was honest. His entire foot was glowing slightly. A golden sort of hue enveloped his toes, and beneath the translucent light, new toenails were clearly beginning to grow up from their nailbeds.

Quickly unravelling the other foot, he found the exact same situation.

“Fuckin’, goddamn mutant,” the agent cursed, shaking his head. “Rassilon’s not going to believe this.”

Oh, the Doctor doubted that very much, actually. He was quite sure his uncle would not only believe it, but that he’d be thrilled with this development. The Marked could regenerate body parts. Fantastic. Another bloody reason the public should round them up and even rid the earth of his kind.

 

OoOoOoOoO

 

The sting of the slap across her face made Rose’s eyes water. A yelp of surprise flew from her without her permission.

“Wake up, Ms Tyler,” a familiar voice suggested almost cordially.

Fear instantly dug into her chest. The beach was gone. Possibly forever. She was on her own here in this place facing what promised to be a painful future at the hands of Grayvas; a spiteful, evil man with as much regard for human life as Lucifer.

With the spotlight very pointedly aimed at her, it was nearly impossible to see anything other than whatever was presented right in front of her face, but with effort she could make out the outline of someone hovering in the darkness behind Grayvas and on the other side of the table another agent stood off in the shadows. A discomforting analogy formed. If Grayvas was the devil, then these were his demons.

“It’s almost time, my dear,” Grayvas informed her, glancing at his watch.

Suddenly, as if to support his claim, a voice echoed through the room. “We’re about to begin, Agent. Is everything in place?” a woman’s voice inquired.

“Everything is ready. We’re standing by,” Grayvas responded, looking up into the corner of the room where a camera was dutifully recording.

Rose swallowed thickly as her heart rate continued climbing. They were timing things like a stage production. She was going to be tortured on cue so the Doctor would be coerced into doing their bidding.

Desperately, she tried to think of some way to stop all this; to save the Doctor from seeing her suffer. But as far as she could imagine, there really wasn’t anything she could do. She was trussed up like a Christmas turkey and the room was filled with ravenous revellers. Still, she had to do something, even if it was fruitless. “Look - I don’t know what you want from the Doctor,” Rose found herself stating in a last stitch effort to talk sense into these people, “but whatever you’re planning - it’s not going to work. He’ll never help you.”

Grayvas offered her a condescending smirk. “Really? I rather beg to differ,” he argued. “And all we want from him, my dear, is the truth. It’s simple. The population needs to know what you… things… are capable of and your markmate is going to offer a confession revealing the true extent of your kind’s power and depravity. It will be televised and passed from user to user on the internet and in mere hours the entire world will know what you are all capable of. They’ll hear about the mind-reading, the heightened senses and the respiratory and aortic alterations. Things that basically make you living, breathing threats to the human species.”

“What?” Rose interjected. “That’s bollocks! None of that’s true!”

“Then,” he continued, ignoring her interjection, “he’ll admit to being the orchestrator of terrorist activities that have killed hundreds in London and will implicate other Marked individuals in similar crimes both in Europe and abroad. He will essentially put the blame for all terrorist activity in the world on the Marked,” he said, clearly revelling in the thought.

Fear gripped Rose by the throat. “But… but that’s rubbish! You can’t make him say that - innocent people will be hurt!” If anyone with a mark admitted to any of that, she was sure it’d be a death knell for everyone brandishing blue swirls on their skin.

“The Marked will only get what they deserve, Ms. Tyler. And what they deserve is to be eradicated from our species. We have to keep the human race pure if we’re to survive the future. The Marked are a threat to that. John himself is the perfect example. He is a half-breed; a part-human who carries the mutant genes. It’s a slippery slope and the human race has already started sliding. We must stop the descent before we can no longer do so,” he preached.

“You’re mad,” Rose informed him. “All of you. And you may think the Doctor will do what you want, but I know him. He’d never do anything that might harm people,” she promised, recalling his reluctant agreement with her on the beach.

Grayvas huffed through his nose. “You put far too much faith in your mutant dentist, my dear. I know you realize how very deep a mark goes, because you can feel it, can’t you? I’m told the Marked will do anything to save their markmates from suffering. If you were in his place, you know what you would do. You’d agree to anything that would save him discomfort. Why would you think he’d do any less for you?” he pointed out. “He wouldn’t. That abomination is so sweetly devoted to you that it makes me reach for insulin. So I wouldn’t put too much faith in his ability to take the moral high ground. I think he’s very aware that, should he decide to go against us, he will witness pain beyond imagining. Your pain. And he’d never abide it.” Then, reaching out, the back of his cold hand stroked sickeningly down her cheek. “He. Is. Ours.” he whispered.

Rose felt her stomach drop with the truth of it. If their positions were reversed and she’d promised the Doctor that she’d stand up for the world before him, she knew she might not be able to actually do it if push came to shove. And if the Doctor cooperated… if he did what they were telling him to do, then the fallout would truly be down to her, wouldn’t it? If she hadn’t agreed to speak at the rally… if she’d listened to Donna… the Doctor wouldn’t be in the position he was in. She wouldn’t be a pawn in their manipulation, and there would be no question in his mind. He’d never cooperate with them. Now though… even though she’d made him promise…

“Agent Grayvas, we’re ready to begin.” It was Rassilon’s voice over the speakers this time.

“Yes, my lord,” Grayvas replied. Looking back down at Rose, he smiled. “Time to make history."

Chapter Text

The hallway he was being made to limp down was long, and despite the fact his feet were in better shape than they’d been even ten minutes ago, it still hurt to walk. His guards - all five of them - seemed more than oblivious to his pain and weakened state, however. In fact, if their drawn weapons and anxious expressions were anything to go by, they seemed to think him capable of instant genocide.

Following the rather extraordinary discovery of his energy emitting feet, Agent Foulmouth had drawn his weapon and made it a point to tell him that he’d be happy to disable him if he so much as ‘fuckin’ twitched.’ His own brown, pinstriped suit that had somehow been procured from his flat, had been thrown at him, and he’d been forced to dress at gunpoint. Whatever Agent Foulmouth had thought he was capable of, he’d clearly felt the Doctor threatening enough that he’d radioed his comrades to alert them of this latest development. It seemed that having your prisoner develop glowing, regenerating feet was a portent of doom and it warranted reinforcement.

Granted - the entire thing was barmy. While his feet were definitely not 100%, they were clearly very rapidly healing. Not only had he managed to put his socks and even his shoes on, but after being directed to stand, he was surprised to find he could walk. He still had an impressive limp, but given the carnage that had been his toes earlier, it was a complete miracle that he could even put weight on his feet. Interestingly, his skin also seemed to be settling back into feeling normal sensations. He wondered if the earlier sensitivity was due somehow to the effort his body was making in healing his feet? Either way - in all, it was truly remarkable to say the least.

His captors, however, clearly weren’t as impressed with this development as he was. They were, in fact, now completely on edge, and he had to admit to rather enjoying the fact. As much as he was actually completely powerless at the moment; handcuffed, unarmed, limping and surrounded by armed guards; they clearly thought he wasn’t. He’d never felt so unwarrantedly intimidating in his whole life.

Unfortunately, this small pleasure was quickly overtaken by anxiety as the group halted their march at a room labelled, ‘Studio.’ Opening the door, the agent in the lead pushed him into the space.

The room was indeed what it was touted to be. There was a wooden table and chair facing a film camera manned by someone he couldn’t make out. Another camera stood off to the side and a few stand-up, white, green and blue tinted industrial lights were trained on the chair. A grey-blue backdrop stood behind the table. To his immediate, visceral discomfort, he spied the Chameleon Arch off to the side; no doubt completely out of camera shot. It definitely wasn’t something Rassilon would want the public to know about.

Leading him to the chair, Agent Foulmouth used the business end of his weapon to none-to-delicately insist he sit in it. From there, his hands were uncuffed, only to quickly be re-cuffed to the arms of the seat. On the table in front of him sat a copy of the sheet he’d been told to read earlier.

“Thank-you, gentlemen,” a voice bellowed from far side of the room. Looking over, the Doctor found his uncle and Agent Hartman standing under a large, black screen. “You may leave,” he instructed, before turning to say something more to the woman beside him.

The guards he’d addressed instantly filed from the room, with Agent Foulmouth hanging back. “My lord, there’s something you should know,” he began, darting a look at the Doctor’s feet.

The Doctor tensed. Rassilon didn’t know yet. Not that it mattered much in the long run. He was clearly going to find out. Still, he’d rather it wasn’t before this bloody taping.

“Not right now, agent,” Rassilon replied, waving him away as he stepped over to stand behind the unmanned second camera with Agent Hartman, resuming his conversation.

The man tossed the Doctor a frustrated look, which he returned with a purposefully innocent smile. “But sir,” he tried again, clearly now egged on by the Doctor’s flippant response.

“I said, not now!” Rassilon instantly barked, rounding on him. His uncle was very obviously on edge, and even the Doctor knew that now was clearly not the best time to press him.

Apparently so did Agent Foulmouth. “Yes, my lord,” he replied, his jaw set.

Unable to resist, the Doctor offered the agent a small, cuffed wave on his way out, clearly further enraging him if the ferocity of the door slamming was any indication. Served him right.

“Good. Now,” Rassilon said, stepping around the camera to close in on the Doctor, “before we start, I believe I should point out a few things. First, I want you to know that this is not a live broadcast. That means that we will do as many takes as we need until the product is perfect,” he instructed. “Secondly,” he said, turning to face the dark screen he’d been standing under, “I trust you understand what is at stake, here.” Tapping on a device on his wrist, he said, “Open audio and video communication with Interrogation Room B.”

The screen on the side wall instantly lit up. In the very centre of it, lit by harsh, bright lights, was his Rose.

Of course, he knew this was going to happen; it was no surprise. Still, seeing her there, fastened down on an operating table with Grayvas looming behind her… they might as well already be thrusting daggers into his eyes. Despite his immediate desire to recoil from the sight, though, he made himself study it for any sign of Malcolm or Agent Benton. To his distress, neither of them seemed to be there.

“Now… I trust you understand that we don’t wish to harm Ms. Tyler. Not really. She is only standing by in case you decide not to cooperate. Do you understand?” he said, one eyebrow raised.

“Yes,” he replied, knowing full well it was a load of bollocks. He didn’t trust Grayvas as far as he could throw him and knew damn well the man was likely looking for even the smallest hint of dissension so he could inflict pain on his soulmate.

“Good. Now I trust you’ve memorized the key points in the script I gave you,” Rassilon said, pulling a chair over so he could sit at the side of the table.

The Doctor nodded.

“Excellent. Now, we’ll be filming from the chest up, so you may look down at the notes if necessary, but I want this to appear as natural as possible. Your answers will be clear and you will believe them. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” the Doctor replied, his expression impassive.

Studying his nephew for a moment, possibly looking for any sign of dissent, he finally nodded, apparently content that the Doctor had gotten the message. Don’t try anything stupid.

“Agent Grayvas, we’re ready to begin,” Rassilon announced.

“Yes, my lord,” the cruel bespeckled man replied from the telly. The Doctor cast a glance at the large screen framing Rose’s image. Grayvas was practically rubbing his hands together in gleeful anticipation.

Turning to Agent Hartman, who was apparently the head cameraperson today, Rassilon instructed, “Count us down and then you and…” he paused for a moment, “What’s your name, Agent?” he asked the man operating the other camera.

“Agent Smith, my lord,” the man replied, not stepping out from behind the camera.

“Right. So, Agent Hartman, you’ll count us down and then both you and Agent Smith will begin filming.”

Feeling anxiety building, the Doctor shot another look at the screen on the wall. Still no Benton. No Malcolm. He swallowed.

Despite meaning what he’d told Rose earlier on the beach - that he’d do as she asked of him; he unsurprisingly found himself wavering now that he was actually faced with her potential pain. If no one showed up to protect her, how could he do this? How?

“3, 2, 1….”

“Good evening, people of the U.K., and, indeed, the world,” Rassilon said, looking directly into the camera Agent Hartman had pointed in his direction. “Tonight we cannot say that we are pleased to be addressing you. This is not because your government isn’t always honoured to share important and breaking news with you, but because of its disturbing content,” Rassilon said, his tone businesslike and somber.

Shooting another look at Rose, the Doctor found himself desperately wishing he was still on that beach with her. Still in that safe place…

“... confirm that you are my nephew, Dr. John Smith,” Rassilon’s voice interrupted his fantasy.

A pregnant silence filled the room for a moment, making the Doctor instantly aware he’d missed his cue.

Just as Rassilon took a breath in, possibly to exhale out a verbal command that Grayvas go ahead let off some steam, the Doctor jumped in. “Yes, I’m Dr. John Smith. Your nephew,” he recovered quickly, anxious to stop Rassilon from giving Grayvas the order to harm his soulmate.

A smug smirk filled Rassilon’s long visage before he turned again to address the camera. “For clarity’s sake, I want you all to know that, while Dr. Smith is my nephew, he has been detained here because of what he is and what he has done. My intention is to rid this country of terrorist threats, and that is what I will do, even if I must sacrifice those I once trusted and cared for,” he said, his expression slightly saddened. “The safety of our country and our people is paramount, no matter what the cost,” he added solemnly. Turning back to the Doctor, then, he asked, “How long have you been marked, Dr. Smith?”

Looking down at the notes on the table, he replied as scripted. “For a few months.”

“I see. Do you know why you’re here today?” Rassilon asked.

“I do.”

“And why is that?” Rassilon pressed.

“I’m here because…” one more look at the screen on the wall. Still nothing. Only Grayvas and Rose.

Rassilon’s expression hardened. “Yes?”

“Because I’m Marked, and I’ve…” Another look. Gods, please… “I’ve hurt people.”

Apparently deciding he could work with that answer, Rassilon pushed ahead. “How exactly? How did you hurt people?”

The Doctor swallowed. This was it. He either refused to continue, in which case Rose would be tortured and possibly killed before his eyes, or he went along with this and saved his soulmate while at the same time condemning a whole population of people to a horrid future.

“I… I…” he started, once again darting a look at the blasted screen housing Rose’s prone form. This time, though, there was movement. Benton’s tall form crossed the line of the camera. He was there!

A thrill of hope shot through him. Benton was there to look out for Rose. He had to be.

As if in confirmation, Benton slid behind Grayvas in the shot and offered the camera a nod.

To say he was thrilled was a ludicrous understatement. This was it. He was free from their demands. Oh - he may not survive this. He had no delusions. But Rose would. He believed that now. And that’s all that mattered.

Just as Rassilon seemed about to bark out some cruel command, the Doctor offered, “I hurt people in a way that I can never take back.”

Rassilon’s brows furrowed, but he allowed the answer.

Continuing, the Doctor added, “And it’s all because I’m marked,” he said, looking down at his arm. “You see - I thought that I could make decisions for other people because I have one,” he shared.

“Go on,” Rassilon encouraged, apparently liking where this was going.

“I thought that I knew what was best for people. For one particular person. I knew that, right now, at this time in history, having this mark was dangerous. That even though unmarked people have nothing to be afraid of, there were those who would want to hurt her. Torture her. And I was right about that. So… even though I knew exactly who my soulmate was, I didn’t tell her, because I thought I could save her pain. I thought she could be spared the torture and humiliation that is going on here behind closed doors at SMITE,” he explained.

A look of pure fury crossed Rassilon’s features. “Grayvas!” be barked. It wasn’t a name; it was a command.

The Doctor’s head swivelled toward the screen.

“Yes, my lord,” Grayvas replied from the telly.

Then, turning to his terrified victim he said, “Let’s get right into the meat of it, shall we?”

Instantly the Doctor’s chest filled with terror. Had he been wrong about Benton? Had he put his faith in the wrong person?

“You. Pass me the drill,” Grayvas commanded someone off camera.

The Doctor’s heart instantly seized. No…

But no one on the screen moved. Looking over, Grayvas repeated his direction.

“I think you’ll find, Agent Grayvas, that you’ll not get much cooperation from anyone here.” Benton.

“What?! Who do you think you are?” Grayvas demanded. Then, turning quickly to the other agent behind him, he snarled, “Take him!”

To Grayvas’ clear satisfaction, the guard he’d addressed moved forward toward Benton, but to his surprise, the man swivelled at the last moment and grabbed his arm.

A flurry of movement followed in which he, Benton and another agent, who hadn’t been in view of the camera before now, also closed in on the senior agent. In moments Grayvas was cuffed and on the floor.

“What in hell’s name!?” Rassilon shouted at the screen, as the three agents moved into the shot again to undo Rose’s bindings.

It wasn’t until one of them looked directly up into the camera that the Doctor realized who it was. “Hey Doc,” Jack’s familiar voice sang over the speakers. “Don’t worry - we’ve got her. She’ll be fine,” he promised. “Now do what you need to do,” he directed.

“What! Who are you?!” Rassilon bellowed, moving in to stare at the screen. “Wait - I know you. You’re-”

“Captain Jack Harkness. And I’m your worst nightmare,” Jack replied, his lips quirking up in a confident snarl. “Cliche, I know; but I couldn’t resist,” he added, giving the camera a saucy wink. “Doc - go ahead. Say what needs to be said. We’ve got your back,” he informed him, offering his flatmate reassurance.

Say what needs to be said? But what was the point? Surely they weren’t filming this...

“Ahem,” a man coughed, pulling the Doctor’s attention from the screen to the film camera aimed directly at him. From behind it stepped someone he recognized. Blimey! It was Rickey… the bloke Rose introduced him to at the bar. “Go ahead, man,” he instructed, pointing to the green light blinking on top of the camera. It was recording.

Aha! Jack, you crafty bugger! As much as he didn’t usually fancy men, he could just bloody kiss him right now! Rickey too, for that matter.

Taking his cue, the Doctor began addressing the camera, getting right down to his message. “As I said… my name is Doctor John Smith. What I haven’t said, is that an innocent woman is currently lying on an operating table being threatened with torture unless I agree to lie to you today.”

Shaken from his initial shock, Rassilon jumped toward Rickey and reached into his jacket. Aiming it in the young man’s direction, he fired off a shot, which blessedly went wide by a hair. Pulling out his own weapon, Rickey returned fire, clapping Rassilon in the leg. A ragged curse flew from his uncle’s mouth.

Despite the battle surrounding him, the Doctor continued; anxious to have his words recorded in case he didn’t make it out of this. “My own uncle has threatened to torture her unless I tell you a lie about the Marked that has been outlined for me on this document,” he continued, nodding down at the sheet before him on the table.

“God damnit!” Rassilon cursed somewhere to his right. “Hartman! Shut him up!” Another shot rang out.

“Fuck! Shit, fuck!” Rickey cried, dropping to the ground.

“Rickey!” the Doctor shouted, staring in alarm as blood spilled through the fabric of the man’s trousers.

“Keep going!” Rickey directed as he dragged himself behind a wooden crate.

Doing as he was told, the Doctor redirected his focus to the camera. Rickey was right - this story had to get out. Even if it was never ever broadcast, the least he could hope was that the recording might be found one day. This couldn’t all be in vain. It couldn’t. “They… they want you to think that I am responsible for a terrorist attack in London,” the Doctor shouted above the din, now even more desperate to get his message heard. “They want you all to think that I somehow manipulated people into committing suicide bombings. They wanted me to tell you that the Marked are purposefully harming themselves in order to develop ‘superpowers’ and that our goal is to take over the human race. It’s rubbish! It’s all complete nonsense designed to turn good people against other good people. These people - Rassilon and Saxon - they’ve been telling you the Marked are evil… but they’re the ones who’ve been persecuting innocent people! People whose only crime is to be a bit different. My soulmate has been tortured. I watched as they electrocuted and raped her…” he said, swallowing emotion momentarily before pushing ahead. “And they did it all to make sure I’d tell you lies. We can’t read people’s minds. We can’t force anyone to do anything; I can’t even get my flatmate to do the damn dishes, for God’s sake! But they want you to believe we can so that you’ll sanction the destruction of an entire group of people,” he exclaimed.

A cold metal contraption was suddenly fitted over his head. No!

“This what your government has been doing! Saxon and Rassilon - they torture people! Real human beings!” he shouted, trying fruitlessly to shake off the Arch’s helmet. “SMITE has taken people you know - your friends and family - and they’ve been tortu-”

A dagger of electricity shot through his skull, instantly pulling a scream from his throat. Only vaguely aware that more shots were ringing out around him, the Doctor began to lose himself in the roaring, burning pain of the machine as it’s energy engulfed and lit into every cell in his body. Searing lava filled him. Encased him. Was him.

Only vaguely aware that raw piercing sounds were being torn from his body, he soon found his mind retreating. His consciousness was looking for a corner of his mind to hide in… a shelter from the flames eating away at his insides. Despite his best efforts, though, the simultaneous activation of every neuron in his brain made escape impossible. He was being eaten alive.

If he’d simply been dying, he’d have counted himself lucky, but he wasn’t. He was being made to suffer first. Before it ultimately killed him, this bloody machine was going to burn away every ounce of his will to live. In fact… it was well on its way to doing just that. Despite the fact that his new hyper awareness of time told him otherwise, the agony he was enduring had already lasted a lifetime. He didn’t want to go on living any longer if this was how the rest of his life on earth was going to be spent - writhing in agony.

’Take me. Please, dear universe…’ the miniscule part of his mind that was left begged.

”Doctor…”

Wha-

”Come to me, John…”

Rose? A solid vibration of her essence floated toward him from an as yet unburned corner of his mind. Streaming toward it with all his awareness, he dove into its’ depths and...

… their beach formed before his mind’s eye. This time, though, it’s sand was composed of scarred black coals and the ocean that poured thick waves onto the beach was lava red. Nevertheless, despite it’s hellish appearance, it was still the same beach he’d met Rose on before. Distantly, it occurred to him that they must be in his mind this time.

”Don’t give up. Please, don’t give up,” Rose pleaded, suddenly standing solidly in front of him. There was nothing distant about her this time. She was as real as anything he’d seen with his own two eyes.

Reaching out, he found he could even feel her cheek under his fingers. “You’re here,” he said, marvelling at this one last miracle he was being allowed to experience. “I thought I’d never see you again.”

”I’m here, but this isn’t the last time you’ll see me, Doctor. You can’t give up - do you hear me?” she demanded, losing her pleading tone. “You can’t leave me. I need you.”

“I never got to say it before,” he said, looking into her eyes.

“And don’t say it now. Do you hear me?!” Rose insisted. “I don’t want to hear it now. You’re going to say it to my face. Because you’ll see me again, yeah? Soon. Just hold on,” she urged.

A small smile found his lips. “You’re safe now. That’s all I wanted. And I think…” he said looking over his shoulder at the flames dancing toward him over the hot coals, “my time is almost up.”

“No,” she said, panic emanating from her small form.

“And if you care about me, you’ll allow me this. Just this one thing,” he said, ignoring her protest. “You’ll let me say it.”

Looking up into his eyes, Rose’s expression softened into one of reluctant resignation. “No,” she said softly, still mildly protesting despite the reality of the moment. He was dying.

Reaching out, he took her hand in his and moved closer. Staring down into her glistening eyes, he allowed himself a moment to lose himself in them. God, he was lucky. He was the luckiest man in the universe despite his certain future. He’d met this woman; this magnificent person whom he could’ve had a future with. And despite the heartache and the pain he’d suffered, he wouldn’t have changed that fact.

“Rose Tyler,” he said, feeling the blessed weight of the words he was about to say. “I love you.”

A sob escaped his soulmate as tears slipped down her cheeks. “I love you, too,” she said.

And suddenly she was in his arms; her mouth on his. It felt as real as their first kiss, but this time her very spirit seemed to infuse him; as if she was not only pressed against him, but was filling him as well. Filling his mind, his heart and twinning with his soul. They were one. Truly one.

Reluctantly pulling back, he looked down at his soulmate, eager to burn her image into his consciousness. If there was another life, he would see her there. He was sure of it.

Rose suddenly sucked in a sharp, surprised breath. “Doctor-” she said, looking at the beach around them. Doing the same, the Doctor sighed. This was it. The fire now surrounded them on all sides.

Gazing back down at his soulmate, he took a deep breath and took a large step back from her. “You need to go,” he said, his voice barely audible.

Rose shook her head. “No. I’m staying here with you,” she informed him, grabbing his hands.

The Doctor offered her a soft smile. “You can’t. This… all this… it’s not for you,” he said, looking around them at the pink tinted sky and the waves of lava.

“It’s not for you either! Not now. You can decide not to let it take you. Please, Doctor,” she begged.

A ball of emotion formed in his throat. Looking around again, he watched as the fire surrounding them creeped ever closer. He didn’t want to die. Not this way. “I don’t want to go,” he admitted, tears jumping to his eyes.

In the distance, he felt, rather than heard, a growing uproar. It was the bellowing of a blaze that had gathered so much energy that it was feeding its own flames. Somewhere outside of this beach… outside of his mind… he heard his own screams die off.

“Oh, my god!” Rose hollered, looking around him at the horizon.

Turning, he sucked a terrified breath in. A massive ball of pure light was hurtling toward them.

Spinning in place, he shouted, “Go! GO, ROSE!”

There was nowhere to go. But that wasn’t what he meant. He needed her out of his mind before it all went up in flames.

“No! I told you - I’m not leaving!” she insisted.

Goddammit! Concentrating, he used all his frightened, terrified energy to grab her and push her as hard as he could away from the oncoming destruction.

Her face revealed her surprise and horror as she flew back and dissolved from sight.

She was safe.

He barely had time to thank the universe before the deafening sound of his approaching death reminded him he had one last thing to accomplish. Swirling where he stood, he watched the ball of pure golden energy as it barrelled toward him. This was it. If he had one last thing he wanted to do in this life, it was to face its end with dignity. He didn’t want to go. He didn’t. But standing here, facing death… he knew he wanted to greet it on his own terms.

Holding his arms out at his sides, he threw his head back and closed his eyes. “Good-bye, Rose.”

Chapter Text

Antiseptic. The Doctor took a deeper breath just to be sure. Yup. Definitely antiseptic. Was there antiseptic in the afterlife? No, surely not. Cracking his eyes open, he was confronted with the warbly image of a being that could only have been created in heaven.

“Doctor?” its voice sang as its image swam before his eyes. It was gorgeous. All shiney and sort of… pink and yellow. So beautiful. Its voice sounded like a choir. Then it occurred to him… this must be an angel. Suddenly a feeling of shame crept over him. He’d never believed in them. Or in heaven, for that matter. Well, at least the creator had seen fit to forgive his short-sightedness, otherwise he wouldn’t be in heaven now, seeing an angel. He closed his eyes again and let himself float, enjoying the idea that angels might all look like this one. Like Rose.

Wait. What about the antiseptic, though?

He was imagining it. That had to be it.

“John??” the voice issued once again; sounding much less ‘singy’ and definitely more… worried. That wasn’t right. Surely angels didn’t have much to worry about, what with eternal joy and all that. Still…

“Please open your eyes again,” her voice begged. Fingers raked gently through his hair.

Wait. Fingers? Opening his eyes, he blinked largely a couple of times, working to clear the fog that was clouding his vision. What he found was Rose’s concerned face filling his view. “Rose?” he tried, just to be sure. His voice came out raspy and strangled sounding.

“Oh, thank God!” she said, instantly leaning over to hug him before cupping his face to pepper his cheeks with kisses. The assault ended with a relieved final kiss on the lips which ended far too quickly as far as he was concerned. “Thank God you’re alright,” she said, her hand stroking his cheek.

“I’m alright,” he croaked, trying to reassure her. Pulling his arm up from where it was tucked beside him, he took her hand. “If I’m not actually dead and imagining you, that is,” he amended.

“You’re not dead,” she said, even as tears filled her eyes. “You’re here with me; right where you should be,” she informed him, sending out a distinct wave of relief that washed through his mind like a soothing balm.

Once again he had to stop and really check in with reality. How could this be real? How could he be alive and here with her right now? And where was ‘here’, exactly? Looking around, he found he hadn’t been imagining the antiseptic smell earlier. They were in a hospital room. “Rose - what happened?”

A feeling of concern suddenly encompassed his awareness. “You… you almost didn’t make it,” Rose informed him.

The Doctor thought back. He recalled the studio at SMITE headquarters. And gunshots. Lots of them. Then the pain. Lord. So much pain. Then… nothing. “How?” he asked.

“They put the Arch on you. Jack said it was the most terrifying thing he’d ever seen. By the time he got there - he said it was like you were on fire, John. He said you were glowing; like the machine was burning you from the inside out,” she explained, recounting Jack’s story with tears once again climbing to her eyes.

“I remember,” he said, a chill running through him.

“I tried to make Jack take me with him to save you, but he wouldn’t,” she admitted, shaking her head. “I was so frustrated. I just needed to find you. To save you,” she said, her voice quavering as she finally gave in to tears.

“What? No… shhhhh,” he said, reaching up to pull her head toward him so he could kiss her forehead.

“You were in so much pain,” she managed, now sobbing.

“Shhhh,” he encouraged, pulling her into him so that she lay down on the bed beside him. “I’m here. I’m okay,” he assured her, stroking her hair as she nestled her head on his chest. “I’m fine now.” It was a fact, as far as he could tell; but he had to admit - he was surprised. The pain… the sheer unabating agony he’d felt… he honestly wasn’t sure how he’d managed to make it.

“God, Doctor,” she said, sniffling, “I’m so glad you fought. I told you to-” she said.

“Wait - you told…” he paused as images of a tarred beach surged forward from somewhere deep in his consciousness, “...you were with me in my mind.” Memories of the overriding need to save her from the the fire quickly surfaced along with the terror he’d felt as he watched what could only have been the end of his life race toward him...

“Yeah, I was,” she admitted, clearly also distressed by the memory.

“Blimey,” he whispered, now feeling the full weight of what had transpired. He’d barely gotten her out of his mind before it hit. And it must’ve hit. Right?

“You were in such… such agony,” she said, sniffing. “I couldn’t leave you to go through it alone. And I needed you to fight. I needed you to stay with me,” she admitted, “and then you pushed me out,” she stated, clearly hurt.

The Doctor swallowed. He had pushed her out. “I had to. I couldn’t risk something happening to you if you stayed while I… while I…”

“While you died,” she finished, tears once again surfacing. “But you didn’t,” she said, as if needing to hear it out loud again. “Jack said by the time he got to you there were flames shooting out of you - but you fought it. Somehow you fought it.”

Did he? He shook his head, trying to dislodge the memory. He must’ve. Pushing himself to remember, he recalled seeing a sphere as bright as the sun hurtling toward him. He remembered surrendering to it - giving himself over to it. And then… then nothing. How could he have survived that? He had no idea. He certainly wasn’t about to complain though, because, for some unknown reason, he was alive. He was alive and breathing in the scent of Rose’s hair and feeling her cheek nestled against his chest. That was all that really mattered now. Unless of course…

“Wait - are we safe? Where’s Rassilon?” he asked, adrenaline suddenly shooting through him.

“We’re safe,” Rose assured him quickly, clearly sensing his sudden anxiety. “It’s okay. We’re not in any danger,” she promised, stroking his chest in an effort to soothe him.

“What hospital is this?” the Doctor asked, still not completely convinced he could let himself relax.

“We’re actually-”

“ -at Torchwood.”

Both Rose and the Doctor looked toward the door and the source of the voice. “Jack?” the Doctor said, more than a bit surprised to find his flatmate suddenly appearing in the room.

Quickly climbing off the bed, Rose self consciously wiped tears and stood beside the Doctor, clearly a bit embarrassed at being caught in such an intimate moment.

“Don’t get up on my account,” Jack reassured her. “A beautiful woman in the Doc’s bed? Doesn’t happen everyday. Or every century, for that matter,” Jack added.

“Jack,” the Doctor sighed, smiling despite himself.

“What? You gonna argue with me?”

The Doctor shook his head in feigned exasperation.

“See. I thought not,” Jack smiled widely before his smile faded slightly. “It’s great to see you awake, man,” he admitted. “You had us worried there for a bit. I’m not gonna lie,” he informed him, giving the Doctor’s shoulder and affectionate squeeze.

“Well it sounds like I wouldn’t have made at all it if it weren’t for you,” the Doctor said. “Rose told me what you did. Thank-you.”

Jack gave him a half-smile. “It wasn’t really me. I just helped. It was really Mickey who saved your life,” Jack informed him. “If it weren’t for him, you’d have been gone before I ever got there.”

Mickey? Ohhh - Rickey. Unbidden, memories of blood seeping through the man’s trousers played before his eyes. “Is he okay? Did he make it?” he worried aloud.

“He lost a lot of blood, but luckily the bullet didn’t hit any major arteries. Owen… the doctor here… he said he’ll be fine,” Rose assured him.

Whew. Thank-god. “Was anyone else hurt?” he asked, looking between them. Mickey might not’ve been the only one there he should be worried about.

“Just Rassilon. He’d shot Mickey in the hip and then he turned on you. He was going to shoot you, even while you were screaming…” Rose trailed off.

“Then what happened,” he asked, taking her hand. He needed to know. Rose swallowed thickly, but suddenly seemed at a loss for words.

“Mickey shot him in the back. He didn’t make it,” Jack shared for her.

Blimey. Rassilon was dead. Not that he was sorry. Not after all that had happened. He was no more a true relative than Harold Saxon was. Still… it was sobering.

“I’m sorry, John,” Rose said softly.

“Don’t be,” he replied. “It’s for the best.” And it was. There was no question. This world was sadly better off without him.

“I got there just after Mickey took Rassilon down. I managed to tackle the other agent before she could get to him or the camera,” Jack explained.

“So it was still recording then?” the Doctor asked.

Jack grinned. “You better believe it, Doc. And thanks to you and that gob, SMITE is going to go down. In fact, it’s already started,” he said.

“Started?” he said, looking to Rose.

She nodded. “Mickey was recording you, yeah? But it wasn’t just recording. It was actually broadcasting. Torchwood had hacked the studio and somehow fed the recording directly to the internet, so people saw the whole thing,” Rose explained.

“The camera was working right up until that agent put the Arch on you,” Jack added, “but after that it got caught in the crossfire and stopped recording. The public missed the fireworks. Before that, though, it got out. It was live streamed on the internet to millions of people. Not only that - all the major news shows have already aired it. It’s the beginning of the end of SMITE and Saxon’s government.”

“Blimey,” he said in wonder. “So fast.”

“I know. It’s amazing,” Rose agreed. “Jake said my dad used his connections to make sure it was broadcast, even on the Saxon friendly networks. He’s even seen to it that the story was covered in the United States, France, Canada… everywhere,” she shared.

“It’s out there, Doc. The world knows what Saxon and Rassilon were trying to do… about their plan of genocide,” Jack added.

“But that’s… that’s brilliant,” he replied, still amazed. There was hope now. Hope that there might be some respite for the Marked.

“And it’s all because of you,” Rose said, her eyes full of appreciation.

The Doctor shook his head. “No. It was Benton. And Jake and Jack. If they hadn’t been able to protect you, I honestly don’t think I could’ve done it. I know you think I would’ve, but when I saw you on that screen…” he trailed off.

“John,” she said, looking him straight in the eye. “You did it. That’s all that really matters. And, if I’m honest, if I had been in your place and I was watching you being tortured, I know now... I couldn’t have done it either. Even if you’d have threatened to hate me forever,” she said, smiling softly.

“Really?”

“Really,” she affirmed. “I only barely stopped myself grabbing a gun so I could force Jack to take me with him to find you,” Rose said, shaking her head as waves of grief practically flooded the Doctor’s mind from hers. “It still bothers me. If I’d’ve been there I could’ve gotten that bloody Arch off of you sooner. Instead I was practically being held against my will in Jake’s car,” she recounted, still obviously upset about it.

“Oi,” the Doctor said, squeezing her hand so she’d look at him. “That’s a good thing. I don’t know this ‘Jake’ person, but I already like him, yeah? And Jack… he knew I needed you to be safe,” he assured her.

Rose harrumphed. “Yeah. Well, I needed you to be safe,” she retorted, shooting a half-hearted glare in Jack’s direction.

“And I was,” the Doctor replied, letting her hand go to gesture down the front of himself. “See? Safe as houses.”

Rose shook her head. “You’re an idiot.”

“Yeah. But I’m your idiot,” he replied cheekily.

“Yeah. You are,” she agreed, giving him a reluctant half-smile.

“Awww,” Jack said, looking between them with clear satisfaction. “You two are SO cute.”

The Doctor rolled his eyes once again. It seemed to be a recurring response to everything his mate said. “Anywaaaaay…” the Doctor said, “so you said we’re at ‘Torchwood’?”

“Yeah. I didn’t want you in a hospital, Doc. SMITE is in disarray and Saxon is going to be ousted any minute, but I still didn’t want you anywhere their followers could get their hands on you,” he said.

“Torchwood isn’t a hospital?” the Doctor asked. Sure looked like one.

“No, it’s an institute that’s been around for a very long time. We’ve been working behind the scenes against Saxon and his people to try to help the Marked,” she shared. “You’re in our medical facility.”

“Wait. ‘Our’?” the Doctor said, the word just clicking in. “What do you mean, ‘our’, Jack?”

Jack, looked at his flatmate. “I mean, I’m Torchwood, Doc. I’ve been an agent with them for the last four years. Head of the London branch, in fact,” he admitted.

“Blimey, Jack,” he said, unsure what else to say. “Why didn’t you tell me?” the Doctor asked. Blimey - Jack was his best mate; he lived with the guy, for God’s sake. Now it seemed he didn’t even really know him at all.

“Couldn’t,” Jack admitted. “Torchwood is a highly guarded secret. Now though… well, I think it’s time you and Rose should know more,” he stated, looking between them.

The Doctor’s brows furrowed. “Alright,” he said, concern and curiosity suddenly seeping into his mind from Rose’s. Silently, he squeezed her hand in reassurance. “But why now?” he said. “Why can you tell me now but you couldn’t before?”

Jack took a large breath in through his nose before saying, “Things have changed and now you need to know.” The Doctor was about to demand exactly why that was, but Jack stopped him by offering, “I’ll explain in a minute, but I need to give you a bit of history first.”

“Alright. Go on,” the Doctor allowed, his own curiosity now peaked. “Wait - help me sit up, first,” he requested, frustrated with having to look at his visitors from such an odd angle.

Easing the bed up so the Doctor was leaned back only slightly, Jack dove into his story.

“Okay. So...Torchwood was founded by Queen Victoria in the 1870s after an incident on the property of Torchwood Estate, which is in Aberdeenshire in Scotland. The story goes that while she was visiting, the Queen and Sir Robert MacLeish, the estate owner, were out walking on the grounds when a wolf crossed their path. Apparently it lunged at the Queen but Sir Robert jumped in front of her and it attacked him instead. The Queen’s guards managed to fight it off, but not before it’d severely mauled him. It wasn’t the attack, though, that ended up being the legendary part of the story. It turns out Sir Robert was marked. Recounts of the event talk about Sir Robert ‘glowing’ and ‘becoming alight with fire’ even as the wolf attacked. After the event, the guards managed to get him back to the house. They were about to deal with his wounds when they discovered they were already healing,” Jack said significantly.

“Oh, my god,” Rose breathed. The Doctor blinked. So he wasn’t the first one this had ever happened to, then.

“It turned out that this wasn’t the first time Sir Robert had nearly died. He’d had two other life threatening experiences before this incident that he’d managed to survive. This was the first time he’d ever noticed ‘healing powers’, though,” Jack explained. “Anyway, it seems the Queen was both horrified and impressed. You see, no one outside of Torchwood knows this, but the Queen’s mother, Princess Victoria, was one of the Marked. Her soulmate - her first husband - had died, leaving her to marry Prince Edward - the Queen’s father. The Queen hadn’t inherited the mark, but had known about her mother’s. It was apparently never talked about, though, so she knew very little about it. Anyhow, having seen what happened to Sir Robert, she wanted to learn more so she decided to create an Institute dedicated to the study of the Marked. She made Sir Robert head of the institute and instructed that no one should know about it but the monarchy. Hence… Torchwood,” Jack summarized.

“Blimey,” the Doctor breathed. So there were marked royalty.

“Since then, Torchwood has made it its duty to understand what it means to be marked. We’ve been working to find out what people with it are capable of. Of course, given that the changes seem to happen only when the marked individual is hurt, we’ve had to learn almost exclusively through report about the incidents, but we’ve been able to study the resulting effects in detail. And that’s where you two come in,” he concluded.

“Us?” Rose said, clearly confused.

But the Doctor didn’t have any confusion. He knew. “We’ve been tortured, Rose.”

“What? So… what are you saying?” Rose asked, looking between both himself and Jack.

“What I’m saying is that you two have changed. Just like Sir Robert did. The Marked have, within them, the ability to adapt to adverse physical conditions. The more extreme the assault on the body, the more extreme the changes are - if you survive the assault,” Jack explained.

Rose’s brows furrowed. “But… I haven’t changed. I don’t feel any different,” she challenged.

Jack’s expression softened. “Actually, you have changed, Rose. All those tests we ran when you arrived…they showed some physiological differences,” he explained.

“Like what?” the Doctor said, worry now overwhelming his curiosity. Clearly sensing it, Rose rubbed her thumb along the back of his hand.

“This is what I wanted to talk to you about. Rose’s anatomic changes are basically embryonic versions of those you’ve developed, Doc.”

“Oh my god. Are you sayin’ he’s worse than me?” Rose worried aloud, pulling his hand against her more tightly.

Jack shook his head. “It’s not ‘worse’, Rose. In fact, depending on how you look at it, these changes… they’re amazing. I mean… okay. Dr. Taylor had discovered some of the physiological changes in you, Doc-”

“Wait - Malcolm! Is he alright?” the Doctor asked.

“Yeah, he’s fine and so is his family,” Jack quickly reassured him. “We had gathered them up and put them under our protection before we made our move on SMITE. We got him out while you were with Rassilon.”

Relief flooded through him. “Thank-god,” the Doctor said, flopping his head back against his pillow. He didn’t know what he’d do if Malcolm or his family had suffered because of him.

“Who’s Malcolm?” Rose asked, looking between them.

“He’s one of the researchers SMITE was manipulating to help them study us,” the Doctor answered. “He was the first one to explain the changes.”

“These changes you two keeping talking about… what are they?” Rose asked.

“Sit down, Rose,” the Doctor encouraged, pulling her hand so she would sit beside him on the bed. Doing so, she looked at him expectantly for elaboration. “Cor… where do I start. I guess I should start with my feet.”

Rose looked down the bed toward his covered feet. “What happened to them?”

“I… I was tortured,” he settled for. He wasn’t quite ready to elaborate yet. The memories of the pain were still too vivid to bring up. “Anyway, after they hurt me, my feet… specifically my toes, were in bad shape. I actually wondered if I’d ever be able to walk again after getting a look at them,” he said, shivering with the memory.

“But… Dr. Harper didn’t say anything about your feet,” Rose said, looking to Jack.

“That’s because they’ve healed,” Jack explained.

“What?” Rose said, incredulous. “How could they have healed so quickly? You said you weren’t sure you’d ever walk again,” she wondered aloud.

“It’s the changes, Rose. My body sort of… heals itself when it gets hurt,” he explained.

“Oh, my god,” Rose breathed.

“And that was before this latest assault,” Jack interjected, addressing them both. “As far as we know, you’re the only marked person who has ever suffered this many times and survived. And because of that, your… ‘evolution’, so to speak, has developed far beyond anyone we’ve ever studied. This time, with this last, even more severe assault, something quite literally fantastic happened,” Jack said, in something akin to awe. “You probably don’t remember it, but when I found you, you were basically burning,” Jack went on. “At first we thought the Arch was the cause of it, but it wasn’t. The Arch was causing the incredible pain, of course, but your own body basically went into protection mode. Because it was already partly primed for change due to the previous assaults, your own body used the pain to fuel a full genetic change. The burning we saw was you basically generating into something new. Something that could cope with the ridiculous level of pain you were experiencing.”

The Doctor shook his head. “What’s that supposed to mean? That I’m not human anymore?” he asked, recalling his uncle’s cruel words.

“Of course you’re human,” Jack reassured him. “But you’re, like, human 2.0. Basically you’re the living physiological example of a fully evolved version of human, Doc.”

The Doctor shook his head, unable to process it all. “I don’t know, Jack. I know I’ve changed, but…”

“Hang on. I’ll prove it,” Jack interrupted. Walking to a computer terminal nearby, Jack typed something in. Getting up, then, he pulled a screen out from its nesting place against the wall so that it swivelled to face the Doctor and Rose. “Take a look.”

The Doctor stared at the image before him. It was an x-ray of a torso.

“See anything unusual?” Jack queried.

Blimey.

“What is that?” Rose said, pointing to a white ball of tissue on the right side of the screen.

“It’s a heart,” the Doctor breathed. “A second heart.”

“What!” Rose’s eye widened. “You have two hearts?”

“So do you, Rose,” Jack inserted. “Yours is much smaller, but you have one as well. The remarkable thing about the Doctor’s is that it’s not only the same size as his other heart, but it is equally as effective at pumping blood. Essentially, if something happened to his left heart, this one could easily take up the slack,” Jack explained.

Blimey. That’s when he noticed another anomaly on the screen. “Wait - what’s that?” He was referring to a line of tissue isolating the lower section of both lungs.

“That would be your respiratory bypass,” Jack supplied. “At least, that’s what our scientists are calling it. We’ve only come across two other Marked individuals in history with it, and theirs weren’t as fully formed as yours,” he added.

“What does it do?” Rose asked.

“As far as we can tell, it allows the person to access stored oxygen and feed it directly into the second heart if there is ever a reason the person is unable to breathe normally.”

“But… that’s incredible,” Rose said, staring at the monitor.

“Yeah, it is. And you have it, Doc. The only person alive that we know of who has it. You’re also the first live person we’ve ever come into contact with who’s developed other duplicate organs. You’ve got two livers, two pancreas’, four kidneys, not to mention an entire organ we’ve never seen before. You’re developed what looks like a new lobe in your brain and the amount of grey matter is double that of any other human,” Jack said, almost reverently. “You’re a walking miracle, man.”

The Doctor swallowed thickly. There was no denying any of this. He’d changed. Significantly. “What about Rose?” he asked, hoping she hadn’t undergone such a severe metamorphosis.

“Rose has some of the changes as well,” Jack ventured. “She has a small second heart, which is pumping, but wouldn’t be able to sustain her if her primary heart failed. She has the beginnings of a respiratory bypass, though it’s likely not functional as it’s not fully formed. She’s probably fully telepathic now, if what she told me about earlier was any indication,” Jack hazarded.

Looking to the Doctor, Rose explained, “I told him about being able to talk with you while we were apart.”

“She doesn’t have any of the other organ differences, but she does seem to have the same new platelets in her blood as you have, just much fewer. Our scientists think they’re responsible for the rapid healing you experienced,” he explained.

The Doctor nodded thoughtfully. Well, that wasn’t so bad. A faster healing Rose wasn’t a terrible thing, he guessed.

“Then there are the genetic differences,” Jack threw in, almost as an afterthought.

“Genetic differences?” the Doctor replied, alarmed.

“Yeah… it seems you, Doc, no longer actually have regular old DNA. IN fact, we think that all the Marked have a ‘hidden strand’ of genetic material that stays hidden and ‘appears’ only when the time is right,” he tried to explain.

When the time is right. The phrase had a truth to it that somehow plucked a chord of awareness in him. “It’s not hidden, Jack,” he said aloud.

“What?”

“It’s not hidden. It’s just not in sync,” he said, suddenly excited by the revelation.

“What do you mean?” Jack asked.

“I mean… it’s temporal, Jack! It needs the marked person to have developed their ‘time sense’ so that it can use it to jump into that person’s current time line and really take hold!” Looking between them for shared amazement, he found only a blank look on both Rose and Jack’s faces. “What I’m saying is… when I was in Malcolm’s lab, we realized that I’ve developed a more involved sense of time. I can tell how much time is passed without even thinking about it. I can even see ‘timelines’ if I look at people hard enough,” he explained. “Malcolm said it was the result of what he called a mutation on my hippocampus. A ‘new lobe’ that’s dedicated to time awareness. It must be after that lobe develops that the body becomes ready to fully activate the third genetic string. The next time the body changes, the third string jumps into the person’s current timeline, becoming visible, and voila! Tri-deoxyribonucleic acid! That’s probably why the bulk of the changes happened this time. I had to have a time sense before the TNA could fully activate and create the cascade of changes I’ve developed,” he explained.

“Jesus,” Jack said.

“What?” the Doctor said in response to Jack’s expletive.

“You make even less sense now than you used to,” he marvelled.

The Doctor rolled his eyes. Again. “Jack…”

“No, really, Doc… not that I don’t believe you, but you’ll have to talk with Owen or Malcolm, cause what you’re on about is Greek to me,” he admitted. “The important thing is, you and Rose are not only healthy; you’re beyond healthy. The Marked tend to live longer if they’ve undergone any changes, so barring accidents, Rose will probably live well into her hundreds. As for you… we have no idea. You’re a brand new being, Doc. Only time with tell,” he finished.

A brand new being. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that. It sounded… lonely.

A flood of reassurance washed over him, then. ’You won’t be alone,’ Rose’s voice gently pressed into his mind.

The Doctor looked at her. ’How long you gonna stay with me?’ he sent her through their connection. He was aware how very needy he sounded, but found himself unable to hold back the question.

Rose smiled and a breeze of affection blew around his mind, washing over him and soothing all his fears. “Forever.”

Chapter Text

The Doctor rubbed his thumb along the soft skin of Rose’s hand as they walked back toward his car after the reception. “You warm enough?” he asked, suddenly taking in the fact that the temperature had dropped a full five and a half degrees since they’d arrived at the manor. Just because he was no longer bothered by colder temperatures, that didn’t mean Rose wasn’t.

“I’m good,” she lied, squeezing his hand a bit tighter in clear affection.

Pulling her to a stop, the Doctor pulled off his jacket. “You can’t lie to me, you know,” he reminded her, “so there’s no point even trying.”

Rose rolled her eyes. “We’re almost at the car - I’ll be fine for another minute,” she explained.

“I don’t like it when you’re uncomfortable,” he stated seriously, holding up his jacket for her. When she didn’t immediately respond, he resorted to using the puppy dog eyes that always seemed to get him his way. Rose looked at him for a moment, taking in his pleading expression, which he then proceeded to milk for all it was worth.

“Doctor… we talked about this,” she said, levelling him a serious look.

“I know,” he agreed, having enough wherewithal to at least look a bit sheepish. “I just… I can’t help it. When I can tell you’re uncomfortable or upset…” he trailed off. Blimey, he hated feeling like this. She was her own person and was quite capable of caring for herself. He knew that. But after what’d happened at SMITE he’d been unable to bear any awareness that she might be distressed in even the slightest way. It had even gotten to the point where he’d found himself compulsively needing to remedy the situation, no matter how small. Unfortunately, his need to rescue wasn’t always completely needed or even sometimes welcome. Like that time she’d been bunged up and had insisted she really didn’t need his help in the loo. It was the exact moment that the lavatory door slammed in his face that he realized he was possibly stepping over some sort of line.

This, though, was apparently not one of those times, and instead of giving him grief about his continued overzealous need to protect her, she finally acquiesced. “I know it’s hard, but you have to start letting me decide when I need help with things, yeah?” she half-heartedly challenged as she slid her arms through the sleeves of his jacket.

“I know,” he agreed. She was right of course, but he knew she also understood. With their minds connected as they were now, she could feel the panic in him at those times. So even as her lips told him he had to allow her space, she had been mentally agreeing to allow him some time to adjust to the idea of her not requiring rescuing from the smallest of discomforts.

In reality, the events at SMITE had impacted both of them more severely than either of them were able to put into words. And he knew that to be a fact because he felt it in himself and he’d felt it in her. When they touched. When they kissed. When either of them experienced flashbacks or became startled by noises or quick movements. The first few days after their rescue, they’d been literally pained and panicked when one had to leave the others’ side, even to use the loo.

Things had improved a lot since then, despite the fact it had only been four months since they found freedom again. That didn’t mean that either of them were happy having to spend any time apart, however. It just meant that time spent not in each other’s company had stopped being actually painful. The Doctor counted that as a marked improvement. He couldn’t always be with her, after all. He had things he had to do. Big things. For them.

A wave of contentment issued from his soulmate, then, making him look down at her. A beautiful smile graced her features. “What’re you thinking?” he asked. He could easily dip into her mind and find out, of course. They both knew that. It was just courtesy to ‘knock first’, as it were.

Rose smiled. “Just… happy. It’s just so nice to see everyone finally living how they want to live, you know? I mean - seeing Donna and Lee exchange vows today; they looked so perfect together. And now Jack and Ianto have finally made it official and Clara told me yesterday she and Danny have come out as marked to their friends. And on top of all that, my Mum and Dad…” she shook her head. “My mum is practically glowing these days. I’ve never seen her so smitten. It’s so obvious. How could I not have known before?” she marvelled, looking back up at him.

“I don’t know how you could’ve known, really,” he reassured her. “You never saw them together as you were growing up. How could you have known they were soulmates?”

“Yeah,” she half-heartedly agreed. “It just makes me so sad they suffered for so many years without each other. I can’t imagine it,” she admitted. Cold tendrils of anxiety seeped into his mind from hers.

“Yeah,” he agreed. He knew what she was thinking without needing to read her thoughts. She was remembering their time in SMITE, enduring separation as a marked couple. Theirs was a different circumstance, of course, but the feeling of need for the other person would be the same. The constant longing to be with the one you were meant for… it was a pain that was its own form of torture.

“I mean… more than twenty years they were apart. And it was because of me. To protect me from being known as a child of marked parents. Imagine - only talking to each other once every couple of months…” she trailed off, clearly imagining their pain.

“Oi,” the Doctor said, squeezing her arm. “They did it because they wanted the best for you, yeah? And they’re good now. Better than good; they’re great,” he assured her.

“Yeah, I guess,” she agreed. “I just hope there’s not too much fallout from Dad coming out as marked,” she worried.

“There won’t be,” he promised. “In fact, things look pretty rosy for him.”

Rose’s eyes narrowed as she stared up at him. “What do you mean? John Smith, did you get all ‘timey’ on my Dad?” she asked.

The Doctor pursed his lips. “Maybe,” he admitted.

Rose tsked and shook her head.

“What? I just wanted to make sure things were going to be okay. No harm in that,” he defended.

“And?” she said, clearly now dying for more information. “What did you see?”

“Rose Tyler! And you’re calling me nosey?”

“Oi - you’re the one who did it. So… spill,” she demanded as they neared the car.

Moving to the passenger door, the Doctor opened it and waited for her to climb in. Closing the door behind her, he rounded the car and got in the driver's side. Curiosity pushed at him from her mind. Starting the Toyota, he turned on the heat full blast before sharing, “It seems we may have another wedding to attend soon,” he shared, watching Rose’s eyes widen.

“Really? When?” she asked.

“Six months,” he shared with a smile. “Then there’s…” he trailed off before reconsidering. “No, never mind. I probably shouldn’t say,” he taunted, putting the car in reverse to back out of their spot.

“What?! No way, John. No way. Now you have to tell me,” she insisted hitting him on the arm.

“Ow!” he said, feigning injury. “That hurt!”

“That’s nothing compared to what you’re going to get if you don’t tell me,” she threatened. He wasn’t sure if she was completely joking now.

“Okay, okay,” he agreed quickly even as she raised her hand menacingly. “It looks like there may be another Tyler in the world in the near future,” he confessed.

Rose blinked. “Another Tyler?” she said aloud, her hand dropping. Then it dawned on her. “Oh my god!” she exclaimed. “A baby?”

“Looks like it,” he admitted, putting the car in drive and easing out of the parking lot.

“Boy or girl?” she demanded excitedly.

The Doctor smiled. “I probably shouldn’t say,” he resisted. “Your mother would kill me if she found out you knew the baby’s gender before she even knew she was gonna have a baby,” he warned, turning right onto the next street.

Rose narrowed her eyes at him for a moment before nodding. “Yeah, I’ll give you that,” she said, backing down. “But - oh my god, Doctor! I’m going to be a big sister,” she said, back to celebrating the idea of a baby in the family. Then a thought seemed to occur to her. “Wait. I thought you couldn’t read people’s futures if you were involved in them?” she asked. “How come you could see his?”

The Doctor shook his head. “I’m not sure. I think because I obviously won’t play any part in that part of Pete’s time line,” he posited. “You know - him asking your mum to marry him. Definitely not him… making… you know...”

Rose laughed out loud. “No - I certainly hope not!”

The Doctor grinned. He loved her laugh. “Anyway - they’re going to be happy, your mum and dad,” he assured her, wishing he could just watch her beautiful face as the street lights flashed over her features instead of watching the road.

“Thank God,” she sighed. An affectionate silence fell between them for a minute before Rose reached for his hand, which he happily relinquished to her. “Doctor?” Rose said.

“Yeah,” he replied, enjoying the feel of her thumb sliding along the back of his hand.

“I was thinking...” she began, exuding trepidation. “What do you think about kids?

The Doctor’s brows furrowed. “I like them, generally,” he answered honestly. “Why?”

“No… I mean, have you ever thought about having kids? Having a family and all that?” she hazarded.

“Having a baby?” he said, sparing a glance away from the road to take her in. Big, brown eyes were clearly searching him for a clues as to how he might feel about the subject. “I, uh… I…” he said, unsure how to answer, exactly. Not that he was opposed...

“I mean… not that we have to,” she clarified, clearly sensing his hesitance. “I just want to be with you. That’s all I’ve ever wanted,” she assured him as they pulled up to a stop light. “Just… I was just thinking what it might be like, you know? Maybe one day having a family with you. I mean, you know, now that Rory and Amy announced they’re having one, it got me thinking. And what with the world is looking brighter now, now that Harriet Jones is Prime Minister… even if we had a baby that was marked, I think he would be alright, yeah?” she finished.

“He?” the Doctor said, an eyebrow raised, tossing her a glance.

“Yeah,” she smiled hesitantly. “I keep thinkin’ we’d have a boy. Brown fluffy hair. Great big brown eyes. Curious. Smart,” she elaborated.

“I don’t know. I think a girl would be fun,” he put in, offering her a little smile. The light turned green, demanding that he look at the road as he eased his foot off the clutch and started off again. “All blonde. Pink,” he added, considering the idea of a mini version of Rose toddling about their flat. He wasn’t going to lie. The idea had it’s merits. But… “I just worry a bit,” he admitted, finally pulling up to their flat and putting the car in park before turning to her. “What about genetics?”

“What about them?”

“I mean… I’m the only person alive with fully integrated TNA. What will happen if I pass it onto our child?” he said, voicing the thought that had been rattling around in his mind for the last few weeks.

Since they’d been rescued by Torchwood and Rose had started working there, he’d been poked and prodded (with his consent, of course) and they’d discovered even more about his abilities. He wasn’t just physiologically different; he was mentally different as well. His IQ was off the charts, his time awareness was growing, and he seemed to have a new, almost burning curiosity and innate knowledge about the world and the universe. It was honestly a bit frightening. And who knew if what he was now was the final product? Was he gonna change even more? I mean - genetically he seemed to be much more than a human mutation. He was practically another species. And to bring a child into the equation… what sort of weird genetics would he be passing on? Were he and Rose even compatible now? This wasn’t the only big reason he wasn’t sure about having children, of course, but it was honestly an important one. “We have no idea what to expect,” he finally shared.

Rose tilted her head in thought for a moment before sharing, “I know what you’re saying, Doctor. And I get why you’re worried, but does anyone really know what to expect? Our child could be born with two hearts and your 240 IQ, or he could be born with special needs - but does it really matter? We’d love him just the same,” she said softly.

Pulling his hand from hers, he rubbed his forehead. “I guess. It’s just…” he trailed off.

Suddenly a distinct feeling unease pushed at him from Rose’s direction.“You don’t know if you want to have kids with me.” It was a statement, not a question.

“What?”

“You’re… are you worried he might be more like me? More human?” she said, insecurity washing over him like a tsunami.

“What? Of course not!” he insisted, grabbing her hand. “Of course not! Why would you say that?”

Rose shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said, staring down at their joined hands. “Sometimes I worry that maybe now… now that you know your potential…”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Rose,” he said sternly. “You ARE my potential. Without you, I’m nothing. Having a baby with you… it’d be an honour,” he admitted, ducking down to meet her eyes, insisting she look at him. “But I’m truly concerned about what my TNA would contribute. What if our child is born with different physiology than other humans? Would she be singled out? Worse, would she be targeted as a risk and studied?” he worried.

“Oi,” Rose said, squeezing his hand. “We would never let that happen, yeah? And we have Torchwood now. Jack would make sure we’re safe. That our child would be safe,” she assured him.

The Doctor nodded. He knew she was right. Torchwood would make sure they were safe. They’d never let anything happen to them or their child. And now that Rose was working for the institute she would have the best health care. They would be able to monitor her pregnancy and help monitor the baby for any physiological differences once she was born. “I suppose,” he allowed.

“Come on,” Rose said, pulling her hand out of his and opening her car door to get out.

The Doctor did the same, following her out of the car and into their building. For a moment he considered whether or not he should tell her the other reason for being reticent about their having a child. He was hoping to delay it until things were further along, but now with the conversation steering toward their future, he couldn’t help but feel a trickle of guilt seep through him for not telling her yet. Before he could squash the feeling, though, Rose clearly sensed it. Damn it.

Turning her head, she narrowed her eyes. Without a word, she took his hand and determinedly pulled him up the stairs to their flat on the second floor. Opening the door and walking in, she kicked off her heels as he closed the door behind them. Taking his suit jacket off, she dropped it on the arm of the couch. A large sigh followed as she turned to look at him. “I need another glass of wine,” she stated. “I’m getting you one, too.”

The Doctor swallowed. She was onto him. Of course, she always was. He was utterly unable to hide his feelings from her. The wine was to be payment for his verbal admission of guilt. She might have no idea what he should be admitting, but now she knew he was hiding something and she wouldn’t let it go until he spilled.

Taking off his shoes, he loosened his tie. A large sigh slid from him as he sat, perched on the edge of the couch cushion. This was so not how he’d planned to tell her the news. He’d had plans. Could he plead for an extension, perhaps?

No. This was Rose. When she was determined to find out something she was like a dog worrying a bone. There’d not be an extension.

Just then, his soulmate re-entered the room with two full glasses of white wine and a very serious look on her face. Sitting beside him, she handed him a glass before taking a long pull from her own. Eying her determination to make her sip a big one, he decided he’d better do the same. He could use a bit of liquid courage right now.

Pulling his glass up to his lips, he took a large swig and rolled it around in his mouth before swallowing. Ahhh. That was better. He still wasn’t quite ready for this, but at least he had a bit more fortification.

“Well?” she said, staring at him as he put his glass on the coffee table in front of them.

“Weeeellll… I guess I should come clean,” he said, avoiding her eyes.

“Yes, you should,” she said, her voice even.

“I wasn’t lying about my worries, Rose. Genetics is a big concern. But that’s not my only concern,” he admitted.

“Okay,” she said, clearly waiting for more. Worry began seeping through their connection in his mind.

“I… I’ve been working on something,” he admitted.

“Alright,” she encouraged.

“It’s something for us. For our future,” he said, anxious to set it up as a positive thing.

“Go on,” she said.

“Okay,” he agreed, feeling his nerves take hold more solidly. “Well, you know how I’ve been telling you about how I discovered I could see stranger’s timelines intersecting those of people I was looking at?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

“I told you how I discovered it when I was observing one of the lab technician’s time line a couple of months ago, remember? Ian? I told you how I was looking at his timeline and realized there were other lines intersecting his; but they weren’t his. Then I got thinking… what if I followed one? I didn’t tell you this… but I tried it. I followed one of those timelines. And Rose… it was incredible. I was suddenly looking at the timeline of someone I hadn’t even met,” he said, getting caught up in the remembered excitement of his discovery.

“So you saw a complete stranger’s life?” Rose said, her brows furrowing.

“No, not her whole life. Just a moment of her life. A future moment. Not only could I see the event, I knew exactly when it was. It was 2:15 on January 12, 2021. She was meeting her grandchild for the first time,” he said, remembering the scene.

“Anyway, from there, I started ‘timeline jumping,’ as I thought of it. I found I could sort of… travel… from one person’s timeline to another this way. At one point I found myself looking at someone in 2198 in the Sudan. It was fantastic, Rose,” he admitted, getting to his feet to pace the room. “I was travelling in time and space. To whole other times in places I’ve never been! And that’s when I realized that actual time and space travel wasn’t just a possibility. I was already doing it, except it was just in my head. All I needed to do it physically was to access this…this schism of timelines; where all the timelines intersect. Right now, it’s hidden from our view, but Rose... I’m 99.7% positive I know how to breach it,” he said, studying her for her reaction.

“Are you kidding me?” Rose said, clearly astounded.

“I’m completely serious. And once I access it, physical time travel will actually be possible. A ship of sorts will be needed to protect travellers from the energy of the time vortex, but I’ve already began gathering what I need and I’ve started working on it in one of the operatories at the office. We’re going to travel through time and space, Rose.”

“What?” she said, her eyes widening. “Us?”

“Yeah. Us.”

“But… shouldn’t we tell Torchwood? Shouldn’t we tell the government or someone?” she spluttered.

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “This is too important for anyone else to know about. We’ve seen firsthand what happens when information is misused. Too many people with knowledge like this… it’d be dangerous. Not just to them, but to the entirety of time,” he warned. “No… we need to keep this between us for now.”

Rose seemed to consider this. “I know what you’re saying, but I still think we should tell Jack, at least,” she put in. “He’s not just a Torchwood agent, after all. He’s our mate.”

The Doctor sighed, then blew air through his lips before compromising, “Okay… maybe once we’re already travelling we can share our discovery with Jack,” he agreed. “Does that sound fair?”

Rose smiled. “Yeah. That sounds fair,” she agreed. “But how long will that be? Surely it’s years away?” she posited.

“No, not years, Rose. Months,” he informed her, grinning widely.

“Months?” she said, clearly astounded.

“Oh, yes!” he responded enthusiastically. “I don’t mean to toot my own horn, my dear soulmate, but I’m really clever now. And if my theories are correct… and I’m sure they are,” he said confidently, “we’ll be travelling in less than 18 months. Think of it!” he enthused, placing his hands on her knee. “We’ll be able to visit the future. The distant past. Other countries! We could even try traveling off earth. Imagine!” he said, his enthusiasm making him tug at his hair in excitement.

Rose stared at him, searching his eyes. “I… I don’t know what to say,” she said, clearly amazed.

“Say you’ll travel with me. Tell me you’re alright with this,” he felt himself pleading.

Rose’s face split into a wide grin. “Of course I am, my Doctor,” she said, excitement permeating his mind from hers. “I told you I’m stayin’ with you forever, yeah? Now it just means that forever could literally be forever - through all of time!”

A thrill of joy jumped through him. She was not only okay with this, she was as delighted as he was! “Ha!” he barked in a happy laugh, pulling her to her feet to twirl her in a joyous hug. Putting her down, he gazed into her caramel eyes. Then he remembered the original point of this conversation. “But… but what about kids? You really want them. We couldn’t really bring kids into this,” he worried.

Rose tilted her head, regarding him for a moment. “Doctor… how about this. Let’s just see what the future brings. I told you; I just wanna be with you. If we have children, I think I’d like that. If we don’t… it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe we were meant to contribute to the universe in a different way,” she hazarded, her arms still wrapped around his neck.

The Doctor shook his head. “Rose Tyler… you’re brilliant. Have I told you that today?”

“Not yet,” she smiled, tongue in teeth.

Grinning back widely, he offered, “You’re brilliant.” Dipping down, he stole a kiss as he wordlessly expanded his affection for her outward so he was sure she could feel it in her mind. He was about to pull back when she clasped to him more tightly, insisting on deepening their kiss. He had no objections.

Wrapping his arms around her fully, he pulled her in more firmly so her front was deliciously flush against his as they snogged. Without thinking, he instinctively sought out the inside of her cheek with his tongue. With the contact of his tongue-tip against her concealed mark, a wave of excitement and arousal washed through his mind from hers. Unsurprisingly, her stimulation instantly and fully roused him. Still kissing her with enthusiasm, he began running his hands down her back to squeeze her bottom. A tantalizing moan issued from his soulmate in response, further encouraging his arousal and propelling him into more purposeful action.

Eagerly, he guided her backward toward their bedroom while still exploring her mouth with his tongue. Stumbling as they went, the Doctor managed to drag the zipper of her form fitting dress down her back as she did her best to divest him of his trousers.

By the time they got to the bedroom, his dress slacks and pants were left behind on the floor as was her dress and strapless bra. Arriving at the bed, they pulled apart in an unspoken agreement to quickly rid themselves of their remaining clothes so they could tumble together on the soft mattress.

Sliding over her prone body as Rose adjusted herself in the middle of the bed, the Doctor planted insistent kisses on her soft skin as he purposefully pressed his marked arm against the warmth of her body. An intense electric excitement spread through his chest and groin with the contact. Squeezing his eyes closed with the power of it, he felt Rose respond to the feeling as well. The gasp that she released was quickly joined by his own aroused groan as his erection pressed firmly against her hip bone. God, she was so… perfect.

Laying on top of her, his lips met hers once again as her eager hands played up and down his back. Her nails dug into his skin hard enough to make him growl, and without thinking he moved his mouth to her shoulder to return the favour. Biting hard enough to tear a hiss from her, he quickly released her to kiss and lick the spot he’d assaulted, making her squirm tantalizingly under him.

“Shhhh,” he whispered softly in her ear. “Don’t move,” he instructed before nipping down her neck to plant hard kisses over her shoulder and clavicle.

She stilled her movements as he made his way down her body and worshipped each bit as he went; sucking lustily at her breasts, pressing his lips against her ribs, licking the soft skin of her stomach, and the peppering the top of her mound with kisses and tiny nips.

From her mind he could feel her almost overwhelming desire to move beneath him, but she managed to remain still, as he’d instructed. The tantalizing part was that the amount of self control she was exuding seemed to be amplifying her arousal tenfold. It was a challenge he found himself obsessing over; pushing her desire to a point so high that she would abandon all pretense of the game. So far she’d been moaning her appreciation without so much as twitching a muscle, but he could feel her restraint cracking as he neared where she really wanted him.

Increasingly insistent nail crescent marks dug into his back as he teased her; cruelly licking and nipping the skin on the inside of her thighs. Finally, though, she snapped, as he’d hoped she would. Hands fisted in his hair, directing his mouth toward her centre. A satisfied smile found his lips and he looked up at her for a moment, stilling his movements. Lifting her head to meet his gaze, she panted, her lips swollen and parted, her skin deliciously flushed. She looked like a goddess.

“You moved,” he informed her, looking at her with mock disappointment.

“John...” she whined.

Unable to keep playing, a smirk found his lips. “I love it when you beg,” he admitted. Leaning in, he took a deep breath of her before swiping his tongue along her folds.

The cry she released sent a zing of need straight through him, making him push his face more firmly into her centre to dart his tongue past her yielding gates and into her core. A gasp of satisfaction followed by louder moans filled the room as he slid his tongue up to press against the taut apex of her sex.

Suddenly, an image of his tongue swirling around her clit, pressing and alternatively lapping, pushed through his mind. Redirecting his efforts, he enthusiastically did as she’d visually instructed, and in moments she was tugging at his hair; her cries of ‘Oh! God, John! Yes!’ rewarding him for his diligence. Without missing a beat, he slid his finger through her folds to curl repeatedly against her front wall.

Explosions of light and pulsating rhythms suddenly crashed around and through him as her cries turned into meaningless keening. The celebration of her peak continued for more than a few moments until he helped ease her down by decreasing the speed and intensity of his attentions. Finally spent, she lay panting and boneless beneath him.

Wiping his lips with his forearm, he slid up her body to claim her lips once again, hoping she could taste herself on him. He loved the taste of her and something about making her experience it as well made him even more desperate to have her.

Blessedly, it seemed she felt similarly. Wrapping her legs around him, she whispered, “I want you.”

He needed no further coaxing. Still hard and now almost desperately wanting, he reached down to centre himself and gratefully pushed himself into her slick heat.

The sensation was almost too much after having been aroused so intensely for so long. Squeezing his eyes shut, he tried to focus on something other than the wave of pure excitement issuing from his groin. Rose’s heels dug into his backside, however, making it difficult to hold on. “Rose… I can’t…”

“Then don’t,” she instructed.

Her permission almost made him come at that very moment, but he was determined to get in at least a few good thrusts before he gave in to his need. Pulling out of her, he flipped her over and encouraged her onto her hands and knees. Grabbing at her hips, he situated himself behind her and slid himself home; vigorously filling her again. Gasps from her beautiful lips flew as he plowed into her; her heart shaped arse slapping against him as he took her with purposeful thrusts. It was the fisting of her fingers into the bedsheets and the keening moan of his name that finally made him topple him over the edge. Crying out a loud, “Fuuuuuck!” he pulsed his release into her welcoming body as he held her taut against him; her gasping breaths adding to the ecstasy of the moment.

Shuddering his last moments of intense pleasure, he finally stilled, letting out a wholly satisfied sound. Sliding from her, he flopped down on the bed beside her, now the one who was boneless.

A minute passed before Rose rolled on her side to rest her hand across his stomach and her head on his chest. Pulling her in protectively, he kissed the top of her head with what little energy he had left. “Blimey,” he breathed, finally beginning coming back to his senses. She was so good. Sometimes he couldn’t believe he was actually allowed to be with her like this. And to think that this was likely to happen again. Maybe often. It was honestly a miracle.

That thought pulled up memories from their first time. It’d been the same day he’d been released from Torchwood after having been given a clean, if unusual, bill of health. Not two hours later they’d found themselves in his bed, blessedly consummating their relationship. Now that had been a miracle. A miracle he hadn’t killed her by forgetting she didn’t have a respiratory bypass as well.

That had been four months ago. That’s how long they’d been together now. It’d been four months since they’d been allowed to freely declare their love for each other as soulmates. He inwardly marvelled. In some ways it seemed like they’d been together now for years and in other ways, it seemed like mere days since they’d escaped SMITE. Now though… now that he’d told her about his revelation, it felt like he could really start to leave that horrid experience behind them. Of course, he hadn’t planned to tell her yet, but maybe it was for the better. Still… he’d had a full scenario for the great ‘unveiling’ in his head. He’d wanted to wait until he actually had something physical to show for all his theorizing. He’d wanted to make the reveal a two-parter. He sighed.

Rose lifted her head and eyed him in the dark of the room. “What’s going on in your head?” she asked politely instead of peeking.

Looking down at her, he realized there was no point in putting off implementation of the second part of his plan. Why wait? He knew what he wanted, and he was pretty sure she wanted it to. “It’s what’s going on in my hearts that’s the question,” he admitted.

Rose looked confused. “What?”

Squeezing her closer, he looked into her eyes. “Rose… I know I was keeping things from you; not telling you about my revelations and intentions for us to time travel, but I have to admit I’d been waiting to tell you because I’d had something important planned for the day I told you,” he hazarded, feeling his heartsrates pick up.

“Oh yeah? What were you planning?” she asked, curiosity issuing from her loud and clear.

“Weeeeelllll, I’d imagined bringing you to my lab and showing you the ship I plan for us to travel in. Then I was going ask you something,” he continued, trailing his hand up and down her arm.

“Yeah? What were you gonna ask me?” she nearly whispered, her own heartrate starting to speed up.

“I was gonna say... ‘Rose Tyler, will you marry me?’”

Rose froze, her dark eyes glued to his own. “You were?”

“Yup,” he answered, suddenly feeling his mouth go dry with nerves.

“Oh. Wow,” she said. Pausing thoughtfully for a moment, a small smile tugged at the corner of her lips. “Do you want to know what I would’ve said?”

Swallowing thickly, he replied nervously, “Do I?”

Nodding seriously, she replied, “I think you do.”

“Okay. What would you’ve said?” he asked in hopeful anticipation.

“I’d have said, ‘yes’,” she replied, grinning widely.

A matching grin lit his own face in response and a pulse of excitement and affection shot through him and out into the universe. Rose giggled with the emotional outburst and pulled herself up to plant a firm kiss on his lips. Snogging her soundly in return, he pulled back after a moment, suddenly remembering. “I’d wanted to have a ring for you for this,” he admitted, realizing he’d omitted telling her that part of his plan.

Rose smiled. “That’s okay. Not everything goes as planned,” she assured him, affectionately rubbing her nose against his. “I’m guessing you’d probably imagined us being a bit more clothed as well,” she posited, her tongue adorably becoming trapped between her teeth.

He smiled. “Weeeeellll, clothing was going to be optional,” he admitted.

Rose laughed out loud; the musical sound echoing through the room. God, he was so lucky.

Finally, with her laughter dying off, she sighed in contentment. “I love you, John,” she said softly, playing with the sparse hair on his chest.

“I love you too, my Rose,” he said. “Forever.”