Rose Tyler smiled as the Doctor took in their surroundings. It had been her turn to choose where to go and although he had whined and winged, she had held her ground and kept their destination a secret. He had done it so many times to her; it was good to be able to turn the tables, so to speak. And after everything that had happened with Donna, the Doctor deserved a nice surprise.
Rose knew that he still felt guilty for what he had had to do to his friend, but as time passed, that guilt had faded into the background and he had begun to properly enjoy life again. And Rose was extremely grateful for that fact. She missed Donna terribly but she had missed the Doctor even more. She had hated to see him so closed off. But now, as he looked around the snow-covered streets of Victorian England, he had that trademark grin on his face. The one that made it impossible for you to not smile back.
‘Proper snow,’ he said, nudging Rose’s shoulder with his as they walked through the marketplace. ‘Proper London snow.’
Rose giggled and pushed him away before he accidently knocked them into the aforementioned London snow. ‘Well, it’s really the only place I know the coordinates for,' she told him, 'so until I learn more and can take us somewhere more exotic, London will have to do.’
But the Doctor didn’t seem to mind the un-exoticness of Rose’s chosen location. ‘Nothing wrong with London,’ he said, his grin unfaltering. ‘Proper London snow, can’t beat it! What year is it?’ he asked, looking at the buildings around them.
Rose bit her thumbnail (the one on the hand that wasn’t clasped tight in the Doctor’s) and looked around her, hoping for a clue as to their exact date. She had been aiming for the London Frost Fair of 1814 (the Doctor had mentioned it once in passing and Rose, instantly captivated by the idea, had then looked it up properly) but she was fairly certain that she had overshot it a bit.
They walked passed a man reading a newspaper and Rose managed to get a quick glance at the date. ‘1851,’ she said, answering the Doctor’s question. ‘‘Bout Christmas time,’ she added (that part was easy enough to figure out – the carol singers kind of gave it away).
But the Doctor was on to her. ‘You just read that newspaper, didn’t you?’ he said, more teasingly than accusingly. ‘You had no idea what year it was.’
‘No, I did,’ said Rose even though she knew that the Doctor was seeing right through her. ‘1851. Great year. I thought you’d like it.’
‘Really? So what’s so great about 1851?’
‘Well, it’s… it’s…’
‘Oh, all right fine, you got me,’ she sighed, rolling her eyes at the Doctor’s smug smile. ‘But considering I’m still new at the whole flying the TARDIS thing, I think I did pretty good. Right century at least. And right place. Besides, you’ve been doing this for 900 years and even you still get the date wrong sometimes.’
The Doctor chuckled. ‘All right, fair enough. You did good.’ He placed a quick kiss to the side of her head. ‘I’m very proud.’
Rose smiled at that.
‘So, what year were you aiming for?’ he asked.
But Rose didn’t get to answer. She was interrupted by a woman calling for help.
Both Rose and the Doctor whipped around to face the direction in which the shouts were coming from, surprised and confused. Not that it was terribly unusual for some to be calling for the Doctor… but they had only landed a couple of minutes ago and they couldn’t even see whoever was calling for them. They were too far away.
How did they even know the Doctor was here?
But when it came down to it, how this person knew the Doctor was here didn’t matter. The fact was, they did. And that they needed his help. It only took a couple of seconds for them both to snap into gear and start racing towards the sounds of the woman’s cries.
It didn’t take long to find the woman who was the cause of the noise. She was a young black woman with dark curly hair. Rather pretty, Rose thought.
The woman was backing away from the building she was next to, fear evident on her face. ‘Don't worry, don't worry,’ said the Doctor as he and Rose reached her. ‘Stand back. What have we got here?’ The doors in front of them rattled ominously and a snarl came from whatever creature was causing it.
‘That sounds a bit bigger than a stray dog,’ commented Rose, eyeing the door nervously.
‘Okay, We've got it,’ said the Doctor to the woman (who didn’t look too pleased to see him considering she had been shouting for him). ‘Whatever's behind that door, I think you should get out of here.’
‘Doctor!’ shouted the woman again, still calling for help.
The Doctor and Rose shared a curious glance. ‘I'm standing right here,’ said the Doctor and he gave the woman a little wave. ‘Hello.’
The woman’s fear (which, now that she had had a better look at the woman’s face, Rose had decided to downgrade to apprehension) was momentarily replaced by a look of annoyance. ‘Don't be stupid,’ she said. ‘Who are you?’
‘I'm the Doctor.’
‘Just the Doctor.’
The woman rolled her eyes, even more annoyed than before. ‘Well, there can't be two of ya.’ Her eyes focussed on something behind them and Rose turned to see a man running towards them. ‘Where the hell have you been?’ shouted the woman.
‘Right then. Don't worry,’ said the newcomer and he pushed passed the Doctor to stand between him and the still rattling door. ‘Stand back. What have we got here?’
‘Hold on, hold on,’ said the Doctor. ‘Who are you?’
The man turned to face them and stood up a little taller. ‘I'm the Doctor,’ he said and Rose’s eyes widened in shock. ‘Simply, the Doctor. The one, the only,’ he gave a wink, ‘and the best. Rosita, give me the sonic screwdriver.’
The man – the Doctor, apparently – held out his hand to the woman. She handed him a screwdriver but was too quick for Rose to get a proper look at it.
Rose looked to the Doctor – her Doctor – hoping for an explanation but he looked just as surprised as she did. ‘The what?’ he asked, trying to get a better look at the screwdriver.
But something else had caught Rose’s attention. ‘Hold on, did you say Rosita?’ she asked.
But the man (Rose made a mental note to refer to him as the Other Doctor until she thought of a better way of distinguishing him from her Doctor) and Rosita just ignored her. ‘Now quickly, get back to the TARDIS,’ said the Other Doctor to Rosita.
‘Back to the what?’ asked the Doctor, his voice a little higher than before. He took a step forward but the Other Doctor ushered him back again.
‘If you could stand back, sir. This is a job for a Time Lord.’
‘Job for a what lord?’
Rose was glad that she wasn’t the only one confused. This man wasn’t one of the Doctor’s previous incarnations, so that meant that the obvious explanation was that he was a future one. But then why didn’t he recognise his past self? And where was Rose’s future counterpart? Unless, of course, the man was an imposter and this was a trap. It wouldn’t have been the first time that that had happened but somehow, Rose didn’t think it was the case this time.
Suddenly the doors finally gave way and both Doctors backed up in unison. Rose stared at the creature that had been responsible for all the ruckus. It’s body looked like it may have belonged to a dog (a very big dog) but the face was that of a Cyberman.
‘Oh, that's different,’ said the Doctor just as the Other Doctor said, ‘Oh, that's new.’ Then, also in unison, they each brandished their screwdrivers and shouted ‘Allons-y.’
Rose spared a fleeting thought about how odd it was that the Other Doctor’s sonic screwdriver looked exactly like a normal one but quickly returned her focus to the Cyber-creature in front of her. ‘What is it?’ she asked.
‘I've been hunting this beast for a good fortnight,’ said the Other Doctor. ‘Now step back.’
But the beast in question didn’t seem to be interested in attacking them. Or maybe it just recognised the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver as a threat. With another snarl, it leapt away from them and began crawling up a nearby wall. Now that Rose could see it properly, she was rethinking her earlier “dog” description. She wasn’t sure what sort of animal it was; only that it was big and had a lot of fur.
‘Some sort of primitive conversion,’ said the Doctor, ‘like they took the brain of a cat or a dog.’
‘Well, talking's all very well,’ said the Other Doctor, a bit pompously, and he turned to his companion. ‘Rosita?’
‘I'm ready,’ she said and she handed him a coil of rope.
‘Now, watch and learn,’ said the Other Doctor. He began to swing the rope above his head in circles and Rose realised it wasn’t just a rope; it was a lasso. She and the Doctor stepped back a little to avoid getting hit. The Other Doctor threw the lasso at the beast on the wall and the rope looped over its head.
‘Nice shot,’ said Rose.
She thought she heard the Doctor mumble under his breath, something about being able to use a lasso just as well as the other man could, but Rose was distracted by the Other Doctor. He may have lassoed the beast but he had by no means caught it. The Cyber-creature continued to climb the wall and the Other Doctor, still holding the rope, was dragged off his feet.
Rose didn’t miss the Doctor’s little smile before he ran in to help him. ‘I've got you,’ he shouted. He grabbed hold of the rope behind the Other Doctor but the beast was stronger than it seemed. It just kept climbing up the building, barely fazed at all by the two men it was lifting off of the ground. Rose considered maybe adding her own weight to the rope but she doubted that it would do anything apart from give her rope burn so she decided against it.
‘You idiots!’ shouted Rosita as the two Doctors were pulled up he wall of the building.
‘I don’t know about you, but I think I’d rather take the stairs,’ said Rose, looking up at the window that the Cyber-creature had just gone through.
Rosita grabbed an axe that had been resting by a wall nearby and led the way into the building. They ran up the stairs and reached the top floor just in time to see the two Doctors being pulled along the floor towards another open window that the cyber-creature was just about to jump out of.
Why hadn’t they let go of the rope?
Rosita was right; they were idiots.
Moments before they were pulled out of the window, Rosita swung the axe down and cut the rope. The two men carefully got to their feet and immediately started laughing. Rose rolled her eyes as she tried to fight down her own smile of amusement.
‘Well, I'm glad you think it's so funny,’ said Rosita as they made their way back to the alleyway in which they had met. The two Doctors were still laughing at their failed attempt at catching the Cyber-creature. ‘You're mad. Both of you. You could've got killed.’
‘But evidently we did not,’ said the Other Doctor and then he walked to stand beside her and faced the Doctor and Rose. ‘Oh, I should introduce Rosita. My faithful companion. Always telling me off.’
‘Well, they do, don't they?’ said the Doctor and Rose nudged him with her elbow. The Doctor gave her a look of pure innocence and Rose couldn’t help but give a smile.
‘Well someone has to,’ she said.
But Rosita didn’t seem so amused. ‘Now I'll have to go and dismantle the traps,’ she said to her Doctor. ‘All that for nothing. And we've only got twenty minutes till the funeral, don't forget. Then back to the TARDIS, right?’
They started to walk away but Rose couldn’t resist asking, ‘Funeral?’
‘Oh, long story,’ said the Other Doctor, turning back to them. ‘Not my own, not yet.’ He let out a grunt as he stretched his limbs, obviously still sore from being dragged through a building. ‘Oh, I'm not as young as I was.’
‘Well, not as young as you were when you were me,’ added the Doctor and the other man gave him a confused look.
‘When I was who?’
‘You really don't recognise me?’
The Other Doctor shook his head. ‘Not at all.’
‘But you're the Doctor,’ said the Doctor, looking his future self over. ‘The next Doctor. Or the next but one. A future Doctor anyway.’ He backed up a few paces as the other man opened his mouth to speak. ‘No, no, don't tell me how it happened. Although, I hope I don't just trip over a brick. That'd be embarrassing. Then again, painless. Worse ways to go. Depends on the brick.’
Thankfully, the Other Doctor interrupted. Rose didn’t like thinking about how her current Doctor was going to die.
‘You're gabbling, sir. Now might I ask, who are you, exactly?’
An array of different emotions flickered over the Doctor’s face before his grin returned. ‘I'm, er, I'm just. Smith. John Smith.’ He nodded to Rose. ‘And this is my girlfriend, Marion. We’ve heard all about you, Doctor. Bit of a legend, if I say so myself.’
The Other Doctor stood up a little straighter at this. ‘Modesty forbids me to agree with you, sir. But yes. Yes, I am.’
Rose rolled her eyes. It wasn’t too hard to believe that this was a future version of the Doctor… But where was future-Rose? And why didn’t he recognise them?
As if reading her mind, the Doctor voiced the question. ‘A legend with certain memories missing. Am I right?’
The Other Doctor’s smile faded. ‘How do you know that?’
‘You've forgotten me.’
The Other Doctor just stared at his past self for a moment. ‘Great swathes of my life have been stolen away,’ he explained finally. ‘When I turn my mind to the past, there's nothing.’
‘How far back can you remember?’ asked Rose.
‘Since the Cybermen. Masters of that hellish wall-scuttler and old enemies of mine, now at work in London town. You won't believe this, Mister Smith, Miss Marion, but they are creatures from another world.’
The Doctor and Rose looked at each other, both trying to give off an air of surprise at the Other Doctor’s statement.
‘Really. Wow,’ said the Doctor but he failed to get the tone right.
‘Unbelievable,’ added Rose, also not quite hitting the mark.
But the Other Doctor didn’t seem to notice. ‘It's said they fell onto London,’ he said, ‘out of the sky in a blaze of light.’ He looked down, lost in thought (or possibly trying to remember). ‘And they found me. Something was taken. And something was lost.’ He looked back up and the Doctor and Rose. ‘What was I like, in the past?’
‘I don't think I should say,’ said the Doctor, his happy curiosity gone. ‘Sorry. Got to be careful with memory loss. One wrong word…’
‘It's strange, though. I talk of Cybermen from the stars and you two don't even blink.’
Maybe he had noticed their lacklustre reaction after all.
The Doctor deflected his future self’s observation by taking the opportunity to try and jog his memory. ‘Ah, don't blink. Remember that? Whatever you do, don't blink?’ The Other Doctor just stared, blankly. ‘The blinking and the statues? Sally and the angels? No?’
‘You're a very odd man.’
The Doctor’s brow furrowed. ‘I still am. Something's wrong here.’
But it seemed that now was not the time to find out what. The Other Doctor had just remembered where he had been heading off to before Rose had stopped him. ‘Oh, the funeral!’ he said, jumping a little. ‘The funeral's at two o'clock. It's been a pleasure, Mister Smith, Miss Marion. Don't breathe a word of it.’
He went to rush away again but the Doctor called out to him. ‘We can come with you. Help out.’
‘It's far dangerous,’ said the Other Doctor, turning to face them again. ‘Rest assured, I shall keep this city safe. Oh, and, merry Christmas.’
Despite all the questions buzzing in her mind, Rose smiled at that. ‘Merry Christmas, Doctor,’ she said and the man ran off towards the funeral he was so anxious to attend.
The Doctor and Rose waited a moment and then followed.
‘Why didn’t you tell him who we are?’ asked Rose in a whisper as the Doctor’s future self unknowingly led them through London town. 'Why change my name?'
‘Like I said, got to be careful with memory loss,’ said the Doctor. ‘Don’t want to accidentally trigger something. Could cause irreparable damage. No, best not to let him know who we are just yet.’
‘So, you went with Marion?’
‘Mm-hmm. Middle names are great. They make it so easy to think of an alias on the spot.’
‘Pity I don’t have two like Mum does,’ said Rose. ‘Then I won’t have to keep using the same one.’
The Doctor shrugged. ‘Ah well, never mind. At least I won’t get the name wrong at the wedding.’ He chuckled at the memory of her father’s botched wedding vows before he realised what he had just said. He stopped walking and whipped his head round to face her, eyes wide in panic. ‘That wasn’t… I didn’t mean… not that I wouldn’t… one day, maybe, but…’
Rose let him flounder a bit more before putting him out of his misery. She placed a finger to his lips, effectively silencing him. ‘It’s okay, Doctor. I know what you meant.’ She lowered her finger and leaned up to replace it with her lips in a quick kiss.
‘Right. Good,’ he said after she had pulled away, his voice an octave or two higher than usual.
Rose bit her lip to stop herself from laughing and turned to continue their pursuit of the Other Doctor. A moment later, she heard the snow crunching behind her, letting her know that the Doctor had snapped out of it and was running to catch up with her.
Luckily, the Other Doctor hadn’t gotten far and they slowed down to keep a safe distance away from him and Rosita. ‘So where do you think I am?’ asked Rose, once again whispering. ‘Future me, I mean. Do you think maybe I’m Rosita?’
‘Well, it is a bit of a coincidence,’ said the Doctor. ‘Rose and Rosita. Maybe you can regenerate and whatever’s causing my memory loss is affecting you too.’
But Rose could tell that he didn’t really believe his own words. ‘What are you really thinking?’ she asked and the Doctor looked down at her, his eyes unsure and a little bit frightened. ‘Tell me,’ she insisted when he didn't answer.
He took her hand and gave it a squeeze. ‘He said that something had been taken,’ he whispered. ‘That something was lost.’
Rose just nodded her understanding and squeezed the Doctor’s hand a bit tighter. She wasn’t sure what she could say. She couldn’t deny the Doctor’s suspicions, not when they seemed so likely.
Without letting go of each other’s hand, the two of them silently continued following the Doctor’s future self to the funeral. Rose just hoped that it wasn’t her own.