Rose Tyler huffed out a breath, partly from the energy she was exerting and partly in frustration. Her arms held out to her sides to provide balance, she slowly made her way through the muddy swamp she was traipsing through. She was both grateful and annoyed by the trees surrounding her in every direction; they aided her in keeping her balance, but they severely hindered her vision of the area, making it nearly impossible to know where she was or how far she had to go. Each step was carefully made, so as to prevent herself from falling face first or flat on her back into the ankle-deep mud which was as thick as wet concrete.
Of course, when Rose had woken that morning—in her head she could hear the Doctor’s Northern accented voice teasingly reminding her that there were no mornings on the TARDIS—she had expected to have a fun and relaxing day visiting Pygriffus, a peaceful planet which had the best banana-themed baked goods in the galaxy; or at least that’s what the Doctor had told her.
Really should have known better than to trust the Doctor’s bloody driving skills, she thought to herself, irritated with her designated driver.
Stepping outside the TARDIS and expecting to smell the pleasant aromas of baked goods was a far cry from the reality she and the Doctor had found themselves in.
Still chuckling and teasing each other, they had managed to walk only a few meters from the time and space ship before being surrounded by a horde of spear-wielding, humanoid-ish tribesmen. Rose had been mesmerized by the Lotyprus, the bird-men whose appearance were a fairly even mixture of human and something like an eagle. They were quite beautiful, their feathered bodies a shimmering chocolate-brown color with honey-yellow beaks and golden-brown eyes.
Of course, her fascination with the tribesmen had ended as soon as the chief had placed a claim on Rose, saying that she was to be his bride, due to some mysterious tribal legend of a golden-haired goddess. The Doctor had kicked up quite a fuss at this point, which had led to the two of them being forcibly separated—which did not improve the Doctor’s mood at all—and taken to opposite sides of the swamp.
They were told that if they could find each other in the swamp and make it out together—apparently it was a test even the Lotyprus were wary of performing, likely due to the size of the swamp and hazards within it—then they would let the two of them pass unharmed, but if not...well, Rose’s future would be very, very different from what she had planned. She didn't worry too much though, because she knew the Doctor would never allow them to go through with whatever they had planned.
Rose wasn’t exactly sure how long she had been trudging through the swamp, but it had to have been several hours at least. She was starting to tire and her stomach had long ago told her how unhappy it was with its empty state.
As unhappy as she was with this particular adventure, her displeasure mostly stemmed from the fact that she was missing having the Doctor’s hand in hers, his sarcasm and dry sense of humor, and his company. She suspected if she just kept walking, the Doctor would eventually find her, what with his superior Time Lord senses and all.
Trying to occupy her mind from her hungry stomach and waning stamina, she let her mind wander to reminisce on some of the adventures she and the Doctor had experienced in the past few months.
She will never forget how boring and monotonous her life had been, back when it was the never-ending cycle of work and food and sleep; nor will she ever forget the day her world had turned on its head with meeting the Doctor. No matter what messes they got into, what trouble they found themselves in, she would not have missed one moment of it for the world. She would never regret any of her time spent with the Doctor; she couldn’t.
The Doctor had opened her eyes to the wonders of the universe and she would stay with him for as long as he let her—hopefully the rest of her life, if she was lucky.
Her thoughts and body stopped the moment she thought she heard the faint sound of someone calling her name. She held her breathe, not moving a muscle, as she strained her ears to listen. There it was again, just on the edges of her hearing, her name being called.
Knowing it was more than likely the Doctor, and that he had very keen hearing, she turned her head to the left—the direction she thought the voice was coming from—and shouted, “Doctor!”
Not daring to move or breathe, she listened. Sure enough, the voice came again, just a little louder and nearer. She made to move in that direction, but found that while she had paused to listen, the mud that had been around her ankles was now at the bottom of her calves and was nearly solidified.
Trying to lift one foot, then the other, she found that she was only succeeding in making her situation worse, her legs sinking further into the thick mud. Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, she forced herself not to panic, knowing the Doctor was relatively close. She intermittently called out to him, guiding him to her.
About ten minutes later, the mud more than halfway to her knees now, she saw the first glimpse of her Doctor’s leather jacketed form as he made his way around a rather large tree. She was so exhausted—and loath to admit how frightened her current situation made her feel—she suddenly burst into tears. Within moments his strong arms were around her, enveloping her in a comforting hug. Feeling self-conscious, she quickly dried her tears and then gave him a small, embarrassed smile.
“’M afraid ’M kinda...stuck,” she said, looking down where her legs were continuing to sink into the mud's relentless grip.
“Jeopardy friendly, you are,” he says in mock annoyance, though his eyes are twinkling with mischief and laughter held in check.
She finally noticed why he wasn’t sinking into the mud as well. He had taken several thick, wide pieces of bark—nearly two feet in length—tied them together and then to his boots with thick red string to make a couple of impromptu snowshoes, or in this case, mud shoes. She gave an internal roll of her eyes, thinking about his bigger-on-the-inside pockets.
When he saw that she noticed his improvised footwear, he flashed a wide, daft grin at her, effectively chasing away her anxiety and irritation with her predicament.
She watched him reach down and use his large hands to dig into the mud, freeing her ensnared legs. He pulled her feet out one at a time—though her shoes remained in the mud’s clutches—and found herself standing on the toes of his boots, preventing her from sinking into the mud again. His strong arms held her around her waist to balance her, while she kept her hands on his leather covered biceps. She had to remind herself to breathe with their close proximity to one another.
“Can’t let you walk barefooted through here, Rose, one puncture of the skin and you’d be in trouble. Serious trouble,” he says, looking around them as he rambled. “There’s bacteria in the mud that’s poisonous to most humanoid species. It’s why the Lotyprus won’t go through here themselves. The same pathogens affect them as well.”
“What about you though, you’re not in danger?”
“Time Lord, me. Superior—”
“Yeah, yeah, I remember. Superior biology. You think you’re so impressive,” she says, her voice teasingly mocking.
“Oi! I am so impressive!” Giving him a tongue-touched smile, she couldn’t help but chuckle at how easy it is to wind him up.
“So then, Mr. Impressive, how we gonna get out of here without me walking out?”
He looks around once more, then, before she can react, he scoops her up in his arms in a bridal carry, causing her to give a small squeak of surprise as she throws her arms around his neck. She was surprised to find their faces even closer together than a moment before. Suddenly she feels mesmerized by the exquisite icy-blue of his eyes. Looking into them, she felt lost within their depth and the knowledge of the universe locked behind them.
Breaking her stare, she looked around them and said, “Might want to head back to the TARDIS, now that we’ve found each other. ’S getting’ a bit dark.”
“Right.” With a nod of his head, the spell was broken.
Over the next couple of hours they joked and teased each other about their current and past misadventures. Soon they were nearing the outskirts of the swamp, and they were both grateful as the sky was turning a dusky orange and it was getting harder for Rose to see.
They noticed the tribesmen in the distance waiting for them. Within a few minutes the Doctor was standing before the chief of the tribe, Rose still in his arms, both of them a muddy sight.
The Doctor wore a stony mask, letting a hint of the Oncoming Storm brew in his eyes. He was not willing to let Rose out of his arms for anything, especially around these creatures that had tried to steal her from him.
“You have completed the task,” the Lotyprus chief stated, staring at them both before continuing. “We can see that you are two halves of the same whole. Go in peace, but know this...keeping a whole separated for too long will cause devastation to both halves. Do not keep yourselves separate for too long, or you will both wither and be in great anguish.”
Looking at one another in surprised shock, the Doctor and Rose looked back to the leader in confusion and said a simple thank you as they made their way to the TARDIS.
Once back inside, the Doctor quickly divested himself of his improvised snowshoes. Rose then watched the familiar dance of the Doctor sending the TARDIS into the vortex. She was silent for a few minutes as she thought on what the chief said.
“Doctor?” Seeing him looking at her expectantly, she asked, “What do you think the chief meant? You know, the ‘separating a whole for too long causes devastation and anguish’ thing?” Suspecting that the Lotyprus leader was talking about the obvious connection she and the Doctor had, she wanted to know if he thought the same as her.
Looking away from her quickly, he played with some buttons and levers on the console that she suspected did nothing more than give his restless hands something to do. “Not sure. Could mean anything really. You, Rose Tyler, better go shower and change. Need to get all that pathogen-infested muck off your body.” He guided her toward the entrance to the main corridor.
“You’ll find a small green bottle in your shower. Use that in your hair and as a body wash before you lather with your regular shampoo and body wash. It’ll kill any of the bacteria still lingering on you. I’ll do a blood test in the infirmary later, though, just to be sure. And don’t forget to eat something. Gotta restore your little human body’s stamina. Now, I’ve got some repairs that need to be done on the TARDIS, so I’ll see you later, Rose.”
With that, he turned and walked back to the console, lifting a piece of grating and climbing down beneath to hide from what he obviously didn't want to talk about. Knowing that trying to make him talk to her was pointless and knowing that she did in fact need a shower, she made her way to her room.
She was grateful that they had made it back to the TARDIS safe and sound, despite their temporary separation and the day’s frustrating circumstances. Rose only hoped that the Lotyprus chief’s words would not drive the Doctor so far away from her that she lost him completely. Her greatest hope was that, one day, he would reciprocate her love for him.
In the meantime, she contented herself with the knowledge that they were best mates. After all, she was the Doctor’s companion and he only took the best.