Into the Rabbit Hole We Go! Rose/Ten, Rose/John Smith, rating (G)
Rose listened to every word, soaking up the enthusiasm behind them, if not the words themselves, because, oh, but she had missed this - the sound of his voice, the brightness of his smile, hearing him ramble excitedly over trifles. 3,167
A/N: Human Nature AU, set in Season 2, right before Army of Ghosts/Doomsday. I’m sure this idea has been done to death – then resurrected and done some more – but since I’ve only read two or three variations myself, and none quite like this, you’ll have to forgive my ignorance. When I saw this prompt, the idea just wouldn’t leave me alone. Also, I apologize for cheating and aging her a year.
(Personally, I think this could work as a stand-alone, but is better suited to a continuation . . . whether or not I bother though, depends on my muse and whether or not I can figure out how to bend time to my will.)
(cards = Alice in Wonderland. Don't ask me how my brain works, lol)
The rain was coming down much harder now, and Rose crouched beside him, one hand holding the umbrella as the other held up her lengthy skirt, struggling to keep it from dangling in the mud as she waited for him to awaken. Much sooner than expected, his lashes began to flutter and his eyes slowly opened, revealing familiar brown eyes, now dark and hazy with confusion – Rose carefully adjusted the umbrella over him as he took pains to sit up, blinking rapidly as he struggled to regain his bearings.
Even so, he noticed her almost immediately, and sensing her worry, smiled to put her at ease. “Why, hello,” he said, greeting her warmly, before adding matter-of-factly, “There’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for all this, of course – me, lying on the ground, out cold. Though I suppose, technically, saying the reason is reasonable is a bit misleading. In any case, I have a perfectly good – well, no,” he corrected, frowning. “I don’t have a good reason either. Adequate! Will adequate do?”
Rose took pains to keep her expression neutral, though a smile tugged at her lips. “Actually, I’m afraid I saw everything.”
“Reallllly?” he whined, more disgruntled than embarrassed. “Everything?”
She nodded once, firmly. Gleefully. “‘Fraid so, yeah.”
Raking a hand over his mouth, his eyes fell upon the cause of his grief, lying innocently beside him, its pages damp and likely ruined. Rose, not about to let this opportunity pass her by, continued lightly, “That must’ a been some book you were buried in. You were so busy readin’, you walked straight into that carriage. That . . . parked carriage,” she elaborated, with a bit of a smile.
“Ahhh,” he laughed, surprisingly jovial as he picked up the source of his troubles. “Yes, well, I can assure you . . . I won’t be challenging any more carriages to a duel, that’s for certain. Between you and me, they’re made of frightfully sturdy stuff, and it’ll take a much stronger man than me to defeat one.”
This time, Rose really did laugh. “Sounds like a good plan. I like that plan.”
Shaking the dripping book, he climbed nimbly to his feet as he tutted disappointedly, “Pity. This really was a fascinating read. In Search of Lost Time, it’s called. Completely in French, mind you, but absolutely fascinating. In fact, I’ve read it cover to cover several times now, and I just can’t seem to get enough of it. Do you read?” he asked suddenly, curiously.
“Not in the rain, no,” she replied, tongue in cheek.
He laughed at that, the sound clear and amused. “Ahhh, but that just means you haven’t found the right book,” he said with a conspiratorial wink.
“I suppose I haven’t,” she replied, all smiles now. “So, anything you’d care to recommend? Keeping in mind, of course, that my French is a bit rusty. Or non-existent – whichever you’d prefer.”
Together, the words book and recommend appeared to have some strange effect over him. His eyes lit up excitedly as he proclaimed, “Oh, do I!” and promptly began recounting various titles and authors, all which he claimed she’d get along with swimmingly. Rose listened to every word, soaking up the enthusiasm behind them, if not the words themselves, because, oh, but she had missed this – the sound of his voice, the brightness of his smile, hearing him ramble excitedly over trifles. True, he may not be her Doctor, with his thoughts, memories, and two beating hearts . . . but she was starting to think there might be just enough of him in his human-counterpart to make the next three months tolerable, if not altogether enjoyable.
After all, this is what they lived for – adventure and the unknown, together, no matter what form he was in. And from the sound of things, John Smith – if that is what he’d called himself – was shaping up to be a kindred spirit after all.
“—And it’s about an adventurer,” he was telling her, his tone full of unabashed wonder, “about this man who’s drawn to the sea, who keeps getting shipwrecked again and again, but he doesn’t let that stop him, no – he just keeps journeying on, into the unknown, until finally he ends up stranded on this island, the only survivor, and—and, wait a minute! Hold on.” Suddenly he stopped and glanced above him, as if only now realizing there was a reason he was no longer getting wet. With wide, scandalized eyes, he stared at her, mouth open in self-reproach. “Ohhh, how very DAFT of me!! Here you are, shielding me with that wonderful, lovely umbrella, and I’m just prattling on like some rain-soaked ninny. I’m sorry. Is your arm sore? Can I help? Take a turn, perhaps?”
“No, no, it’s fine,” Rose was quick to assure him, as she playfully twirled the curved handle in her palm like a pro. “See? I have lots of training in umbrella-holding.”
“Oh, I can tell. You do it masterfully.”
“Thanks! So, what was your name again?” She asked him, having realized the time for introductions was long overdue. Before kicking her out of the TARDIS, he’d assured her he’d be going by John Smith – but if his understanding of the chameleon arch was anything like his driving, she figured she had reason to be skeptical.
“Smith,” he told her quickly, embarrassed by his lack of propriety. “John Smith! Professor John Smith. Daft and a bit rude, that’s me. And . . . you are?”
“Rose – Rose Tyler. No exciting title or anything, just Rose.”
“Why, that’s a lovely name! Rose. Rose Tyler. Just Rose Tyler. Rolls right off the tongue. Brilliant!” He grinned at her in a way so much like the Doctor, that for a moment she was inclined to believe they really were the same person – that somehow, in her absence, the process had gone wrong. But then he went and ruined it – “Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Tyler,” he told her, before pausing for a moment, a bit shy and uncertain, “It is, Miss, is it not?”
“That’s right,” she told him dismissively. “Poor, unwanted spinster of twenty. That’s me.”
“Really?” he asked, sounding genuinely surprised, and a smidgeon pleased. “Oh, but that was rude of me, wasn’t it? I meant, well, you’re still young yet, and quite pretty, charming, good conversationalist, expert umbrella twirler . . . I’m surprised some man hasn’t swept you off your feet. They’d have to be quite daft not to. Or blind. Possibly both. Am I being rude again. . .?”
“A bit. But I don’t mind,” she told him with a smile.
“Ah, a woman after my own heart. Well, Miss Tyler, to be perfectly honest I’m starting to suspect I’ve awoken to a world that’s gone completely mad. It isn’t often, you know, that one reads about losing time and then actually loses it – and my dreams, this carriage – what are the odds, I mean, really! And now – waking to a beautiful stranger, babbling on like a madman, yet, here you are, still listening, as attentive and curious as ever. So please, forgive me for asking, but honestly – the world hasn’t gone mad, has it, Miss Tyler?”
Through all of that, Rose’s mind had zeroed in on just one thing: “You called me beautiful,” she replied, tongue peeking out between her teeth, grin, ridiculously wide.
The lightest of blushes covered his cheeks, as he stammered, “Yes. Well, yes, I suppose I did.”
“Don’t worry,” she assured him softly, her tone serious and sincere. “Everything’s just as it should be – no madder than yesterday, I promise.”
Adorably, he seemed reassured by that assertion. “Splendid! Though to be fair, I did just awaken from a rather unexpected nap, so who’s to say I wasn’t experiencing my own Rip Van Winkle moment? And how fantastical would that be, eh? To wake up in the future, of all places, and to have no recollection of how you got there – to travel through time whilst napping!”
Oh, Doctor, she thought fondly, you have no idea. . .
Still, fearing the conversation was hitting a bit too close to home, Rose attempted to steer it in another direction, pressing, “Mad Hatter, more like. All you need is the hat!”
A twinkle appeared in his eye, as he leaned forward. “Are you my Alice then?”
“I wouldn’t exactly call this Wonderland, Professor,” she told him, laughing.
John joined her, looking thoroughly amused. “Quite right” he told her, nodding his head in agreement. “I’d imagine Wonderland wouldn’t be quite this . . . well, wet. Wet and cold. Are you cold? You must be cold,” he said suddenly, looking concerned.
“Oh, I’m fine. Though it is getting kinda late,” she noted, realizing how dark the sky had grown during their madcap chat. In truth, she had meant to get herself settled at the school before meeting him, but this – this random, ridiculous encounter was so very much like the Doctor, she didn’t find herself minding one bit. Even human, he never failed to amaze her. “So, where exactly do you teach, Professor? I was just heading to Farringham School for Boys myself and would love an escort. . . if it’s not too far out of your way, of course.”
At mention of the familiar school, his eyes lit up considerably, and his face broke into a wide, happy grin. “You don’t say! Really? I mean, really – what are the odds, Just Rose Tyler?”
Rose faked surprise like the best of ‘em. “You mean, you work there too, Mr. Smith?”
“The very same,” he answered proudly, standing just a little bit taller. “I teach history there as a matter of fact. It’s a brilliant school, it really, really is. ‘Course, I’ve only been there a few days myself, so I’m far from a credible source, but it has managed to leave me with a deep, favorable impression.”
“That’s good to hear,” Rose replied, sincere and relieved. Cut off from the Doctor, she had feared something would go wrong, that he’d wake up in a ditch somewhere, lost and confused. Luckily though, it looked like he’d managed quite well on his own . . . though, ridiculously, the idea of the Doctor, even the human one, getting along just fine without her, left a bitter taste in her mouth.
“So, what brings you to our school,” John asked, as he began to lead them to their mutual destination, though at a decidedly leisurely pace. “No, wait, let me guess! Visiting, am I right? Does your father or brother teach there by chance? Or perhaps you’re a nurse, come to help?”
Don’t I wish, Rose thought petulantly. We can’t ALL be given a cushy job and an aptitude for French – or so says the TARDIS.
“No, nothing like that, I’m afraid,” she sighed dejectedly. “I’ve been told they’re hiring all sorts of new staff – servants, kitchen help, the like.”
At her admission, she could see John watching her out of the corner of his eye, as though hesitant to look at her directly. “I, umm . . . but, your dress,” he said at last, swallowing nervously as he gestured with a wave of his hand to the beautifully woven bodice and skirt, which she realized too late, must have looked much too expensive for a common servant to be wearing. “It’s pretty. Very . . . pretty, and you look, well. . .” he trailed off awkwardly, then added, almost hopefully, “You sure you’re not the headmasters daughter?”
Rose tried hard not to feel insulted. “I said I’m not,” she bristled, her tone coming out much harsher than intended. “Besides, I’ve seen the films – father was a gambler, run over by a carriage, family forced to work. This isn’t that rare, you know!”
“N – no. Course not,” he choked out. “I’m sorry. So sorry. How awful for you. . .”
With his apology, most of her steam seemed to evaporate right away, and she shrugged uselessly. Being rude was in his nature, after all, even as a human, so she shouldn’t have been surprised. “S’okay. Was a long time ago,” she mumbled.
“Are you . . . alone then?” he asked, his tone hesitant. “No family? No siblings? Just . . . you?”
“What makes you think I’m alone?” she asked, curious despite herself. After all, it wasn’t like she was wearing some sign on her back, announcing it to the world.
“Welllll, traveling on your own . . . forced to work, young, pretty. . . few options, really. If you had family, they’d ship you off to a wealthy relative or try marrying you off, or they’d be traveling too, looking for work, same as you . . . probably, maybe. I don’t know – just a guess, really.”
“But I’m actually not—” she protested, thinking of her mum and the Doctor, though technically, one was nearly a hundred years in the future, and the other stuck inside a fob watch. “I mean, it’s a bit complicated you see. I have this friend, yeah? And we’re supposed to meet up in three months time after he takes care of this, this, Family business . . . but, till then . . . well, yeah, guess I am,” she deflated.
“And in the meantime, you’re looking for work, you said? At the school?”
Rose raised a curious eyebrow, unsure what he was repeating that for. “Yeah,” she said slowly, as if speaking to a child. “Didn’t I say that already?”
“Well then, it’s settled,” he informed her, in a voice that brooked no argument. “You’ll come and work for me! Well, for the school too, of course, but mostly for me . . . boy, am I clever.”
“Work for you? Like, like a teaching assistant or something?”
He bumped her shoulder lightly with his. “I’m not that good, Miss Tyler,” he told her. “No, I was thinking personal-assistant-to-my-living-quarters.
“You mean, like a maid? Your own personal maid?”
“Wellll,” he drawled, lightly teasing, “if you’d rather chance fate and end up working in the kitchens as a scullery maid, you’re free to decline my offer.”
“No, no, I’ll do it!” she said quickly, needing no further motivation. She’d do just about anything to avoid becoming a dinner lady again. Plus, this worked out better than she’d ever hoped: Now she could keep an eye on him and his watch, find her TARDIS key, and accomplish it all without looking like a suspicious pathetic stalker. Still though, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong, that this was all too easy somehow. “I’m grateful, of course, Mr. Smith, so, sooo grateful, but I’m afraid I have to ask . . . why me? I mean, you don’t even know me.”
“Don’t know you?” He repeated, sounding genuinely surprised. “Why, Miss Rose Tyler, I know you very well, have for awhile in fact. I’ve seen you every night in my dreams, plain as day, and we’re having the most amazing adventures together – always running, laughing, smiling, and being brilliant. Frankly, it was quite rude of you to only show up now,” he gently admonished.
At his revelation, Rose’s heart began to race, her mind a confused, tangled mess. He shouldn’t be able to remember her – the Doctor had said so – had said the chameleon arch would wipe his memory clean of everything, including her and the TARDIS. But, if memories were leaking through, what else could he remember? And more importantly, were they safe? Would the Family be able to find him now?!
“Oh, but you’re pale,” he said, his voice laced with concern as he lightly touched her elbow, bringing them both to a sudden stop. “I’m sorry, so sorry, did I frighten you? I didn’t mean too, I really do have a tendency to just prattle on without thought sometimes . . . so please, forget it. Forget everything I said, alright? I loathe adventuring! Can’t stomach the stuff!”
That alone was enough to pull Rose out of darker thoughts, and she laughed lightly, shaking her head in consternation. “Loath adventuring, do you?” she asked, more than a little skeptical.
“Well, bit of a strong word – loath. How ‘bout dislike? Not-a-fan-of? Fearful-of? Indifferent-to – aaaand, you’re not buying any of this, are you?”
“Nope,” she said, with a proper pop of the P.
“Riiight. Still got you to smile though,” he grinned, cheeky as ever.
“Oh, shut up,” Rose said with a laugh, suddenly feeling lighter.
Even if their cover was blown, the safest place she could possibly be was right here. Once things had settled down and she knew they were safe, she’d find her key and return to the TARDIS to get some answers . . . until then though, she was right where she needed to be.
“Sooo,” John broached, after they’d resumed their walk and a moment of companionable silence had run its course. “You’re not going to ask me anything then? No questions? Curiosities? Demands? Nothing at all you possibly want to know about this mysterious, generous, dashing new employer of yours?”
Rose paused, then replied rather breezily, “No, not really.”
“Oh,” he said, looking crestfallen. “Well, that’s humbling.”
Rose bit back a laugh – it looked like someone had just run over his favorite puppy and then stomped on it for good measure. Of course, there were a million things she wanted to ask him – most of all, about his dreams – but she knew that she couldn’t; talking about it might make him more susceptible to remembering, and the last thing they needed was for him to wake up one morning with the memory of a Time Lord and the Family happily knocking on their door.
But John Smith was blissfully unaware of this fact. “Well, Rose Tyler,” he pouted, arms crossed stubbornly across his chest. “I must say, now who’s being rude? I’m inclined to believe there are TWO mad hatters at this little tea-party.”
Rose bumped his shoulder playfully with her own, and she grinned. “Yeah. But it’s always better with two, wouldn’t you say?”
“Better with two,” he repeated, smiling. “I like the sound of that.”
“Thought you might,” she told him, and then, feeling bold, she took his hand in hers and carefully linked their fingers, not surprised in the least that they still fit together so perfectly. She felt closer to the Doctor already. “So,” she began, her voice steeped in excitement, bubbling with the promise of adventure to come, “should we venture a little further into the rabbit hole, Professor Smith?”
He shot her the most brilliant grin she had ever seen, his eyes sparkling merrily. “Only if we can run,” he told her, and Rose was more than happy to oblige. Together, hand in hand, they sprinted all the way to the school, laughing with abandon, as they tried to outpace the rain.