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Wayward Son - Chapter 22: Preamble

Rose and the Doctor try to adjust to their new bond.

Title: Wayward Son - Chapter 22: Preamble

Characters: Jackie Tyler; Ten II; Pete Tyler; Tony Tyler; Rose Tyler; Original Character
Genre: Alternate Universe; Angst; Character Study; Het; Romance
Author's Description: Set mostly in the AU of Pete's World; TenII hits a big snag in his efforts to forge a new life with Rose and finds himself facing an unexpected identify crisis.
Length: WIP
Rating: Teen for slight swearing
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A sharp niggling pain in the kneecaps tried to assert itself, but Rose Tyler would have none of it. Her only reality at this moment were warm, kiss-swollen lips pressed lightly against her own; a warm tongue gliding against her palate, tongue and cheeks; and thin, wiry, but strong arms holding her in a tight embrace. Time stood still as she focused on the fuzzy warmth that caressed her mind and seemed to reach into her heart. Silent but fervent feelings passed through her in waves, emanating from the man in her arms. Her response slipped back along the same pathway to touch him in a continuous feedback loop of blissful joy. The only sounds were contented sighs and the occasional soft thrum of a soulful hum transmitted through arms and lips.

A muffled polite cough next to them alerted the Doctor and Rose that they were no longer alone on the knob hill. They broke apart to glance up at Hal, who was standing with arms crossed and a smirk on her face. She was now dressed in a tank top and khaki shorts.

The Doctor grinned at her well-tanned and toned legs, surprised that they appeared much more feminine than he might have guessed from her boyishly slim figure in denim, usually cloaked in an oversized lab coat.

“Legs! You have legs!” he teased her. “Who would ever have thought?”

Hal gave him a death-glare, her wispy fine hair blowing up in the slight breeze and standing on end. Rose chuckled, thinking of how her hair now resembled the Doctor’s in a sticky-uppy mess that made her entirely believable as his sister, genetic or not.

“Well, I hate to break up your romantic moment in the beautiful Great Outdoors, but it seems you may have forgotten quite where you were,” Hal reminded him, tapping her finger to her temple.

“Ah, yes,” muttered the Doctor, leaping to his feet and brushing off his trousers. “Might have forgotten a bit… in the, uh, heat of the moment.”

Rolling her eyes, Hal reached down to help Rose stand. “There are some images I simply don’t need running about in my head, and there are several there right this instant that make me want to poke my eyes out from the inside. Cease and desist until you get out of my mind, thank you!”

Rose flushed a bright red as she staggered up holding Hal’s hand for support. “Owww!” she moaned, rubbing her bruised knees. “My knees were killin’ me anyway,” she groaned. “Sorry ‘bout the… uh… well… uncontrolled thoughts. Wasn’t expectin’ what happened to happen, if ya know what I mean.”

“Oh, Hal’s not quite that much of a prude. Now are you, Hal?” the Doctor asked.

“Oh, no…” Hal sighed in a slightly sarcastic tone. “I’ve just been trapped on this godforsaken rock for five years without suitable companionship. Taught myself to forget all about… stuff like that.”

“Good,” grinned the Doctor impishly, giving her shoulders a tight squeeze, “’cause you’ve got another five years to go!”

Sucking in a breath through her teeth, Hal glared down her nose. “We’ll see about that,” she hissed.

“Oi, rude!” laughed Rose, playfully bumping the Doctor’s shoulder before another verbal sibling war broke out. He looked down at her with a besotted smile before pulling her into a tight hug, Hal all but forgotten.

“Oookaay,” drawled Hal, suspecting the pair were about to resume their courtship any second. “Time to go back, I think. You can continue with the pair-bonding rituals later.”

Rose’s grip on the Doctor tightened as she whipped her head around in alarm to look at Hal, clearly panicking at the idea of parting from him.

Hal shook her head. “Oh, don’t worry,” she reassured her. “You have an established betrothal bond now. You’ll be able to touch each other’s minds and communicate on your own. No need for an intermediary… except, perhaps, as a chaperone,” Hal added with a twinkle in her eye.

Hopeful, Rose glanced up into the Doctor’s face looking for confirmation. Crinkles at the corners of his soulful brown eyes and a warm smile greeted her. She felt herself getting lost in the promises she saw shining from his dark orbs, flecks of scattered gold sparkling in them illuminated by the bright sun. It was impossible for her to stop the radiant grin that slowly crept across her face as the Doctor pulled her closer, placing his chin on her shoulder.

“Oh, there is no force in this universe that will hold me back now, Rose Tyler,” he whispered into her ear in a low pitched tone as smooth as melted butter. A shiver passed through her at the realisation that her life, so filled with sadness, pain and loss these past few years, could potentially change forever. No longer would her Doctor run from her, keep her at arm’s length… or a universe away; from this day forward they would run headlong into the future, hand in hand. Her secret fantasy of being at the Doctor’s side as his companion, as a true life partner, was finally within her grasp.

Rose leaned back to lock eyes with him as a serious expression overcome her. “You won’t run away anymore? You won’t leave me behind and go swannin’ off into the unknown when ya get tired of me, like ya used t’do? You’ll talk t’me, rather than clam up when I ask ya a question ya don’t wanna answer?”

“No, no, and yes,” he said with a pained little smile. “I promise you, Rose. I won’t run from you, ever again. I won’t wander off without you holding my hand. And I will talk to you, no matter how painful it is.” He took both her hands in his. “But understand, please… what I have to tell you, the things that I mean to show you… You may not want me as much once you’ve heard them, or seen them.”

Rose shook her head in bewilderment, her brows knitting in concern. “You keep sayin’ that. What could you have possibly done that’s so devastatin’ that ya think I would toss ya aside if I knew? You must have had a good reason to do whatever it was,” she said solemnly. “Tell me. Just explain why, and I promise I’ll listen.”

He swallowed hard and nodded his head. “I promise, I will. But let’s do this carefully. If I get only one thing right in this life, I want it to be this… us. I’ve cocked up enough between us over the years, and I’m so sorry. If you give me the chance, I’ll spend the rest of my life making it up to you.”

“I gotta lot to make up for, too, ya know,” Rose said, casting her eyes to the ground.

“No, you don’t,” he said sincerely, shaking his head. “I understand now, and I forgave you a long time ago.”

“But… but you don’t know it all. I’m not the same person you used to know. I don’t even know if…”

The Doctor gently placed two fingers against her full lips to stop her. “You’re still Rose Tyler, the woman I loved from the moment I first held her hand and ran. That much I know. I don’t care if you’ve blown up an entire universe, or half your organs have been replaced with artificial bits and bobs, or if you have scars that look like roadmaps. I promise you, Rose… none of that matters.”

Eyes misty with gratitude, Rose suddenly erupted into watery giggles. “Oh, seriously? You mean that if I’ve obliterated an entire universe, the very thing you warned me not t’do, you’d still love me?!?”

“Oh, yes!” grinned the Doctor. “I’d just have to make sure that, in future, I’m always by your side to convince you it’s not nice to blow up universes.”

“Oh? And jus’ how’re ya gonna convince me? Ya know how stubborn I can be,” teased Rose coquettishly, the tip of her tongue suddenly peeping out between her teeth.

The child-like mirth in the Doctor’s chocolaty brown eyes melted away to become a heated, hungry look, almost predatory in its intensity, that made Rose’s skin flush and tingle as if it would combust.

“Weelll,” he thrummed in a low throaty growl, “I’ll simply have to find ways to… distract you.”

“Ahem!” Hal uttered pointedly as the Doctor’s head swooped in to connect with Rose’s trembling lips. He halted a mere inch from his target at Hal’s interruption, grimacing in irritation.

“You know,” he whispered, “I’m beginning to understand what it’s like to have a bratty little sister around.”

“I heard that!” snapped Hal. “Whispering doesn’t work when you’re in my head.”

Reluctantly, the couple stepped apart to put some space between each other, but their eyes remained firmly locked.

“Oh good grief,” stomped Hal. “Would you two stop mooning at each other like a pair of mating Emperor penguins? You can do this later when you get home?!? Come to think of it, I’m not sure either of you is fit to drive, considering.”

Rose seemed to break free of the trance, blinking as she glanced around the hill. “Oh, that reminds me… Those mountains on the horizon… they’re white on the top, like there’s snow up there.”

“It is snow,” nodded Hal. “Those are the White Mountains near Springerville and Show Low.”

“What’s that big mountain over there?” asked Rose, pointing to a large bluish-grey trapezoidal mountain on the horizon to the southwest. “It seems to have quite a bit of snow, but it’s so warm here.”

“That’s Mount Escudilla,” answered Hal. We’re almost 6000 feet in elevation where we stand. Escudilla is the third highest peak in Arizona at about 10,900 feet. The temperature drops rapidly the higher in elevation you climb.”

“Eskulldeeya?” Rose sounded out tentatively.

“Close enough,” laughed Hal.

“How close is it?”

“Oh, about 60 or 70 miles from here, or about an hour and a half drive time,” said Hal.

“Can we go there? When we’re on our campin’ trip, I mean? Are we allowed to climb it?” Rose asked excitedly.

The Doctor smiled fondly down on his newly-intended. “My Rose, ready for an adventure already.”

“Well, I suppose we could,” sighed Hal. “Depends on whether the topology is the same here as back home. And on whether you two can keep your hands off each other long enough for us to get some real work done,” she said, cocking an eyebrow at them. “Climbing might be a bit treacherous, but there used to be a road that led up to the top. We can at least drive up to the level of the snow pack.”

Rose squealed and bounced up and down on her heels in delight. “Oh, that would be fabulous!” she chortled.

“We’ll have to scan it for artefacts, of course,” Hal said knowingly.

“Oh, of course,” agreed the Doctor with a smirk. “Sonic is already calibrated and ready.”

“Alright, time to end this,” Hal said wearily. The Doctor took a long look at Hal, noting that she appeared a bit pale now beneath her virtual tan.

“Oh, I don’t wanna really go,” whined Rose, pouting. She grasped the Doctor’s hand as if she was afraid he’d disappear any second.

Taking both her hands into his, the Doctor gently lifted them to his lips and kissed them. “Don’t worry, Rose. We’ll have more moments like this, I promise you. We’re bonded now! By my people’s most ancient tradition, we’re engaged to be married.”

Rose’s eyes widened as a huge grin broke across her features. “Oh, that’s right! Oh, my goodness… Wait ‘til I tell me Mum!!”

“Uhm… Doctor?” Hal prodded gently, pulling the gold chain about her neck out of her tank top. She dangled the blue diamond engagement ring in the air, the precious gemstone casting sparkles about her in the sun.

“Ahhhh, yes,” said the Doctor hastily, getting her point. “Rose, perhaps we should wait just a tiny bit before we tell Jackie, eh?”

“Why?”

He nodded toward Hal, who was still holding up the ring. “Just a few days, so I can do this in the proper Earth tradition…”

“I don’t need a bauble like that, Doctor!” Rose snorted.

“No, but I want to give you one,” he said, smiling. “And Jackie would be expecting one. She’ll slap me into a new time zone for not following tradition.”

“Oh, ok,” Rose acquiesced, finally. “She might do, you’re right. Funny, how you know my Mum so well now.”

The sky brightened and the horizon shimmered as images began to break up around them, slurring together like paint running down a wall. They heard Hal take a deep breath, and then the images snapped back into place just as suddenly.

“Hal!” shouted the Doctor in distress, reaching her as she slowly slipped down to the rocky ground, ending in a thump as she sat hard.

“Ow,” she complained, leaning to rub her backside. “Did I have to make the damn rocks so hard?”

“It’s ok,” he said, holding her by the arms to prevent her from falling over. “Let go now, please. You’ve done more than enough.”

Hal nodded jerkily as the scenery faded away into darkness. Once again back in her flat on her sofa, Hal dropped her aching arms to disconnect from the Doctor and Rose. All three opened their eyes and blinked, trying to orient themselves to their seated positions in a place so unlike the open spaces of Arizona projected from Hal’s mind. The flat seemed drab and surreal next to the vivid imagery they’d experienced for the past hour or so.

Drawn and haggard, Hal was paler than the Doctor had ever seen her. He reached out to grab her by the shoulders as she keeled forward toward the coffee table, pulling her back until she rested against him. He could feel her trembling from sheer exhaustion as she panted in shallow breaths.

“Oh, Hal… are you alright?” he asked, deeply concerned. “We shouldn’t have gone on for so long.”

Hal waved lazily in dismissal. “’S ok,” she slurred. “Jus’ haven’t done this in a long… time.” Frowning, she pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes.

“Headache?” the Doctor asked.

“Yeah,” she grimaced in pain.

The Doctor gave Rose a quick look, and without saying a word, Rose leapt to her feet and ran to the kitchen. Searching through the drawers and cabinets, she located Hal’s linen drawer with tea towels. She snatched one from the top and opened the refrigerator freezer, which had very little in it other than a block of frozen vegetables or two. Retrieving ice from the automatic ice machine, she chuckled, noting that the crescents of ice were shrivelled from evaporation and stuck together. Obviously, Hal didn’t entertain enough to use ice before it dehydrated. Wrapping a handful of cubes in the towel, she returned quickly to the living room and handed the bundle over to the Doctor.

Tenderly, he placed the bundle of ice against Hal’s forehead, lifting it slightly when she hissed.

“Cold!” Hal whinged, batting at his hand.

“Yup, ice is generally cold,” the Doctor grinned sardonically. “I see your intellect hasn’t been damaged much.” He slipped from behind Hal to allow her to stretch out on the sofa, placing one of the throw pillows behind her head before replacing the ice.

In spite of his jocular tone, Rose could detect waves of anxiety radiating from the Doctor as he tended Hal. Standing several feet away from him, his emotions were as crystal clear to her as if he had told her how he felt. More so, really. With a hitch in her breath, she took several steps closer and placed her hand gently on his neck and shoulder.

She felt a tingle in her hand and in the back of her mind; an electric energy that seemed to travel instantaneously between them. Feeling him take a sharp breath at her touch, she knew that he felt it too, although he never took his eyes off of Hal. Closing her eyes, Rose focused on that tingling sensation, following it along what felt like a thick chord connecting her to the Doctor. Not knowing exactly what to do, she pushed a thought directly to him, forming the words in her mind as well as the meaning.

Is she gonna be alright?

An instant response caught her off guard as her eyes flew open in shock; an electric blue spark pulsing through the chord like the end of a sonic screwdriver winged its way into her head. A kaleidoscopic, dizzying collage of thought and feelings erupted into her mind, almost overwhelming her in their depth and number. Elation, pride, concern, guilt and impatience were all jumbled together in a bolus of feelings she couldn’t quite interpret, although she could guess at the context as they flooded through her. She looked down to see the Doctor’s eyes fixed on her, an affectionate smile plastered on his face.

Oh, my clever, clever Rose! How did you learn so quickly? We’re going to be so brilliant together! He glanced down at Hal. And she should be alright in a bit. I’m afraid we overtaxed her.

I’m fine, Hal shot them silently. Rose started, not expecting to hear Hal’s voice in her mind.

Stop eavesdropping, admonished the Doctor, giving Hal a warning tap to the bundle of ice.

“Learn to filter, Time Lord,” Hal grumbled aloud.

“I don’t think we should leave her alone,” observed Rose, worried by Hal’s ashen features.

“Agreed,” the Doctor said.

Hal removed the ice pack and glared at them both. “Hey! I’m right here, you know. And if there’s anyone who shouldn’t be alone, it’s you two!” She winced as another bolt of pain shot through her temples. Placing the ice pack back in place, she fixed the Doctor with a fierce stare.

“What?” asked the Doctor in mock innocence.

“You know what,” sneered Hal. “You’re newly bonded. If I weren’t lying here right now, you two would be going at it like bunnies.”

“So, you’re our self-appointed chaperone?” snorted the Doctor.

“Damn skippy,” huffed Hal. They stared at each other for a couple of beats before breaking into sniggers.

“Ow,” chuckled Hal, holding her forehead as she snorted.

“Wherever did you pick up that phrase?!?” guffawed the Doctor, holding his side.

“No! What’s this about bunnies?” demanded Rose, shifting her gaze from one to the other.

Hal sat up, wiping tears from her eyes as she composed herself. “The first twenty-four hours or so of a betrothal bond are very intense,” Hal told her. “If you’re not very careful, the two of you could very well progress quickly to a full bond before you’re ready. I think you have a lot of things to talk about before that should happen.”

“A full bond?” echoed Rose.

“A marriage bond, Rose,” the Doctor said gravely. “At least, it would be the equivalent of a marriage for me. You’re fully human, so I’m not so sure if it would mean the same for you. For me, there would be no potential for divorce. It would be… permanent… for life. If you were to leave me after that… I couldn’t… I could never again…” He choked on the words.

“Oh,” Rose said, expelling a long breath. “Sooo… if we were like… intimate, or somethin’, that would do it? We would be married? Married accordin’ to Time Lord tradition?”

“I don’t think I could prevent it from happening, Rose. The way that I feel about you… I mean, I am fairly positive…” He ground to a halt, suddenly very embarrassed by his admission of lack of control where Rose was concerned.

Rose burst into laughter at the irony. “So, what you’re sayin’, Doctor, is that I gotta wait until my weddin’ night?”

The Doctor flushed a deep red, his ears turning a deep crimson, as Rose and Hal giggled hysterically.

“Yup, you’ve got yourself an old-fashioned boy, Rose,” chortled Hal. “Take a 900 year-old guy, and a billion years of Time Lord tradition, and see what you get?”

Oi,” snapped the Doctor. “At least I don’t have to stop at the petrol station for an oil change, like your fiancé!”

“Oh, do shut up.”