No Pink and Yellow Human

Disclaimer:Nothing's mine. Not even my mind.

He'd left her on her own before. Left her to do a bit of snooping and crafty detective work; whether it was asking around and finding out where everyone had got their TV's from in the 1950's for the Queen's coronation, or tailing a suspicious-looking rebel with a weird necklace and a glass jaw from 24th century Florence.

She was quick thinking, confident and endlessly determined. She was also slightly reckless; something she appeared to have picked up from him. He tried not to feel too proud about that. What else? Well, her smile was useful, too; wide and friendly. It seemed to attract trust like a beacon. One of her encouraging smiles and well-placed compliments, (even a touch of flirting, where appropriate) paired with his charm and riveting manner, and the Doctor and Rose really could coax anything out of anyone or bluff themselves into anywhere.

This was different, though. Too different. He'd never consciously, intentionally left her behind and dematerialised in the TARDIS without her. True, he'd left her with her mum; something both her and Jackie had seemed pleased about, but the empty space beside him, now made him feel…detached. There was no banter and teasing-no blonde chatting away in his ear. Around him, the TARDIS hummed forlornly, particles of floating dust glowing gold in the light that bounced off the walls. He watched the time rotor as it wheezed up and down, grinning at the familiarity. Oddly reassuring.

He was out of practice; that was all. It had been quite a while since he'd traveled on his own. He just wasn't used to not having her beside him; she'd barely left him since they'd met, and that had been a long time ago-longer even than Rose possibly realised. Hmm. He hated how defensive he sounded, even to himself; as if he had to justify his feelings of…well, loss.

Again, a shiver crept up his spine as he thought about this. Just for the smallest of nano-seconds. The same unnerving feeling that had hit him before, when Rose had been out of his reach as he'd carried her younger self home. The aching sensation that he'd lost her. But this time, it seemed feebler. As it didn't have enough momentum to torture him; more watered-down, less brutal but no less disconcerting.

The Doctor scowled, trying to shake off his feeling of unease, to put the feeling out of his head. A small, sly voice in a secluded layer of his mind; one that most frequently empathised with his more human-like qualities, asked him why he found the idea of losing Rose so upsetting, and suggested that the reason behind his finding it strange to dematerialise on his own was because he didn't want to ever have to get used to what it would be like without her.

The Doctor sighed and leant back against the console; buttons and levers pressing into his back uncomfortably, hands shoved into his pockets.

That train of thought, in that quiet layer of his mind was straying dangerously close to emotions he was too stubborn to acknowledge. Quickly, he closed it down and set the layer the mental task of translating 1984 into Ancient Greek, and tucked it away.

Much better.

He knew where to start, of course he did. His fingers brushed over cool, smooth leather and he pulled out his Psychic Paper, and looked at it thoughtfully. Because he hadn't bought four Sherbet Fountains on a mere whim…

That Morning

"…dodgy hair and a crick in my neck," came Rose's voice as she emerged from her bedroom, smoothing down the hem of her t-shirt as she pulled it down over the waistband of her jeans.

"Mmh," replied the Doctor vaguely, as he read the symbols scrolling across the scanner at an unnaturally fast speed. He looked up as she reached his side with a light bounce, and flashed her a grin. Her hair did look a bit wild and untamable, but oh, that was fine; he wasn't bothered. And he recognised that t-shirt. Cyndi Lauper had given her that t-shirt…

"Yes, well. If you'd gone to bed like a normal person, rather than sleeping on a chair, muttering in your sleep about…"

"I was not talking in my sleep!"

"You wouldn't have a sore neck and be moaning like a grumpy-guts," finished the Doctor, sounding smug, as if he had not been interrupted. He sidestepped her retaliatory smack on the arm, and ignored her, pulling out his Psychic Paper in surprise. There had been a small, warm tug at the back of his mind, which he supposed, had been the Psychic Paper's way of telling him that there was a new message on it. The same thing had happened all those months ago when the Face of Boe had summoned them to the hospital. It was the mental equivalent of being elbowed in the ribs.

He watched as a message in familiar, scrawling handwriting appeared black and bold on the paper, like an instant photo swimming into focus.

Buy four Sherbet Fountains.

He recognised it as his handwriting. His thoughts were panic-tinged, and immediately jumped to paradoxes and the dangers of reverse-logic. His future-self communicating with him? Risky. Very tricky, slippy ground, here. He must have a concrete-good reason, or the future-him wouldn't have bothered…

Exactly. Don't tell her.

He could guess that the 'her' meant Rose, and he looked at her out of the corner of his eye. She was watching him, curiously, trying to peek, subtly at the fresh message.

He dropped his eyes back to the Psychic Paper almost immediately. Four Sherbet Fountains. That was why they were waltzing off to 1997, anyway; to buy a Sherbet Fountain and the first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Ingenious designs; Sherbet Fountains-hard stick of tasteless liquorice; chalky, zesty sherbet and colourful paper. Brilliant. But four? Why in the name of Professor Quirell's turban would they need to buy four? To use as chandeliers, perhaps?

Yes flashed back the Psychic Paper. That would be marvelously decorative.

The Doctor raised his eyebrows at his own eccentrically sarcastic humour and snapped the wallet shut, gaining a disappointed look from Rose, who was still trying to see what it said.

"What is it?" asked Rose, nodding at the Psychic Paper, which he'd tried to sneak back into his pocket, furtively.

"What? This?" asked the Doctor, innocently, pulling the wallet out again. "Shopping list. Old one. Must have been jammed in there since…oh…the 1920's? We went to the British Empire Exhibition, remember? Had a run-in with the Painted Lady?"

He let her look at it, extremely grateful that the future-him had written in Gallifreyan. Rose squinted at it, nevertheless and gave him a pointed look and a rather disgruntled 'Yeah' at the mention of the Painted Lady.

"Silly woman," sniffed the Doctor, as Rose gave him back the Psychic Paper and he put it back in his pocket, brow furrowed as he thought about one of their early adventures back into 1924, in his previous leather jacket-clad body; clockwork cats and dispossessed rulers. "She nicked my jacket off me!" he reminded her, indignantly, his voice going up a notch.

"She fancied you," Rose informed him with a teasing grin, though her voice betrayed a hint of displeasure at this as the Doctor tapped at a meter on one segment of the console and moved round to the next one, gently shifting Rose out of the way.

" Gloomy Mr. Big-Ears?" asked the Doctor in surprise, momentarily thrown by this new information, gesturing at his own, much-smaller ears. "Really?"

"Yeah," said Rose with a smirk. "But those masks of hers covered her eyes so…" she tipped her head on the side and smiled at him, widely, tongue peeking through her teeth.

He grabbed hold of her arm to steady her as the TARDIS shuddered and landed awkwardly, sending the Doctor veering into the metal railings and knocking Rose to the grated floor.

He re-gained his balance almost immediately and shrugged on his long coat, which he'd draped over the console and chucked Rose's denim jacket in her direction as she picked herself up. That, too, had been left lying on the console, and the TARDIS hummed something sulky about being used as a clotheshorse.

He spared her a guilty pat and almost ran to the door, pausing only to wait for Rose, eager to get out there into a new, unexplored time. It never stopped being exhilarating and exciting, no matter how many times they did it. He ventured out first and held the door open for Rose, so that she had to duck under his arm.

She walked out, slowly and gaped round, a beam almost splitting her face into two, tucking her arm through the Doctor's proffered elbow.

"Wednesday the second of July, 1997," he announced proudly…

It took him all of two seconds to write three sentences on his Psychic Paper, and to make sure that they would appear to his past self at exactly the right time. To anyone other than a Time Lord, this would appear to defy logic. The tiniest of tiny paradoxes. He knew what to write, knew that it would work…well, because he'd already read it, hadn't he? Not that difficult, really. That was that sorted out; now for the next bit…the brilliant idea that Rose had given him, which would work because he'd seen it happen. Maybe he'd made it happen? Possibly. Quite probably.

He closed his eyes, lightly and opened his mind, let his consciousness drift and wander. He was the last Time Lord; he could feel and see everything; every tiny, minute detail of existence. Every second that had ever passed; every second that would ever pass. Everything that ever could be; everything that should be, but would never happen, everything that might happen; every blurred timeline, where the ending result was yet to be decided.

Admittedly, he usually tried to ignore this because it was all too…vast, too much; he knew so much, and it was terrible, it was a burden, it was a curse; because only he could see it and it clouded his mind. It preyed heavily on him; quite literally. All of this was supposed to be shared; the timelines and time stitches and events; it was supposed to be shared out and carried by all the other Time Lords. But he was the only one left and so it all fell to him; he had to carry everything, and he could only just barely manage it.

He sifted through a dizzying blend of colours; in the spectrum and beyond it; through odd shapes and illusions; sporadic events and intertwining lines, looking for one he knew he should not really look for. He passed through blue-tinged hues of births, grey, bleak deaths; the rage-filled, sadness of so many wars, so much suffering. He felt the buzz of so many lives; millions and millions of people. So many, that there was no adequate number…

He found her. Rose. Most people's timelines looked like a spiral of DNA; complicated, ever-changing, depending on such trivial decisions. Whether to go into work or to take a sick day. Whether to take the bus or a taxi. Whether to call the new dog Iago or Cassio…so, so many implications that could change and alter a timeline. But not Rose's. He couldn't even see hers very clearly; it was nothing more than a small gold blip to him. She was tied in too tightly to established events, to history, to the daunting unknown of the universe; tied too tightly to him. Anything, anything at all could affect her timeline; she was as temporal and changing as time itself. A bit like an anomaly.

He saw the decisions she had made up to about…the age of nineteen, and everything that could have happened to her if things had gone the other way. If she'd gone out to play in the street one day, when she was twelve rather than staying in and doing her English homework; if she'd attended that Chemistry lesson on Exothermic and Endothermic reactions rather than skiving off it and hanging round Boots with Shareen and Keisha…then there was the turning point; the decision to come with him, and then her timeline had spun wildly off the scale.

If he tried hard, if he concentrated and broke his own rules, he could read her future; read what would happen; but it would be irrelevant and pointless because that future would have changed in the very next nanosecond. He could see her staying with him until she was old, wrinkled and too frail to run anymore, and yet tomorrow, she could turn around and tell him she wanted to stay with her mum...he didn't think she would, but her timelines were just so erratic. He didn't know, and he didn't want to know, either.

With every ounce of his self-control, he pulled himself back from the golden glimmer of Rose's timeline and forced himself to look at all the other branches leading off and intersecting with hers; the thin silver thread that represented himself was most dominant-yet he didn't want to read that, either; even if it were possible; then there were Jackie's, Mickey's Pete's…every person that Rose had ever met and would ever and could ever meet. He skimmed over the unhelpful ones; ones that he had no business in looking at and dipped in when he found four likely-looking spools of life; sticking out like Velcro hooks.

The timelines of the boys who had bullied her were frail-looking and chained. Quite disjointed, as if unfinished and incomplete, though they all had one fixed, unchangeable event in common. A chance meeting with him one day in early summer in 1997, when they were about ten…and then again about five seconds later. Hmm. He lifted the timelines out of the general hubbub of time-noise and into a clear, nearly empty corner of his mind so that he could look at them more objectively. They were, all of them, boys from a dodgy estate; poorly cared for, poorly brought up. They'd shoplifted sweets and small, minor things in their childhood; Mars Bars, pens, CD's. Then, as they'd entered their teens they'd got into all sorts of gun crime, gangs; spells in young offenders institutes…everything from robbery to assault and terms in prison.

The boy who Rose had told him had asked her out seemed to separate from the others, not long after his encounter with the Doctor. Good. So whatever, he had or would say to them would work…

The Doctor scrutinised the troughs and low, blurry points of the boys' timelines; points where he could intervene and change things to his own willing if he wanted to; arrests never made; affairs never discovered; evidence never found…the Doctor could interfere. If he wanted to, that is. He could make a difference. He could see the number of people; women, wives, girlfriends, children and members of the public whose lives would be changed irrevocably when they crossed with those of the remaining three boys; how much suffering and hate these three so very insignificant human boys would cause.

But if he changed this…manipulated that…he could prevent all that, and it wouldn't have any major knock-on effects, either. He could see that. No paradoxes, no threats to mankind…nothing dangerous.

It was right, wasn't it…to do this? Choose route A; do nothing and let time play out like a tape; let all those people suffer. The families of those they would beat up, kill, maim for life. The lives of their children that they would neglect and walk out on. Their many girlfriends they would beat, threaten and steal from. Or route B; where he stuck his nose in, and shifted things around a bit and everyone would end up a lot happier. There were no established events involved, he wouldn't really be breaking any rules, would he? Doing nothing, when you have the ability to do something is just as morally wrong as the original suffering you can prevent…isn't it? Better to make a stand…do what's right. Yes?

The Doctor was undecided. Undecided and uncertain; he could taste his own anxiety, his own unwillingness to break his Time Lord laws; laws that decreed that Time Lords should not get involved, should not interfere; it was burning at the back of his throat and spinning like a twister through his mind; it made his head hurt and feel muddled.

He hated feeling uncertain; sort of constrained by his own power; it made him feel vulnerable. Yet, he'd been disobeying Time Lord rules for centuries; interfering and disregarding old traditions, but ultimately, helping those who needed him.

A quiet, rational voice in his mind; his conscience, that still clung on to the last whisps of Gallifrey and all its rules and ways of doing things, asked him, 'Are you doing this because it's the right thing to do, or are you doing it as an act of revenge?'

The Doctor swallowed, stumped by his own thoughts. What was his motivation for influencing the courses of these timelines? Because he could see what events he could set into motion. He knew exactly what he could do; from the timelines in front of him, he could see the exact points at which he could step in. It would be so simple, and he would feel so much better; it would quell so much of his anger.

The layer of his mind, that had been busy going through 1984 slowly paused, and filtered through several images of Rose. He saw her, sitting huddled against a tree, playing with blades of grass; her face pale and crumpled as silent tears tracked their way down her cheeks; the look on her face as he'd caught up with her in the street and pulled her round to face him; she'd looked both lost and defiant; the way she'd shrieked and giggled childishly as she'd danced away from him around the console after she'd got 'Wannabe' stuck in his head.

'I'm doing it for her,' he admitted to himself, honestly. He clenched his teeth together and set his jaw; his eyes darkening, with grit and determination so that he didn't appear to be nearly as human as he usually did.

It was only as he wrenched himself out of his own mind, like waking up from a deep but perplexing slumber and set the TARDIS' coordinates back to 1997 that he realised that he had not quite answered his own question.

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