Estimated reading time: 22 minute(s)
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Triggers for physical/sexual abuse.
Chapter Two: Names
We drove the short distance from the parking lot to the fast food place in complete silence. When we arrived, I left the vehicle with barely a gesture to Rose for her to follow. She obeyed.
I grit my teeth, forcing down the dangerous swell of hatred. I thought the safest place for Rose would be beside me—not the timey-wimey-near-death-experiences-every-day me, but the incredibly-boring-and-brilliant-human me.
With all his memories of mine, how could he possibly think like that?
I snapped my fingers and opened the TARDIS door, ushering Rose inside. Quickly scanning the area for my evil twin before shutting the door, I made my way over to the control panel without glancing Rose’s way.
“Are…” she said, trailing away after the single word. Slowly, I raised my eyes to look in her direction. She shifted her gaze to the floor and swallowed, standing up from the chair she claimed and moving away from the control panel. “This is new.” She nodded, examining the lower levels from her place near the banister.
“She had a bit of an upgrade,” I conceded, returning to the control panel and inputting coordinates. Concentrating grew troublesome in my current agitated state.
“So did you,” Rose whispered, carefully turning to face me. Her gaze kept skipping off of me, as though afraid to look too long.
I plucked at my bowtie. “New face, same cool style.” I forced a brief smile, but inhaled deeply afterward.
She approached me, surprising me when she threw her arms around me. “I like it. Your new face. Even the goofy bowtie.” She said it all in my ear, pressing her face against my back, between my shoulder blades. I closed my eyes, concentrating on my breathing, but it was too much. I needed to know.
Spinning around, I enveloped her in my arms. “Rose, what happened to you?”
She shook her head. “Doesn’t matter. Forget it.”
“It does matter,” I growled, pulling back from her to meet her eye. “You matter, Rose,” I insisted, squeezing her shoulders gently for emphasis.
She met my eye easily, no fear deadening them for the first time since I found her. “Yeah, I know,” she said dismissively, tugging playfully on the lapel of my tweed jacket.
I opened my mouth to reaffirm my words, but then she twirled away and stared up at the vaulted ceiling of the TARDIS. “Ah, I still dream of this. I miss this,” she laughed, facing me again. “So, where to this time, Doc—” She stopped, paling, and pressed a hand to her neck as she looked away.
“Rose?” I started, moving toward her.
“Nothing. Just a bit, uh,” she kept talking, but backed away from me as I approached. I stopped. “How’d you get to this universe, anyway?”
“TARDIS brought me here on its own,” I answered absently, appraising her. “Rose, that mark on your neck…”
“Just a hickey,” Rose deadpanned, stone faced.
“It’s a bruise,” I countered.
“It’s a hickey. An angry…hickey,” she mumbled, dropping back into her seat. I approached her, but she didn’t seem startled this time.
I knelt down beside her. “Rose, please tell me what happened to you.”
“Doc—” She sighed heavily. “I don’t want to talk about it,” she confessed, looking up at me with a smile.
“Rose, I just want—”
“I can’t talk about it,” she said, her voice thickening. I grimaced back at her, and she smiled through sudden tears. She snaked her arms around my shoulders, embracing me firmly. “So don’t go trying to make me, all right? Just…let’s just find a way out of here. Please.” She squeezed me tightly against her, burrowing her face in the crook of my neck.
“Oh, Rose, you do have me worried,” I murmured anxiously. I may have to kill my human counterpart, I thought darkly. When she remained silent, I pulled back from her with a forced grin. “But since when have you taken to calling me Doc? I don’t know if I quite like having the name shortened,” I mused aloud.
She bit her lower lip. “Oh, sorry. I don’t know why I keep—”
“Rose, you never apologize to me, understand?” I lowered myself to mere inches before her face, meeting her eyes seriously. “You never, ever have to apologize to me, all right?”
She nodded lethargically.
I sighed. “Rose, the reason you shortened my name…”
She glanced away.
“Rose,” I said, drawing her back to me. Her expression tightened with anxiety I never remembered witnessing over her face before. “The reason you shortened my name wasn’t voluntary, was it?”
“What? Why wouldn’t it be—”
Taking a shaky breath, she bowed her head. Something fell from her face, sparkling in the light from the TARDIS. She shook her head mutely.
“You can’t say my name.”
“Because,” she said, voice strained, “you aren’t him. You aren’t the Doctor. You…aren’t…”
“I’m not him,” I finished gently. I brought her into another hug. I wasn’t evil. I wasn’t the bad guy. I wasn’t the embodiment of fear and pain. The person she knew as the Doctor for who knew how long was now associated with terrible, unspeakable memories.
“I know you aren’t. I know that,” she said, wiping at her face and sitting back upright in her chair. I let my arms fall away, but watched her carefully. “Ah, look at me. I’m all whiny, blubbering damsel in distress. Can’t we just go save a planet somewhere or some—”
“Distress!” I shouted, bolting to my feet and running to the control panel. “Of course! A distress signal!”
“What?” She stood to her feet and started over to me, staring at the display on the panel. “What distress signal?”
“Your distress signal,” I explained, turning to her with a wide grin. “The TARDIS picked up on your distress call and brought me straight here. Oh, you sexy—er…” My eyes flicked self-consciously from the control panel to Rose.
“You call her sexy?” she said, laughing.
I grinned. “Yeah,” I admitted sheepishly. “No time for jokes! Time to get out of this universe! Ah, but wait!” I struck a few buttons on the control panel, studying the display.
“Wait for what?”
Sighing, I rubbed my forehead. “Nothing, never mind.” The TARDIS wasn’t picking up on him anywhere anyway. And if I stayed…oh, if I stayed, Rose would have nightmares about both Doctors for months. “Time to go!” I shifted the lever down and we gripped the panel for everything in us.
“Where are we going?” Rose shouted, laughing. “Ahhh! I’m on the TARDIS!”
Returning her broad grin, I shouted, “To the stars, Rose! Always to the stars!”
We landed minutes before we should have. Minutes in TARDIS time held more significance than any other minutes in the universe.
We were far from the destination.
“Doc—” She squeezed her eyes shut, shaking her head. “Isn’t there anything else I can call you?”
“Afraid not,” I answered distractedly, checking my monitor for what awaited us outside. “Just the one name, same as ever. Where are we?” I saw nothing but streetlamps on the screen. It was night, wherever it was.
“We’re out of that universe, though, right?” Rose asked, darting a surreptitious look toward the door.
I strode across the room, passing her, and stepped outside the door. Quickly holding a pocket mirror up to my face, I saw my tenth incarnation looking back at me. No, we remained in the same universe—but in a different time.
“Matt,” Rose called over, starting toward me.
I quickly stepped back inside, watching my real face return.
“You look like a Matt,” Rose informed, sidling up next to me. She grinned up at me amiably. “So, Matt, are we out of that universe?”
“You can’t just change my name,” I shot, scandalized. I mainly wanted to distract her from where we were. Where we still were.
“It’s been three months, Rose!” We turned to watch my tenth human incarnation chasing after Rose on the sidewalk. “You chose me, remember?”
I glanced down at Rose. She watched the scene with wide eyes, unmoving. “Rose?”
“Can we…?” she trailed off, transfixed on the scene.
The other Rose went inside a house and shut the door behind her, leaving my duplicate outside banging on the door.
The doors to the TARDIS slammed shut, emitting a force of energy to expel us, and the engine began to make that sound again.
“Oh, no. No, no, no, no—” It vanished entirely. “Aww, come on! Come back!”
Rose screamed from the house and I spun toward the sound. Rose grabbed my arm, shaking her head vehemently. “No. We leave.” She met my eye steadily. “Matt, please.”
“What is happening inside that house, Rose?” I demanded, pointing a shaking finger in the direction.
She shook her head again, but bowed it when her past self screamed again. “Can’t change it. It’s history. Let’s go.”
“I have rebooted the universe since I last left you, Rose Tyler,” I said carefully. “And I will stop this.”
I started toward the house.