aibhinn_fics: (DW Ten2/Rose snog)
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Title: Out of Tune
Author: [livejournal.com profile] aibhinn
Pairing: TenII/Rose
Spoilers: JE
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not making any money. Please not to sue me.
Author's Note: Written for round 1.06 of [livejournal.com profile] writerinatardis. Prompt: you must use the given opening line.

It was on the planet with the purple sky and the orange grass that it all started to fall apart.

"What's wrong with her?" Rose asked as the Doctor frowned at the readouts on the monitor—readouts that she still couldn't translate. This TARDIS didn't have the same capacity for translating alien languages as its older sibling had in the other universe anyway, and it seemed Gallifreyan was simply beyond its capabilities.

"I'm not sure," the Doctor said. "All her systems seem to be working just fine, but she's not responding properly. I've no idea why."

Rose leaned against one of the coral struts—thinner than the ones she was used to, and a deeper green—and listened. There was an odd sort of dissonance; a discordant note among the harmonies. "Her song's off, too," she said.

"It is?" The Doctor looked up, and his face went blank as he turned his attention inward, listening to the music of his ship. "I don't hear anything odd," he said after a moment, his eyes refocusing on Rose, a question in their depths.

Rose shook her head. "It's there," she said. "There's something wrong. Like a church organ with one pipe out of tune. I can't tell which one it is, but there's something wrong with the chord."

"Rose Tyler, music student," he said lightly. "Who knew that listening to boy bands could make you an expert in TARDIS mechanics?"

The casual dismissal of her comment made irritation flare. "It has nothing to do with what I listen to," she said. "I'm telling you, there's something wrong with her song."

"Rose, I know what I'm doing," he said with a note of patience that made her irritation grow. "I've been bonded with a TARDIS since before the Conqueror came over from Normandy—if he did in this universe. Did he?"

"Oh, something you don't know?" she said sweetly.

His mouth tightened into a line. "If you can be a little more precise in your analysis than having a metaphorical pipe out of tune, I'll be happy to look into it. Until then, I think I'm going to rely on the old-fashioned method of running diagnostics and ruling things out until I come to the proper answer. If it's all right with you, of course."

"Oh, it's fine with me." Rose pushed herself away from the coral strut and grabbed up her coat. "I'll be down in the village inn. I think I'll stay there tonight, just in case you don't discover what's wrong in time to keep her inner dimensions from collapsing."

Now he was angry; she could see it in the way his jaw came forward. "You do that," he said. "If I can find the nonexistent pipe organ you mentioned, I'll be sure to let you know."

Rose didn't dignify that with a response—just turned on her heel and left the TARDIS.

***

Three hours later, the Doctor sighed and put his sonic screwdriver down, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands and leaning his head back to rest against the bulkhead behind him. He was down below the floor grating of the console room, rewiring yet another circuit board, but he knew it was no use. The fault wasn't in the TARDIS's hardware implants. It was somewhere else. Somewhere deeper.

Her song's off.

Rose's words came back to him, and he sighed. Yes, it was. He could hear it now, though to be fair, he hadn't heard it when Rose had said so. Like a church organ with one pipe out of tune—that was exactly what it was like, and it had been growing steadily worse since Rose had left.

The TARDIS was hurting . . . and he didn't know how to heal her.

A questing tendril of awareness crept into his brain, and he soothed it automatically. The TARDIS didn't know what was wrong with her either; like a small child with an upset stomach, she knew only that something was wrong and she didn't like the sensation.

It's all right, he sent, in feelings rather than words. I'll sort it.

Except that he didn't know if he could. The TARDIS was unwell enough that he didn't quite dare take her into the Vortex, which meant that he and Rose were now stuck on this alien world, without even being sure they could ever get off again.

And, oh God, Rose. He groaned and lifted his head away from the bulkhead, only to let it fall back again with a thump. No wonder she'd stormed off; he'd talked down to her, which he never did, and she'd been right after all.

The TARDIS sent another tendril of thought into his mind and, once she had his attention, presented him with an image of him and Rose hugging. Go apologise, was the overtone.

I can't leave you, he protested.

Of course you can, was the gist of the response, along with a feeling of exasperation with his tinkering. Go away and leave me in peace, in essence, along with an undercurrent of reassurance that a few hours away from her wouldn't cause any trouble.

Aware that the TARDIS was right, and that he really should apologise to Rose, the Doctor levered himself to his feet and climbed up into the console room, grabbing the trench coat he'd purchased just before they left Earth the first time and heading down to the village.

It wasn't hard to find the inn; it was the only one in the town, and was situated right on the village square. The TARDIS was still a presence in the back of his mind as he got Rose's room number from the sympathetic innkeeper, climbed the stairs, and knocked softly at the door. "Rose?" he said. "It's me."

There was a pause, then Rose answered. She looked at him for a moment, then stepped away, leaving room for him to come in. He did so, shoving his hands in his trouser pockets as she closed the door behind him. He blew out a breath, wondering how he should go about this. "Nice place," he attempted.

"I'm sorry," Rose said quietly behind him.

He spun, startled; he hadn't expected her to apologise. "What?" he asked.

Her face was drawn and pale, but there was determination in her eyes. "I'm sorry," she said again. "I was… I guess I was scared that you couldn't help her, and that we'd be stuck here, and I bit your head off and stormed away for no good reason." A small smile quirked her lips. "I was trying to work up the courage to come back and tell you so, but you got here first. Guess that makes you braver than me."

"No." He stepped forward and took her in his arms. She slid hers around him beneath his trench coat, settling her head against his shoulder. "I over-reacted too," he said into her ear. "I talked down to you, and I shouldn't have. You were right, there is something off about her song, only I couldn't hear it at first. I shouldn't have dismissed what you said."

Rose sighed, and he felt her muscles relax slightly under his hands. They held each other in silence for a few minutes, and then Rose raised her head to look him in the eye. "You know," she said, "there's a perfectly good bed here. It would be a shame to let it go to waste."

He grinned. "So it would," he said.

***

The Doctor drifted back to wakefulness slowly. This half-human body needed much more sleep than he ever had as a full Time Lord, and adjusting to that was taking some getting used to. Now he understood Rose's reluctance to get out of bed some mornings—though he had a reason to remain here that she'd never had when she'd travelled with him before Canary Wharf. Smiling softly, he reached for her without opening his eyes . . . and found only a slightly warm depression in the bed.

Startled, he sat up, glancing around the room. No Rose. The room was still dark, the village quiet; clearly it was still the middle of the night. Where could she have gone?

Probably to the loo, he thought, remembering the single toilet on the floor, in a small room at the end of the hallway. A flush toilet, the innkeeper had informed him proudly; no outhouses for his inn. She'll be back any minute.

He stared up at the ceiling, at a streak of moonlight that shone through the gap above the curtains. It was more orange than Earth's moonlight, though not as orange as the grass outside. He passed the time imagining what combination of elements might have caused the moon's rock to glow so orange. A mixture of sulfur and iron, perhaps? Yellow and red together could cause an orangey cast to the stone . . . .

DOCTOR!

The mental yelp sent him flying out of bed, wide awake, adrenalin coursing through his bloodstream. The TARDIS. That had been the TARDIS! But it wasn't exactly a yell for help . . . was it?

He threw on his clothes, jammed his feet into his trainers, and fairly galloped down the stairs and out into the night. His heart pounded, and not just with the exercise; sheer terror was all that kept him going. Had something gone terribly wrong? Had someone tried to break in? Did a fire nearby threaten her?

The timeship stood just where he'd left her, the words 'Police Public Call Box' glowing serenely in the night as though he'd never left. He pounded up to her, fumbled the key into the lock, and threw the door open, rushing in.

And then he stopped and stared, horrified, at what he saw.

Rose. Rose kneeling by the console, which had gaped open at the edge. Her hands rested by the gaps, and she stared into the depths of the heart of the TARDIS.

Again. Oh, God, no, not again!

But as he stumbled forward, desperate to stop her, to pull her away, he noticed that the energy wasn't flowing into Rose; it was flowing out of her—from her eyes and her mouth into the TARDIS herself. And as he watched, stunned, the slightly-dissonant song that he'd heard earlier slowly began pulling itself back into tune, as though someone were turning a tuning peg as the song was being performed. Slowly, agonisingly slowly, the chord shifted until at last, at last, the song of the TARDIS was in tune again, sweet and joyful in its harmonies. The TARDIS carolled her happiness, and gave the Doctor to know that this was what she had needed, this—an influx of power from her older sister, to help balance out the foreign Vortex energy from this universe, an energy she had never been bred to work with.

The flow of light from Rose slowed, then faded away to nothing, and she slumped to the floor. He dropped to the floor beside her and pulled her into his lap. "Rose," he said urgently, lifting her head so he could look her in the face. "Rose! Come on, sweetheart, wake up. Rose!" What would he do if he lost her? He couldn't sacrifice himself again; he was human now, he had no recourse to regeneration. He could let himself die anyway, of course, but then she'd be stranded on an alien planet with no way home. But how could he let her die to save himself?

She half-opened her eyes and smiled weakly. "There, you see?" she whispered. "Even boy-bands know how to sing a chord in tune."

Relief flowed through him and he laughed, pressing his forehead to hers. "Yes," he said. "Yes, they do. You're quite right." He stood, taking her with him, cradled in his arms. "Come on," he said. "Let's get you to sickbay."
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