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Flowers For The Doctor
rose red
by Raven

PG, romance. Rose gets on with her life. The Doctor gets on with his.

She found another job in the end. Henrik’s proper had burned down, but she wrote to their head office and got a nice reference which she presented to every shop that was hiring. Eventually she was working nine to five again in clothing and accessories, which suited her fine. Mickey said some stuff, but even he had to admit that he’d only been without her for two days and he’d had a bit of a shock, no wonder he was having funny turns all over the place. Hallucinations and that.

Rose’s mum never asked questions that were too difficult to answer; she thought Rose had been at Mickey’s and forgotten to tell her, and besides, people all over London had been having funny turns that night.

The Doctor is far away, as far away as he can possibly be, in a muggy tropical world where creatures with large, threatening eyes stare out of foliage. In the caves at Lascaux, some figures, those creatures who will call themselves human, are working in the firelight, not noticing a strange, heavy oblong shape in the trees. They hold sharpened sticks, points dipped in powdered charcoal, and begin to etch on the wall. Among the bulls, horns tipped in red, and sharp angular figures that chase them up to the roof, one of the artists begins to draw slowly, each stroke falling into place to make an abstract figure that the Doctor alone can recognise as the first time anyone in this world has dreamed of a woman.

After six months, Rose got fed up. She could use a till and hang clothes on racks and produce a clever sales pitch as easily as she could breathe; it wasn’t the work that was difficult, but her mind wanted to wander. One evening she went to the manager and told him she was going part-time and to adjust her hours accordingly; he frowned but didn’t comment, filling in the forms without complaint. She told her mum, who went mad before forgetting all about it, and that night over dinner Mickey was doubtful, too, but he didn’t try to stop her.

At college, even she paused before filling in yet more forms, but they couldn’t have been more encouraging and Rose could feel confidence bubbling in her mind, like a sudden spring of fresh water. She picked three A-levels – English Language, History and Physics – and took home some books to get started right away.

The Doctor has always suspected the TARDIS can read his mind, and now he knows it for sure. For no reason at all, the console has thorns growing out of it, and although he tries to pull them out, tearing at his hands in the process, they stick fast and put forth small red fruit. Through several centuries forwards from the Palaeolithic, they grow. Eventually the rosehips burst and make way for flowers, fragrant and incongruous, and the Doctor stops trying to uproot them.

Rose did her reading late at night when it was quiet. Sometimes she’d be so bored she’d fall asleep after five minutes, and other times she’d be so interested she’d stay up reading and only have two hours’ sleep before rushing out to work. It took months and months and months – long enough for Mickey to start getting restless and for her mum to start paying attention. In the run-up to the exams, she gave up work altogether and sat in the garden in the sunshine with her books, and when the results came, she laughed and cried and her mum cracked open a bottle of champagne.

The Doctor is thinking. In the quiet of the rose-garden, John F. Kennedy sees a glimpse of something blue, scarcely visible against the riot of colour and gone almost immediately; out on the grass, his children are playing in the sunshine.

Mickey proposed. His hand shook as he put his glass down on the table and said the words, and a few drops of wine tipped over the edge and stained the tablecloth yellow-gold. Rose laughed before she realised he was serious, but she took the ring from him in quiet wonderment and thought about it. Twenty-two was too young, she told him, but he was so solemn, so earnest, so full of promises of hard work and a good life ahead of them, that she couldn’t help but be charmed. She slipped the ring on her finger and nodded shyly. Yes.

There was a brief scattering of applause; everyone in the restaurant had turned to look at them, and Rose blushed scarlet and hid her face below her hair, but she was happy all the same.

On the battlefields of England, the soldiers of Lancaster and York make war below the spreading pennants of white and red. The colours are marred by splattered mud and darkening bloodstains, and the roaring sound made by clanging metal and the deaths of men drifts through the smoky air to the place behind the treeline where the Doctor has hidden himself. He has never been here before, despite the historical significance; why the TARDIS has brought him here now, he is unsure, but is aware that at least he has no chance of meeting either himself or his previous incarnations on the field of the Wars of the Roses.

Two years after the wedding (which Rose remembered fondly, even though her mum did end up shagging the vicar) she was walking down the stairs when the world started to go black and murky around her. Mickey heard her gasp, was quick enough to stop her falling all the way, and half-dragged, half-carried her safely into the kitchen and sat her down in a chair. He poured her a glass of water while she insisted she was fine, but he put his foot down for perhaps the only time. She went to the doctor’s.

The doctor was thoughtful, and took his time about it when she asked him anxious questions. He wrote out a prescription for iron and folic acid tablets, and said, finally – you’re pregnant.

Later, it was Mickey’s turn to faint.

The Doctor is in the gardens at Versailles; he is at the centre of the galaxy; he is on the beach eating chips; he is at the end of the world; he is back on Gallifrey on the day he was born. He is everywhere and everyone, at the beginning and and at the end, he is the last of the Time Lords and he is lonely now.

The console room is in full bloom at this time of year.

The bloke with the website got in touch again. Rose wrote back to say she wasn’t interested, and cradled in the baby in her left arm while she typed with one hand. He kept up with reports of sightings, complete with the lurid tale of the girl who could have gone with him but didn’t.

She finished typing the email, clicked “send”, and then paused. The baby had fallen asleep on her shoulder; there was time for a quick nose round the site. She didn’t have any regrets, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t look.

The Doctor was there in 1883, in that scrappy line drawing; he was there in Southampton in 1912; he was there in Dallas when Kennedy was shot. She carried on clicking. He was there in Cardiff in the nineteenth century and he was there in modern London.

The girl in the picture stared out at Rose. Rose stared back. Then she turned off the computer at the mains and sat back in her chair, not shaking at all.

Back in the quiet, darkened city street, the Doctor steps out. “Did I mention it travels through time?”

In the TARDIS, the roses wither and die. This time he has her.

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