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Part One

There was a soft brushing sound as the bottom of the heavy hotel door skimmed the top of the carpet, followed by an almost inaudible click as the door's lock engaged.

And then they were alone. For the first time since the whole mess with Davros and the Reality Bomb began.

No, actually for the first time since the Battle of Canary Wharf, where he had lost her. For good, he'd been convinced. Lost to a different universe. Never again to travel with her, never again to have the same ground underneath their feet, never again to stand hand in hand underneath the same skies with the same stars overhead.

Never, he'd believed, to be in the same room again with her, close enough to feel the warmth of her skin, breathe the same air as she, warmed from being within her lungs, within her body only moments earlier…

Thoughts of the warmth of her body, of the last time they had truly been alone flooded his mind, of hot human skin, a burning human mouth, leaving searing kisses trailing down his chest and stomach only to engulf him… Five hundred and twenty-three, and three thousand six hundred and nine to three thousand six hundred and twelve inclusive, he thought absently, as his newly part human body began to react to the memory. No, he told himself firmly. Time and a place. And based on Rose's body language this was clearly neither.

And it hadn't happened with this him anyway. That had been the other him. The other Doctor. Under normal circumstances—and when had anything in his long, long life ever been considered normal, even for Time Lords—a previous regeneration would have been just that. Previous. Past. Gone. Finito. Not out and about walking around playing judge, jury, and matchmaker for his errant twin, his accidentally-created semi-cloned metacrisis self.

If you looked at it that way, from that certain, very specific point of view, this was the first time he'd ever been alone with her. In this universe, that universe, any universe.

No, he wouldn't think that way. He knew who he was.

Now if only he could be sure she did.

A gust of wind, from the storm that had prevented their return by zeppelin to Pete's World's London, rattled the old-fashioned window, cracked open at the top to allow for air circulation despite the storm. A spate of hard rain rat-a-tatted for a moment on the glass before the wind shifted again.

"Atmospheric disturbance, made worse from the dimensional retroclosure," he stated, more to fill the increasingly awkward silence than out of any real need to inform. "We'll get quite a bit of this for a couple of days."

"You said that before," Rose said without turning.

It was the first thing she had said since that horrible (wonderful) scene on the beach. Never normally at a loss for words, she had seemingly been struck dumb by the disappearance of the TARDIS and the belief—clearly written all over her face—that this time she had truly been left behind.

Rejected.

Abandoned.

Oh, Rose, he'd thought at the time, if you only knew…

"Did I?" he asked indifferently.

She didn't answer. The wind howled through the narrow opening between sash and frame, filling the room with a high-pitched whine. She crossed the room to the window and shoved it upward. When it threatened to slide back down, she snapped the lock closed.

"Rose," he began.

"I'm gonna take a shower," she said, interrupting him. She pulled off her leather jacket. As she draped it over a chair, she toed off her shoes. "Can't remember the last time I had one. God, I must absolutely reek."

"Rose," he began again.

She finally looked at him, for the first time since they'd left Bad Wolf Bay. "Not now, yeah? I'm tired, I'm cold, I'm soaking wet, I've got sand in places I didn't even know I had, I haven't eaten in, fuck, I don't even know when. I just… just…" She held up her hands with a stopping motion. "Just give me a mo."

Before he could answer, she slipped into the bathroom. The lock on the door engaged with a loud click.

Locking him out.

Definitely not an auspicious beginning.

The water in the bathroom turned on, the pipes groaning in protest. He shivered. While waiting for transport to Bergen, they'd been caught in a sudden downburst, soaking them to the skin. His own suit, TARDIS created, was only water resistant, not water proof, and he'd managed to get as wet as Rose and Jackie had. In fact, with the leather jacket Rose had been wearing, she'd probably stayed drier than he.

"Not that it was a competition or anything," he said aloud. Although they'd competed on more bizarre things than that. Back in the old days. The wager with Queen Victoria had just been the beginning. There'd been wagers on sledging, on skiing, on games of checkers and billiards, on who could finish their pie the quickest. Stupid things. Pointless things.

The things that had made up a happy life.

He sighed. So long ago. A lifetime ago.

Literally. For him at any rate.

He shivered again, wishing things were different. Time was when he could have joined her in that shower she was having. Clearly not an option now, not when she had so pointedly locked the door.

For the first time, he looked around the room that Jackie had booked them into. It was just a typical hotel room. A bit more upscale than most perhaps, as befitted her current status as wife of a billionaire, but still just a hotel room, similar to rooms in hotels located in every major city on every human-settled planet and asteroid he'd ever visited. A large, flat-screen television hung on one wall, and inoffensive, mass-produced paintings of the city and surrounding countryside hung on the others—serving to remind the weary traveler where he was in case he'd forgotten—along with the obligatory list of dos and don'ts and emergency instructions that were secured to the wall next to the door. Three tan leather arm chairs, one of which currently held Rose's blue leather jacket, flanked a small glass dining table, while a fourth was pushed against a small desk made of a light-colored wood. The same wood had been used for the tiny bedside tables and the gigantic headboard that hung on the wall over the bed.

The huge, and singular, bed.

Still somewhat in shock—from his birth and the emotional crash that inevitably came after post-regeneration mania, from the reduction (and in some cases flat out truncation) of a dozen of his senses due to the metacrisis, from the abandonment in the parallel universe and Rose's slightly schizophrenic reaction to him, and from a dozen other things—when they'd arrived at the hotel, he'd barely paid attention when Jackie had pressed a room key into his hand (only noting, with relief, that he was sharing with Rose and not both she and Jackie).

Disheveled, bedraggled, and dripping wet, as soon as they'd walked into the old-fashioned Grand Hotel in Bergen, they had been informed primly by the tall, thin clerk behind the reservation desk that due to the inclement weather the hotel was full up, and he vaguely recalled having quipped something about there being no room at the inn and mangers, something that had earned him an odd look from the desk clerk and a poke from Jackie, but no response whatsoever from Rose.

But somehow—perhaps it was the Tyler name or the Vitex Corporation or Jackie's casual namedropping of Harriet Jones and the Prime Minister of Norway or maybe simply the jet-black credit card Jackie had pulled out from somewhere—the clerk had managed to find not one, but two large rooms located on the top floor of the hotel.

Well, at least Rose hadn't objected to sharing with him. Perhaps the situation wasn't as bad as it appeared. Certainly it could be worse.

If he had learned anything over the past centuries, things could always be worse.

Shivering, he slipped out of his blue pinstriped jacket and hung it up in the cupboard, leaving the mirrored door open to allow it to dry.

Never before had he been so grateful for Jackie Tyler. He didn't know what he would have done without her, stranded on an alien planet in an alien universe, without resources, without the TARDIS…

A wave of panic began to well up within him. No, he couldn't go there yet. The loss of the TARDIS—his ship, his home, his last connection to his past and his people, and for years his only telepathic link—was too new, too fresh, the lack of a link too raw to be dealt with yet. And the tiny chunk of TARDIS coral, given to him by his other self and buried deep within his pocket, wasn't large enough to form a telepathic bond.

In an attempt to calm himself, he took a deep, cleansing breath, filling his now mostly human lungs with air and holding it for a moment, two, three, four, before slowly blowing it out. For a second as he exhaled, the air in front of him glittered with golden regeneration energy. As he watched it dissipate—that visible reminder of all he'd lost in the metacrisis—the panicky feeling returned, this time threatening to overwhelm him.

This was his last regeneration. This was it. No more lives after this. After possibly half a dozen short decades (assuming he was lucky, and with his track record that wasn't at all likely), it would be all over. No more him.

He exhaled again, and when he again saw a golden glow, he irrationally wanted to suck it back in, trap the excess regeneration energy within himself, storing it for some sort of unnamed future emergency as it were, but that was nonsense. Regeneration energy didn't work that way. It wasn't like nanogenes, to be stored in a jar and let out in times of crisis. Excess regeneration energy had to be released; too much artron energy, the primary ingredient of regeneration energy, was as deadly to Time Lords as a lack of it was. And if it were deadly to Time Lords, what would it do to a frail, Time Lord/human hybrid caused by a metacrisis?

Nothing good, of that much he was certain.

A sudden shooting pain, emanating from somewhere behind his left eye, distracted him from his maudlin thoughts. He winced. Sinking down on the foot of the bed, he rubbed his temple vigorously and closed his eyes. That proved to be a mistake; in his mind's eye, all he could see were Daleks. Daleks everywhere. Daleks threatening, killing everyone he'd ever cared about.

"No," he muttered. He'd killed them, he reminded himself.

Jumping up from the bed, he launched himself at the window, unlocking it and throwing up the sash. He stuck his head out, taking deep gulps of air and willing his newly-singular heart to slow.

He'd killed them.

As the rain stung his face, his voice—but not his voice, not anymore—echoed in his ears.

He committed genocide. He's too dangerous to be left on his own.

He'd killed them. He'd killed them all.

And what's more, given the same set of circumstances, he'd do it again.

What did that make him? A hero? A savior?

A monster?

He was afraid of the answer.

A voice from the past echoed in his mind. Rose's voice.

What about you, Doctor? What the hell are you changing into?

What indeed?

Chapter Text

Part Two

Rose Tyler, former time traveler, current Torchwood agent, and traverser of universes, sometimes called the Valiant Child, Defender of the Earth, and Bad Wolf, was hiding in the bathroom.

Oh, it hadn't started out that way. She hadn't lied about needing a shower. After the last group of stars had disappeared and they'd found the timelines focusing on Donna Noble, there'd been a final push by the joint Torchwood/UNIT taskforce to find the Doctor, realizing that if they didn't find him now, not only would they never find him, they probably wouldn't need to because their whole universe, and by extension each and every one of them, would no longer exist. Everyone, from the Joint Chiefs down to the catering staff, had been on double shifts and subject to recall 24/7. Even her mother had been volunteering as a dinner lady. She'd discovered a hidden talent for it too, not only recalling everyone's name but each and every food and beverage preference, from the way General Stewart took her coffee to the fact that Pete's assistant Todd liked barbecue-flavored crisps and didn't like mayo on his ham sandwiches.

Rose, for her part, had spent the last three weeks—at minimum, since with the dimension cannon, it was almost as difficult to track personal linear time as it was on the TARDIS—working nonstop, taking catnaps in her office and showering when she had the chance in the Torchwood gym's locker room. Emphasis on "when she had the chance". With the insanity of the last few days, she couldn't remember when she'd last had the chance. Maybe the day before yesterday? Maybe the day before that? Whenever it was, it had been a while.

For a moment, when she saw the luxuriously appointed bathroom and its generously sized tub, a pleasant surprise considering the age of the building, she considered a bath rather than a shower. A long soak in a tub would feel so good. But she didn't want to fall asleep, a very real possibility given past history and how exhausted she was. No, she decided, she couldn't risk it, not with the man she'd left in the other room.

She peeled off her damp clothes—leaving them in a heap on the floor—climbed into the tub, and turned on the shower. After turning up the heat on the water three times—showers at the gym always felt a little cold no matter how high she turned it, what with the draft caused by people walking in and out of the locker room all the time, so this was absolutely lovely—she switched the lever to change from the handheld to the rain showerhead. For several long moments she just stood there, allowing the water to chase away the chill caused by getting drenched at the beach. She sighed. It felt like the height of decadence to bathe somewhere where she didn't have random people—often total strangers—walk in on her. And not just the shower. If she had a fiver for every time someone from the scientific branch, man or woman, followed her into the Ladies with a tablet and tried to debrief her while she used the toilet…

But eventually, standing underneath the steaming water, after she'd scrubbed every inch of herself, shaved using the razor from the hotel's complimentary toiletry kit, and washed her hair twice, she realized she was hiding.

From him.

Oh, Lord, what had she done?

When she'd been woken up that morning—or possibly yesterday, was it after midnight yet?—by the science team with the urgent news that they believed they'd located the Doctor, she'd hoped that by now she'd be back in the TARDIS with her Time Lord, or at least back in her home universe. Of course, as with every trip with the dimension cannon, she'd been prepared for the possibility that she'd be accidentally stranded on a different parallel. She'd even been prepared for the possibility that her mission would fail and she'd be dead. But in all the possible scenarios she had envisioned, once the confirmation had come that they'd found him, returning to Pete's World, and permanently, hadn't even been on the radar.

Particularly with someone who both was and wasn't the Doctor.

God, what had she been thinking? The Doctor himself had warned her of gingerbread houses, of parallel people who weren't who they seemed to be. And he'd been right. Pete Tyler, her stepfather, wasn't the same person as Pete Tyler, her real father. As her father had been, this Pete Tyler was a good man, and over the years they had developed a father/daughter relationship, but it hadn't been easy. In marrying her mother, he hadn't been prepared to take on an adult daughter, especially one who was grieving and didn't want to be in his world and made that fact known every chance she got.

Oddly, it was the fact that she was grieving that was the catalyst for improving her relationship with the parallel Pete. After yet another emotional display that culminated with a shouting match between her and her mother, she'd stormed out only to realize she had nowhere to go, no friends to stay with, no Bucknall House roof to hide on. For a lack of anything better to do, she'd spent the afternoon aimlessly wandering the grounds of the Tyler Estate. She'd discovered they were enormous, consisting of formal gardens and vegetable patches, woods and lawn, ponds and fountains, rivaling the size, if not the scope, of Kew Gardens in her own world.

Finally, exhausted as much from her emotional outburst as from her walk, she'd sunk down on a bench overlooking the flower garden. To her surprise, within moments, Pete had joined her. He'd listened silently as she'd railed, yet again, against the unfairness of it all. When she was finally finished, in quiet tones he told her that he understood, that in addition to his first wife, he'd lost his entire extended family and most of his friends to the Cybermen, and that he'd give anything, his company, his riches, even his own life, to have the past few years undone.

Even the dog Rose had been killed, he told her with a rueful chuckle that was entirely without humor, a dog he'd thought he hated. It wasn't until he'd found her broken body in the wreckage of his home, crushed and kicked under a piece of furniture, that the enormity of the losses struck home and he'd finally allowed himself to weep.

As he described holding the tiny animal in his hands, his eyes had glistened with unshed tears, and her own prickled as well. And for the first time she saw him as an individual, a person separate and complete in himself, with hopes and dreams and pains and losses of his own, not just as a parallel of her father. Instinctively she'd reached out and took his hand. He'd blinked in surprise at the gesture. And then, with her father's lopsided grin, he'd suggested dryly that perhaps one of the reasons she was having trouble adjusting to the parallel world was that she was spending too much time with her mother. And she'd laughed, for the first time since she'd been trapped there.

Then, in his lowkey way, he'd asked if she'd be interested in helping out with a small project he was working on with Mickey and Jake.

Small was an understatement. He was trying to rebuild an old organization that had dealt with the odd, the inexplicable, the bizarre. Ghouls. Vampires. Werewolves.

Aliens.

He was rebuilding Torchwood.

It was this Pete Tyler she was thinking of when confronted with two Doctors on the beach at Dårlig Ulv-Stranden: Pete Tyler, the multi-billionaire founder of Vitex; Pete Tyler, the freedom fighter who led the fight against Lumic and the Cybermen; Pete Tyler, the head of the newly-revived Torchwood who held the rank of Captain (strictly honorary, he insisted) in UNIT. How different he was from her own father. Her father had never done any of those things. Perhaps he could have done if he had lived, but the hard truth was he hadn't and no one would ever know one way or another. There was every possibility that he wouldn't have. Because when you came right down to it—regardless whether it was due to nature or experiences—they were different people. Similar, but not the same.

Just as this one-hearted man who wore the Doctor's face was.

Similar—oh, so similar—but not the same.

She'd argued that herself, to the both of them, even as the Doctor insisted that this new Doctor was still him.

But then he'd said what he'd said and she'd kissed him and he'd kissed her back and…

And the TARDIS had left.

Without her.

Taking all her hopes and dreams with it.

At the memory of an empty square pressed deep into the sand where the TARDIS had stood only moments earlier, she sniffed and wiped at her face. If the Doctor didn't want her anymore, he should have just said. She was a big girl. She could have taken it.

As soon as she realized she was hiding, Rose snapped the water off and grabbed one of the fluffy white towels that hung on the warming rack. This wasn't who she was anymore. She wasn't a girl who cried in the shower over a disappointment, no matter how earth-shattering, and she wasn't a woman who hid in the bathroom, avoiding the consequences of her own actions. She'd stood up to presidents and prime ministers, military leaders and royalty. She'd faced off against werewolves, ghosts, zombies, and vampires. The list of aliens she'd dealt with was as long as her arm. She'd even absorbed the Time Vortex and destroyed the Dalek Emperor. She could face one human/Time Lord metacrisis of her former lover.

The butterflies in her stomach didn't agree.

Rose vigorously toweled off, rubbing hair and skin with a vengeance before rehanging the towel and wrapping herself in the smaller of the two hotel robes that hung on the back of the bathroom door. Then she glanced at herself in the mirror. And grimaced. Her hair was a mess. She really needed to do something about it before it dried that way.

She quickly sorted through the remaining toiletry items in the basket on the counter. Soap, more shampoo, lotion, a shower cap... Nope, no brush, and no comb. Oh, well. She hadn't really expected one to be there. She'd been lucky to find the razor.

Looking in the mirror again, she slowly and carefully combed out the knots in her hair with her fingers.

Still hiding, a tiny voice inside her head singsonged.

"Shut up," she said to her reflection, unable to deny the truth of the statement. Her reflection stared back accusingly, reminding her that he was out there waiting for her, and urging her to get a move on.

Giving up on her hair, she turned back to the door.

Well, she'd made her bed, she'd lie in it, Rose told herself firmly as she tightened the belt around her waist. She took a deep breath.

When she opened the door, she was met with a blast of cold air, and the Doctor half-hanging out the window.

"What on earth?" she exclaimed. She rushed to the window and hauled him, head and shoulders, back into the room. "What do you think you're doing? You'll catch your death!"

"Just needed a little air," he said, his teeth chattering.

"So you thought you'd hang out the window in the middle of a rainstorm?"

"Well…" The accompanying shrug turned into a violent shiver that shook his thin frame.

"You're freezing!" She huffed and shook her head. "We've got to get you out of these wet clothes." She started pulling the bottom of his T-shirt out of his trousers.

"Not exactly how I pictured you undressing me," he told her.

She shot him a look. "Seriously? You been taking chat up lessons from Jack?"

"Why?" he asked curiously. And then added, "Is it working?"

The latter was said in such a hopeful tone that she had to bite the inside of her mouth not to laugh.

"No," she said firmly. She yanked upward, and he cooperated by bending over and holding out his arms. The shirt came off with a squelching sound, and she dropped it in a heap on the floor. "Come on."

"Where are we going?"

"You are going in the shower," she said as she tugged him into the bathroom. He sat down on the toilet and began to untie his shoes. Or tried to. His hands were shaking too much to be successful. She knelt down in front of him.

She sighed. No wonder he couldn't undo his laces. The knots on his Converse were a stuck, sodden mess. With a little effort, and hard-won experience undoing Tony's shoes, they eventually came loose. She pulled off his shoes. When she pulled off his socks, his toes wiggled, as if happy to be free from their confinement.

"Care to join me?" he asked as they stood again. "Looks big enough for two."

"I've already showered, thank you very much. Now, I've done your shirt and your shoes; you can do your own trousers."

"Oh, you're no fun," he said, still shivering.

"You HAVE been taking lessons from Jack."

He unfastened his trousers and dropped them to the floor. Along with his pants. She tried very hard not to stare. "Not exactly. Spent a year imprisoned with him; you pick up a few things."

"Now that's a story I want to here. But later." When he didn't move, she gently shoved his shoulder. "Get in."

"Yes, ma'am." He gave her a mock salute and climbed into the shower. As the water began to flow, he closed his eyes and stepped under the rain showerhead. He dropped his head forward as it poured over him, running in rivulets down a wide, toned chest and flat abs, down a tight arse and long, runner's legs. He groaned. "Oh, that feels so good." Pushing his hair away from his face, he opened one eye and looked at her.

Oh my god, she was staring. And he had caught her.

One eyebrow arched in an oh, so familiar expression. "Sure you don't want to join me?"

Yes, I do. The words came unbidden to the tip of her tongue, and she had to force herself not to say them. Gingerbread houses, she reminded herself silently.

"No, thanks," she said instead. She grabbed both their clothes off the floor and fled the room, pulling the door closed behind her.

Rose leaned with her back against the bathroom door and closed her eyes. She suddenly felt very, very warm. She tugged on the collar of her robe, tempted to hang out the window herself. "Oh, boy."

Chapter Text

Part Three

Alone once more, the Doctor relaxed under the steaming water of the shower. He sighed in contentment, delighted to finally feel warm for the first time in hours, what with the surprisingly nippy breeze whipping up from the bay while they'd been on the beach, the sudden, if not unexpected, downpour which had begun almost immediately after the TARDIS had left, the long, wet walk back to the main road, and the even longer trip to Bergen in the back of the truck of a local farmer—a tall, blonde woman of indeterminate age whose name he hadn't caught—who had happened by and had taken pity on what she had thought were just a bunch of lost tourists.

Jackie, quite rightly, had ridden in the front of the truck with the farmer and her wife, but due to the limited space in the cab, the Doctor and Rose had sat in the uncovered bed—along with a large metal toolbox, a spare tire, and an enormous shaggy dog of uncertain breed—subject to the continuing precipitation and the biting wind, a heavy plastic tarp held over their heads the only shelter against the storm. The farmer's wife, a short, ginger woman named Marit—at least he thought it was Marit, it had been difficult to hear over the wind—had offered to give up her spot to Rose, but with a brief smile of thanks and a shake of her head Rose had refused, wordlessly climbing into the back of the truck and settling down next to the dog with her back against the cab of the vehicle. He'd immediately followed, climbing in himself and settling down next to her—well, next to the dog actually, since the dog refused to move from her pride of place in the dead center, forcing him to sit on the opposite side of the truck from Rose. After scolding the recalcitrant dog, Marit had pulled a tarp out of the toolbox, using hand motions to indicate he and Rose should cover themselves with it.

The drive was miserable—cold and wet and bumpy—huddled as they were under a leaky tarp with an odd-smelling dog. Or it would have been miserable. After about a mile, as they had traveled a gravel road on the way to the motorway, the Doctor had glanced at Rose. She was staring straight ahead, completely expressionless and seemingly lost in thought, but when she had spotted him looking at her, she flashed him a quick smile and reached over the dog to grab his hand. And at that moment—despite the rain, despite the wind, despite the dog and the cramp in his calf due to being unable to stretch his leg because the tire was in the way and the pain in his backside because a bolt from the truck bed was poking him—he had been perfectly content.

He was always happy when he was with Rose.

Still a little stiff from the uncomfortable drive, he rolled his shoulders—allowing the water to hit a new place on his back—and sighed again, a long, slow exhalation of air and regeneration energy. The water droplets in the air absorbed the energy in a complex, temporary chemical reaction, and for a moment the mist of the shower glittered as a million tiny gold sparkles hung suspended in the air. Whimsically, he blew a stream of air at them, and they swirled around him: backwards, forwards, upwards, down, circling and whirling, bouncing off the tile walls and each other and him in an intricate, magical dance. With a touch of melancholy, he watched as they slowly faded, knowing that when the final traces of that precious energy left his body, he'd never see the like again, not in this universe that had never been populated by Time Lords.

But perhaps that was a good thing, or at least not an all-bad thing. The Time Lords had outlived their time; for all the good they had done over countless millennia, and all the morally neutral things they had done as well, in the Time War they ultimately had become as evil as the Daleks they were fighting, destroying countless innocent civilizations and nearly annihilating the entire universe in the name of defeating the enemy. But there were no Time Lords here, other than the one part human/Time Lord metacrisis at any rate. And the dimensional retroclosure, triggered by the destruction of the Reality Bomb, would mean that this universe, parallel and completely separate, could remain untouched by any remaining taint of that evil.

At that thought, he felt a fresh wave of relief. No matter what had happened in Prime in the past or what would happen there in the future, Rose and her family were safe here. As he'd always hoped she'd been during their years apart.

His mouth curved into a smile as he thought about Rose. Rose was in the next room—the next room—not a universe away. Still, despite the distance between them now being measurable in feet (rather than, well, whatever units you'd use to measure the incalculable distance between different dimensions), the Doctor keenly felt the loss of her presence.

Happy to be with her again, and still a little high on artron energy (well, maybe more than a little), he'd been teasing her (well, sort of, he had been partially serious after all) by inviting her to join him in the shower, fairly certain she wouldn't take him up on it. But he would have been delighted if she'd said yes.

But she'd said no. And it didn't take a telepath to know what had been going through her mind. She'd thought he'd simply been propositioning her. After all, they'd had some incredible encounters before while in the shower. Every time they'd been in the shower together, in fact.

For the first time in years, he allowed himself the luxury of recall, of welcoming memories long locked away because they had been too painful during their long separation: of warm, smooth skin made slick from the water, of the contrasting sensations of cool tile against his back and warm lips pressing kisses on his neck and then down, down, down his chest, abdomen, and hip, only stopping when she'd reached her goal. Of a mouth, human hot, engulfing him and a tongue, as talented as his, tracing patterns on his length. Of pulling her to her feet and then, in one movement, lifting her up and trading places with her, of plunging himself into her repeatedly, her arms wrapped around his neck and her legs around his waist, until the room echoed with their cries of completion. His grin widened. Reason four thousand and thirty-seven.

No, he certainly wouldn't have turned her down if she had been so inclined. Far from it.

But sex wasn't why he'd asked her to join him. He just hadn't wanted her to leave, not even to go into the next room. He hated her being out of his sight, even for a moment, hated her being more than an arm's length away, terrified on a deep, primitive level that she'd disappear again, or that he'd wake up and all this—her return, the metacrisis, his chance at a real forever with her—would prove to be a dream.

They'd been apart for so long, he didn't want to be separated from her for another second, let alone the length for a shower.

Eventually, as the hot water chased away the last of the chills and turned his skin red, he poured a quantity of liquid soap into the palm of his hand from the dispenser on the wall. His nose wrinkled involuntarily at the unexpectedly harsh odor. What was that? That was never—he tilted his head and looked at the label on the dispenser—lemon and sage. More like… astringent and window cleaner.

He held a handful of suds up to his face and cautiously tasted it. And promptly spat it out. Whatever it was, it was nasty. He shivered in disgust, disappointed that he hadn't been able to do a complete analysis by taste. Yet another sense lessened by the metacrisis.

As he lathered up, he slowly surveyed his new body. Externally, it appeared the same as his last one, well, for the most part, or at least there was nothing shockingly different. That was a relief. Rose had liked his last body. A lot.

But there were a few differences, he discovered. Although he wasn't completely sure, in addition to a few new freckles and an additional mole that he discovered on his left calf, he thought he had slightly more body hair than before.

Oh, well, no one was perfect.

And this body was certainly more—responsive—than any other he'd ever had. Even thoughts of Rose, or memories of previous encounters, were enough to cause a certain portion of his anatomy to react. As it was reacting right now, fully erect and demanding attention.

He frowned. Was this just some odd quirk to this body, or were all humans like this, ready and raring to go at an instant?

Well, if they were, it certainly explained a lot about Jack Harkness. And a number of his other former companions as well.

Staring down at himself, he debated what to do about his little problem. Well, not little. Far from, he thought with a tinge of pride, not overly large but certainly a respectable size. Hopefully Rose would be pleased. She had, after all, been sneaking a peek earlier. And appeared to like what she saw.

He grinned. She'd seemed embarrassed to be caught, but she shouldn't have been. It was normal, natural, to be curious about one's partner, particularly after a regeneration: what was different, what, if anything, had stayed the same? If the situation were reversed, he'd certainly be tempted to sneak a peek.

At the memory of Rose looking at him, his cock bobbed, craving to be touched. He was sorely tempted to relieve some of the pressure. He knew what Jack's recommendation would have been; it's not like he hadn't suggested it enough times to him to relieve what he'd called "the unrelenting, unresolved sexual tension" when they'd traveled with Rose—along with any number of other creatively explicit suggestions that involved the Doctor and Rose relieving tension, usually together but occasionally including Jack himself—but even if his former self had thought it was a good idea (which he hadn't. He hadn't even been willing to admit there was unresolved sexual tension back then, let alone been willing to take advice from Jack on how to resolve it) it wasn't something that Time Lords normally did. With their much lower sex drive and far better control over all bodily functions, they simply didn't need to.

But he wasn't a full Time Lord anymore. And he wanted.

But no. What he really wanted was for his first time in this body to be shared with Rose, not for it to be a quick wank in the shower.

As tempting as that may be.

And right now it was very, very tempting.

No, he told himself firmly. He closed his eyes and concentrated, to no avail. His problem stubbornly refused to subside.

"Well, isn't that wizard," he said aloud. And it was his own fault, caused by allowing himself to fantasize about Rose. He'd just had no idea it would create such a problem.

He sighed. How long would it take to go down by itself? He couldn't stay here in the shower forever, and he certainly couldn't return to the other room in this condition. And it showed no signs of subsiding.

Would it even go down by itself? Or did he need to… help it along? He really didn't know. This business of being part human was all new to him, and he didn't remember ever having this issue during those months he'd spent being human in 1913.

Well, he could always replace the hot water with cold. That had been another of Jack’s suggestions, something he’d said he had to do regularly traveling with the two of them, but the Doctor was loathe to try it. After all, the reason he was even in here in the first place was because he’d been so chilled he’d been on the verge of hypothermia.

Just as he was about to give up and take himself in hand, he heard the sound of Rose's voice filtering in through the closed door. Another voice, barely audible over the running water, answered. Who could Rose be talking to?

Jackie, he realized. It had to be Jackie. Who else could it be?

At the horrifying possibility that if he had heard the voices five seconds later Rose's mum might have been in the next room while he was in here wanking, his erection instantly began to subside. He chuckled at the sheer absurdity of it all.

"Jackie Tyler, the human equivalent of a cold shower."

Relieved that his unexpected problem resolved itself without hands-on intervention, and with no desire to rush back to the bedroom if Jackie were in there, he returned to his survey of the differences in his new body as a result of the metacrisis. There was the one heart, of course, and the resulting minor changes to the location of some of his internal organs, the diminishment of both taste and sight—he'd known the instant this body had been formed that he'd need stronger glasses—the reduced lifespan and the inability to regenerate. His intelligence and memory hadn't been affected, not that he could tell at any rate, but he still wasn't sure to what extent his Time Senses had been affected. He still had them—had even used them on the Crucible when he'd foreseen the destruction the Dalek empire still could cause even without the Reality Bomb—but he strongly suspected they were diminished.

And then, like the proverbial ton of bricks, a horrifying thought occurred to him. Was that why his counterpart had been so furious with him? Because the Time Lord could sense something he couldn't?

Had there been another way to neutralize Davros and the Daleks that had been short of genocide, one he hadn't foreseen?

Had he been… wrong?

He closed his eyes, revisiting the sights and sounds of the Crucible in his mind with near total recall. Of Dalek Caan spouting prophecies, and of Donna—

Oh, Donna, he thought with sadness and regret and not a small amount of guilt, knowing what his other self would have had to do to save her life. It had been obvious, from the instant that it had become clear Donna had received a sliver of his mind in the metacrisis.

But she wasn't dead, and there would be plenty of time in the future to mourn what she'd lost. No, he couldn't let himself get distracted. With a skill honed over centuries of practice, he set his emotions aside and returned to his memories.

Dalek Caan had been egging him on, and Donna had been begging him to wait for the Doctor.

He frowned.

She'd wanted him to wait for his other self.

For the first time, with the luxury of both time and hindsight—neither of which he'd had on the Crucible—he wondered why. Through the metacrisis, she knew, better than most, that he was the Doctor. After all, with a copy of his mind, in a very real sense she was the Doctor as well. Why had she wanted him to wait? It made no sense.

Unless she thought his judgement was flawed.

Oh no. He'd thought at the time that she was questioning his identity as the Doctor, and in an act of defiance he'd continued, insisting that he was the Doctor and therefore didn't need to wait. But that hadn't been it at all.

She'd wanted him to wait, not because he wasn't the Doctor, but because she'd thought he was wrong.

It was the only possible explanation.

She'd seen something he hadn't, and in typical Donna fashion she'd tried to stop him before he went too far. Just like the first time they'd met, with the Ragnoss under the Thames.

But if he'd been wrong, that meant…

The realization struck him like a cricket bat between the eyes. In shock, he barely noticed as his knees weakened, then collapsed under him. He fell heavily to the bottom of the tub, the water continuing to pour from above.

His other self was right. He was dangerous, his thinking processes flawed.

He closed his eyes. Visions of exploding Daleks and of fire burst behind his eyelids. He'd killed them, exterminated an entire race.

He'd killed them all, and if he was right, it might not have been necessary.

And he had no idea what the other path could have been.