She’d almost died and she’d seen the world blow up, and now she was eating chips from a bag on a windy beach, and half of them were being nicked by a narky alien who’d already finished his.
It had been a weird day.
The sea was grey and her chips were gritty with sand, but it was all right; she hadn’t been to the seaside since she was a little kid. There was probably somewhere selling ice cream further up the beach, although she’d have to pay for that as well. If she was a time traveller, Rose thought, she’d put a quid in a bank account and go to a thousand years in the future, and she’d be a millionaire from all the interest.
And she was a time traveller now, wasn’t she? Sort of, anyway. Maybe you had to be able to drive the Tardis or pass some exams.
“Do you do this a lot, then?”
“Eat chips?” He went for another one. She smacked his hand. “All the time. Live on chips, me. Only in this time period, though. Enjoy it while it lasts, ‘cause potatoes go extinct in about five years.”
“Oh, yeah. See, Bush gets this theory that the weapons of mass destruction are hidden under potato fields…”
“Yeah, yeah, you can shut up any time.” She threw a chip at him. “You’re so funny, you are.”
“I am. Nice of you to notice.”
He grinned at her. His smile, like his ears, looked like he’d never properly grown into it, and thinking that made her wonder how old he was. She was guessing thirty-six, thirty-eight, but he was alien and he might be six. Or six thousand.
“I meant, do you do this a lot. Pick some poor girl off the street and drag them off round the universe.”
She was expecting – hoping, really – that he’d say no, she was the first, she was just so special he’d had no choice but to ask her to come with him. Instead he said, “Well, not just girls.”
She blinked. “Oh… right. So there’ve been lots? Blokes as well?”
“Companions. Yeah, one or two.”
“Is that what I am?”
“Dunno. Is it?”
They’d stopped walking. He’d asked before, after the end of the world, whether she wanted to stay, now she’d seen how dangerous it was, and from the way his voice went all serious and how he looked at her he was asking again, and what was she meant to say?
Yes, I’d love to leave Mum and Mickey and all my friends and go time travelling with you, feel free to let me get almost killed and then not ask if I’m all right.
No, I’d rather not nearly die again, thanks. I’m going home to have mates and a mum and a boyfriend, because in five billion years we’re all dead.
So you’ll really be all alone, like you said, unless you get another companion, and then they’ll be the one meeting aliens and nearly getting burned up in the end of the world.
And you might like them better than me.
She poked around in the bottom of the bag for the last crunchy bits of chips. It gave her an excuse not to look at him. God, he really knew how to stare.
“I’d better be off,” he said. “I could drop you off back in London. If you want. Your own time and everything, promise.”
“Nah.” She scuffed her foot along the sand. It was more like gravel, really; next time, she’d ask to go to a proper beach, somewhere sunny. “Think I’d rather come with you. I was always whinging at Mickey about how he never took me anywhere.”
“One condition,” she said seriously.
His big-kid grin faded. “What?”
“Lend us the coat till we get back, because I’m freezing my arse off, here.”
“Dunno how you lot ever evolved this far,” he grumbled. “It’s lucky you didn’t crawl out of the primordial slime and go ‘it’s a bit nippy out here, let’s stay inside and have some toast instead.’” But he still took off the jacket, put it around her shoulders. “All right?”
The coat was heavy and warm and the sleeves hung past her hands. She’d thought he might look funny without it, but he was still The Doctor, just The Doctor Without a Leather Jacket, and he still dragged her along by the hand when she wasn’t going quick enough, and he still said stupid things that made her laugh.
And he must have been lying about the money, the cheapskate, because before they got back to the Tardis he bought her a cone at the ice cream place, with a flake and hundreds and thousands, and he let her eat all of it herself.