AN: Please forgive the nonsense I've tried to pass off as science here, I made it all up lol.

Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who.

Could've Been Worse

"Ah, there you are Rose!" The Doctor called as she approached.

"I was wondering when you'd get up. Just let me finish up with this real quick and then boy, do I have a treat for you! We're going to Centauri 7. Most amazing light show you'll ever see..." he trailed off, squinting at a tricky piece of wiring.

"Um, Doctor?"

"Yes love?" Crouched beside a panel in the wall, he didn't look up from the bit of cable he was running his sonic over. But his eyebrows raised, letting her know he was listening.

"Is... is it getting a little hard to breath in here?" She asked faintly.

His glanced up at her. "What?"

"The air." She huffed. "There's not enough of it."

Confused, he took a deep breath and was surprised to find that his Respiratory Bypass had engaged without him noticing. There was definitely not enough air. But why hadn't he noticed? Had he really been that distracted?

Pocketing his sonic, he stood up and made his way hurriedly over to stare at the scanner. Looking a little bluer than usual, Rose hovered by his shoulder, peering nervously at the screen.

"No no no, that's not right! Why are you doing that? Don't do that!" he muttered, fidgeting with the dials.

"What is it?"

"There's a leak. Sort of. I think it might be something wrong with the air filtration system. Must be tiny if the oxygen levels are dropping so slowly even I didn't pick up on it."

Frowning, he glanced up at the Time Rotor. "Why didn't you say anything?" He said. A confused hum was the TARDIS' only response.

Sighing, he pushed the scanner away, massaging his eyes. "Rose, I'm sorry but I'm going to have to take you home for a bit. I need to run some scans, see if I can find why we're not generating enough air and I'd rather not have to worry about you passing out from oxygen deprivation while I do it."

"But don't you have, like, oxygen tanks or something we can use?" She protested.

"Yes but they're finite. Until I know what's causing the problem, there's the possibility it could get worse or even start affecting the other life support systems. I can't risk that." He started inputting the coordinates for the Powell Estate.

"Alright then, I guess I'll see you later. Should I tell Mum you'll be coming for dinner?"

"Nah, I'll have to take the old girl into the vortex, less pressure on her systems that way. It'll probably take all day." He said, apologetic.

"It's fine Doctor, I've been meaning to get some mother/daughter time in anyway. Do what you need to do." With a light thud, the ship landed and with a quick kiss on the cheek, she made her way out the door. "Just try not to take too long, ya hear?"

"Back in a jiffy Rose!" he called, the door swinging shut just shy of cutting him off.

Smiling to herself as the TARDIS dematerialized, she shook her head and went in search of the nearest chippy.

He was going to be a while.

It took quite a few very boring hours of scanning, a fair bit of jiggery pokery, and at least four banana breaks before the Doctor finally found the source of the problem. It was not, in fact, the filtration system.

It was, in fact, the Viltron Regulator. Silly little piece of equipment, he'd almost forgotten it's existence. Hadn't changed it out in years, not since his seventh incarnation. He'd had to repair it after a nasty little scrap with the cybermen. No bigger than a light bulb, it was responsible for all of the atmospheric and life support systems.

The regulator had burned out, and with it, the first connection to go had been oxygen filtration. The next would have been climate control. It was a good thing Rose had brought it to his attention, or pretty soon they would have found themselves suffering under rather unpleasant temperatures. As for why the TARDIS hadn't alerted him to the issue... wellll...

His seventh self might have, possibly, missed a few plugs when he'd made those repairs. Which may have, possibly, left the Viltron Regulator unhooked from the ship's main sensor array. Maybe.

But that was neither here nor there.

Jogging down the last bit of corridor into the console room, the Doctor beamed as he took in a big, healthy lungful of air.

"Well Alright! All better now are we?" He patted a coral strut as he passed by and the lights flickered encouragingly at him. "Right then, time to go pick up our human."

Flipping a lever off to his left, he paused, considering. "Although... what do you say we give her a couple more hours with Jackie, eh? It's been awhile, I'm sure they'll enjoy the quality time." Slipping around the console, he locked the TARDIS onto her cell phone signal. "The next day it is than, say, oh I don't know, twelve o'clock?"


Rose was making her way through Craig Park when she heard it.

That tell-tale wheezing sound filling the air.

She immediately spun in a circle, searching for the source. Catching sight of that beautiful blue box bleeding into existence just down the path, she set her bag down and crossed her arms. Hip cocked, Rose faced the TARDIS head-on as it materialized beside a park bench. Well it's about time, she thought. When the door finally opened and her pin-striped idiot poked his head out, she merely raised an eyebrow.

"You're late."

He had the nerve to look amused. "Oh really?"

"Yeah, really." If her tone was a bit flat, it had every right to be.

A somewhat sheepish expression swept over his features. "A Time Lord is never late, Rose Tyler. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to."

"Wow. That's the best you've got? The Hobbit?" Her eyebrow crept a bit higher. She could feel a Tyler Slap coming on.

"Um, yes?" Definitely sheepish.

Rose tried to hold onto her resolve, really she did, but she'd missed him so much... and with him standing there making that face... She lost the rest of her steam when a gust of wind blew in, ruffling his already obnoxious hair.

Rolling her eyes and hoisting her backpack up onto her shoulder, she made her way to the TARDIS. "You know Doctor," her voice dropped into a teasing whisper as she reached out and straightened his tie, "In the book, Gandalf was early."

He leaned in for a quick peck on the lips but she ducked past, hiding a smile. She couldn't let him completely off the hook.

"Since when are you familiar with Tolkien's written works...?" he questioned as he followed her into his ship. "I thought you'd only ever seen the movies." The TARDIS trilled a slightly apologetic welcome to her as she entered. Oh yeah, she knew.

"Since I had a good three months to kill." Tossing her bag on the jump seat, she turned to him expectantly.

His face was curiously blank as he stared at her, frozen in the doorway. "Three... did you just say three months?"

"Got bored, took some lit. classes. Which you will be paying for, by the way! Seeing as you're the one who ditched me for, yes, three months." she teased.

She'd meant it as a joke, expecting the usual wave off and a quick apology. Maybe a lecture or a witty remark about education paying for itself, something along those lines. Imagine her surprised when the color instead completely drained from his face.

"I didn't ditch you! I did not ditch you, Rose. I would never ditch you. I just... got my dates off a bit, you know how the TARDIS can be… stubborn old thing, could have sworn I flipped the right lever..." he mumbled, running his hand anxiously through his hair.

Of course she knew how the TARDIS could be, she had known right away that he'd probably botched the coordinates. Hell, she'd expected it. She'd also known without a shred of doubt that he'd turn up eventually, so what was he on about?

A conversation from long ago, just after they'd met Sarah Jane, suddenly came to mind...

Now this is really seeing the future. You just leave us behind. Is that what you're going to do to me? No. Not to you.

Horrified by what he clearly thought she'd been implying, Rose immediately tried to reassure him, "No no wait, take it easy, yeah? I'm just pulling your leg Doctor, honest! I'm not mad. It was an accident, it happens." Any previous annoyance was long forgotten as she held his gaze, trying to drive the point home. "And hey, three months isn't so bad, could've been worse. Could've been twelve!" She tacked on cheekily, hoping to lift his spirits a little.

He tried to brighten at the reference to his last self's blunder, but it didn't quite meet his eyes.

"I was only supposed to be gone a day." He shuffled over to the console and began fiddling with a few switches, hand in his pocket, no longer looking at her. "Two tops. But no, I left you stranded alone for three months..."

"Oh Doctor..." Coming up behind him, she wrapped her arms around his middle in a brief hug. Turning him around to face her, she reached up on her tiptoes, absolving him with a chaste kiss. "Please don't beat yourself up about this, alright? And I wasn't stranded you daft alien, I was at my mum's."

"S'practically the same thing-" She cut his mumbled protest off with another kiss, this one much deeper. Cupping his cheek, Rose let her lips linger against his own for a moment longer, waiting for some of the tension to leave his frame.

When it did, she pulled back, clapping him cheerily on the arms. "Now start pressing buttons!" He blinked at her dazedly and she couldn't help but give him his favorite tongue-touched smile. "You're taking me to Centauri 7."

"Am I?"

"Yup. It's been a while, for me at least, but I do believe you said something about a light show?"

That did it. The smile that broke across his face could have easily rivaled a double sunset on Raxacoricofallapatorius. Turning back to the console, he immediately began pressing buttons and pulling levers. She followed, leaning beside him as he worked.

"The Solar Moon Rising! Now that is a proper light show, let me tell you." He wagged his finger at her, already caught up in his explanation.

"The moon rises once every hundred years on Centauri 7 at exactly the same time as the sun goes down, which also happens to be at the closest point it will ever get to the planet. The glare than reflects off the planet's white sand plains toward the moon. The moon, Rose Tyler, which is made of diamonds Rose, diamonds!"

The Doctor paused. "Wellll..." he made a so-so gesture. "I say diamonds but they're not exactly diamonds per se, just something close molecularly. Anyway the moon reflects the rays back again, trapping them in-between and creating a sort of prism effect that sets the sky dancing with rainbows!"

Science babble ending abruptly, his focus snapped back to her. "Have you ever seen the Northern Lights Rose?"

"Nah, can't say that I have."

"No? Well don't bother because I'm going to do you one better."

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