Disclaimer: Rest assured that if I owned Doctor Who, Donna would have had a very different ending. In any case, I do not. Take no offense and hire no lawyers.

When she's six years old, Rose gets lost in a street fair on Bonfire Night. She'd only let go of her mother's hand for a second—honest—to get a closer look at a burning effigy, and then when she turned around again the whole crowd was different.

She considers crying, but then the fireworks start going off, and she forgets to be scared. They sound like the thunder of an oncoming storm, and she lets herself be dazzled by the lights, her head filled with rhymes about gunpowder treason.

She ends up in an emptyish park a few blocks off from the festivities, figuring it will be easier for Mum to find her there, with not so many people about. There's music in the air and the sky explodes above her, and Rose does what any other little girl would do in her position: she kicks off her shoes and twirls, enthralled with the way it makes her skirt flare out, spinning until she's so dizzy she can't stand anymore. She tumbles to the ground, spent and seeing stars, and for just a second—with her back on the ground, toes in the grass, watching a night on fire—she thinks she feels the world turning beneath her.

This is how Jackie Tyler finds her daughter, after a half hour of frantic searching: giggling, breathless, and so in love with life it could break your heart just to look at her. Jackie can't find it in her to yell.

The bicycle is red, brand new, and has absolutely no business being on the balcony in front of the Tyler flat. Rose adores it immediately—partly because it doesn't have training wheels, but mostly because of the inexplicable tag carefully tied to the handlebars, which reads "To: Rose Tyler; From: Father Christmas."

Mum doesn't want to let her ride it; she says it's too dangerous with the roads so icy, but what she means is don't get your hopes up, love, someone could be back for it. Rose is clever enough to know the difference. But she can see it through the window as they have breakfast together, and it's as if it's calling out to her—like a dare. So she sneaks out during the Queen's speech, figuring that it can't hurt to take a second look, and besides, it has her name on it.

And it's gorgeous.

She reaches out to touch it, the reprimands that she knows she'll get from her mother ("Anything coulda happened to you, it's a miracle you didn't kill yourself, swanning off on Christmas Day!") and the stern lecture she's had from Mickey's Gran a thousand times ("Look with your eyes, Rose, not with your hands") ringing in her ears. She eases the bike off the kick stand and walks it down to the parking lot anyway.

How she ends up on the bike and off the Estate is just a little bit beyond her, to be honest. It just kind of happens. (Things just kind of happening tend to happen a lot around Rose.) All she knows is that this is wonderful, and the harderfasterfarther she pedals, the more wonderful it gets.

Ever so slowly, she loosens her grip on the handlebars, and then lets her hands float up and away—an inch, two inches, as she checks her balance, wind stinging her eyes. Suddenly quite confident, she lifts her arms over her head and laughs.

The whole world screams past her as she shoots down a hill, away from Mum and the Estate and no presents under the tree this year, and she closes her eyes, too thrilled to even consider being scared. It feels like falling, and freedom, and—she recognizes this bit the second her palms slap down onto the ribbed handles again—a little bit like like-like, that indescribable swooshing feeling she gets in her belly sometimes when Mickey holds her hand at recess.

She comes home with bloody knees and burning hands but grinning from ear to ear, the bike dirty and gravel-scraped and no longer shining with just-bought glory. If it wasn't hers before it certainly is now; even if whoever gave it to her came back for it, they wouldn't want it all broken in. She decides that she prefers it a bit busted up, anyway.

In other words: at twelve years old, Rose Tyler finds herself head over heels in love for the first time.

(And if she ends up grounded for a week and isn't allowed to touch the bike again until spring, well… it was worth it.)

Jimmy Stone has gauges in his ears, uses too much hair product, and when he slips his leather jacket over her shoulders Rose distinctly feels herself go weak in the knees—a feeling which, until this moment, she'd dismissed as a romantic fallacy. He is clever and dangerous and too old for her and everything she promised her mother she would never fall for, and he fancies her. Plain old Rose Tyler.

It's possible she gets a bit drunk on the sheer improbability of it all.

When he asks her to move in with him, she says yes without a second thought—so blinded by infatuation she forgets to be scared. The arrangement appeals to her for two basic reasons: first, it provides a welcome and needed escape from the Powell Estate, and the watchful eyes and harpy shrieks of Jackie Tyler; second, it means Jimmy has no excuse not to shag her rotten as often as he wants, which ideal for both of them.

She doesn't notice how far she's fallen until it's too late.

The night she finally gets up the nerve to move out of Jimmy's flat, she decides to get thoroughly pissed. Mickey's there at the pub when she walks in, which surprises her but shouldn't—being there, after all, is what Mickey does best.

He buys her chips but not a drink, and listens for hours as she rails against Jimmy Stone, the male sex, and the human race. He doesn't look away when her mascara starts running, and he doesn't point out the obvious: namely, that she's been a phenomenal idiot and got exactly what she deserved. Instead he takes her hand and he walks her home, and Rose can't for the life of her remember just when it was that she fell out of love with him.

(Oh, right. She hadn't.)

He doesn't let her kiss him on her doorstep—insisting that she's not herself and she'd regret it in the morning—and promises to come by tomorrow for tea.

It only makes her love him more.

He wears a leather jacket and says the most insufferable things, never answers her questions and has the annoying habit of forgetting that Mickey is dead. So she tries, very, very hard not to like this Doctor bloke as he drags her away from work and out of her flat and out of the restaurant and into an impossible box that's bigger on the inside. In the twenty-four hours she's known him, she's been attacked, insulted, and nearly blown up. She's come face to face with impossible things, only to have those impossible things turn around and try to kill her. To top it off, she's unemployed again, which is entirely his fault. And yet…

… and yet, if she's honest with herself, being with him—from the second her took her hand and said "run" and onwards—well. She feels more alive today than she has in months. And that's something, isn't it?

Something in her soul shatters when he leaves, and she doesn't even hear "Did I mention it travels in time?" when he comes back for her. She runs in without a word, too excited to be scared. He could have said anything. She was already gone.

She knows she's not being fair to him, but she can't stop making comparisons. "The old Doctor, the proper Doctor" she hears herself say, and she hates herself for it. She hates that it's not instinct to trust him, and she hates that she can't remember what happened on Satellite Five. She hates that she's expected to handle this on her own, and she hates that she can't. Mostly she hates him—just a little—for changing on her. It's petty and counterproductive and so she shoves it all down, tries her best, and waits for him (which is a very new sensation, waiting for the Doctor) to prove himself.

All too soon he's doing just that, defending the Earth ("So I am the Doctor, then?" "No arguments from me!") and taking her hand ("And it is gonna be… fantastic") and just generally being the Doctor she knew. But that isn't what tipped the scale.

Halfway between those points, he walked through her front door dressed in a suit and tie, smiled at her, and sat down to Christmas dinner. And she thinks about the old Doctor, who had run away from so much as afternoon tea with her mum, and then beams at this new one, pulling crackers in a red paper crown.

The Doctor is a whole new man, and Rose Tyler falls for him just the same.

She's starting to understand, now, why this godforsaken little beach in Norway is called Bad Wolf Bay. She'd never really thought about it—hadn't let herself—but that's just what Bad Wolf meant; what it had always meant. Finding her way back to him just in time for him to change on her, and a kiss that ensures she'll lose him even as it binds them closer.

He takes her hand as she watches him leave, and she feels more like a stupid ape than she has in years, lacking the pronouns to process what's going on around her. The inside of her left ear tickles, sensitive from the rush of his breath, just as affected as the rest of her by his whispered "I love you, too."

He squeezes just a little too hard as the TARDIS finally fades to nothing, its roaring scream—the sound of Time and the universe—carried away on the wind and lost forever, and she knows she's being incredibly selfish. He's lost a heart and his home and Donna, oh god, she'd barely even gotten to know her but now…

"This version of Earth," the Doctor says suddenly (and she feels a rush of relief at the thoughtless way she labeled him the Doctor, as if it were easy), "does it… have a Barcelona?"

She lets out a strangled, choking sound that might've been a laugh, if a sob hadn't been in the way. "Yeah. But you'll find it terribly domestic, I'm afraid. The dogs have noses and everything." She wipes desperately at her eyes with her free hand, so tired of crying in front of him on this sodding beach.

"Are you sure?"

"'Course I'm sure."

"Have you been? Have you checked?"

"Well, no, but—"

"Rose Tyler!" he says in that adorable, indignant way of his (and her heart keens "Doctor," and she knows it's right), "haven't I taught you anything? Never trust what you read in the travel guides."

Jackie is looking at them as though they've sprouted wings and started flying. And the rational part of Rose—the part that got her such a high-ranking position in Torchwood; the part that said "no" when the Doctor invited her the first time—agrees. This is insane. It's disrespectful and wrong and why is she smiling so hard?

But then again, she and the Doctor have never been rational, and what would be the point in starting now?

He shifts his hand to entwine his fingers with hers, running a thumb across her wrist. "So… Barcelona, then?"

And she can't help it. She grins at him, open-mouthed and biting down on her tongue, too in love to be scared. "To start with."

His smile burns like the sun, and she barely even has time to process it before he's tearing across the sand, nearly wrenching her arm out of its socket as he yanks her along with him. "Then what are we waiting for?" he shouts, voice disappearing in the crash of the waves. "Allons-y!"

A/N And there endeth my first ever Doctor Who fic. I hope you enjoyed! Reviews and critiques greatly appreciated, of course.