Rose picked up the TARDIS coral benevolently before placing it inside a fish tank. The fish tank was half full with moist sand, at the Doctor's request; then they settled it in a dark, wet and warm area inside Torchwood. They positioned three growing accelerators and four UV lamps around it, along with one big humidifier which had been slightly modified with the Doctor's sonic.
"This will take a while." said the Doctor. "Normally it would take thousands of years, but by shattering the shell and letting her feed off the Rift, we might have a chance of traveling."
"Might?" Rose frowned.
"There's a 69% chance that she will be completed for travel before we grow old. The rest is hope."
Old. Heh. Funny little word. More years to add to your life, less active, less hair, more medicine, more wrinkles, arthritis, and more forgetful. No running, no wandering off. No saving planets. No more traveling.
Rose peeked at the Doctor. He was to grow old with her at the same time.
She thought of how he'd look like 30 years in the future, then her face lit up into a really broad smile. She imagined the Doctor with a white beard and white hair. Looking like a Santa in some brown striped suit and his sexy specs over his nose.
"What? Are you sure?"
"Ran them three times already."
"What? What is wrong?" Rose prompted again.
The Doctor looked at her frightened. "You."
"What?" she pulled a face.
"You're aging." the Doctor explained. "Well, not exactly you in this context. But your cells. Rose, your cells are aging 0,34 times faster than normal. Your body is changing rapidly, your chromosomes, and I am not sure what's causing it." he turned to Owen. "Can we do another CT? And I want a tissue sample. There might be something we've missed."
"Doctor-" Rose said.
"Her cellular molecules might be mutating in contact with certain influencers."
"I want a biochemical, chromosomal and molecular genetic test with-"
"Doctor!" she practically yelled. "I am not taking your tests! We don't have time for that. We have a killer roaming around! I am not your lab rat."
"Rose, you don't get it-"
"No, I do, actually." Rose loured her voice, breathing quietly the heavy air. They stood in silence before she spoke again. "When I made my first jump, with the dimension cannon, I knew what it would do to me. I knew what risk I'd have to take. I knew it wasn't safe."
"Then why did you?"
"And I'd do it over again." Rose minced towards him. "Because it's worth it."
"Promise me something." the Doctor begged, lowering his head a little. "Promise me you'll lay low."
She knitted her eyebrows. "I can't promise you that."
And now they were in this weird void of tension. He couldn't accept her being active and she couldn't accept him telling her what to do. At least not with a killer on the loose.
"Are you getting this?" Toshiko passed through the corridors then stopped in front of a monitor. She turned it on with the remote control. "The News."
"- due to its consideration. Over 80 deaths, 23 injuries, volcanic gas and $300 million damage has been reported by Alan Stück, one of the representants. It has forced the evacuation of populated areas and destroyed houses, roads, and utilities. Chato Volcano, sometimes called "Cerro Chato" used to be an inactive volcano in north-western Costa Rica north-west of San José, in the province of Alajuela. There is still no answer to why, an inactive volcano that had last erupted 3500 years ago, would erupt now. Scientists have already started analyzing as we speak, on the matter. May their souls rest in peace."
"Could it be alien?" was the first thing that Rose asked the Doctor.
"Why do you think that?"
"I don't know. I've traveled with you for too long to think that this is normal."
"I've also taken a look at the source of its eruption. And there's something I've noticed." Toshiko sat at her desk, typing away. She made a hologram of the Earth pop around their heads, spinning in 3D. "This is the Earth a week ago. And this," she pressed a button. "is the Earth now."
"I don't see a difference." Ianto apologized, at which Toshiko zoomed in on the projection. She ran the animation once more.
"But that can't be." Owen complained disillusioned. "It's impossible."
"But that's the whole Pacific Plate. Why has it moved?" Rose asked.
"According to my calculations the plate has moved 50 mm by now, and that's not all. Weirdly enough, it's been moving in the wrong direction. It's coming-"
"South." the Doctor finished.
"So much for taking it slow, eh?" Rose commented. After having found out about the eruption, Rose immediately called her father, Pete Tyler. Concerned about the situation, they decided to fix a meeting with Torchwood's committee to discuss on the matter and the killings which apparently, spread over the whole of Europe.
"How come we never heard about it?" Rose asked Pete on the other line. "People are literally burning to death and we've done nothing?"
"I didn't know either. Not until yesterday. And then you call and tell me about Frank William, which for the record, I've met before."
"Something doesn't add up, dad. But we'll find out what's causing it. I promise."
"Yes. And, love?"
"How's the Doctor?"
In the corner of her eye, she noticed the Doctor care for the baby TARDIS. "He's coping, in his own way. I think he'd give anything to get the TARDIS working with everything happening."
"Well, you look out for each other."
"Yes." she hung up.
"I think we are ready to go. Sorry, for not being able to help with the Weevils." Rose told the others. "We have to be back in London by tonight, and it would kill me to spend another second not doing anything. Will you be alright?"
"We're always alright." Owen said. "And you take care. We don't know what kind of disease you might carry in that body of yours."
Rose rolled her eyes "Tell Jake to call me.", then turned to the Doctor. "You ready?"
"As ready as I'll ever be, Rose Tyler." he grinned.
After stuffing everything they had back in the car (except for the TARDIS coral, which was now feeding off the Rift) they drove off via M4.
"I'm knackered." Rose yawned, steering the wheel.
"I could take it from here." the Doctor offered.
"What? You know how to drive?"
"What do you take me for? Of course I know how to drive. Mind you, back in the days I had a car. Named her Bessie."
"Bessie?" Rose's lip twitched. "That's something you'd name a horse." she laughed.
"Oi! Don't diss Bessie. One of the best cars I've ever had." he chuckled. "I'm serious though. Let me drive. Get some sleep."
It was a nice evening, maybe a bit too hot for autumn, the Doctor thought. As he drove the car on the full roads of Britain, he opened the window to let some air in. His eyes fell onto Rose who was curled up in the seat beside him, sleeping. He studied her face, the forms of her. Oh, Rose. Something in the back of his mind felt perplexed and remorseful. The fact that Rose's genes had mutated to such extent was his fault. Having a body such fragile as a human one was worrisome. The TARDIS had that effect on people; having their leucocytes gain more fighting power than usual. And that was a good thing. Yet the dimension cannon was too dominant, causing all sorts of problems. In this case, a rather fast aging.
The Doctor tapped the steering wheel with his fingers. Then he hit it. "Dammit!" he tried to shout but instead whispered, trying not to wake Rose. Dammit, he thought again. And the fact that she was shutting him out was not helping either. He closed his eyes, exhaling the air out of his lungs.
He was afraid he could lose her again.