The first time he notices it, they’re curled up on opposite ends of the sofa one crisp autumn evening, each engrossed in a book. The Doctor had taken a moment to look up from his, simply admiring how comfortable and happy Rose appeared, and smiled in spite of himself.
“You didn’t tell me you’d learned French.”
“What?” Rose lifted only her eyes over the cover of her novel, trying to hide being slightly startled.
“You’re reading an original copy of ‘Angélique’ in French. I can guarantee you there’s plenty of differences in the translation alone, not even counting that it was written in this universe.”
Rose’s eyebrows dropped, and she gave him a sly grin. “Don’t go giving me spoilers now, I’m almost halfway through it.” She playfully hit the Doctor’s shoulder with the well-worn edge of the book.
“I’m more interested in how you became fluent enough in French so quickly that you consider that a bit of a casual read.” He’d pulled his glasses off and set his own book aside at this point, indicating this conversation was about to get far more interesting than anything he’d possibly been reading.
“Well that’s probably just the… the TARDIS…” she stumbled with her words, the reality hitting her suddenly. “No, wait, you’re right. No, I haven’t learned French. And if all the gaps between the universes are closed, the TARDIS probably can’t translate for me, can it?”
“Rose, the TARDIS wouldn’t be able to translate for you even if there were still gaps. The translation circuit does tend to stay connected for some people, even across vast distances in time and space, but not across the Void.”
The Doctor’s eyes bore into hers, and Rose knew he was deeply concerned. Instead of launching into the search for an explanation, he offered his hand to pull her to him and, books forgotten, she adjusted her position so that she was leaning her back against his chest. He reached around to pull a throw off the back of the sofa, spread it across their laps, and held her in his arms. They stayed still for several minutes, in shared unspoken mourning for the loss of the time ship, before Rose spoke.
“You told me about the TARDIS translatin’ inside my head back on Platform One, and I never even thought about it after that. Well, not until you regenerated. It stopped working until you woke up, on the Sycorax ship.”
The Doctor let out a breath he wasn’t aware he was holding, and lightly stroked his fingers down Rose’s arm. “That makes sense. That was a tough regeneration, and I wasn’t telepathically linked very well with the TARDIS during that time. I can easily see the translation circuit failing because of that. It was probably knocked out well before the Sycorax picked us up, but you didn’t notice it because you didn’t need anything to be translated.”
“Right. But it’s been workin’ ever since. Even when I first got here, after Canary Warf. Like when I met you on the beach to…” Rose’s voice hitched, and she stopped. The Doctor hugged her a little closer and pressed a long kiss onto the top of her head. She gave a shuddering sigh before continuing.
“Anyway, I knew it was called Bad Wolf Bay. I didn’t look it up or anything, nobody told me, I just read the signs on the way there. I didn’t even think about it being translated until a week later. It just sort of… came out of nowhere, like it hit me that I just took it for granted for so long, and I didn’t even realize it.”
“You were getting translations here before then?”
“Yeah. Always have. I don’t even notice it unless someone points it out to me.”
“Hmm. I could maybe see the TARDIS pushing a bit to help you get to Bad Wolf Bay. We stretched that last gap as far as we could get away with it. Still doesn’t make very much sense beyond that day though, backwards or forwards. There’s certainly no way the circuit should still be working for you on this side now. Everything’s 100% closed. Even I can’t feel her anymore.”
The Doctor said nothing, just resumed gently stroking her arm. After a few moments, Rose shifted so that she could face him.
“It kept me going, once I figured it out. That’s how we got started with the Dimension Canon.”
“How do you mean?”
“When I realized I was still gettin’ translations. I figured if that still worked, then there had to be enough of an opening or something, some way for me to get back and find you. Everyone else thought it was crazy, but Mickey helped me explain it to Mum and Dad so we could get started on it.”
“Mickey was getting translations as well?”
“Well I ‘ssumed he was. I mean we never talked about it, he never actually said.” Rose stared into the Doctor’s eyes, darting between them as her own widened. She watched him slowly raised an eyebrow.
“You don’t think he did, do you?”
“I think… he might have brought it up in conversation, if that were the case.”
Giving in to her loss for words, Rose leaned sideways to rest on the Doctor’s chest again, and he pulled the throw up higher around them. “I believe, Rose Tyler, the TARDIS gave you a gift that just keeps on giving.”
It took her a moment to catch on to what he was implying. She hadn’t thought about it in—well, not in years now. It simply hadn’t come up.
The next time the Doctor notices Rose’s lingering connection with the TARDIS is when it falters, a few weeks later. Rose insisted on finishing the last chapter of her book in bed, while the Doctor dozed off beside her. He couldn’t quite get that last bit of the way into actual sleep for some reason, and he knew it wasn’t the reading light that was bothering him. Suddenly Rose let out a frightened yelp, and threw her book across the room as if it had physically shocked her. The Doctor snapped out of his already disturbed half-slumber, sitting up immediately.
“It’s French. That book is really, properly French! I can’t read it.”
The look of fear in Rose’s eyes told him all he needed to know, confirming his suspicions. Try as he might, he couldn’t hide his own concern.
“He’s in trouble.”
“And there’s nothing we can do, is there? We can’t help ‘im.” Rose’s voice was already cracking, nearing tears.
The Doctor shook his head, closing his eyes briefly. He hadn’t felt any connection to the other Doctor since the breach was closed, but he instinctively knew that the situation must be dire. His worry over Rose being affected so intensely drowned out anything he may or may not have gotten from his double.
Rose sobbed openly for several minutes as the Doctor gently rocked her, letting her release the grief and frustration. They laid down together, and Rose fell asleep almost instantly in his arms. Link or no, the Doctor felt a bit too on edge to rest. This was one night he was thankful he still needed less sleep than regular humans.
The third time, they’re on holiday in France, celebrating their anniversary.
Rose had convinced him, quite easily, that they try to have a good time actually doing the “touristy” things for once. She and the Doctor took in a few shows, ate at some highly recommended restaurants, and had a fairly posh hotel room with a view of the Eiffel Tower from their balcony. They’d just finished a light lunch and began to stroll through a nearby park, when Rose and the Doctor were both instantly struck with the mental equivalent of being stabbed with a knife.
The Doctor was more shocked than anything, but Rose was clearly in agony. The Doctor grabbed her arms to support her in case she fell, and they half staggered to the nearest bench they could find. Rose was desperately clutching both the Doctor’s hand, and her own head. She was practically hyperventilating now.
“It’s the TARDIS—the Doctor—something’s wrong, something’s really wrong…”
“I know, Rose, I know. I can feel it, too.” The Doctor was obviously shaken, and couldn’t help his own trembling as he gathered Rose into his arms. He felt like there was a strained echo in the back of his mind, screaming for help that wasn’t coming, because the voice wasn’t loud enough, wasn’t quite tangible. It was both strangely familiar and extremely unnerving at the same time.
Rose looked up at him, tears streaming down her face. “But I thought you couldn’t anymore. You said you lost the connection, it was just me an’ Bad Wolf.”
“I thought so, too,” the Doctor said shakily, drawing in his breath. “This is different, though. I know this feeling. I know it far more than I care to admit. It’s not just the TARDIS.” He choked on a few sobs, and stroked Rose’s hair before he continued.