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For [livejournal.com profile] 2nd2ndalto  for the commentary meme. Feel free to go there and suggest something else! Original story here.

You go to my master list and pick a one-shot, or a single chapter of one of my multichapters, and comment to this post with your selection. I have links to commentaries I've done previously along with the story link on the master list, so no fair picking something I've already commentated upon (unless it's a different chapter of a multi-chapter story) . I then (as a separate post) do a commentary about that fic, which may or may not include canon meta, wondering what on Earth I was thinking, tmi, and general arsing around.

...

I like that we – just like Rose – are pretty much dropped right into the middle of the action here. Rose was suddenly moving through water. The shock of it startled her and she gasped, bringing water into her lungs. She burned, but knew that couldn't be right -- it was too cold to burn. The water rushed around her in a thousand little eddies and she stared forward, seeing nothing but bright blue and white. She kicked, disoriented, hitting her head on something in the brilliant confusion around her. Water can be so confusing, if you’ve ever fallen in or been thrown in. It’s impossible to get oriented until you just take a moment to calm down.

Something jerked at her head, her hair, her shoulders and she was bodily hauled out onto the ice, like a fish. The Doctor is strong enough to do this. Heck, I suppose any sufficiently agitated person could, with a good grip. We also don’t know how far in he went to get her. The air rushed in and she vomited water, feeling it choking and burning once again on the way up. She sucked in another breath and another, trying to rise to her knees and almost falling but for the arms holding her up by the shoulders.

"Rose? Rose!" Her voice said. She tried to focus. She moved an arm, slow and graceful, like she was still under water, then shivered and continued to shiver. She was so utterly cold. The Doctor's hand touched her face and he tilted her up to face him. The face that looked at her was blurry and wobbly with the force of her shivers. Brown and pale. "We need to get you back to the TARDIS," he said, and she heard an edge in his voice. He stood and pulled her with him, arm still encircling her shoulder, keeping her from toppling over. I like that paragraph.

"Let's walk. Come on, you can do it. One foot, then the other, that's a girl." She focused. Left, right, left, right, like a military drill. Her feet felt spongy and numb, and occasional shocks running from her toes up her legs. He kept hauling her forward, relentless, and began to talk, that thing she knew he did best of all the things he did. So true. He talks when he’s happy, or avoiding a subject, or when he’s terrified, as he is here.

"We'll get you back to the TARDIS, all dry and warmed up, and some tea. Earl Grey, with a little honey. We'll laugh about this later. You don't swim like a penguin, you know. Penguins have this wonderful waterproofing. Their feathers are dense and overlap to hold in air, which keeps them warm. Not very soft but very oily. They spend a lot of their day preening and fussing over their feathers, as well they should, it's like you making sure your best winter coat is in good order." More of my favorite fic activity: research. I knew this about penguins already, though.

She faded. He continued, but she heard only the rush of his familiar voice washing over her. She felt they walked for hours or days but the bright blur before her eyes was the same, the same, and her steps were wooden. Her momentum and his firm grasp kept her moving forward, ever onward. She saw the white stretching on before her and closed her eyes, stumbling. I’ve gotten into this state once, when I was very cold, although not dangerously slow. Everything goes a bit into a tunnel.

He stopped, shook her gently, called her name. "Rose. Stay with me. We're almost there." She wobbled again and he took her up into his arms, walking as swiftly as he could. I have a strong preference for stories with an unreliable narrator, when the reader has to draw conclusions from what the narrator is observing without the narrator having observed herself. This isn’t first person, but clearly, there’s a degree of Doctor-freaking-out that I hope came across here despite Rose not really being able to notice it. She jostled back and forth with the rhythm of his step and let her head loll against his shoulder. He kept talking, more about penguins, and she heard the sharpness in his tone again, wondered at it. She tried to burrow closer and wondered if she would ever be warm again.

Suddenly he stopped, eased her onto her feet. "Stand up." She swayed but compiled. This was something of an order, she knew. He fumbled with the key, opened the door, and dragged her bodily inside, through several doors to a white room. Too much white. She protested weakly when he began to strip her wet clothes off her. "Shut it," he said. Again, a command. Very unlike Ten. He’s worried. She obeyed, was briefly naked, then felt a blanket being wrapped gently around her. "Lay back," (Have I mentioned that I hate lay vs. lie?) and the command was softer but no less imperative. She did. The mattress yielded softly to her weight.

He lifted up her right arm and pressed something warm into her armpit before lowering her arm down. He repeated this on her left side. When he spread her legs she whimpered and tried to resist. Unsexy but invasive. Really, he should be running an IV, too. "Rose," he said, and her name brought her back to herself for a moment, distracting her enough for him to place something solid and warm between her legs. "A hot water bottle," he said. "I need to get your core temperature up." There’s the “let’s get naked and snuggle to warm you up” fic cliché, but really, isn’t a medical bay in the TARDIS more practical?

"Thirsty," she said, her mouth suddenly dry. Hadn't she breathed enough water for the rest of her life? She shook with her need.

"No," he responded. "Sorry, but that would draw blood to your digestive tract, and that's not what we need yet." His hand smoothed across her forehead and suddenly, his face swam into view. She saw clearly the worried lines around his eyes and the slight purse of his lips. "Stay with me," he breathed. "That's my Rose." His thumb stroked her skin gently. "Do you want to hear more about penguins?" Hurt/comfort is much beloved for a reason. We get to have the Doctor doting on Rose, or vice versa. Isn’t that something we all want, to be well cared for by someone we love?

Her laugh was half choking but she shook her head and kept her eyes fixed on his, and a smile flashed quickly across his face. It was almost worse to be warm again, feeling her numbed skin and nerves jolt back to life. Pins and needles. She stared at his eyes, his dark irises steady and bottomless. She could fall again.

After a long time, or what seemed like a long time to her, he broke the gaze, checked her forehead again with a careful flick of his fingers, and finally seemed to relax. We don’t need no stinking thermometer. She was no longer shivering and felt a luxurious lethargy settling over her, different from the cold inertia of earlier. He disappeared for a moment and returned to help her sit up, took the water bottles from under her arms, then pushed something into her hands. She’s still got the one between her legs, but getting that one would be rude now that she’s conscious. The surface of the cup was warm and slightly rough. She inhaled and the steam flowed gently into her nose, soft and tender. She sipped at the tea and tried to smile. His worry was still evident behind a chipper demeanor and a brightness of his eyes.

"Thank you," she said, and blew on her tea.

He regarded her quietly for a moment and she wondered idly if he would return to prattling on about penguins. She hoped fervently that she would never see or hear about another one as long as she lived. Poor, maligned penguins.

"Jeopardy friendly," he said finally. "That ice was three feet thick, easily. How did you find the one thin patch within miles?" It had to be thick enough to support the TARDIS, after all. Presumably it has mass and weight. That’s an interesting scientific discussion for another time: how much does the TARDIS weigh?

"Stupid ape luck. Or maybe, the same reason that you landed us in Antarctica when I suggested the Brazilian rain forest." As I just said in another commentary, this never gets old.

His eyes crinkled around the edges and he tried, almost successfully, to suppress a smile. "You wanted to see exotic wildlife, and what's more exotic than --"

"If you say 'penguins' --"

"Alright, alright," he interjected before she could finish her threat. "I won't, I promise. I just thought," and his smile was boyish, playful, "you might like it." As if he landed there on purpose. Pshaw.

"Not so much," she said, and his face fell. "I mean, the falling through the ice part. The -- penguins -- were lovely. Just don't talk about them for a while."

He nodded and she drank more of the tea. Earl Grey with lemon. Suddenly the realization hit her and she flushed painfully, pulling the blanket more firmly around her with her free hand. "You took my clothes off! Oh God, I'm naked!"

"Purely medical," he protested. "Couldn't have you in your wet things. You were going into hypothermia."

"You didn't see anything?"

He didn't answer but looked at the wall, the ceiling, anywhere but at her. "I wasn't paying attention," he finally said. Of course he wouldn’t have been. He was trying to keep her alive.

She flushed again. Then, it hit her. She hadn't been paying attention either, when she pulled him out of his clothes -- his previous self's clothes -- and into Howard's jimjams at Christmas. She had been frantic with the need to do something to help this stranger who seemed to know things that only her Doctor should know. Other than the literal truth of his transformation, his body had been the furthest thing on her mind. I think Rose changed him, and I don’t think she gave a damn what his genitals or anything else looked like. She was terrified and in mourning at the time. She wasn’t convinced he was real, and they’d just crashed, and he was in a coma, for all practical purposes. Not sexy. She thought she knew a little of his fear and distraction. "Can I have some clothes?" she asked, meekly.

He nodded, and went to the door. Before he left, he hesitated, turned around, and looked at her quickly before settling once again on the ceiling just above her. "I might, another time." This is so risky, but I do love it.

"What?"

"Pay attention." He said it all at once and immediately turned, swift steps carrying him down the hallway.

Rose had no witty rejoinder for that amazing statement. Who would? Now, I did eventually write follow-ups to this story, mostly because I was curious and people asked nicely, but to be honest I think this story stands better on its own, with that little zinger at the end and Rose left wondering what he meant and what might happen.
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