kaydeefalls: rose/ten outside TARDIS, looking up into the sky (infinite possibilities)
[personal profile] kaydeefalls
Oh, look. New fandom. How inevitable.

Life in Technicolor
by kaydee falls
fandom: Doctor Who
pairings: mainly Rose/Doctor, with a side of Rose/Jack
rating: pg-13
disclaimer: not mine, no profit, don't sue
spoilers: post-"Doomsday" Rose!fic. AU from that point on.
notes: written for [livejournal.com profile] 2lineschallenge. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] msilverstar for the beta and [livejournal.com profile] sheldrake for the Britpick.


they don't know nothing about redemption
they don't know nothing about recovery
-against me!, thrash unreal



This is one possible future: after the Battle of Canary Wharf, her parents take her back to Pete's house. She opens her eyes every morning and stares at the ceiling. Maybe she gets out of bed. Probably she doesn't. She eats the food Jackie puts in front of her, sometimes. Sometimes she doesn't. She sits by the window and watches the clouds pass across the sky, or she lies in bed and watches the sunlight move slowly across the floor until the shadows creep in. Then she watches the moon rise. Then she watches the dark waving shadows of tree limbs across her ceiling. Maybe she dozes off at some point. Maybe she doesn't. She doesn't like to sleep, because then she dreams, and there's no point in dreaming. Not anymore.

This is not the future Rose chooses for herself.

So after the Battle of Canary Wharf, her parents take her back to Pete's house. All night, she lies awake, staring out into the gray darkness. And the next morning, she gets out of bed. That's important, she decides. Getting out of bed.

She'll work the next step out from there.

*


It takes a month to sort out the legal issues. Even Pete Tyler can't just snap his fingers and make everything run smoothly. Jackie's dead in this universe, after all, and Rose...well, Rose was a dog. It's not simple and straightforward like it was for Mickey, who just slipped seamlessly into Ricky's place in this world, with no one but his gran and Jake aware that anything had changed. But Rose's sudden appearance into a universe that never knew her – it's complicated.

She finds it very difficult to care. She doesn't belong here, after all – it seems only just that the rest of this world agrees.

She spends most of her time wandering the streets of London. Pete's at a complete loss with her and doesn't try to put a stop to it – what authority does he have, really, over this pseudo-daughter he never raised? – and her mum worries. But Mickey, at least, understands.

"It took me a while to sort it all out, too," he says, accompanying her on a stroll by the Thames. "I mean – it's London, yeah, it's home, but it's not. You got to sort of figure it out for yourself."

"There's meant to be a place with really fantastic curries right...there," Rose says, pointing. "Instead it's – what, Canadian cuisine? Didn't know that was a proper sort of food."

"Well, yeah," Mickey says, "mooseburgers – they're all the rage."

Rose just looks at him.

"Seriously, though, Rose, I get it, I really do." He sighs, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "You're not the only one has to make adjustments. Your mum's not having an easy time of it either."

But Jackie has someone's hand to hold in this universe, and Rose...well. "How long did it take you?" she asks instead, brushing her hair out of her eyes. "To...y'know. Adjust."

"Still haven't, not completely," Mickey says cheerfully. "Three years in, I still get confused by the upside-down traffic lights. I mean, green for stop and red for go? Came near to smashing up Jake's van like a thousand times and counting." His gives her a good hard look, and it's like he wants to reach out for her, but he doesn't. His voice softens. "Give it time."

"Easy for you to say," she remarks, the bitterness creeping in. "You chose this world. I didn't."

Mickey sighs and drapes his arm across her shoulders in a half-hug. She flinches at his touch.

*


She remembers:

The night after van Statten and his Dalek, she had trouble sleeping. She sat up in bed with a jolt, startled awake by hazy nightmares and the sudden stillness of the TARDIS.

Pulling on a hoodie over her tank top and pajama bottoms, she wandered out of her bedroom. The TARDIS hummed faintly, but it was all too quiet. They weren't drifting through the Vortex; this was the stillness of the ship at a complete stop, resting on solid ground.

She made her way through the dim hallways to the console room. The familiar green glow of the console was comforting, in its own way. Nothing wrong, then. No warning lights or screeching sirens, no whirring machinery, no Doctor...

The TARDIS door was wide open.

She walked towards it – not quite frightened, just a touch concerned. It wasn't like the Doctor to go out and just leave the door to his ship wide open. Maybe Adam had wandered off? That would be a major headache in the making. She should never have invited him onboard. Well, she'd just have to go and find him, then, quickly, before the Doctor knew anything about it—

She stepped out onto an alien world. The TARDIS was parked atop a small, rocky bluff above an endless valley. Strange constellations twinkled in a dark, rust-red sky, the color of dried blood. The light from three moons turned the landscape ghostlike. Tall silver-edged grasses waved stiffly in the metal-scented breeze. There were strange gouges in the land, fading now, as though a battle had been fought here long ago. The Doctor was sitting there on a long, flat rock, motionless, staring out across the vast, scarred plain.

Rose knew that she wasn't meant to have seen this. She should have slept through the night, oblivious, and by the time she woke up, the TARDIS would have been off again, leaving this unknown planet behind as though they'd never been there at all. She could turn right around and slip back to her room and he'd never realize.

But every line of his body was taut, sharp angles and hunched shoulders rigid with tension, and she couldn't just leave him there alone. She went and knelt down beside him. He didn't look at her, didn't give the slightest indication he was even aware of her presence, just kept gazing out at nothing. The bleakness in his eyes chilled her to the bone.

She didn't say a word, just stayed by him in his silent vigil throughout the rest of the night, as the stars wheeled overhead and the moons gradually sank down behind the horizon, fading away with the coming dawn.

Finally, she stood, wincing at the stiffness in her knees. She let her hand fall to his shoulder in a gentle caress, then started to turn away. But he reached up and caught her. His hand grasped hers for just an instant, so tightly it hurt. Then he sighed and closed his eyes, letting her go.

She went.

When she emerged from her room an hour or so later, the TARDIS was spinning through the Vortex again, Adam was gaping wide-eyed at the alien machinery, and the Doctor was darting around the console as usual, all manic energy and biting sarcasm and wide grins. She never asked about the battle-scarred planet and he never spoke of it.


Later, when she knew a bit more, she wondered if it had been one of the battlegrounds of the Time War, a broken monument to the memory of the Time Lords. A reminder of all he'd once done and failed to do. Or maybe it was something else entirely. She can't ask him now. She'll never know.

*


Eventually, Rose Marion Tyler is acknowledged as a legal citizen of the People's Republic of Great Britain, and Pete offers her an entry-level position at Torchwood. Her mum protests, of course. Volubly. Over lunch, no less.

"If you think I'll allow you to haul her off back into danger day after day, you've got another think coming," Jackie threatens.

Pete takes her hands, attempting to placate her. He really ought to know better. "Now, come on, Jacks—"

"Oh, don't you Jacks me," Jackie huffs, yanking away from him. "This is my daughter you're talking about. Years I spent worrying myself into an early grave over her an' her traveling, and now you want to shove her in front of the worst sort of trouble as lands on this planet—"

"It's a desk job," Pete says. "Data entry and filing, at least to start. What sort of danger d'you think she'll get into?"

Jackie actually shakes her finger in his face. It would be funny if Rose cared enough to laugh. "Danger magnet, she is, and that Torchwood's no better in this world than our first one. Weird sorts of weapons and aliens popping up all over the place, and you want to put my Rose right in the front lines!"

"Jacks, it isn't like that at all, I already said it's mostly filing—"

"And just what sort of information is in those files, Pete?" Jackie half-shouts. "Stuff about traveling between universes, maybe? Ways she might rip herself away from us again?"

Rose just listens detachedly. Of course that's what Jackie's really all worked up about. And maybe for good reason. She feels a flicker of interest in Torchwood for the first time since being dragged unwilling into this universe. She really ought to have thought of this herself.

Mickey, who's been sitting at the kitchen table with his sandwich watching the argument without comment for the past fifteen minutes, lets out a short laugh. Both Jackie and Pete whirl about to look at him. He shrugs. "Hey, she's gonna be looking for a way back to the Doctor anyway," he points out. "At least this way she doesn't have to break into the bloody place to find it. You really wanna stand between Rose and that information? 'Cause that is not gonna go well."

Rose smiles.

*


This is one possible future: some cataclysmic accident rips open a new breach in the universe. There are monsters she's never even heard of emerging from the Void – no armies, thank god, and neither Cybermen nor Daleks, but the wide variety of alien species is staggering, and Torchwood isn't even remotely equipped to deal with the sudden onslaught.

Rose fights, because they all fight, because there's no other option. She's sure that some of the aliens aren't even hostile, just lost and bewildered, but they have no means of communicating with humans and what can one insignificant girl do? She carries an enormous blaster through the embattled streets, and tries to ignore the tears that stream down her face every time she has to open fire.

Something strikes her from behind, and she stumbles and falls behind the blasted-out shell of a car, losing her weapon. She just lies there in a daze for she doesn't know how long, but it can only have been a minute or two. She hears a roaring sound, and someone screaming, but it's all faint and weirdly distorted, as though she's underwater. Was there an explosion of some sort? What's wrong with her ears?

There's someone standing over her, reaching a hand down. She takes it blindly, pulling herself up. And then long fingers twine around hers, achingly familiar, and time stops.

"Doctor?" she whispers, looking up at him.

He grins. "Run."

They run.

And everything's a mess, the world in uproar, strange creatures howling from the Void and open war on the streets of London, but all she can think about is the feel of his hand in hers, the sheer joy in his eyes when he glances down at her, and she's so filled to the brim with happiness she thinks she might burst with it. He came back to her. He's here. And she's never letting him go again.

But that's just one possible future, and she actually feels a bit guilty for wishing it could come true.

*


Then comes the dream, his voice whispering in her head, and Bad Wolf Bay.

She thought she'd already hit rock bottom. She thought she'd pulled herself back up again. She thought she was settling in here, adjusting, figuring out some sort of life for herself. She thought it would get easier every day. She thought she was doing fine.

Boy, was she wrong.

It's a bit like the end of Wizard of Oz, Dorothy awakening at home surrounded by the people she loves. Sweet, really, and lord knows it's safer back on the family farm. But there's that whole wide terrifying wonderful world she's lost, yellow brick roads and emerald cities and ruby slippers. It's one thing if Kansas is all you've ever known, dull and comfortable and safe. But once you've seen a universe in Technicolor, how can you go back to living your days in black and white?

Rose wonders if she'll spend the rest of her life longing for that somewhere over the rainbow.

*


She remembers:

Running hand in hand with the Doctor, as per usual, laughing breathlessly as they evaded yet another offended band of locals. She's still not entirely sure what set them off. Possibly it had something to do with the violently purple drink the Doctor had accidentally dumped over the head of the bloke who'd been trying to chat Rose up over an impressive array of weaponry.

"I was just trying to discourage him a bit!" the Doctor had protested, when they found themselves backed up against a middling-to-high stone wall.

"Doctor, there are
easier ways. Oh, god, he's got a – what is that thing, anyway?"

"Gargifasrian thermoplastic device. Wonderful bit of work, really, gives your spine a lovely little tingle, popular among masseuses galaxy-wide. Um, not at that setting, though. Here, if I give you a lift up—"

They made it back to the TARDIS, of course. They always did. She'd thought they always would, then. It was before the Beast in the Pit, before she'd ever heard of parallel universes, even before Madame de Pompadour or discovering there were other companions out there, stuck in just one time and place for the rest of their personal forevers.

It was also
after Bad Wolf, though. After his regeneration. She really should have known better.

Nothing in particular happened that day. She'd teased him about his interpersonal skills (or lack thereof), he'd jabbered on for hours about the propensity of certain species to turn
anything into a weapon, and off they'd gone to the next adventure.

It's not that there were never consequences, or scars, or ugly memories. That darkness had always been present, the Oncoming Storm. But at the end of the day, she could reach out and take his hand, and he'd smile down at her, and that was enough.


She doesn't miss the adventures – well, all right, yes, she does, so very much. But they wouldn't have meant a thing if it weren't for him.

*


She's sitting at a desk in the corner of the workroom, doing her daily allotment of mindless busy work (because she's The Boss's Daughter, and they have to give her something to do), when she gets tired of listening to five technicians debate over the current weird piece of alien tech they've got jerry-rigged together.

"...clearly a weapon of some sort," Barnes says heatedly. "If you just look at the dimensions of the inner module—"

"Yes, but the tubing dynamics are all wrong for that sort of thing!" Mack insists. "Unless you think the primary energy source is—"

"Well, if it weren't all busted up, maybe we'd be able to—"

It's not that Rose has the slightest interest in their work, because she doesn't. It's just that they're being so stupid.

"It's in backwards," she finally says.

The technicians stop arguing and turn to gape at her.

"The cooling unit," Rose clarifies. "The big yellow tubey gizmo thing. Oh, shove over, will ya?"

She stomps over the workbench, and before any of the useless techies have a chance to stop her, yanks the part out of the large device, flips it over, and sticks it back in where it belongs. With a gasping, grinding sort of noise, the whole alien contraption wheezes to life. Rose takes a prudent step back just before it sprays them all with ice-cold vapor.

"And it's not a bloody weapon," she informs the stunned technicians. "Honestly, what is it with you lot? Think bombs are the only things that could possibly slip through a rift? Anyway, it's just a Flabidagorian air conditioner."

They continue gawping.

She shrugs. "It gets really hot on Flabidagoria."

And she goes back to her data entry.

After that, she notices, she's not just The Boss's Daughter anymore.

*


This is one possible future: she steps out the front door of Torchwood and literally walks smack into him.

"What the hell?" she demands, and then looks up to a pair of intense, familiar, beautiful brown eyes. "Oh."

"Oh," he echoes, grinning so widely it nearly splits his face in half. "Hello."

"I thought – it's supposed to be impossible," she says, afraid to blink, afraid if she reaches out he'll turn into mist and drift away.

He shrugs and tugs his ear, looking vaguely embarrassed. "Yes, well, turns out, that word does not mean what you think it means. Or it shouldn't. Or I should know better than to go flinging words like that around all willy-nilly, really, I must've been off my head – impossible from a Time Lord, what a load of bollocks, you'd think I was losing my touch or something—"

And that's how she knows he's real, because she has to grab him by the tie and drag his lips down to meet hers to shut him up.

But really, Rose thinks, that would be too easy. She's not one to lay about like some damsel in distress, waiting for him to return for her. If she wants to find a way back to him, it's up to her to do it.

*


She remembers:

Her first Doctor, eyes blazing furiously, yelling at her about paradoxes and interfering with timelines and her father. "Rose, there's a man alive in the world who wasn't alive before," he told her, looking like he'd like to throttle her himself. "An ordinary man. That's the most important thing in creation! The whole world's different because he's alive!" And then the Reapers, and cracks in the universe, don't touch that baby, the empty TARDIS, and the Doctor – gone. Dead. Forever.

In her nightmares, that's always where the memory ends, with her alone and monsters screeching at the windows. The tears roll down her cheeks and her sobs are swallowed up by the vast emptiness of the church. Or is it a beach in Norway? She can't tell the difference over the singing in her head, which sounds a bit like the howling of wolves. And the Beast is coming, coming, coming...


When she wakes up, gasping, she's soaked in sweat. She hugs herself tightly, trying to stop trembling, trying to shake off a bone-deep sense of utter wrongness. The idea that there's a woman alive in this world who wasn't alive before, and that woman is her, and this entire universe is different because she's here now. That she's not meant to be here at all.

For the better part of a week, she flinches whenever a passing zeppelin temporarily blots out the sun. Eventually she realizes it's because she's expecting Reapers to swoop down upon her at any moment.

*


"It's like...I haven't got a place here," she says, a little drunk but not nearly drunk enough. The pub is crowded and noisy, and she has to lean halfway across the table to make herself heard. It is vitally important that they hear her, she thinks hazily, though she isn't entirely sure why.

Mickey and Jake exchange looks. "Sure you do," Mickey says. "Word around Torchwood is that you're being promoted to team leader, even."

"Took me three years to get that far," Jake adds. "And you swan in and hop up the ladder after thirteen months. Nepotism, that is."

She waves her hand irritably. "S'not what I mean. I mean...here. I don't belong. An' with mum an' dad an' the baby an' all—"

"No kidding." Mickey shudders. "Seriously, it's a bloody nightmare," he explains for Jake's benefit. "Grown man and woman reduced to gooey looks and cooing, it's a sad thing to see."

"So get your own place, then," Jake suggests to her. "Lord knows you've the money for it. My cousin's friend rents this nice flat down in Chelsea, could do you up nicely. Or there's this twee little house down the road from me—"

"Oh, yeah," Mickey cuts in, "isn't that the one with the woman moving out to be with her sister in Newcastle—"

"—right, 'cause it's right difficult with the brother-in-law's accident and all—"

"—she made us a horrid round of tea this one time, really, it was embarrassing—"

"—with the rock-hard biscuits, oh my god, d'you remember? Anyway, the house isn't half bad, really," Jake goes on, "dubious tea aside."

That's not what she means either. It's her mum and Pete, making the perfect little family together with baby Tony that neither had in their separate universes, and no room for Rose. It's Mickey and Jake, fast friends (and, she suspects, more than), starting improvised rounds of football in the Torchwood corridors and finishing each other's sentences, leaving her feeling a bit like...well, a bit like the tin dog. It's Torchwood, which uses her and challenges her and forces her to become someone more than herself – all of which is lovely, really, and she's proud of herself. But that's not the same as having someone's hand to hold.

And there's still that niggling sense that she's taking up a space that's meant to be empty. There was no Rose-shaped hole in this universe that she's needed to fill. Quite the opposite. There's a Rift in this universe, too – not in Cardiff, though. Closer to Manchester. Lately, Torchwood's been hearing strange reports. What was once a tiny nick in the fabric of time and space is now a tear, and Rose isn't entirely convinced it's not her fault. But how can she explain all that without sounding completely barking?

Or maybe that's just the depression talking.

She lets herself drift, half-listening to Mickey and Jake rattle on about nothing in particular, and tries to forget everything she's ever learned about paradoxes and impossibilities.

*


This is one possible future: she copes. She recovers. She moves on.

Days and weeks and months pass, and she stops dreaming about the Doctor every night. She starts forgetting bits and pieces of their travels together, whether that planet with the yellow sky was called Tironia or Pirhanacon, the precise feel of the TARDIS console under her palms, the scent of the Doctor's aftershave. Sometimes, whole days pass when she doesn't think of the Doctor at all. And she's fine with that.

Her life settles into a predictable routine – well, with a few aliens and weird gadgets added to the mix. She marries Mickey, or that quiet bloke with the nice bottom over in Research, or someone she meets in the markets while arguing over the relative merits of pears versus apples (she likes oranges best herself, but they apparently didn't catch on in this universe). They have a lovely ceremony on Pete's estate, which lots of local dignitaries attend. There are two plump children with brown-gold hair, and a dog, and extravagant Sunday dinners. She rises the ranks in Torchwood and never brings her work home with her. It's a normal life, a perfectly fantastic ordinary human life, and she's fine. Perfectly fine.

It's not just a possible future, it's a probable one, and it absolutely terrifies her.

*


She's up in Lancashire with her team, tracking down a rather nasty little band of aliens who seem to be selling human organs on the intergalactic black market. Not quite the usual sort of organs, livers or lungs or kidneys. Instead, they have a particular fondness for spleens.

The team finally corners the aliens in their ship (which bears a strong resemblance to a smallish submarine). Rose has never encountered this species before, and without the TARDIS translating their squealing, she's got no idea what they're called or currently blathering on about. She doesn't much care. Her team's already eliminated three out of the five of them.

Just as she waves her strike team forward to take the little ship once and for all, someone appears out of nowhere and jumps ahead of them, guns blazing.

Or gun, to be specific. To be even more specific, sonic blaster.

"Oi!" Rose shouts, more than a bit put out. "Stand down, Agent, we've got this bloody well covered."

Jack Harkness stops in his tracks with an irritated sigh. "Oh, all right," he says. "Don't get your panties in a wad." He turns and really looks at her for the first time, and a saucy grin spreads across his face. "Actually, I think I'd rather enjoy following behind you."

She's not sure whether to snort in disgust or leap into his arms. Jack. Oh, she doesn't have time for this! "Just stay out of our way, Jack," she snaps, trying to maintain some semblance of authority. "This is a Torchwood matter. The Time Agency's got no jurisdiction here."

He raises an eyebrow. "Well, carry on, then."

She does, and in under fifteen minutes, they have the remaining two aliens in rather heavy restraints and the submarine-ish spaceship secured. Once she's satisfied, she waves her team away. "Go and take care of them," she says, indicating the aliens. "I'll catch up with you back at the Manchester base."

And then she's alone with a man she's missed so fucking much, second only to the Doctor.

"Right," Jack says, eyes hard. "Now let's start off with how you know my name, and then move smartly along to what exactly your dealings are with the Agency."

She supposes she ought to be kicking herself for the slips, but she just can't be arsed about it right now. Although she does wonder why she so quickly reached the conclusion that this Jack was still with the Time Agency. Maybe because he looks a few years younger than the Jack she first knew in her universe. Maybe because he doesn't have those shadows behind his eyes, the scars of betrayal. Maybe because he was running straight towards trouble instead of away from it.

Or maybe it has something to do with the lapel pin he's wearing with the Time Agency insignia on it. Not that a twenty-first century contemporary would recognize that particular symbol, but some things apparently don't change from one parallel universe to another.

"I haven't got any dealings with the Agency," she says, folding her arms in front of her crossly. It's that or reach out and pull him into a hug, and she doesn't think that'd go over too well. "And I'd like to keep it that way."

"Yeah, well, too late," Jack says. "And you didn't answer my first question."

She rolls her eyes. "You're the one hopping about through time. You really have to ask?"

He watches her narrowly, considering, and then reaches the obvious (for him) conclusion and relaxes. "Ah. We've met before. Your past, my future, right?"

Rose shrugs. "Something like that, yeah."

"Well, that's another matter entirely." He flashes her his trademark Captain Jack Harkness grin, guaranteed to have any male, female, or otherwise gendered biological entity swooning in under five seconds. She resists. More or less. "As you already know, I'm Jack Harkness. And you are...?"

"Rose Tyler," she sighs, shaking his hand. Easiest just to go along with it. "Lovely to meet you. Again."

"And you're with Torchwood, I gather," he says. "Nice job with the Tryptofallians, by the way. Bit messy, but effective, particularly given your early twenty-first century limitations. Well done. And now I'm going to go take their ship off of your hands."

She blinks. "Oh, no, you don't. That thing's going straight back to Torchwood with me. We took out the aliens, we get the salvage."

"Nice try, sweetheart. Look, you seem to know a little about time travel, at least. Know anything about anachronisms? Paradoxes?"

Her gut twists. She can almost hear the Reapers' screeches. "More than you might expect," she says, wary now.

He gives her another once-over, reevaluating her yet again. "Good. Then maybe you'll listen to reason, and I won't have to Retcon you." Another charming smile, this time with a hint of threat underneath. This Time Agency might not have stolen his memories – or, at least, not yet – but it's sounding more like the one in her universe every minute.

It takes a good twenty minutes of haggling back and forth, but eventually they settle upon a deal. The Time Agency gets the ship – in particular, its extremely advanced medical technology. And Torchwood gets intelligence on a long list of alien species. "Obviously nothing about future events, I'm not trying to cheat history here," Rose explains. "And these are all species I have some basic info on already. But some of my current intelligence may be...flawed. And if any of these guys break atmo over Westminster Abbey, I want to know how to deal with them."

"Fair enough." Jack looks over the list. "Hell, I haven't even heard of a couple of these."

Rose hopes with all her heart that means they don't exist in this universe. There are enough bad guys out there as it is. "You've got two hours," she says. "I'll meet you down in Manchester, Albert Square. Data chip with the intelligence I've asked for. Or the deal's off, and I take that Tryptofallian medical technology and extend the human lifespan fifty years."

Jack smirks. "Just two hours?"

"Two hours my time," Rose clarifies, rolling her eyes. "Take as long as you want in your timeline, I don't give a toss. Just hope your timing's better than another traveler I once knew."

*


She remembers:

A remarkably jeopardy-free day at a bazaar on a planet with two suns. The Doctor had visibly shuddered at the thought of spending an entire afternoon shopping, so she and Jack cheerfully set off without him.

They spent hours just wandering from stall to stall, while Jack explained the various exotic goods up for sale.

"Here, Rose, have a look at this!"

"It's a hat."

"It's a pandimensional heat energy dissimulator, made of genuine Halipariatic llama fibers."

"It's an
ugly hat."

"Rose, you have no imagination. Ooh, synchronizers!"

All in all, Jack enjoyed shopping even more than she did, and that was saying something.

He briefly abandoned her at a food stall, saying he needed to find something resembling a loo. Twenty minutes later, she'd eaten all of her meal (she wasn't entirely sure what it was, but it tasted a bit like roasted chicken, with a side serving of something very nearly identical to chips) and half of his chips besides. "What was that all about?" she asked.

"Nothing much," he said, eyes far too wide to be innocent. "I'll tell you later."

She shot him a suspicious look, but didn't comment.

Hours later they returned empty-handed to the TARDIS, where the Doctor was still poking around the control room. "There you are," he said, heaving a long-suffering sigh. His eyes sharpened. "What, you spend a bloody week out there and nothing to show for it?"

Rose shrugged, leaning against the console contentedly. "S'not the point. Besides, dunno what the currency is here, hard to buy stuff without money."

"I could've given you some," the Doctor said, chagrined. "Guess I forgot."

Jack rolled his eyes. "Typical. Anyway, I had a few credits on me, so here." He pulled something small out of his pocket and tossed it over to Rose.

She caught it reflexively, surprised. "Jack, you never!" she said, looking down at the tissue-wrapped gift. "But why—"

"I saw it and thought of you," Jack said, shrugging it off. "Open it."

She unwrapped the tissue to find a small medallion of some alien stone, a thousand glittering shades of red and pink, cut in the shape of a rose. It was beautiful. A bit predictable, really; like no bloke had ever bought her roses before, thinking he was
so original. But it was really lovely all the same.

"Oh, Jack," she breathed. "Thank you."

"Females," the Doctor muttered, from the other side of the console. "Show 'em thousands of worlds, that's nothing up against something small and sparkly. What's so special about a bit of rock, then?"

She grinned over at him, catching her tongue between her teeth. "We like dancing, too."


*


Exactly two hours after Rose left him, Jack finds her in Albert Square. "Here you go," he says, tossing the data chip over.

She catches it easily and looks it over. No way of telling from the outside, of course, but she chooses to trust him. "Thanks," she says. She tucks it into the inner pocket of her jacket, and pulls out an envelope. "And this is for you. A signed letter from Torchwood headquarters, authorizing one Jack Harkness to take custody of a certain spaceship. Just show it to the military team I've got guarding the ship, and they'll let you through."

He takes the envelope with a smile. "Well, that was easy. Wish all my assignments could go this smoothly."

She shrugs, sitting down on a bench. "I'm not trying to make life difficult for you. Or the Agency. I'd just like you all to stop interfering with my century, please. We've got it covered."

"Yeah, you do." He sits beside her. Not too close, not quite invading her space, but comfortably, like two old friends. It's probably just meant to be a cover, but the casual ease of it all makes her ache for the Jack she once knew. She genuinely hopes this Jack gets to follow a better, happier path. And that he avoids all Daleks and Game Stations that might or might not exist in this universe.

They just sit there for a little while, watching the people heading home from work and the lengthening shadows. "So how do you first meet me?" Jack finally asks.

Rose laughs to keep herself from crying. "You know I can't tell you that."

"Well, sure. I'm mostly surprised you know you can't tell me that."

"The twenty-first century may seem backwards to you lot, but that doesn't mean we're stupid. Anyway, I work for Torchwood." As though that explains anything. She had to jump through more than a few administrative hoops in the past two hours to get rid of the spaceship without revealing anything about the Time Agency.

Jack looks her over for a moment, then grins. "Torchwood. Sure. That's how you know so much about time travel. Oh, don't tell me a thing, sweetheart," he says, when she opens her mouth to defend herself. "I like a good puzzle. I'd rather piece this one together myself."

You won't, she doesn't say. You can't even begin to imagine.

"Anyway," he goes on, "while I was waiting for our historians to put together the info you asked for, I browsed around this street fair they've got set up just outside our archives. Found something you might like." He pulls a very small, soft bag out of his pocket, made of some velvet-looking material.

"Jack..." she says warily. "You don't even know me. Why—"

"I saw it and thought of you," Jack says casually. "Just take it, willya?"

She almost rolls her eyes. How parallel universe of him. But she accepts the little velvet bag and opens it.

It's a tiny medallion, formed out of white gold, in the shape of a wolf.

She tucks it away in her purse, hoping he doesn't notice her hands trembling, and gives him a smile. "That's lovely, Jack."

He grins. "Well, I had to make up the cost of the ship somehow. Just a bit of outdated intelligence is close to cheating you, frankly. I'm an honorable man. Can't have you – by which I mean Torchwood – taking a loss on it."

"How considerate of you," she says, looking him over. Considering. She's learned better than to just ignore the wolf's trail by now. "Y'know," she says with a very particular sort of smile, "I don't think we're quite even yet, though."

"Oh?" He leans in, definitely up for it. Of course, it's Jack. She could be a green-skinned octogenarian and he'd still be up for it. "So how much do I still owe you?"

"Price of a drink, I think."

As she'd expected, Jack doesn't stop at just the drink.

It feels good, Rose thinks later, in the hotel room, pressing her sweat-slick body up against his. She'd always wondered, before. And now she knows: what he tastes like, how the planes of his shoulders feel beneath her fingertips, the heat of his mouth on hers. The look on his face when he moves inside her.

Not that this is exactly how it would've been with her Jack. There's no shared history here. No easy camaraderie or mutual affection. But also no competition, both vying for the Doctor's attention (which she almost always won). No outrageous flirting, just to make him jealous, to cover up the fact that if given the choice, both of them would have chosen him over each other.

She could never have done this with her Jack. And even this, here, stranded in another universe – it feels dangerously close to cheating. But not quite.

Just for tonight, she wants to feel less alone.

Afterward, she slips out of bed, careful not to wake him. She dresses quickly and gathers her things. And then she rifles efficiently through his knapsack until she finds his small stash of tech – simple locating devices, the sort that any good Time Agent would keep near at all times. Distress beacons.

She only takes one. He probably won't even miss it. A bit of jiggery-pokery with her own piece of tech (courtesy of Mickey), and she's got it set to the frequency of his wristband vortex manipulator. Just in case. She figures she never knows when it might come in handy to have a Time Agent at her beck and call.

She walks out of the hotel and doesn't allow herself to look back.

*


This is one possible future: she looks back. She slips back into bed with Jack, and the next morning, he wakes her up early to have another go. She gives the data chip to her team, he sends the spaceship off to the future, and then she lets him recruit her to the Time Agency.

They become partners, one of the most effective pairs of Agents in the history of this universe. Rose and Jack, Jack and Rose, they travel across time and space, setting things to rights, averting paradoxes. Saving the world. This Agency remains uncorrupted. No one ever steals Jack's memories. He never turns to a life of crime. The fifty-first century marks the start of the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire, and they're right at the forefront.

She makes love to him under the wide purple leaves of an alien tree on a lush planet devoid of sentient life, and he starts a revolution on a distant star five thousand years earlier. Every day is a new adventure. Nothing is permanent except Agency debriefings and each other.

And she never sees the Doctor again. Because even if he does manage to find his way back across the Void, to this world, he won't have the faintest idea where to begin looking for her.

She can't do that. Even though she knows it's only the barest hint of a possibility, she can't just go ruling it out completely. She has more faith in the Doctor than that.

She can't give up all hope of ever seeing him again. Not even for Jack.

But she does wear the medallion he gave her on a chain around her neck from then on, right next to her TARDIS key.

*


Mickey finally decides to go in for his Baccalaureate (which is sort of like this universe's version of A-levels, only a bit more complicated and extensive and vaguely French-ish), and he bets Rose a hundred quid that she can't get as many As as him.

It's a five-month-long battle of wills, books and papers strewn across their shared office in Torchwood. She gets less sleep less regularly than she can ever remember in her entire life, and that includes periods of constant running from danger with the Doctor and marathon sessions of booze and sex with Jimmy Stone. For a week, she speaks mostly in algebraic formulas, and she occasionally hears him muttering gibberish about quarks and photons when he's fallen asleep at his desk.

In the end, it's a draw – five As and one B each. They each put up fifty quid toward a really ridiculously posh bottle of brandy, and drink themselves into a well-deserved stupor in celebration.

It's one of the best nights of her life, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Doctor. She wonders if this means she's moving on.

And even if not, she thinks he'd be right proud of her.

*


It's baby Tony's second birthday, and of course Jackie insists on throwing him a lavish party. She got used to having money right quick, Rose thinks wryly.

Long after the birthday boy's been dressed in his red jimjams and put to bed, the party goes on, with drinks and laughter and no small children anymore. Jackie and Pete dance slowly to gentle jazz rhythms, and Rose gives the rest of her drink to Mickey and walks out to the veranda alone.

She leans against the balcony and pretends she's not remembering barrage balloons or invisible spaceships or the Doctor swinging her around in a dance.

"Sorry," someone says. "Just came out here for a smoke, don't mind me."

She turns. It's Jake. She can't tell in the moonlight, but she suspects he's currently flushing a dark red, just like he has all evening whenever he looks at her. Well, it's not her fault she stumbled upon him and Mickey in a rather compromising position in the cellar while she was looking for a particular vintage of wine for the party.

"Don't mind me," she says, grinning at him. Mickey has been surprisingly blasé about the whole incident, but Jake was mortified. She supposes being caught out by your boyfriend's ex-girlfriend has that effect.

After a moment, he walks up to her. "Look," he says, too quickly, "I'm sorry about earlier, we never should have—"

"It's not like I didn't know already," she says. "It's fine. Good for you, Mickey's a good bloke."

Jake looks at her sidelong, as if considering. She gets the feeling he's choosing his words carefully. "You and Mickey—"

"Are long over," she interrupts. "Well before he ever came to this universe. And then you two had three years together alone before I swanned back in. You never had this talk with him?"

"Oh, we did," he says hastily. "But you never – god, months I spent after you came back, wondering when he'd finally run back to you." Surprisingly, he doesn't sound too bitter about it. "You led him a merry chase for a while."

"I was so selfish," she admits. "So..."

"You were nineteen," Jake says. "That's all. Happens to the best of us."

She lets out a short laugh. "Yeah. Still. God, I was a right bitch."

"No, never that," Jake says thoughtfully. "Just a bit thick, I think."

She swats his arm, and he laughs.

"D'you love him?" she asks abruptly.

Jake scratches the back of his neck, looking exquisitely uncomfortable. "Do I – yeah, I guess. I dunno. What is love, really, anyway?"

She doesn't even have to think about it. "It's having someone's hand to hold. It's knowing that the universe is vast and cold and uncaring, and you're hardly a speck, but still not feeling alone. It's wanting to be a better person just because he's there. Love is..." She swallows hard, blinking away tears. "It's seeing the world in Technicolor."

After a second, Jake reaches out awkwardly, rubbing her shoulder. "Yeah," he says softly. "Yeah, I love him."

"Good," she says, shaking him away. She tries on a smile. "Tell him that. Every day. Mickey deserves it." Her voice softens. "And so do you."

He smiles. "And you, Rose?" She doesn't respond, so he presses on. "You were lovers, weren't you? You and the Doctor."

"Yeah," she says, surprising herself. She's never said it. Four years and she's never once said it – not to her mum, or Mickey, or anyone. For a while, it was like telling anyone would've cheapened it, somehow – as though she were just some silly girl mourning her lover. As though she wouldn't have missed him as much otherwise. "Yeah, we were, at the end. Not for very long – not for long enough." She smiles, sadly. "Forever wouldn't've been long enough, though."

"Right," Jake says. "I'm sorry."

"So'm I."

*


She remembers:

It was just after the encounter with the impossible planet, after the Beast and its horrible warnings. They spent the next couple of days in the TARDIS just drifting through the Vortex. The Doctor tinkered around, making unnecessary repairs, just refamiliarizing himself with the ship he'd thought he lost. Rose mostly sat and watched, or read books out of the TARDIS library, or did some minor tinkering of her own alongside him. They didn't speak much.

Finally, one unremarkable afternoon (or morning, or evening – it was hard to tell in the Vortex), she knelt down beside him, gently pulled the wrench out of his unresisting hands, and kissed him.

It wasn't much of a kiss – just the soft pressure of her lips against his, undemanding, and then pulling away. He blinked at her, their faces still so close she could almost feel his eyelashes brush against her own cheek. "Rose?" he asked quietly.

"I thought I was gonna die on that shuttle," she said simply. Her voice was soft and calm – no histrionics, no tears, no melodrama. Just a statement of fact. "I accepted it. I'd done what I could to stop the Beast, and there was nothing else left to do. Thought I'd lost you already, so that was that, anyway."

"Rose," the Doctor said again, unsteadily. He reached up and cupped her cheek in his cool hand.

"No, wait," she said. She took a deep breath. "Just lemme finish. I'm not trying to – anyway, look, I know what the Beast said. An' maybe it's true, an' maybe it's not. It doesn't matter. Just – whatever happens to me, or to us, I want to at least have had this. That's all."

His eyes were very dark. "I'm not going to lose you, Rose."

She smiled ruefully. "And I'll never leave you, you know that. But...just in case, yeah? I want this. You. Us. So next time I think I'm gonna die – well, at least I'll have lived first."

This time, he kissed her. "Rose Tyler," he said hoarsely against her lips. "I..."

"I know," she murmured, reaching up and running her hand through his hair. "I'm here now. I'm right here."

When he touched her, it was like he was discovering something rare and wonderful. She opened her mouth to his, deepening the kiss, and let herself fall.


She'd been ready to die for him. But that was easy. Living for him, the fantastic life he'd always wanted for her – that, she's since learned, is much, much harder.

*


Early one morning, the Torchwood communications team intercepts a message from the Air Force. Apparently they've just shot down a unidentified flying object in British airspace. Rose and her team fly out to Hertfordshire within the hour to salvage any alien remains.

They don't find any bodies on the grassy hillside, but there are a few interesting devices that emerged from the wreckage relatively unscathed. By the end of the day, her tech expert has put together a detailed report. "It matches up with some of our intelligence," Barnes tells her. "I'm pretty sure we're looking at the remains of a Jathar Sunglider. Now, I'm not entirely positive about this, but I believe that with these devices, we can harness a degree of energy..."

He rambles on for a solid ten minutes as she gets increasingly nauseous. She knows what this is. And exactly what it could be used for.

They need to get rid of this technology. Immediately.

Rose suggests to Barnes that they continue the conversation over drinks in the local pub. He agrees. And then she drops some Retcon into his pint and slips out once he's passed out on the table.

Back at the crash site, it only takes a minute to clear the rest of her team out of the area. They're used to taking odd orders from her, and none of them heard Barnes's report. Finally, she's alone with the Sunglider remains.

It's a good thing she nicked that distress beacon from Jack Harkness last year.

It only takes forty minutes, with her sitting by the wreckage and staring up into the moonlight. "You know, I thought I'd misplaced a beacon somewhere," Jack remarks, standing over her. "I should've realized."

She smiles up at him. "Hello, Jack."

He crosses his arms in front of him, looking ever so slightly miffed. "I'm not your pet Time Agent, Rose."

"The thought never crossed my mind." She pulls herself to her feet, brushing dirt off her trousers. "I wouldn't have called if it weren't important, you know."

"It better be," he says, unimpressed. He looks around. "What fell?"

"My sources say it was a Jathar Sunglider." She gives him a pointed look. "Now, I know exactly where that intelligence came from, so I'm gonna assume it's accurate. And I need you to take these remains as far away from this time as possible."

He raises an eyebrow. "Last time we met, you got a little fussy when I tried to take away your toys."

"That was different." She takes a deep breath. "Jack, if my people get a hold of this, they will build an energy weapon the likes of which this century was never meant to see. Powerful enough to turn any nearby alien spacecraft to ashes instantaneously."

Jack's eyes are sharp now, his whole body tense and focused. "You can't. All it takes is one trigger-happy world leader – you'd wreak havoc upon the timelines."

"I know," she snaps. "Why d'you think I'm trying to get rid of it? I'm all for Earth being able to defend itself, but this – this is beyond monstrous. I've seen it. And I want nothing to do with it."

"Good," Jack says shortly. He starts tapping something out on his wristband. "I'm taking care of it. Can you keep your people away from this site for the next hour or so?"

"Already done."

When he looks back up at her, there's a new respect in his eyes. "Good," he says again. "I've got to stay here until the team I called gets in. Wait with me?"

She sinks back down in the grass, relief making her feel languid and light-headed. No one's going to be shooting a retreating ship out of the sky in this universe. She vividly remembers the look on the Doctor's face when Harriet Jones gave the order. This one's for you, my Doctor, she thinks.

Jack lounges beside her, looking up at the sky. "I'm glad you stole my beacon," he says with a lopsided grin.

She smiles back at him. "I'm glad you answered my call."

"You thought I wouldn't?"

"Never doubted you for a second, Jack."

"That's not my real name, you know," he says abruptly. "Jack Harkness is just a cover identity. I use it on certain sorts of missions."

She hesitates. No, she didn't know, not for sure, but at the same time – she's not entirely surprised.

Before she can say anything in response, Jack shoots her a sidelong glance and goes on. "But then, your name's not Rose Tyler either, is it?"

Now that she wasn't expecting at all. "Course it is, what're you on about?"

Jack shakes his head. "I did a bit of research in the Agency archives after our last...encounter. Now, I know you like to think Torchwood's some sort of top-secret installation, and I hate to spoil the surprise, but there's a little law coming up in your not-terribly-distant future that'll open all Torchwood records to the public – well, relatively speaking. Point being, by the time the Agency is established, all of your activities from 1879 onward are accessible to anyone with a data port." He gives her a hard look. "And there is no record of any person by the name of Rose Tyler to be found anywhere in the Torchwood archives."

Her hands are shaking. She stuffs them in her jacket pockets. "Then there's gaps in the records. Three thousand years later, I'm not surprised bits went missing along the way."

"Oh, you would be surprised at just how complete the archives are," Jack says, voice silk-smooth. "I can tell you that the current director is a Peter Tyler – not very original there, Rose, borrowing his last name like that. Torchwood's still fairly small at this point, less than a hundred licensed agents all told. Of your rank, maybe ten. There's a man called Ianto Jones, he's your head researcher. Adele Ngyebe, she's top-notch at tactics – I'd've put money on that being your real identity at first, except I've seen her photo and there's no resemblance whatsoever. Mickey Smith is your computer whiz. There's a Jake Simmonds—"

"All right, stop!" she shouts, jumping to her feet, more than a little frightened. This isn't her Jack, as she's just been vividly reminded. She can't assume he's on her side. "So you know everything about us, I get it."

He just looks at her for a moment. His eyes soften. "But I don't," he says. "I know absolutely nothing about you. Because Rose Tyler doesn't exist."

"But I'm right here," she whispers.

He gets to his feet, standing just in front of her. "But you're not meant to be here, are you?" he says quietly.

And she suddenly remembers her old nightmare – her first Doctor and Reapers and the universe shattering. Rose, there's a man alive in the world who wasn't alive before. Golden light and the soft, eerie sound of something singing...

Some small part of all this must pass across her face, because Jack nods. "Figured as much. I knew there was something off about you from the start – you're as anachronistic as that Sunglider. So what's the story? Ex-Time Agent gone local? You get stranded here somehow?"

She laughs. The sound is harsh even to her own ears. "Stranded," she echoes bitterly. "Yeah, something like that."

"Need a lift?"

She looks up sharply. The casual, almost indifferent tone in his voice is belied by the tension in his shoulders, the intensity of his gaze. "What, trying to get me in your spaceship so you can seduce me again?"

"Don't need my ship for that," he says with a smirk. "But seriously, Rose. I can take you back to...well, wherever you came from. Or anywhere else you'd rather be. You don't have to be stuck here forever."

"You'd do that for me? Why?"

He shrugs. "Gives me a chance to indulge my curiosity, I guess." He looks at her for a long moment, and she tries not to tremble under his gaze. "Rose, let me take you home."

Home. It's not a place, not some planet he can just drop her off on. Not in this or any other universe. "I wish you could, Jack," she says quietly. "But it just doesn't work that way."

Whatever he's about to say is interrupted by a flash of light, and a team of Time Agents materializes around them. "Location secure," one of them says stiffly. "Your orders, sir?"

Jack sighs, turning away from Rose. "I need this site clear by morning," he says in a clipped, official tone of voice. "All this wreckage, every last scrap of metal. I don't want to find a single loose bolt left in the grass, you understand? Convey it all to checkpoint Alpha-Sigma-Eight-Bravo."

By the time he looks back, Rose is already walking away. "Hey!" he calls after her. "I'll be seeing you, yeah?"

"No, Jack," she replies softly, knowing he can't hear her. "No, you won't."

*


She remembers:

"How long are you going to stay with me?" the Doctor asked.

She smiled up at him. "Forever," she said, and watched the grin spread across his face to mirror her own.


God, she'd been so young.

*


The Sycorax actually do try to stage an invasion that Christmas. They're a bit late, she thinks, but what's a few years between universes?

There's no massive energy weapon to blast their ship into ash, but then, they hadn't actually needed that on the other Earth, either. Of course, this Earth doesn't have a Doctor to defend it. Instead, they have Rose and Mickey, and the fact that they've been using the other Sycorax invasion as a Torchwood training exercise here for years.

It's almost laughable. Well, the part where a third of the human race climbs up to rooftops and bridges is still a bit frightening, but they know so much more now. And this is the value of good intelligence, she thinks, fingering her wolf medallion with a smile.

She doesn't actually need to do much, just sits back and watches over the monitors as their teams handle it. The Sycorax turn tail and flee without so much as a single casualty on either side.

"Everyone lives," she murmurs. "Just this once, everyone lives."

Maybe this is her future: to spend the rest of her days sorting out the mistakes made in the other universe. To redeem humanity in this one. Not a bad life, she decides, surprising herself. Not a bad life at all.

It's not that she's stopped searching for a way back to the Doctor. She hasn't, not really. It's just that sometimes, there are more important things to be doing.

*


Between missions, Rose tinkers around in one of Torchwood's many workshops, rummaging through found alien tech and helping sort out the valuable bits from the intergalactic rubbish. Today, some big-shot American businessman is supposed to come in with a piece he found over in the States. She hadn't been paying much attention to the ridiculously drawn out process of negotiations to get him over here, but she's vaguely curious about the artifact itself. No one knows much about it. Probably it's just more rubbish, she thinks wryly, but it can't hurt to have a look.

She realizes her mistake when the zeppelin lands in their docking bay and Henry van Statten steps into Torchwood.

"Here we are, then," van Statten announces proudly. "The long-awaited meeting, eh?"

Durham, the director of technology, shakes van Statten's hand vigorously, going through the expected platitudes. There are photos taken with the businessmen and the Torchwood techies, and all that sort of diplomatic nonsense. Rose doesn't really hear any of it. She only has eyes for the very large crate being carefully unloaded off the zeppelin.

"Now, you be careful with that," van Statten tells the workmen jovially. "Very valuable artifact, that is! At least, that's what we're all hoping, eh?" He gives them all a smarmy smile.

There's a jolt, and a shout, and as if in slow motion, the crate slips from its restraints and tumbles the remaining meter or so to the ground. Just before it hits the floor, she sees the large stamp on its side: Bad Wolf Shipping Inc.

"No," she whispers.

The crate splits open. One panicked workman, dashing forward to catch it, stretches out a hand and touches the exposed metal frame of the artifact inside.

"No!" Rose says again, shouting it this time, as she runs up and shoves the unlucky workman aside. The remains of the broken crate blast outward, showering them with splinters. Someone screams in pain. Rose just brushes the shattered wood off her lab coat and straightens to face the inevitable.

"I HAVE BEEN REJUVENATED," the artifact shrieks. "YOU WILL ALL BE PUNISHED."

A Dalek. She should have known from the start.

"It speaks," van Statten gasps, voice filled with wonder.

Rose ignores him. "Hello, Dalek," she says. "Come to parlay, have you?"

"THERE WILL BE NO PARLAY," it announces. "YOU WILL SUFFER. YOU WILL DIE. EVERY HUMAN ON THIS EARTH WILL DIE. I AM DALEK. I WILL EXTERMINATE YOU."

This is it. There's no going back from here. Torchwood has weapons aplenty, but nothing that can do more than sting a Dalek. Nothing but Rose stands between this monstrosity and everyone she knows and loves in this universe.

Rose Tyler, the Doctor had said on that beach in Norway. Defender of the Earth.

Quite right, too.

"Oh, no, you don't," she tells the Dalek, squaring her shoulders. "Not this time."

"AND WHO ARE YOU TO STOP A DALEK?" it screeches.

She smiles. It isn't a very pleasant smile. "Your worst nightmare."

The Dalek hesitates, but only for an instant. "YOU KNOW NOTHING OF NIGHTMARES," it says. "YOU WILL NEVER DREAM AGAIN. EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!" It aims directly at her chest.

"I warned you," she whispers.

The Dalek fires.

She hears singing, golden and warm, filling her mind to the brim. And then there's only darkness.

This is how Rose Tyler of Torchwood dies.

*


"I warned you," the Bad Wolf says again. She reaches out a hand. The Dalek shrieks and melts away to dust, as though it had never been. Maybe it hadn't. Afterwards, no one in Torchwood can say for sure. There was a golden light, Mickey will tell Pete Tyler. And then – nothing. Nothing at all. We found this. And he'll show Pete a tiny medallion, the sort of thing worn on a charm bracelet or necklace, white gold, in the shape of a wolf.

The Bad Wolf opens a door where no door exists, and then closes it behind her.

*


Rose awakens with a pounding headache to discover she's alone on a concrete floor. She pulls herself up to a sitting position, wincing. After a few minutes of just breathing deeply, the headache starts to recede, and she can think properly again.

She's in some sort of abandoned warehouse, it looks like. There's no one else there, nothing to give her the slightest hint of what this place is. Where is she?

She closes her eyes, thinking back. She remembers waking up this morning in her flat in Chelsea to the sound of the phone ringing. It was her mum, just calling to remind her she was expected back at the estate for dinner this weekend. Then she went off to work. Slow day, nothing much going on, she and Mickey and Jake had taken a nice long lunch at the pub before she went back in to work on some gadgetry. Then the zeppelin came...

There was singing. She remembers that. She frowns. No, there was something before that—

Oh.

She's on her feet in a second, running across the warehouse floor, shoving open the double doors that lead to the outside world. The bright sunlight hurts her eyes, but she doesn't care. She's on a street, city street, outskirts of some city. Industrial sort of area. Could be London or Manchester or Cardiff, no way of knowing. She can hear traffic in the distance, but this street's quiet, just a few parked cars. Where is she? God, it's so quiet, cities shouldn't be this quiet, what's—

No zeppelins.

That's when she notices the warmth against her chest, under her shirt, and she grabs at the chain she's always worn across her neck.

Jack's wolf medallion is gone, lost. And the TARDIS key glows with bright heat in her hand.

Rose just stands there and stares at it. Impossible. She'd grown up out of these fantasies. She'd got over it. Recovered. Went right on living. This can't be – she couldn't have – how?

And there's so much she's now lost, if this is really happening – her mum, Pete, her little brother. Mickey and Jake and her other coworkers. Torchwood. Her work, her team, all the thousand tiny ordinary ways they save the world, day after day.

But then again – there is no record of any person by the name of Rose Tyler to be found anywhere in the Torchwood archives, Jack told her. As if she'd never existed there at all.

She looks back over her shoulder at the warehouse. Scrawled across the wall, in bright red spray paint, is the image of a snarling wolf. And off to the side, half-hidden behind the heavy door she'd so carelessly shoved open, is a very familiar blue box.

She knows it's the right TARDIS, the right timeline, because the key is almost unbearably hot in her hand. She steps up to the door and slips her key in the lock. It practically glides in, pulling her forward, calling her on home.

She hesitates.

There are thousands of possible futures diverging just before her, from this particular moment, and for just an instant she glimpses them all. There's so much she doesn't know, after all – how long it's been for him, if he's traveling with anyone now, whether he's still in this latest regeneration or if he's wearing a whole new face. If he's been searching for her, still. If he wants her back. And if she steps inside this box – so many possibilities, so many of them bad. She could die tomorrow on some strange, cruel planet far from home, or he could, or he might demand she turn right around and go back to Pete's World and the fantastic life he wanted her to have. Or he could sweep her up in his arms and snog her senseless, hold her hand as though he'll never let it go again, drag her along on a thousand possible terrifying marvelous adventures.

She's not a Time Lord. She's not even the Bad Wolf anymore. She's just Rose, and she can't see the future. Not even a little bit. Anything might happen now.

The TARDIS is a bright, Technicolor blue.

She turns the key and steps inside.
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Date: 2008-10-26 12:43 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. And brilliant. And fantastic. And very, very good.

Well done.

Date: 2008-10-26 12:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rosa-acicularis.livejournal.com
I was so excited I forgot to log in before commenting. Oops.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com - Date: 2008-10-26 06:49 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2008-10-26 12:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dark-aegis.livejournal.com
Oh, wow. That is absolutely amazing. A wonderful take on what could've happened to Rose in the alternate universe, and I love the way you explore her psyche here. Jack's presence was very welcome, too. That was definitely one of my favourite scenes in this story.

Thank you so much for sharing :)

Date: 2008-10-26 06:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm so glad it worked for you.

Date: 2008-10-26 12:50 am (UTC)
ext_104459: Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand. (Default)
From: [identity profile] tristesses.livejournal.com
Oh, fantastic. Everything about it - characterization, plot, story structure (I love each possible future, and how it could/couldn't be), and the ending. Open-ended and emotional. Good job, I really love this.

Date: 2008-10-26 06:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Thank you! And, yes, I'm rather fond of ambiguous endings, so I'm glad that worked for you.

Date: 2008-10-26 12:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hououji-fuu.livejournal.com
that was wonderful from start to finish.

Date: 2008-10-26 06:51 am (UTC)

Date: 2008-10-26 01:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] erikau.livejournal.com
That was simply beautiful. Thank you.

Date: 2008-10-26 06:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Date: 2008-10-26 01:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zweee-liz.livejournal.com
I loved it. ANd I really liked the little joke about Canadian cuisine.

Mooseburgers? hehe

Date: 2008-10-26 06:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Thanks! And, er, yeah. Mooseburgers. More Alaskan than Canadian, I suppose. ;)

Date: 2008-10-26 01:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hebber.livejournal.com
absolutely beautiful.

Date: 2008-10-26 06:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Thank you!

Date: 2008-10-26 01:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mylittlepwny.livejournal.com
The best thing I've read in ages.
The absolute best.


Oh, look. New fandom. How inevitable.

WELCOME. Please to never be leaving.

Date: 2008-10-26 06:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Thank you! And, er, yeah, I think this fandom has me pretty hard. Although I'm not exactly what you might call a prolific writer.

Date: 2008-10-26 02:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sagacious-c.livejournal.com
This is beautiful, realistic, artistic... all around just a real treasure. I liked your Jack and Mickey. Everything felt so authentic.

Date: 2008-10-26 06:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm glad it worked for you.

Date: 2008-10-26 02:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] earlgreytea68.livejournal.com
Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. Your re-envisioning of Jack was ingenious.

Date: 2008-10-26 06:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Thank you! It was quite fun writing alt!Jack, so I'm glad that worked for you. :)

Date: 2008-10-26 02:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sorcha425.livejournal.com
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THIS!! :) You had my attention the whole way. Wonderful plot, character, and the best ending anyone could want. I liked it open-ended. Great job!

Date: 2008-10-26 06:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm fond of ambiguous endings myself. :)

Date: 2008-10-26 03:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anti-social-ite.livejournal.com
This broke my heart. And then stitched it back together again. Simply superb.

Date: 2008-10-26 06:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Thank you!

Date: 2008-10-26 03:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jellybean728.livejournal.com
I'm speechless.

that was absolutely brilliant.

Date: 2008-10-26 06:56 am (UTC)

Date: 2008-10-26 05:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ncdsbookworm.livejournal.com
Oh this is so brilliant! I adore the quote you use in your summary. *memories*

Can we be friends?

Date: 2008-10-26 06:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :) And, sure, friend away! Although I should warn you, I'm not a very prolific writer...

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] ncdsbookworm.livejournal.com - Date: 2008-10-27 06:08 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com - Date: 2008-10-27 10:58 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2008-10-26 05:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] crystalnova.livejournal.com
Ohhhhhh. This was so lovely. I was fogging up a bit with all of it!

Are you going to continue this? A sequel would just about make my life. Please, please write one! :D:D:D:D

Date: 2008-10-26 07:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Thank you!

Heh. Sequel. Funny word that. It's possible. I deliberately planted a few plot threads in this in case I decided to follow up with one, but I'm not generally one for sequels, so...who knows.

Date: 2008-10-26 05:50 am (UTC)
ext_47332: Blue background with sparkly text saying "team hilarity!" (Default)
From: [identity profile] silentstep.livejournal.com
Oh, god, yes, exactly.

Thank you.

Date: 2008-10-26 07:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
I'm glad it worked for you. :)

Date: 2008-10-26 06:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] smtfhw.livejournal.com
My, but that was a great read! Thank you very much!

Date: 2008-10-26 07:05 am (UTC)

Date: 2008-10-26 08:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tardis-stowaway.livejournal.com
Congratulations, you've just totally blown me away! This story is elegant at every level: structure, prose, emotion, and more. The Wizard of Oz technicolor metaphor was an inspired choice. Rose's path in her new life feels just right. The other characterizations are great too, particularly alt!Jack. I always adore the Bad Wolf, and you used it marvelously. I literally gasped aloud when Jack gave her the wolf pendant. (Yes, I really was that immersed in the story.) Much as part of me wants a real reunion kiss with the Doctor, the open ending really fits.

BTW, do you have any intention of posting this on A Teaspoon and An Open Mind (http://www.whofic.com/)? I've got a turn at recommending coming up soon on [livejournal.com profile] calufrax, but they want recs for fics that are up on Teaspoon.

Date: 2008-10-26 07:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm so glad it worked for you. Especially the Bad Wolf aspect, as that's so much fun to explore.

And yeah, I actually did just post it to Teaspoon, although I don't know how long their validation process will take...

Date: 2008-10-26 09:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sunnytyler001.livejournal.com
Wow, wow, wow! It was brilliant! Such an amazing story!
But awww!!! You can't stop here!!!! What a cliffhanger!

Date: 2008-10-26 07:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Thanks!

I don't think of it as a cliffhanger so much as an open ending... :)

Date: 2008-10-26 10:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sapphire-child.livejournal.com
In love with this. You know, looking back over it, this is really quite a long fic but reading it I didn't feel the length at all. It moved forward always at the exact right time, flowing from one part to another. I love the use of flashbacks, Jack's presence, the wolf pendant, and the ending with the Dalek.

Flawless. Thank you for such a wonderful, wonderful fic.

Date: 2008-10-26 07:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm glad it worked for you.

Date: 2008-10-26 11:19 am (UTC)
ext_19866: (Default)
From: [identity profile] ladychi.livejournal.com
I loved the characters in this! It was a great read so thanks very much!

Date: 2008-10-26 07:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Thank you!

Date: 2008-10-26 11:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] asahifirsa.livejournal.com
This is wonderful! I love the possible futures, the technicolor references, just everything. Adding it to my memories!

Date: 2008-10-26 07:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Thank you!

Date: 2008-10-26 12:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bazoolium.livejournal.com
Wow. This is amazing. Really wonderful.

Date: 2008-10-26 07:05 pm (UTC)

Date: 2008-10-26 12:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] foreverrhapsody.livejournal.com
Ooo, I love this. Great job. I especially liked the Mickey/Jake. :-D

Date: 2008-10-26 07:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Thanks! And, yeah, I'm rather fond of that pairing myself. ;)

Date: 2008-10-26 01:06 pm (UTC)
such_heights: amy and rory looking at a pile of post (dw: rose)
From: [personal profile] such_heights
"Rose, you have no imagination. Ooh, synchronizers!"

Oh I see what you did there. :D :D :D

Oh wow, oh wow, I love this so much! Welcome to the fandom, I am terribly delighted to have you. This is perfect and beautiful and fantastic. I am often not much of a Rose/Doctor person but this was spectacular, everything about it.

Date: 2008-10-26 07:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
What can I say, I couldn't resist. Jack and Kaylee would totally bond.

Thanks so much!
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