Author: The Laughing Duchess
Spoilers: Through the Runaway Bride, heavy spoilers for Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel.
Disclaimer: They belong to the BBC and Russell T. Davies, not to me.
Summary: The easiest way back is the hardest to find.
Special thanks to darksylvia for the beta job. She did a ton of work on this a long time ago and never really got a big enough thank you.
Comments and crit are much appreciated!
Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.
Plurality ought never be posed without necessity.
All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one.
She lived in a fog. People told her to live here, work there, and to smile, so she did.
“You just need time,” Jackie told her.
Rose was pretty sure that was called irony.
The mission was tough and she was tired of the sound of guns that seemed to follow her around these days. She thought of Jack and the silence of his sonic blaster and wished that the future weren’t so very far away. She was going to go deaf from this job.
They were spread out now, Jake and Mickey with the prisoner, the rest of the team sweeping through the building in search of the accomplice. She stood next to a table where an object that was more than a gun but not quite a bomb ominously lay. No one knew what kind of damage it could do. Well, no one but the prisoner and he said he wasn’t talking to anyone but the Doctor.
How he even knew about the Doctor was beyond her, but he did know about him, at least about her first one. She smiled as memories rolled over her gently. Jeopardy friendly, that Doctor had called her, and it was just as true here as it had been there.
Mickey’s arm came around her bringing her back to the present, “You okay?”
She nodded and rested her head against his shoulder.
“He says he wants to talk to you.”
She pulled away as she began rolling her head around on her neck, feeling tight tendons stretch and relax. She noticed how full of bullet holes the walls were and wondered how her life had turned into this.
“Do you think he really knew him?”
“I don’t know, Mick. ‘S possible, I suppose.”
“I don’t think you should talk to him, Rose, let me and Jake handle this one. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
She looked at him and smiled before slowly turning to pull a small handgun off the table. She tucked it into the back of her pants and remembered a time when she had believed that blasters being turned into bananas was a good idea.
The Doctor wouldn’t have liked the way this world worked and she knew that, but this world didn’t have him, so how else could they manage? She nodded to Mickey and they headed off to the prisoner.
The prisoner was sitting slumped in a chair, his elbows resting on a battered metal table. As she walked into the room his head snapped up in anticipation. When no one else followed her in he settled his eyes on her. She remained silent as he sized her up slowly. “You’re not supposed to be here.”
“Neither are you.”
He was a Slitheen, although, at the moment, he was disguised as a footballer.
“Where is the Doctor?”
“He’s not here.”
“When will he be back?”
She ignored the question as she leaned over the table and gave him her hardest stare.
“How many of you are there?”
The Slitheen looked at her nervously. “It’s just the two of us. Honestly, we just wanted you to think there were more of us.”
“I’m not going to go out and find a Slitheen army invading France or anything then?”
“No. It’s just us. We were only trying to draw out the Doctor.”
The Slitheen looked down at his hands, his fingers pulling at each other as if he wasn’t comfortable. She briefly wondered if the body was too small for him.
“We want to go home.”
His voice was so low that she wasn’t sure that she’d heard him right.
“We’d like to go home.” He took a deep breath and stopped fiddling with his hands. “Three years ago we got trapped in this universe when you lot were playing around with the void. We set off a distress beacon but it must not be working properly…none of our people have come for us. Now, you might be content to stay here, but we want to go back. We thought the Doctor…we thought he might help us.”
A laugh burst from her lips as she stared at him, open-mouthed. For a moment she thought she might throw up. Tears stung her eyes and she wiped them away before they could fall.
“He’s not coming back.”
The Slitheen looked at her, eyes rounding with fear. He ran his hands through his hair and she tensed, thinking he was going for the zipper, but all he did was rub at his face. She realized she wasn’t the only one who was close to crying.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “Your beacon is probably working fine, It’s just that there’s no Raxicoricophalipatorius in this universe. Unfortunately for both of us, there’s no Doctor here either.”
He looked up at her, the desperation clear in his eyes. “Are you saying we’re stuck here?”
“For how long?”
Rose looked him straight in the eye. “Forever.”
In May she fell in love. It was unexpected and fast--too fast according to Jackie, but Rose didn’t care, because it had been so long since she’d felt anything but nothing and this, this was heaven. He wore thick-rimmed glasses and a battered leather jacket and had an air of recklessness that made her feel at home.
He took her to Barcelona.
They wandered the city like nomads and on their last night she laughed loudly as they drunkenly ran naked into the dark waters of the Mediterranean. When her toes could no longer touch bottom, he pressed up against her back and wrapped his arms tightly around her. They floated in absolute silence as the waves rolled softly around them. Rose stared up and watched as the clouds made their way across the moonlit sky.
“Tell me about the stars,” he whispered.
It was a dangerous game she’d been playing. He thought her stories were made up. She’d never actually corrected him.
“What do you want to know?”
“If you had to choose between going anywhere up there or staying here with me, which would you choose?”
Her body tensed and she knew she should tell him, it wasn’t fair to lie, but what good would the truth do for either of them?
She turned around in his arms and pressed her mouth to his, hands clutching his shoulders as his lips opened against her own. They drifted back to the shore on the tide and he was inside her before she could even lie back in the sand.
Later, he pressed kisses onto the back of her neck while she contemplated why anyone ever thought doing this on a beach was a good idea.
He trailed his tongue around the shell of her ear before whispering, “I want you to marry me.”
Her heart thumped painfully in her chest and she looked out over the deserted beach as his hand found hers in the darkness. She glanced down at their entwined fingers, and reminded herself that sometimes life was unbelievably cruel.
She took a deep breath. "I can’t.”
She rolled onto her back and looked up at the sky as the story of her life finally fell from her lips. When she finished, he wiped the tears from her eyes, leaned down, and kissed her deeply.
“You belong to someone else, huh?” he asked minutes later, his voice low and husky.
She nodded as his tongue trailed down her neck.
“And you’ve promised forever to him, then?”
His teeth sank lightly into the skin between her neck and her shoulder and she couldn’t stop the shiver that ran through her body.
He drew back and looked her directly in the eye.
“I don’t believe you.”
“Everyone saw it coming,” Jackie told Rose bluntly two months after the engagement was called off.
On a cold January night, Rose realized she was in the middle of an intervention of sorts. Her mum, Pete, and Mickey were staring at her across the kitchen table with so much care in their eyes, she felt ashamed for not having gotten over the whole thing already. Jake stood off to the side by a window, silently looking out at the stars. His back was tense and his jaw was clenching. She inhaled deeply as she thought about how unfair it was that the two of them were the only ones that knew what it was to lose someone forever.
Her mother’s voice shook when she finally continued, “You shouldn’t use other people like that, sweetheart. He was never going to be the Doctor, but he was a good man.”
“I know,” Rose said, her voice slightly guilty.
Mickey’s hand slid across the table and covered her own as he spoke. “We think you should talk to someone.”
Rose nodded, because he was probably right, but she knew she wouldn’t go. The pain was like glue now; if she released it she’d crumble.
Jackie stared at her knowingly. “You can’t keep waiting for him to come back and you can’t keep blaming the world because he hasn’t.”
“I’ve got the name of the best therapist in London,” Pete said. “He’s very discreet.”
The room fell silent and she felt tension coiling around them as they waited for her to accept what they were offering. She intended to say something, but felt herself rising from the table instead. Three pairs of eye trailed her as she made her way over to Jake. Outside the window the sky was so cloudy she could barely make out the moon.
“What do you think?” she asked him.
He gave a sad smile to the darkness before turning to face her. When his eyes met hers she could see they were empty. “They need to think you’re moving on.”
“I know. I thought that I was. Have you?”
Jake sighed deeply before he turned back to the window.
“I just...I found a way to pass the time, Rose.”
“Torchwood.” He whispered before he stepped away from her and made his way back to the others.
Rose looked back out at the sky and thought for a moment. She could do that, it would be easy to do that, and then everyone would leave her alone.
Her hand came to rest on the glass and she felt the cold seep into her fingertips.
“Torchwood.” She whispered.
She was there on the day that they figured it out. Time travel. So much more advanced this universe, so much more scientifically inclined.
It didn’t seem like it was that long ago that she’d agreed to let them scan her subconscious. Every moment she’d spent on the TARDIS had been uploaded onto a computer, which meant that every inch she had seen of the ship and every word the Doctor, or Jack, or anyone had ever said about how to fly it or control it in her presence had been accessible to Torchwood’s scientists.
For months they created model after model and theorem after theorem until they’d finally hit the jackpot. She was invited into a meeting to hear the explanation as to why it would work, but she skipped it. Science was never really her thing to begin with.
While everyone else was busy celebrating, she found herself growing more and more nervous about having played a part in it. She hadn’t thought it would happen so fast, it was barely a year since they’d started, and yet here it was, a shiny new toy for mankind to play with. She thought the Doctor would probably have killed her for helping.
A dizzying three months after the initial breakthrough, they had finally built a prototype, The Eternity Machine. She went to the unveiling and listened as a rather excited man in a white lab coat told everyone how they’d made it out of salamandrea metal, which allowed it to both withstand the heat of the vortex and blend into whatever landscape it materialized in. Rose eyed it somewhat disinterestedly; it wasn’t anywhere near as much fun as the TARDIS had been. For one thing, it was exactly as big on the inside as it was on the outside, for another it looked like a zeppelin.
She couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
One month later Pete asked her if she wanted to go on the first official trip through time in this universe. The question left her vaguely uncomfortable, and she told him that she wasn’t sure about time traveling without the Doctor. Pete told her not to be silly.
“It’s not like he’s not traveling through time without you, Rose. Besides he’d be the first one in line for a spin if he were here.”
“When are we going to?”
“Just a quick trip, one week into the past. You’ll land around the Victoria Embankment Garden, walk over to Torchwood, buy a paper, film some footage in order to prove that it happened and then head right back. Nothing you can’t handle.”
“Travel back on our personal timelines?” She started incredulously. “Are you mad? That’s…that’s ridiculous, dangerous even. It doesn’t make any sense! We’d be better off going back a hundred years.”
“We’re aware of the dangers, but it’s already been decided. No one wants to risk an accident. For this first attempt we’re not taking any chances. If something were to happen, Rose, do you really want to be stuck a hundred years in the past?”
“No, but, the Doctor always said-“
“The Doctor doesn’t make the rules here!”
Pete’s face was flushed red and he stared at her the way he often had when she’d first arrived here. Like she was a problem he wanted to make go away. He ran his hands over his face and spoke to her pleadingly. “Look, Mickey and Jake are going too, the three of you know what to expect. Do you really want them to have to go with someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing?”
She stared at the floor, trying to work out what the right thing to do was. For the first time in a long time, she was very afraid.
“No,” she said as she looked up at him.
He smiled and clapped his hands together.
“Good. ‘Cause I already told your mother you were about to go down in history. She’s incredibly chuffed about it. Are you still coming for dinner tomorrow?”
Rose nodded as his mouth continued to form words she didn’t quite comprehend. She was about to go down in history, exactly for what she wasn’t quite sure.
Three weeks later, on the first day of May, she ignored her unease and followed Jake, Mickey, two departmental scientists, and a reporter on board the Eternity. They strapped themselves in and counted down from one hundred. Rose closed her eyes and held her breath when she pushed down on the button.
For one long moment, nothing happened, but just as the thought of failure flitted across her mind, the machine shuddered and an almost familiar screeching noise grated her ears. When she realized they’d done it her eyes flew open and an old thrill ran through her.
She really had missed this.
She heard the com crackling with the shouts of joy that were coming from the Torchwood office they’d left behind and a sense of accomplishment settled low in her stomach. She and the Doctor had made this all possible.
Moments later they landed in a park and ran to a spot where they could see the doors of their office building. She giggled when everyone but her and the reporter sat down on a low wall and attempted to hide themselves behind their just purchased newspapers.
“This isn’t obvious at all,” she announced as she plopped herself down next to Mickey.
For five minutes they watched their co-workers walking into work, no one paid any attention to them and the entire mission was running smoothly.
“There’s Kendra.” Mickey said to Rose pointing out his newest girlfriend as she made her way towards the doors to the building. Rose looked up just in time to see a man that was not Mickey gather Kendra into his arms and kiss her.
“Oi!” Mickey cried out as he jumped up and ran towards them.
She and Jake both sprang up behind him but it was Jake's hand that reached out and stopped him. He pulled Mickey back and she held her breath until she was satisfied that they hadn’t been noticed. She felt anger come bubbling up inside and counted to ten before she turned back to Mickey. His eyes were wide and his jaw slack and Jake was staring at him with a face that was white as a sheet.
“Have you forgotten how all of this works?” She hissed.
“She’s cheating on me!”
“You’re seeing three other girls!” Jake said through gritted teeth.
Rose looked at him as if he had grown a second head. “You could’ve created a paradox!”
He looked ashamed for a moment, but then cockily raised an eyebrow at her. “So full of it, you are. What would you know about creating paradoxes?”
Rose didn’t answer. It was as if the air had been knocked from her lungs.
“I know not to touch the baby.” She whispered.
Mickey looked around for a moment. “What baby?”
She came back to her senses then and silently berated herself for speaking aloud. Her eyes met Jake’s and she realized that she’d given something away.
“What are you talking about Mickey?”
Jake looked at her and cocked an eyebrow. “You said not to touch the baby Rose, what does that mean?”
“Nothing! It was just something the Doctor once said,” she lied. “It doesn’t matter. Are we done here?” She asked, turning to the reporter who was still filming the area. When he nodded she began to make her way back to the Eternity.
Jake looked at Mickey. “Do you believe her?”
“Not a chance.”
Jake sighed and ran his hand over his face. “I knew this was a bad idea.”
When they arrived back at Torchwood they were taken in for a debriefing and then a small party was thrown where there were toasts and speeches and applause all around. Rose was feeling pretty good until she noticed that Pete was speaking to Mickey and Jake and throwing furtive glances her way. When she noticed that none of them would meet her eyes her stomach sank.
Not surprisingly, she was called into Pete’s office early the next morning. He asked her to sit and then simply told her she would no longer have access to the Eternity.
Instead of responding she stared straight out the window behind his desk. She took in the sight of the zeppelins drifting slowly across the sky as his voice continued to fill the air with platitudes.
“I’m so sorry, Rose. Maybe in time…”
She looked back up at him, noticing that his face was sweaty with embarrassment and his eyes were full of nervous fear. Suddenly she knew that he knew he was possibly breaking her.
She took a deep breath and put on a little smile.
“It’s okay, Pete. It wasn’t the same anyway.”
He looked at her and nodded with relief. After a few more minutes of small talk she left him convinced that she really was fine. She had become a much better liar since she’d arrived in this universe.
When she was back in her office and the door was locked safely behind her, she went to the window and rested her head against the cool glass. The sun was shining brightly and there were people walking around happily in the spring warmth below her. The river ran swiftly and she watched it as she waited for the tears that refused to come.
“Maybe it’s for the best,” she said to herself quietly. “Probably wouldn’t have worked anyway.”
She looked out over London for a few minutes trying to figure out why she felt numb. She wanted to be furious or panicked or hysterical or something, anything but this emptiness again. Her plan kept rolling though her mind, but it was impossible without the Eternity.
She shifted her focus so she could see her reflection in the glass. Her eyes looked back at her, steady and clear.
“You’re never going to see him again,” she whispered.
She stared at her own image for a few moments more, wondering what kind of person she’d become if she actually started to believe that. Her reflection held no answers.
She tucked a few errant strands of blonde hair back into place, took a deep breath, filed her plan away to the back of her mind, and went back to work.
She waited until no one thought she would do anything stupid and then went and did exactly that.
At 2:45 PM, exactly two weeks since she’d been allowed back on the project, Rose Tyler waved her passkey over the security lock, paused for a retinal scan, walked into the Eternity Machine, and locked the door. She reached into the messenger bag she had slung across her body and pulled out a piece of paper that had a string of numbers written on it.
She had known for more than a year exactly where and when she wanted to go, her mother’s birthday, six years earlier, London. She programmed the co-ordinates, checked them against the paper, and felt her stomach flip as the machine began the process of dematerialization. The Eternity shuddered and then it went perfectly still.
She was in the vortex.
Rose barely had time to realize she had made it when a voice came crackling through the com.
It was Pete, his panicked voice roaring across space and time.
“Rose! Respond please.”
She stood there, staring at the com, suddenly angry that he wanted to reach her.
“Rose! We’ve already tracked you. We can force you back, but it would be better for everyone if you did it on your own.”
She pressed down on the com switch. “I’m sorry Pete. I can’t do that. Not yet.”
“Listen to me. I know where you’re going and it’s too dangerous. You could destroy everything. Think, Rose! He wouldn’t want you to do this.”
“I just want to see him. That’s all.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t let you do that.”
“I won’t mess anything up, I just need to do this.”
“It’s not my decision to make! This recall, it hasn’t even been fully tested, but they say they’re going to use it. They’ll release a magnetic pulse that will destabilize the vortex and pull you back in. When you arrive, I will have no choice but to arrest you. Please, Rose. Don’t make me have to do that.”
Rose stood there for a moment. The Doctor had never said anything about being able to destabilize the vortex, had he?
“I’m sorry Pete. I’ll be back, I promise.”
She stepped away from the com and listened as Pete shouted to her to come back that instant and then heard him shouting at someone else to give him more time.
He wasn’t given it.
Rose was thrown to the ground as the ship shuddered; it felt like the Eternity had hit something. Sparks flew everywhere and then she could feel she was falling. As her head banged down on the console, she realized she’d done this before. A memory of the first time she’d come to this universe flashed though her mind.
“What’s happened?” She’d asked the Doctor.
“The Time Vortex, it’s gone. That’s impossible, it’s just gone!”
And then there was darkness.