Seed Pearls by HonorH



Summary: When all Rose's memories of the Doctor are stripped away from her, she knows something is terribly wrong--but occasionally, just occasionally, the universe gives back as much as it takes away.
Rating: Teen
Categories: Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor
Characters: Jackie Tyler, Jackie Tyler, Martha Jones, Mickey Smith, Mickey Smith, Other Character(s), Other Character(s), Pete Tyler, Pete Tyler, Rose Tyler, Rose Tyler, The Doctor (10th), The Doctor (9th), Torchwood, Unspecified Companion, Unspecified Companion
Genres: Action/Adventure, Het
Warnings: Explicit Sex
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2007.02.03
Updated: 2007.02.28


Index

Chapter 1: Forgotten
Chapter 2: The Brown-eyed Man
Chapter 3: Doctor John Smith
Chapter 4: Tea and Attraction
Chapter 5: The True Story of the Big, Bad Wolf
Chapter 6: Over the Moon
Chapter 7: Sharing Secrets
Chapter 8: Yfelwulf
Chapter 9: Come With Me
Chapter 10: Holiday
Chapter 11: Truth
Chapter 12: Follow the Bad Wolf
Chapter 13: Red Riding Hood
Chapter 14: Old Stories Made New
Chapter 15: The Oncoming Storm
Chapter 16: Bad Wolf
Chapter 17: Epilogue


Chapter 1: Forgotten

Author's Notes: In Which Our Heroine Loses Something Important


“Time heals all wounds, or at least that’s what humans say. It’s not true. Time has wounds of its own, in reality. And outside of reality, for that matter, but that’s not something you often have to worry about. To stay on the point, time itself can be wounded, and the universe with it.

“How? Generally, it happens in the way that flesh becomes wounded. Two things that are not supposed to encounter each other, at least not in a particular place or time or way, intersect, and a wound is created. Sometimes several wounds. A knife is a fine thing, and so is a finger; however, put the two together, and, well, I’m sure you see where this is going.

“So it is with time and the universe, and Rose Tyler. There was nothing inherently wrong with her new universe, nor with her. In fact, I’d say a great deal was right about them. Nonetheless, they were not supposed to come together. Mickey and Jackie could slip in because versions of themselves had been present in that universe and conveniently died, leaving something like placeholders. In Rose’s case, only a Yorkie had existed in her stead, and a human and a small, yappy dog are hardly the same thing. Hence, the wound to the universe.

“Perhaps that was one reason Rose felt compelled to stay with me–because she knew, on some level, that her presence on the other Earth would be unwelcome. One reason, mind you; I know of the others. Rasillon’s shorts, I’m not that thick.

“Back to the wound. You’re probably asking yourself at this moment why, if I know all of this, would I have insisted Rose go? The answer is very simple: it was a wound, but not a mortal one. No one would die, the Reapers wouldn’t descend, the universe wouldn’t tear itself to pieces, and most importantly, Rose would be safe and alive. It was a wound that would heal of its own accord.

“Yes, the universe heals itself; you’ve no idea the problems you’d have if it didn’t. Actually, you wouldn’t exist, in all likelihood. It’s similar, in a way, to how the human body heals. The wound is cleaned out, dead tissue cut away, and then the natural healing processes can take over, leaving a scar. The body, however, remains sound.

“It can, as you might imagine, be quite painful.”


***

Less than a month after Bad Wolf Bay, Rose realized she was losing her memories.

She’d actually been losing them before she noticed. Small things had slipped away from her, things she didn’t necessarily think about and would likely have lost anyway.

She only came to realize her memories of the Doctor were fading when she tried to tell one of her co-workers how she’d met him. For so long, she’d been able to remember, with crystal clarity, the feeling of his hand grabbing hers and his voice telling her to “Run!” Now she couldn’t, and she knew she should. She spent half the night racking her brain to try to dredge up any memories of that night. She even tried asking her mother and Mickey, but they couldn’t seem to recall what she’d told them.

As she tried to chase down that memory, she came to realize that months of her life now existed in her mind as Swiss cheese, full of holes. She couldn’t remember the sound of her second Doctor’s voice, or the color of her first Doctor’s eyes. She couldn’t remember the things he’d said, the places they’d been, the people they met. The name of the handsome American they’d met–when? Where?–eluded her. How the Doctor had changed and the events surrounding his regeneration were gone.

In their place, she was suddenly remembering a childhood with both parents. The Powell Estates flat became a series of increasingly-nice houses, and the meaningless jobs were replaced with society functions and A-levels. Rather than being forced through a dimensional breach, she had grown up there and learned about Torchwood after the Cybermen attack.

And she knew it was all wrong.

The thought drove her to despair and halfway to madness. She tried to write down her remaining memories of the Doctor, but they fled just ahead of the words she wanted to put on paper. It was no good asking her mother or Mickey, either; they didn’t understand what she was talking about, and they’d forget she asked within minutes.

Finally, one day, clinging desperately to the last shreds of her life with the Doctor, Rose refused to get out of bed, sobbing until she fell into an exhausted sleep.

When she awoke, she couldn’t remember what she’d been crying about.

Back to index


Chapter 2: The Brown-eyed Man

Author's Notes: In Which Our Heroine Is Psychoanalyzed


“Why now? Yes, Rose maintained her memories for months inside her new universe. Why lose them only after Bad Wolf Bay? You’ll recall, I’m sure, that I used a tiny breach to send my message to her. It closed soon afterward. All the breaches between her universe and ours did the same within the following weeks. And that, you’ll note, was exactly when Rose’s memories started ebbing away and new memories took their place. That was when her new universe began closing its wounds.

“I know it seems terribly brutal to be stripped of one’s memories, have them changed like that. In fact, it is terribly brutal. I don’t mean to minimize it. I’ve had friends . . . but that’s a story for another time. Two things must be understood about what’s happening to Rose.

“First, the new memories are not, in fact, false. Time is overwriting itself, creating a space for Rose Tyler where there hadn’t been one before. In effect, although Rose Tyler lost her father when she was a baby and grew up in the bad part of London–well, one of the bad parts, anyway–she also grew up with both parents and is heir to Pete Tyler’s fortune.

“All right, I do see where this is confusing. Perhaps it’s better to think of her as being two people, or having two lives. Easier?

“No, I’m afraid I really can’t explain better than that. Just take my word for it that the universe made a place for her, starting after the last breach had been sealed and spreading backward in time so that she had always been there. Cleaning the wound, you see.

“The second thing that you must understand is that although Rose may not recall the time she spent with me, she has still had those experiences. She retains whatever growth and strength she found aboard the TARDIS. It’s merely been worked into what she is now. No spoiled society princess, she.

“So, to bring us up to speed, Rose Tyler works at Torchwood, which operates under the guise of one of Pete Tyler’s businesses since he took an interest in funding it after the Cybermen. As far as her world is concerned, she’s his protégé and one of the less empty-headed heiresses in recent memory. The tabloids don’t find her that interesting, even, and I say, good for her. There are records of her birth, her schooling, her passport, everything, and they are not forged. She’s the daughter of Pete and Jackie Tyler, soon to become a big sister.

“It’s a boy, by the way.”

***

A therapist showed up at the Tyler estate the day after Rose’s breakdown. Jackie had called her, concerned about her daughter’s state of mind.

Dr. Jane Woods met Rose in her private study, which was strewn with books and papers for her work and university courses. Rose herself stared out the window at the rain, expression inscrutable.

“Dunno what’s wrong with me,” said Rose as soon as Jane introduced herself. “I’ve got great parents, baby brother or sister on the way, friends, a job I love–I’ve got everything. Why’m I crying all day?”

“I can’t tell you the answer to that, Rose,” said Jane. “What I can do is hopefully help you to find the answer yourself.” She folded her hands and rested them on her knees. “Before we go on, you should know that I am on contract to Torchwood, so you may feel free to discuss your job with me.”

“Torchwood hires psychiatrists?” Rose laughed. “Suppose it makes sense. Someone’s got to keep our heads on straight, all the things we see.”

“That’s one way to put it,” said Jane, laughing a bit herself before sobering again. “Rose, I’d like you to tell me why you’ve been crying. Just work through your emotions, no matter if you think they make sense or not. What do you feel before you start to cry?”

Rose looked out the window again. “Sad. Lost. Alone. I feel like . . . like I’m missing something important, and I can’t remember what it is.”

“Alone,” Jane repeated. “Why do you feel alone?”

“I don’t know,” said Rose, rubbing her forehead. “I’ve got my parents, my mates, my coworkers–I shouldn’t feel alone, but I do.”

“Anyone can feel alone, no matter how many people they have in their lives,” said Jane. “Do you have any close friends? Anyone you can talk to when you feel like this?”

“About the closest I’ve got is Mickey. He’s my ex-boyfriend, but we’ve stayed good friends. Better friends than boyfriend and girlfriend, actually. He’s a good bloke. He’s been worried about me, too.” Rose sighed. “Still, it’s not like . . .”

Jane waited a few moments before prompting, “Like?”

“Oh, this is going to sound so stupid,” said Rose. “I have this dream–well, it’s not so much a dream as a person who keeps popping up in my dreams. He’s a good-looking bloke, tall, beautiful brown eyes, always wears a pinstriped suit for some reason.” She had to chuckle. Now that she was talking about him out loud, it really did sound funny.

“Natty, for a dream,” said Jane, smiling.

“S’pose he is. He doesn’t have a name. I just call him the Brown-eyed Man. Like I said, he keeps popping up in my dreams. An’ whenever he does . . .” Rose swallowed hard. “He makes me feel safe. Like nothing can hurt me, even if the dream was a nightmare before he came in. Like I can tell him anything, and he’ll still love me. And the thing is, I feel love from him in my dreams, just rolling off him in waves. It makes me feel like–like he’ll always accept me, no matter what.” She choked with sudden tears. “He’s just a dream, and I’m crying over him! It’s so stupid.”

“It’s not stupid, Rose,” said Jane gently. “I think the Brown-eyed Man represents something very important for you. You want that kind of unconditional acceptance. You want that intimacy, but you haven’t found it. Have you ever let yourself get that close to anyone?”

“Not really.” Rose wiped her tears away with a tissue. “I love my parents, but things were topsy-turvy when I was growing up. They separated when I was a baby, and then Dad came back a few months later. Repeat that at five, seven, and thirteen. Last few years, they’ve really settled down, and now with this new baby on the way, I think they’ve finally got it right.” She sniffled. “I hope so, anyway, if only for the baby.”

“What about your friends? Boyfriends?”

Rose snorted a little. “Didn’t you read the tabloids a few years back? ‘HEIRESS ROSE TYLER RUNS OFF WITH MUSICIAN!’ Jimmy bloody Stones, thoroughbred bastard. I wasted almost a year on him before I came to my senses and figured out he liked groupies and smack more than me.” She thought a moment. “He was my first real boyfriend, y’know. First guy I ever slept with. I’m just lucky I didn’t wind up pregnant or get some horrible disease from him.”

“Sounds like a bad experience,” said Jane in a neutral tone. “And after him?”

“After him, I went with Mickey,” said Rose. “He felt . . . safe. Nice guy, wouldn’t stomp on my heart and throw it in the trash. An’ it was good. We had a lot of good times, but it just kind of gave out right before I turned twenty. No hard feelings, though. Well, he was upset for a while. I think he was really in love with me, and I just didn’t feel the same way.” Her eyes glistened with tears again. “And that’s the thing. When I dream about the Brown-eyed Man, I don’t just feel love from him; I love him so much it hurts, and I’ve never felt that way about anyone.”

***

Jane ended up diagnosing Rose with “mild dysthemia,” or minor depression.

“If it’s minor, why does it feel so major?” asked Rose.

“Even minor depression can have a crisis point,” said Jane. “It’s all relative, but from what you’ve told me, this is your first experience with depression, and it came on rather quickly.”

“So what do we do? Drugs?”

“I don’t find that drugs are generally the best route for minor depression,” Jane said. “Why don’t we try standard therapy for a while? We’ll meet weekly, and I’ll give you some homework to do on your own. Don’t worry; if the homework is too much on top of work and your courses, you don’t have to feel pressured to do it. But I think it’ll do you good. I can always prescribe an antidepressant if you start to feel you really need one, but I’d like to try therapy first.”

Rose agreed with her plan of action. Weekly sessions with Jane helped Rose feel better, but the strange feeling of loss never went away completely. Nor did the Brown-eyed Man fade from her dreams. Their talk eventually turned from the past to the future and how Rose saw her life going.

“I feel a little stuck,” she said one week. “I like my work, and it doesn’t bother me that everyone thinks I’m working for my dad, which I’m not, really, but still . . .” She sighed a little. “I keep feeling like there’s more.”

“Everyone feels like that from time to time,” said Jane. “It’s part of the human condition to want more. We can certainly discuss some ways to turn that feeling into action. In fact, I have one for you now.”

“What’s that?” Rose asked.

“I think you need to get out of your parents’ house,” said Jane. “I think you need to get a place of your own, and a dog. Or a cat. I’m not prejudiced against species. The bottom line, Rose, is that you’re a young woman coming into adulthood, and I believe you need to feel more independent. It would make you feel like you have more control over your life to have a place of your own and something to care for.”

Jane’s words made sense. After thinking it over for a few days, Rose approached her parents and let them know that she was going to move out.

“You’ll want the space, with the new baby and all,” she said. Her mother was almost seven months along. “I’ll be living in London, so I’ll be around, but Jane’s right. It’s time I grew up.”

She dipped into her trust fund and purchased a town house, which she shared with Shannon and Darcey, two friends from work. Then she went down to a local animal shelter and adopted a medium-sized brown mutt that she named, for no reason she was aware of, “Captain Jack.”

***

“Did I mention that while she doesn’t have conscious memories of the life she shared with me, Rose does, on some level, feel it? That’s the thing about experience; you can never erase it completely. Thus, she dreams about me, and she names her dog Captain Jack.

“Yes, I do find it funny, as a matter of fact. Don’t you?”


***

By the time Pete Jr. was born, Rose had come out of her depression. She felt like she was moving forward and enjoying life again. Work was fulfilling, and she adored her little brother. She’d also decided to live only off her Torchwood salary for at least a year, which Jane thought was a good idea.

“I don’t want to be one of those rich girls who doesn’t know what it’s like to live on a budget,” said Rose during their weekly session.

“What about friends?” Jane asked.

“My roommates are great,” said Rose. “Of course, Mum keeps telling me I need to ‘Get out there and meet new people,’ which is code for ‘the father of my future grandchildren.’” She laughed. “You’d think having a new baby of her own would be enough, but no, she wants me to get settled and start having a family of my own. I keep telling her I’m only twenty-one and nowhere near Crazy Cat Lady territory.”

“When do you think you’ll want to settle down?” asked Jane.

“Dunno. Happens when it happens, I guess. Taking care of Captain Jack is hard enough right now.”

Jane looked at her, thoughtful. “What about the Brown-eyed Man?”

Rose hesitated. “I still dream of him, yeah.”

“Tell me, when you date, do you find yourself comparing your dates to him?”

“A little, maybe,” Rose admitted. “But is that really bad? I mean, I want to feel safe and accepted like that.”

“And you should,” said Jane. “The thing you need to keep in mind, though, is that the level of intimacy you’re talking about takes time to build. You may not feel it immediately from any man you date. In fact, it’s highly unlikely. Consider that feeling of safety and acceptance to be the goal of a relationship–not a condition for entering into one.”

What Rose didn’t tell Jane, what she never brought up if she could avoid it, was that the feeling of loss that had driven her into depression had never gone away. She could ignore it now, bury it under work, family and friends, but it still lurked under the surface.

And if at night she dreamed of living mannequins, seas frozen in full fury, black holes looming over her head, and a hand holding her own–well, what could one expect from dreams? It wasn’t anything to bring up to one’s therapist, was it?

Back to index


Chapter 3: Doctor John Smith

Author's Notes: In Which Our Heroine Makes A Surprising Acquaintance


“Perhaps the oddest thing about parallel universes is not how much is different, but rather how much is the same. One would think that with all the branching-off points, each world would be radically different. Yet the same people get born, the same wars get fought, the same politicians get elected, the same scientific discoveries get, well, discovered. Time has a will of its own, and it makes certain that particular events do happen in each world.

“Some of these events can be quite surprising. Particularly so when Time has been forced to make room for a person like Rose Tyler. Not that she knew it at the time, but a trip to Cardiff was about to give her back something she never knew she lost.”


***

Having to go down to the Cardiff Torchwood Hub for a week on an exchange was a welcome distraction for Rose. She decided, on impulse, to take Captain Jack with her for company on the long drive. Her dad had offered her the use of his zeppelin for the journey, but she felt like driving. Decision made, she loaded up her car for the journey, ushered Captain Jack into the passenger-side seat, and headed down.

Everything was fairly routine in Cardiff after a minor invasion by the Morda, a nasty-tempered race that would’ve been terribly hard to deal with if they’d been any larger than Rose’s hand.

“I caught a whole herd of them running from a bullmastiff,” said Toshiko. “Turns out their energy weapons have absolutely no effect on dogs.”

“Sounds a bit Douglas Adams,” said Rose, laughing. “Anything else?”

“A few odd energy fluctuations from the Rift right before you arrived. We’re watching it carefully. So far, it doesn’t seem to be anything threatening. It sometimes acts up in the wake of alien activity. We’re not worried.”

The rest of the week consisted of taking energy readings on the Rift, attending meetings, deciding Owen was a right bastard, and thwarting an attempt by the Norosaii to wipe out humanity with a virus so they could eat all of Earth’s metal. Rose decided to stick around for the weekend and head home Sunday.

Saturday dawned gray and cool, and after breakfast, Rose headed down to the shore with Captain Jack. For some reason, ocean beaches always made her a little melancholy, but in a strangely nice way. She and Captain Jack played together on a lonely stretch for quite some time before she saw anyone else.

Captain Jack was the first to notice they had company. He froze suddenly, lifting his ears a little, and gave a soft “Whuf!” Rose followed his eyes and spotted a jogger coming toward them.

More of a runner, she decided, given the man’s quick pace. He was tall and lean, wearing a gray tee and matching shorts, almost blending into the day.

Captain Jack barked again, louder, and Rose quickly grabbed him in order to attach the leash to his collar. It wouldn’t do for him to go leaping on a perfect stranger (as he was wont to do) and lick him half to death. By the time she’d gotten the squiggling dog under control, the runner had come quite close. Rose saw his face, recognized him, and gave him a glad smile and a “Hi!”

--no, wait, she didn’t know him. He didn’t even look like anyone she knew. He had to be pushing forty, very short hair, raw-boned face, not unattractive, but a face she didn’t know. Why had she thought she recognized him?

He pulled up short, returning her smile and greeting before his brow furrowed. “Do I know you?” he asked in a Northern accent.

“Not sure,” she said. “I thought I recognized you.”

“You’re from London?” he asked.

“Easy to tell?” She rolled her eyes, still smiling. “Yeah, born and raised. You’re from the north.”

“Fellows--it’s a little village near Blyth--originally, yes,” he said. “Though I’ve been living in Leeds for the past few years until I moved to London six months ago. Who’s this?” He indicated Captain Jack, who was straining at his leash, nose working madly.

“This is Captain Jack. Don’t worry; he’s a lover, not a fighter.”

The man let Captain Jack smell his hand and gave him a pat. “So, what’s a girl from London doing in Wales?”

“Business trip,” said Rose. “You?”

“Conference,” he said. “Five hundred medical professionals being systematically bored to death by twenty experts.”

Rose laughed. “You didn’t stand a chance.”

“Bad odds, all right. I suggested rising up and overthrowing our oppressors, but couldn’t get the popular support.”

“Perhaps they were too numb with horror.”

“Excellent thought. I should have set fire to the place.”

Rose laughed again. For some reason, this all felt very familiar and comfortable. She met his gaze briefly. His blue-gray eyes were fixed on her in the most penetrating look . . .

“Um, I should let you get on with your run,” she said, trapping Captain Jack between her knees.

The man seemed as struck by the moment as she. “Have a lovely day, then,” he said, and he resumed his run.

A moment or so later, he turned, ran back to her, and said, “I’m Doctor John Smith, by the way; what’s your name?”

“Rose,” she said.

“Nice to meet you, Rose. You, too, Captain Jack.” And he ran off.

Back to index


Chapter 4: Tea and Attraction

Author's Notes: In Which Our Heroine And Our Hero Drink Caffeinated Beverages Whilst Displaying Chemistry


“What you’re thinking is quite correct. Doctor John Smith is, in fact, a perfect replica of my former self, save for only having one heart and one stomach and merely double-stranded DNA and not being a Time Lord almost a thousand years of age . . . well, they look exactly alike, at any rate. You’re likely wondering just how this happened, if I’m correct--and I usually am.

“To answer that question, I’ll use the illustration of a pearl. Do you know how they’re formed? An irritant is introduced into an oyster, and the oyster, in an effort to stop the irritation, coats the irritant in, basically, itself. Thus, a little piece of sand, a seed, so to speak, becomes something precious.

“Consider Rose the irritant in this scenario. My, she wouldn’t like that, would she? Well, she’s not here, so we’ll go with the metaphor. Rose was placed in this world, not belonging there, and created an irritation.

“I know I called it a wound before. Time Lords can mix metaphors with the best of ‘em, so kindly stop interrupting.

“Besides, both metaphors apply, though in different ways. Rose’s entry and the surrounding events did create a wound in that universe. It’s her continued presence that creates the irritation.

‘However, Rose is not the only seed pearl. Rather, she’s only one part of the same irritant. I think you can guess at the other.”


***

The brief meeting on the beach made more of an impression on Rose than all the Torchwood business she’d done that week. She couldn’t stop thinking about Doctor John Smith. Not for the remainder of the weekend, not during the drive home, not back at work in London. She had to bite her lip to stop herself from talking about him to Shannon when she asked if Rose had met any interesting men in Cardiff, and threw her roommate off by talking about Owen the Jerk.

He’s not even my type, she thought as she tried to sleep Sunday night. Can’t be anywhere close to my age, way more educated, not pretty. Though he did have beautiful eyes.

It was terribly distracting.

***

“Rose might have felt better at this junction if she’d known that in a flat just a few miles away, Doctor John Smith was scolding himself for obsessing about the pretty young blonde he quite literally ran across.

“Quite the matchmaker, the universe. But that’s not the only point of this exercise. Not by far.”


***

By the next weekend, Rose had managed to put the incident (mostly) behind her. She didn’t mention it to Jane, figuring it was a fluke and not worth talking to one’s therapist over.

Besides, she had plenty to occupy her time. Exams were coming up, and between school, work and keeping up with her family, she was exhausted. When she finally got a moment to breathe, she dropped into her favorite café for tea, something sweet and a little relaxation. She picked up her tea and lemon bar at the counter and started looking for an open table in the crowded café.

There he was. Sitting at a table with a half-full cup of coffee beside him, scowling a little at a laptop computer, was Doctor John Smith. Rose froze in place. Her immediate instinct was to go over and say hello, but beyond that?

Hello, remember me? Girl playing with a hyperactive dog in Cardiff last weekend? Well, I remember you. Been obsessing a bit about you, I have. How’s this weather?

Rose shook her head a little at her own thoughts. She spotted an empty table beyond him and decided to head for it and let the chips fall where they may.

As she approached his table, he looked up and met her eyes--and grinned widely. She couldn’t help but return his smile.

“Hello,” she said.

“It’s Rose, right?” he asked. “Where’s Captain Jack?”

“Promised I’d bring something back for him,” she said. “Doctor John Smith, right?” As if she’d had a chance to forget.

“Tough name to remember, I know.” Something in his eyes was almost hopeful, and Rose took a deep breath and a chance.

“D’you mind?” she asked, indicating the empty chair at his table.

“Please do.” He shut his laptop and picked up his coffee. “I could use a break from this.”

Rose sat down, still a little nervous. “What is ‘this’?”

“A surgery report. It isn’t enough to save someone’s life, you see; it’ll all go to hell if you can’t document it properly. Or at least that’s what the hospital seems to believe.” He gave the laptop another look as if it was offending him by its very existence.

“Not the same thing, I know, but having had several papers due recently, I can sympathize,” said Rose. “Aside from which, I had to write up a report of my own on the exchange with my company’s Cardiff branch. Bit unfair when I’ve got exams coming up, but my boss doesn’t seem to care.”

“Even when your father owns the company?” John smiled at Rose’s startled look. “I may not pay much attention to the society pages, but your face leaped out at me from a photograph accompanying a column on Richard Branson’s birthday party last week. You’re Rose Tyler.”

“Guilty,” said Rose. She shifted a little uncomfortably. “He and my father have some dealings together, so I had to put in an appearance. The party was the worst timing in the world what with exams coming up, and I wouldn’t have gone if Mum hadn’t nagged me into it. She doesn’t think I get out enough.”

“I’d imagine she’d be pleased that you’re not on a first-name basis with the tabloids,” said John.

“’S’what I keep tellin’ her,” said Rose. “How would she like ‘Chavvy Heiress Drops Trou at Branson Birthday Bash!’ or somethin’ blaring from the newsstands?”

John laughed. “That would be a tacky headline. One of the hazards of wealth, one supposes.”

Rose sipped her tea, suddenly very self-conscious. “Yeah, well you know us new money--all the vices, none of the class.”

“Well, obviously, there must be something morally wrong with your father if he actually worked for his money,” said John.

“That’s how some people feel, I gather,” said Rose, forcing a laugh. “I’m proud of him. I still remember living in a tiny flat in the Powell Estates when I was little. Gives a little perspective on what we have now.”

John nodded. “I’m convinced that anyone who’s born into money should spend at least a year scraping by on entry-level wages. I have some students . . .” He rolled his eyes. “Stupid, silly creatures.”

“Students?” asked Rose.

“I work at Albion. It’s a teaching hospital, and yes, I work with med students. They’re a different breed.”

Rose grinned. “So you’re Professor Doctor John Smith, eh?”

“My students have some other names for me,” said John, flashing a predatory grin, “but yes. Depending on the day, I might like teaching better than surgery or surgery better than teaching, but I always hate paperwork.”

The conversation flowed easily from there. Rose told him about her coursework, he told her a few funny stories about teaching, she told him about the book series she was reading, he told her about the year he spent in Africa . . . they both lost track of time as they talked.

Time reasserted itself as John’s phone rang. He gave it an irritated look.

“It’s the hospital,” he said. “I’m sorry, Rose; I have to take this.” She smiled at him, letting him know it was all right with her. He lifted the phone to his ear. “Smith. What’s happening?” He frowned a little. “Where’s Weber? Shouldn’t he be on it?” Whatever the other person said drew an impatient sigh. “As a matter of fact, I’m having coffee and a chat with a lovely blonde half my age. No, really, I am. So tell Weber he owes me. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

“Trouble?” asked Rose, amused at his choice of words.

He smiled regretfully at her. “My colleague seems to have picked a very inconvenient time to come down with the flu. One of his patients just spiked a fever, and the attending physician suspects post-operative complications.”

“So you have to go riding to the rescue,” said Rose.

“That’s me. A hero.” John packed his laptop into a bag and stood, grabbing his coat. He looked hesitantly at Rose. “It’s been . . . very pleasant, Rose.”

“It has,” said Rose. She offered him a hand, which he took. “Thanks for the chat. I hope we run into each other again, yeah?”

John seemed to war with himself for a moment. Then he smiled at her again, something having won and something having lost. “I hope so as well. Good afternoon, Rose Tyler.” He let go of her hand and walked away, weaving between the tables to the door.

Rose watched him, warm all over with a fluttery feeling in her belly. What she didn’t feel was the sense of loss she’d been living with for the past few months.

Back to index


Chapter 5: The True Story of the Big, Bad Wolf

Author's Notes: In Which Evil Things Are Afoot, Prompting Heroism And A Kiss


“So, how did this happen, hmm? It’s actually perfectly logical. To me, at least.

“To begin with, you must understand that the most powerful being in this universe, and perhaps any and every universe, is none other than the TARDIS. It’s very true. To control time is to control all matter and energy, as Rose amply demonstrated when she took in the Time Vortex. That’s why the Time Lords imposed such strictures upon ourselves concerning the use of any TARDIS.

“I’ve been offered ultimate power more than once. The last time was when the Krillitane offered to let me in on finding the Theory of Everything. The time before that was when I took in the Time Vortex. It’s entirely possible I could have held onto it for much longer than Rose did, used it with more skill. I am a Time Lord, after all.

“All I wanted, however, was to save the life of the woman I . . .

“I loved her.”


***

“I can’t stop thinking about him,” Rose confessed to Jane in their session the following day. “It’s not like I haven’t had instant crushes before, but usually they were on guys my own age or crushes on teachers or what not. I don’t just run across a bloke by chance, talk with him for two minutes, and get obsessed, y’know?”

“You said you thought you recognized him when you first saw him,” said Jane. “Who did he remind you of, do you think?”

Rose thought about it for a few silent minutes. “This is going to sound really strange, but the truth is, he--he reminded me of the Brown-eyed Man. They don’t look a thing alike, but there’s something about him that I . . . I don’t know how to explain it.”

Jane made a thoughtful sound. “Perhaps you feel like this mystery man of yours is a safe outlet for these feelings. How long has it been since you had a date, Rose?”

“Dunno. Couple months, maybe. I haven’t dated anyone seriously since Mickey and I broke up. I’ve been so busy with work and school, I haven’t even been thinking about blokes.” She looked out the window. “It has been a while, hasn’t it?”

“How do you feel about that?”

Rose shrugged. “It doesn’t bother me, actually. I’m tryin’ to get my head on straight here. Getting involved with someone would be a complication I don’t think I need right now.”

“It’s up to you to decide when you’re ready to find a new relationship,” Jane said carefully. “I’d encourage you to think about the qualities you value in a man for now. Perhaps this new crush of yours is a sign that your values are changing when it comes to what you look for in men.”

“Maybe,” agreed Rose. “He’s so different from anyone I’ve ever felt this way about. Sitting there in the café talking to him, it was like I couldn’t believe that this man, with all his education and experience, was really interested in anything I had to say--but he was. I’d swear at the end he was thinking of asking for my phone number.”

“I’d be surprised if he wasn’t,” said Jane. “No complicated psychology there. You’re a beautiful young woman, Rose, and very accomplished for your age. Men have been interested in women for far less.”

“Men have been interested in me for far less,” said Rose, rolling her eyes. “Or a few million more, which is even worse. And you know, normally I’d think a guy pushing 40 asking out a girl in her early 20s is a bit on the skeevy side, but him? He’s definitely not skeevy. Just didn’t give off that vibe.”

Jane leaned back a bit, relaxing. “Well, if you want my opinion--which you must, since you asked for it--I’d say your crush on the mystery man is mostly harmless for now. I’d counsel you to not worry about it. Let it teach you about yourself and leave when it will.”

***

“Yes, well, I’m sure it doesn’t come as a great shock to hear me say that. I’ve loved a great many people in my lives, many of whom have accompanied me on my journeys. Was Rose any more special than any of them?

“Yes and no. It’s really Rose’s position in my life that sets her apart. She was the first person I came to love after the Time War, the first person I opened myself up to. It should be no wonder that I not only came to love her, but fell in love with her. There is a difference there--oh, I’m sure you know that. Just what your mum always told you, I’d wager. Anyway, I rather needed to fall hard for someone during my ninth incarnation, I think, just to get my hearts working again.

“At any rate, that was what spurred my action in saving her when she took in the Time Vortex. It may or may not come as a shock to you that any touch would have done to siphon off the energy. I chose a kiss because, quite simply, it was what I wanted. It was also what she wanted.

“How do I know that? Well, just look what it brought about.”


***

Naturally, Rose got asked out for a date the day after her appointment with Jane. And not by John Smith.

She’d been relaxing at a bookstore, trolling the aisles for something light and fun but not too sappy or fluffy, maybe with some sex because it had been so long since she’d Gotten Any that she was starting to forget what the big deal was, when she literally bumped into a very handsome man, knocking his books right out of his hands. He was perhaps in his mid-twenties, blond with hazel eyes, about her father’s height, with a nice build.

“Oh! I’m so sorry,” Rose gasped.

“It’s quite all right,” the young man reassured her, stooping down to pick up his books. He stood up, flashing the cover of one at her. “See? No harm done.”

The True Story of the Big, Bad Wolf,” Rose read. It was a children’s picture book.

The man gave her a bashful grin. “For my niece. She’s six on Saturday.” He looked at the cover. “I always did think the wolf got a bit of a bad rap in all those stories. Can he help being a carnivore?”

“S’pose not,” said Rose, grinning. “I might have to have a look at that one myself.”

“Great interest in bad wolves?” the young man teased.

“No, little brother I like buying things for,” said Rose.

The young man smiled at her and held out a hand. “I’m Aiden.”

“Rose.” She shook his hand.

They ended up sitting in the bookstore café, chatting. It was all very pleasant, and Aiden was very handsome, but Rose felt odd about it. Almost as if she were cheating on a boyfriend.

Aiden eventually glanced at his watch. “Damn. I’m going to have to go, but I’d love to continue this, Rose,” he said. “Do you like Middle-eastern food? There’s a new restaurant only about two streets over, and I’ve been looking for an excuse to go there. Is there any chance I could get you to go with me?”

Rose hesitated. There was really no reason she shouldn’t go with him, she realized. He seemed very nice, he was easy to talk to, easy on the eyes, it would get her mother off her back . . .

But he wasn’t the man she wanted to go out with.

Of course, she didn’t know if she’d ever see Doctor John Smith again, and if she did, if he’d be interested in her or not. She was caught in an agony of indecision that seemed to stretch into minutes of awkward silence.

Fortunately, before she could formulate a reply, something exploded up the street, rattling every window and dish in the café.

“What was that?” Aiden asked.

Rose was already halfway out the door, dodging through crowds of onlookers as she moved toward the site of the explosion. Her phone rang.

It was her father. “Rose, where are you? Are you all right?” he demanded, fear in his voice.

“Just down the street from the explosion. What was that?” she asked, not slowing.

“I don’t know. There was a strange energy signature in the area. We sent operatives down to investigate it, but none of them are reporting in. I don’t want you down there, Rose.”

“You know me better than that,” said Rose. “I promise I’ll be careful.”

“Fine, but if you get hurt, you’re explaining it to your mother,” said Pete, and she could hear his concern and love through his slight exasperation.

“Fate worse than death. Love you, Dad!” Rose disconnected and continued on her path toward the disaster area.

Smoke and dust billowed toward her, obscuring her vision, and she could hear screams and cries as she drew closer and closer to the site. As the smoke drifted, she got glimpses of the area. The explosion had caused the fronts of buildings on both sides of the street to crumble and collapse, and there was a small crater surrounded by scorch marks in the middle of the street. Her foot hit something soft.

It was a person. A man lay prone in the street, face bloodied and clothing torn. Rose knelt by him, feeling for a pulse. He was still breathing, so she set about performing first aid until emergency services could get there.

A hand closed on her shoulder. She whipped around to see Jake’s face.

“What’s happened?” she asked.

“It’s Cybermen,” said Jake.

She gasped. The Cybermen had disappeared over a year ago, to a different dimension, as far as Torchwood could tell. They’d kept alert to any signs of dimensional breaches, but to Rose’s knowledge, there hadn’t been any.

“We don’t know how,” Jake said, as if he’d heard her thoughts. “Just some strange energy readings, and then they were just here.” He shook his head. “Something’s wrong with ‘em, though. The explosion was one of them. It suddenly overloaded and . . .” He trailed off, looking around. “This is what happened.”

“I just talked to Dad,” said Rose, still working on stanching the blood flow from the worst of the unconscious man’s wounds. “He said no one’s reported back to Torchwood yet.”

“No, there’s something interfering with our radios, but if you talked to him--which direction did you come from?” asked Jake. Rose was a bit disoriented, but pointed vaguely down the street. Jake nodded. “I’ve got to find the rest of the team, and then someone’ll go to find a clear signal. Be careful, Rose.” He disappeared back into the smoke.

Rose decided she’d done as much as she could for the man she’d been working on and moved away, looking for other survivors. She found two bodies and what she thought was part of a Cyberman before she found a woman who was stirring and moaning. “Here, lie still,” said Rose, kneeling by her. It looked like the woman had a badly-broken leg, at the very least, with bone sticking straight through her trousers.

“Fancy meeting you here,” said a familiar voice, and suddenly, Doctor John Smith was at her side, looking over the woman.

Rose’s heart leaped. “Am I glad to see you!” she said. “I know basic first aid, but that’s all. She needs more.”

“I was eating lunch when it happened--whatever it was,” he said. “Since I was so rudely interrupted, I thought I’d lend a hand.”

That he did, very effectively. Rose assisted him as he took care of the woman as much as was possible until emergency crews could get through. She didn’t notice that as she was comforting the pain-stricken woman, John Smith’s eyes were watching her with something like wonder.

After she’d done all she could for the woman, Rose got up and continued her search for survivors. She found a few more with minor wounds and offered what help she could.

“Rose!” It was Jake’s voice, sounding panicked.

Rose raced to him and gave an involuntary shriek as she saw the reason Jake had called her over: Mickey. Her ex-boyfriend-cum-best mate was lying prone, eyes closed, halfway buried in debris. Jake was clearing the rubble from on top of him, and Rose dropped to her knees, frantically seeking signs of life.

“He’s breathing,” she said, as much for her own benefit as Jake’s. “He’s a mess, though.” A thought struck her, and she sat up, searching the area. “Doctor!” she called. “John!”

In a few moments, John Smith’s tall form emerged from the haze. His light blue shirt was streaked with dirt and blood, the evidence of his efforts with the wounded. He knelt by Mickey and examined him quickly.

“His pulse is strong,” said John after a moment. “He’s likely got some broken ribs, though, and possibly some head injuries. There’s not much I can do for him here, but--”

Mickey coughed and moved a little. “Mickey? You in there?” Rose asked, trying to keep panic out of her voice.

“Did we win?” Mickey grunted, and coughed again.

Jake grinned. “He’s in there.”

“ ‘S up for debate,” said Rose in answer to Mickey’s question. “You’ve looked better.”

“Can you move your legs?” John asked.

Mickey opened his eyes, one of which was slightly crossed, and moved one foot. He grimaced in pain. “Think I broke something.”

“I think you broke several somethings,” said John.

“Who’s he?” Mickey asked Rose.

“Doctor John Smith,” said Rose.

“Nice last name.” Mickey peered at John as if he were having trouble focusing.

Rose looked up at John. “John, meet Mickey Smith, one of my best mates.”

“Nice last name,” said John with one of his bright grins. “Maybe we’re related.”

“Never heard that one before,” said Mickey.

“Never said it before,” said John. “What hurts?”

“What doesn’t?”

Before things could get really sarcastic, another explosion--fortunately, much smaller than the first--happened nearby. Jake forced Rose down and protected her and Mickey as debris rained down.

“Better check that out,” said Jake when the debris shower stopped. He gave Mickey’s shoulder a pat. “Take care, mate.” He ran off in the direction of the explosion.

“Now, stop that,” said John, drawing Rose’s attention back from Jake and the other explosion.

Mickey was attempting to sit up. Judging by the look on his face, it didn’t feel too good. John’s hands gently pushed him back down.

“There’s no telling what kinds of internal injuries you might have,” said John.

“Do what the doctor says,” Rose scolded him.

Suddenly, Mickey’s eyes went wide. At the same moment, Rose heard something rattling and scraping behind her. “Rose!” Mickey shouted.

She whipped around to see a Cyberman pushing debris off of itself as it stood up not twenty feet away. Without thinking, she grabbed Mickey’s sidearm and emptied the clip of armor-piercing rounds into the Cyberman. It staggered and, as several more shots rang out from outside Rose’s field of vision--Jake’s, she thought--fell. She lowered her weapon.

And realized John was staring at her, eyes wide. He recovered quickly. “Is that what they teach you at Vitex Industries?” he asked.

As a matter of fact, Torchwood did like to make certain its members were trained in self-defense and marksmanship as well as basic first aid, but Rose didn’t feel like explaining that at the moment. “How about we talk about it later?” she suggested.

There was a crash and a scream from somewhere nearby. “Excellent idea,” said John.

Emergency services had started filtering in, and Rose allowed John to direct them in to carry off Mickey. She went off on her own to find more people in need of first aid. She was grateful to note that the live victims actually outnumbered the dead by at least two to one, but there were a lot of them. The street had been full of lunchtime crowds, and though they’d obviously tried to flee upon sight of the Cybermen, it had happened so quickly that most hadn’t gotten a chance to get out of range before the explosion. Rose offered aid and comfort where she could--a man bleeding profusely from a gaping shrapnel wound in his side, a woman half-buried under rubble, a child crying and crawling out from under her mother’s body--and kept an eye out for more Cybermen. She spotted more Torchwood operatives either gathering information or protecting and aiding the victims and emergency workers.

The sun had almost left the sky before Rose finally decided there wasn’t anything else left that she could do. She was cold, exhausted, covered in dirt and blood, her whole body aching from the physical labor and her heart aching from the sight of all the injured and dead. As emergency services carried off the woman she’d been helping, Rose stood and stretched her tired muscles and looked around.

In the deepening twilight, Rose saw John Smith directing another emergency crew away, carrying a man on a stretcher. She stopped and watched him, admiring the simple grace with which he moved, his calm and commanding presence, his obvious compassion for the wounded and grieved. If she had to pick someone on whom to fixate, she thought, he was not an unworthy target.

His eyes caught hers, and without making a conscious decision to do so, Rose was moving toward him. Everything else faded away to background noise as she drew nearer, and it didn’t even occur to her that she might be unwelcome as she walked right into his arms. And he held her tight, so tight she could barely breathe, her heart felt like it would burst, and she wanted nothing more than to never move from this spot and this man.

“Rose.” His voice was hoarse in her ear, tight with the same longing she felt. She pressed even closer, burying herself in his arms and chest, feeling like she was soaking him up through every pore, and he was filling the emptiness that had haunted her for almost a year.

She murmured his name, shifting so she could look him in the face, and he was kissing her. It was unlike any kiss of her life--tender, loving, full of wonder. She kissed him back, threading her arms up around his neck. This moment, this man, was all she knew. It felt sacred.

It was only when he finally lifted his head and brushed a hand across her cheek that she realized she was crying and he was trembling. He lowered his head to press his forehead against hers.

“Feels like I waited my entire life for this,” Rose whispered.

“I know,” he whispered back, and kissed her between the eyes. “I don’t even know who you are, Rose Tyler. How did this happen?”

“Dunno.” She snuggled in close to him again, laying her cheek against his chest. He was just the right height, she decided. “Can’t make myself care, either. Whatever this is between us, it’s good. Better than anything I’ve felt in forever, it feels like.”

He kissed the top of her head, running a hand into her hair as he held her. “I know exactly how you feel.” For a long moment, they just stood like that, peaceful in the midst of destruction. Then John shifted, pulling back to look at Rose again. “I have to go to the hospital. My work’s not done yet. But Rose, I’d like to--to call you when I’m free.”

He looked so nervous that she almost laughed, but instead gave him a reassuring smile. “Of course you can. Been wishin’ you got my phone number back at the coffee shop.”

“Phone. That’s helpful.” He gave an unsteady laugh, letting her go enough to pull a slim phone from his pocket. “What’s your number?”

Rose also laughed, pulling out her own phone. “I got one of those, too. You give me your number so you can’t chicken out of calling me.”

“I never chicken out of calling women,” said John archly. “Anyone who tells you differently probably knows me entirely too well.”

“Well, I won’t let you get away with that.”

They exchanged numbers, and as John slipped his phone back into his pocket, Rose moved in close again and was rewarded with another kiss. “I’ll call you tomorrow,” John murmured against her lips. “I promise.”

“Good.” She pressed another quick kiss against his mouth, and then he pulled reluctantly away to follow the emergency crews.

And in the chilly London evening, Rose felt warmer than she had in a long, long time.

Back to index


Chapter 6: Over the Moon

Author's Notes: In Which A Date Is Made, Jane Makes A Confession, And Mickey Is Appalled


“In fact, I am in the process of explaining Doctor John Smith and his instant attraction to Rose and vise-versa, so quit muttering. You recall what I told you about the TARDIS? How powerful it is? Keep it in mind. That’s good advice in general, and not just for now, by the way.

“Now we come to Rose’s stint as the Bad Wolf. When she took in the Time Vortex, she became what more than a few cultures would consider a god. In practical terms, there were no limits to her power. Merely wishing for something made it so. She wanted to save me from the Daleks, and she did. She wanted to end the Time War, and it was over--at least until more confounded Daleks found their way out of the Void, but that’s another story altogether. She wanted Jack to live, and he did. And how. The one thing she could not do was to save her own flesh. It would have disintegrated the same way the Daleks did.

“That, of course, was where I came in. I took the Vortex from her, wanting to save her life, and thus, her life was saved. Being as there was no one left to save me, I died and regenerated, but that was a small price to pay for her. You learn the value of life when you have a few to spare and those you love don’t. That’s another good thing to keep in mind.

“Are we up to speed thus far? The next part is much more complicated.”


***

John proved himself yet again to be a very different kind of man when he phoned Rose the next morning.

“Can’t believe it,” she said as she pulled on a shoe with one hand. “Usually, ‘I’ll ring you tomorrow’ is bloke-speak for ‘I’ll think about it and maybe pick up the phone the twenty-first of next month.’”

“I think I’m a little old to be a bloke yet,” said John. He sounded tired.

“Nah. My dad’s still a bloke. Says he’ll be one ‘til he dies.”

“Well, now that we’ve established my blokehood,” said John, “I was hoping we could discuss perhaps having dinner together at some point.”

“I can do that.” Rose realized her cheeks hurt from smiling and hoped the feeling was mutual. “Work’s just gone crazy, I’m afraid, but I should be able to beg off the worst of the overtime this weekend. Saturday okay with you?”

“Saturday should be fine. Weber’s on call this weekend, and he doesn’t dare disturb me. Can I pick you up at six, and do you like seafood?”

“Six is fine, and I love seafood.”

“Good,” said John. “I know the head waiter at the Privateer--I operated on him once--and if I ask, he’ll make certain we’re seated somewhere private. I have the feeling there’ll be things you don’t want overheard.”

Rose hesitated briefly. “Yeah, you could say that. Suppose we have a lot to talk about, an’ better in person, yeah?”

“Definitely better in person,” said John, yawning.

“You sound so tired,” said Rose.

“I was at the hospital all night. I’m still on call, but the good news is that they’re letting me go home, so I have at least a chance to catch a few hours’ sleep.”

“Good. Rest up, then. I’ve got to get to work myself now.” She stood and grabbed a jacket. “John?”

“Yeah?”

“I . . . meant every word of what I said yesterday.” She swallowed. “Just want to be clear on that.”

“You’re an amazing woman, Rose,” said John very softly. “I meant what I said, too.”

“Good,” she said again. “Saturday at six, then. Don’t be late.”

“Never am. Have a good day, Rose.”

They said goodbye and hung up. Captain Jack padded over and sat at her feet, looking up at her expectantly. She patted his head and stroked his soft ears.

“One of these days, Captain Jack,” she said, “that man will be your new daddy.”

***

“I once mentioned that little statement to Captain Jack Harkness. He hasn’t yet run out of the resultant dirty innuendo. Word to the wise: never give him an opening like that.”

***

The meeting Rose got pulled into as soon as she stepped into Torchwood was an exercise in frustration as various directors and team leaders all took their sweet time to expound on variations of “We don’t know what the hell happened.” Scientific terms and hypotheses were tossed around the room with merry abandon, but the upshot was always that no one had anything resembling a clue. Rose was just glad there was plenty of tea available, and someone had thought to bring biscuits.

The two bits of useful information she gleaned were first, that Mickey would be fine and was recovering at Albion Hospital; and second, that Torchwood had called in its entire complement of psychiatrists and counselors to deal with the psychological fallout from the incident. Seeing Cybermen again opened up old wounds for a lot of people on staff. Rose sent an instant message to Jane asking if she had some time open, and a few minutes later, they were sitting together in a private office.

“I had an awful dream last night,” began Rose. “I was at my parents’ house, and we were having a party--I was waitstaff, for some reason--and the Cybermen suddenly invaded. They got my mum. They . . . changed her.” She shuddered at the all-too-vivid memory of the dream. “And then my dad rejected me, saying something about how I wasn’t his daughter, and Mickey left, too. The only person I had left was--was the Brown-eyed Man. He took me to the flat we lived in when I was little, and my mum was there. Last thing I remember from the dream was holding onto her and crying like I’d never stop.” Rose bit her lip, trying to stop herself from crying again. “And there was one other thing--all through the dream, I kept hearing the words ‘bad wolf,’ again and again. Even the Brown-eyed Man said it.”

“It sounds like an awful dream, all right,” said Jane.

“That your professional opinion?” asked Rose, grinning a bit.

“Yes. That’ll be fifty pounds,” said Jane, and they both chuckled. “More seriously, it sounds to me like the Cybermen incident stirred up a lot of issues for you. I understand that you were on scene, and your friend Mickey was among the wounded.” Rose nodded. “Let’s divide out the elements of the dream. First, why do you think you were waitstaff?”

“Well . . .” Rose thought for a minute. “Maybe because now I’ve moved out, I’m not so much a part of my parents’ lives anymore?”

“Sounds plausible. Also, you do a lot for other people, Rose. You put yourself out there for your family, your friends, your work, and then there are the charity events and volunteering you do during the summer. You keep yourself very busy.”

“I don’t want to be one of those empty-headed socialites with too much money and not enough sense,” said Rose, a bit defensively. “I’ve got a lot. Shouldn’t I give back?”

“I’m not questioning what you should do,” said Jane. “I’m only questioning why. Do you keep yourself busy in order to prove something to the world? To get your mind off the depression you suffered? It’s no sin to fear its return, Rose; depression is incredibly painful. I once had a patient who’d gone through cancer treatment as a young woman and years later fell into depression after her marriage broke up, and she told me she’d sooner have the cancer back.”

Rose bit her lip. “Guess I am scared of that, yeah. I . . . hated feeling that way. Hated myself for not being stronger.”

“Which we’ve discussed, and I remind you that depression has nothing to do with strength of will.” Jane’s voice brooked no opposition. “But we’ll stay on the dream for now. Why do you think your mother was the one taken?”

“I’ve always been closest to Mum,” said Rose. “Not that I love my dad any less, but I’m closer to Mum.”

Jane nodded. “And your deepest fear concerning the Cybermen would be that she’d be taken away.” At Rose’s nod, Jane continued. “As for your father rejecting you, you told me during our first session that your parents separated several times when you were younger, and you always stayed with your mother. Did it feel like your father was rejecting you then?”

“It did, yeah,” said Rose, her eyes moist. “He really tried--he’d come by with gifts or to take me out to a movie or to eat--but there was always this nagging feeling that if he really wanted me, he’d have stayed. I didn’t understand why he left. Now I can look back and know that these things are complicated, and he always wanted to do the right thing by me, but back then, it hurt.” She wiped away a stray tear. “Guess it’s the same for Mickey, in a way, except that’s more my fault. I broke up with him, not the other way around, and I sometimes wonder why he’s still my friend. And seeing him yesterday like that . . . I thought he was--I was afraid he was gone.”

“We’ve discussed your abandonment issues before, Rose, and it sounds to me like this incident brought them to the fore again,” said Jane. “Believe it or not, that’s actually a good thing. It helps you to work through these things. And this time, it sounds to me like your subconscious fought back.”

“The Brown-eyed Man,” said Rose.

“He took you back to your childhood home and reunited you with your mother,” said Jane. “No mistake there; we tend to go back to very basic things when stressed. Now: what do the words ‘bad wolf’ mean to you?”

“Guess the first thing is the Big, Bad Wolf--oh, of course!” Rose smacked her forehead. “Right before the explosion, I was in a bookstore. I ran into this chap who had a book called The True Story of the Big, Bad Wolf. Must’ve worked its way into my dream.” She laughed. “He asked me out. The chap with the book, that is.”

“And what did you say?” asked Jane, a smile teasing the corners of her mouth.

“Didn’t say anything. Something went boom just then.” Rose gave Jane a sly smile. “But I do have a date for this weekend. Guess who?”

Jane cocked her head. “Don’t tell me it’s your mystery man.”

“It is!” Rose giggled. “It’s terrible to be so happy about this, but he was at the explosion site, too. Said he’d been having lunch up the street and decided to lend a hand. We worked together and . . . it’s like we’ve known each other forever. I don’t know how to explain it.”

“Well, stranger things have happened,” said Jane with a shrug. “My aunt met a man when she was nineteen and got married to him a month later. They just celebrated their thirtieth wedding anniversary. Four kids. It’s not exactly what I recommend, however.”

“I know, I know,” said Rose. “He’ll probably be more sensible about this than I am, even though he’s admitted he feels a--a connection as well. He seems very practical. Even his name is practical--Doctor John Smith.” Jane suddenly fumbled her pencil. Jane didn’t do things like that. “What?” Rose asked, eyes narrowing.

“Tall, you said? A runner?” asked Jane. “Don’t suppose he has blue eyes and big ears, too.”

“You know him?” asked Rose.

“Yes, we were colleagues at the same hospital in Leeds for a number of years,” said Jane, just a bit hurriedly. She wasn’t meeting Rose’s eyes.

“Oh, my God,” moaned Rose. “Oh, my God, you and he were--you were, weren’t you?”

Jane deflated a bit. “John and I were together for almost two years, yes. We never lived together or anything--he always said that if you were going to ruin the romance by sharing a sock drawer, you should stop mucking around and just get married already--but we were a couple. It’s been five years since we broke up.”

“Oh, God.” Rose lowered her face into her hands. John and Jane--beautiful, elegant Jane, with her gorgeous eyes and smooth brown skin and cultured accent and education. Rose suddenly felt even more like a silly little girl. “I’m over the moon for my shrink’s ex. I’m not going to ask how this could get any more awkward.”

Jane gave a half-laugh and a sigh. “It is awkward. If you want to find a new therapist--”

“I don’t, that’s the thing,” said Rose, lifting her head. “I trust you. You know all about my issues.” She gestured helplessly. “Can this--can this work? Even if John and I get together?”

“Of course it can,” Jane reassured her. “As I said, it’s been five years. I would encourage you to be up-front with him, but you should know that anything I know about him is strictly off-limits.”

“Of course,” said Rose. “I wouldn’t even ask.”

“Good.” Jane’s eyes softened a bit. “He’s a good man, Rose. He and I just didn’t work out. But he is a very good man, and you could do a lot worse. And so could he.”

***

After work, Rose dropped by Albion Hospital. To her disappointment, John wasn’t on duty, but then, her primary objective was to see Mickey. She poked her head into his room. “Busy?” she asked cheekily.

“Takin’ a break,” said Mickey, grinning. He looked a little tired and dopey, but she was relieved to see his smile. “How are things at work?”

Rose came in and sat at Mickey’s bedside, digging into the bag she’d brought. “Everyone’s going crazy. Million theories, no answers. It’s fun.” She pulled out an iPod and a couple of DVDs. “Thought you might like some entertainment. Jake brought those to work and asked me to bring ‘em to you, since he’s going to be slaving away all night, probably. You’re getting out of a lot of work.”

“That was my evil plan,” said Mickey, picking up the iPod. “Speaking of evil, did you know your new friend Doctor John Smith works here?”

“Um, yeah,” said Rose, digging especially vigorously in the bag and avoiding Mickey’s gaze. “Ah. Chocolate!” She produced a Cadbury bar.

“Brilliant!” Mickey grabbed the chocolate, wincing a little as the movement apparently pained him. “Yeah, he came in with a whole herd of students. They call him the Destroyer of Grades. Charming bloke.”

Rose decided to just get it over with and be done with it. “Ah, Mickey? I have a date with the Destroyer on Saturday.”

“What?” Mickey hauled himself up against his pillow, ignoring his broken ribs. “But Rose, he’s something like twice your age! And sarcastic!”

“Lie back, you,” said Rose. She took his shoulders and gently pushed him back. “Don’t want you hurting yourself more.”

Mickey crossed his arms. “Explain.”

Rose sighed and told him about her encounters with John, wrapping it up with, “He’s a wonderful man, and we just--we have this connection. I know he’s older and, yeah, sarcastic, but when I’m around him, I’m happy. Happy like I haven’t been since before this whatever started with me. I’ve gotta go with it, Mick.”

“Okay,” said Mickey a bit reluctantly, taking her hand. “I just don’t want you getting hurt. I care about you a lot, an’ you know I’m always there for you, right?”

Rose’s eyes glistened with tears as she leaned forward and dropped a little kiss on his lips. “I do know. You’re too good for this world, Mickey Smith.”

“I really am.” Mickey grinned. “Now, maybe you could tell that to this cute nurse . . .”

Back to index


Chapter 7: Sharing Secrets

Author's Notes: In Which A Mysterious Character Makes A Second Appearance, And Our Hero And Heroine Eat Seafood While Discussing Deep Secrets


“Right, so we’ve established the power of the TARDIS and the sequence of events leading to my regeneration from my ninth to my tenth incarnation. We’ve also covered the fact that in that ninth incarnation, I was very much in love with Rose Tyler. I don’t, mind you, fall in love with every companion on the TARDIS. Far from it; a few have been quite, quite annoying. But occasionally, I have gotten . . . infatuated. It happens. More than one companion has fallen for me as well. Can you blame them?

“I heard that. Excellent ears, these.

“Of course, in none of those cases did the Time Vortex pass through the companion and myself and back to the TARDIS. Very extraordinary set of circumstances, that. Can’t think of another quite like it. One might have expected that something would have come of it, but even I, with all possibilities and probabilities running through my head every second, couldn’t have predicted this.

“On with the story, then.”


***

Rose spent Saturday in a bit of a dither. She occupied herself with a few errands for work and ran down to the bookstore again to buy a book for Pete Jr.

“Hello,” said a voice.

Rose turned to see Aiden. “Oh, hello!” she said. “How are you?”

“Very well. And you?” he asked.

“Fine,” she said brightly. Very happy, she added mentally.

Aiden checked out the book she was buying. “Ah, so you decided to get that one as well, did you?”

“Well, who doesn’t want to know the Big, Bad Wolf’s side of the story?” asked Rose. “I think I’ll enjoy reading this one to my brother.”

“Big age gap between siblings,” said Aiden.

“Yeah, little Pete was a surprise, but a welcome one,” said Rose. “For all of us.”

“Ah, listen,” said Aiden, scratching his neck. “I was wondering--last time I talked to you, I asked you a question. Is there any chance you have an answer for me?”

“I’m sorry,” Rose said, “but I-I’ve got someone. You seem like a really nice guy, though.”

“Ah.” Something hard flickered through Aiden’s eyes, but was gone so fast that Rose thought she’d imagined it. “Well, too bad. At least I tried. I do hope I’ll see you again, Rose.”

“That’d be nice,” Rose said, and he was gone.

She gave no further thought to him as she went home and started to fuss over her wardrobe. She ruled out pink straightaway, and black almost as quickly. She dithered between dresses, trousers and skirts, driving Darcie nearly to homicide.

“Just pick something,” moaned her housemate, flopping on Rose’s bed. “Pick something, go on the date, and come back and tell us so we can live vicariously.”

Rose absently discarded a red blouse so it fell over Darcie’s face. “The Privateer’s a nice place, but it’s not exactly four-star, which is fine with me since I like to actually eat dinner rather than sit there and be seen with it, so it’s not like I need something formal, but definitely nice, definitely feminine, something that doesn’t make me look like a teenager . . .” Captain Jack wandered in, and Rose got an inspiration. “Aha! Brown!” She pulled out a chocolate-colored pencil skirt and a turquoise wrap top. “There, that’ll work.”

“Thank God,” muttered Darcie, removing the red blouse from her face. “Are we actually going to meet your doctor?”

“He’s a gentleman. He’ll come to the door, just you see.” She zipped up the skirt and pulled on the top. “How do I look?”

Darcie looked her up and down. “Accessorize.”

“Now you sound like my mum.” Rose nonetheless went on a hunt for earrings and a necklace.

Unfortunately, by the time she’d finished dressing and accessorizing and fussing with her hair and makeup (and driving both her housemates mad), it was only 5:45.

Fortunately, John was on time and thus saved Rose a full minute before Darcie and Shannon decided to kill her. He looked, to Rose’s eyes, terrific in dark trousers, a burgundy jumper and a black jacket.

“You look beautiful,” he said as soon as she opened the door. He offered her a bouquet of lilies. “I thought roses would be too cliché.”

She smiled at him. “Thank you. I’ll put these in some water, and then we can go, yeah? Oh, my housemates Shannon and Darcie.” She waved her hand to where said housemates were making a very unsuccessful attempt to not stare. They both waved hello with big, cheesy grins, and Rose decided that the sooner she got John out of there, the better.

***

“Did you know that humans are the only creatures in the multiverse that date? It seems to me that there’s a very good reason for that.”

***

John’s acquaintance with the head waiter at the Privateer resulted in a quiet booth and a free appetizer of artichoke-crab dip and bruchetta. It was, in Rose’s opinion, divine.

“Can’t believe I’ve never tried this before,” she said, munching a piece of the bread spread thickly with the warm dip.

“It’s one of my favorites,” said John. He watched her with a smile teasing his eyes.

Rose swallowed and took a mental breath. “Um, in the interest of full disclosure, I should probably tell you that I’ve been--I’ve been seeing a therapist for about the past year, after I hit a rough patch. It’s Doctor Jane Woods. When I mentioned you to her, she told me that you two have . . . a history.”

To John’s credit, he took this news in stride. “Jane, yes. It’s been a few years, but I knew she moved to London and opened a practice. She’s married now, if I remember correctly.”

“Yeah, she and her husband have a two-year-old,” said Rose, glad to have that out. “I just wanted you to know. She said that anything she knows about you is strictly off-limits, but I wouldn’t ask, really.”

“It’s all right,” said John gently. “Jane’s a very ethical person. I would expect she’d be discreet.”

“I know. I just wanted it out in the open, y’know?”

A waiter stopped by and took their orders. After he left, John looked intently at Rose. “So, Miss Tyler, what exactly is it that you do?”

Rose looked off to the side briefly before returning her gaze to his. “I work for an agency that deals with things like the Cybermen and aliens and such. It’s very secret, so secret that barely anyone in the government knows we exist. My father got involved after the Cybermen, started funding it, and it uses one of his companies for cover. I decided I wanted to be a part of it, too. There were just so many deaths, so much destruction--I felt like I needed to do something.”

“It sounds dangerous,” said John.

“Can be, yeah,” said Rose. She took a sip of water. “It’s mostly operatives like Jake and Mickey who get the worst of that, though everyone who works with us is trained in self-defense and firearms.”

“Hence the shooting,” said John.

“Hence the shooting,” said Rose. “Now that I’ve told you one of my deep, dark secrets, how about yours?”

They were interrupted by the waiter bringing the wine John had requested. After he left, having poured two glasses and set the bottle on the table, John answered Rose’s question.

“I was married,” he said matter-of-factly, and took a sip of his wine. Rose nodded, hardly even surprised by the news. “I met Paula while I was in medical school, and she and I got married two years later. We had a daughter, Emily.”

That did throw Rose a bit. “I gather you’re divorced?” she guessed.

“Widowed,” said John. Rose sucked in a breath. “There was . . . a car accident. One morning, I was a husband and father. When I awoke in hospital the following day, I was neither.”

“God, John,” Rose breathed.

He didn’t quite meet her eyes. “It’s been ten years. I was twenty-eight when they died.” He took another sip of wine. “My father was a great comfort to me during that time. My mother died when I was fifteen, so he knew what it was like to lose the woman you intended to spend the rest of your life with.”

“I’m so sorry,” said Rose, throat tight. “I don’t know what else to say.”

“You don’t have to say anything,” he assured her. “I just wanted you to know. It’s something you should know about me if--if there’s going to be anything between the two of us. I know there’s a good-sized age difference--”

“Doesn’t matter,” said Rose. “You’re thirty-eight, if my math skills haven’t completely failed me, and I’m almost twenty-two. Far as I know, that means we’re both adults and can make our own decisions.”

John smiled. “Good. Because I’ve never been shy about going after what I want, and you, Rose Tyler, are something special.”

Back to index


Chapter 8: Yfelwulf

Author's Notes: In Which Ten Gets To The Point, Our Heroine Makes a Startling Discovery, And Something Goes Boom


“He had to have a tragedy. Scaled down to human size, but he still lost his whole world. He had to have a tragedy.

“Right, moving on, or rather back, to just who he is. So, imagine this: you’ve got two people who really love each other, and passing between them is all the power in the universe. What would you guess would happen?

“One stray thought from her: I wish we could be together. I wish I could spend my life with him.

“One stray thought from him: I wish I were the sort of man who could love her as she deserves to be loved. I wish I could share a life with her.

“You might already have guessed that the reach of the Bad Wolf was unbounded by dimensions. The Void is a bit more problematic; no doubt if she’d seen the Daleks in the Void, she’d have made short work of them as well, but that’s beside the point, really. Darlig Ulv Stranden--Bad Wolf Bay--tipped me off. I thought it was a final message sent from Rose to herself, a way for us to say goodbye. But it wasn’t. And it was hardly the only place the Bad Wolf touched in her new world.

“Don’t look at atlases of England, that is, Rose’s original England, since one must be precise about these things, for the village in which Doctor John Smith was born. It won’t be there. You see, ‘Fellows’ is a bastardization of the original Old English village name of Yfelwulf.

“Doctor John Smith was born in Bad Wolf, England.”


***

“ROSE TYLER IN CLANDESTINE RELATIONSHIP WITH OLDER MAN!”

“I’m in my dotage, Rose,” said John, perusing the tabloid article as Rose leaned against him, giggling. “I’d better stock up on soft foods. How do you think I’d look in a dressing gown and bath chair?”

“Could they have put it in more insulting words, do you think?” Rose asked, wiping tears of mirth from her face.

They were at John’s flat, spending a quiet evening in. The tabloid headline had leaped out at Rose on the way over, and she’d decided to pick up a copy for John’s growing collection. Once a paparazzo had caught them kissing in Hyde Park on a sunny afternoon, the entire gossip rag wolf pack had followed.

“I’m so sorry about all of this, John,” she said. He was taking it all in good humor, but she still felt bad. “I really didn’t think they were interested in me at all, given the Royal Family’s latest shenanigans.”

“Don’t apologize,” said John. “It’s actually given me some street credit with my students. None of them dares to ask about it to my face, but I overheard one student saying something to his friends about ‘I can’t believe the bastard is bagging Rose Tyler.’”

Rose chuckled at their private joke. There had been, in fact, no “bagging” thus far. She and John had agreed early on that things between them were moving so fast that they’d best put the brakes on their physical relationship and spend some time simply getting to know each other. It was actually a relief to Rose. Her relationship with Jimmy Stones had been basically a lot of shagging and shouting, and while she loved Mickey dearly, she’d always felt they’d sort of just drifted into a relationship. Much as she wanted John--and she did--waiting felt like the right thing to do for now. Nonetheless, she’d gone back on birth control. She wanted to be ready when it happened.

Besides, for now, just being with John was enough. Two months had scurried by since their first date, and they hadn’t yet run out of things to talk about. As both of them tended toward being incredibly opinionated, they’d had not a few arguments, but those tended to leave Rose feeling energized rather than beaten down, the way her shouting matches with Jimmy had. She’d dragged John to movies he wouldn’t ordinarily have seen, and he insisted she go with him to operas and concerts she’d never have considered attending. He met her friends and family, and she met a few of his colleagues.

“I don’t make friends easily,” he said one day. “I envy you that.”

“You could always cut down on the sarcasm,” she suggested.

He considered it briefly and shook his head. “Nah. Not worth it.”

“Am I ever going to meet your father?” she asked.

“I hope so.” John’s voice was very serious. “Unfortunately, he doesn’t like London, so we’d have to go to Fellows, and the only thing of interest there is the private academy where he teaches.”

“Thought you said he was a doctor, too.”

“No, I said I’m Doctor John Smith, son of Doctor Thomas Smith,” said John. “It just turns out his doctorate is in English literature. To return to the point, I would like you to meet him sometime. He’s shorter than I am, but much better looking, and hardly sarcastic at all. I’m a little afraid that if I introduce the two of you, you’ll fall for him and give me the brush-off.”

“Oh, shut it, you,” said Rose, and punctuated her order with a kiss.

She’d never been so happy as she was when she was with him.

Unfortunately, she and John weren’t able to get nearly as much time together as they wanted, since Torchwood had been turned upside-down by the Cybermen attack. The Cardiff Hub reported sudden and intense energy fluctuations from the Rift with dismaying frequency, and there were a number of odd occurrences in London. The top of Big Ben disappeared for precisely one hour. A block of houses seemed to be moving backward in time, getting newer by the day and week. A downpour of corn pelted Parliament. Remnants of strange machines were being found all over the city.

And Rose’s dreams were getting more intense and sinister all the time. Even the presence of the Brown-eyed Man didn’t keep some of them from becoming nightmares. Oddly, John was getting mixed up in them, too. There was sort of a bizarre one about a space station and a woman who was just a sheet of skin and something about the end of the world. Then there was the creepy one with ghosts and Charles Dickens. The strangest thing was that her subconscious was now making no distinction between John and the Brown-eyed Man. The dreams were so real that sometimes, she mistook them for memories and it took her hours after waking to sort them out.

***

“Rose!” Mickey popped into her office, eyes gleaming. “Rose, you’ve gotta see this!”

“Gotta see what?” she asked, saving the document she’d been working on.

“Me an’ Jake found this--this thing. Part of some kind of machine or weapon or something, and the lab says it’s got organic matter in it. It’s like nothing any of us have ever seen. You’ll love it.” He held out his hand. “Come on.”

Grinning and curious, Rose took his hand and let him lead her down to Torchwood’s main lab. The thing he and Jake had brought in was sequestered behind a curtain, which Mickey grabbed for a dramatic reveal.

“Ready for it?” he asked. Rose nodded, and Mickey pulled the curtain aside.

Rose leaped back, cold panic washing over her.

Mickey looked at her, concerned. “Rose? You okay?” He looked at the object, a metal dome obviously disconnected from a larger piece of machinery, with a couple of projections, one of which looked like a malevolent eye.

“Dalek,” Rose whispered. She didn’t know where the word came from, but she’d heard it in her dreams, seen those domes with their metal bodies.

“What was that?” asked Doctor Elizabeth Ross, one of the scientists examining the thing.

Rose swallowed hard and indicated the object. “I’ve seen that thing in my dreams. It was called a Dalek. How--where did you find it?”

“Under the London Eye,” said Mickey.

Ross looked hard at Rose. “Tell me, what’s your psychic level?”

“Normal,” said Rose. Standard Torchwood procedure was to test the psychic ability of all new employees. Rose had shown no more than average.

“And you say you’ve seen this in your dreams?” Ross pressed.

“Yeah. Lots of ‘em. The domes go on top of metal bodies, kind of . . . tin cans with round things all over, some kind of, of arms--they scare me.” What she didn’t add was that they scared the Brown-eyed Man as well. “I hear their voices, too. They’re loud and grating, like they’re screaming, but it’s all mechanical. ‘S like nothing can stop them.”

“Dalek,” said Ross, trying out the word. “I suppose that sounds better than ‘gun-dome thingy.’” She lifted an eyebrow at Mickey, who had the grace to look abashed.

“You said you found this under the London Eye?” Rose asked. Mickey nodded. “I’d like to take a look myself. Might give me a clue about why my brain thinks it knows this thing.”

“We were planning to take another team over today,” said Mickey.

“I’m going with,” said Rose firmly. If her dreams were starting to come true, she figured everyone had problems.

***

A few hours later, she was under the London Eye with a group of operatives and scientists. Someone had handed her a Geiger counter, and she was making herself useful. She was actually rather glad to have something to do; it took her mind off the powerful sense of déjà vu that had hit her upon entering.

Think I’m going mad, she thought. Her counter chattered at something, and she went over for a closer look. Next to one wall were some scattered pieces of metal and, oddly enough, something that looked like a plunger. It gave her the creeps.

“Found something over here,” she announced.

A couple of the operatives came over with a bag and started collecting the debris. One of them, a fresh-faced kid named Sean, disturbed something that rolled out of the shadows. He bent down and picked it up.

It was a ball made of metal, not quite the size of a football. “Lookit this,” said Sean.

The operative helping Rose collect the other pieces of metal stood up, blocking her view--

--and then the world exploded.

Back to index


Chapter 9: Come With Me

Author's Notes: In Which Our Heroine And Hero Make A Significant Decision


“Of course he’s real! What kind of stupid question is that? He’s got flesh, blood, bone, brains, a soul, tonsils, sweat glands, the works. In other words, he is quite properly a genuine, born-of-a-woman, grade-A human being. You can even trace his ancestry. Or, better yet, take a TARDIS back a hundred years and meet his great-grandfather. Peculiar chap. Dressed badly.

“The point, my dears, is that when Time does something, it’s done. Rose Tyler and I, in my ninth incarnation, wanted a way to be together. It’s something that couldn’t happen in her home universe. But, buuut, butbutbutbutbutbutbut--a counterpart of that incarnation in another universe could have a life with Rose. Couldn’t be a Time Lord, of course; we were bound to a single universe. He had to be human. Works out better all around that way anyway.

“Therefore, we have Doctor John Smith. Not a mere construct, he. When Time decided to create him, it did so properly, with a family line that has always been there. Well, at least since the rise of human life on that Earth. Nonetheless, he is my counterpart, as much as I am my ninth incarnation. Which I both am and am not.

“Do keep this in mind. It’s very important.”


***

Rose was dead.

She had to be. There was no other explanation for what she was seeing.

“Dad?” she whispered.

Pete Tyler leaned over his daughter’s hospital bed. “I’m here, Rosie.”

She tried to reach out to him, but her arms wouldn’t work. Pete’s hand closed around hers, and her vision blurred with tears. “Dad,” she gasped again. “You’re here.”

“We’re both here, sweetheart,” said her mother’s voice, and then Jackie’s face appeared in her vision.

“Did you die, too?” asked Rose, her voice still barely above a whisper.

“ ‘Course not!” Jackie looked at Pete. “How hard did she hit her head?”

Pete reached down and cupped Rose’s cheek with his hand, and his skin felt warm. “Easy, love. The doctor says you’ll be fine. You just need to rest.”

“The Doctor? Where is he?” Rose tried to sit up, to look around, but her head felt like a lead weight. “Does he know you’re here, Dad? Is he angry at me? Tell him I’m sorry.” She started to cry. “I didn’t mean to mess things up so bad. I just wanted to save you. Couldn’t watch you die again.”

“Sweetheart, you’re dreaming,” said Jackie, brushing Rose’s hair off her face. “We’re all fine. You got hurt, but you’ll be fine, too.”

Pete brushed the tears from Rose’s face with his hand. She turned her head, seeking contact, and tightened her hand on his. It didn’t matter if he was dead; she wouldn’t let him go. “Don’t go,” she whimpered.

“I won’t,” Pete promised. “I’ll be right here when you wake up, Rosie. Just rest now.”

Clinging to her father’s hand, Rose drifted back into sleep.

***

Rose would never remember that waking. When she did awaken completely, it was, unsurprisingly, to the sound of her mother’s voice.

“. . . still can’t believe you would let her walk into a death trap like that. What were you thinking? Your only daughter. Were you even thinking? She could’ve been blown to bits, nearly was!” Jackie’s voice was getting more and more shrill.

“It wasn’t a death trap, Jacks,” said Pete’s exhausted voice. “It was a recon mission. They didn’t expect it to be dangerous. Besides, I’ve never known you to be able to stop Rose when she had her mind set on something.”

“Hullo?” mumbled Rose.

Jackie gave a little scream. “Rose, sweetheart, are you awake? Really awake, this time? Can you hear me?”

“Yes.” Rose managed to force her eyes open. Her mother’s face came into somewhat fuzzy focus. “Wha’ happened?”

“There was an explosion,” said Pete’s voice as his face came into view. “You’ll be all right. The Doctor says you’ve got a concussion and some cracked ribs. It--it could have been a lot worse.”

Rose blinked, her mind slowly coming to rest on her father’s last statement. “Who--did anyone die?”

Pete’s mouth hardened into a thin line. “Sean,” he said. “Derek. Alyssa. Derek was standing right in front of you when the blast went off. If he hadn’t been--” Pete couldn’t finish his statement.

“God,” gasped Rose. Tears stung her eyes.

“It’s all right, sweetheart,” Jackie soothed her, stroking her hair. “Shh.” She leaned down and kissed Rose’s forehead, and Rose slipped back into unconsciousness.

***

Rose slowly began recovering over the next few days. Her father had named only her worst injuries, the concussion and the cracked ribs. The explosion had also left Rose with bruises over her entire body and taken a good deal of skin off her right arm. She was stiff and sore literally everywhere.

She also knew she hadn’t gotten the worst of it. Two days after she awoke, she learned that Doctor Ross had passed away from her own injuries. Mickey, fortunately, had been behind a concrete barrier of some sort and wasn’t injured at all. In all, about three-quarters of the team--twelve people--had been killed or injured in the explosion. Those who’d survived were mostly in hospital with Rose, save for a very lucky few. Her parents, her housemates and her friends trickled through during visiting hours.

John didn’t, even though she was at Albion Hospital. Rose watched her door anxiously every hour, but he never appeared.

“Turnabout’s fair play,” announced Mickey as he strode into her room, bag in hand.

“Guess so,” said Rose. “Bring me goodies?”

Mickey grinned at her, lifting an eyebrow, and produced a suspiciously good-smelling Styrofoam package. “Contraband.”

“Chips!” squealed Rose. “Give ‘em over!” She held out her hands as far as she could without it being (really) painful. Mickey set the package and a plastic fork in Rose’s lap, and she immediately dug in. “Mmm, heavenly!” she moaned around a mouthful. “Hospital food will kill you.”

“Been there a time or two myself,” said Mickey. That was understating matters. Mickey and Jake were locked in a tight contest for “most hospitalizations.”

Rose swallowed. “So what happened? I don’t remember an awful lot.”

“Way I heard it, you found some scraps of metal. Sean found this metal ball thing nearby, and . . .” Mickey made a gesture that said “Boom!” and shook his head. “There wasn’t nothin’ left of him, hardly. If Derek hadn’t been in front of you--I don’t like to think about it.”

“Neither do I,” Rose said very softly. “Do they know what it was? The metal ball, I mean.”

“Not exactly much left of that, either. Doc Foster’s analyzing the explosive residue. He was talking a million miles an hour about some scientific claptrap last time I saw him.”

“That’s Foster for you,” said Rose. She shook her head, toying with a chip. “I can’t believe Liz is . . . and Sean was my age. Little younger, actually.”

“There’s a memorial planned for next week,” said Mickey. “Hopefully, they’ll spring you from this place by then.”

“Yeah, I hope,” said Rose.

“Hey, guess what?” said Mickey, obviously trying to lighten the mood. “Some cheesy blond bloke tried to get in to see you, claiming he was your boyfriend. Your dad had security remove him.”

“Probably some reporter trying to get a scoop,” said Rose, rolling her eyes. Unfortunately, Mickey’s words only served to remind her of the one person she most wanted to see, but hadn’t. Unconsciously, she glanced at the door again.

“Still hasn’t come by?” asked Mickey. Rose looked at him, startled. “Advice: never complain to Darcie about anything you don’t want everyone else to hear.”

Rose forced a shrug. “He must be busy. Might’ve come by when I was asleep.”

“Must be,” said Mickey, not sounding remotely convinced. “Look, you enjoy those chips. I’ve got to get back to Torchwood, but I’ll drop by again tomorrow.” He kissed her forehead and stood up.

“Thanks for coming by. And for the chips,” said Rose. He left, and Rose lay back, trying not to think about how much she wanted John to be there.

***

When she awoke next, he was. John sat by her bedside, looking down at her with an inscrutable expression.

“Hi,” said Rose.

“Hi,” he said.

She reached out one hand, and he took it. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“Can’t say the same about you.” John’s face and voice were closed, revealing nothing.

Rose looked at him, worried. “I’m going to be fine, John. It’s all right.”

“No, it’s not.” John dropped her hand and stood, pacing to look out the window. “I saw them bring you in, Rose. On a stretcher, surrounded by paramedics, oxygen mask over your face, soaked in blood--!” He cut himself off abruptly. “I thought I’d lost you.”

“You didn’t,” said Rose, shaken to see how deeply affected he was.

“But I could’ve,” he shot back. “I’ve done that once, Rose, lost the woman I love. It nearly destroyed me. I can’t do it again.”

Rose shook her head, little tendrils of fear working through her. “It wasn’t supposed to be dangerous. Just a freak accident.”

John made a dismissive noise. “Seems to me you lot are in the business of freak accidents.”

“Well, what do you want me to do? Quit Torchwood?” Rose demanded. “I can’t. I’ve seen what’s out there, John, and I can’t just turn my back and walk away.”

“No, you could,” said John. “You just won’t.”

Rose couldn’t even look at him as tears sprang to her eyes. So this is how it ends, she thought. The best thing that’s ever happened to me, and this is how it ends.

John sighed and sat back down. “I ran into your friend Mickey. Or rather, he ran me down. We had words. ‘Stupid' and 'git’ were among the kindest.” Rose had to smile, in spite of herself. Those two had been butting heads since the first time they met. “He told me, in essence, that I either accept you for what you are, or I should just let you go.”

“So . . . what’re you going to do?” Rose forced the words out, heartsick.

“I don’t have a choice,” said John. He touched her face with his fingertips, turning it toward him so she could see the love in his eyes. “I haven’t since I met you, Rose Tyler.”

“You’re not breaking up with me?” The words were barely audible. She hoped she hadn’t misunderstood.

John looked appalled at the idea. “Of course not. What kind of fool would I be then?”

Rose closed her eyes, and tears streamed down her cheeks. “I-I was so afraid . . .”

“Shh.” John’s hand moved around to the back of her head, and he kissed her gently. “I love you, Rose. I said I couldn’t bear to lose the woman I love again. I’m not going to throw her away.”

“I love you, too, John,” Rose whispered. She took face in her hands and kissed him soundly, deeply.

The words had been spoken. It felt inevitable.

Finally, they were forced to come up for air. John stroked Rose’s hair off her face, smiling into her eyes. “I’m sorry I didn’t come to visit you before.”

“I understand,” said Rose. She couldn’t imagine how horrible it must have been for him to have seen her as she was when she first came in, unconscious and covered in Derek’s blood.

John was silent for a few moments. Rose was familiar with his silences by now, and this was one of his “I’m trying not to talk myself out of something” silences.

Finally, he spoke. “I’m going to another medical conference in about a month. It’ll be a week-long one in Geneva. After that, I was thinking of taking a holiday. My mother’s family keeps a villa on Lake Como in Italy. It’s beautiful.” He looked intently at Rose. “Come with me.”

Delight surged through her. “To Como?”

“To Geneva, then Como,” clarified John. “If you want, of course. All I can think is that the whole thing will be much less of a drag if I know you’ll be waiting for me at the end of the day. If it interests you, of course. You could play tourist while I’m being tortured by experts. Unless you’d just like to meet me in Como--”

“No! Geneva sounds wonderful,” said Rose hastily. Waiting an extra week, when she could be with him? It was unthinkable. “I should be healed up by then, yeah?”

“Yes. That’s very important, that you’re completely well.” The words were casual enough, but something in John’s voice and his eyes made thrills run down her spine.

They talked for a while then, lovers’ talk that meant nothing and everything, until John had to leave for the night. Rose settled happily back into her pillow, feeling no pain for a reason that had nothing to do with drugs. She sighed blissfully and closed her eyes.

Her room’s door clicked open again. She opened her eyes, thinking John might have returned. Instead, an older woman with wild hair and eyes was staring at her.

“Who’re you?” Rose asked.

“Don’t think I don’t know who you are,” hissed the old woman. “I see you. You don’t belong. Pasted in from another world--you’re the Bad Wolf, that’s what you are!” Her voice rose to a shout. “Bad Wolf! Bad Wolf!”

The sound of running feet announced the arrival of two orderlies. “Now, come on, Mrs. Crowe,” said the taller of the two. “You know you’re not supposed to be wandering.”

“She’s the Bad Wolf!” cried Mrs. Crowe. “You don’t see! You never see! Bad Wolf!”

“Sorry about this, Miss Tyler,” said the other orderly. “Don’t pay her no mind. Crazy old thing, she is. Come on, Mrs. Crowe.”

They hustled her away, but Rose could hear her shouts of “Bad Wolf” all the way down the hallway. And she started to shiver.

Back to index


Chapter 10: Holiday

Author's Notes: In Which Our Lovers Consummate Their Love


“Sex. Yes, I will be talking about sex for a moment, so if you’re not mature enough to handle it, please leave now. It’s actually a very important subject in this context.

“Sex is different things to different creatures. Take the Gnorii, or perhaps the anglerfish of Earth. In both those species, the female literally absorbs the male in the initial coupling, and from that point on, he exists as a mere appendage providing sperm to keep her fertile while she goes on her merry way. In other species, it’s considered something shameful. The Thalosians almost made themselves extinct when the Holy Conclave of the One Thousandth Lunar Year of the Great Kallikakinak forbade all discussion of sexual matters, even in private. That decree was rescinded when the population dwindled to critical proportions.

“Then there were my people, who decided sex was something for lesser, more primitive species. Bad way to reproduce, what with all that chance. You simply couldn’t guarantee that the right people would find each other sexually attractive; genetic engineering was a much better route for creating future Time Lords. Sex was something most Time Lords looked down upon. It was undignified, messy. Not a fit activity upon which to expend energy that could be used for higher pursuits.

“There were, of course, those who thought otherwise. Very much otherwise.

“What do you mean, what am I smiling about?

“And then, of course, there are humans. Great diversity of opinion there on sex, as on most things. Quarrelsome lot, humans. I think that’s one of the reasons I like them so much. Some regard sex as an unfortunate necessity for propagating the species, others as a nice tension-reliever, yet others as something they couldn’t survive without. There are those who think of sex as an entertainment, or even a hobby. The words ‘Captain’, ‘Jack’ and ‘Harkness’ might come up during that discussion. There are also those who see sex as, ideally, the deepest joining possible for two people, a spiritual as well as a physical experience.

“What even that last subset might not understand is that sex can be a catalyst for something far deeper. It’s not a safe act, sex. Those who believe they can make it safe only fool themselves.”


***

“Shannon! Darcie!” Rose emerged from her room, where she was packing for her holiday with John.

“Yes?” said Darcie. She and Shannon were the picture of innocence.

Rose dangled a pair of fur-lined handcuffs from one finger and lifted an eyebrow. “Anybody recognize these? Or know how they got in my packing?”

Her housemates managed to maintain their straight faces for approximately two seconds before dissolving into hilarity. Rose tossed the handcuffs at them. A small pot of chocolate body paint came sailing out of her room next.

“But Rose,” protested Shannon, “what if you get sick of vanilla sex?” She and Darcie giggled like schoolgirls.

“We’ll be in Switzerland; I’m sure we can find all the chocolate we’ll need,” said Rose. She lifted another strange object from her suitcase, which she swore she’d only left unattended for a few seconds. “Just what the hell is--” The thing started buzzing. “You know what? I don’t even want to know.” She tossed it at Shannon, only to discover yet another box. “Glow-in-the-dark condoms? My God, you two are as bad as my mother!”

“She didn’t try to give you ‘the talk,’ did she?” asked Darcie.

“Apparently, she thinks the one she gave me when I was twelve didn’t take. Scarred for life now. I think she’s more thrilled about this holiday than I am, and that’s saying something.” Rose folded another shirt and tucked it into her suitcase. And, naturally, discovered a pair of crotchless leather knickers and a bunch of capsules of flavored lubricant. She glared at Darcie. “I don’t want to scare the man to death the minute I open my suitcase.”

“Oh, come on, he’s a man of the world,” said Darcie dismissively. “He’s probably seen all those things, and used ‘em, too. You two will need some variety. What, you’ll be together for fourteen days? That means fourteen shags at minimum, or I’ll be very disappointed with you both.”

“Wouldn’t want that,” drawled Rose. “I’ve got massage oil, I’ve got lingerie, I’ve got . . . a few other things that you’ll have to wonder about. I think we’re set.” She tossed the knickers at Darcie and followed it up with the lubricants. “Now, out of my room, and keep your toys to yourself.”

Darcie pouted at her. “Aww, but you haven’t even found the--”

“--man’s G-string with a tape measure on it?” Rose lifted the offending article out of her suitcase. Shannon went into another fit of hysterics. “You realize there will be consequences for this. Someday, somehow, I will repay you both. Out!” She shoved her housemates out the door and shut it.

Captain Jack panted amiably at her from the bed. Rose sighed. “Do be a good boy and vomit on the couch while I’m gone,” she said.

***

John and Rose made love for the first time in Geneva.

Their flight arrived in the late afternoon, and by the time they got to their hotel room, it was almost time for dinner. John told her the hotel had a wonderful restaurant with an in-house band and dance floor, and they decided to go there to eat rather than get room service. Rose wanted to change clothes. She unzipped her dress bag . . . and discovered a riding crop hanging nonchalantly alongside her dresses. She swore bloody vengeance on her housemates while John laughed himself stupid.

Later, she couldn’t remember what she’d eaten for dinner, or the flavor of the excellent wine they drank. She’d always remember John leading her to the dance floor and the old Glenn Miller classic they danced to. When she looked into his eyes, they were the only people in the room, and she was warm and relaxed and her skin tingled with his closeness.

She’d never forget the sound of his voice as he bent to her ear and murmured, “I want to make love to you, Rose.”

Unable to summon the voice to answer, she tugged him away from the dance floor, and they left the restaurant and made their way back to their room. How they managed to get that far, she didn’t know; she could barely remember how to breathe.

Her first impulse was to try to lose her dress and get him out of his clothing as quickly as possible, but he stopped her, catching her wrists and looking into her eyes. “We have all night, love,” he told her gently, a ghost of amusement in his voice and a gleam of passion in his eyes. “Let’s not rush.” He took her face in his hands. “I want to savor this.”

When those wonderful hands of his skated down her neck and over her bare shoulders and his fingers trailed down her spine, sending a frisson of pleasure through her body and her dress to the floor, she decided that they should definitely do things his way this time.

She threw herself into making love to him with the passion that marked everything she did. He helped her channel that passion, let it build between them until there was nothing but touch and heat and love, the way his hands felt on her body, the way he looked at her in awe, as if she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen, the way his lean, strong body felt against her soft curves, the way he murmured into her ear over and over that he loved her, loved her, loved her . . .

Afterward, his voice, rough with passion:

Making love to you, Rose--it was like coming home.

Afterward, her voice, trembling with emotion:

This is where I belong. Right here, in your arms.

She lay against his chest, drifting into sleep, feeling golden light spreading through her body as a long-forgotten song wound its way through her head.

***

The week in Geneva passed like a happy dream for Rose. She ambled about the city during the day, picking up gifts for her family and chocolate for her roommates, and in the evenings, she and John went out. Or stayed in. Which was just fine by Rose; John was an incredible lover. Starting with their first night together, he’d made a detailed and thorough exploration of her body, finding places she hadn’t even known she had--places Jimmy, who’d only been after his own satisfaction, and Mickey, eager to please but inexperienced, had never even touched, she was sure. John liked being in control in the bedroom, she discovered, and she found that surrender was more erotic than she’d ever dreamed.

(Nonetheless, he didn’t object too strongly when she pushed him over onto his back to have her way with him or invaded his shower.)

So it went. John attended the convention during the day while Rose scoped out the evening’s entertainment, and they spent every moment possible together. They made love every night, most mornings, and one lazy afternoon when John played hooky from the convention.

Rose had never felt so close to anyone in her life.

“You brought me back to life,” John whispered to her as they held each other in the afterglow.

Their peace and happiness seemed to find its way into her dreams as well. They were no less intense than they’d been in London--in fact, in some ways, they were even more real--but they no longer frightened her. Even the ones with monsters. Instead, she felt a strangely detached curiosity, like the dreams were trying to show her something or take her somewhere, and she wondered what would happen if she followed them far enough.

***

They took a train to Como, where John rented a car and drove them to his family’s villa.

“John, it’s beautiful!” Rose gasped when she saw it. She’d seen plenty of impressive houses--hell, she’d once been an invited guest at Buckingham Palace--and though this one was small compared to many of them, it was exquisite, a perfect pearl sitting on Lake Como.

“I’ve always loved it here,” said John as they took their bags inside. “I remember being a boy and spending holidays here with my mum and dad. I had a crush on the little red-haired girl at the neighboring house and expressed my affection by putting a frog down her shirt.”

Rose laughed. “Try that with me, and you’ll be sleeping cold and alone.”

He pulled her close and kissed her. “Don’t make threats you won’t carry out, Rose Tyler. I know how insatiable you are.”

“Damn,” she said, and kissed him right back. “You’ve found my one weakness.”

“Oh, you’ve considerably more than one weakness,” murmured John. “And I know just where all of them are.”

What chance did she have against him when just his voice could turn her to jelly?

“Come upstairs,” he said, tugging her to go with him. She followed him and found herself in a breezy, open room with a balcony that overlooked the lake. The view was incredible.

“Gorgeous,” she sighed, moving to the railing.

John’s arms wrapped around her from behind. “I haven’t been here in so long. The last time was--was a few months after Emily’s birth. Paula and I brought her here to meet her great-grandparents.” Rose gasped a little and turned to face him. “I haven’t wanted to come back since then. Never wanted to bring anyone else here. Not until you.” His smile was gentle, loving.

Too overwhelmed to say anything, Rose just kissed him.

***

Gentle afternoon sunlight filtered through white drapes, illuminating the lovers on the bed. They were upright, his back braced against the headboard, and their movements were slow and languorous, as if this was all they ever wanted or needed, to be perfectly joined. Neither spoke; they couldn’t have said anything their bodies didn’t.

Her eyes held his in a gaze of unabashed passion, her soul laid as naked as her body. He looked into her, loving everything he saw. One of his hands came up and caressed her face, and as she threw her head back, a shuddering breath escaping her, the hand glided over the pale skin of her throat and chest and down to cup her breast almost reverently.

She lowered her head, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and pressing her body into his as she kissed him deeply, thoroughly. His hands traveled around to her back, slipping lightly over the skin there, drawing another sigh from her lips. Their faces touched, cheek stroking cheek, temples pressing together, lips feathering light kisses across eyes, cheekbones, jawlines. She drew back far enough to look into his eyes again, and the lovemaking went on.

Eye to eye, skin to skin, heart to heart, they let the moment stretch into eternity.

***

The days they spent at Lake Como were the most peaceful Rose could remember. There was no rush to be anywhere, no schedule, no expectations. Rose began to realize just how hard she’d been pushing herself.

No wonder I went a little off the rails, she thought as she and John walked along the lake, holding hands.

“What are you thinking about?” John asked.

“How good I feel,” she answered honestly. “Bein’ here, being with you--why’d I wait so long to meet you?”

“Obviously, you’ve had faulty taste in men until very recently.”

“Cheeky.”

“You love it.”

Rose laughed. “I do.”

They ambled along quietly for a little while before John said, “I had the most bizarre dream last night.”

“Really? Do tell,” Rose encouraged.

“I don’t remember all that much of it, but I distinctly remember looking in a mirror and seeing myself with a different face. Or, perhaps it was my face, but for some reason I didn’t expect it.” His brow puckered. “Your mother was there. I think she made a pass at me.”

“Thank you so very much for that mental image,” said Rose. “I might never be able to get turned on again.”

“Is that a challenge?”

“Might be.” Rose flashed him a cheeky grin of her own. “Come to think of it, I had a bizarre dream of my own last night. For some reason, I was working at Henrik’s department store. I went down to the basement, and it was full of shop dummies.”

“I find those things unsettling,” said John.

“Me, too.” Rose shuddered. “Especially after my dream. They started to come alive, and they were moving toward me, and I thought they were going to kill me or do something else horrible--and all of a sudden, you grabbed my hand and said, ‘Run!’”

“Good of me,” John commented.

“I thought so. We ran, and you were being all sarcastic while I asked you a bunch of questions about the shop dummies, and you told me you were going to blow up the store.” Rose laughed, and John laughed with her.

“What happened after that?” he asked.

“You shoved me out one of the doors, and then all of a sudden it was like our first meeting--you introduced yourself, only instead of ‘Doctor John Smith,’ you just said ‘I’m the Doctor,’ and asked my name. I told you, and you said--and I remember this distinctly--‘Nice to meet you, Rose. Run for your life!’ And that was it.” She shook her head. “I’m sure Jane would have a field day interpreting that one. Though it’s not quite as crazy as the one I had a little while ago about dancing with a handsome American on top of some kind of spaceship in front of Big Ben during the London Blitz.”

“What’s in that head of yours?” John asked. “Also, how handsome was the American?”

“Very. One of those perfect men you see in Hollywood movies--perfect teeth, perfect hair, perfect eyes.” She glanced sidelong at her lover. “Jealous?”

“Nah. He was probably gay,” said John. “If I were to be jealous of anyone, I think it would have to be that Brown-eyed Man of yours.”

“Oh, there’s no need to be jealous of him,” said Rose. “I’ve figured out who he is.”

John looked at her. “And who would that be?”

“You.” Rose looked at him very seriously, stopping. “The way he always makes me feel in my dreams--safe, loved, accepted--you make me feel that way.”

“Good.” John took her in his arms. “I hope I always will.”

***

The week passed too quickly. On the last morning of their stay, Rose awakened alone in bed, and troubled. She heard John in the shower. She grabbed a robe, not bothering to put it on, and padded to the bathroom on bare feet. After she hung up the robe, she stepped into the shower, closing the stall door behind her.

John looked at her and smiled. “Good morning.”

She moved to him under the stream of water for a good-morning kiss. “How are you feeling?” she asked, concerned.

“I’m fine,” he said. He frowned just a little. “I think I might’ve had a bad dream last night, but I don’t remember. Why do you ask?”

“I think you did have a bad dream,” she said. She turned so that John could soap up her hair. She loved the feeling of his hands washing her; there was something so intimate about it, almost more intimate than sex.

His fingers suddenly left her hair and trailed down her left arm. “Rose, what’s this?”

She looked, knowing what she’d see and wishing John hadn’t seen it. Dark bruises had appeared on her upper arm. She took a deep breath. “Last night, I woke up because you grabbed my arm right there. You had your eyes open, but . . . it wasn’t you in there, John. At least, it didn’t seem like it was you. You kept saying, ‘They’re gone, Rose,’ and ‘It’s all my fault. I did it.’”

He went perfectly still, and Rose turned to face him, wiping a few suds off her face. His eyes were dark, haunted.

“I . . . don’t remember the crash,” he finally said. “Not anything about it or right before it. They said it was the other driver’s fault, he ran a light and was going far too fast, but . . .” John pressed his lips together. “I’ve wondered ever since if there was anything I could’ve done. If I could have prevented it somehow.”

“You couldn’t have.”

The certainty in Rose’s voice seemed to catch him off-guard. “How can you know that?”

“Because I know you,” said Rose. “If there was anything you could’ve done, you’d have done it. That’s the kind of man you are.”

John was silent as he rinsed the shampoo from her hair. Then he drew her close, not in a sexual way, but like he was drawing comfort from her body.

“I love you so, so much,” he whispered.

They held each other as water poured over them both.

***

It was far too short, their time together. Rose snuggled into John’s side as an airplane carried them back to London.

“Back to the real world,” she sighed.

“Rude, isn’t it?” said John.

“Awful.” She pressed a little closer. “Doesn’t feel right, having to be apart.”

“No.” John stroked her hair. “No, it doesn’t.”

She closed her eyes and savored his closeness, determined that she wouldn’t lose this moment by worrying about the future.

Back to index


Chapter 11: Truth

Author's Notes: In Which Our Heroine Learns That All Is Not What It Seems


“And then they lived happily ever after, had five kids, a mortgage, a car, etc.

“No, seriously, what did you expect? ‘The course of true love never did run smooth’ and all that. Though, strictly speaking, that isn’t true; love does run smoothly for a lucky few.

“Rose and John aren’t so lucky. They’ll have to fight for their love, and it won’t be easy. Ah, but isn’t everything sweeter when you work for it?

“Yes, yes, I haven’t forgotten. John is, indeed, experiencing some bleed-through of my memories. For that, I pity the man. Rose is the catalyst. He’d have been safe enough if he’d never met Rose, much less made love to her. Probably gone about his life performing surgery, tormenting students, being obnoxiously sarcastic every chance he got--and likely never falling in love again. Never putting his heart at risk again.

“What kind of life is that?”


***

Rose started missing John the moment he kissed her goodbye on her front step. Fortunately, she had housemates who weren’t inclined to let her brood. The moment she entered the townhouse, she was greeted by a pair of salacious grins and Captain Jack, who was simply beside himself with happiness. Rose took the opportunity to lavish affection on the wriggling dog and ignore Darcie and Shannon. They wouldn’t be ignored.

“So,” said Darcie, “how was . . . everything?”

Rose couldn’t hold back a glowing smile. “That man could teach university courses in . . . everything. Oh, and by the way--” She pulled an item out of her dress bag and tossed it to Shannon. “Thanks for the riding crop. We got a lot of use out of it. Don’t worry; it’s been disinfected.” She winked and went to put her baggage away as Shannon and Darcie exchanged alarmed glances. Let them chew on that one for a while, thought Rose.

When she got back to the living room, her housemates had poured wine and were waiting expectantly.

“You know you want to tell,” said Shannon. “Besides, you owe us; Captain Jack had an accident on the carpet while you were gone.”

“Really? Good for him. Good boy, Captain Jack!” Rose ruffled his fur. Nonetheless, she took a seat and a glass and commenced a couple of hours of the kind of girl talk that men have feared throughout history.

“Are you going to move in with him now?” Darcie finally asked.

Rose sighed. “No. John calls living together a, and I quote, ‘pseudo-commitment’ and says that he has no desire to be a ‘roommate with benefits.’” She smiled dreamily. “I kinda like that he’s a bit out of step with everyone else, y’know? He’s very lovable.”

Darcie turned to Shannon. “She’s gone.”

“She’s totally gone,” agreed Shannon.

“She’s been gone since she met him,” said Rose. She stood, feeling a little unsteady from the long plane trip and two glasses of wine. “She’s also exhausted. See you two in the morning.”

“Sweet dreams!” Shannon called after her.

Rose was sure they would be.

***

She woke screaming.

“Take me back! Take me back!” Rose sobbed, lashing out blindly. Someone was calling her name. Her mother?

“Rose, shh, darling, it’s okay,” said the soft, feminine voice. Gentle hands caught her arms.

Rose struggled against the restraint. She had to get back, she couldn’t live her life without him--

Something wet touched her face, and she heard a soft whine. A dog? And the voice soothing her wasn’t her mother’s.

Captain Jack. Darcie. Reality started to filter back in. Rose gasped out one last sob, holding onto Darcie, who was hugging her, and saw Shannon standing behind Darcie, looking worried. Captain Jack poked his nose into her face, sniffing at her as if concerned.

“You back with us yet, sweetheart?” asked Darcie, pulling back a little. Shannon turned on Rose’s bedside lamp.

“There was--there was a wall. Something was pulling me toward it, and then I was on the other side . . . the Brown-eyed Man, he was calling my name. Couldn’t get back to him,” stammered Rose. “I just wanted to get back to him.”

“Just a dream,” said Darcie. “You gave us a fright, screaming like that.”

Rose breathed deeply and took a sip from the water glass she always kept at her bedside. Captain Jack lay down and rested his head on her lap. She stroked him, trying to shake the feeling of utter devastation her dream had left her with.

“I’m sorry,” she said finally.

“Can’t help a bad dream,” said Shannon, always the sensible one. “You gonna be all right, love?”

Rose nodded, sniffling a bit. “Yeah.”

Darcie handed her a tissue. “Need a cuppa or anything?”

“No, I’ll just--I’ll read a bit,” said Rose. She patted her dog. “Captain Jack’ll take care of me. You two go back to bed.”

Her housemates left, Darcie more reluctantly than Shannon, and Rose lay back against her pillow. She could still feel everything, hear everything, practically taste everything from her dream. It had been so real that she had phantom pains in her hand from pounding on that wall. And the feelings of horror, of utter despair as she fell--and the terrible loss she felt at being cut off from the Brown-eyed Man--

She sighed softly, wishing she had John there to hold her until she fell back asleep, and made a mental note to talk about the dream with Jane.

***

Monday, everything changed.

It started off as an ordinary day. She went to work, where things had calmed down over the past couple of weeks. No more Cybermen had come through, no more Daleks had been discovered, and the odd events had tapered off. Rose was glad to have a gentle re-entry to work.

At lunch, she laughed over a tabloid proclaiming “HEIRESS TYLER IN ITALIAN LOVE NEST WITH SECRET LOVER!” Yet another tabloid announced her pregnancy. Came as news to her.

She talked to John on the phone mid-afternoon. He missed her as much as she missed him, and they worked out a tentative dinner date for Wednesday.

After work, she went to her parents’ house to have dinner with them and Pete Jr. Her mother stopped just shy of asking how the sex had been, much to Rose’s (and Pete’s) relief.

When she got home after dinner, her mail was waiting. She took it into her room and opened it while shedding her work clothes.

“What’s this?” she murmured to herself as she picked up a white envelope with no return address. Inside was a smaller envelope with a phone number on it. Curiosity piqued, Rose opened the envelope and discovered a photograph inside.

A moment later, she was sitting on the floor, her legs having given out on her. She was holding in her hands a picture of the Brown-eyed Man.

***

It wasn’t the nicest part of London that Rose found herself in. Certainly, there was no way she’d ordinarily have gone there unless work demanded it. But this was where she was to meet the person who’d handed her this mystery.

Upon calling the number on the envelope, a male voice had told her to meet him in a particular warehouse in an industrial part of town. Rose had warned him that she wouldn’t come unprepared, which the man had acknowledged without surprise. After making certain arrangements, Rose headed out, saying something to her housemates about going to the store.

She sat in her car, staring at the dark warehouse, and breathed deeply for a minute, trying to clamp down on the sense of foreboding that had been growing over the past hour. Whatever happened here, Rose had the feeling that it would change everything. Finally, she plucked up her courage and headed into the warehouse.

There was very little light inside, and Rose saw no sign of her mystery man. “Is anyone here?” she called.

“Over here,” said the man’s voice, and Rose thought she recognized it. She turned to face him.

Aiden stepped out of the shadows. “Hello, Rose Tyler. It’s nice to see you again.”

Rose stiffened. Best to get some things straight up front, she thought. “I don’t know what you want, but just so you know, I’m armed. I also programmed my computer to send out an alert if I’m not back in two hours, and believe me, I have friends you don’t want to have hunting you down. Now, who are you, and why have you been stalking me?” She lifted the envelope with the photograph in it. “And who is he?”

“Well, to begin with, my name actually is Aiden,” he said. “As for why I’ve been stalking you, I wanted to know how much you knew. How much you remembered. Unfortunately, I never managed to get you alone long enough to ask, though I did try. Tell me, do you recognize the man in the photograph?”

Rose hesitated, but decided to tell the truth for the moment. “Yeah. I know his face.”

“You know a lot more than that.” Aiden gave her a tight smile. “You and he were very close, once. Very close. But you were torn apart.”

Flashes of her dream from the previous night ran through Rose’s mind. It was still so vivid that it felt like a memory . . . was it a memory?

“So who is he?” she asked.

“He’s called the Doctor,” said Aiden. “He’s quite possibly the most important person in any universe. The Doctor travels in time and space protecting the universe--and he chose you, Rose Tyler, to travel with him. You were his assistant, his protégée, his friend, his constant companion. The two of you loved each other in a way that few others could possibly understand.” Aiden took a step closer. “You know this to be true.”

His words struck a chord deep within Rose. “But . . . I’d remember, wouldn’t I? Even if we were separated, there’s no way I’d forget.”

“Not unless your memories were stripped from you and overwritten,” said Aiden.

Something cold gripped Rose’s heart. “Who would do that? Supposing it’s true, who did that to me?”

“No one. You see, you were pulled from one universe into another. The universe itself has been trying to fit you in. It created a past for you after you were trapped here.” Aiden gave her a sympathetic smile. “You were never meant to be a part of this universe, Rose. You knew it. You would have stayed with the Doctor, had it been possible.”

“Wait, wait,” said Rose, feeling like her brain was burning. “How do I know any of this is true? You could be a psychic or a telepath--you could’ve found a man who looks close enough to--to the man in my dreams and got a photo of him. You could’ve planted this whole thing in my brain.”

Aiden smiled. “I can see why the Doctor chose you. You’re a clever girl.” He reached into one of his light-colored trench coat’s pockets and extracted another envelope. He tossed it to Rose. “These pictures were taken in your original universe. You can have them examined for fakery, but you won’t find any.”

Rose opened the envelope. Inside were several more pictures of the Doctor, including some with her at his side. They’d obviously been taken from a distance through a telephoto lens, but they were clear enough for Rose to see the look on her face--smiling, happy. Whole.

“I-I don’t understand,” she finally managed to stammer. “When--how?”

“I have my ways,” said Aiden, shrugging. “It wasn’t easy. As for when you came across to this universe, think back about a year and a half.”

She thought back and realized that her depression had started just about that long ago. The feeling of loss, emptiness that she’d nearly forgotten with John.

“You feel it, don’t you? You know that something is very wrong.” Aiden took one step closer. Rose shifted backward, just on instinct. “This place is not your home. You’ve been shoehorned in, painted with its colors, but the real Rose Tyler is still in you, desperate to get out.”

“How do you know all this?” Rose asked faintly. Her mind was reeling.

“I suppose you might say I’m like the Doctor, in a way,” said Aiden. “I’m a traveler who has his finger on the pulse of this universe. And you, I fear, have created quite a disturbance.” He took another step toward Rose, coming within arm’s reach. “It tried to absorb you, to make you a part of it; but the joining is imperfect. Cracks are starting to form. Things are breaking through that shouldn’t.”

“You mean all the things that’ve been happening?” Rose asked. “The Cybermen, the Daleks, the Rift acting up--that’s because of me?”

“It’s not your fault,” said Aiden softly. “You hardly asked to be here.”

Rose shook her head. “But what about my family, my friends?” John, she thought.

“All very real. But there was never a Rose Tyler in this universe, much less one of such importance. You were not only the Doctor’s companion; you were the Bad Wolf, the woman who once held all of time and eternity inside her.” Aiden paused. “The longer you stay, the worse the cracks will get. They’ll endanger everyone you love--your family, your friends, and your lover.”

Bad Wolf, something whispered in her mind. She had a brief image of light like a thousand suns and heard singing. Bad Wolf.

“No, this is crazy,” she said, forcing the images from her mind. She stepped away from Aiden. “Can’t be true. I’m just--I’m no one. Rich little chav tryin’ to prove something. I don’t know what you want from me--”

“First of all, you are very important. If you want proof, you can always ask your friends at Torchwood to check your body’s background radiation. It’ll be exactly the same as your operatives who have crossed dimensions. Just don’t take too much time doing it; the world won’t hold you too much longer.” He let that sink in before going on. “And it’s not what I want from you, Rose; it’s what I can do for you.

“I can take you home.”

Back to index


Chapter 12: Follow the Bad Wolf

Author's Notes: In Which Our Heroine Searches For Answers


“Oh, my, what a dilemma we have here! If Rose had been offered this chance right after our last meeting, she’d have jumped at it, no doubt. But now that she’s spent another year here, made friends, gained a brother and fallen in love? It’s not so easy. It wouldn’t be even if her memories were intact.

“Of course, we must now discuss this mysterious Aiden. Who is he, is he telling the truth, and what’s his interest in this, anyway?

“No, no, no--I’m not going to answer the who or the what. That would be telling. Never accuse me of being a bad storyteller! Wait and see.

“As for the question of whether or not he’s telling the truth, you already know that some of what he said is true. The rest? I’m afraid he’d have to use the old Obi-Wan Kenobi defense of ‘from a certain point of view.’ He has a vested interest here, I’ll tell you that much. The real question is if he’s out for Rose’s good, the universe’s--or just his own.

“That, of course, is where we left Rose. Does she trust this man or not? What’s the right decision, and does she have the strength to make it?

“Dear Rose. I’d have spared her all this pain if I could have.”


***

Rose got absolutely no sleep that night. She barely even tried. Aiden’s words had sparked something within her. It was almost a sense of relief, in a way; she’d felt something was wrong for such a long time that having someone validate that feeling was downright gratifying. And to see actual photographs of the Brown-eyed Man, the Doctor, and to know that he was real . . .

She shut that thought down. She didn’t know, when it came down to it. This all could have been some sort of hoax. The Tylers had made powerful enemies, as had Torchwood. There had to be some way she could verify even a little of what he’d said.

But if the Doctor was real, if her dreams were actually memories, if all that had been stripped away from her . . .

It was a thought fit to drive her mad. What was she, if she wasn’t Rose Tyler, heiress? Who was she really? And her family, who were they? Her friends?

John.

She tossed in bed, tears leaking from her eyes. He’d made that sense of loss disappear. When she was with him, she felt so right, so perfectly whole, and the thought of being locked away from him--she couldn’t do that.

But hadn’t she already been torn away from the man she loved?

Eventually, it was time to get ready for work, and she went through the motions, trying to avoid her housemates. She knew they’d ask questions she wasn’t ready to answer. The best she could muster was a slight smile and saying she didn’t sleep well before heading off to Torchwood, and the first thing she did there was to put a call in to Jane. She had to talk to someone, and Jane, at least, might be able to tell her if she’d gone completely crackers.

***

“Am I crackers?”

Jane looked at her, a little wide-eyed from the story Rose had just told, but taking it surprisingly well. “No,” she said after a moment. “No, I don’t believe you’re insane, psychotic, crazy, or any of those other good words. I think that you’re very confused right now, very torn, and you don’t know what to make of the information that’s been handed to you--information which, incidentally, may be completely true, partially true, mostly false, or entirely false.” Jane sighed. “You know, there was a time in my career when I’d have prescribed anti-psychotics to anyone who even considered that this all might be true. My, how times have changed.”

“So what do I do?” Rose begged. “On one hand, these feelings and these dreams--it’s all so real. I close my eyes and I can see the Doctor, I can hear his voice, I can even smell him. And there’s part of me that is so desperate to get back to him it’s choking me. But then another part of me says that I’ve got everything here. I’ve got family, friends, work . . . John. How could I leave all that? And am I really making things dangerous for all of them?”

“First things first,” said Jane. “We need to find some way of verifying what he said. You live with Shannon McShea, correct? She’s an expert at examining photographs. Give her one or two of the photos this Aiden gave you and ask her if she can find any evidence of fakery.”

Rose nodded. “Good idea. I can count on Shannon to keep things quiet, too.”

“The next thing to do is to use some of Torchwood’s resources,” Jane went on. “The suggestion about checking the background radiation in your body is a good one. It would give you a quick answer as to whether he was lying about everything, certainly. I’d also suggest you make an appointment with Maggie Callaghan.”

“The psychic?” asked Rose, wrinkling her nose.

Jane shrugged. “She’s tested higher than anyone we’ve found in the United Kingdom in terms of extra-sensory perception. If there is psychic manipulation here, she’s your best chance of rooting it out.”

It felt somehow better to have a plan of action. “All right, then. I can grab Shannon today. What’ll I need to get tested for radiation?”

“I’ll write out an order,” said Jane. “Mind you, the results will take several days to a week to get back. I’ll also give you Maggie’s number.” She paused a minute and smiled gently. “May I ask how your holiday with John went?”

Rose smiled back. “It was perfect. I didn’t want to come back. I’m--I’m terribly in love.” She gave a laugh. “Couldn’t guess that, I’m sure.”

“Good,” said Jane. “I’m glad it went well. I’ve seen you two around each other, and from my perspective, it looks like you’re very good for each other.”

“He’s certainly good for me,” Rose blurted, and her eyes widened. “Oh, God, did that sound like I think it did?”

Jane laughed. “It did. But I know what you meant.”

Rose shook her head and squeezed Jane’s hand. “I’m just so glad you’re taking this all seriously. I feel like I’m going crazy.”

“Rose, I pride myself on being able to spot signs of mental illness,” said Jane reassuringly. “Not once have I thought you delusional, not in all the time I’ve been your therapist. Knowing what I know about the world now I’ve come to Torchwood, I believe that whatever is happening to you is real.” She pressed her lips together for a moment before going on. “I also believe you’re being manipulated by this Aiden. Mind you, I don’t know what his motivations are; he may genuinely believe he’s doing the right thing. Nonetheless, it’s important that you learn as much as you can before making any decisions.”

“I agree,” said Rose. “Thanks, Jane.”

***

Rose went into action the moment she left Jane’s office. First, she found Shannon and pulled her into an empty room.

“What is it?” Shannon asked, pushing her thick red hair off her face.

“I need you to keep this quiet.” Rose handed her the photographs of the Doctor and herself. “Can you check these out? See if there’s any fakery?”

“Sure.” She looked at the photos. “He’s delectable, whoever he is. Speaking of, who is he?”

Rose hesitated before plunging in. “That’s the Brown-eyed Man. The one from my dreams.”

“Thought you said he wasn’t real,” said Shannon, eyeing her housemate.

“I didn’t think he was,” said Rose. “Now . . . I don’t know. I don’t remember ever meeting him, much less holding hands with him.” She tapped one of the photos. “I just need to know anything you can tell me about the pictures, all right? Whenever you get the chance, of course.”

“Okay. I’ll look them over.” She held one up to better light. “If they are faked, it’s a good job; there’s nothing obviously wrong here. Still, I’d need to go over them more thoroughly to really know anything. I’ll figure it out. Always do.”

“Thanks,” said Rose. “I owe you one.”

“That you do,” agreed Shannon. “Gonna tell me what this is about, love?”

Rose gave her a tight smile. “I’ll tell you when I know.”

***

“I’d like to briefly draw your attention to the fact that Rose’s friend called me ‘delectable.’ Isn’t that a wonderful word? Delectable!”

***

After giving up a little blood to the lab, Rose put in a call to Maggie Callaghan. To her chagrin, Callaghan urged her to come right over.

“I have some time this afternoon,” said the psychic. “I have this impression I should fit you in as soon as I can.”

Rose agreed, groaning internally, and checked out of Torchwood. As she exited the building, she bumped into Mickey, who was coming in.

“Where are you headed?” Mickey asked.

“Got a bit of business to take care of,” said Rose.

Jake, on Mickey’s heels, said, “Be careful out there. We just took down two Cybermen over at Powell Estates.”

“Downing Street got shaken up, too,” added Mickey. “Literally. Whole place rattled like my old car for about two minutes. Next street over didn’t feel a thing. Looks like things are picking up again.”

I leave, and everything’s fine for two weeks, thought Rose. I come back, and this happens.

She swallowed hard. “I’ll be careful.”

Rose nearly turned around a half-dozen times as she drove to Maggie Callaghan’s studio. This is ridiculous, she told herself. The woman’s probably a certified nutcase, and she’ll just tell me a bunch of vague things I could’ve told her. The only reason she didn’t turn around was that she was desperate for any answers. Finally, she arrived.

The door opened before Rose had a chance to knock. Maggie bore a vague resemblance to Darcie, with her dark hair and big brown eyes, but was a good deal taller and not nearly so fashionable. She looked like she was dressed more for comfort than anything else.

“Hi,” said Rose.

“Come on in,” Maggie said. She had a very slight Irish accent, like she’d been born in Ireland but had spent most of her life in England. Rose stepped into the studio, not sure of what to expect. “I poured you a cup of tea. I think you’ll like the blend. Please, make yourself comfortable.”

The studio actually was a very comfortable place, with dark wood paneling and furnishings with an art deco flair. Rose took a seat and the cup of tea Maggie pushed toward her. She’d been right; the tea, an herbal blend that tasted of lavender and citrus, was quite good. Maggie sat down across from her and gave her a penetrating look. It was a little unnerving.

Rose cleared her throat. “Um, I’m here because--”

“--someone told you something that you’ve suspected for a long time, but you don’t know if you can trust him,” finished Maggie.

“Did--did Jane tell you that?” asked Rose, startled.

“No. That was just a surface impression. You’re practically shouting it,” said Maggie. “I also see that you’re very close to your family, very protective of your friends, and very much in love. I could even tell you his name, but considering my addiction to the Sun, I believe that would be cheating.”

Rose had to laugh at that. “A psychic who reads tabloids.”

“They amuse me, and I always like to see if my impressions as to which stories are true pan out in the long run. I have a ninety-five percent success rate. You’re not pregnant, by the way.”

“Didn’t think I was. Thanks, though.” Rose decided Maggie wasn’t anything like she’d expected. “I need to know if I’m being manipulated psychically.”

“You’re not,” said Maggie decisively. “I doubt you could be. You’re far too strong-minded for that. However . . .” Maggie leaned forward, studying her. “There is a duality to you. Very strange. I haven’t seen anything like it. Almost as if you’ve lived two lives. Something within you is fighting to break free.” She held out one hand, and Rose took it. “Breathe.” Maggie closed her eyes.

Not quite sure what was happening, Rose decided to do one of the meditation/relaxation exercises Jane had taught her. She closed her eyes and concentrated on her breathing and let her thoughts flow out of her head.

Bad Wolf, something whispered. A golden glow tickled at the edge of her consciousness. Bad Wolf. Bad Wolf, Bad Wolf, Bad Wolf Bad Wolf Bad Wolf--

Maggie gasped, dropping Rose’s hand, jerking her out of the moment.

“What is it?” asked Rose.

“Follow the Bad Wolf, Rose,” Maggie told her. “Follow it. It will tell you all you need to know.”

“But what is the Bad Wolf? What does it mean?” Rose felt more confused than ever.

“Once you know what it means, you’ll know who you are,” said Maggie. “That’s the limit of my vision, Rose Tyler. I can tell you nothing more.”

***

“--and that’s it. Bad Wolf--again!” Rose gave a sigh of impatience as she talked with Jane on her cell phone. “How the hell am I supposed to make any sense out of this? I feel like I’m chasing my own tail!”

“It does seem to be a persistent theme, doesn’t it?” said Jane. “All right, if you can take another of my suggestions, I’d recommend that you speak with Dr. Henry at Torchwood.”

“Who’s he?” It was very rare that Rose didn’t know a Torchwood employee by name, if not by face.

“Peculiar chap. Doesn’t often get out of his office. However, he’s a bloody genius,” said Jane. “He’s a connections man. He sees patterns in things other people think are random. Mention ‘Bad Wolf’ to him, and he might be able to come up with something none of the rest of us can see.”

“All right,” sighed Rose. “I’ll see if I can track him down tomorrow. Thanks, Jane.”

The minute she clicked off, her phone rang again. It was John’s number. She instantly felt better. “Hello!”

“Hello, love,” said John. “Good news: I’m going to be free this evening. I don’t suppose you’d like to meet for dinner?”

Rose practically started crying. “Oh, God, John--there is literally nothing in the world I’d like more. It’s been . . . it’s been a day.”

“Good. I mean, that you’d like to have dinner; I’m sorry you’ve had a bad day,” said John. “I’ll have to see what I can do about that.”

“It’s a thousand percent better already,” said Rose. “Can we--can we just meet at your flat and order in? I’m so tired, and the thought of going out anyplace . . .”

“Excellent idea.” They discussed the time and the menu, and after Rose hung up, she headed home. She spruced herself up a bit, not wanting to look like the walking dead for John, and then she packed an overnight bag. Tonight, she’d sleep in John’s arms.

***

The evening was just as relaxing as Rose had hoped. They ate Chinese and watched some Jeeves & Wooster on DVD, and the combination of cuddling and comedy helped Rose to let go of some of the tension she’d been carrying.

“I remember watching this at University,” sighed John. “Of course, when I mentioned it to my father, he just handed me a volume of Wodehouse and told me rather stiffly that I should read the source material rather than losing my brain to the ‘idiot’s lantern.’”

“Mmm,” was Rose’s only reply as she snuggled closer.

John’s arms tightened. “So, what was so awful about your day?”

Rose tensed a little. She didn’t want to tell John about any of what Aiden had told her. If it wasn’t true, he didn’t need to know; if it was true . . . . But she didn’t want to lie to him, either.

He saved her from having to say anything. Sensing her reticence, he said, “Let me guess: it’s one of those work things you can’t talk about?”

“I’m sorry,” said Rose, closing her eyes and allowing the lie of omission to stand. “I just want to forget all about it tonight. Can we do that?”

“Of course,” John murmured. He drew her into a slow, deep kiss. “I know it’s only been a few days, but Rose--I’ve missed you.”

“Missed you, too.” Rose kissed him again. “I haven’t been sleeping.”

John gave a husky laugh. “I’ll bet I can do something about that.”

***

Follow the Bad Wolf, Rose.

She walked through the woods wearing a red hood. The woods were deep and dark, and there were no paths. There were monsters here.

Rose waited, listening.

The Wolf howled. The sound was lonely, angry, challenging, mournful, free. The Wolf howled, and the woods fell silent.

The Wolf howled, and Rose came running, hair flying behind her, fierce joy in her smile.

Follow the Bad Wolf, Rose.

***

The dream haunted her the following day. She’d slept very well--John had made good on his promise--but the dream of the Bad Wolf refused to let go in the light of day. She sent a message to Dr. Henry asking if she could meet with him. As she was awaiting his reply, Shannon entered her office.

“Anything on the pictures?” Rose asked.

“I got some free time yesterday,” said Shannon. “The verdict is that I can’t find anything that would tell me they’re fakes. That leaves two possibilities: first, that they’re real; and second, that someone faked them so well that even my equipment can’t detect anything wrong with them. I’m not saying that’s impossible, just very, very difficult. If they are fakes--and if you don’t ever remember meeting this man, it’s hard to see how they couldn’t be--then someone went to an awful lot of trouble.”

Rose took the pictures back, shaking her head. “I don’t understand. I know him, but he’s just a dream.”

Shannon sat down. “There is one little thing about the pictures that’s, well, peculiar.”

“What?”

“See these two?” Shannon pulled out two of the pictures. “Both of them show a good slice of sky, see? Now, do you see anything missing?”

It took Rose a minute. “No zeppelins.”

“Exactly,” said Shannon. “The skyline is London, but there aren’t any zeppelins. What are the odds of that?”

Rose shook her head and was about to answer when her computer beeped. It was Dr. Henry, saying she could come down anytime.

“Thanks for your help, Shannon,” said Rose. “I’ve got someone I’ve got to meet.” She stood to leave, but Shannon caught her arm.

“Rose, what’s going on?” She looked worried.

“I don’t know. I genuinely don’t know,” said Rose. “But I’m going to find out.”

***

Had Rose gone down to Central Casting and asked for an Eccentric Genius, they’d have sent her Dr. Quentin Henry. It was hard to place his age, though Rose thought he might be somewhere in John’s vicinity. He was short and skinny, the kind of skinny that led Rose to believe he forgot to eat more than occasionally, and he had thinning brown hair that looked like it hadn’t seen a brush or a pair of scissors in about the same amount of time. Thick glasses and a stained button-down shirt completed the image. His office was in total disarray, piles of papers held down by half-full cups of cold coffee on every surface. Sitting on his desk were two computers. Little plastic cartoon characters sat thickly upon and around each.

“Dr. Henry?” she said as she entered.

His head snapped up and he blinked at her owlishly. “Oh, hello, Miss Tyler. What can I . . .” He frowned at something and then swapped around a couple of the cartoon characters. “There.” He nodded in satisfaction and turned back to Rose. “What can I do for you?”

He really was a peculiar one, Rose decided. “Um, I’ve a bit of a strange question,” she said. “What can you tell me about the words ‘Bad Wolf’?”

“Bad Wolf,” he said. He reached out and snagged a plastic figurine, which turned out to be Disney’s Big Bad Wolf. “Bad Wolf?”

“Yeah, like that, I suppose,” said Rose, bemused.

“Right, right, right.” Dr. Henry tapped away at his keyboard. “Well, aside from the obvious fairy tale connections, there’s, let’s see, an independent record label company in America, an acid-rock group in Wales called Blaidd Drwg that disbanded a few years back, a defunct terrorist organization in China--the heads are, well, dead now--ah, and a startup corporation in England that folded, um, right about the time you were born, actually. The same month and everything.”

“You know my birthday?” asked Rose. He pointed at a sheet of paper pinned to a nearby corkboard that had all the employee birthdays listed on it. “Why do some of them have stars next to their names?”

“They’re likely to bring cake.” Dr. Henry hit a few more commands on his keyboard. “A local primary school is doing a performance of ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?’ and a number of scholarly papers on the meaning of the Big, Bad Wolf in fairytales, erm, oh, and place names! Not many of those. There’s Darlig Ulv Stranden in Norway--that’s Bad Wolf Bay, translated--and the village of Fellows in England, which used to be Yfelwulf.”

“Fellows?” Rose interjected. John’s birthplace.

“Yes, Fellows. Bastardization of the Old English name of Yfelwulf. As a matter of fact, Dr. Thomas Smith of Fellows wrote what is considered by many to be the definitive scholarly work on the Big, Bad Wolf,” said Dr. Henry. “Is any of this helping?”

“Yes,” said Rose. “Yes, I think it might be.” Without another word, she left Dr. Henry’s office.

Follow the Bad Wolf, Rose.

The path of the Bad Wolf appeared to be leading straight back to John. Rose decided on her next step.

She would go to Fellows and meet Dr. Thomas Smith.

Back to index


Chapter 13: Red Riding Hood

Author's Notes: In Which Our Heroine Makes A New Acquaintance And Discusses The Big, Bad Wolf


*Note: I don't know the Eighth Doctor at all, so please pardon me if Dr. Thomas Smith is nothing like him except in looks. I drew on his apparent love of literature and what I see as the core "Doctor" personality to make Thomas. I hope you like him as much as I do.

***

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.


Rose stood at the bow of her father’s zeppelin, watching as the English countryside passed below her feet. She rather liked travel by zeppelin. It was much quieter and smoother than traveling by airplane, train or car, with only a soothing background thrum to break the silence. She was alone for this trip, save for the pilot and a couple of crewmembers.

“We should be at Blyth in thirty minutes, Miss,” said the pilot, Captain James MacLaren.

“Thank you, James,” said Rose. She was actually fully qualified to fly the zeppelin herself, but given her mental state as of late, she didn’t think it would be wise. Except for two nights in John’s bed, she hadn’t slept solidly for the past week.

John. She felt like she was betraying him somehow. Not only had she allowed him to believe her stress as of late came from some top-secret project at Torchwood, she was now quite literally sneaking off to meet his father without his knowledge. But how could she possibly explain this to him?

Yeah, I’d like to visit your father to find out his views on the Big, Bad Wolf. Oh, no reason--I just think I might be it. Or at least that’s what people keep telling me.

Rose gave a soft snort at her own thoughts. Lately, she was having trouble deciding if she was going mad, or the universe was.

The minutes ticked by until the docking tower at Blyth was in view, and Rose had to sit down and fasten her seatbelt per safety regulations. Most towns of any size had a docking tower anymore; they were almost as common as railway stations. Fellows was apparently too small even for that. As John had said, the only thing of interest there was a private academy that was considered one of the best in England, and certainly the best in the North. Rose imagined the richer parents were quite put out that they couldn’t just drive in their zeppelins to drop their little darlings off for the term.

It only took a few minutes for the crew to make fast the zeppelin. Rose stood and headed for the exit.

“I’ll only be a couple of hours, at most,” she told the captain. “I’ll call to let you know when I catch the train back to Blyth.”

“Yes, Miss,” said James.

The docking tower was actually built onto the railway station, a convenience Rose was not ungrateful for. She checked the schedules, found a train headed out to Fellows, and showed her pass to get into the first-class compartment.

Then it was back to waiting, with only her thoughts to keep her company.

***

And the proud dreaming king who flung the crown
And sorrow away, and calling bard and clown
Dwelt among wine-stained wanderers in deep woods;
And him who sold tillage, and house, and goods,
And sought through lands and islands numberless years,
Until he found, with laughter and with tears,
A woman of so shining loveliness
That men threshed corn at midnight by a tress,
A little stolen tress.


Fellows was one of those villages that invariably earned the sobriquet “quaint” in travel guides. It might even get a “charming” or possibly “picturesque.” Rose thought it lovely. It had an old-fashioned feel to it, and Rose vaguely expected to see boys in Norfolk suits on bicycles and girls wearing frocks and curls in the street. She glanced down at the address she’d found for Dr. Thomas Smith. Even if his house was hard to find, she expected she could walk anywhere in the village in fifteen minutes at most. Still, she stopped long enough to ask a friendly-looking older man for directions.

“Jus’ take this street down, turn right just before the church, and it’ll be the fifth house on the left past the cemetery,” he said. “Can’t miss it. Lovely rosebushes.”

“Thanks,” said Rose, and she went on her way. She vaguely realized she was garnering some strange looks; there was no doubt that she was an outsider. Rose hardly minded. She was used to people whispering as she passed, especially after her recent spate of tabloid coverage. Small-town gossip being what it was, she thought it likely that more than a few people here knew who she was and with whom she was in love.

Turn right just before the church, she thought, and did so. It was a typical country church, a stone structure with a graveyard out back. Without knowing why, Rose found herself drawn to the cemetery. It didn’t take her long to find what she was unconsciously searching for.

PAULA JEAN TAYLOR SMITH
1974-2000

EMILY GRACE SMITH
INFANT


Rose heard herself gasp as she looked at the graves. The reality of this woman and this baby, John’s wife and child, suddenly hit her like a slap. She pressed a hand to her mouth, tears forming in her eyes as she stooped down, unable to hold herself upright.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered to the stones, not knowing why she said it. “I’m so sorry.”

She didn’t know how long she stayed there before quiet footsteps interrupted her reverie. Wiping away her tears, she pulled herself to her feet and turned to face whoever was approaching. She recognized him at once.

He wasn’t tall, only a couple of inches taller than Rose herself, but he had great presence and held himself like a king. Though he was in his sixties, he betrayed no signs of infirmity, and his features were still strong and very handsome.

“Doctor Thomas Smith?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“I’m Rose Tyler,” she said. “I-I’m in love with your son.”

He nodded. “Yes, I recognized you, Miss Tyler. I confess I would have expected to see you in John’s company.” His voice was beautiful to listen to, gentle and melodic.

Rose’s head spun. How was she supposed to explain to him why she was here? “Um, there was something--something I had to do on my own.”

“I see.” He held out his hand, which Rose belatedly noticed held two white roses, one in full bloom and the other just a bud. “The bud is for Emily’s grave,” he explained. He himself held a third bloom, this one red, and that was when Rose realized that next to Paula’s grave was a joined headstone. One side had Thomas Smith’s name on it along with his birthdate, and the other side read “Grace Anne Smith.”

Quietly, reverently, Rose placed the rosebud on Emily’s grave and the full bloom on Paula’s.

I want to take care of him, she thought helplessly, as if she were confessing to Paula. I want to protect him and love him, but I don’t know what to do.

She stood and turned to Thomas again. He held out one hand.

“Will you join me for tea, Miss Tyler?” he asked.

Rose took his hand, offering a shy smile. “I’d love to. But please, call me Rose.”

He smiled at her and guided her hand to the crook of his arm. “It would be my privilege, Rose. I must say, you are even more beautiful in person than you are in pictures.”

“Has John sent you photos?” Rose asked.

“No,” said Thomas. “However, when he told me about you, I took the simple expedient of looking you up on the Internet.”

Rose laughed. “I’m surprised you’re not scared to death of me, the sorts of things you’ll find online.”

“I have long since learned the art of telling fact from fiction, my dear. My son speaks very highly of you, and you appear to be a most accomplished young lady.”

They left the graveyard together, and Rose found herself cataloguing the similarities between John and his father. Thomas had beautiful hands, just like his son. His features were strong and regular, and though he was perhaps more conventionally handsome than John, there was a resemblance. Father and son also had the same graceful economy of movement. Their major differences were in their coloring--Rose thought Thomas must have been fair-haired before the gray took over--their height and their accents. Thomas sounded like a Shakespearean actor, very unlike John’s Northern accent and idiom. He must have picked that up from his surroundings, or perhaps his mother.

“Tell me, what is it that brings you to Fellows, Rose?” Thomas asked after a few moments.

“Bit of a--guess you could call it a personal quest,” she said. “It’s hard to explain. I don’t exactly understand myself.” She shook her head. “Makin’ no sense at all, am I?”

“Making sense is, in my opinion, highly overrated,” said Thomas. There was a glint of laughter in his eyes. “Too many attempt to force what they see and feel into boxes that ‘make sense’ rather than adjusting their own frames of mind and accepting what they perhaps thought impossible. It’s a form of insanity, if you ask me.”

“Maybe it is,” Rose mused. “I fell in love with your son in two minutes. Maybe not even that. I saw him, and . . . something in me knew him. He felt the same way. Anybody else told me that, I’d say they were exaggerating. Tellin’ a nice story that didn’t have much to do with reality. But what I feel for John--sometimes, I think it’s the only real thing.”

“Would it shock you to hear that my son has said something very similar?” Thomas ushered Rose down the cobbled path to his home, and Rose saw that the rosebushes were, indeed, lovely. “You’ve even rendered him speechless occasionally, which is, I needn’t tell you, exceedingly difficult.”

Rose laughed. “Saying that about your own son!”

“If a father cannot say it, who can?” Thomas gave her a familiar cheeky smile as he opened the door and waved her in.

His house was small, but very warm and comfortable--and packed with books. Almost every available surface was crowded with books, most old, most large. Thomas ushered her into the parlor. Two armchairs sat on either side of a small table. One was occupied by a sleek gray cat. Thomas indicated the other.

“Please, take a seat, Rose. I’ll be needing that chair presently, Spenser,” he said to the cat. It looked at him with large yellow eyes, apparently unimpressed. “An ungrateful guest in my house, Spenser. He took up residence here two winters ago and now considers it his right to demand food, lodging and whatever surface suits his fancy to rest upon.” Thomas withdrew to the kitchen, where he started making tea.

Rose took a look around at her surroundings. She felt instantly comfortable here; it was, after all, where John had grown up. Her eyes caught a photograph, and she took a closer look. It was a wedding picture. She recognized Thomas, young and even handsomer, looking at a beautiful, dark-haired woman with utter adoration in his eyes.

John’s mother, she thought, and set the picture aside, a lump growing in her throat again.

Sitting on the table was a small book, which Rose picked up. It was a slim volume of Yeats’s poetry. She flipped through it, finally settling on one poem.

“ ‘Who dreamed that beauty passes like a dream?’” she read softly to herself. “ ‘For these red lips, with all their mournful pride/Mournful that no new wonder may betide/Troy passed away in one high funeral gleam/And Usna’s children died.’”

“ ‘We and the labouring world are passing by:/Amid men’s souls, that waver and give place/Like the pale waters in their wintry race/Under the passing stars, foam of the sky/Lives on this lonely face.’” Thomas entered, quoting the poem’s second stanza and carrying a tea tray laden with a silver tea service and a plate of shortbread biscuits. “ ‘The Rose of the World.’ I know it quite well.”

“I memorized it once when I was in school,” said Rose. “It was the title, and ‘The Secret Rose’ was too long.”

Thomas took the book from Rose’s fingers. “Try to quote the last stanza from memory.”

“Don’t think I can, but I’ll give it a try,” said Rose. She closed her eyes, trying to remember the tricks she’d used to memorize it once before. “Um, ‘Bow down, archangels, in your dim abode’--is that right?” She opened one eye, and Thomas nodded. He dislodged Spenser from his chair and sat down. “ ‘Before you were, or any hearts to beat/Weary and kind one lingered by His seat;/He made the world to be a grassy road/Before her wandering feet.’ Did I do it?”

“You remembered better than you knew,” said Thomas, pouring the tea. “Sugar and milk?”

“Please.” Rose accepted the cup he offered. “It surprises me that I remembered that much. It’s been years since I even thought about that poem. I always thought it was sad.”

“Yeats has a certain melancholy, certainly; much like Celtic music. My Grace always loved the poem ‘When You Are Old.’ Do you know it?” Rose shook her head, and Thomas quoted:

“When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

“How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

“And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.”


“Tha-that’s beautiful,” Rose said, her voice barely above a whisper as she forced it through a tight throat. Why was she so emotional lately, she wondered?

One more thing father and son had in common, Rose decided, was that incredibly penetrating look that made her feel like they could see through to her soul. “Why are you here, Rose?” asked Thomas.

Rose sipped her tea, trying to ease her throat a bit. “Like I said, it’s hard to explain. I’ve been,” she rubbed her forehead, “I’ve been wondering--what would you say if I told you that a couple of words are following me around? I mean, there’s been just a string of coincidences in my life the last few months, and the words ‘Bad Wolf’ have been involved every single time. And maybe it’s insane, but you literally wrote the book on the Big, Bad Wolf, so I thought maybe--maybe you’d know what it means?”

Thomas didn’t look surprised or dismayed or in any way like the question caught him off-guard. “You want to know what the Bad Wolf is?”

“Whatever you can tell me,” she said.

He sat back, steepling his fingers. “Tell me in brief the story of Red Riding Hood.”

“Little Red Riding Hood was taking treats to her grandmother’s house when she met the Big, Bad Wolf. The Wolf went and ate her grandmother, and when Little Red Riding Hood got there, it pretended to be her grandmother, and they had the conversation about big eyes and all that. When the Wolf tried to eat her, the Woodsman came in and killed the wolf and cut it open to free her grandmother.” She shrugged. “Bob’s your uncle, they all lived happily ever after.”

Thomas took a sip of his tea. “That is not,” he said, “the story of Red Riding Hood as originally told. It is the version told by the Brothers Grimm--but it is not the original tale. In an older version, told by Charles Perrault, the story ends with Red Riding Hood and her grandmother having been devoured by the Wolf, with no Woodsman to save them. In that tale, the Wolf had distracted Red Riding Hood with flowers so he could go ahead of her to her grandmother’s house, though Red Riding Hood had been instructed to go straight to her grandmother’s house and not get distracted along the way. The moral was that she should not have spoken to a stranger.”

“That’s a little twisted,” said Rose.

“Oh, but you haven’t heard the worst,” said Thomas. “The Grimm version was a cleaned-up version of Perrault’s, but Perrault’s was utterly sanitized compared to the original tales. In one of them, the Wolf doesn’t devour the grandmother; he kills her, pours her blood into a bottle and slices her flesh on a plate. When Red Riding Hood arrives, the disguised Wolf tells her to eat and drink, and she does. Then he tells her to take off her clothing and throw it on the fire, and she does. Then he tells her to get in bed beside him, and she does. After that, he devours her.”

Rose shivered. “Okay, that is worse. Why would they tell stories like that?”

“Because the Wolf is the gatekeeper,” said Thomas. “He is tester and judge. He enforces the limitations of civilized behavior. One like Red Riding Hood, who transgressed those limitations, had to die, you see. The Wolf exists at the edges of what we can do, and what we are allowed to do. To stray outside those bounds . . .” He spread his hands. “Well. In the original tales, the Wolf was a moral guardian. As time went on, as roles began to be questioned, he became a villain to be slain. No one likes limitations; nonetheless, they are necessary to society as a whole. Can you imagine one without any limits, either moral or physical?”

“And the Wolf?” asked Rose. “Does the Wolf have limits?”

“In the original tales, no,” said Thomas. “The Wolf was a limit in and of itself.”

I am the Bad Wolf.

“Does that help you any, Rose?” Thomas asked.

“Would you think I’m totally crazy if I said--if I said I think so?” asked Rose. Oddly, she did feel like a question much deeper than she even knew had been answered.

“We’re all crazed in this world.” Thomas gave her a gentle smile. “You no more than anyone else, and less than most.”

Rose smiled back. “John said I’d end up falling for you if I ever met you.”

“I believe at this point, I should say something to the effect of, ‘I’ve still got it,’” said Thomas in a downright grave tone.

“You do,” Rose said, and laughed, and Thomas laughed with her. “Listen, if you . . . would you not tell John I was here?”

“I’ll have no need to,” said Thomas, “as you will tell him yourself.”

Rose hesitated briefly, but she knew he was right. “I will. Once I’ve figured out what to tell him, that is.”

“I find the truth generally works best, even if you don’t know all of it,” said Thomas. “Trust him, Rose.”

With my life. With my heart.

They talked on for a time, Thomas telling her stories of John’s youth and Rose telling him about her life and family. The tea cooled and the afternoon shadows deepened, and Rose suddenly realized she needed to get back home.

“It’s been wonderful meeting you,” she finally said. “I’ve got to get back, but I hope we can visit soon, John and me.”

“I look forward to it,” said Thomas. He stood with Rose and pressed the little volume of Yeats into her hand.

Rose blinked. “I can’t take this--it’s over a hundred years old!”

“Take it,” Thomas insisted. “A gift for my future daughter-in-law.”

“But John and I haven’t even discussed--”

“You will. My son is no fool. He will ask, sooner or later, and you love him too much to refuse him,” said Thomas. “I’m happy for him. I never married again after Grace died, because I never loved again. John is more fortunate. Far more fortunate.”

Rose lowered her head, the turmoil within her raw and painful. He was right; she loved John to the point that the thought of marrying him sounded like heaven. But if Aiden was right . . .

“Thank you,” she said, lifting her head and looking at Thomas through her tears. “I’ll treasure this.”

“May I escort you to the railway station?” asked Thomas.

Rose smiled and took his arm. “I’d be honored.”

***

As night fell, Rose sat in the zeppelin, headed back to London. She held the book of poems in her hand and traced the faded lettering on the cover. She still didn’t know what she’d tell John, but she knew one thing: no matter what Aiden said, John felt like home to her. Almost unconsciously, she opened the book.

For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
From a world more full of weeping than he can understand.


***

The poems are all from Yeats. The beginning and end quotes are from “The Stolen Child”; the second excerpt is from “The Secret Rose”; and Rose and Thomas quote “The Rose of the World” and “When You Are Old.”

The story of Little Red Riding Hood comes from a lot of sources, but the really awful one is quoted by Neil Gaiman in The Doll’s House. Its source is unknown.

Back to index


Chapter 14: Old Stories Made New

Author's Notes: In Which Rose Makes A Decision, For Good Or For Ill


.">“You know, I sort of miss my eighth body. Not very tall, but my, wasn’t I handsome?

“Oh, come on! I’m over nine hundred years old, and I’m on my tenth body; I’m allowed to be vain now and again. You can criticize me when you’re nine hundred.

“Right, then--where were we? Oh, yes. Rose is starting to put the pieces together. She’s beginning to realize that her dreams aren’t just dreams, and that she’s lived an entire life she didn’t know about. That’s enough to shake one. And she is shaken, obviously. Come now--how would you feel if you suddenly realized every single assumption you’d built your life upon was wrong?

“The trick, of course, is realizing it. Plenty of beings all over space and time happily go about their entire lives never questioning their own worldviews. Pathetic way to live, but there you have it.

“Rose doesn’t have that luxury. She’s not nearly finished with unwelcome revelations. Not by far. Things are about to get very, very bad.”


***

As the workweek started, Rose decided to come clean with John. Tell him everything, no matter how strange and preposterous it sounded, and trust that he knew her well enough to know she wasn’t delusional. She picked up her phone, planning to call him to set up a date so they could talk face-to-face. Before she could dial, however, the phone rang.

“Hello?” she said.

“Hello, Rose.” It was Aiden’s voice. “How have you been?”

Rose was instantly tense again. “ ‘M fine,” she said. “You?”

“Well enough. I was calling to ask you what you’ve decided.”

“Haven’t exactly decided on anything yet,” said Rose. “I haven’t got the radiation test back from the lab yet. It’ll probably come through tomorrow.”

“And the photographs?” Aiden pressed. “Did you have them examined?”

“Yeah.” Rose bit her lip. “My--the person who examined them said they look legitimate, ‘cept for the lack of zeppelins. But she says it’s still possible they’re faked by someone with a lot of skill and a lot of time on their hands.”

Aiden laughed, which wasn’t the response she’d expected. “Zeppelins, believe it or not, aren’t nearly as popular in your home universe as they are in this one. You’d be hard-pressed to find one in all of London there. The pictures aren’t faked, Rose; they were taken by someone who was interested in the Doctor, and I, shall we say, acquired them.”

“ ‘Cause you thought they’d be useful someday?”

“Because I knew what an impact they would have on you,” said Aiden. “I needed to get your attention, Rose, and what better way to do it than to wave the Doctor under your nose? I’m just glad my guess was right and you’d begun to remember.”

Many things were bothering Rose, but she settled on the one that was bothering her most. “You say these dreams are memories, yeah?”

“They are.”

“Then why is John in them?” she asked. “I know you’ve been keeping tabs on me, so you know who I’m talking about. When I dream about the Doctor, half the time it’s the Brown-eyed Man, and the other half of the time, it’s John. If they’re memories of my old life, how can he be in them?”

There was a long silence on the other end of the line, and then Aiden sighed. “Look, Rose, I didn’t want to have to tell you this, but the truth is, your lover, John, is actually an echo of the Doctor in this universe. The Doctor can regenerate when he’s close to death, change his entire body. When you met the Doctor, he looked like John. That was the man you fell in love with. When he was dying, he changed into the Brown-eyed Man. Same being, different face.”

“Wh-what do you mean, an echo?” Rose asked.

“Just that. An echo. I suppose it was fate that the two of you should meet and be attracted to each other, but I have to warn you that fate isn’t always kind. Your story is being replayed, and you may not like the ending,” said Aiden. “The more you remember, the more you’ll understand. And once you understand, you’ll know why it’s so important that you go back to where you belong.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rose demanded.

“Your memories are returning at an exponential rate. You’ll figure it out soon enough. When you do, you’ll call me and beg me to show you the way out,” Aiden said. “I’ll be waiting.” With that, he disconnected.

The call left Rose frustrated, confused and worried. She hesitated before calling John, but ultimately decided that no matter what Aiden said, she needed to be honest with the man she loved. They set a date for the following evening.

After that, Rose went to bed and yet again slept very badly. She saw the Doctor with John’s face, and he was in pain and telling her he was dying.

“I won’t be seeing you again,” he said.

Then she watched as he burned.

***

It was perhaps inevitable that Rose entered Torchwood the next morning in a fine foul mood. Her recent spate of restless nights was beginning to take a toll on her physically and mentally, not to mention emotionally; and she was trying desperately not to dwell on her dream from the previous night. She sipped at a cup of strong coffee, wrinkling her nose. She didn’t really like coffee, but it was the only thing that would punch her awake enough to work lately.

On her computer was a message from the lab saying her results were ready. Rose was suddenly afraid of what they might be. If they were negative, it would be possible that she was just being manipulated somehow. Torchwood would get on the case, solve the problem, and Rose could continue her life with the people she loved.

If, on the other hand, they were positive, that would more or less put any doubts to rest. It would mean that she would have to accept that she’d led a life that she’d forgotten except in dreams, and that she would have to choose between that life and her current one--if there was even a choice, given that she might be endangering everyone in this world.

Groaning, she shoved herself out of her chair and trekked down to the lab. No sense putting it off, and Rose Tyler had never been one for avoiding the truth.

To her surprise and relief, Jane was waiting with Dr. Foster in his office when Rose arrived. “Dr. Foster informed me your results were ready,” said Jane. “I won’t stay if you don’t want me to.”

“Please do,” said Rose. She took a seat beside Jane. “What’s the verdict?” she asked Dr. Foster.

“The verdict is, Miss Tyler, that your cells exhibit the same background radiation as those of our operatives who have crossed dimensions,” said Dr. Foster, getting right to the point. “To your knowledge, have you ever--”

“I don’t know,” said Rose faintly, interrupting without even meaning to. She felt like she’d just been smacked. “If you’d asked me that a year ago, I’d have said no. Now, I don’t know.”

“There could still be a logical explanation for this, Rose,” said Jane.

“Like what? Someone kidnapped me, drugged me up and dragged me to another universe and back just to back up his story?” Rose asked. She stood up. “Thank you, Dr. Foster. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t mention this to anyone else.”

“This is part of your medical records, Miss Tyler; I’d never reveal those to a third party without your permission,” Dr. Foster assured her. “If you’d like to be absolutely sure, we could do another test.”

Rose shook her head. “Won’t be necessary.” She left his office.

Jane was right on her heels. “Rose, wait. We need to discuss this.”

“Discuss what?” Rose asked, hitting the lift button harder than was strictly necessary. “The fact that, all things added up, it looks like my whole life has been a complete sham?”

“You don’t know that. All we have is one test result, and you can draw any number of conclusions from it.” Jane followed Rose into the lift.

“No, actually, we have a lot more than that,” snapped Rose. “I have pictures of the man of my literal dreams, and my photograph expert of a mate can’t find anything wrong with them except a lack of zeppelins. I have dreams that feel more like memories every night. I wake up feeling exhausted because it doesn’t feel like I’ve been sleeping at all. Not to mention my dreams aren’t staying in my head. Did you know that they brought in a piece of a mechanized killer I’ve seen in my dreams? No one knew what it was--except me. And then there’s this ‘Bad Wolf’ business.”

“You said that the day you met Aiden, he had a book about the Big, Bad Wolf with him,” said Jane. “It’s a parlor trick, planting a suggestion in someone’s mind. Magicians do it all the time. Hell, I do it.”

“So why is a crazy woman I never met calling me the Bad Wolf? Not to mention the psychic, who doesn’t think I’m being psychically manipulated but told me to ‘Follow the Bad Wolf,’ whatever the hell that means,” said Rose. “Oh, and then there’s the fact that my boyfriend--God, John hates that word--was born in Bad Wolf, England, and his father literally wrote the book on the Big, Bad Wolf. If there’s some trick to this, Jane, the whole sodding universe is in on it!” The elevator stopped, and Rose exited. “That or I really am going insane. You’d tell me, wouldn’t you?”

Jane again hurried to catch up with Rose, in spite of the fact that Rose was significantly shorter. “You’re not mentally ill; I’m sticking with that. You are, however, overwrought and exhausted. How much have you slept recently? And where are we going, anyway? Your office is in the other direction.”

“I have no idea,” said Rose, determinedly striding on anyway.

Then she stopped abruptly right outside a door. She didn’t know why, but she felt like she needed to know what was inside the room. Her key card unlocked the door.

The room inside didn’t look like anything, at first glance. It looked unfinished or perhaps broken down somehow, with bits of wire and machinery scattered about and sticking out of the walls. It was also evident that the wall with the door was a recent addition, as the paint on it didn’t quite match the rest of the room. Nonetheless, Rose walked toward the far wall almost in a trance, wondering if she was dreaming again.

“I know this place,” she said.

The levers--

Cybermen and Daleks--

Losing her grip--

The Doctor screaming her name--

Her father--

“Take me back!”


“This is where the Doctor and I were separated,” said Rose. “We were in the other world, holding the breach open so the Cybermen and Daleks would be sucked into the Void. I-I fell. Couldn’t hold on. Dad caught me, brought me here so I’d be safe, but when the breach was sealed . . . I couldn’t get back to the Doctor.” She reached out, fingers brushing the wall. “I cried and I begged to go back, but I couldn’t. I lost him here.”

“Rose,” said Jane, coming up behind her. Whatever she was going to say didn’t come out. She saw what Rose was seeing.

There was a little smudge on the wall. It didn’t look like anything extraordinary, but to a woman’s eye, it was quite obviously makeup, probably mascara and foundation. Rose pressed up against the wall, and the smudge was even with her cheek. “I cried here,” she said.

Jane set a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Why don’t we go back to your office and talk?” she suggested gently. “We can figure this out, Rose.”

Before Rose could answer, there was a page over the intercom system. “Rose Tyler, please come to the Director’s office. Rose Tyler to the Director’s office, please.” Rose recognized the voice of her father’s secretary, Yvette.

“Maybe later,” she said to Jane, pulling away from the wall. “Got to see what Dad wants.” She brushed past Jane on her way to the door, where she paused. “Even if he’s not really my dad.”

***

By the time Rose reached the Director’s office, she’d managed to gain a measure of control. She shut off “old Rose” from her mind and concentrated on the present. She could deal--or not--with the rest later.

Pete abruptly exited his office, nearly running into her. “Yes, yes, we’re headed there now,” he said into his headset. “War Room, Rose.”

“What’s happening?” she asked as they strode down the hallway.

“You know that thing they brought in a couple of months ago that you called a Dalek?” he asked. “A whole one just appeared in Henrik’s department store.”

“Is it alive?” Rose asked in alarm. “I mean, is it functioning?”

“We don’t know at the moment. We tapped into their security cameras. It was just sitting still, but we sent operatives down--”

“No!” Rose gasped. “You can’t--if it’s alive, it’ll kill them all!”

“They’re already there,” said Pete.

Rose took off at a sprint for the War Room. She barely registered Pete’s startled exclamation as he ran after her.

Inside the War Room was pure chaos. Several monitors were set up, and various section heads were arguing loudly as reports from the operatives came flooding in. One look at the monitors, and Rose’s blood ran cold.

The Dalek was alive, moving and killing. Several bodies were sprawled out on the floor around it. And a mechanical voice drowned out the operatives’ chatter:

“EX-TER-MIN-ATE!”

“Director,” section head Phillip Walsh called as Pete entered. “It started moving right after our operatives arrived. They’ve cleared the store of civilians, but not before it killed a few.”

There was a burst of gunfire, and Mickey’s voice cut in over the communications linkup. “It’s like the bullets aren’t even hitting it!”

Oh, God, not Mickey! Rose thought, frantically digging through her nebulous memories to try and come up with a solution. She heard babble all around her, discussing options.

Her eyes flew open, and she grabbed a handset. “Mickey, you got a Moore grenade?” Moore grenades were EMP grenades named for their creator, Mrs. Moore.

“Yeah--think it’ll work?” he asked.

“Try it,” Rose ordered.

Jake’s voice came through. “I’ll draw its fire!”

The Dalek had moved to the edge of the security camera’s view, and someone was trying to find another camera for a better angle, but none of them could see clearly. There was a confused rush of movement and sounds--voices, gunfire, the scream of an energy beam--

“JAKE!” Mickey screamed.

A hair-raising electronic howl rang out over the comlink, drawing curses from the people in the War Room as they yanked out their earbuds. Then there was silence.

Pete broke it. “Report,” he barked. “Mickey, are you still with us?”

The camera angle finally shifted. The Dalek was still again, sparking and smoking. They’d succeeded. But . . .

“It got Jake,” said Mickey, voice broken. Rose could see him leaning over the prone body of his best friend. “He’s dead.”

The handset fell from her hand, and she pressed her fingers to her lips. Everything else faded to a background murmur as she watched Mickey slump next to Jake. Pete moved in front of her, cutting off the sight, and wrapped his arms around her.

She could take no comfort in the embrace. Jake was dead, and it was her fault.

***

When Rose left work, she was in such a daze that a couple of her coworkers asked her if she was okay to drive. She waved them off much as she’d ignored Jane’s offers to talk.

She drove. It didn’t matter to her where she went, and she covered seemingly half the city before finally ending up at the one place she realized she wanted to be: John’s apartment building. Though she had no idea if he’d even be in, she parked her car and took the lift to his floor, where she knocked on his door.

It opened. “Rose?” said John, seeing the look on her face. “What’s wrong?”

She threw herself into his arms, sobbing as he tried to soothe her. “Jake’s dead,” she finally choked out.

Somehow, John managed to move her into his flat and to the couch, where he pulled her into his lap and let her cry herself out. “What happened?” he asked gently when she’d gotten a little control back.

Under his calming touch, she told him about the Dalek and the fight. “It’s like my nightmares are coming true,” she said. “I dreamed about those things, and then one appears and . . . now Jake’s gone.”

“Shh.” John removed her jacket. “It sounds to me like your idea saved lives.”

“Shouldn’t have happened at all. That thing shouldn’t be here.” Rose pulled away from him. Her head was spinning, and she was finding it harder and harder to keep a coherent line of thought going. “It’s me. All my fault.”

John took her shoulders. “Rose, love, you’re not making sense. How is this your fault?”

Rose gave a half-hysterical laugh. “Nothing makes sense!” She covered her face with her hands and shook her head. “I think I’m going mad.”

“I tend to go with the old saw that if you can ask the question, you’re not insane,” said John. He tilted her face up to his. “How long has it been since you ate or slept?”

“I, um,” said Rose. “I don’t think I ate breakfast. Slept so poorly last night I got up late and just grabbed a coffee. Sort of forgot about lunch, too.”

John ushered her into his dining room. “Sit,” he commanded, pulling out a chair.

Rose sat, not really caring what was happening. She had something she needed to tell John, but it was all very confusing and she had the impression she might have buggered it all up thoroughly already. John was making noises in the kitchen, and she realized he was trying to take care of her. A few more tears leaked from her eyes at that.

A few minutes later, a bowl of soup and a bun appeared under her nose. “Eat,” said John, sitting beside her with his own meal.

Though Rose didn’t feel hungry, she forced herself to eat what had been set before her, mainly to please John. She could feel him watching her. Sooner or later, the soup and the bun were gone, and she did, in fact, feel a little clearer.

“How about some tea?” John asked as he took her dish. “Herbal, of course; I don’t think you need more caffeine.”

“That’d be fine,” she said. “You--you don’t have to take care of me.”

“You don’t appear to be doing a spectacular job of taking care of yourself,” said John as he set the teapot on the stove. “You’ve mentioned to me a couple of times since our holiday that you haven’t been sleeping well. Have you talked to Jane about it? She could prescribe sleeping pills, if nothing else.”

“It’s just these dreams. They’re so real,” said Rose, and added tentatively, “I-I think there’s more to them than just my subconscious going wonky.”

“Hm.” John took down a tin of tea. “You never know, with dreams. Last night, I had a dream about some Cybermen playing in a park with a robot dog.”

Rose couldn’t help but giggle at the mental picture. “I have been talking about the dreams with Jane. My line of work, you never know.” She rubbed her hands over her face. She really wanted to tell John everything, but her brain was so muddled that she didn’t know if she could make sense at the moment.

Maybe if I got some sleep, she thought.

Once John finished making the tea, he brought her a cup. “I added honey. I know you like your tea sweet.”

It was a mint blend, very soothing, and Rose felt her body relax. At this rate, she thought she might fall asleep right at the table.

“Could--could I stay here tonight?” she asked. “Just to sleep, I mean. I don’t think I could do anything else right now.”

John stroked her cheekbone. “Of course you can. The ‘anything else’ isn’t the only reason I like having you around, you know.”

She smiled at him and leaned in for a hug. “You’re too good to me.”

“No such thing.”

***

Her dream that night told her everything she needed to know to decide that Aiden was right: she needed to leave.

“What happened?” she asked the Brown-eyed Man. “On Satellite Five, I mean. Please, just tell me.”

He hesitated, obviously torn. “I can’t tell you, but I can open up the memories for you. There’s a reason you forgot, mind you. Are you certain you want to know?”

She swallowed. “Yes.”

“Then we’d best sit down.” He took her down to a small lounge with a sofa, where they sat facing each other. “Close your eyes.”

When he touched her temples, the world exploded into bright light. She saw everything, felt everything, and if the Doctor hadn’t been there with her, supporting her mind, she’d have gone insane. Nonetheless, she could discern the chain of events: opening the TARDIS, absorbing the power of the Time Vortex, racing back to her Doctor, destroying the Daleks, raising Jack . . . and the Doctor’s loving kiss that took away her death and made it his own.


That was when she awakened, looking across the pillows to see John’s sleeping face. “Your story is being replayed, and you may not like the ending,” Aiden had said.

If she stayed, then, she would be the death of him. John would follow all those other good people into death because of her.

She rolled away from him and sat up on the edge of the bed, taking off the shirt he’d given her to sleep in and reaching for her discarded bra. As she finished dressing, John awoke. “Leaving?” he mumbled, looking for the clock. It was 5:30 am.

“I need to get back to my place and get ready for work,” she said. “Don’t worry; I won’t forget breakfast.”

“Are you sure you want to go in today?” he asked.

“I need to. For Jake, for Mickey, for all of them. We’ll probably be doing some long hours this week, I’ll warn you.” She leaned over him and kissed him. “Maybe this weekend, we can get together?”

He kissed her. “Let me know, and I’ll find a way to be there.”

“I love you.” Rose rested her forehead against his. “I truly love you.”

“And I truly love you, Rose Tyler,” John said, and kissed her one last time before she slipped away.

When Rose reached her car, she sat for a moment working up the strength to do what she needed to. Finally, she forced herself to dial Aiden’s number.

“Hello?” His voice sounded sleepy, too.

“John will die because of me, won’t he?” she asked bluntly.

“That’s the way the story goes,” said Aiden. “You see, now?”

“I do.” Rose swallowed. “How do I leave?”

“There’s a place, one of the last breaches between your home universe and this one to be closed. I can take you across there. It’s in Norway, a place called--”

“Darlig Ulv Stranden,” Rose finished for him. “Bad Wolf Bay.”

“So you remember,” said Aiden. “I can take you there. Just tell me where and when to pick you up.”

“No,” said Rose. “I’ll go there myself and meet you. We do this my way, or not at all. There are things I have to do first. Say goodbye.”

“Not a good idea, Rose,” said Aiden. “They’ll try to hold you back, even if they know you’re not their Rose. You’ll still feel like their daughter and friend and lover.”

“You expect me to leave and never let them know what happened to me?” Rose demanded.

“You could. The truth is that just as you forgot your home universe, after you leave, the people here will forget you. It’ll only take a few days,” Aiden said.

One more punch to the gut, then. “Well, I’ll remember them,” she said. “Give me a week, and I’ll meet you at Bad Wolf Bay.”

“Good,” said Aiden. “I know how difficult this must be for you--”

“No, you really don’t,” Rose interrupted. She knew she shouldn’t be angry at him, but he was a convenient target at the moment. “One week.”

She disconnected, trying to hold back her tears.

***

The rest of the week was pretty much what Rose expected--work, work, and more work--except for one small incident that only served to solidify her resolution to go. Dr. Henry had been working on mapping out all the incidents and finds to see if there was some sort of pattern. When Rose saw the map, she knew what the pattern was, and why no one else would see it.

Downing Street. Powell Estates. The London Eye. Henrik’s. Every single incident had taken place somewhere she and often the Doctor had been in her universe. The block of houses moving backward in time, for instance, was the same block of houses where she and the Doctor had discovered the Wire’s conspiracy. The first Cybermen attack had been in the same district where robot Santas had attacked Rose and Mickey one fateful Christmas Eve.

Once I’m gone, it’ll all stop, she told herself, and resolutely went about her work.

She didn’t sleep much at all that week, and studiously avoided Jane.

Saturday was Jake’s funeral. Rose held Mickey’s hand at his graveside. John stood on her other side, offering silent support. Later, she headed to the wake without him. She and all of Jake’s friends and a good deal of his family gathered in his favorite pub and told stories and drank and sang a tone-deaf rendition of “Danny Boy.” It ended, as these things will, with Rose loaning out her sofa to a thoroughly trashed and maudlin Mickey.

Sunday, she spent the day with her family. She kept a smile on her face, and when her mother saw through it, passed it off as sadness over Jake’s death. Rose tried to memorize every second--her father’s voice, the smell of little Pete as she held him, her mother’s embrace.

The evening belonged to John. They ate dinner together and went back to his flat afterward. There, she let him undress her, something they both always enjoyed.

“I dreamed of you last night,” he murmured as he brushed her bra straps off her shoulders. “I saw you golden and glowing, like a goddess.” He reached around her to the clasp, bringing his mouth to her ear. “You were beautiful, so beautiful that I could hardly bear to look at you. But so sad. You wept, Rose.” The bra fell to the floor as he smoothed his hands over her back. “Like you carried all the pain in the world. I wanted to hold you. To take the pain away from you, bear it for you.”

She turned her head and kissed him fiercely, tears running down her face.

You will, John. Oh, you will, and you’ll die for it. For me. I can’t let that happen, my love, even if it means I’ll never see you again.

Then she forcibly pushed every thought from her head but John. If it was their last night together, she didn’t want to lose a moment of it.

***

Late that night, Rose slipped from the bed as John slept. She gathered her clothes and left the bedroom, getting dressed in the dim light coming through his parlor window. Her usual overnight bag sat at her feet. Giving a furtive glance at the bedroom door--though she wasn’t terribly worried, as John always slept like a rock after making love--she opened it. Sitting on top of a change of clothes and her toiletries were three items. One was the book of Yeats’s poetry that Thomas Smith had given her. The second was a plane ticket, London to Oslo, one way. The third was a simple white card in an envelope with John’s name on it. She removed the third item and read it through one last time.

John, my love,

I hope you can forgive me for this, but if you can’t, that’s the price I’ll have to pay for doing what I have to in order to protect you. In about twelve hours’ time, my computer will send out a flash to my friends and family explaining why I’ve left and where I’ve gone. Believe me, if there was any other way, I’d stay with you forever--but I can’t.

I love you more than anything, John. I’m so sorry to put you through this, but it’s for the best. I love you, and I’ll always love you. I can’t imagine loving anyone else but you.

Forever yours,

Rose


She forced back tears, stuffed the card back in the envelope, and left it on his coffee table. Then she picked up her overnight bag and left the flat, closing the door quietly behind her, walking away with every step feeling like a knife in her flesh.

Back to index


Chapter 15: The Oncoming Storm

Author's Notes: In Which There Is A Row


“I’d like to emphasize at this point that Rose is doing what she genuinely believes is for the best. She seldom ever did anything else, of course. As one might note, however, intentions carry very little weight, especially in matters of the heart.

“Rose once promised me a forever she didn’t have, and fool that I was, I accepted. I told myself it didn’t matter, and that trying to argue it with her would only lead to hurt feelings and long silences and tension on the TARDIS, which always drives her buggy. I told myself that Rose couldn’t understand ‘forever’ and that her vow to stay with me was only an expression of her feelings for me.

“No, she meant it as seriously as any wedding vow. And I accepted that vow because I wanted her to spend her forever with me. What does that say about me, do you think?

“To get back to the main point, Rose has done what she believes is right. Chalk it up to sleep deprivation or stress or whatever you might, but her best intentions can’t save her very flawed plan--but they might just save her.”


***

Everything went wrong right from the start. Her plane was supposed to leave London-Heathrow at 1:00 am; it didn’t actually get off the tarmac until after 2:00 am. She was supposed to have a one-hour layover in Copenhagen; it stretched to nearly three hours. High winds threw off her ETA into Oslo even further.

Rose banged her head back against her seat as they began their final descent, frustrated and stressed beyond words. This flight had been the only one available at such short notice. Flying into Stavanger would have been much faster all around, but the only London-Stavanger flight she’d been able to find had a fifteen-hour layover in Copenhagen. London to Oslo it was, then, and from there a drive or a train ride to Bergen. How long that would take, she had no idea.

She reached up to brush her hair off her face. As she did so, she inhaled--and realized that her skin still smelled of John. It was almost enough to make her break down again; she’d been doing her share of crying on the flight, to the point that Elke, the kindly old Norwegian lady sitting beside her, kept patting her hand and handing her tissues from her capacious purse while fussing over her in heavily-accented English.

At least Rose had thought ahead enough to pack facial cleansing cloths in her bag. Otherwise, she was sure she’d be fit to frighten small children. And she hadn’t slept one wink during the entire eight-hour ordeal that had been this flight. As the plane finally came to a stop, she gathered up her bag and did her best to reassure Elke that she would be all right.

If only it had been as easy to reassure herself.

She shuffled to the front with the other departing, mostly jet-lagged passengers and was insanely grateful when she finally reached the terminal and had a little space to breathe. Frankly, she thought the flight delays just added insult to injury, considering she was only doing this for the good of the world.

Least I’ll get to see the Doctor again, she thought, and it was indeed the only comforting thought she could find. She tried hard not to dwell on her losses-- her mum, the only father she’d ever known, her only sibling, Mickey, Shannon, Darcie, Jane--

--John.

She stopped abruptly. It wasn’t possible that John was blocking her path, arms crossed, a thunderstorm in his face. Yet her eyes were telling her differently.

“You know,” he said in a voice like iron, “it’s traditional among civilized society to at least say goodbye face-to-face when leaving a lover.”

“John?” Her voice was weak. “How?”

“Turns out Richard Branson not only has a privately-owned Concorde, he owes your father a rather large favor. Owed, rather.” The edge of anger and pain never left John’s voice. “I woke up in the middle of the night to discover you were gone. When I found your ‘Dear John’ letter, I knew something was very wrong, so I called your father. Can’t say he was too pleased at being awakened by the news that his daughter had run off to unknown parts for unknown reasons. He ran a search and discovered one of your traveling aliases was on a flight to Oslo. One call to Mr. Branson later, I was on my way here to hopefully cut you off at the pass and talk some sense into you.” He closed the gap between them in two strides. “Why, Rose?”

“I had to,” she said.

“That doesn’t answer my question. Why? I thought we had something, Rose. Was I wrong?”

“No!” she protested. “I don’t want to leave, but I have to. If I stay, I’m endangering everybody.”

He leaned in, crossing his arms over his chest. “I’m still awaiting an explanation for why you felt the need to sneak off in the middle of the night to hop a flight to bleedin’ Norway!”

They were attracting curious glances from passers-by, and Rose didn’t want to get into this in public. “Can we go someplace a little more private?”

“Brilliant!” John flashed her a shark-like grin and grabbed her hand. “Got luggage?”

“Didn’t bring anything except my bag,” said Rose sulkily, struggling to keep up with his longer strides as he practically dragged her through the airport. She couldn’t blame John for being upset, but she wished he’d just stayed behind in London. This was hard enough already.

They ended up in the car park. John released her hand and faced her. “So?”

Rose sighed, wishing her thoughts were a bit clearer. “I-I don’t belong here. In this universe, I mean.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I mean, I come from a parallel universe,” said Rose with a slight laugh. It was ridiculous, all of it. “I didn’t even know until recently. Didn’t remember my life before, but now I do. Me bein’ here, in this world--that’s what’s been causing all these things to happen. The Cybermen, the Dalek, all of it. It’s my fault. As long as I’m here, things will only get worse.”

“You’ll excuse me if I think this all sounds quite mad,” said John. “I’ve met your parents. Are you telling me--”

“Mum came over with me. So did Mickey,” Rose interrupted. “Well, Mickey went over a few months--years, in this world--earlier. But, y’see, they had doubles in this world who died. I didn’t. This world never had a Rose Tyler, and it wasn’t supposed to have one.” She bit her lip. “I-I met a man who says he can get me back . . .” She couldn’t use the word “home.” She had no idea where that was anymore “He says he can get me back to my old universe. It’ll stop things being so bad here.”

“And is he the one who told you all this about being in the wrong universe?” John asked acidly.

“Yes. No. I mean, he said it, but I already knew something was wrong,” said Rose. “You know me better than that, John. I wouldn’t just take a perfect stranger’s word for something as important as this.”

“Yes, well, I’d also never have thought you’d lie to me about something this important and then leave me! How long have you known about this? Why didn’t you ever say anything?” For a moment, his anger gave way to vulnerability. “Didn’t you trust me, Rose? Do you love me at all?”

Rose felt another sob welling up, and it burst out before she could stop it. “Of course I love you! Sometimes, you’re the only thing that feels right in this whole world.” She fiercely wiped a tear away. “And it’s only been about a month, ever since our holiday, that I’ve really known about this. I’ve been investigating. Everything Aiden--the man I met--said has checked out, but it’s more than that. The Brown-eyed Man I told you about from my dreams? He’s real. He’s called the Doctor, and I traveled with him. Something went wrong, though, and we got separated, and I ended up here.”

“So now you’re going back to him,” said John.

“It’s not like that,” Rose said wearily. “The Doctor and I--we were never like that. I loved him, yeah, but in a completely different way.”

John rubbed his face. “I can understand your leaving, Rose. I can even understand your reasons. What I can’t understand is why you never said anything--including ‘Goodbye’!”

“I didn’t know how,” she whispered through a constricted throat. “I don’t think I could’ve and still had the strength to leave.”

“And where would that have left your family, hm? Your friends? Me?” John asked harshly. “Maybe if you’d been a little more open, your friends at Torchwood could’ve found another way.”

“There is no other way!” She ran her hands through her limp, tangled hair. “Besides, the way I forgot about my old life? You lot would’ve forgotten me. You will, once I leave. No worse for wear.”

That seemed to make John angrier than ever. “You think that’s what I want? God, Rose, you really are stupid if you think I’d go back to my life before you for anything! You made me love again, and now you’re taking that away.”

“And what would you do?” snapped Rose, meeting his anger with her own. “I’ll be the death of you if I stay. Tell me, if you knew beforehand that you could’ve saved Paula and Emily by leaving them, wouldn’t you have done it?”

John flinched, and Rose knew she’d gone too far. She told herself it was the only way she could end this.

As he returned his gaze to hers, John gave her a hard smile. “Fine. Let’s be about it, then. We’ll go and meet this chap. Where are we headed?”

“Bergen,” said Rose before she could stop herself. “You can’t come with me.”

“You can’t stop me,” John shot back. “Right, then--where’s the car rental?”

***

If the plane ride had been an ordeal, the drive was utter torture. John was furious. Though neither of them spoke, it was written all over his body language as he rented a car and used its GPS tracking system to bring up a map of the route to Bergen. He insisted on stopping for something to eat, then, and more or less shoved a pastry and tea at Rose and glared at her until she ate it. She glared right back. Anger was easier than guilt.

This universe, she suspected, hated her. It was nearly noon before they got back on the road, only to meet up with a traffic snarl caused by an accident. Then, once they got onto the main highway to Bergen, construction on the road slowed them. To top it off, it started to rain. Hard.

By late afternoon, it was evident that a fine storm was headed in. Dark clouds blocked Norway’s endless summer sunlight, and it was raining so hard that the wipers were almost useless. Finally, when they reached another little town, John pulled over into the car park of a small hotel.

“I’ve had enough,” he said dully. “We’re stopping here for the night.”

The thought was almost unbearable to Rose. She just wanted to get this over with. Maybe it would all be all right when she saw the Doctor again.

Trade one heartache for another. Again, she thought.

“All right,” she said.

Even the short dash from the car park to the hotel left them drenched. John got them checked in while Rose slouched against a wall, thinking that the first thing she’d do when they got to their room would be to take a shower. Numbly, she followed the trailing edge of John’s black trench coat to their hotel room, where she tossed her bag to the floor and shucked her coat.

The door shut, and suddenly John grabbed her and pulled her into a punishing kiss. Everything rational flew out of Rose’s mind, and she returned the kiss with equal force, wrestling him out of his duster and jumper even as his hands stripped her clothing away. Fabric tore, teeth clashed, and fingers bruised as a flood of angry desire ripped through them both. The mattress crashed into Rose’s back as John shoved her onto the bed, and she pulled him with her.

They devoured each other, making love like the storm outside.

“Bad Wolf,” John growled into Rose’s ear.

And she howled.

Back to index


Chapter 16: Bad Wolf

Author's Notes: In Which The Proverbial Excrement Hits The Proverbial Fan


“No one can wound like a lover. It’s a truism that happens to be true, and those are rare enough. Rose and I had our share of rows, but the worst only happened after we’d truly come to care for each other. Even love each other.

“And now we come to the climax (er, so to speak) of our story. Who is Aiden? Is he telling the truth? Why has Rose recovered her former life? Is it indeed possible for her to cross back into her old universe? What will John do? What will I do? And just who are you lot, and why am I telling you all of this?

“Time to get to the point.”


***

Rose woke sobbing so hard her entire body was shaking. She was completely disoriented, not knowing where she was or when she was or whose arms were holding her and whose voice was murmuring comfort into her ear. All she could do was cling to that comfort as her heart broke all over again.

“Couldn’t hold on,” she gasped through her sobs. “I wasn’t strong enough. Fell so far--and I forgot him! Couldn’t even hold onto my memories. Oh, God, I betrayed him! I’m sorry, I’m so sorry . . .”

A gentle hand stroked her hair as the arms tightened around her. Slowly, she realized that she was naked, and so was the person holding her. His voice--it was the Doctor’s. Her first Doctor’s. She pulled back to look him in the face.

“Doctor?” she whispered. No, that wasn’t right. “John.”

His fingers wiped away her tears. “It’s me, love.”

“I remember everything,” she murmured, letting her head fall to his chest again. “Everything.”

Consciousness faded again. The last thing Rose felt before slipping back into sleep was a sense of relief that she finally knew who she was.

***

When she woke again, Rose felt, for the first time in weeks, perfectly calm and clear. She looked over at the bedside clock and realized she’d slept probably about twelve hours. (It was hard to pin down exactly when she’d fallen asleep; she hadn’t exactly been watching the clock while she and John went three full rounds the night before.)

John emerged from the bathroom shirtless, rubbing a towel over his short hair. When he saw she was awake, he smiled gently. “Good morning,” he said.

She found she had a smile for him as well. “Good morning.”

He sat on the edge of the bed and took her hand. “Are you all right?”

“More than all right,” she said. “My head is finally making sense again.” She tightened her hand on his. “John, I’m so sorry. I should’ve told you everything long ago.”

“You should have,” he agreed, but there was no further reproach in his voice. “I wish you hadn’t felt you had to struggle with this by yourself.” He cupped her face with one hand and kissed her softly, and she knew she was forgiven. She reached out, wrapping her arms around his neck, and they just held each other for a long moment. It was, she thought, the best thing she’d ever felt.

“Thanks for coming after me,” she finally said. “Haven’t been thinking too clearly lately, and . . . whatever happens, I need to be sure I do the right thing.”

John kissed her forehead. “Why don’t you take a shower while I order up some breakfast?” he suggested.

“Good plan.” Rose swung her legs off the bed as John got up and reached for his discarded shirt. That was when Rose saw the livid fingernail tracks across his back. “Oh, my God.” She flushed deeply as John looked at her quizzically. “I’m sorry about . . .” she gestured vaguely.

He glanced over his shoulder, realizing what she was getting at, and grinned. “That’ll be a hot one for the locker room at Albion. Speaking of which, sorry about,” he gestured at her neck.

She craned her neck and was able to just see a bright red bite mark on her shoulder. She laughed. “Darcie and Shannon will never let me live that one down.” Her smile abruptly faded. “If I ever see them again.”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” said John. “We can talk about this over breakfast.”

She nodded. He was right--there was no sense getting her brain back in a knot after she finally got it straightened out. She grabbed her overnight bag and went to take a shower.

After a shower, change of clothes and a little makeup, she felt one hundred percent better. And hungry. As she and John ate breakfast, she told him everything, starting with the dreams.

“You went to see my father?” John asked incredulously.

“I was a little desperate to understand the whole ‘Bad Wolf’ thing,” said Rose. “And you were right; he was perfectly lovely. Nearly did run off with him.” She looked down. “I was going to tell you everything then, but that was when I remembered what happened to the Doctor.”

“What happened?”

“He--he looked like you. Just like you,” said Rose.

“I thought you said he had brown eyes,” said John.

Rose folded her hands, trying to think of how to explain. “When I met the Doctor, he looked exactly like you. Exactly. It’s like with my mum and dad and Mickey--they had doubles in this universe, and I suppose you must be the Doctor’s, only human. But . . . he saved my life. Saved my life and sacrificed his. That was when he changed. He can regenerate when he’s dying, change his whole body, and that’s what he did.” She paused. “I think you and I, we might be playing the same story. If you stay with me, you’ll . . .” She shook her head, tears coming to her eyes again. “I couldn’t bear it.”

“Rose, listen to me,” he said. “I believe in aliens, love at first sight, and the Big, Bad Wolf. I don’t believe in fate. Never have.” He took her hand. “I’m staying with you no matter what. If you leave this universe, I’m going with you.”

Rose was overwhelmed. “You--you can’t do that for me.”

“I can. I will. There’s nothing here for me here, nothing that matters--except my father, and he, of all people, would understand. In fact, he’d be completely disgusted with me if I let you go. I want to marry you, Rose.” John looked a little startled, as if he hadn’t expected to say the last words out loud.

“Um, what?” Rose asked, not unreasonably.

“I want to marry you,” he repeated evenly. “Not a very romantic proposal, I know, but there you have it.”

Her eyes fell on her open bag as she struggled for something, anything to say. Sitting on top of everything else was the volume of Yeats that Thomas Smith had given her. She leaned down and picked it up. “Your father gave this to me,” she said. “He--he said it was a gift for his future daughter-in-law.”

“Did he, now?” asked John, raising his eyebrows a bit. She could see a little tension in his eyes.

“He said you’d ask, and that I loved you too much to say no,” she went on. She smiled. “He was right.”

The tension left John’s eyes, and his smile was warm. “Then I’ll ask. Proper proposal with a ring and everything, once this is all over.”

She took his hand. “We’ll face this together, yeah?”

He squeezed her fingers gently. “Together.”

***

The drive to Bergen and then Darlig Ulv Stranden was the polar opposite of the previous day’s. The sun was out, the air was fresh, the countryside was absolutely stunning, and most importantly, Rose and John were at ease with each other. She was still afraid of what the day might bring, but she felt far more able to deal with it than she had the previous day.

“Why ‘Bad Wolf’?” John asked.

“That was me,” said Rose. “See, we were fighting a fleet of Daleks trying to take over the Earth about 200,000 years from now. The Doctor sent me away in the TARDIS because he was sure I’d die if I stayed with him. I didn’t exactly take to that.”

“Imagine!” said John. He flashed her a smile.

“Yeah, yeah, shoe’s on the other foot now,” she said wryly. “Mum and Mickey helped me open up the TARDIS so I could communicate with it, and the TARDIS decided to load me up with the power of the Time Vortex so we could save the Doctor. I used the power to scatter the words ‘Bad Wolf’ through space and time; it was a message to myself. It was how I knew I could get back to him.” She looked away. “You saw it, you know. That dream you told me about our last night in England--you saw me as the Bad Wolf. The power, it was killing me, so the Doctor took it out of me by absorbing it himself. That was what killed him.”

“But now the words are here,” said John.

“Yeah. When the Doctor found a way to get one last message to me, Darlig Ulv Stranden was where we came. I thought that was it; one last message from myself so the Doctor and I could say goodbye,” she said. “But it’s more. People with absolutely no connection to each other have called me the Bad Wolf here, including you last night, before I’d even told you any of this.”

“You seemed to like it.”

Rose flushed a little, remembering her response to those words. “Guess I did. You were born in Fellows, too.”

“Yfelwulf,” said John. “Bad Wolf. Hm. That’s uncanny.”

“It is. Maybe we were always meant to be together.”

“I like that idea.” They drove for a little while in comfortable silence before John asked. “Rose--what was your relationship with the Doctor?”

Rose thought for a few moments before answering. It was almost as if the breakthrough she’d had that morning removed a barrier between her mind--what she knew about the Doctor--and her heart and what she felt for him. “It’s hard to explain. We lived together, he showed me the universe, space and time, we got in trouble together, got out of trouble together, almost got killed more times than I can count . . . for two years, he was everything to me. Absolutely everything. Not a lover, but far more than a friend. I’m not sure there’s a word for what we were. We loved each other, even if we never said it out loud.” She shook her head. “And then I forgot him. Just forgot him.”

“From what you told me, you didn’t exactly have an option in that,” John pointed out.

“It just--” Rose sighed. “As much as it hurt to lose him, I know I could’ve dealt with it. Could’ve gotten through it, and when I met you, I know we’d still have fallen in love. I didn’t get that chance. The universe took it away from me. Never got the chance to stop crying and start smiling at the memories.”

“You never got the chance to grieve,” said John.

“That’s exactly it. He might as well have been dead for all I’d see him anymore. It hurt so much, but I should have been allowed to get through it, you know?”

“I do,” said John. “I’d never trade my memories of--of Paula and Emily for anything. Even when I wished I’d died with them. They made me better.”

Rose’s eyes moistened. After what she’d said the previous day, she’d wondered if he’d ever be vulnerable with her again. “’Swhat the Doctor did for me. He showed me what I could be. I’m the person I am because of him, and now at least I remember why.”

“Then I suppose I have something to thank him for,” said John.

Rose fell silent as she saw a sign for Darlig Ulv Stranden at the side of the road. John saw it, too, and reached over to squeeze Rose’s hand.

“Together, yeah?” he said.

She nodded, swallowing hard. “Together.”

In a short while, they were at their destination, and Rose spotted Aiden standing on the beach in his typical light-colored clothing. It passed through Rose’s mind that John, with his black trench coat, dark jeans and deep blue jumper, was somehow Aiden’s opposite--perhaps in many ways. Something was tingling at the back of her mind. She was glad she’d gotten a full night’s sleep (and then some) and breakfast, and that she’d reconciled with John. She had a feeling she’d be needing all her faculties for this.

As she disembarked, Aiden turned to face her from where he’d been standing looking out over the ocean. “I was beginning to think you’d forgotten,” he said. He froze as he saw John. “Why is he here?”

“I want him here,” said Rose. She held out her hand, and John took it as they walked toward Aiden together.

“Come to say goodbye?” Aiden asked, eyeing him warily.

“No,” said John simply, giving Aiden his most maddening smile.

“John’s coming with me,” said Rose.

Aiden’s eyes went hard. “Absolutely out of the question.”

Rose glanced over at John, the tickling at the back of her mind growing stronger by the second. “Why?”

“You’d just be trading the problems of one universe for another,” said Aiden. “You don’t belong here, and he doesn’t belong there.”

“I don’t think I understand,” said Rose. “My mum and Mickey came from that universe and seem to fit in here fine. John’s the Doctor’s double--well, his ninth regeneration’s double--so why shouldn’t he be able to go with me?”

“He can’t because he’s the Doctor’s echo,” Aiden explained. To Rose, it sounded more than a bit like bluster. “You can’t have two of them in the same universe.”

Rose was getting more and more suspicious. “The Doctor said he could meet his other incarnations without creating a paradox. Why would it be so different with John?” Her eyes narrowed. “And how are you planning to take me across, anyway? Even the Doctor couldn’t do that.”

“Maybe I know a few things he doesn’t,” said Aiden.

“Or maybe you don’t.” Rose moved closer to John, and he placed his hands on her shoulders, silently supporting her. “If I was so dangerous to this universe, why would the Doctor want me here? He wanted to keep me safe.”

“He was wrong.” There was something sinister in Aiden’s tone.

“Rarely, in all the time I knew him, and never about anything this big,” said Rose. “If I’m going, John’s coming with me, and that’s all there is to it. We’re getting married.”

“He’s just an echo!” Aiden burst out. “Nothing, really. Hardly even real. Just a way for the universe to make you feel comfortable.”

Rose shook her head. “No. That’s something I can’t believe. I knew the Doctor, and I know this man. If there’s anything real, if there’s anything in this universe I believe in, it’s him!”

“I think we’re wasting our time here, Rose,” said John.

“I’m beginning to think we are,” she agreed.

“You’ll be his death. You’ll be the death of all the people you care about,” Aiden warned. His voice had an edge of desperation to it now. “A few Cybermen and a Dalek are nothing compared to what you’ll unleash.”

That was when Rose realized something. “Wait--the day the Cybermen first came through, the day of that explosion . . . that was the day I met you!” John’s hands tightened on her shoulders. “You got those pictures of the Doctor from my old universe. You’re the one who’s been crossing over. You’re the one creating damage, not me. Derek, Sean, Alyssa, Liz, Jake, all those people who died in that explosion--that wasn’t because of me; it’s because of you!”

“And you made her believe it was her fault,” said John, his voice dangerous.

“I did what I had to,” said Aiden. “You know, Rose, I genuinely tried to avoid all of this. If my plans had succeeded, I’d have prevented you from ever getting involved with him.” He glared at John.

“What, so you could have her for yourself?” asked John.

“I’d have settled for anyone except you,” Aiden spat. “I should have just killed you and taken care of the whole mess.”

“What do you have against John?” Rose asked, reaching up to cover one of his hands with hers.

“Nothing in particular against him. Nor even against you, Rose.” Aiden reached into one of his pockets. “The combination of the two of you, however . . . well, let’s just say that will be very inconvenient down the line. Almost as inconvenient as the Doctor is already, and you are the one sure way to draw him out.” He drew a large gun from his pocket. “That’s why I have to insist you come with me now, Rose. Alone.”

John reacted immediately, pushing his way in front of Rose. There was a sudden high-pitched tone as a laser sight hit John’s chest.

“Don’t make another move,” said Aiden. “This isn’t just a gun I have here; it’s actually a handheld missile launcher. Very popular in the seventy-fifth century. Now that it’s locked onto John, if I pull the trigger, the projectile will find and kill him. As I said, Rose, if you don’t come with me, you’ll be the death of him.”

Rose was suddenly very calm. “No,” she said.

Aiden blinked. “What?” John gave her a curious sidelong glance as well.

“I said no,” said Rose. “I’m not going with you, and you’re not killing him.”

“And how are you going to stop me?” Aiden asked.

“Haven’t a clue,” said Rose. “But you picked the wrong place to try this.” She didn’t know where the words were coming from, but she knew they were true. She held her hands out. “This is Bad Wolf Bay. The TARDIS and I created it. My place, my power. We’re here for a reason, and it’s not because you chose it.”

Aiden hefted the gun. “I will kill him.”

Rose shook her head. “No, you won’t. This is your limit, Aiden. The Bad Wolf won’t let you go any further.”

***

“That would be my cue.”

***

Aiden looked like he was going to say something more, but then he was interrupted by a grinding and whooshing that Rose thought was the most beautiful sound in the universe.

“No,” said Aiden, looking frantically around. “That’s impossible!”

“Fun word, impossible,” said Rose, her smile lighting up the gray beach as she watched the TARDIS materialize a few meters beyond Aiden.

Aiden whipped around, pointing his gun at the entrance to the TARDIS. The doors opened, and out stepped the Doctor, casual as anything, fiddling with his sonic screwdriver.

“Wouldn’t pull that trigger if I were you,” he said to Aiden. “You’ll find the results . . . inconvenient, especially if you like keeping all your body parts in the same place.” He grinned and waved at Rose. “Hi, Rose. How are you doing?”

“Wonderful,” she half-laughed, half-cried. “Fantastic, even. How are you here?”

“I had help from some new friends,” he said. “Friends who have, incidentally, been very busy cleaning up after this young man here.” He glared at Aiden. “Just how daft are you, anyway? Do you have any clue, the amount of damage you’ve caused two universes?”

“I’ve done what I had to for my people,” said Aiden. “To save them from slavery.”

The Doctor snorted. “Slavery? Just because someone stopped them mucking about with space and time until the entire universe collapsed? You’ve some odd ideas. Now, sit tight for a minute while I catch up with an old friend. I’ve got a sonic screwdriver, and I’m not afraid to use it.” He tossed one last glare at Aiden and walked toward Rose and John, whipping out his glasses. He peered at John through them. “Blimey, it’s uncanny! I really looked like him?”

“Exactly.” Rose wiped away a tear and reached out to him just as he reached her, and they shared a bone-cracking hug. “My Doctor. You’re really here. I thought it was impossible.”

“Fun word, impossible,” said the Doctor. “My being here is actually almost entirely your fault. His, too.” He indicated John (who was giving him a deeply suspicious look) with a jerk of his head.

“Are you planning on explaining any of this?” John asked.

“In my own inimitable way, yes,” said the Doctor.

“Doctor!” cried Rose suddenly. Aiden had taken off at a full sprint down the beach.

The Doctor hardly looked bothered. He simply pressed another button on his sonic screwdriver.

--and the air suddenly filled with the sound of the TARDIS, only coming from every direction, and somehow lighter and more musical than what Rose was used to. Six blue boxes with sleek lines and without the words “Police Box” on them materialized on the beach and over the water.

Rose looked around in awe. “How?”

A door opened on each of the TARDISes, and men and women emerged, hemming Aiden in. A blonde woman with a strangely familiar face said, “Krev Aiden of the H’Tallgah, you are charged with twenty-eight violations of the Laws of Time. You will be transported back to your planet and your time, there to stand trial.” She pointed a small rod not unlike the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver at Aiden, and suddenly, what must have been his human disguise fell away, revealing a reptilian creature.

“Time Lords,” said Rose. “They’re Time Lords. I thought you were the only one.”

“I am the last of the Gallifreyan Time Lords, yes,” said the Doctor. “These are some of the first human Time Lords. I’m rather proud of them, as you should be.”

“Human Time Lords?” Rose repeated.

“Come on,” said the Doctor. He gestured for them to follow him toward where Aiden was being apprehended.

As they reached the Doctor’s TARDIS, a woman who reminded Rose strongly of Jane stepped out. “Safe yet?” she asked.

“Perfectly,” said the Doctor. “Rose, meet Martha Jones, who is simply splendid. Martha, meet Rose Tyler.”

Martha held out a hand to Rose. “Pleased to meet you. The Doctor’s told me a lot about you.”

“He has?” Rose grinned, shaking Martha’s hand. “That’s a nice change from when I was with him. You travel with him now, right? Try to keep him out of trouble?”

“I’m not convinced an entire army could do that,” said Martha dryly. “Though I’ve tried to improve his eating habits.”

Rose laughed. “Is he still sticking anything and everything in his mouth?”

“More than a bit orally obsessed, isn’t he?” said Martha with a laugh of her own.

“I knew it was a mistake to introduce the two of you,” said the Doctor with a grimace.

Rose traded another grin with Martha. “Martha, meet Doctor John Smith.”

“Charmed,” said Martha. “I’m a medical student, or at least I was before I took up with him.”

“Lovely. I hope you’re smarter than mine,” said John.

“If I may interrupt,” said the Doctor, stopping in front of Aiden, who was being led away by a few of the Time Lords, “it’s time for explanations. Violet, dear, don’t pack him away just yet.”

“Yes, Doctor,” said the blonde woman respectfully.

“Come to gloat?” Aiden hissed, quite literally.

“Among other things. Care to explain just why you didn’t want this lovely couple to get together?” asked the Doctor, indicating Rose and John.

“To save my people!” said the reptilian creature. “We would have all of space and time at our fingertips--”

“Perhaps I’d better cut in to save us a bit of boring ethnocentrism,” said the Doctor. “Aiden’s people mastered the art of travel between dimensions. Well, ‘mastered’ is a bit of an overstatement; they reduced a good portion of this universe to Swiss cheese with their experiments. Took out an entire galaxy at one point. That’s when the Time Lords stepped in and put a stop to that.”

“They reduced us to slavery!” Aiden interrupted.

“They’ve spent the last century educating your people on how to do inter-dimensional travel without creating new black holes,” said the Doctor, rolling his eyes. “Yours is a minority view.”

“I still don’t understand what this has to do with Rose and me,” said John before Aiden could get out another sound.

Aiden refused to acknowledge him. “The Time Lords treat us like children.”

“That’s because you are, and you haven’t the faintest idea of what you’re doing. Take this whole fiasco, for instance,” said the Doctor. “You thought that you could prevent the Time Lords from ever existing if you went back far enough. But you missed your target and created a hole in time, which my TARDIS fell through. Remember that, Rose? First time we came to this universe?” Rose nodded. “So you continued to muck around, creating more weak spots as you tried to track down Rose and John.” He held up a finger to the question John was about to ask. “All in good time. We’re getting there.

“Of course, you did have Torchwood in Rose’s old universe to help with creating inter-dimensional bedlam. Next thing you know, the Daleks and Cybermen are punching through the Void, which led to Rose and myself sending them back into the Void, which led directly to Rose ending up in this universe, where she met John and fell in love.” The Doctor waved a hand around at the human Time Lords and their TARDISes. “And you wouldn’t have expected the progeny of my counterpart and the woman who once held all of time inside her to be ordinary, now, would you?”

Rose and John got it at the same moment.

“Are you pregnant?” John asked, turning to Rose.

“No! I mean, I don’t think so,” said Rose. “Never went off birth control.”

“It’s all right if you are,” he assured her. “We can move the wedding up a few months.”

“Shouldn’t you actually propose first?” Rose asked pointedly.

“In other words,” said the Doctor over them, wrapping up his speech, “in your haste to create a monstrous paradox that would probably have destroyed two universes, you actually created what you were trying to un-create, and that, my boy, is exactly what happens when amateurs get into time travel.”

Aiden slumped. “I’ve failed,” he said.

“You’ve done a good deal more than fail,” said the Doctor. “All right, Violet, he can go now.”

Violet nodded to the Time Lords who had Aiden in their grip, and they took him into a TARDIS. She gave the Doctor a hopeful look, and at his nod, she approached Rose and John.

“It’s truly an honor to meet you both,” she said shyly. It occurred to Rose that this young woman could have been her sister, they looked so alike.

“Violet here is your granddaughter, a thousand or so generations down the line,” said the Doctor. “Sharp as a tack. Probably the smartest person here, next to me.”

Rose heard Martha give a soft snort that she ordinarily would have echoed. At the moment, she was too distracted by her own descendant. “I--um, hello, Violet; I have absolutely no idea what to say to you.” She smiled. “This is . . . sort of brilliant, actually.”

“It is,” Violet agreed.

The Doctor set a hand on Violet's shoulder. “Time for you lot to go. There’s still a lot of work to be done.” Violet gave Rose and John one last respectful nod before moving off to her own TARDIS. Rose, John, the Doctor and Martha watched as the time machines dematerialized, leaving them alone once more.

“They’re really . . ?” Rose asked.

“They really are. Oh, it takes tens of thousands of years--which is actually a very short amount of time by universal standards--and they have a long way to go still, but they’ll get there. Your descendants, Rose. Brilliant! Another example of the universe taking a speck of sand and creating a pearl. You come here, which you weren’t really supposed to, though the consequences were far less severe than Aiden would have had you believe, and the universe says to itself, ‘Hello! Got a bit of trouble here. Why don’t I use it to create some people who’ll make sure this stuff is dealt with? Great idea!’” The Doctor indicated John. “Bit of matchmaking with my former self’s counterpart, and Bob’s your uncle.”

“I’m still not sure I understand,” said John. “Why didn’t he just kill one of us? It would’ve been simpler.”

“Oh, he has this whole hero/martyr complex going on. Not to mention he was more than a little afraid of Rose’s friends at Torchwood,” said the Doctor. “His whole problem was that he was well-versed in the history of the Time Lords, which is how he found out about the two of you and the Bad Wolf, but he rather overestimated how dangerous Torchwood is in this century based on its reputation down the line, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a sight more competent than its counterpart, anyway.”

“Was he the reason I got my memories back?” Rose asked.

“In part, yes,” said the Doctor. “You’d have held onto them unconsciously no matter what, but you may never have suspected they were more than dreams. He sparked your true recollections off the day you met by dropping the name of the Bad Wolf and applying some light psychic pressure.”

“But a psychic told me I wasn’t being manipulated that way,” she said.

“That’s because he was a lot subtler than a human psychic could easily have picked up on. Just a bit of pressure every time he contacted you, and it was enough to throw your brain for a loop, which had the double effect of making you especially vulnerable to his suggestions. Not been sleeping well lately?”

Rose shook her head. “Not well at all, except when John and I--” She stopped herself, guessing the Doctor really didn’t want to know about her sex life.

He seemed to guess anyway, rubbing at the back of his neck in a slightly embarrassed manner. “Ah, yes, that. Which also, erm, helped you recall and spread a bit of it to John here. The new breaches Aiden was creating did the rest.”

“But you’ve got to seal them now, right?” Rose looked at the Doctor. “Will I forget again?”

“I don’t think so, now that you and John have found each other,” said the Doctor. “I could make sure, however.”

Rose nodded. “Do it. Whatever it is. I don’t ever want to forget you again.”

“Close your eyes, then. Close off anything you don’t want me to see,” said the Doctor, and he set his fingers against her temples.

She held back nothing. She let him see her whole life since they’d been torn apart at Canary Wharf. He seemed to understand her need to share with him and walked with her through her memories before doing something that felt like closing off a valve in her mind.

“There,” he said, releasing her. “You now have two full sets of memories. Both are real, incidentally.”

Rose smiled wistfully. “I could lose all the years without my dad, I could lose the Powell Estates and working at Henrik’s, I’d gladly lose Jimmy Stones--but not those two years with you. Not for anything.”

“I--” He stopped, swallowed, composed himself. “I do love you, Rose Tyler. Don’t ever doubt that.”

She smiled at him. “Never did. But it’s good to hear it.” She glanced over at the TARDIS. “Can John and I go in? I’ve missed her, too.”

“Certainly!” The Doctor led them proudly back to his timeship and opened the doors with a flourish.

Rose led John in. He looked around, amazed. “It’s bigger on the inside,” he said.

“Like us,” she said. “It’s alive, you know.”

John nodded. “I believe you.” He looked around as if experiencing a sense of déjà vu. Rose thought perhaps he was.

She reached out and ran a hand over the console. Look at what we did, old girl, she thought. Isn’t it fantastic?

Somehow, she knew the TARDIS agreed with her.

The Doctor came to her side. “And you always used to tease me about my TARDIS-stroking.”

Something suddenly occurred to Rose, and she looked up intently at the Doctor. “What about John?” she asked, sotto voce. “Is it true that he and I are replaying our old story? Will he--will I . . ?”

The Doctor shook his head, understanding what she was asking. “Rose, you saved my life with what you did. The lovely face you’re looking at right now will have a different route into this world.”

“I’m sorry?” Rose asked, blinking.

He leaned in closer, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “Did you know that Dr. Thomas Smith was, in his youth, a dead ringer for my eighth incarnation?”

Rose boggled. “You mean--”

“I mean, you’ll someday have a son with beautiful brown eyes and adorable freckles, tends to go on a bit, doesn’t know how to stay out of trouble, but a good lad overall. Just watch what he sticks in his mouth.” The Doctor’s beautiful brown eyes twinkled.

“That’s bloody weird,” said Rose, laughing nonetheless.

The Doctor laughed, too. “It truly is.” He sobered a bit. “If you have a daughter, would you name her Susan?”

“That’s an old Smith family name,” said John, who’d been looking around the TARDIS before coming back to Rose. “I always liked it.”

“Imagine,” said the Doctor. He looked at Rose, giving her a bittersweet smile. “I’d ask you to come along again, but judging by what we just saw outside, I think you’ve made your choice.”

Rose looked at John and back at the Doctor. Tears pricked her eyes. “Yeah, I have. The one adventure you said you can’t have.”

“It’s an adventure worth having,” said the Doctor. “I’m just vain enough to be glad you chose a version of myself to have it with.”

Rose nodded, sniffling a little. “I’m glad you’ve got someone, too. Don’t ever be alone, okay?”

“Well, I’ve been trying to run Martha off, but with remarkably little success so far,” said the Doctor, winking.

“He doesn’t realize that I simply love slime in my hair,” Martha deadpanned.

“Hey, that was just the once,” the Doctor protested. “All right, twice. But it never quite reached your hair on Abraxas IV.”

Rose gave in to an impulse and walked over to wrap her arms around Martha’s shoulders. The other woman returned the embrace.

“He’s worth it, you know,” Rose murmured.

“He is,” Martha agreed softly.

“You two take care of each other.” Rose pulled back. When she looked back at the Doctor and John, they were standing still, eyes locked, some sort of silent communication going on between them.

After a moment, the Doctor broke their eye contact and looked over at Rose. “I might see you again, you know, but I can’t promise anything. The new Time Lords make things easier, but I have my own responsibilities.”

“I know,” said Rose. “Just say goodbye to me now, and if we see each other again, we can say hello again.”

The Doctor reached out a hand, and she took it as she had long ago. “Goodbye, my Rose.”

She came to him, and they embraced. “Goodbye, my Doctor,” she whispered, tears spilling down her face. “My Brown-eyed Man.”

Neither of them wanted to let go, but eventually, they forced themselves to. Rose backed away from him, slipping her hand into John’s, and he gently supported her as they left the TARDIS. Outside, she turned into his embrace.

“Watch,” she said, and they held each other as the TARDIS dematerialized, leaving them alone on the storm-swept beach.

“You’ll miss him,” said John.

“I do already.” She leaned against the man she loved, very aware of what she’d given up--but also aware of what she’d chosen for herself. Once, she hadn’t been able to comprehend how Sarah Jane could have turned down the Doctor’s offer to travel with him again. Now, she understood the need to make her own life.

And it will be fantastic, she promised herself, promised the Doctor.

“John?”

“Yes?”

“Take me home.”

They left Bad Wolf Bay together.

**Epilogue Forthcoming**

Back to index


Chapter 17: Epilogue

Author's Notes: In Which Our Story Is Brought To A Conclusion


“And that, I suppose, would be the end of our story. Well, nearly the end, anyway. Rose and John do get married--I’d imagine after Rose fights World War III with her mother over wedding preparations--and almost immediately start popping out kids. They have three, in total: Susan, Grace and Jake. Well, Susan, Jake and Grace, if you go by birth order. Those children, those absolutely brilliant children, grow up and have kids of their own, and so on and so forth until we end up right here with the bunch of you.”

The Doctor looks around the auditorium. From every angle, young Time Lords watch him with rapt expressions. They are, he reflects, an excellent audience--able to pay attention for long periods of time, incisive enough to ask good questions . . . and they appear to have something of a romantic streak as well, given the general response to the tale he’s just woven for them. He likes them quite well indeed.

“So there you have it,” he says. “The story of your ancestors. You can ask Professor Violet her impressions of them as well, if you’d like; she enjoys talking about it any chance she gets.” He whips around and points at one young man. “And to think you, Alexander, whined about my endless Rose stories. I should take you back to the twenty-first century so you can apologize to her. Worse yet, I ought to take you back to meet Jackie Tyler; she’d give you an earful or two.”

“Well, if you’d just explained,” protests Alexander.

“I did. In my own time. You just didn’t have faith. Really, how can you expect to learn anything with that attitude?” He spots an upraised hand. “Question, Jacinth?”

“You never did say exactly why you asked Rose to come along with you in the first place,” says Jacinth. “Did you know how extraordinary she was when you first met her?”

“Oh, but she wasn’t!” says the Doctor with relish. “Brave and clever, certainly. She seemed like good company and was just adventurous enough--and perhaps foolhardy enough--to run off with an alien she’d known for barely twenty-four hours; but I wouldn’t have called her particularly extraordinary. Rose was human, through and through, very average in most ways; and like almost all humans, she had so much unrealized potential just boiling right under her skin. It was beautiful. Mind you, I think she turned out to be fairly extraordinary, but all I was really looking for was someone who wanted more and dared to take it. And oh, how she did.” He shakes his head, smiling at the memories. She can still do that to him, even after all this time.

Artemis, a girl who reminds him strongly of Romana as she’d been when he first met her, raises her hand next. “So, Doctor, beyond the history lesson, was there anything in particular you wanted us to take away from this?”

The Doctor nods at her. “Fair question. I suppose I hope you’ll all take different things away with you, but, let’s see, can I narrow down the most important lessons?” He rocks back and forth on his trainers a few times. “All right. I’ve got it. The top three lessons all of you can take away from this story are as follows:

“First, while you may be the next evolution of the human race, always remember that you came out of them. Never underestimate what those silly apes can do or be. You’ve developed in an extraordinarily short amount of time. A bare second in terms of the universe. Get smug about it, and those ‘mundane’ humans you fancy yourselves better than will outlast you.

“Second, make it a practice to break a rule every day. My people were so hidebound with their rules that they stopped thinking about where those rules came from and why they originated, and they never thought that perhaps some of them should be changed or done away with entirely. In the end, they couldn’t change enough fast enough to survive. I’m what’s left. I’m all that’s left.

“Third, remember that time, contrary to what I was always taught, is not the most powerful force in the universe. Love is. Rose loved me, and she saved me by taking in the Time Vortex. I loved her enough to wish myself into existence in another world. Rose and John loved each other, and their love created you. My people thought it best not to get attached. I’m telling you, get attached. Get your hearts broken, and then dive right back in. It’s worth it.” He thinks about Rose. “It’s always worth it.

“Oh, and don’t give up sexual reproduction. It introduces a nice element of chance into the passing of genes, and aside from that, it’s just plain fun.

“Thus endeth the lesson.” The Doctor leans casually against the podium. “Remember, I can’t be here all the time, so it’s up to the lot of you to look after your own universe. Try not to mess it up. All things taken together, I’m rather fond of this place. Class dismissed.”

The class begins to leave, seemingly reluctantly. The Doctor puts it down to this lesson having considerably more sex than previous lectures.

Jacinth approaches. “Doctor, can I ask one more question?”

“Certainly,” he says, curious as to what she wanted to know that she couldn’t ask while the rest of the class was around. He likes Jacinth especially well. She takes more chances than her classmates, something he can identify with. He never did blend in with the other Time Lords, after all, with his habit of ignoring the probability tree. Honestly, the thing deserves to be ignored most of the time.

Jacinth tilts her head in a way that reminds him strongly of Rose. “Do you--do you envy them? John and Rose?”

“I’m glad they found each other,” says the Doctor. “Rose lived a long, happy life with John. That’s all I ever could have wanted for her.”

“That didn’t exactly answer my question,” Jacinth points out.

“No, I suppose it didn’t,” says the Doctor, giving Jacinth an enigmatic smile and grabbing his coat. “I’ll see you next time I lecture, then.”

Outside the lecture hall, he gives in to impulse, moving to one side of the doors and waiting just out of sight. In a few moments, Jacinth exits, starting when she sees him.

“Of course, it has been a very long time since I’ve traveled with another Time Lord,” he says, as if continuing a conversation. “Not that I’m not doing my best to corrupt young minds in the lecture halls, but there’s something about real-world experience you just can’t replicate even at this fine academy. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Jacinth’s hazel eyes widen, and she looks very much like her ancestor. “I’d--I’d definitely agree,” she says breathlessly.

“Good. Because in my opinion, you could benefit from a little practicum. If you’re game, of course.” He waits for her answer, his smile growing with hers.

“I’m game,” she says. “You seriously want--”

“Absolutely! Although I must warn you that Kitty will do her damnedest to domesticate you, and my TARDIS occasionally has her own ideas of where we should go, and those places may not be the nicest. I can promise you only that it may be dangerous--but never dull.” He winks. “Oh, and we might even meet up with the infamous Captain Jack. So, if you still want to go with me--”

Jacinth is practically bouncing with excitement. “I do. Very much!”

“--then go grab anything you think is especially important, say your goodbyes and join me back at my TARDIS. Don’t take too long.”

He watches, chuckling, as she all but flies out of the building, and then he leaves the building and the Bad Wolf Time Academy. He doesn’t always know why he takes companions, but he feels very strongly that Jacinth will be a good one. She has things she can learn from him--and perhaps he has a few he can learn from her. With his help, the human Time Lords will hopefully be able to avoid the worst errors of the Gallifreyans. The sooner bright young things like Jacinth learn that the universe is practice, not theory, the better off they’ll be.

They’re not yet up to Gallifreyan standards, these Time Lords. They’ve developed telepathic abilities, if not the full range the Doctor has. Like him, they have seven senses--the usual human five plus his time sense, the ability to perceive time as it really is, and they can detect energy fields. Their bodies are stronger than those of garden-variety humans, with more efficient muscle mass and circulatory and respiratory systems. They recover from illness and injury swiftly, thanks to enhanced cellular regeneration. The average lifespan for this generation will be easily four or even five times that of their ancestors Rose and John. Sometime within the next hundred generations, the Doctor estimates, they’ll master the art of total physical regeneration.

He doesn’t know whether to pity or congratulate them for that.

He finds his TARDIS sitting among the models used by the human Time Lords. The new models are, in their default appearance, sleek blue boxes with an almost art deco feel to them. He knows it’s a tribute to the original blue box.

“I still think you’re the prettiest girl at the ball,” he reassures his old friend, running a hand over her doors.

A young couple is headed his way. Back in 1953, the Doctor thought Tommy Connelly had the makings of a first-rate companion. When they ran into each other again the following decade, after Martha found her calling and her soulmate on a frontier world in the twenty-fifth century, the Doctor invited Tommy and Kitty, his vivacious new bride, to come along for a spell.

They’re brilliant, both of them, and even more so together, the way all loving couples should be. The Doctor likes to see it. It reminds him of what has been, and what might be again if he’s very, very lucky.

As Tommy and Kitty reach him, Jacinth comes sprinting toward them. He’s not surprised at how quickly she gathered together a few things and came to him. She’s breathing hard as she skids to a stop.

“Tommy and Kitty, this is Jacinth,” he says. “She’ll be traveling with us. Jacinth, meet Tommy and Kitty Connelly.”

“Pleased to meet you both,” says Jacinth, shaking their hands.

“Likewise,” says Kitty. “Are we off again, then, Doctor?”

“We are,” he says. “Let’s ride our way out of here and see where we end up. Anyplace you want to go, Jacinth? You’re the new crewmember, after all. All aboard, everyone! We don’t have all the time in the world. Well, actually, we do . . .”

And they move on.

***

Thousands of tiny white lights festoon the Tyler mansion, making it glow as John pulls up outside. He glances over at his wife, and she’s glowing as well.

His wife. Even after a year, it still feels wonderful to be able to call Rose that.

She smiles at him as she opens her door and disembarks. John gets out as well and opens the back door, and his father steps out of the car. The two men gather up a number of brightly-wrapped parcels while Rose retrieves far more precious cargo.

Susan Joy Tyler-Smith was born just two months ago. She has her father’s eyes and her mother’s smile. Rose’s pregnancy was a surprise--or so she claimed, though John suspects she might have been careless with her birth control on purpose, knowing how badly her husband wanted to be a father again. He doesn’t inquire too deeply into these things. Not when the results are so beautiful.

Scarcely are they inside before Jackie descends upon them.

“Where’s my granddaughter?” she demands. “There you are, little Susie! Come to your Grandma!” She swiftly extracts Susan from her car seat before so much as acknowledging the rest of the party. “Happy Christmas, sweetheart,” she says, kissing Rose. “You, too, you lovely man!” She grabs John and plants a good smooch on him. The moment he got Rose pregnant, he became Jackie’s favorite person in the world. He’s not sure it’s much of an improvement over the suspicious glares she used to throw his way before.

Thomas presents Jackie with a bottle of good wine. “For you, Mrs. Tyler, and a very happy Christmas.”

John silently blesses his father for distracting her; Jackie’s liked Thomas ever since he marveled that she was far too young to be Rose’s mother at the wedding. Pete and Mickey approach, looking a bit bemused in Jackie’s wake.

“Wose!” yells Pete Jr., and he’s immediately scooped up by his big sister.

In a few minutes, they’re all comfortably ensconced in the parlor. Jackie’s still dominating little Susan, Pete Jr. clambers up into John’s lap, and Mickey’s Gram has imperiously demanded Thomas Smith’s presence beside her. Wine is poured for everyone except Rose, who’s nursing, and it’s all very boisterous and loud and just about perfect. The room is rich with memories. Pictures of Rose and John’s wedding (which was lovely in spite of the fact that Rose and Jackie fought World War III over the preparations) sit alongside pictures of Pete Jr. and Susan, Mickey and Rose and Jake, Pete and Jackie’s twentieth-anniversary party--family pictures, all.

Dinner is eaten, crackers are passed around, and presents are opened. As Thomas launches into an ancient Christmas tale, Susan gets fussy, leading Rose to reclaim her daughter from her mother and retreat to her old bedroom for a little quiet.

Some time later, John follows her. He pauses in the doorway, his heart constricting at the sight of Rose nursing their daughter. Before that day in Cardiff, he’d given up on ever having a family of his own again.

Rose smiles at him, eyes alight. Her heart’s been broken, too. He remembers awakening in Norway to her sobs as the memory of her loss crashed over her with brutal force. He remembers holding her as she shook with emotional pain so great it became physical. Perhaps she believed at the time she and the Doctor were separated that she’d never love that intensely again.

Rose isn’t Paula, and no matter how many children they have, nothing will ever replace the one he lost. But then, John isn’t the Doctor; he’ll never be Rose’s first love.

They’re not replacements. They don’t have to be. What they have is each other, and the here and now. It’s enough. More than enough.

“Think Mum might’ve had a nip too much eggnog,” says Rose.

“I think she got started early,” says John. “I also think Mickey’s Gram might have designs on my father.”

Rose laughs. “He is quite the catch. It’d never work, though. Gram won’t leave London, and your father won’t move here.”

“Another romance doomed to failure.” John shakes his head with mock sadness.

“Geographic incompatibility. The death of so many great loves. Pity, really.” Rose looks down at Susan, who appears to have finished her meal. There’s a bittersweet smile on her face--she lost her first great love to the ultimate geographic incompatibility, after all. If she has any regrets, though, they don’t show in her eyes.

John pushes away from the wall and sits beside Rose, wrapping one arm around her. She leans into him, and he holds his wife and child close, heart full of them and love.

There’s still a celebration going on downstairs, but John can’t imagine any gifts greater than he’s already been given.

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