“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.”