.">“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?”
“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.
Cybermen and Daleks--
Losing her grip--
The Doctor screaming her name--
“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:
“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.
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.