It wasn't any time for talking about one's feelings in any respect. They were all being worked to the bone to keep things under control.
But even so, he looked tired. Could an immortal who can't sleep and can't die look tired? If so, Jack was it. Faintly blue under the eyes, he still worked with an unceasing fury that alarmed everyone. Tosh joked weakly that it was because of Owen's coup of opening the Rift that now Jack was reasserting himself as the Alpha Male of Torchwood, but everyone had been silent. It rang true, but something else was wrong.
As wrong as that hand he kept in that damned jar in his office/room.
But Gwen couldn't really stand it anymore. She could feel the tension creeping up under her skin, and even at home with Rhys it was like a physical strain on her shoulders. Something was wrong, very wrong, and had been ever since Jack came back. But Jack was still unapproachable, and she couldn't find an angle in. Not yet. So she long-sufferingly sighed, did work as she was told. There would be an opening for her to figure things out, to make things right — and it would reveal itself when it was ready. For all the times he had helped her, she felt useless now. She couldn't even hold his hand.
Until then, she'd just have to be a good soldier and suck it up.
They hung over the railing.
“That's the Bad Wolf?” Jayne grumbled, but with interest, as Rose walked with Zoe, River, and Mal up the ramp into Serenity. “She don't look so big. Or bad.”
“I dunno”, Kaylee said, her chin in her palm, “She seems kinda cute. Littler than I thought she'd be.”
“I wouldn't be so sure of that, Kaylee”, Inara said gently as she passed by, finally back from her obligations of the day. “I've heard she's done some amazing things with that little body of hers.”
“She a whore?” This possibility perked Jayne's interest.
Inara rolled her eyes. “No. I meant that even though she's little, she's fought some great battles.”
Jayne frowned, suddenly losing interest.
“Always about the whores with you, ain't it?” Kaylee chided cheerfully, and Inara just shook her head in disgust but watched the scene down there unfold along with them.
“Hey!” Mal shouted up to them, “Get down here and introduce yourselves. We got ourselves a new passenger.”
Rose looked up at them with interest.
“We usually don't have to do that.” Jayne grumbled as they walked down the stairs.
“Oh, you're just cranky 'cause she ain't a whore.” Kaylee smiled, but in a softer tone.
“Stop it, you two.” Inara shot them a warning glance.
Once they were down there in the cargo bay, Mal looked around. “Where's our good doctor?”
River noticed how Rose stiffened just a little at the mention of that word. Not that anyone else could tell, except maybe Inara, who could read body language like books.
“Said somethin' about cleanin' his instruments”, Kaylee supplied, “he found some good stuff in town. Real cheap too. He'd come down but he's usin' that autoclave again.” She'd been aching to poke around in it, but Simon hadn't let her. She still pouted about it, months later.
Mal nodded, satisfied, then introduced everyone but fumbled at her name.
The Bad Wolf just smiled, casting her eyes down, faint look of grief there on her face. She hadn't revealed her real name to more than a handful of people in the last few hundred years. But it was time. “Rose. My name is Rose Tyler.”
To celebrate the new passenger (and their mini vacation), they decided to camp out on the beach, moving Serenity a little closer from her hiding spot in case they needed to make a quick get away. They'd still be sleeping in their quarters, but dinner was to be outside. Even Inara stuck around to help, as she was absolutely delighted to see that Rose had made the party stop on the way back to the market where they'd stocked up on fresh foods, enough for months in the Black, all on her dime.
At first Mal had declined her offer, but she'd had this sad look on her face, saying money was never an issue for her, rather, it was all she had left. So she gave generously, though Mal still had misgivings taking her money (he was a criminal, but he also had standards), let her have a place on the ship and let her help out with things along with their deal previously struck courtesy of Badger.
So while everyone started preparing and storing their purchases from town, Rose settled in her room, previously Book's quarters. After River blandly telling her what had happened to him, Rose had just nodded. River had loved him too, he had been apart of this family on the good ship Serenity, after all. Even with his scary hair. Even though it had been over a year since that had happened, Rose could still see the fragility of River's shoulders, her sadness when she spoke of him, and of Wash. Rose herself was no Reader, though she'd had basic psychic defense training at Torchwood — but she could tell grief when she saw it, even in a person as tightly shut as Zoe.
River hung around as Rose unpacked her few things. The most important things she had with her were the vestiges taken from Earth-That-Was, and Alternate Earth. The rest was clothing, her documents, a few transmats just in case. Pictures of Jackie, Pete, Mickey, her baby brother, Jake, various members of Torchwood on Earth-That-Was. Other, stranger pictures — some that moved like proper snaps, some that didn't all in a sturdy, strangely designed metal box. She looked at these things from her spot in the chair opposite of Rose as she put her things into the closet, into the small armoir next to it, but didn't move to ask or touch anything. Rose didn't mind River there and let her body language say as much.
Sunlight poured in from the window that ordinarily would be showing the Black had they been in space, and River caught a glint of silver that dipped out from Rose's shirt as she was going back and forth and placing her clothes in the armoir. Silver on a chain yet gold at the same time. Colors she couldn't name, that no one had ever seen before.
The TARDIS key.
It made her head hurt suddenly. The key was ALIVE, and very very VERY old. Incalculably so. It was whispering softly, faintly, in a language River didn't know. Singing. Crying. She saw flashes, quick brief blinks of memories from it, as if it had its own consciousness (and it did).
A civilization long dead, a man that was its sole survivor.
Jack and Rose running for their lives after that brush with the Stealers of Dreams and Fiction, lies and truth, thick through the jungle, each clasping their own keys in their linked hands.
The Doctor and Rose laughing about Queen Victoria's banishment of Sir Knight of TARDIS and werewolves.
Metal monsters being sucked into a huge black void.
Rose watching Pete die in the other London.
Creatures of water taking ghosts and human form, sirens dragging down their loved ones for the Feast.
Abbadon, the Beast.
i am the past present future i am time i am nothingness i am everything oh god what am i quiet me too much screaming i remember everything I SEE ALL
She closed her eyes and covered her ears with a soft whimper. Didn't Rose hear it? Wasn't it driving her mad? The sadness, the pure, endless, crystalline grief that this object, this thing that shouldn't have been conscious at all as a thing, was singing about? Was it soaking up Rose's grief too? Was it Reading everyone like River could?
litany and holy books of planets places people erased forgotten exterminated the alliance the daleks the cybermen torchwood jack doctor justicia london shadow serenity valley gallifrey mum dad mickey jake keisha entire worlds dead miranda pax jay oh god oh god oh god please make me a stone
She felt the light from outside fade from the room, suddenly, violently, almost making her ill with it, and she opened her eyes, wondering if it were an attack (and she hadn't really had any of those for over a year, since Miranda). But Rose stood there, but she was all Wrong.
Rose's eyes were solid gold, and a solar nimbus seemed to emanate from her body. Time slowed down and River could hear her heartbeat loud within the air, and then a smaller one (her own? the Key's?). Hair flowing gently in the air. She shone with powdered gold skin . Midas' daughter, perfect and gilded like He was. And the key on that fine chain also glowed, almost as brightly as her eyes.
i am the void i give birth to all oh god doctor jack anyone please don't leave me alone in this world no more death please let me out it's cold in here and dark
Like she'd become a sun, shining supernova. She was Light itself. Absence of color, absence of life. Empty and full and everything.
That feeling of Forever, rolling deliciously and deliriously into River, making her want to vomit in horror, delight, shame, sadness.
“Down the Rabbit Hole, Rose Red.” River murmured dizzily, feeling a little more than afraid. "Halo in the Dark, Keys that Talk, you're in Alice Time now."
Rose's tears were silvery-gold tinted, too. The key shimmered on her breast
“Oh God, make me a stone”, she whispered aloud, still crying soundlessly, and reached out to cup River's cheek in her glowing hand.