“Are you sure it will work?” Rose asked, dubiously eyeing the transporter hanging around her neck. The transporter, though designed to move her across the rift and into her original reality, resembled a large and quite unassuming bicycle reflector. She rather thought that a device designed to return her to her proper life should certainly look more “spock”.
The transporter had worked before, back when Torchwood had torn a hole in reality, but it had not worked since. If Rose were entirely honest, she was afraid to hope.
“It should,” said Mickey, tweaking a few more dials and switches on the rather large contraption in front of him. “All we needed was an active rift, and this one here in Cardiff seems to fit the bill.”
He turned for a moment, worry etched into his features. “You sure?”
Rose looked at him with compassionate eyes. “Yes, Mickey. I’m sure.” She hesitated. “You will watch over them for me, yeah?”
“’Course I will,” he replied. “I told you that last night, when we all said our goodbyes. A right cry-fest that was.”
“I know,” she said beaming him an uncertain smile. “It really was horrible, wasn’t it?” She glanced at him with red-rimmed eyes. “I’ll miss you and everyone.”
He winked at her. “’Course you will.” He paused for a moment, his tone shifting from playful to serious. “Just, be happy Rose.”
“I will,” she promised.
All right then,” Mickey replied, all business. “I can target the presence of the TARDIS on the other side, but there is no guarantee you will end up in the right time. You know —“
Suddenly, Rose crossed over to Mickey and engulfed him in a hug. “I know the Plan by heart, Mickey. It’ll be alright, yeah?” She wasn’t entirely sure which of them she was comforting, but the nervous butterflies in her stomach calmed some when she felt Mickey’s arms encircling her.
“Right then,” said Mickey, his voice clogged with tears. “Let’s get movin’.” Removing himself from her embrace, he flicked a few more switches and then turned to Rose. “Good luck.”
Rose nodded at him and then slapped the transporter with both hands. In the blink of an eye, she was gone.
To the uninformed, The Plan would resemble nothing more than a rather large sheaf of loose-leaf papers jammed haphazardly into a pink three-ring binder. Some sheets had torn corners while others were not inserted properly, sticking out at odd angles. A rainbow assortment of sticky notes jutting out at random intervals only added to the chaos.
To Rose, however, the neon pink binder blazed in her mind as the color of hope.
The project had begun innocently enough. Whenever Rose felt the pangs of the Doctor’s absence too strongly, she would pull out some paper and write. Those first dribbles of her pen were nothing extraordinary; they were the fantasies and hopes and dreams of a lovesick woman separated from the man she thought she would be with forever. Over time, however, the dribbles began to coalesce into something more — a plan.
Rose began asking herself questions. The first was what she should do if the Doctor suddenly appeared in her living room with only two minutes before he had to leave again. The response to that little bit of soul searching resulted in her packing a bag that always remained in easy reach, and a family conference.
Pete, Jackie, Rose, and Mickey all sat around the rather grandiose dining room table one night and Rose did her best to explain her feelings for the Doctor and how, if he ever came for her, or she found a way to go to him, she would have to go. Understandably there were shouts and tears (mostly from Jackie) and pouts (mostly from Mickey), but in the end her family realized where her heart truly belonged.
A deal was struck among the participants of the round table discussion that night — Rose would get on with living her life, without moping and obsessing about the Doctor at all hours, and once a week, their group would meet and work up a ‘Doctor Emergency Protocol Plan’. Jackie wanted to call it the ‘Doctor Is An Ass Plan’, but she was overruled.
As time ticked along at a steady yet infuriating pace, the DEPP group met and The Plan was born. Every possible contingency was thought of, discussed and solved, and each section was diligently committed to paper and Rose’s memory. Some nights they would cry together as they considered the more unpleasant possibilities. Other nights no progress on The Plan was made whatsoever, the time being spent instead in laughter and merriment — usually at the Doctor’s expense.
The meetings helped strengthen old family bonds and build new ones. Rose finally got the chance to share her adventures, her heartbreaks, and her joys, sometimes hotly defending the Doctor’s honor, and sometimes exploding in anger at something he had done. The process was therapeutic, and as time went on Rose found it increasingly easier to adjust to making a life in Pete’s world.
Rose was seriously considering turning the DEPP meetings into a weekly family board game night. But then, one day, Mickey told her he had found a way to send her back, and any thoughts she had about moving on permanently disintegrated into space dust.
Landing was always more difficult than taking off, Rose thought as she jerked into her home world ass first and crashed into asphalt. Rising from her undignified position, her first glance was to the sky.
The air above was blue, with white fluffy clouds drifting lazily on a spring breeze. And there was nary a zeppelin in sight.
She gave a hoot of joy and immediately began searching the area for the telltale blue police box. Yale key in one hand, she played a game of “getting hot” or “getting cold” until finally she found it, perched in a nondescript alley between two dumpsters.
Rose’s heart beat fast from more than exertion as her trainer-clad feet slapped the pavement. She was at the door within moments, her goal only a scant few inches from her reach; yet, she hopped indecisively from foot-to-foot. Doubts crashed into mind. What if it wasn’t him? What if he had another companion? What if he didn’t want her anymore?
Rose shook her head as if to clear it. “Remember the plan,” she whispered to herself. The very Plan that Mickey, her Mum, and Pete all worked on together to create — not to mention the hours they spent arguing about the various points and contingencies. The same Plan she would work on to keep herself from falling into a deep depression. The Plan that was so damn important to her it deserved capitalization. She had traversed parts of space that no human had ever crossed before just to follow this single, overriding, all encompassing, life-altering Plan.
If she only followed the Plan, things would work out. She would allow no other alternative.
Having no more room for doubt, she rubbed sweaty palms on her jeans, and then banged on the door of the TARDIS with balled fists.
“Doctor? Doctor!” she shouted, not caring if she was loud enough to wake the dead.
Luckily, the Doctor was inside and Rose did not have to move on to Part A, subsection b.2 of the Plan, and the door opened.
“Yes? Can I help you?”
Rose took a step back, a bit stunned. Before her stood a different version of the Doctor than the ones she knew. Longish curly brown hair framed a kindly face, that was, in turn, framed by (of all things) a cravat. Some sort of velvety coat encased his form, and Rose rather thought he looked as if he had stepped out of one of the historical bodice-rippers her Mum likes to read. If this was the Doctor, Rose was going to have some prime teasing material for a long time to come.
Realizing she was staring and that he was standing silently waiting for a response, she took a step back. He followed, closing the TARDIS door behind him.
“I —I’m sorry,” she stuttered, feeling a bit off-kilter.
Part B, section G — Questions to ask in the event he is a different Doctor
She quickly ran the Plan through her memory seeking the part she needed. Once she had it, she straightened, her shoulders pushed back. Staring him in the eye she asked point-blank, “Do you remember me?”
The Doctor looked puzzled for a moment and then said, “No, perhaps we haven’t met yet. I’m the Doctor.” He flashed a kindly smile.
Rose gave a bit of a chuckle at that, feeling a bit more at ease. “I know who you are,” she said. “Um, I know this might be awkward, but you haven’t by any chance been a fella with large ears, a bad temper and a leather jacket yet, or a really skinny geek in a pinstripe suit and trainers, have you?”
The Doctor appeared to be thinking for a moment, and then said, “I’m afraid not.”
Part C, section A — What to do if meeting a previous incarnation
Rose’s voice turned nearly pleading as she asked her next question. “If I give you a message for one of your future selves, can you make sure you get it? You know. In the future?”
“This is highly unusual,” said the Doctor, but it was obvious his curiosity was peaked. “I’m not sure…”
He paused in mid-sentence, his blue-grey eyes suddenly focused on her with an intensity that almost seemed familiar. Rose thought she could feel something fluttering against her. The sensation made her uncomfortable and she shifted nervously in front of this unknown Doctor.
There was a section of the Plan that could be enacted if this Doctor refused to agree to her request, but Rose rather hoped she wouldn’t have to do that. She eyed him up and down, her head cocked appraisingly. This Doctor appeared to be sparingly built, though she could not get an idea of how many muscles he might be hiding beneath his frock coat. “Yeah,” she thought, “if I have to, I can take him.”
She slowly began to shift into an offensive stance, and hoped fervently he would simply say ‘yes’.
It was a full minute before he relinquished his intense stare, and when he did, the Doctor flashed Rose a knowing smile. “I’m quite sure I can deliver your message.”
Rose wasn’t entirely sure what had just happened, but she knew better than to look a gift horse in the mouth. “Great!” said Rose feeling happier and lighter than she had in months.
Part D, section 1.J — What to do if message will be delivered —
Rose was a little nervous about this part, mostly because the first part of this section had been written by her mother after she had heard about Reinette, but in for a penny…
Her hand snaked out like lightning and drove hard across the Doctor’s cheek. Even as he fixed astonished eyes upon her and raised a hand to his burning cheek she was on him, finger poking him hard in the chest.
“You bloody Time Lord Wanker!” she hollered with all the anger she could muster, which turned out to be a considerable amount. “I TOLD you forever you git, and I MEANT it. If you EVER try to ditch me again,” her voice turned low and menacing, “I’ll make you wish I was my Mum!”
Without giving him time to react, she grabbed hold of his cravat and yanked his face towards her. The kiss was awkward at first, with bumped noses and the slight screech of colliding teeth, but once Rose got a good hold of him she poured everything she had into that kiss. One of her major regrets was that she had never given him a good snog while she had the chance. The whole episode with Cassandra didn’t count, and now that she had the opportunity, there was no way in the universe she wasn’t taking it.
Yes, she knew that technically this wasn’t the same Doctor, but she had missed him for so long that she didn’t really care. Right now, at this moment, as far as Rose was concerned all Doctors were hers, and she was using her mouth and tongue to make sure he knew it.
She felt more than a little satisfaction when she had to steady the Doctor after she broke the kiss. It seemed his knees were having a bit of trouble locking into place. Admittedly, her breathing was heavy, but at least she managed to stand.
She waited until it was clear he could stand on his own, then smirked into his dazed face. “Got it?” she asked.
“Um,” the Doctor muttered, apparently still trying to find his tongue. “Pardon?”
“The message! Have you got it?”
“Oh!” the Doctor said, understanding dawning. “Yes. I, er, think I got the point.” One hand crept up to gently touch his mouth.
“Good,” said Rose.
There was a moment when the two of them stood staring at one another, she in expectation, he with an undecipherable look in his eyes.
“May I ask, dear lady, what is your name?”
She grinned at him. “Rose Tyler.”
The Doctor returned the grin. “Very nice to meet you, Rose Tyler.”
He stood there for another minute, still staring at her, and to Rose’s mind his delay was only serving to increase her agitation.
“Well?” she demanded.
The Doctor looked confused. “What?”
Rose made shooing motions with her hands. “Get on with it. Remember, you have to pick me up right here, right now. And tell him … you… to get it right this time. I don’t want to have to stand here for 12 months.”
“Oh!” he said, comprehension dawning at last. “Of course!” He smiled at her then, a warm and expectant smile Rose felt all the way down into the soles of her feet. “I will see you soon, Rose Tyler.” His voice seemed to caress her skin, and Rose suddenly found it hard to breathe.
The Doctor turned to go back into the TARDIS, and smacked face first into the door. After a few seconds of fumbling and some embarrassed muttering, he popped back into his TARDIS, giving Rose a cheery wave before he shut the door. Shortly thereafter Rose was buffeted by the sound and wind of that wonderful time machine dematerializing. Her heart gave a lurch, unhappy with being left behind again.
“I hope so,” she whispered as she watched it disappear.
“Where to next?” asked the Doctor, scurrying round and round the console with the same manic energy of a hamster on its wheel. Donna sometimes found his manic moods endearing, but more often than not she found them annoying.
Right now, as she stood in the console room, still wearing the slimy dripping remains of their last adventure while he came through it clean as a whistle, she was more than a little annoyed. She glared at him and flexed her hand, preparing it for the inevitable slap she was about to give him.
Gritting her teeth, she said, “A shower is the only place I’m headed.”
The Doctor looked up at her blinking. Finally realizing the state she was in, he attempted to bite back a grin. “Oh, I don’t know. The slimy look rather becomes you. In fact, I hear it is all the rage of Uphora 3. Now that’s a place…”
Donna stopped listening to his continuous babble, and decided that only a good smack would get him to shut up. She took one menacing step forward, arm slowly rising.
Suddenly, the Doctor jerked violently to the left, his ramble stopping mid-syllable. The force of the phantom slap was enough to ruffle his hair and knock his glasses askew. He slowly straightened, a dazed look in his eye, and one hand rose to cup his cheek.
Donna looked at her hand, still only halfway raised, then back at the Doctor. “I didn’t do it!” she yelled.
The Doctor did not appear to hear her, and Donna walked closer. “Doctor?” she called, with no response. She waved her hand in front of his eyes, “Hello? Martian-boy?” The Doctor’s only reaction was to move his hand from his cheek to rub lightly over his lips.
Donna knew the Doctor was an alien, and she hadn’t been around him long enough to discern what constituted normal, but something told her that this most certainly fell beyond the pale even for him. She drew back her hand, thinking that if a good smack had knocked the sense out him, perhaps a second good smack would knock it back in.
Before she could strike however, the Doctor’s eyes cleared and he flashed her all his teeth in a rather large grin. Donna wasn’t sure she had seen him give quite this sort of smile before. It practically exuded happiness, as if his entire soul was suddenly illuminated with sunshine.
Disconcerted, she stepped back. “Doctor, what just happened?”
His smile grew even bigger, and Donna began to wonder if perhaps he had more teeth than a human. “Something absolutely brilliant!” he replied.
He quickly dashed around the console and began throwing switches and twisting dials, looking so happy that Donna could only watch open-mouthed amazement.
The TARDIS gave a lurch and she knew they had landed…somewhere. The Doctor didn’t hesitate, nor did he give her a second glance. He had his head and shoulders thrust through the door before she could find the words to formulate a question.
After a couple of seconds she heard, “Ah! There you are! Really, Rose, Time Lord Wanker? What have they been teaching - Mmmphff!”
Donna stood silent, connecting the dots: a happy Time Lord, a girl named Rose, a decidedly female hand clutching the back of his head and the matching hand creeping around his back… and then decidedly lower, the lack of words issuing from the Doctor’s mouth. Unbidden her mouth turned up into smile even as she got a devilish gleam in her eye.
“Hello Rose!” shouted Donna at the top of her lungs. “Glad to have you here! Say, can you keep him busy for awhile? I’m going to shower and then sleep!” She paused for a moment, then added, “Sleep! In a room on the other side of the TARDIS. Where I won’t hear a thing!”
She practically giggled at the muffled squawk she heard from the Doctor and the two feminine hands freezing in place. Somehow she knew that life with the Doctor had just gotten a lot more interesting.
Turning, she left the two of them to their own devices and headed to her room. Donna wasn’t sure how Rose had returned, but she was certain of one thing — whatever message Rose had sent had undoubtedly been received.