So the fairytale doesn't quite work out the way she was hoping.
Rose had always thought that she'd cross the universes, find her Doctor, and everything would be golden. But on the beach in Norway, she finds herself face to face with reality - a clone, a crude copy, at least half human, half Donna - he isn't her Doctor, no matter what the original tells her before leaving, and he never will be.
Confused, Rose stands a little away from him as her Mum calls Dad, trying to examine him as subtly as possible. It is a very good copy, she'd say that much - same shape of his jaw, same unruly hair, same thin build under the suit. But the differences are obvious - the look in his eye, the way he held himself. And the hand she had held felt wrong, as well - too cool for a human, too warm for a Time Lord. It feels... disconcerting.
The expression on his face is lost, haunted. He is flexing his fingers like they are aching to run over the controls of a console, tension knotting up his shoulders. "Are you alright?" she asks quietly.
He shakes his head quickly. "I can't feel the TARDIS," he says hoarsely, "Or Donna. We were connected - I could see in to her, I came from her, and I can't see her any more." His hands flex again and Rose takes one, this time as a purely comforting gesture. "They're locked away from me!" The anguish in his voice is palpable.
Rose chews on her lower lip, unsure of what to do. Of course this Doctor feels the loss of the TARDIS and Donna keenly - he is (was) linked to them both, and the walls between the universes are sealed again. For a moment, she hates the Doctor for dumping his copy here, for leaving her with a glorified babysitter's job and him in another universe.
And kiss be damned, a relationship is now the furthest thing from her mind. This Doctor is damaged - he isn't her Doctor, and she doesn't know if she can go on with him like he is - like they are taking roles in a play. See Rose and the Doctor hand in hand, see Rose and the Doctor kiss, see Rose and the Doctor in a little cottage with a few kids. It isn't him any more, she's not sure it ever was him, and she has serious reservations as to whether it is her.
"I'll look after you," she tells him, voice low, and to her surprise, she realises she means it - she will take care of him, but any romance is out of the question. Not with him, not with this man who isn't quite the Doctor.
"Thank you," he whispers, and his cold-hot hand tightens around hers. She squeezes back and tries not to shudder.
I - DONNA
The Doctor is staring.
She nudges his arm gently, and his head snaps back towards her. His eyes are wide, and his gaze skitters over her face like a nervous pony before snapping back out the window. "What is it?" she asks.
"I thought I saw..." He drops the chip he's holding (fish and chips, a quick tea before getting back to work at Torchwood), and stands abruptly. Before she can stop him, he's run out the door.
Rose curses to herself and abandons the fried fish, racing after him. She can just catch sight of him - blue jacket vivid in the crowd, weaving through like a small child going after his single-minded goal of sweets. She's nearly caught up to him when he stops abruptly, and she practically runs into his back.
Because they're back at the tower, glass glinting in the setting sun, and striding through the door of the building next door is Donna Noble.
She grabs his wrist. "It's not her," she says, her voice urgent, "The Donna Noble you're connected with - she's in another universe. This one - we know about her, and she's not Donna."
His shoulders slump. "I thought..." he whispers, and trails off. She leads him to a bench and he practically collapses on it, all the strength and composure of cooked spaghetti.
"We've known about her for a long time," Rose says quietly, "And the time lines flex around her, but they don't go anywhere. You already exist, so she doesn't need to be special any more." He flinches, and she squeezes his hand comfortingly. "Doctor, it's not her," she explains, "She's in reception for the medical centre next door, did fairly well for herself." This time, it's her smile that's sad. "But she doesn't know."
"She created me," the not-quite Doctor says sadly, "And she has no idea."
Rose feels like her heart is going to break. It hurts, seeing him so unhappy - Donna is a part of him, and she's so incredibly close - but she's never been further away. She looks at the Doctor, really studies him - it's because of Donna that her life has changed so much, that's she's ended up babysitter to a broken half-Time Lord. "She had her role," she says, "Now it's up to us to keep on playing."
The crumpled figure next to her nods once, and hand-in-hand, aborted tea forgotten, they head back to Torchwood.
II - GWEN
It isn't stalking if you're not intending to do anything about it.
Rose has made it a habit to check up on anyone who played a role in the other universe. Which is why she's currently hacking in to the Torchwood Three CCTV system, trying to get a glimpse of Gwen Cooper, who, according to the Personnel lists, has just been signed up.
There's no Jack at this Torchwood - how could there be? The Doctor never existed here, they never met in nineteen forty-one, he never travelled with them. He never died and was never reborn and never returned to Earth. But there is Gwen Cooper, and Ianto Jones works for them in London, and Toshiko Sato, a technical genius arrested by UNIT for stealing state secrets, is now working for them in gratitude for Torchwood's rescue of her.
The screen flickers and resolves in to shape and form, and now Rose can see Gwen Cooper. She doesn't recognise anyone else - they aren't with Torchwood Three in her universe - but Gwen is determinedly researching and compiling data.
Rose admires her for a moment, hesitates, then calls up an instant message. She has an almost overwhelming urge to talk to her, to get to know her - this is a woman who helped saved their lives, one who incidentally looks so much like another woman Rose couldn't save. She takes a deep breath, and starts to type.
- hi, gwen cooper
Gwen jerks for a moment, looks around suspiciously, and types back a hurried message.
- who is this?
- i'm with torchwood london. saw you had just been signed on, decided to say hi.
A half truth is still, after all, half a truth. Rose sees Gwen relax a little, now that she knows she's not being haunted by the ghosts of cyberspace.
- thank you. it's all a bit new, but i'm sure i'll get used to it. what's your name?
Rose hesitates. Everyone knows that Pete Tyler is the Director of Torchwood - it wouldn't be a good idea for his not-quite-daughter to be caught chatting with minor employees in work hours.
- my name's rose. i'm with artifacts - what have they got you doing?
- not quite sure yet. anything that needs doing, i guess.
- yeah, most people start like that. you learn to specialise. you started in the police, didn't you?
And never mind that she's Gwen Cooper, who helped save the Earth in another universe - before Rose realises, an hour and a half has passed and she's barely thought of anything but this Gwen, an ordinary woman thrown in to something extraordinary. They reluctantly sign off - Rose because she's being called off for a mission, Gwen because her boss Suzie has got more work for her - and make a promise to talk again.
And they do. Very quickly, Rose finds herself opening up to Gwen Cooper - a friendly presence on the other side of a computer when the stress of Torchwood and being in another universe and looking after a brilliant, broken man who was once the Doctor gets to be too much. When Rose is distraught after a team member dies in an attack, Gwen is there. When Gwen and her boyfriend break up because of the stress that Torchwood creates, Rose is there. A friendship blossoms and matures, and before long, Gwen is requesting a transfer to London.
Rose meets her at the station and takes her to the temporary flat that Torchwood has provided until Gwen can get her own place. It's sparsely furnished - kitchen equipment, a table and three mismatched chairs, a battered-looking couch, a chest of drawers and a bed - but it'll do for now.
Gwen kisses her in the kitchen, Rose snogs her back on the couch. Gwen is the first person she's been close to since leaving the last universe, and it feels amazing - her hands and her mouth and the sheer joy of someone she can trust completely.
"Let's take this to the bedroom," Gwen murmurs against her throat, and wordlessly, Rose nods. She takes Gwen's hand and allows herself to be led away.
Who needs the Doctor, anyway?
III - MARTHA
Martha Jones, in Rose's own universe, is a deeply impressive woman who saved the world - multiple times, according to the Doctor - and had the gall to threaten the Daleks.
Martha Jones, in this universe, is just as important to Rose, personally.
It's a mission that goes wrong. Rose and Gwen have an alien (it's been trying to eat people) cornered, explosives set to blow the next sky high. But she hasn't counted on the alien shooting a strand of sticky webbing out, wrapping around her leg and sending her crashing to the floor.
So when the explosives go off, Rose is flung against a concrete wall, and everything goes black.
She wakes up nine hours later, head aching powerfully and vision swimming. There's something tight around her head and her chest, a deep throb in her shoulder and fire down her side. Gwen is asleep in the chair next to her, hand tight around Rose's good arm.
But she's awake in an instant. "Rose!" she half-sobs, hugging her as well as she can, kissing her on her cheek - Rose tries to ask why and realises there's a tube in her throat.
The young Doctor who saved her life is instantly familiar. Doctor Jones checks her vital signs and checks her concussion while Rose tries not to stare - this is Martha Jones, the woman who threatened to destroy the world to save the universe, and she's just saved Rose's life.
She has a concussion, several broken ribs and a punctured lung, internal bleeding, a dislocated shoulder, and a long line of grazes and cuts down her left side. It was Martha who had got her breathing again, Martha who had stopped the internal bleeding - Martha who had saved her life.
"Thank you," Gwen is telling her, voice more honest and afraid than Rose had ever heard, "Thank you so much for saving her. I don't know what I would do if she -"
Her voice breaks, and Rose squeezes her hand gently, gratitude more than she can put in to words swelling in her throat. Martha smiles gently. "Do you want me to send your parents in? They've been here since you were brought in, they were just having a quick nap," she tells Rose. Rose nods, and nearly loses the ability to breathe again when her Mum hugs her.
She's in hospital for a while longer, and the next day, the Doctor visits. He's all awkwardness and angles, unable to look directly at Martha - or, actually, at Rose. "I don't want you doing this," he says in a shaky voice when she asks why, "You're the only one I --"
And she nods silently, because the not-quite Doctor is so much better than he was, but he's still broken and she's still the only thing he has. But she has more - she has her Mum and Dad, and her little brother, and Gwen, and Torchwood, and her life, and she doesn't want to be haunted by the ghost of a man in another universe any more.
"Right, Miss Tyler," Doctor Jones says briskly, "Time we checked up on you." She's firm, polite, and cares - everything a good doctor should be.
The Doctor ducks his head again, and Rose starts to form an idea.
IV - SARAH JANE
The not-quite Doctor, to Rose's mild irritation, is improving immensely.
He had resented it at first, protesting that it wasn't her, she didn't know what he has been through, that she couldn't help. But Martha is specialising in psychology as well as medicine, and particularly in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and she has the qualifications - and the sheer guts - to handle the broken not-quite Time Lord. She already has before, even if she doesn't realise it.
And Rose can move on with her life. She moves through the ranks in Torchwood, and by the time she's twenty-four, she's already head of the department of artifacts. It's a good position, and although there are whispers of nepotism, she got the job through sheer stubbornness and skill.
With rank brings information. There are others around - there's UNIT, their main rivals (although the joint Torchwood / UNIT Christmas parties have become near legendary), and then there are the freelancers.
Rose keeps an eye on one freelancer in particular. Sarah Jane Smith's history is not terribly dissimilar to the one in her own universe - she used her own initiative to infiltrate UNIT, was given a position for her sheer nerve in doing so, stayed with them for years, and is now officially retired and unofficially the saviour of Ealing (and occasionally the planet). She has a son, sixteen years old, created in a factory (as far as the Torchwood files know) and adopted by him two years ago. Her computer is quite intelligent and of alien origin. She is very nearly the same person Rose last saw walking away from the TARDIS, smiling and hurrying back to her life.
She finally meets this Sarah Jane when a ship crashes not far from Ealing. Rose rarely goes out on scavenging missions any more, but this one she jumps at - because she knows who she will probably meet there.
Sarah Jane Smith, very nearly the same as her counterpart in the other universe, meets her there. She looks Rose up and down, clucking, "Torchwood," in a faintly disapproving manner. But she smiles, and shakes Rose's hand, and introduces herself.
"I know," Rose grins, slightly sheepishly, "We keep an eye on anyone with access to alien tech."
Sarah raises an elegant eyebrow. "Do you now?" she asks, and gestures to the wreck. "Well, I'm sure you'll want that - its engines are destroyed and it doesn't have any weapons, so I can't see what you could use it for, but you can have it anyway." It's snarky and polite all at once.
But instead, Rose grins (she can admire that - she remembers a woman snapping, "The Loch Ness Monster!"), and they board the broken ship. Its pilot is gone, jettisoned and currently in orbit waiting for a pick-up (Torchwood picked it up on their scanners), so the ship is theirs to examine.
There isn't much worth scavenging, and after a while, they sit down and just talk. Rose holds out for a little, but she finds herself telling Sarah about herself, about Torchwood, about the troubles she's having with Gwen. About the Doctor, about the planets she's seen, about the universe she had left behind. She tells Sarah about the life she lives in the other Ealing, and Sarah smiles when she tells her that Luke exists in that universe as well.
Sarah tells her about UNIT and the aliens she's met and the life she's lived and what she's learnt from it all, and Rose finds herself uncharacteristically choked up. This is a woman who didn't meet the Doctor, but still managed to have a fantastic life, and it's like a stone seal has been prised away, letting light in to dusty chambers. All these years, a part of Rose is still discontent, still yearning to go back home (but where is home, now?), to find the Doctor (but does she really need him?). She embraces Sarah, and Sarah, surprised, hugs her back.
It's too big for Rose to put in to words - she buries her face in her palms and smiles against her hands, because something in her broke and now she's free. The Doctor is a memory, something wonderful that happened to her a long time ago, and now she can move on. There's nothing holding her back now.
She thanks Sarah, once, twice, and leaves without taking anything. She has a whole universe to explore.
V - JENNY
Rose isn't sure who's more surprised when the ship crashes - herself, the not-quite Doctor, Martha, or the blonde girl in the pilot seat.
"Dad!" the girl beams as she crawls out of the cockpit, and Rose decides it's definitely the Doctor.
"Dad?" Rose and Martha chorus, heads turning, and the Doctor explains in rapid-fire speech about a planet and a machine and generated anomalies and a war that lasted a week, until Martha is staring like the Doctor is crazy (more crazy than usual) and Rose is just blinking in astonishment.
They go back to Torchwood, and there, everything is explained. Martha already knows the basics - that this Doctor is part human and part alien, that he's from another universe, that he knew her there, but they explain everything to her. Jenny tells the Doctor how she had found rifts, how she had hopped from dimension to dimension, and how when the walls came down, she was trapped. In turn, the Doctor tells Martha and Rose about Messaline, about how Jenny was born - and to Jenny, he explains who he is.
Jenny absorbs the knowledge quietly, but grins broadly. "So you're not quite Time Lord," she shrugs, "Neither am I."
The not-quite Doctor lets a slow smile spread across his face, and suddenly he's hugging his not-quite daughter like he never wants to let her go. Rose swaps a glance with Martha and smiles, because Jenny is the last thing they needed, the last piece of the puzzle required so that the brilliant, broken man in front of them can heal.
"So, anyway," Jenny tells them later, "I have a vortex manipulator wired in to my ship - if we fix it, I can travel again. And there's room for more." Her gaze flickers from her father to Martha to Rose, and something in Rose swells at the thought of time and space in front of her.
"A whole other universe to explore," the Doctor says quietly, and he turns to Martha and Rose. "Come with us," he says softly, and Rose knows that she's about to lose him, and she's at peace with that.
But a whole other universe... "Alright," she says, and grins. And Martha agrees too, and Rose looks at her friends and smiles.
Her Mum and Dad will be alright. Her little brother is four years old and enough of a handful to keep them busy for years. Donna (because Rose has been keeping an eye on her) is being magnificent. Sarah always has been and always will be. Gwen... well, Gwen can look after herself.
She's going to travel, with a copy of the man who showed her a new life, and the woman who saved her life, and the girl who's going to change her life.
Rose Tyler is going to fly, and she is going to be fantastic.