Author: E.A. Week
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; on LiveJournal as eaweek.
Summary: On their first New Year’s in the alternate universe, Rose gets some tough love from Jackie.
Category: Doctor Who.
Feedback: Letters of comment are always welcome! Loved it? Hated it? Send me an email and let me know why!
Disclaimer: Copyrights to all characters in this story belong to their respective creators, production companies, and studios. I'm just borrowing them, honest! The story title is shamelessly stolen from Pink.
Story Rating: This story is rated T for language.
Possible spoilers: Through the end of season two.
“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.” --The Rolling Stones
A loud burst of synthesized orchestral music issued from the television speakers, accompanied by tinny studio applause. Lounging on her bed, Rose began to sing along with the show’s opening song. “Them heavy people hit me in a soft spot, them heavy people help me. Them heavy people hit me in a soft spot–rolling the ball, rolling the ball, rolling the ball to me.”
The applause increased, and a tiny woman in a billowing black caftan swept onto the stage. Kate Bush: plump, middle-aged, waving at the crowd, an extravagant mane of auburn hair cascading in waves around her shoulders.
“Hello!” she called out cheerfully. “Welcome to the start of another season!” In the audience, people whistled and cat-called, finally settling down. “It’s so wonderful to see you all! Tonight, the theme of our show is change–the theme of our whole season this year will be change and self-discovery.” A bit of polite applause greeted this announcement. “To open the season, we have three very special guests.”
On the bed, Rose plumped her pillow and grinned. She loved the next bit.
“Our first guest tonight is Paris Hilton, who’ll be talking about her new line of fall fashions for plus-size women. This is one of her dresses I’m wearing, right here. It’s so comfortable and easy to wear, and you’ll find them in better shops all across Britain.”
Rose had watched this so many times she had the dialogue memorized, but she couldn’t stop giggling.
“As you know, our middle segment always features a musician, and tonight it’s John Lennon, performing a special song he wrote as a tribute to Ringo Starr, who died in that tragic boating accident ten years ago.” The audience applauded again, more sincerely this time.
“And finally, our third guest is someone we’ve had on the show several times before, and it’s such a pleasure to welcome him back again. From America, the celebrated author Thomas Mapother will talk about his new book, Coming Out in the Workplace. You may know that this is the third book in a series, and we’ve had Thomas on our show before, talking about his books Out of the Closet and Coming Out to Your Family. These books have been so influential in helping gay men and lesbians come to terms with their orientation and helping them come out to the people in their lives.”
Rose exploded into laughter as the studio audience applauded excitedly. On the screen, Bush had switched smoothly back to fashion and was now introducing a video clip of plus-size models in jewel-toned fall dresses strutting down a runway.
The intercom on her nightstand buzzed. With a loud sigh, Rose hit the mute button on the TV remote and hit the “talk” button on the intercom.
“Sweetheart, can you give me a hand over here? I can’t decide which one of these borders works best in the nursery.”
“But Mum, Kate Bush is on!”
“It’s New Year’s Day, sweetheart–that must be a repeat.”
“It is, but it’s the one where Tom Cruise talks about coming out to people you work with.”
“That’s all he ever talks about, and besides, we TiVo’d that episode, and you’ve seen it a million times.”
“Yeah, but it’s funny.”
“Well, come over and help me, and we can watch it together later, all right?”
Rose heard the warning note in Jackie’s voice. “All right, all right,” she sighed, flicking off the telly. Yawning and stretching, she shuffled out of her room and down the hall, down the stairs, across the landing, up the stairs on the other side, and down the hall that led to her parents’ room. She still couldn’t get used to the distances in this house, a house that could have held a dozen council flats with room to spare. Faintly, she heard music: Pete was downstairs, playing his new piano.
“Yeah?” she yawned, standing in the doorway of the master bedroom.
“Well, did Lady Layabout finally show her face to the light of day?”
“Shut up,” Rose groused good-naturedly. “It’s a holiday; can’t I sleep late?”
“You’re hung over.”
“Just a little,” Rose protested. “It’s all your fault for having that party.”
“Is it my fault you downed five liters of champagne?”
Rose slid an arm around Jackie’s shoulders. “I had to drink for both of us,” she said, rubbing her mother’s belly. “Since you can’t.”
Jackie beamed. “He’s moving around a lot today,” she said, resting her hands on her protuberant abdomen. “Must be the sugar from all that chocolate. He keeps bouncing on my bladder, and I have to pee every twenty minutes.”
“It’s so weird, seeing you like this.”
“What’s so weird about it?” Jackie puttered into the adjoining room, which once had held her predecessor’s vast wardrobe. The room had been gutted and redecorated, the walls painted a soft, pastel green, the woodwork a glowing white. Pale winter sunlight filtered in through the airy windows.
“You don’t expect to see your mum pregnant when she’s forty, that’s all.”
“I’m not an old woman yet. Now–which one of these borders do you think will work best? The ducks, the turtles, or the sailboats?”
“Oh, God, Mum. You dragged me all the way over here for this? I don’t know. Can’t you flip a coin or something?”
Jackie gave her a reproachful expression. “I thought you’d like to help out,” she said. “He is going to be your brother.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Aren’t you excited, sweetheart?”
“Yeah, ‘course I am,” Rose told her. The impending arrival of her younger sibling was one of the few bright spots in her interminably long days. “I just don’t care about… decorations and stuff.”
“I think I like the turtles best.”
“Yeah, they go nice with the green.”
“Do you think it’s too much, though? Turtles? It’s like telling him he’s going to be a marine biologist or something. The sailboats are more sporty, don’t you think?”
“Mum,” Rose protested. “By the time he’s old enough to care, he won’t even be sleeping in this room any more.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I just can’t make up my mind. Pregnancy does that–it leeches out brain cells, I swear.” Jackie tugged Rose by the arm. “Let’s take a walk. It’s beautiful today.”
“I’m too tired.”
“Well, it’ll do you some good, then. Now shift!”
Jackie waddled comically out of the room and down to the first floor, Rose following behind her, groaning in protest.
“Pete, love, we’re going for a walk!” Jackie pulled Rose’s new winter jacket out of the cupboard and handed it to her, then donned her own wool maternity coat.
The music stopped, and Pete emerged a moment later.
“Thought we were going out for a bit of road practice today?” he asked Rose.
“I dunno. I’m kind of tired.”
“We won’t get a chance again ‘till next weekend. And the roads’ll be quiet today.”
“I don’t know,” Rose mumbled.
“Come on, sweetheart,” Jackie coaxed, kissing Rose on the cheek. “Remember, he’s promised you a new car if you pass the test by your birthday.”
“That’s not ‘till May.”
“Well, then, you’ve got five months to practice. We’ll take a little walk to clear out the cobwebs, then you’re going driving with your dad.”
“Mum–“ This was a wholly new experience for Rose, having two parents gang up on her, even when deep down she knew it was for her own good.
“We’ll be back in ten.” Jackie winked at her husband and steered Rose by the arm out the front door.
“Hmm, smell that air.” Jackie still moved with surprising speed, despite her growing bulk. “Almost like spring. It’s a tease though–we’re in for rubbish, rain all the rest of this week.”
“Yeah, I heard.”
Jackie pattered on. “I hate these damn hedges,” she grumbled. “Stiff and lifeless, might as well be made of wax. I wish we’d had time to do something about them before winter set in. Next spring, I’m going to have them all ripped out and some flowerbeds put in. Won’t that be nice? Something with a little more color?”
Jackie regarded her daughter with concern. “You’re just bursting with enthusiasm.”
“Mum, it’s just–it’s hard to be excited about–about flowers and wallpaper and stuff. I dunno, it’s just–things like that didn’t matter much…”
“When you were with him,” Jackie finished softly.
“Yeah,” said Rose, almost inaudibly.
“You still miss him.”
“God, like every minute. I’ll never stop missing him, Mum. I couldn’t stop thinking about him, all last night. Here we were, having this New Year’s Eve party, and he could be out there somewhere, fighting some horrible monster. And he’s gonna be so lonely–that’s the worst part.”
They left the wide lawn and wandered into the woods that bordered the Tylers’ vast property. Rose playfully referred to the expanse of trees as their forest.
“He’ll always be lonely, sweetheart. He’s the last one of his kind. You told me that.”
“Yeah, but he wasn’t lonely with me.”
Jackie slipped an arm through her daughter’s. “How long was that going to last, Rose? Even if you lived to be seventy or eighty, that’s the blink of an eye for someone like him.” Rose started to interject, but Jackie said firmly, “He got on for nine hundred years without you, sweetheart. I think he’ll manage again now that you’re gone.”
“Mum!” Rose couldn’t believe her mother could be so clueless, so unfeeling.
“Well, it’s true.” Concerned, Jackie went on, “I know you loved him, but it was going to end sooner or later, and better here than on some asteroid, some planet billions of light years from Earth. He knew that, Rose. I could see it in his face. He knew this was the best place for you to be–with your family, people who love you and care about you.”
“He loved me and cared about me,” Rose maintained stubbornly. “Mum–don’t I get any say in my own life? I wanted to be with him.” She kicked at an old piece of wood lying on the ground. “Sometimes I think I’d rather be dead than trapped here without him.”
“Rose! Don’t say that!” Jackie had stopped short, staring at her daughter in alarm. “You’re not trapped! You’re alive! That’s more important than anything!”
“Mum, I miss him! Every day, every second…” She stared bleakly into the leafless winter trees. “You don’t know what that’s like.”
Jackie’s breath whistled in and out, and her face had gone very white. “Don’t know?” she repeated. “Don’t know? Rose, of course I know!”
“Mum, it’s not the same–“
“I’ll say it’s not the same!” Jackie shot harshly. “You’re living in a big, posh house with two parents who love you and who’d do anything for you! You’ve got all the money you could ever want, you’ve got a job doing something besides sweeping floors and scrubbing toilets, you’ve got friends, connections, a beautiful bedroom and a closet full of clothes–! Try being a twenty-year-old widow with a six-month-old daughter to support–on nothing! Your father left me nothing, Rose–less than nothing! Sweet FA! Debts up to my eyeballs–and the ones I didn’t know about! He was in hock to everyone: the banks, the credit agencies, his friends, every git he could sweet-talk into loaning him a few quid!”
“Mum!” Rose stared at her mother, genuinely shocked. “You never said–why didn’t you ever tell me?”
“You were just a little girl, sweetheart! It wasn’t your fault, and there wasn’t anything you could do about it.”
Jackie started walking again, breathing deeply, as if trying to let go of the anger of those lost years. Rose briefly flashed back to that suburban street by the church: Jackie in her ridiculous 1980s perm and peach satin bridesmaid dress, lashing out at her husband. He’s a failure–born failure, that one! Rose needs a proper father, not one who’s playing about like a big kid! For the first time she truly understood what Jackie had gone through. She tried to imagine her mother’s life in the aftermath of Peter’s death: no husband, no money, raising a child on her own in a council flat.
“I’m sorry, Mum.”
“It’s all right.” Jackie had regained a measure of control. “I shouldn’t let myself get like this. Dr. Heinrich warned me about my blood pressure. Anyway, it’s all over now, dead and gone, no use being bitter.”
“How’d–how’d you manage?”
“Oh, I scraped by,” Jackie said wearily. “Your grandparents helped out–mine, not his, those skinflints. Most of your dad’s friends never collected on his debts–except that bastard Ralph Billings. Oh, he’d have been willing to let it go, all right, in exchange for certain other favors.”
“I paid him back, though. Five quid a week for ten bleeding years.”
“Ten years?” Rose repeated.
“Ten years. Even if I got behind on my other bills, I always made sure I paid that bastard his money. Sometimes things got so tight, though…” Jackie trailed off. “The year you turned eight–do you remember when we found that twenty-pound note getting off the bus?”
“Yeah, I remember that!” said Rose. “You stood there on the sidewalk and cried. God, I was so embarrassed.”
“I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to give you any birthday presents that year,” Jackie said sadly. “And twenty quid in the gutter, like an angel had dropped it there. I was so happy, I knew I’d be able to get my little girl a present.”
“Oh, Mum!” Rose felt her eyes welling up.
Jackie wiped her face. “I threw a party when I’d finally paid back everything Pete owed him. Remember? It was the middle of summer, when you were ten.”
“Mum, you had so many parties, they all start running together.”
Jackie snorted. “He died two years after that. Ralph Billings. Stomach cancer. Served him right.”
“Mum,” said Rose reproachfully.
“Oh, well,” Jackie sighed. They walked on in silence, and she ventured, “Rose, you’re lucky. You didn’t have it the way I did. I know you’re sad, I know you’ve lost the man who meant everything to you. But he wanted this for you. He wanted you to be safe, to have a normal life, the kind of life he’ll never have.”
“He could have–“
“Sweetheart,” said Jackie. “He couldn’t. What were you going to do, marry him? He’s not even human! Would you want him to live with you, watching you grow older while he stayed the same? You’d be an old woman, and he’d still look like he’s thirty. He was going to lose you sooner or later, and he knew it, so he sent you here, where you could have the best possible life.”
“I miss him.” Rose heard her voice shaking. “I miss him so much, Mum. His voice and his crazy laugh and the way he’d talk ninety miles an hour… the way he used to smile at me and make me feel like the most special thing in the whole universe.”
Jackie kissed her cheek. “You are special.”
Rose dabbed at the corners of her eyes. “Does it ever stop hurting so much?”
“Give it time,” Jackie said. “You won’t believe it now, cos everything’s so raw, but after a while things come along that fill up those gaps.” She squeezed Rose’s hand. “You have so many things to be happy about, Rose! You have a beautiful home, and a real dad who loves you, and you’re going to have a little brother in three months! Isn’t that wonderful?”
Rose tried to smile; it didn’t work. “Feels like I’m never gonna be happy again.”
“Sweetheart, happiness isn’t a place! It’s not a train station where you get out and say, ‘I’m here. I’m happy now.’ It’s a journey–a trip with lots of things along the way, and sometimes you’re happy and sometimes you’re not, and some days it feels like lifting bricks just to get out of bed… but you just have to keep moving along, cos what else can you do?”
“Mum, that’s straight out of Kate Bush. She babbles that sort of rubbish all the time.”
“I’m just trying, sweetheart.” Jackie shot Rose a wry expression. “Who’d have believed it, back home? Her own talk show? That woman’s a flipping recluse where we come from, hasn’t left her house in years.”
Rose started laughing at the inanity of it all, then she started crying again.
“Sweetheart!” Jackie stopped and hugged her. “Oh, you poor thing, you’ve been dragged all over time and space by a madman; he turned your whole life upside down, stole your heart right out of your body, then just dropped you here, didn’t he?”
Rose nodded, unable to speak.
“Rose, he was a gift–you have to look at it that way. All that time you had with him, all those things you learned and saw, all those times you had to dig down inside yourself and find the guts to keep fighting–that’s a gift he gave you, and nobody can ever take it away! I’m so proud of you, sweetheart.”
Rose kept nodding.
“And this is the hard part, what you’re going through now. Moving on, living without him–learning to use everything he taught you.” Jackie held her daughter at arm’s length. “Sweetheart, that’s what he’d have wanted you to do! Use the things he taught you, protect the Earth, even if it’s this crazy mixed-up Earth where John Lennon’s still alive and Paris Hilton makes clothes for fat girls! Helping other people! That’s what he did! And that’s what he’d want you to do.”
“I know,” said Rose in a small voice.
“Look at you,” Jackie scolded gently. “Would he be proud of you, if he could see you right now? Still crying, all these months later? Moping around, sleeping half the day, watching telly, acting like you don’t care about anything, pissing away the best years of your life? Is that what he’d want for you?”
Rose started to answer, then stopped. She knew. She knew exactly what the Doctor would have wanted for her; he’d already told her. If you want to remember me, you can do one thing. That’s all. One thing. Have a good life. Do that for me, Rose. Have a fantastic life.
“Am I right?” Jackie asked softly.
“Yeah.” Incredibly, Rose’s tears stopped. “Yeah, you are.”
“Course I am!” Jackie teased her. “I’m your mother–it’s my job to be right!”
They laughed. Jackie took Rose by the arm, and they continued their stroll through the woods.
“I wish I could just talk to him again,” Rose said wistfully. “Send him an email, anything.”
“I know it’s hard,” Jackie said, “but maybe it’s for the best. You have to cut the strings somewhere. Stop depending on him. Stand on your own two feet…”
“Protect my mum from the evil cliché monsters.”
“Oh, stop it!” Jackie scolded, and Rose grinned, despite herself.
They walked on in silence, then Jackie said darkly, “I’m still worried we haven’t seen the last of him.”
“What do you mean?” Rose asked, surprised.
“He’s so damned clever–if anyone could find a way back through, it’d be him.”
Rose shook her head. “It’s too dangerous.”
“Hmm.” Jackie rubbed her belly, her focus turning inward for a moment. Then she said, “You know what my worst nightmare used to be?”
“Him coming out of the TARDIS, crying, with your body in his arms. Bringing you home to me, one last time.”
“Mum!” Rose stared at her mother, shocked. “That’s horrible!”
Jackie folded her arms, hugging herself. “Someday, when you’re a mother, you’ll understand that.”
Listlessly, Rose said, “I’m never gonna have kids now.”
“Famous last words,” Jackie teased. “It’s never too late–look at me. Motherhood at forty.”
Rose put an arm around Jackie’s shoulder and kissed the side of her head.
“All those days and nights,” Jackie said. “I used to worry about you so much, sweetheart.”
Rose teased, “Well, you’re stuck with me now.”
They came out of the woods at last, overlooking the lawn.
“You were right,” Rose said abruptly.
“Those shrubs. They’re awful. Next spring, let’s put in something bright and loud and completely tasteless. Rattle the neighbors a bit.”
Jackie snorted. “What neighbors? The nearest ones are five miles away.”
“And to hell with the turtles. Put up the trim with the sailboats. He’ll be hounding Pete for a yacht by the time he’s ten.”
Arm-in-arm they crossed the lawn, and they were still laughing when they walked inside.
“What’s so funny?” Pete asked suspiciously.
“Nothing,” Rose grinned. “Get your coat and your car keys, Gemini. You’re taking me driving.”
She didn’t miss the look that passed between her parents.
“Someone’s feeling better,” Pete said dryly.
Rose cozied up to him. “When I pass my test, will you get me an Aston Martin?”
A low chuckle rumbled in Pete’s chest. “We’ll see about that, Hot Wheels. Let’s start with parallel parking and backing up in a straight line.”
“How about getting down the drive without running over the lawn?” Jackie arched an eyebrow.
“That was only once!” Rose protested.
Pete fetched his coat, calling back, “Oh, Mickey rang up while you two were out… wants to know if we’re up for Chinese tonight.”
“Sounds great,” said Rose, following Pete to the door. “Mum, can you ring him back? Tell him to order plenty of chicken fingers.”
“Anything else you’d like, so long as you’re bossing me around?”
“Yeah, put the telly on in the den… I wanna watch Kate Bush when we get back. The woman may be daft, but she’s on to something.”The End