It starts as a surprise, and this one is far from a pleasant one. Rose hasn’t been a fan of surprises for some time now, particularly after Doctor’s sudden regeneration and all the changes that came with it. Mind you, not all the changes were bad, but these days all she wanted was a moment to stop and breathe for a while. To gather her bearings. To mourn Doctor’s previous self, to come to peace with his new personality and his new body. It’s true that this body is foxy and quite attractive, she just can’t decide whether she likes the blue eyes and big ears or this lanky form and freckles and warm brown eyes.
Really, though, she can’t decide, although she swore that she wanted nothing more (nobody more) than burly blue-eyed Doctor at Christmas.
Things change, then.
The nightmares that start after Cassandra’s possessing Rose’s body and brain are not surprising, though. But they are strange, otherworldly and terrify her to no end.
At first, the nightmares are about the events on the Game Station. More precisely, about her time on Earth after being sent home to Jackie and Mickey and mundane life.
She still remembers the feeling of complete helplessness, abandonment and the injustice that threatened to choke her. God, she wishes never to experience the horror of being unable to do anything again. And she recollects easily the way her mother was blathering on and on about going back to her life and Mickey echoing everything Jackie says.
The picture alters. She is alone, so alone somewhere where there is no Doctor. It’s peculiar that her dad is with her, with her mom. They are together, but Rose finds no consolation in that. She wants to claw her heart out, she dreams of becoming an emotionless machine, she longs to stop existing, to just die. Jackie is hysterical, she barely leaves her daughter’s side, she doesn’t trust Rose wouldn’t top herself.
The image evolves into something else. She is standing on a beach now and it’s so bloody cold, and the wind is playing with her hair that are a bit longer than her bob now. She is talking to a hologram oh so painfully like the Emergency Programme 1. Rose is shivering with cold and trepidation, she shudders at the finality of this meeting. She’s lost everything. She has nothing. Not even a damn picture to cherish and look at when the nights seem to never end.
“That’s better for you, babe. Imagine him leaving you when you are not so young anymore. What would ya do then? Nah. This way’s better. Now you’ve got your mom and dad, your career at Torchwood and loads of money. I understand that you miss ‘im, babe. But this way’s better.”
He understands. He says that he understands. Rose wishes to take Mickey’s words, scrunch them into a lead ball and hurl it into him. He understands nothing. Instead, the ball sits heavily in her stomach as she averts her eyes and tunes him out.
She ought to feel happy and grateful to have Mickey back, to see him again after being separated once and for all by an invisible and impenetrable wall (although she thinks that the wall is actually light blue).
It is a bizarre world that she finds herself in. Like a mirror image, but the other side is not quite the same. Like two parts of equation that contradict each other with the smallest details. It drives her crazy. She feels like she might lose her mind by just being on the wrong side of the mirror. Everything’s the same, it seems even better (her dad is here, alive and prosperous!), but there’s no Doctor. Only in her delirious, erratic dreams. Rose thinks that she’s come down with an endless fever sometimes, her brain provides so many bright pictures and scenarios she longs to come true.
‘Fine’. The world of the bloody year. She tells it at least 14 times a day (she actually counted), and she’s sick and tired of it. She works day and night to avoid feeling anything, to avoid her mother and father’s penetrating stares. She knows they are worried; she is also surprised that Pete is actually concerned for her well-being, but Rose can’t let emotions come again and overflow her.
The nights are the worst. She loved sleeping before the mirror world, she relished in the shift between being asleep and dreaming of nice things (and him!) and basking in the laziness of mornings on the board of the TARDIS. Now she’s both dreading and welcoming the nights in London. She loves them because she can indulge her fantasies about being with Doctor again (she dreams of his gruff and big-eared self sometimes, too), and she is frightened by the nightmares that are sure to come. About her being on a beach, trying to reach him, but in vain. About her confessing her deepest love to him (where did she even find the courage to say these words to him, how dares she to ruin their dance between being more-than-friends-less-than-lovers with her admittance of love?) She is gutted by his transparent picture again. And Doctor has the audacity to tell her that she is going to be just fine. She is going to be safe and sound and loved by her family and Mickey and she’s going to enjoy the adventure he could never-ever have.
She wants to throw a tantrum like an insolent child, she wishes to yell at him, she dreams of drowning in the waves of the ocean.
She silently cries instead. She has no energy to stop the tears, she simply stares emptily where his hologram used to be. The void in her soul overwhelms her.
Rose awakes with a start. She struggles to take a breath – and she can’t. She feels the tears tracking wet paths on her face, she hears the maddening beat of her heart in her chest, she feels her hands being clutched by someone...
She throws herself into his waiting arms and tries to crawl away from the suffocating dreams she lived through. Doctor coos calmingly, patting her head and playing with her hair. She thinks she hears him say something, but she can’t make herself listen, she only hugs him even tighter and hopes to never let go.
She tells him of her nightmare reluctantly. He nods, indicating that he understands, although he says nothing. Doctor takes her to the med bay, where she reluctantly accepts a sleeping pill and another brain scan after Cassandra’s interference.
They start sleeping together after that night. It’s nothing sexual, but it seems so intimate and means much more to their blooming relationship.
She is nearly uncontrollable and neurotic when it turns out that the mirror worlds – the parallel universes – do exist. She is more careful with Mickey during that journey, because she feels that she might have seen the future in her dreams, and she is not wrong. It doesn’t make her and Mickey’s goodbyes any less gut wrenching, but at least she is ready.
As they are ready on the day the Battle of Canary Wharf takes place. She says her tearful goodbye to her mother, almost father and Mickey (again) and puts on her brave face to assure them she’ll be fine. Rose knows she’ll hurt once the battle is over and the Earth is safe again, but she can’t make the nightmare of the mirror world (Doctor is tired of correcting her, so he just indulges that term with a sly smile) a reality.
She knows she can’t live forever. She knows she’ll grow old and die long before the sunset of his life, but she cannot live without him. Let there be pain of abandonment. Let her be alone and forgotten by him.
But let her not leave him willingly. She promised him her forever – however long it will last.
...and it turned out to be a long forever. They don’t suspect a thing before they meet Jack (again). They don’t notice until it’s nearly five years later and she is shot in the heart – and makes it out alive after a couple of hours (thank God for Jack who confronted Doctor about the real events on the Game Station the day he became immortal – otherwise Doctor might have gone mad with grief before she awoke). It’s another three years before they understand that Rose doesn’t age. The Bad Wolf stole her mortality. No wrinkles (even the laugh ones) mar her youthful face. The TARDIS hums contently the day they finally make that discovery.
So here they are. The Doctor and Rose Tyler in the magnificent Blue Box against all odds (and all
universes mirror worlds).