Two days after her farewell to the Doctor at Bad Wolf Bay, Rose awoke in the middle of the night to the unusual sight of her mother perched on her bedside chair, knitting a baby blanket by lamplight.
"Mum?" Rose asked groggily, sitting up. "What are you doing in here?"
"I was waiting for you to wake up from your nightmare," Jackie replied as she continued to knit.
"The nightmare you were about to have, of course," Jackie said.
Rose was beginning to feel like she walked into a cinema in the middle of a film. "Why do you think I was about to have a nightmare?" she asked carefully. "Was I tossing and turning?"
Jackie shook her head. "Not yet."
"Right, then." Rose yawned, rolled over, and promptly went back to sleep. She slept soundly, until her alarm rang in the morning.
Her mother was no longer in the room. Perhaps she had dreamed the incident of the previous night, Rose thought.
She got up, as usual, got ready for the day, as usual, and went downstairs, as usual. Jackie, Pete, Mickey, and Jake were already at the breakfast table, plates of food in front of them. Rose had long since grown accustomed to the idea that Jake and Mickey were together now, not to mention living in the same house as her, Pete, and Jackie, and she quickly filled her own plate with bacon and eggs before she plopped down on the chair next to Jake.
Mickey picked up his fork and, without looking at her, asked, "How did you sleep, Rose?"
Deciding to gloss over the odd interlude with her mum, which after all might not even have occurred, Rose merely replied, "Fine. I slept fine."
Across the table, Jackie whispered knowingly to Pete, "She's in denial."
Rose's forehead wrinkled; she definitely hadn't dreamed that comment. What was she supposed in denial about? She looked around the table, to find that everyone except Pete had become exceedingly occupied with the contents of their plates. "Tell me what's going on," she requested.
Pete stared straight at her. When he spoke, his voice was low and intent. "Rose, your life is not empty and meaningless, and it is worth living."
"Yeah, I know that."
"I really mean it," he stressed.
"So do I," Rose said with mounting irritation.
"I want you to repeat those words at least 20 times a day." Pete continued to gaze at her with that unnervingly piercing stare.
Rose shrugged and turned her attention to her food. The bacon was cold and the eggs were runny; Jake must have cooked again.
Beside her, Mickey and Jake started their own conversation, which sounded wonderfully prosaic in the wake of Pete's strange words. Rose idly listened as she poked at her bacon.
"You found the contract?" Mickey was saying. "That's fan--"
"Mickey!" Jackie yelped. "You know you aren't supposed to use the f-word."
Relieved to have an excuse, Rose looked up from her plate. "But Mum, Mickey wasn't going to swear. It sounded like he was about to say fantastic."
Pete, Jackie, Jake, and Mickey gasped in horror.
Rose set down her fork. "What? What did I say?"
Jake sighed. "Look, Rose, 'fantastic' is the f-word. We're not supposed to say it around you."
Jake looked away. "Because, you know, he used to."
He, uttered with that degree of emphasis, could only mean the Doctor. Rose objected, "That's bonkers! All of you, you're stark raving mad."
Jake continued, in a tone that would best be described as one of resentment, "And he's also the reason we can't ever eat bananas or chips or beans on toast, and why whenever your mum has an antenatal visit, she's supposed to use code and say she's going to the bookshop, because the 'd-word' has been banned, too, in any context."
It was Rose's turn to sigh. "Let me guess. The 'd-word' is 'Doc'--"
Everyone gasped again, cutting her off.
Rose screamed, "Doctor! Doctor! Doctor!" She stopped, took a deep breath, and slowly exhaled. It didn't help much; she still felt like wrapping her hands around a random neck and squeezing. To subvert the urge, she shoved her chair back from the table, leaving her breakfast virtually untouched. "I'm going to work now. Jake, Mickey, if you're ready we can go together." She strode away, but not before she heard her mother's comment of, "Look at her. Barely touched her food; she's wasting away from grief."
It wasn't like she lived with the most normal people anyway, so Rose attempted to put aside the bizarre events of the morning and go about her day as she typically would. She ate lunch with her new friends Erin and Vanessa, mildly flirted with Tom the deliveryman, and tried to ignore the fact that Mickey kept making up transparent excuses to stop by her office. Finally, having trouble devoting her full attention to her work but relieved that Mickey had stopped coming by, Rose decided to go home early. She'd get a fresh start on that mound of paperwork tomorrow.
When she entered, the house was quiet. Apparently, she was the only one there. Or so Rose thought until she headed down the hallway toward her room and heard scuffling and scraping noises coming from inside. She pushed open the door and walked in to see Mickey, his back to her, rifling through her dresser drawers.
"Mickey!" Rose called. "What are you doing?"
He jumped, whirled, and thrust his right hand behind his back.
"What do you have there?" Rose asked, unable to think of a good reason why Mickey would be searching her room and trying to hide that fact.
"Nothing," he muttered.
"Mickey," she repeated. "Show me what you have behind your back."
Shame-faced, he brought his hand forward.
The first thought that came to Rose's mind was, 'Thank God he wasn't raiding my knickers drawer.' She didn't want to think about what Mickey (and by extension, Jake) might want with her undergarments.
The second thought that occurred to her was, 'Why in the world is Mickey trying to walk off with my tweezers, razors, scissors, and pens?' He even clutched the fork she'd used the previous night when she'd smuggled a piece of cake into her room.
"Your mum told me to take all the sharp objects out of here," Mickey blurted.
"Okay," Rose said slowly, not even coming close to comprehending a decent reason behind this action. "And why did she do that?"
With a mumble that sounded something like, "Soyoucan'tslashorstabyourwristsinyourdespair," but couldn't possibly have been, Mickey dodged around her and bolted down the hallway.
Rose shook her head in amazement. She definitely needed to have a talk with her mum, whenever she returned home. She wandered toward the kitchen, only to be confronted by Jake.
"Rose. I have something for you." He thrust a small, crudely wrapped parcel at her.
"A gift? That's sweet." Rose tore off the paper and gazed at the object. "It's a CD."
"A special one," Jake said.
Rose looked at the CD case. It was hand-labelled, and the first section read, "Songs of Despair." With a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, Rose scanned the ensuing song titles. "My Immortal. I Need You. I Am Nothing Without You. What Becomes of the Broken Hearted." She stopped reading that list, guessing that it would not improve, and moved on to the other section, labelled "Songs of Inspiration." There, she read, "Learning to Live Again. I Will Survive." Her voice attained ear-piercing levels with the next title. "My Heart Will Go On?"
"Yeah," Jake mumbled. "Mickey and your mum told me which songs to use."
"Not your fault," Rose said grimly. "Now I know exactly who to blame."
With a jerky nod, Jake escaped. Rejecting her plan of going to the kitchen, Rose instead returned to her room for a more thorough look around. What she saw did not please her. She made a mental list, bided her time and pounced when everyone was home, gathered in the sitting room.
Rose appeared in the doorway of that room and stopped there. No one could flee without moving past her first. Four heads snapped up and four pairs of eyes stared in her direction as she appeared. "Who took the lock off my bedroom door?" Rose demanded without preamble. She looked straight at Mickey, who ducked his head.
Jackie spoke up. "It was for your own good, Rose. Now you can't lock yourself up in there for hours at a time, crying about all your problems, with us unable to get to you."
"When have I ever done that?" Rose demanded, at a loss. "Oh, and besides the little matter of the missing lock, who has my diary?"
Silence. Then Pete's voice rang out. "I have it, Rose. I took it and read it for your own good."
"Why is it that people always use that excuse after they've done something rubbishy?" she wondered.
"Three pages are missing from your diary--torn out," Pete continued. "Where are they?"
Rose stared at him in utter disbelief. "Oh, that's wonderful. You steal and read my diary, and now you want to see missing pages? Which, by the way, I tore out because ink had leaked all over them."
"Rose, we're worried," Jackie interjected. "You haven't cried yourself to sleep, had insomnia, had a nightmare, or inflicted injury on yourself even just the once yet. We expected at least one serious suicide attempt by now and it hasn't happened."
"And you say this worries you?"
"You haven't been grieving properly, so we know you must be harbouring some unhealthy fantasy," Mickey interpreted.
"Such as?" Rose asked.
"You think he is going to burn up some galaxy to get the power to come back here for you," Jackie replied.
"Or that an alternate version of him is in this world and he'll swoop in to save you," Jake said.
"It's better that you get over these thoughts now," Pete concluded.
"Oh, I see." Rose nodded. "So, according to you lot, I'm nothing with a man--alien, whatever--to rescue me. That's insulting, it is. You're all acting like this because of what happened at Bad Wolf Bay, aren't you? Well, you can just stop it! I'm fine. I got to say goodbye to the Doctor, and I've come to terms with being in this world. I've adjusted."
The others looked at one another and shook their heads. Pete was the first to speak. "Rose, that's exactly your problem. You're too well adjusted, so your feelings can't possibly be genuine. The reality is, you're in denial, and your repressed emotions are all going to come spilling out eventually unless we help you through your true feelings now. Trust us; we're doing this because we love you."
Rose looked from Pete, to Jackie, to Mickey, to Jake. "Let me get this straight: You think something's wrong with me because I'm moving on with my life--making friends, going to work, being optimistic about the future. Instead, to satisfy you, I really should be curled up on my bed in a ball of misery, wailing and gnashing my teeth, whinging on about how my life is empty and over while I listen to bad pop music."
Pete shrugged. "Well, yeah. Do that for a couple of months and get it out of your system, see?"
"I'll pass, thanks."
"But Rose," Jackie said gently, "you love him."
Rose nodded. "Yes, the Doctor and I were very close, and he was a huge part of my life for many months, but that's over now and I would like to move on with it. My life, that is. My life that I am more than capable of living happily without the presence of a significant other in it."
Her speech appeared to have little effect on any of the others. "Rose, dearie, the lock stays off your door," Jackie stated. "We want you to get over him, but we don't want you to kill yourself along the way, and we need to be able to get to you quickly at all times to make sure you haven't done something dangerous."
Pete stood up and strode over to her. "Remember this, Rose: Your life can have purpose and meaning again."
"My life has purpose and meaning right now," Rose retorted. Yet, again, her words seemed to have no impact, and she went to bed that night hoping the entire day had indeed been a nightmare and order would be restored in the morning.
Unfortunately, it wasn't.
The next several days were trying for Rose, in ways both large and small. If she slept too soundly, someone would shake her awake for fear that she had swallowed a handful of sleeping pills in a suicide attempt. If she didn't sleep soundly enough, she had to endure the ensuing knowing looks and murmurs to the effect that everyone had expected her to be restless in her grief. Her TV habits were monitored, and she was not allowed to watch The Muppet Movie (she never should have mentioned the Doctor's liking of that film to Mickey, who clearly had related that fact to her mum). All of her CDs except Jake's gift were confiscated. Even though she was desperate for a distraction, Rose couldn't bear to listen to that one very often. She could only hear Because You Loved Me and Bring Me to Life so many times before she felt like banging her head into a wall and never stopping.
She knew everyone meant well, that they really were trying to help her, but she very much wished they would stop. They were all mental, and she'd end up that way herself if matters continued.
The night she went down to supper and was given plastic utensils, Rose knew the end had come. She had wanted to stick it out, to be present for the birth of her little brother, but being there for her family had ceased to be a viable option. She was left with only one reasonable choice.
She grabbed her mobile and began to dial.
Two hours later, she was ready. Her bags were packed, her friends contacted, and she could stop at the bank on her way to the airport. She was waiting by the front door when Mickey, Jackie, Pete, and Jake found her.
"Rose?" Jake looked at her suitcases. "What are you doing?"
"I'm leaving," she said simply. "Vanessa and Erin will be here soon."
Jackie reached for her arm. "No, Rose! You can't go anywhere. It isn't safe in your current state of mind."
Rose shrugged away from the grasp. "I'm only going to say this once. No, I am not running off to commit suicide. No, I am not going on a pilgrimage to Bad Wolf Bay. No, I don't plan to sit in Cardiff or Scotland or any other place, waiting exactly five and a half hours for the Doctor to return for me. I am going on holiday in Germany with my friends. A nice, long, relaxing holiday with lots of chips and bananas and leather and fantastic fun." On that note, Erin's car appeared on the street. Rose grabbed her bags and uttered her parting words. "Don't worry about me. I'll be back someday." And with that, she ran off to continue her life, which was a fulfilling, exciting one despite the wild concerns of her family and friends.
Matters had turned out so well for Rose, it was a good thing she couldn't see what was taking place on the TARDIS at that moment because it would only have served to depress her. The Doctor, frustrated nearly beyond belief, was in the console room trying to reason with an entity that refused to compromise. Eventually, the TARDIS had to come around to his way of thinking, but he would much prefer it to happen sooner rather than later. To that end, he had tried yelling, begging, ignoring, kicking, and asking politely, yet no approach had met with any significant measure of success. Now, he was playing another card: seduction. The Doctor limbered up his hand, then gently stroked the TARDIS, running his fingers just the right way across a particularly delicate button as he whispered, "Come on, you know you want to go to Mars. Right? We could have a much better time there than here. After all, this vortex isn't very interesting."
A message flashed up on the screen to his right. It read: "Rose Tyler is your Most Special Companion Ever(TM) and we will remain in the vortex until you admit it."
The Doctor yanked his fingers away from the console and glared. "No more caresses for you! You don't deserve them. You're supposed to obey me, you know. And as for this 'most special companion' business, what about my own granddaughter? She's related to me. Doesn't she deserve that title just a little bit more? It's a matter of principle now! I've cried one single tear for Rose every day for weeks now. Isn't that enough? Let me get on with my life!"
The TARDIS hummed loudly and bucked, nearly pitching the Doctor onto the floor.
After he recovered his balance, he attempted a different tack. "Look, ever since Rose and I were separated, I've only had one proper adventure, which was helping that bride, and that was basically by accident. Aren't you getting bored just floating around? It's been about four months."
A new message appeared on the screen. This one stated: "Time elapsed since Rose entered the parallel world: Four months, one week, five days, 16 hours, 48 seconds. ... 49 seconds. ... 50 seconds. ..."
"Oh, well," the Doctor reassured himself as he settled in for another unexciting night of aimless drifting. "At least Rose can't possibly be undergoing such a strange experience."