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We are all stars in the Freakshow

Chapter Text

FOUR MONTHS AGO

Something is wrong.
Everything is dark. Everything hurts.
"She’s waking up," a feminine voice with an accent she doesn’t recognize.

Too much light, it hurts her eyes but she fights to keep them open.
Step one: Assess your surroundings.
A black woman with long purple eyelashes, a man with a red nose, a horse with feathers on its head.
"What planet is this?"
Darkness again.
"She must’ve hit her head really hard. Call the Doctor, hartjie."

Something cold on her chest. An Indian woman in white.
"Who are you?"
"I’m a doctor."
"You regenerated?"
The room spins.
"Do you remember your name?"
"Bad Wolf."
"Not the name of the circus, dear, your own name?"

* * *
He hates the feeling like no time has passed at all since the doctor asked him to count backwards.
"How are you feeling, Mr Hardy?"
Worse.
"Worse."
There’s a delay between his brain and his body. Bloody hell.
"There were some complications during the operation."
Heart stopped. Almost died. He already knows. It’s not the first time.
"Can anyone take care of you for the next couple of weeks?"

* * *

Children screaming. Gunshots. Bones, so many bones.
"No, I won’t!"
"John, wake up, it’s just a bad dream."
Sweat drenched bed sheets. An arm around his torso.
He barely recognizes the brunette next to him.
Home. Except it doesn’t feel like it.
Husband. He’s never felt more inadequate.
"Maybe you should take that job with the police."

Chapter Text

A flash of bright yellow in her peripheral vision makes Rose do a double take. It’s police tape, at the edge of the wood, a few meters behind the outworn trailers in which they live and travel. Men and women in various uniforms are walking around, trampling the first flowers of Spring. They must have found the body.

She hesitates, shifting her weight from one foot to another until her curiosity and worry make her step forward.

When she reaches the police line, a man in a deep blue suit turns around. She doesn’t see the resemblance right away behind the scraggly hair falling on his forehead and the ungroomed beard. And he’s just so still, no hopping or animated hand waving, he just stands there, hands on hips, frowning. He’s older too. But then she’s closer to him and she recognizes the freckles and the dimples in his cheeks, the lean fingers and the plump bottom lip. And hazel eyes. Eyes that have seen too much.

She feels dizzy the way she does when she travels through dimensions, like her heart is being pulled out of her rib cage.

“Och blondie!”
Her head stops spinning when she hears his voice. She remembers to breathe. Scottish?
“Sod off, it’s a crime scene.”
And she thought the Doctor was rude.
“Who are you?” she asks, voice quivering.
He flashes his badge. It’s not psychic paper, she would have been able to tell. He walks away before she can think of anything else to say or do.

Rose turns around and runs straight into another man.
“Careful there. Whoa, you look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”
Northern accent, Roman nose, piercing blue eyes.
No. This can’t be happening.
Rose has learned to roll with the punches early in life but this is a brass knuckles kind of punch.

“You don’t look so good, let’s get you a cuppa, eh?”
He holds her steady, guiding her to a nearby bench. She sits down, her eyes never leaving him as he hands her a steaming Styrofoam cup that might have been his.
“I’m John by the way. What’s you name?”
For a split second she doesn’t remember.
“... Rose, Rose Tyler.”
“Nice to meet you, Rose.”
He sits on his haunches in front of her, a hand on each side of her thighs. She marvels at how much he looks like her first Doctor, down to the mole on his right cheek. She wants to touch him, run her fingers along his chiselled features. She remembers every detail about him, she’s never forgotten. There’s a lump in her throat which she tries to swallow back.

He talks about the shock of seeing a dead body but her brain barely processes his words.
“Are you a John Smith by any chance?”
His eyebrows rise up in surprise.
“Yeah, bit of a common name I suppose.”
She has to ask:
“Are you the Doctor?”
“I’m a doctor, not medical mind you, forensic anthropology. How did you know?”
“I’m the circus’ fortune teller, I can see your future in my crystal ball,” she jokes, half-heartedly.
She learned to evade questions from the best after all.
He smiles at her widely, bringing back so many memories.
“And in that crystal ball of yours, did you see that you would meet a tall, dark stranger today?”
He winks.
“Smith, get back here,” Hardy yells.
John rolls his eyes.
“Who is that?” Rose asks.
“D.I. Hardy, the bane of my existence since Monday.”
“Smith!”
“Gotta go, I’ll see you around, hopefully.”
Her hand shoots out to grab his, but it slips between her fingers and it’s too late too soon.

She remains seated, observing them from a distance, the way they work and interact with other people. She catalogues the differences and similarities. It all feels like a dream. Good or bad she doesn’t know yet. The only thing she’s sure of is that she wants to get to know these two men, whatever the cost.

A hand on her shoulder startles her. It’s Zeena, the closest thing she has to a best friend in this universe. She asks what’s going on and Rose tells her the little she knows. Her contortionist friend listens while stretching and twisting her long brown limbs like she’s made of rubber.
“Mama won’t be happy about that, a crime scene that’s not good for business,” she comments, one leg almost parallel to her torso, “Come on, we’ve got to practice for tonight.”

As she walks toward the big yellow and red tent, Rose takes a look at the sign above the entrance.
Bad Wolf Circus.
When the dimension cannon malfunctioned and she ended up in this universe four months ago, the sight of that sign had given her more hope than anything else had since she’s been separated from the Doctor.

When she’d seen everything that was and everything that could be, she’d scattered the words all the way to this universe to lead herself here. Why? For months now, she’s been asking herself that question, torturing herself, every day. Always hoping to find something in the next town they visited. She knows this isn’t her original dimension and that she won’t find the Doctor here, but she’s convinced that something here will help her get back to him. She clings to that belief with all her heart even in her darkest moments when she’s afraid that she’ll never see her family again.

Out of all the places she’s been in the last four months, it’s in this little town, off the coast of Dorset, that she finds him. Two of him, none of which is really him as far as she knows. Why?

She stretches her arms, rolls her shoulders and neck, touches her toes the way the other gymnasts have taught her to. It makes her feel a little less numb, like she’s slowly coming back in her body. Shop girl, defender of the earth and acrobat, she’s nothing if not versatile.

“Oh hartjie, you look pale, have you eaten anything today?” Mariam, Zeena’s mom, is standing next to her, she didn’t even see her come in. “Come, I’ll fix you something to eat.”
Rose exchanges a look with Zeena to make sure it’s okay before following her mom to her trailer. It’s one of the nicest, probably because Mariam is the circus manager. She has noticed that people’s caravans tend to reflect their status in the circus.

Rose sits down in the dinette booth and stares at the faded South African flag on the wall while Mariam warms up some potjiekos in the microwave. She puts the plate down in front of her and pets Rose’s head.
“Want to tell me what’s wrong, sweetheart?”
Rose hesitates, moving pieces of meat and vegetable around the plate. She’s still unsure whether she really saw what she thinks she saw.
“I met some people today that looked familiar.”
“You’re starting to remember!”

When Mariam found Rose, unconscious, behind the carousel, Rose had faked amnesia. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, an easy way out. But it had now become a burden, always having to watch what she said. They’d been so patient and caring with her and she lied to them everyday. But then again, who would believe the truth?
“I guess I am, it’s still very vague, though, I’m not really sure who they are... I just don’t know how I feel about that.”

Chapter Text

He knows people are staring and talking behind his back. It’s his third day back on the job and there’s another murder. He’d hoped he wouldn’t have to come back to Broadchurch but it’s the only place that would take him after his operation. For one thing, they were short staffed after Ellie had moved to another city for a fresh start and, of course, there was a vague uneasiness and impression that they owed him after the Latimer case.

So here he is, same blue and grey office, same shirt and tie, same bloody sand in his shoes. New heart.

“Sir?”
“Aye,” Alec replies without looking up from his computer.
“We’ve finished running background checks on the circus folks. A couple of them have criminal records,” he puts a stack of files on the DI’s desk but keeps one in his hands, “and then, there’s Rose Tyler.”
John Smith appears in the doorway, chewing on a piece of toast.
“What about Rose?” Alec gives him a questioning look. “She’s the pretty blonde we saw yesterday morning,” John explains.
“Pretty, eh? Anyway, we can’t find anything on her, no records, she doesn’t exist.”
“Alright, I’ll go see her,” Hardy declares, standing up with a sigh, he slips on his jacket, “and you stay here, Smith, I don’t want to see you anywhere near her if you can’t keep your hands to yourself.”
Smith crosses his arms and stares angrily at the DI.
“What kind of man do you think I am? I may not be a cop, doesn’t mean I’m not a professional, does it? Anyway, I’m married.”
“Like that ever stopped anyone,” Alec mutters, “and where’s your ring, eh?”

It's a surprisingly hot day for April, Hardy leaves his jacket in the car and rolls up his shirt sleeves as he walks to the tiny silver bullet trailer he was told she lives in. She opens the door before the first knock and greets him with a bright smile. He'd be suspicious if it looked forced or nervous but for some obscure reason she seems genuinely happy to have a police officer on her doorstep. It unsettles him a bit. In a pleasant way. He makes an effort to say hello and to introduce himself properly.

He observes her as she's placing a tea pot and a box of custard creams on the small formica table. Smith was right, she is pretty. Not that it matters. She talks about yesterday morning and he notices the way she pronounces “th” almost like “f”, east end accent. When the DS told him there were no records of her, he'd expected an illegal immigrant, but she couldn't be more British.

She hands him a mug and he spits back the first sip. Too sweet. She apologizes profusely.

The Doctor liked it with two sugars.

He glances around the place, everything is brown and beige and pastel floral patterns. She stands out in this dull place with her neon green t-shirt, glossy pink lips and bouncy ponytail.
"This is not your caravan."
She smiles again, the tip of her tongue curling over her teeth. It's almost annoying this cheerfulness of hers. Almost.
"Very good, Detective. It's Tatiana's, she went back to Hungary while she's pregnant and I borrowed it. How could you tell?"

He shrugs. “Not a talker this one,” Rose thinks, disconcerted.

She sits right next to him on the dinette bench, one ankle under her thigh. She examines him, still amazed by the resemblance. His hair looks soft the way it did after the Doctor had taken a shower. She feels an impulse in her arm, an urge to touch it, move it away from his eyes. She’s curious, she wants to experience the feel of his stubble and explore the fine lines at the corner of his eyes. There’s something oddly comforting about his imperfections. He’s just so... human.

"Miss?"
"Uh, sorry did you say something?" She places her hands securely under her legs.
"Full name?"
It's a painful reminder that he doesn't know her. Rose sobers up and reminds herself to be careful.
"Rose Marion Tyler."
"How old are you?"
"Twenty...five," give or take, "what year is it?"
"2013."
"Blimey!" so she traveled in time as well as through dimensions, "make that 27, then."
He squints at her.
"Are you on drugs?"
"No, no!"
She explains her head injury, her amnesia and general confusion.
“I can still feel the bump.”
She removes the elastic holding her ponytail and her sunny hair spills over her shoulders. She takes Alec’s hand and places it on top of her head. Her touch startles him, not because she's invading his personal space but because it's been a while since he's felt the warmth of another human's skin. A hand that isn't probing him with latex gloves, but that is friendly. All his senses zero in on that touch, the silkiness of her hair, and he’s only half-aware that she's still talking.

He removes his hand promptly and makes an attempt at regaining some control by asking about her whereabouts of the last week. She arrived in town only a few days ago. She tells him about her usual schedule and walking around town. She's very chatty and he wonders if she's always like that or just nervous.

She asks where he's from and the best place to get chips in town. And he's surprised to find himself answering her questions. This really isn't how this meeting was supposed to go.

Hardy stands up, leaning back against the sink, arms crossed. Clearing his throat, he asks:
"Where are you from, miss Tyler?"
"Planet Earth," she laughs and he frowns, "Oh, would it kill you to smile?"
"No," replies Alec, matter-of-factly, "answer the question."
"I bet you 5 quid I can make you laugh," she says with a mischievous smile.
She looks up at him through her eyelashes, the tip of her finger sliding over the rim of her mug.
"Are you trying to bribe a law officer, miss Tyler?" his face is stern but there is an unmistakable spark of amusement in his eyes.
"10 quid?"
"Done."

Back at the precinct, when DS Morris asks what he found out about Rose Tyler, Hardy can't give him a proper answer. She's very charming but he can't shake the feeling that she's out of place.

Standing in the door frame, Rose watches the detective walk away from her trailer. The excitement she felt when she saw him quickly fades away as worry settles in her stomach. She really doesn't know what to make of this visit. What if she’s a suspect? That would be really bad.

She sighs and lets herself fall on the bed. At least she got to learn a thing or two about the Doctor look alike. He's a bit grumpy. In a cute way. She cringes at how she couldn't help but flirt with him, falling back into old behaviour patterns.

She reaches under the bed and finds the vortex manipulator, a device she uses to travel from one dimension to another. It looks a lot like Jack's time agent bracelet, a vast improvement on the big yellow button they had to wear around their necks. She only checks if it works twice a day now. But for the first time in four months she hesitates before entering the coordinates to Pete's world. Her fingers hover above the touchscreen. She's suddenly afraid it will work. She can't do it. One look at the clock provides her with an excuse to stop thinking about that. The show must go on. She grabs her bag and heads for the Big top.

"Hey Rose!"
"Hi Jim!" she kisses the old man on the cheek, "D'you manage to fix that bumping car?"
"Yeah, yeah, listen, what did that copper want to do with ya?"
"I'm not sure."
"You don't tell him anythin', luv. They gonna start diggin' in everybody's past, they always suspect us. Next time, you call me, he won't bother you for long." He punctuates his statement with a snap of his suspenders and Rose thanks him for looking out for her.

She makes her way through the loud and flashing rides, the smell of popcorn and cotton candy now so familiar she barely notices it. Before passing the door, she looks up at the sky, she can't find Ursa Major and it's not because of the light pollution; here too, the stars are going out. She scolds herself: she should be worrying about that instead of flirting with DI Hardy.

Rose puts on her costume, a white and powder blue corset-like top with a frilly skirt that used to make her feel so self-conscious while Zeena talks about a cute bloke she spotted in the crowd. Then they help each other with their make up and she puts on the fake purple eyelashes. It used to take her an hour to get ready now she can do it in under twenty minutes. It has become a routine, a ritual. She likes the backstage energy, all the people running around, the smell of powder and sweat. She likes the butterflies in her stomach and the cheers of the crowd when they enter the arena. In those moments, she has to focus entirely on her movements and Zeena's. It takes all of her focus because she's so out of sync with this universe. She can't think about anything else and it's a relief.

Chapter Text

“Perfect,” Rose says to herself as she sits down on a lawn chair directly in the sun. Her favourite thing about this universe is the fact that it’s warmer and the winter is much shorter. Before opening her book, she adjusts her tube top and puts on a pair of sunglasses. She begins reading, “Back to the future”, the novelization, is a very successful series here. She enjoys it despite the fact that some of Doc’s time travel theories are just plain ridiculous.

To be honest her choice of activity has a lot more to do with keeping an eye on Dr Smith while he works than actually reading or tanning. From her spot, she has a good view of the crime scene. He’s wearing some sort of white overall and a mask. He’s digging and collecting samples or whatever it is a forensic anthropologist does. Every once in a while, he looks around with his hands on his hips and sighs deeply. Whether it’s because he has a lot of work to do or because he can’t find what he’s looking for is hard to tell.

When he sees her, he waves then wipes his head with his forearm. She waves back and decides to offer him some of the iced coffee she just made. She stands up but her plan is interrupted by Aaron’s arrival. He’s an ex-heavy lifting champion that also performs in the circus show. Rumour has it that his career was cut short by an abuse of steroids. He was nice to her when she first arrived but Zeena had warned her to stay away from him and Rose had quickly understood why: despite the fact that she had repeatedly turned him down he kept hitting on her, making lewd remarks and generally making her feel uncomfortable.
“Hello Rosie,” he says in a voice she’s sure he thinks is suave as hell.
“Aaron, what do you want?”
“I was thinking, four months you’ve been with us and I’ve never seen you with a bloke. Why not, you know...” he makes an obscene gesture with his hands “relieve the tension together. Wadya say?”
“I’m flattered but as I’ve said before, I am not interested.”
“Oh c’mon, Rosie. I know you want to, don’t be so frigid.”
He licks his lips and looks her up and down in a way that makes her feel dirty.
“I’m warning you, get away from me.”
“Or what?”
He takes a step further, invading her personal space with his motor oil and cigarette smell. He grabs one of her shoulders and her waist, hard enough to hurt her. He smiles in a frightening way, breathing through his clenched teeth. He lowers his head and whispers “I know you want it, Rosie,” in her ear. The next second he finds himself with his face pressed against the grass, one arm twisted behind him and Rose on his back.
“Stop calling me Rosie, arsehole.”
“Crazy bitch!”
“A real gentleman, you are,” John says.
Rose turns around and Aaron takes advantage of her stupefaction to throw her off and run away. John is immediately at her side.
“Are you alright?” he asks, concern painted all over his features.
She’s shaking and she has to make an effort to stop her teeth from chattering. She’s faced monsters before but human ones always scare her the most.
“I think so.”
“You sure?”

What she really wants right now is for him to hug her. She has always felt safe in his arms, well the Doctor’s arms. Like he was holding her together and it made her feel whole after they had faced danger. Not long after her arrival in Pete’s world, she’d read an article about kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of repairing pottery with gold. And she’d started thinking of herself that way: a girl made more beautiful by being broken and put back together, filled with gold by this extraordinary man.

Rose wraps her arms around herself, and just stands there looking at John Smith. How cruel it is that she’s missed his hugs so much in the last years and now that he’s right there, she can’t ask him to hold her because he’s a stranger.

He shifts his weight from one foot to another, feeling useless. He wants to take her in his arms but it doesn’t seem appropriate after what just happened to her.
“I’ve got to go back to the lab....” he points at the evidence bags lying on the grass behind him.

Impulsively, she asks him if he can give her a ride into town. He agrees even though he’s technically not allowed to. He suspects she just doesn’t want to be alone. She helps him carry the bags to the white sedan. He removes the white overall, revealing jeans and a crimson t-shirt, before joining her inside the car. As they drive, she tries to distract herself from what just happened by asking him about the investigation but he can’t tell her anything and silence sets in.

He can tell, even without looking away from the road, that she’s staring at him. He can feel it, just like he could the first time they met and he wonders what she finds so fascinating about him. He’s just an ordinary man, not a particularly good looking one at that. When they stop at a red light, he looks over at Rose and her eyes well up. He immediately turns in the parking lot to his left and cuts off the engine. She tries to contain her tears when he tells her everything will be alright but the emotions of the past days are catching up with her. It’s not just what happened with Aaron, it’s the murder and seeing two men who look exactly like the Doctor. For years, she has focused all her energy on getting back to him and saving the universe. She bottled up every tear that threatened to spill. Only to have him in front of her, physically but not mentally and they don’t recognize her. It’s just too much, the dam breaks.

He opens up his arms and awkwardly holds her over the shifting gear. She buries her face in the crook of his neck, he smells of moist earth and pine trees. She keeps apologizing, she didn’t want to cry.

For the second time in three days he finds himself wanting to take care of her and protect her. There’s something about Rose Tyler, about the way she puts up a strong front, that tugs at his heart. It’s silly, he barely knows her but here he is.

“How ‘bout an ice cream?” he asks once she’s calmed down.
She nods and laughs a little. They get out of the car and head for the ice cream shop where he happens to have parked the car. He gets two ninety-nines and puts his flake in hers. They sit down at a once white plastic table with a faded Cadbury parasol. In the distance, she can hear the sea. Rose focuses on its rhythm, the waves calmly coming and going.

“Do you want to talk about it?”
There’s so much to say but so little she can actually talk about. She tells him about Aaron, his inappropriate behaviour with her and many other women in the circus. When he asks how she managed to overpower him, she lies about self-defense training. Well, it’s not a complete lie. When she was fifteen Jackie had made her take some classes after she’d heard a group of men catcalling her daughter in the street next to their flat. But today had more to do with her Torchwood training, Aaron is a big guy.

John feels powerless when the only thing he can tell her is that he’ll ask a police officer what can be done to stop Aaron. He explains that he hasn’t been with the police for very long.
“What did you do before?”
“I worked for many years at John Moores university in Liverpool. I did postdoc research and teaching. I still live there, technically.”
“Technically?”
“I have a house and... anyway it’s temporary in Broadchurch, I had to come here after I lost my last job, not at the university, something else I did.”
“What was it?”
“Nothing, it’s not important.”
She recognizes the clipped tone and shifting eyes, that’s very him. There’s something about that other job that makes him profoundly uncomfortable. She doesn’t press the issue.

His mobile rings, few words are exchanged but he looks at the police station across the street and makes a V sign at someone looking out the window before hanging up.
“What was that about?”
“Hardy, telling me how to live my life. I’ve got to get back to work but if there’s anything, and I mean anything, you call me,” he hands her his card, it sticks to his ice cream covered fingers.

* * *

“Are you out of your bloody mind! There were evidence bags in that car, you can’t just leave it somewhere and have a ninety-nine with a suspect!”
John closes the door to Hardy’s office and tries to stay calm, clenching and unclenching his fists.
“It’s not what you think. I was at the crime scene earlier, her trailer is not too far and there’s this big guy that assaulted her. I couldn’t just leave her there after that, could I? She was crying for God’s sake.”
Alec deflates quickly. He sits down in his chair and mulls over the new information.
“Why did he assault her?”
“She says he wanted to have sex with her. Apparently, it’s not the first time and not just with her. I think we should really look into that guy. Aaron, she says he’s called.”
“What did you do, when you saw it happen?”
“I ran to her but by the time I got there he was already down. She tackled him.”
Hardy’s eyes widen.
“How big is he?”
“6 feet 3 maybe and large,” he holds up his hands apart to show him the man’s size, clearly indicating that he’s wider than him.
“So she could have easily overpowered the victim?”
“What? No! Well, yes, but that’s not my point. And why is she even a suspect?”
Hardy crosses his arms, a sure sign that he’s not going to waste any more time talking about this.
“Tell me what you’ve found out about the victim and spare me the science.”
Smith sighs and rubs the back of his neck. There really isn’t much to say, his usual time of death indicators seem to contradict one another; decomp says many months, there are only bones left, but insect activity suggests only two days. Furthermore, for some mysterious reason, he can’t get a proper DNA sample. The victim is either a tall child or a very healthy adult, female most likely.

The DI looks less than impressed and dismisses him coldly before putting on his glasses and turning his attention to the CCTV footage on his computer.

Chapter Text

Rose watches the sunlight slowly spread across the leaves of the trees by the window of the top bunk bed. She waits to hear Mariam and Zeena move around the caravan before coming down. After what happened yesterday she didn’t feel like sleeping by herself and her friends had welcomed her. Mariam, in a floral nightgown, hands her a cup of coffee and smoothes Rose’s bed head affectionately.

“How are you this morning, hartjie?”

“Much better. Thanks again.”

“You know what, I bet Aaron is the killer,” says Zeena, standing in the living room, her palms pressed against the ceiling, “he’s a bloody creep. Remember when he almost killed Sven because he thought he’d stolen his motorbike?”

“Careful Zeena, don’t go spreading rumours.”

“But it’s true though, mama. And I know you’re scared of him too, it’s the only reason you haven’t fired him yet.” 

Mariam gives her daughter a disapproving look but doesn’t contradict her, instead she asks Rose about her plans for the day.

“I’ll go into town, I need some things from Tesco.”

“Could you go to the newsagents while you’re there and get me The Economist?”

“Sure,” she takes the ten pound note Mariam is handing her.

 

When the news come on the radio, the three women stop talking.

“A body was found earlier this week in a vacant lot by the A35, the police is now treating it as a suspicious death. The identity of the victim is still unknown. In a statement to the press, Detective Inspector Alec Hardy, best known in these parts for his work on the Latimer case last year, is asking for the public’s cooperation: If you have seen anything suspicious in the last week or if someone you know is missing, please contact the police. In other news, His Majesty the King...”

“What’s the Latimer thing?” Rose asks.

Zeena, who followed the case with a certain morbid fascination, relates the main events: from the discovery of the body on the beach to the accusation of a local police officer’s husband. Rose eats her toasts and jam in silence, engrossed in the tale. She knows her friend tends to exaggerate but it seems to have been a tragic moment for this small community and she can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like to work on that case.

 

By the time they’ve finished discussing both past and present murders, it’s already 11 o’clock and Rose heads out to her own trailer for a quick shower.

 

Wrapped in a towel she opens a drawer and stares at the small collection of clothes she owns, most of it is hand-me downs since she had nothing but the outfit on her back when she arrived. She picks up a striped long sleeve t-shirt and a pair of jean shorts. The only thing she spent a significant amount of money on is a pair of pink Chuck Taylor sneakers which she puts on before grabbing her bag.

 

The circus is set up on a vacant farm land just out of town and it’s a 20 minutes walk to High Street. Rose strides along the footpath lined with tall grass and fragrant honeysuckle. There’s a distinct lack of buzzing noises that usually comes with wildflowers, strangely, there are no bees just white butterflies and grasshoppers. She shrugs and absentmindedly kicks a rock, focusing back on the mental list of things she needs from the store. She soon passes the crossroad with the path to the beach and catches sight of the brown roof and blue sign of the newsagents.

 

The tiny shop is filled with the stale smell of paper and dust. Rose spots the newspaper display but a familiar man in an unfamiliar suit is standing in front of it, reading the local rag.

“You’re supposed to pay before you read it.”

Alec turns around, looking as unimpressed as ever until he sees her. His mouth opens and closes several times, words flying out of his brain in the face of a beaming Rose Tyler.

“Hello,” she says.

“... Hello.”

His tie, an old plain blue thing, is askew and impulsively she fixes it. A simple gesture but intimate in its domesticity. He doesn’t protest, he hopes she’ll fix his collar too. Her fingers linger on the fabric and a vivid memory floods her mind.

 

Her mother had been the first one out the door and Rose had taken that opportunity to pull on the Doctor’s tie to bring his lips to hers. She had felt him smile in the kiss and he had pressed her gently against the wall, her hand trapped between their heaving chests. She remembers with satisfaction his groan when she had delicately pulled on his bottom lip with her teeth. Her surprise, when he had slipped his hand under her shirt. She could still feel his fingers on her skin, the way they had grasped her waist, the shiver that had ran through her. Afterwards, his eyes had been full of promises. Tonight. But then the ghosts had arrived.

 

She feels herself blush and the warmth spreading across her cheeks only increases when she realises she’s still holding the detective’s tie. She meets his eyes and the idea of kissing him crosses her mind. Curiosity or attraction, maybe both. She wants to know what he’s made of that man whose tie is not always perfectly in place. What his groans sound like. What it would feel like to be kissed by someone who is not plagued by her mortality. All in, no holding back. And she feels it, that delicious shiver through her limbs, down to her core, waking up dormant nerve bundles. Her grip on his tie tightens.

 

“What are you doing? You think you can flirt your way out of suspicion? John yesterday, now me?” Alec says but his voice is not as harsh as his words.

 “Don’t talk about me like that. You don’t know me. John helped me out, I was thankful. I can be nice to someone without ulterior motives, now can’t I?”

Alec feels properly chastised and stammers:

“Hum, well yes,” he runs his hand on the back of his head, “...I suppose, I’m, uh...”

“Is that an apology? Because I think you can do better than that,” she says, tilting her head and smiling.

 “M’sorry,” he mutters, avoiding her gaze.

“Apology accepted, wasn’t so hard now was it?” she grins, knowing she’s pushing it.

He rolls his eyes and bites the inside of his cheeks trying and failing to reign in his smile.

“Seriously though, I’m sorry if I’ve made you uncomfortable,” Rose says.

“S’alright but, uh, I think maybe my collar needs righting too.”

Hope rises in her chest.

“Of course, can’t let you walk around looking so disheveled.”

She steps closer and fixes his collar, with more assiduity than required, her fingertips tickling his neck. His eyes never leave her lips.

“Looking good,” she smoothes the lapels of his suit unnecessarily.

 

She flips her hair over her shoulder before leaning over to grab a newspaper, purposely brushing against him. She heads for the cash register with a slightly exaggerated sway to her hips. Once she’s reached the counter, she looks over her shoulder and delights in his dazed look.

“Oh and by the way Inspector, that was flirting.”

Chapter Text

Bewildered by his meeting with Rose, Alec walks to the precinct in a sort of daze. It was bad enough the other day that he didn’t get any information out of her yet left with a smile and a thank you, today he actually let this complete stranger touch him and he asked for more. For one second she looked like she was going to kiss him and he would have let her. It’s been more than a year since he’s kissed someone, since he’s really wanted to kiss someone, even when he was married... Her body so close to his, her fingertips grazing his neck. That he is attracted to her is not surprising but that a beautiful, young woman like her would be attracted to him is strange, suspicious even. He feels like every fiber in his body is both attracted and unnerved by her. He reminds himself, not for the first time, to be careful around her. But he’s quickly learning that she has a knack for catching him off-guard.

 

He sees a poster of the circus in a shop window and makes a mental note to catch her show before it leaves town. Maybe he could bring her flowers afterwards. Roses would be tacky, lilies maybe...

“Bloody hell.”

 

He shakes his head and picks up the pace. He reaches the round concrete building rapidly, the familiar buzzing of chatter and phone rings welcomes him. On his way to his office, he stops by DS Morris’ cubicle.

“Anything worth mentioning?”

The young officer hands his superior a photo of a seventeen year-old black haired girl. Emily Fitch was reported missing by her best friend this morning. She lied to her parents and went to London to meet her boyfriend. She should have been back in town yesterday but she isn’t and her friend can’t reach her or her boyfriend.

 

“Alright, follow up on that, call the parents, find the boyfriend, and contact Scotland Yard. I’ll give the photo to Smith, see if it helps identifying the victim.”

By the time he’s finished his sentence, Alec is already a few steps away from Morris’ desk.

“Wait, Sir, there’s something else. Aaron Waters has a previous conviction for assault and attempted murder.”

“Who?”

“Aaron Waters... Dr Smith asked us to look him up.”

Morris braces himself, ready for the onslaught of Hardy’s fury. It looks a bit ridiculous considering he’s five inches taller than the DI. But Alec only glares at him and abruptly pulls the file out of his hands.

“Bring him in.”

 

Alec finds Dr Smith in the basement. There are several coffee cups and candy bar wrappers as well as notebooks and crumpled paper strewn around, telltale signs of a night spent working that Hardy knows all too well.  John looks a little too awake.

“I figured out CoD!”

“About bloody time. What is it?”

“Laser.”

“Laser?”

“Laser! Isn’t it fantastic? I’ve never seen anything like it before,” there’s that mad scientist look about him.

Hardy is more puzzled than excited. He slides his jaw sideways and looks up, thinking.

“How? What kind of weapon?”

“I have no idea. There are no signs that the body was dragged, no dislocated joints. So either the killer has a yet unheard of laser weapon or killed Jane Doe here in some industrial or medical facility and was strong enough to carry the body in his arms.”

Hardy flips through the file Morris gave him.

“It says here Aaron Waters was a heavy-lifting champion. I’ll ask SOCO about footprints.”

“Rules out Rose,” John says cheerfully.

Hardy disagrees, he still can’t shake the feeling that there’s something off about her, he’s convinced that she’s hiding something. For one thing, she won’t say where she’s from and there are no records of a 20 something Rose Tyler in the UK. Of course, it would help if he were able to form a coherent thought when he’s around her.

 

“What if she’s Aaron’s partner in crime? She told you he attacked her when she refused his advances but maybe they were arguing about the murder.”

Smith sighs, visibly annoyed.

“Why would they bury the body so close to the circus?”

The DI makes a non-committal noise and shrugs. He hands John the picture of Emily Fitch. The doctor looks at it closely then back and forth between the skull and the photo.

 “Nah, it’s not even close, look at the maxilla.” Hardy doesn’t look. “There’s an artist in Bournemouth who does facial reconstruction, I’ve worked with her before, I was thinking of going there tomorrow.”

 “Alright. I’ll be in my office... go back home, get some sleep.”

 

* * *

 

John opens the door to his flat and reluctantly steps in, it’s a depressing sight: the bleak white walls against which stands out the ghastly print of the sofa. Four months and it still doesn’t feel like a home. He sits at the kitchen table in front of the bay window, the only good thing about this place is the view on the ocean. The endless blue makes him feel a little less trapped.

 

His mobile rings. Andrea. He doesn’t answer.

 

He does miss her. Brilliant woman, she’d been his professor, his thesis director, his lover, his wife and she had never ceased to amaze him. People thought it wouldn’t last because she was older than him, but they had proved them wrong. And now it’s not age that is tearing them apart. He doesn’t remember why they had thought that a separation would help. Frankly, he’s still bitter that she pushed him to get this job in Dorset but it started before that. She never really understood when he changed career, when he left the university to join the army. Granted, in retrospect, it wasn’t his smartest decision, but he needed more adventure than the academic life could provide. He got more than he bargained for.

 

He feels his eyelids getting heavier but he stands up and grabs his duffel bag and boxing gloves.

“Physical activity, that’s what I need.”

 

He found the boxing club in Dorchester when he worked there on a case not long after his arrival in the area. It provided him with the perfect outlet for his anger. He gives it all he can, hitting the speed bag repeatedly until it’s just a blur, until it becomes the only thing in his mind and he jumps with the skipping rope until his legs give out. The old coach there knows this type of men all too well and he always keeps an eye on John, makes sure he doesn’t injure himself. He fancies himself as a bit of a psychologist, helping men work through their issues. A healthy mind in a healthy body.

 

After a few practice fights and a pint and pizza at the pub next door with other boxers, John heads back to Broadchurch. It’s almost 8 o’clock when he sees the bright lights of the circus in the distance by the highway. Without hesitating he drives to the parking lot and buys a ticket for the show. The loud noises and the crowd make him uncomfortable but he manages to reach the biggest tent and finds a seat in the bleachers just as the lights are being dimmed.

 

* * *

“Someone’s here to see you.”

Rose dries her freshly washed face and exchanges a look with Zeena who just shrugs. She makes her way to the back entrance and finds John waiting. He looks at her up and down, taking in her revealing stage costume and blonde locks.

 

"You look beautiful…," he looks down at his hands and clears his throat, "considering."

“Considering what?" she asks, but she’s not offended, some things never change.

"Considering you’re a murder suspect."

“I’ll take the compliment anyway.”

 

There’s a lull in the conversation and she looks at him expectantly. John realises that he didn’t have any reason to come talk to her, he just felt like it and acted without thinking.

 

“So…” they say at the same time and start laughing.

Rose shivers in the cool night air.

“Let me get some warmer clothes and we can go for a walk or something, yeah?”

 

Her trailer seems even smaller with John’s tall frame filling it, his head only inches away from the ceiling. He stands with his back to her while she slips into a pair of jeans made as comfortable as pajamas by years of wear and a red hoodie.

“I’ve got some masala chai if you’d like,” she offers.

“Ok, but can we drink it outside?” his eyes never leave the window as he speaks. Cramped spaces make him anxious.

“Sure, grab the tartan blanket by the door, we can sit on it.”

She puts the loose tea leaves and spices in a special thermos with warm milk and heads outside. John is standing a few meters away from her trailer, the folded blanket still in his arms, he’s looking up at the sky.

 

She hasn’t decided yet whether she’s lucky or not to have found John and Alec but when he looks her way with a smile she’s leaning more towards lucky because that’s one face she never thought she would ever see again.

 

She sits with her legs crossed next to him and pours the tea, the perfume of exotic spices mingles with the crisp night air. John starts pointing out constellations and planets in the sky and she listens. She’s delighted to find out that many of the constellations in this universe are named after fairy tales.

“…. and that makes Cinderella’s dress and usually we can see a bright star just to the right and it’s her glass slipper. And you probably already know the Bad Wolf constellation next to it.”

Rose feels the blood drain from her face.

“What did you say?”

“Uh, the Bad Wolf constellation, you know with the North star at the end of the tail… are you alright?”

She takes a deep breath and forces a smile.

“Yeah, yeah, s’just that some words trigger things in my memory…”

“I thought that’s what the circus was named after.”

“Maybe. When I asked Mariam she said she didn’t know why it’s called like that, she just kept the name from the previous owner.”

John changes the subject and asks her about her life with the circus.

 

The conversation between them flows naturally, the silences become less awkward as their physical proximity increases. He tells her with great enthusiasm, eyes shining, about his travels, his internship on a Mayan archeological site and on a Viking site in Norway during his graduate studies. And she sees clearly a man of action, a man who can’t stay still. Eventually, he finds himself telling her about the army.

 

"I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but what can a forensic anthropologist do in the army?" she asks.

"Identify bodies," he replies, looking toward the dark sky.

 

Suddenly, there’s a hunch to his shoulders that wasn’t there a minute ago. Without thinking, Rose reaches for his hand. He’s startled by the gesture and hesitates before curling his fingers between hers. The feel of his dry, rough skin brings back a flood of memory and she has to remind herself that he’s not the Doctor.

 

“I don’t have full on PTSD just a general impression that the world is a shitty place and humans can do horrible things.”

And just by the way he’s saying it, the strain in his voice, the faraway look in his eyes, she knows it’s more than that.

“I’m lucky I have so many friends and a big family,” he continues, “if it hadn’t been for them… Anyway, I didn’t stay in Iraq for very long. I got sort of kicked out of the army."

"What happened?"

"Let’s just say that I strongly disagreed with some orders I was given…" he clenches his jaw and takes a deep breath, "Sometimes you have to say "no" and have the guts to do what’s right when no one else will."

And in that moment Rose loves him. Her heart swells in her chest until it feels like it’s pushing against her rib cage. She looks down at their joined hands.

“I don’t know why I’m telling you all that, I barely know you.”

And even though it’s true, he marvels at how easy it is to talk to her. He had thought he was the one taking care of her but maybe it’s the other way around.

 

Silence settles in after that and they remain shoulder to shoulder in the moonlight. The noises from the carnival fade away in the distance, the only sign that time has passed. John’s eyes start closing for longer and longer periods of time until he can’t resist sleep anymore. He manages to lie down before dozing off completely. Rose listens to his regular breathing, she runs a finger lightly over his furrowed brow. Her mind goes back to the Bad Wolf constellation, asking herself once again what it all means. She feels the pull of the stars on her soul but is pinned down by the weight of John’s head in her lap. She wonders if he ever dreams of the Medusa Cascade.

 

Rose’s thoughts are interrupted by the noise of footsteps in the distance, her body immediately becomes rigid, all her senses on alert. She sees the beam of a flashlight but not the person carrying it. Her heart speeds up at the thought that it might be Aaron. She’s about to wake up John and stand up when she recognizes DI Hardy’s features. She puts a hand over her chest and sighs in relief. He opens his mouth to speak but she puts her finger on her lips to stop him and that’s when he sees John.

 

He squats down next to Rose, peering at her.

“He’s not doing well, is he?” she whispers.

The detective shakes his head. She looks down at the sleeping man and runs the back of her hand over his cheek. Alec chides himself for the spike of jealousy in his heart.

“Why do you care, you’ve just met him?” he asks, keeping his voice low.

She looks back at him. Where to begin?

“He’s a good person,” she replies quietly.

 

Could it be that simple? Alec wonders. Maybe if she seems so out of place is because she’s so much kinder than anyone in this world should be.

 

“What are you doing here?” she asks and he realizes he’s been staring at her.

“We’re looking for Aaron Waters, have you seen him?”

“No.”

And for the first time there’s not a doubt in his mind that she’s telling the truth.

Chapter Text

Hardy chose a table in the farthest corner of the greasy diner, sitting facing the window, eating his Sunday lunch while reading the newspaper, hoping people will get the hint. Rose doesn’t or more accurately, chooses to ignore the hint. At least she asks. He says yes before thinking he should say no. She sits with her back to the window, invading his field of view with her shiny blonde hair and cheerfulness, a stark contrast to the gray weather. He notices her paper cup and her raincoat, the plastic bags hanging on her arm, clearly she had no intention to stay inside before she saw him. He dares to be flattered.

 

 He hates people and their bloody smiling faces, he reminds himself. But Rose Tyler has a way of making people talk and he finds himself chit chatting against his will.

 

“If you could go anywhere in time and space, where would you go?” she asks suddenly.

It’s a test. She wants to see if he’s anything like the Doctor. She hopes he’s not.

“Time travel? Blimey, why would you ask that?”

“Oh come on, Inspector, just answer.”

And she’s smiling that bright smile of hers and it’s been so long since someone has been interested in him that way. Not in his past or his work or his mistakes but in who he is.

 

 His mind goes back a few years, driving all the way to Glasgow with his daughter. Before she started hating him. Driving with the windows down, singing along to Bay City Rollers.

 

There’s a far off look in his eyes and a slight upward curve to his lips that have Rose wonder what happened to this man to make him so careful with his smiles.

 

“Saturn.”

“Why?”

How Saturn could have made him look so nostalgic?

“When we started learning about the solar system in school, I imagined, I don’t know why, but I imagined that the rings around Saturn were like a roller coaster. And I just became fascinated by that planet.”

 

He tells her about a big cardboard box he covered with tin foil and how he would sit in it imagining he was on that big roller coaster.

 

 She beams at him, delighted by the story. It reminds her of a place she once went to.

“You would love the amusement park on Javyskila, that anti-gravity roller coaster is insane!”

 

It’s not a joke, obviously, yet, out of all the things she’d said to try to make DI Hardy laugh, that’s the one that gets the biggest reaction. (Well, big for Alec Hardy anyway.) Not a snort or a snicker or a chuckle, but a proper laugh that reaches his eyes and startles people around them. Maybe it’s the absurdity of what she said, maybe it’s been bubbling up in his chest ever since he saw her but he laughs. And she laughs with him, how could she not. Beats crying over the memory of cotton candy flavoured kisses on alien planets.

 

“You’re a strange one. Rose Tyler.”

 

He says her name like an afterthought, just because he wants to say it. The Rs roll, the name blooms on his tongue. So different. And yet. It goes as quickly as it has come, washed away by black tea.

 

“And you, the whole of time and space, where would you go?”

 

He expects her to have an answer already prepared, something witty and flirty that makes men fall head over heels for her. But she looks down at her hands with a sad smile. So many wonderful places to go back to, so many happy moments and of course there’s her family and her own universe.

 

But she’s a nomad now, a time traveler, a dimension hopper, her soul filled with wanderlust. If the TARDIS were here, she’d want to see something new.

 

“The future.”

“Your own?”

“Oh no, I’d be too afraid.” Afraid of what she might find out. What if she never sees the Doctor again? She quickly pushes that thought away.

“Afraid?”

“Well, you know, crossing your own timeline, paradoxes, all this timey-wimey stuff. Don’t you know anything about time travel, Inspector?”

 

He shakes his head and tries to hide his grin.

"Rose Tyler."

He says her name like he already knows she’ll break his heart.

 

He congratulates himself on making the effort of getting out of the house on his day off. Last year, he would have gone to work but he’s trying to relax and meet people. After his divorce he had realized that all his friends were her friends. He had promised himself he would be more patient, open up, try to rebuild his social network. He never felt more alone than when the surgeon asked if he had anyone to take care of him after his operation. Making friends at 40 is not an easy task. They still call him shitface behind his back. But here he is, having fun, a rare treat in his life lately and not only that, he’s having fun with a delightful woman.

 

The waitress comes over to take away his plate and refill his cup. In the silence, he becomes aware of their position. Their arms are parallel across the table, hers between his. Every hair on his arms standing out, trying to reach her. He would only have to move his thumb a little to the left and he could make contact with her. And for a moment it’s all that occupies his thoughts, this dilemma, whether or not to move his thumb to touch her. His heart speeds up just at the thought of it. But she goes in first, and doesn’t that just sum up Rose Tyler. Her pinky bridges the gap between them and when her eyes meet his, they’re taunting him. He’s not one to back down from a challenge and so his thumb moves, strokes the skin just under her elbow. And he’s rewarded with the prettiest smile he’s ever been on the receiving end of. So he goes in a little further, moving both hands until they’re covering her forearms. Her softness fills his hands, travels through his arms all the way to his heart. He entertains the idea of pulling her across the table and kissing her, right here, in front of the Sunday crowd. If the way she blushes is any indication, she might have had the same idea.

 

“If you could have a cuppa with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?” Alec asks, taking it upon himself to continue with the nonsensical conversation.

She ponders the question, distracted by the swirls Alec is tracing on her skin.

“You know, I’ve never met Elvis Presley.”

She says it the way some people say “I’ve never been to Starbucks” or “I’ve never watched Titanic”. Once again he gets the feeling that she’s out of place. That she’s destined for far greater things. Things he can’t give her.

 

His whiskey eyes are intent on her and it melts something in her, an ice barrier she hadn’t realized she’d built up in the last years. She can be just Rose Tyler and not the Defender of the Earth. As much as she likes that title, it can be a heavy one to carry without a companion. And sometimes she feels like it’s all she’s been in the last few years.

 

Their silly conversation continues well into the afternoon, steering clear of personal questions yet revealing so much about themselves. Over the table and under it, they keep physical contact one way of another. He’s already addicted to the feel of her fingers between his, filling a basic need he hadn’t realized he had.

 

“You’re very handsome when you smile,” she comments.

“Yeah?” he moves to the chair next to hers and casually extends his arm behind her back.

She can’t resist putting her finger in the dimple of his right cheek, making him smile even more. When she lowers her hand, it comes to rest on his thigh and his breath catches in his throat.

 

His face becomes serious.

“Rose... where are you from?”

It’s not the cop asking, it’s the man, a man who has been deceived before. She can tell he’s looking for something true from her, something to trust her. And she wants to give him that. Her eyes slide to the ceiling and she bites her upper lip.

“The Powell Estate, I’m from the Powell Estate.”

Her answer calms something inside of him, a doubt that had been gnawing at him.

His eyes flick to her lips. Just for a second but they both notice it. She becomes very aware of their proximity. The smell of the ocean sticks to him, mixed with his cologne and sweat, a heady masculine fragrance. With his eyes, he undresses her. His large hand moves to her cheek, carefully cradling her face. She feels safe. And she remembers how much she likes men. Their roughness and strength. How long has it been? She’s famished. When his lips meet hers it’s like rain after years of drought. She can’t get enough. And if she feels a bit rusty at first, she quickly loses herself in the feel of it. She likes the scratch of his beard on her skin. It feels different. It is different. So she kisses him with all she has, fingers digging in his hair, depriving herself of oxygen for the sake of desire.

 

It’s overwhelming, dizzying.

Frightening.

 

She runs away before her brain can process that her legs are moving.

She runs as fast as she can along the footpath. She’s not sure what it is she’s running from but there’s something heavy in her heart. Something gray with sharp edges. Something that is only now revealing itself. A feeling of dread, something akin to betrayal. Her inner monologue is angry and bitter, poison in her brain. I shouldn’t. I have no right. I can’t. Stupid girl.  

 

She stops dead in her track, bends over, hands on knees, breathing heavily. Her thoughts take a darker turn, building up on all her insecurities. What if the Doctor doesn’t want her back, what if he just leaves her on that bloody beach in Norway again? What if he already replaced her? What if Alec finds out the truth? What if the kiss meant nothing? What if she wants more? What if she hurts John?

 

And it piles up, up and up, thoughts of rejection, humiliation and “Rose Tyler, I...”.

She feels its darkness seeping in her bones. 

 

She stands in the empty field, numbed by the anxiety, cold wind whipping her face. She tastes salt on her lips. Maybe she’d like to see her future after all because right now it seems like nothing good can come out of this situation. So much worst than five and a half hours on a 51st century spaceship. 

 

When she gets back to her trailer, she reaches directly under the bed for the dimension travel bracelet she hasn’t used in days. Her vision is blurred by tears and she has to press the buttons more than once before getting it right. Nothing.

“Take me back!” she yells at the inanimate object.

She throws it against the wall in a fit of rage. Her eyes land on the calendar pinned to the wall. Bristol is scribbled under tomorrow’s date. The circus is leaving Broadchurch tomorrow.

 

Chapter Text

The precinct is empty except for a few night shift constables on the first floor which is why Alec almost jumps off his seat when he hears a knock on his office door. He looks up and sees the person he least expected after what he can only assume was a rejection this afternoon.

“Rose? What are you doing here?”

 “I’m not sure…” she’s wringing her hands and biting her lips.

“Smith’s not here, he’s in Bournemouth for...”

“I’m not here for John,” Rose cuts him, “I want you.”

She steps into his office, closing the door behind her. He stands up and comes around his desk to meet her.

“Do you? ‘cause this afternoon...” he trails off, giving her a chance to explain herself.

“I can’t be yours, Alec.”

He squints, trying to make sense of her half spoken thoughts.

“But you like me?” she nods, “and you want me?” she nods again, “it’s all I need.”

It’s not quite true but he’ll take whatever he can get.

 

He tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, his fingers barely brushing her skin but it's enough to make her heart speed up. She runs her tongue over her lips and inches closer, confidently. She slides her hands up his chest to his shoulders and crosses her wrists behind his neck. She  can feel his breath on her nose. There’s something incredibly thrilling about the anticipation. She goes in slowly and he meets her halfway, unable to wait any longer. Up on her tip toes, she kisses him, pressing her body against his, not leaving any doubts about her desire for him. It’s just her wanting him and him wanting her. Freely, unabashedly.

 

As his arms encircle her waist until there’s no space left between them, his kisses become more demanding.  She gives back ten fold, her tongue promising all sorts of naughty things. When he hikes her up on the desk, she wraps her legs around his thighs to keep him close. His lips move over her jaw and neck, not taking time to properly kiss each spot, just greedily running his mouth and nose over her skin, tasting, inhaling. She welcomes the heat building in her, the desire and the pressure in her loins that can only be alleviated by him.

 

When his hand moves from her neck to her bosom, squeezing through her clothes, she responds immediately, arching into his touch. They fumble desperately with each other’s buttons, tugging with haste on the fabric. His wiry chest hair grazes the sensitive skin on top of her breasts. The intimacy of skin on skin takes her breath away. His mouth continues its descent, his tongue following her collarbone and teeth nipping through lace. She whimpers his name and he’s never liked “Alec” until now. 

 

Somewhere between the desk and the floor pants are lost. She feels the sharp angle of his hip bones dig inside her thighs and the muscles of his back shift under her palms as he moves carefully inside of her. Emptiness and fullness, over and over, friction turned into bliss. They clutch each other, holding on with hands and teeth as pleasure soars into them and they whisper words of adoration. Their movements become fast and erratic, the carpet burning her backside. So close. Her nails dig in his flesh. The wave rises, higher and higher until their whole bodies are shaken by the strength of their release.

 

He slumps down on her, breathing heavily. She holds him close to her heart.

“That was....” he starts laughing.

 

Once they’ve regained some strength, they move to the sofa and he lays down naked, Rose draped over him. The smell of sex permeates the room.

 

She likes that his body isn’t new. It’s rugged and weathered and resilient. Like hers, it tells a story. She runs her finger over a still pink scar on the right side of his chest.

“What is that from?”

“Pacemaker. I had surgery in January, I nearly died... It’s like having a second heart.”

She flinches visibly. Two hearts.

“Don’t worry I’m alright now, I’m not going to die anytime soon.”

Although, in his line of work, you never know.

She splays her fingers over his chest, comforted by the single heartbeat. He kisses the top of her head, repeatedly, until he hears her giggle. She tilts her head up and points at her lips and he indulges her, enthusiastically. Unlike earlier, the kiss is lazy, tender, her mouth pliant and happy.

 “What made you change your mind?” he asks.

She doesn’t want to ruin the mood by talking about the circus leaving.

“When we kissed, it was just so intense, I... I don’t know, it scared me but then I realized it was a good thing and wanted more of it.”

He knows exactly what she means.

 

She goes home with him, both grinning like idiots the entire car ride. She snoops around while he tries to find something to drink that’s not diet or promising Omega-3. She takes in the light yellow walls, the floral wallpaper, the union flag garland, the undeniable feminine touch and her stomach drops. He’s married. She never thought to ask.

 

“Sorry about the mess, I just moved in,” he hands her a mug of warm white wine with an apologetic look. “I’m renting a friend’s house. She’s been trying to sell it for a while but with the economy right now, you know.”

“Alone? You moved in alone?”

“Yep,” he puts off telling her about his divorce.

She sits down on the loveseat, relieved, and they clink their cups.

“How long have you been in Broadchurch?”

“About a week now, but I was here last year for a few months.”

 

He explains leaving Sandbrook and being parachuted in to Broadchurch, the Latimer case, the operation and the rehabilitation, living with his brother, and having to come back here only to have another murder on his hands. He’s succinct, to the point. He stares at his wine the whole time.

“You’ve had a rough year,” she says, although it’s a bit of an empty comment, rough seems like an understatement.

He shrugs. It’s true but he doesn’t like to complain. He doesn’t want pity.

The subject matter is weighing down their earlier good mood and he takes it upon himself to rectify the situation.

“It doesn’t seem so bad right now,” he replies with a leer.

The closest thing to a love declaration by any Alec Hardy standards.

  


 

Alec sees the sunlight through his eyelids, waking him up before his alarm. He scolds himself for forgetting to pull the curtains. Then he remembers last night and why closing the curtains was the last thing on his mind. Eyes still closed, his hand travels to the other side of the mattress until it meets warm skin. He curls his fingers around Rose’s wrist and tugs on it sleepily. Her melodic laughter fills the room, like the chipping of birds. She molds her soft naked curves around his angular body, two shapes that somehow fit. He could get used to this kind of Monday morning. Her hair tickles his neck and he finally opens his eyes.

“Hello.”

“Hello.”

 

She wants to kiss him more than she cares about morning breath. She likes how it makes all the thoughts in her head go away. And her head is too full right now, for the last hour she’s been debating whether or not she should follow the circus to the next town.

 

She scoots up, making her intention clear and her mind goes blank. As they kiss, his hand follows the contours of her body, the rise of her shoulder blade, the valley of her lower back and the swell of her bum, leaving goosebumps in its path. When a strangled moan escapes from her throat all his blood travels south and she feels him hardening against her leg.

 

“Is that your gun, Inspector, or are you just happy to see me?” she asks with a tongue-touched smile. His left eyebrow rises up disapprovingly and it only makes her laugh more.

 

Her teasing fingers run along his smooth hip bones and sketch labyrinths on the surrounding skin until he’s cursing under his breath. Only then does she touch him where he needs her, a feather light nail along the vein on the underside of his cock followed by her whole hand. His breath catches in his throat and when he feels the wet heat of her mouth, he thanks gods he’s never believed in. 

 

His alarm starts blaring while he’s reciprocating and Rose sends the offending object flying. She grasps the edge of the bedside table, the other hand buried in his hair, her back arching off the bed. Alec Hardy may not be a talker but he does know how to use is mouth. And fingers. “Oh God!”

 

He likes the sight of her in his kitchen, pouring orange juice in two glasses wearing only a t-shirt and knickers, glowing in the morning sunlight. He spreads marmalade on slices of toast and brings them over to the table. 

 

She chews on the bread, deep in thoughts. He doesn’t like the frown forming on her forehead.

“All right?” he asks.

“Yeah, yeah.”

He doesn’t buy it.

“Do you regret it?” he continues, straightforward as ever.

She looks him directly in the eyes.

“I'm still here, aren't I?... You?”

“Absolutely not, in fact I’d like to see you again, tonight after work.”

“That would be nice,” she answers, not committing.

 

She declines his offer for a ride back to the circus and gives him a lingering kiss, maybe the last, before walking away. She finds her way out of his neighbourhood and onto High street without really seeing anything around her, then again, the thick fog doesn’t help. She’s lost in thoughts, her heart going back and forth between happiness and feeling guilty and unfaithful. She reminds herself that he’s the one who told her to have a fantastic life. Albeit, shagging the doppelganger of his future regeneration was probably not what he had in mind when he recorded emergency program one.

She only comes out of her trance when she hears someone speak her name.

 

“Oh, hi John.”

 “Are you okay? Jesus, you’re shivering.”

She hadn’t even realized she was cold until John drapes his warm leather jacket across her shoulders, his hands lingering on her arms.

“I’m getting some breakfast, do you want anything?” he asks, pointing with his chin at the Costa Coffeehouse next to them.

“I just ate but I could use some coffee.”

He holds the door open for her and carefully guides her into the urban looking café with a hand on the small of her back. The slightly bitter smell of freshly roasted coffee fills her nose and already she’s perking up. As they wait in line, she finds herself bantering easily with him. They exchange remarks under their breaths about the overly friendly barista and the complicated menu. John snorts at her choice of a vanilla spice latte macchiato.

“You can talk, who pays for toasts?” she replies with a tongue-touched smile.

 

“Sorry for falling asleep the other night,” he says while they wait for their order at the other hand of the counter.

“Don’t worry about it.”

“I just thought I could make up for it, you know, take you out for dinner or something.”

Rose hesitates.

“M’not chatting you up,” he quickly clarifies, “unless...”

His faked nonchalance reminds her so much of when the Doctor first asked her to come with him that she has to look away. Her eyes land on the battered leather of his jacket she’s still wearing and she realizes that it may be the last time she sees him if she decides to follow the circus.

“I’d like that, I really enjoy hanging out with you... You’re a good man John, really, I mean it. You’re nice and you stand up for what you believe in.”

She swallows back the lump in her throat, it wouldn’t do to start crying now.

“But?” he asks pointedly.

“No but. Just, take care of yourself, yeah?”

He dismisses her compliments and worries with a wave of his hand but his barely suppressed smile tells her he’s pleased.

“C’mon, I’ll give you a ride.”

He picks up their order and she follows him outside.

 

The closer they get to the site of the circus, the more obvious it becomes that the Big tops are down and that the Ferris wheel is being dismantled.

“So no dinner, then,” he says, feeling dejected.

“I haven’t decided, I might stay,” she stammers, nervously toying with the straw in her plastic cup.

He nods but doesn’t seem to believe her.

“Whatever you decide, ring me.”

“Of course.”

She starts to remove his jacket but he stops her.

“You’re still cold.”

 She drops a kiss on his cheek and gets out of the car.

 

On the drive back, John tries to focus on the workday ahead rather than on his conflicted feelings about a young acrobat. He still doesn’t know what to make of the facial reconstruction the artist in Bournemouth produced and he’s dreading Hardy’s reaction.

 


 

 

DI Hardy is not only late, he is actually whistling when he enters the police station. His coworkers exchange knowing glances behind his back.

 

Feeling optimistic, he decides to give his daughter a call. Every once in a while she actually answers or replies to his texts. Their relationship is still strained but he’s hopeful.

“Hi darling.”

“Hi, I can’t talk to you, classes will start soon.”

“Oh.”

“I’ll call you back during my lunch break, alright?”

“Yes perfect!”

 

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in such a good mood,” Smith comments as he enters the detective’s office, “Did you catch the killer while I was away or what?”

Alec sobers up at the mention of the case.

“Not even close, Aaron Waters has vanished. Anyway, according to SOCO the footprints are too small to be his. How about you in Bournemouth?”

John runs his hand along his cheek, embarrassed.

“She’s really good at her job but, well, see for yourself.”

Alec puts on his glasses and examines the paper John is handing him. Then, he looks up at Smith with his trademark “I am not amused” face.

“Horseshit!”

 

The computer generated facial reconstruction looks like it was done by a six year-old: the face is wide and squat, with high cheekbones but no chin and eyes wider than the mouth.

“She’s a very competent artist and she swears that’s what the victim looks like. Look at least she’s one of kind, should make it easier to find out who the victim is. I sent the photo through the appropriate channels yesterday night. We just have to wait and see.”

With a heavy sigh that puffs up his cheeks, Hardy walks out of is office to show the sketch to the DS team.

 

He should have known his good mood wouldn’t last.

 

After an argument with the Chief Superintendant over the lack of progress in the case, Alec allows his mind to wander back to how perfectly Rose fits in his arms. Yes it’s sappy and corny but as long as no one can read his mind he can entertain this kind of thoughts. As he plays back yesterday in his mind, he remembers something she told him about herself.

 

He opens the police database on his computer but his fingers hesitate above the keyboard. In the end, his curiosity wins. Powell estate: a council housing complex in Peckham, London, destroyed by arson in 1987.  He scans the list of victims: Peter Tyler and Jacqueline Tyler. Alec pinches the bridge of his nose and groans: she said she was from there, there were people with her surname who lived there yet as far as official records are concerned, she doesn’t exist.

 

He’s interrupted before he can do any further research.

 

“DI Hardy?”

“Aye.”

He looks up and sees a man in some high rank army uniform flanked by two camouflaged goons with red berets.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Colonel Mace of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce.”

“The what?”

“We are asking you to hand over all the information regarding the investigation on the corpse that was found last week.”

“What?”

Chapter Text

“It was just sex.” The sentence is on a loop in Alec’s mind, trying to calm the sharp sting of betrayal he’s been feeling in his guts ever since he learned that the circus and Rose are supposed to leave Broadchurch today.

“Why didn’t she say anything this morning? Ugh... for God’s sake, it was just sex.”

Maybe he can convince himself that she doesn’t mean a thing to him. But then again, if she didn’t mean a thing, he wouldn’t be driving toward the circus to warn her.

 


 

Earlier

 

 “What the hell is this?” Alec asks loudly, storming into Elaine’s office after handing his files over to Colonel Mace. His arms flail in the general direction of the red berets invading their workspace.

“Calm down, Alec,” the chief superintendant replies in her usual mild voice, she closes the door behind him, “just enjoy that this complicated case is off your hands.”

“I will not bloody calm down! I’ve never heard of a united intelligence force. Do you even know who they are?”

“Well, not exactly,” she fidgets with her checkered scarf, “but they have proper clearance, from high above.”

“I don’t care if Jesus himself is sending them, it’s my case!”

 

John arrives at that moment, demanding to know why armed men are taking over his laboratory. They’re taking away his samples and even took the corpse. Elaine also tells John to calm down but anything pertaining to the army makes him on edge. He paces the length of her office, cursing. Annoyed by the two men’s attitude, Elaine ousts them. 

 

They retreat to Hardy’s office where they spend part of the morning pretending to work. They watch the newcomers closely, the way they’re going over every report and piece of evidence. Smith and Hardy speculate about the reason behind their presence.

“I think it’s the facial reconstruction,” John admits after a while, “I sent it everywhere. They already had it when they came into my lab. That corpse is so strange...  sometimes I think it’s not human at all.”

Hardy doesn’t comment but there’s a doubt in his mind that wasn’t there a minute ago. He pushes his chair back and taps a pen against his lips. He remembers the contradicting time of death indicators, the laser weapon, the strange facial reconstruction and now some secret military taskforce. Well, shit. Maybe.

“Naaw, can’t be.”

“Why not?” John replies.

“You believe that kind of nonsense, man of science like you?”

“It would be anything but scientific to ignore the possibility of alien life,” John says seriously.

Their conversation is interrupted when they are asked to join Colonel Mace and a few of his associates in the conference room.

 

They don’t sit down on the mismatched computer chairs placed around the too long table. Hardy chooses to stay up by the door, arms crossed, feet apart while John leans on the blue wall beside him, one arm on a stack of banker’s boxes. The room is filled by the bright sunlight coming in through the rows of square windows on the opposite wall, making the room uncomfortably hot. Both men notice the white board behind the Colonel. Three names are scribbled in red marker, one of them is Rose Tyler.

 

She was one of the detective’s main suspects, he’d written it down in a report. A report which U.N.I.T. now has. Alec feels a knot forming in his stomach and already his mind is working in a frenzy to think of ways to clear up her name. Unfortunately, he has nothing substantial, just his instinct. They won’t give a damn about his instinct. All his hopes lie in Dr Smith, he must have some sort of forensic evidence that points to someone else. But they start asking about the footprints and fingerprints and fibers and hair and there’s not enough in there to remove all doubts. John’s face turns to a rather unbecoming shade of red.

“She’s not the only blond female between 5’ and 5’ 4’’,” John argues.

“She’s the only one in DI Hardy’s report, no alibi, no information on her past,” the Colonel replies.

“No motive, either” Hardy points out.

John tries to explain Rose’s amnesia, which was corroborated by Mariam and Zeena as well as a doctor in London. Mace runs a hand through his thick grey hair and makes an off-hand comment about the convenience of her condition. John’s palms are getting sweaty, he hates the feeling that everything he says is getting twisted. The Colonel adds, enigmatically, that they have their own reasons to suspect Rose.

 

Before he can ask what those reasons are, Alec feels his phone vibrate in his pocket.

“I’ve got to take this, my daughter.”

“Ah yes, Julia isn’t it?” the Colonel asks, smiling like the Cheshire cat.

A chill runs down Alec’s spine and he looks straight into the other man’s eyes.

“I’m very, very calm right now, you want to be aware of that.”  Mace pulls on his collar, suddenly suffocating under the detective’s stormy glare. “You leave my daughter alone and you leave Rose alone.”

 

“Bastirt,” Alec mumbles as he closes the door to his office. He calls Julia back and the sound of her voice appeases his nerves slightly. He asks her about school, her friends and activities, questions he should already know the answer to. She keeps her replies short and makes a point of using his first name instead of daddy. But she called him back and forgot not to laugh at one of his jokes. As far as he’s concerned, that’s progress.

“Darling, have you noticed anything strange lately? Maybe someone from the army approaching you?”

“I don’t think so... what’s going on?”

“Nothing, don’t worry.”

“You can’t ask me something like that and tell me not to worry.”

He racks his brain to come up with an explanation, the last thing he needs is for her to believe he’s endangered her somehow.

“I’ve started collaborating with the army on a case and I think they’re doing some sort of background check on me. Just routine stuff.”

“Why d’you ask about something strange if it’s just routine?”

Sometimes he swears there’s a detective gene and she inherited it. He comes up with some half-arsed justification and he’s saved by the proverbial bell when she has to get back to class.

 

He rubs his eyes with a deep sigh. Nothing’s going as planned. He was supposed to stay out of the radar, serve out his days and collect his pension. Not deal with possibly extraterrestrial murder and aggravating colonel and get involved with a suspect. In fact, he’s supposed to avoid stressful situations all together. But really if he wanted a simple, quiet life he wouldn’t have become a cop. His mother’s last words come back to him: “God will put you in the right place even if you don’t know it at the time.” Bloody woman. Sometimes he thinks she only said that to mess up with his head. But then he thinks about Rose. Maybe this is all worth meeting her.

 

John bursts in his office without knocking, back straight, fists clenched, every tendons and veins of his forearm visible where he pushed back the sleeves of his black jumper.

“Two things: first, what’s with you and Rose suddenly? And two, they’ve already sent people over, to stop the circus from leaving, I think one of us should go to warn her.”

“How d’you mean, the circus is leaving?”

 


 

 

A knock on her door, stirs Rose from her sleep. One look at her alarm clocks informs her that she’s slept through most of the morning and lunchtime. She groggily steps out of her bed and opens the door. Zeena is standing there, arms crossed on her chest.

“What going on, Rose? You missed the show yesterday, mama’s worried sick.”

“I’m sorry, Zee, some things happened...”

“What things?” she presses on, stepping into the trailer.

Rose runs a hand through her disheveled hair, trying to decide how much she should tell her friend. Zeena looks over at her expectantly while she pours herself a glass of juice.

“Well?”

As she thinks back on where she was last night, Rose can’t help the large, giddy smile that forms on her lips and she pulls the collar of her t-shirt up and over her mouth to cover it.

“What is it?”

 “I met someone and I spent the night with him.”

 “Oh my God! Just because I want to know every detail doesn’t mean I’m not mad at you for disappearing last night,” says Zeena.

 

Rose hesitates. She used to do that with Shareen, dish the dirt about the boys they were seeing. But these boys didn’t matter and Alec is definitely not a boy and he definitely matters. What happened with him, what they shared was intimate, too intimate to tell. She’s afraid talking about it will tarnish the memory, like when people smudge your travel pictures with their greasy fingers. After all, they did it on the floor of his office, how can you explain that without cheapening it? How to explain the connection she feels with him when as far as other people know she just met him?

“Well? Is it that copper?” Zeena insists, hungry for gossips.

“Yes, his name is Alec Hardy,” just pronouncing is name makes her heart speed up, “and we had a good time, it’s all I’m gonna say about it.”

“Oh, you’re no fun. I told you everything about Sven.”

“And that was too much information,” Rose replies, laughing.

“Fair enough, at least make yourself useful if you’re not going to entertain me.”

 

Rose and her friend walk through the unusually quiet circus, no laughter or loud music, just the sound of metal and the quiet chit chat of the workers. The disassembled rides look like carcasses across the dry soil. They help out with the decampment by putting away stuffed purple elephants in a big plastic bag at one of the game booths while Jim is taking it apart.

 

She has done this many times before but never with such a heavy heart. Quite the opposite, she used to be excited at the prospect of what she might find in the next town. But she got more than she’d hoped for in Broadchurch. She’s not sure what answers Bristol can bring. In fact, it seems like meeting Alec and John was what this whole journey was for. However, she can’t put aside the name of the circus: Bad Wolf. Plus, she can’t shake the feeling that settling down here would be like giving up on returning to her family. Giving up on ever seeing the Doctor again, her Doctor, the real Doctor and that thought alone is painful.

 

A dark green jeep, travelling at high speed between the kiddie rides, creating a cloud of dirt, attracts the worker’s attention. Three men in camouflage outfits and red berets step out of the vehicle and walk towards the girls, the thumping of synchronised footsteps made ominous by everyone’s sudden silence.

“Hello, I’m private Ross Jenkins. I need to speak with the person in charge.”

Zeena runs her eyes appreciatively up and down the young private, she does love a man in uniform.

“That would be my mom, just follow me,” she says with a charming smile.        

 

Intrigued, Rose goes with them. She vaguely recognizes the hats and the little wings insignia but she can’t quite put her finger on where she’s seen them before. In her mind, she goes through all the places on Earth she’s visited. Ha! 10 Downing street, that’s where.

“Are you with U.N.I.T.?” she asks Ross.

He looks back at her with squinted eyes.

“You’re a civilian, how do you know about U.N.I.T.?”

“Oh, saw it in my crystal ball, me,” she hopes the line will work twice, “I also saw that a beautiful girl will flirt with you today,” Rose adds, before rapidly changing place with Zeena.

 

After complimenting his uniform and admiring his gun with a few innuendos thrown in for good measure, her friend finally asks what they want with her mom. Private Jenkins explains that he has a court order to stop the circus and its employees from leaving town. When she hears that, Rose feels a weight lift off her shoulders and her smile returns. They’re staying! They have to stay, she doesn’t have to go, she doesn’t have to choose. At least not yet. They’re granted a reprieve. Already, her mind wanders, imagining her next night with Alec. She hadn’t realized how much she missed sex until yesterday.

 

Of course, U.N.I.T.’s presence worries her but there is the more pressing matter of washing her hair and shaving her legs in preparation for tonight.

 


 

Even as he’s repeating his earlier motto “it was just sex”, Alec’s heart leaps in his chest at the sight of Rose sitting on the doorstep of her trailer. His eyes zoom in on her naked shoulder peaking through the wide neck of her grey t-shirt, his lips itch to kiss the slice of skin. He shakes his head to chase the thought away. As soon as she sees him, she jumps to her feet and greets him with a big smile. Once he’s closer, she tries to kiss him but he turns his head and her lips land on his cheek. Her stomach drops and self-doubt washes over her far too quickly. The hand reaching for his falls limply at her side.

 

He keeps his hands off her by trapping them under his arms. He tells her everything that happened today, the arrival of U.N.I.T. and their suspicions, insisting on the fact that it was John’s idea to tell her. As he speaks, his eyes are focused on a far off point, she could almost believe he’s talking to someone else.

 

She’s not entirely surprised to learn she’s one of the main suspects; her amnesia story is shaky at best.

“They came by here,” Rose confirms, “but they only talked with Mariam then left.”

“Ok. Goodbye.”

Much to Rose’s surprise, Alec turns on his heels and starts walking back to his car.

“Wait! Alec, look at me, please.”

His hazel eyes finally focus on her and the way she chews her bottom lip almost breaks his resolve. He feels a tug in his arms, the urge to hug her, comfort her, but fights it.

“This morning, did you know that you were leaving town today?”

“Yes,” she admits, she knows he appreciates straightforwardness. “I knew the circus was leaving but I wasn't sure I would be leaving with it."

"Why wouldn't you? It's all you have."

“Is it?”

He knows what she’s asking. As much as he wants her all to himself, it would be unfair to let this young woman throw away her work and friends for this old broken man. But he can’t find the strength to say the words.  For a moment, the only sound is the wind, blowing away the unspoken thoughts hanging between them. Always the courageous one, Rose finally speaks:

"Thing is, we don't have to decide anything now. The circus is staying here and I am too, so the question is: will you stay with me?"

She extends her hand toward him in invitation and waits.

Chapter Text

"Thing is, we don't have to decide anything now. The circus is staying here and I am too, so the question is: will you stay with me?"

She extends her hand toward him in invitation and waits.

 

The warm wind licks between her empty fingers and she’s never been more aware of the weight of her own hand.

“I barely know you. I don’t have any reason to trust you,” he says.

“Quite right.”

Her hand stays up in the air, insistent, persistent.

It’s a leap of faith when his crosses the gap between them. Their palms connect and their fingers intertwine, feeling whole again.

“You will be my downfall, Rose Tyler.”

She swallows with some difficulty but pushes a smile back on her face.

“Don’t be so dramatic and just kiss me.”

With a chuckle, he encompasses her waist and brings their bodies nearer until their lips touch, until their mouths open, until they’re breathing each other.

 

There’s a flutter in her chest, like a dove soaring, a laughter breaking free. She’s giddy with relief. He rests his forehead against hers and he laughs too at this incredible turn of events in their lives. He thinks it’s fitting that she works for a circus, given that he feels like he’s on a roller coaster ever since he met her.

 

He kisses her again, because he can. A few steps backwards and she feels the metal of her trailer against her back, their still linked hands rest above her head and almost automatically her leg hitches over his hip. His lips leave her mouth to explore the naked shoulder that caught his eyes earlier, worshipping the small but oh so enticing expanse of skin. He stretches the neck of her shirt wider, almost ripping it, in his quest for more skin to taste.

 

She feels a familiar spark igniting, heat traveling through her whole body as though her blood has turned to gunpowder.

“Inside,” she mumbles against his neck.

He nods but there’s a disagreement between what his head wants and what his body wants. When his pelvis jerks and she feels the evidence of his arousal against the thin material of her pants, she doesn’t insist. Concepts of decency and propriety become more abstract every second in her hazed mind. Her free hand roams his thick hair and grasps the nape of his neck. She feels his rapid pulse under her thumb with an odd sense of pride.

 

It’s the feel of air on her suddenly bare stomach that brings her back to reality. She pulls him inside.

 

They get rid of their clothes in record time. He finds himself on his back over the floral duvet of the not quite double bed. Rose straddles him with determination. There’s a vague sense that he should be doing more and his hands and lips travel over her body, undecided, never settling anywhere more than a few seconds. He wants to feel and taste all of it, every goosebump on her arms, every shiver down her back, every sweat drop between her breasts. He only stills when he feels Rose’s heat engulfing him, torturously slow. A moment suspended in time where only the sound of their shaky breaths fills the tiny bedroom. 

 

She stops once he’s fully in her. Her hand finds his, woven fingers above his shoulder. She feels him twitch and pulse in her. She leans over him, hard nipples brushing against his chest, and they kiss, more teeth than lips. Alec groans or says her name. When she’s ready, she moves her hips. Her forehead falls to his collarbone and she can taste his smell. Guttural noises emerge from their throats.

 

When her rhythm falters, Alec takes the lead, interchanging their bodies. Rose on her back, legs on his shoulders, he’s deeper than she’s ever felt him. Her eyes close, her head flings back and she whimpers in pleasure. Suddenly, he slips out almost completely and waits. His thumb strokes the back of her hand delicately until her eyes open. When her dilated pupils meet his, he holds her gaze and then thrusts back in vigorously. Her cries echo through the caravan.

 

 All his senses are filled with Rose. Her moans are music to his ears and he can’t take his eyes off her bouncing breasts. He feels her contract around him as he moves in and out of her. Her taste lingers on his lips when he kisses her calf and the heady smell of her arousal surrounds him. He can’t last any longer, already the base of his spine is tingling and his toes are curling.

“Bollocks.”

 

Resisting the urge to flop down on her, his fingers slip between her legs.  When her nails dig in the back of his hand, he already knows that it means she’s close. She feels the familiar coiling in her stomach and makes a frustrated grunt. He moves faster and with more pressure and finally she comes undone, all quivering thighs and heaving chest.

 

Their heads settle on the same pillow. With the tip of her finger, she traces his features, moving his hair away from his damp forehead, erasing his frown, sliding down his nose, connecting his freckles. They’re different his freckles, more pronounced and scattered differently. The more time she spends with him the less she sees the Doctor. She traces the edge between his beard and his cheek, enjoying the dual sensation.

“I should shave.”

“Absolutely not.”

“Oi, woman already trying to be the boss of me?” he laughs.

“I’d like to see someone try to be the boss of you,” Rose replies cheekily.

 

As they are about to doze off in post-coital bliss, they are disturbed by someone knocking at the door.

“Go away,” Alec shouts.

She slaps him playfully.

“You’re so rude.”

“... Rose, you alright?”

Rose and Alec look at each other in surprise.

“Is that John?”

 

She extricates herself from Alec just enough to look out the side window. It is indeed John Smith, standing outside in the setting sun, looking nervous. She waves before slipping on underwear and Alec’s blue pinstripe shirt which is long enough to cover her bum and part of her thighs. When she opens the door he blushes at the sight of her outfit or lack thereof. She smiles uneasily, tugging on the hem of the shirt.

“I’m sorry, is this a bad moment, d’you have company?”

He tries to subtly look over her shoulder.

“No, well yeah, maybe a little, but s’fine.”

He buries his hands in his pockets and clears his throat, trying to keep his eyes on her face.

 “I came by to check on you and see if Hardy talked to you.”

“Yeah, yeah, he explained everything,” she smiles with her lips pressed.

She appreciates their concern and their help but she doesn’t want to cause them any trouble.

“Ok good, and he wasn’t rude, was he? I don’t know why he insisted on talking to you alone. He can be a dick sometimes.”

“Is that what you think, Smith?”

Alec appears in the doorframe, wearing only his trousers and a smug look on his face. He puts an arm around Rose’s waist but she steps away, not a fan of this kind of territorial pissing.

“That explains a lot,” John replies, averting their gaze, “I’ll just leave you two lovebirds alone, eh?”

 

He turns on his heels and starts walking away.

“Wait, John, I’ll see you soon, yeah?”

He just waves without looking back at her. She rocks on her heels, if she weren’t half-naked she’d run after him. Rose tries to reason with herself that she shouldn’t feel bad but she does nonetheless. She fidgets with the sleeves covering her hands. She looks over at Alec who shrugs. Seeing her dejected face, he inquires about their relationship and she’s a bit lost for words.

 

“There’s nothing going on really. I just like him... and I think he needs someone.”

I need someone too, a childish part of him whined.

“Plus he helped me out twice,” Rose continues, “the first day at the crime scene, where you told me to sod off, by the way,” she sticks her tongue out at him and he pretends to try to catch it, “and after that when Aaron attacked me.”

“Did you ever see him again, Aaron?”

“Nope, he vanished. Even his partner doesn’t know where he is.”

 

Alec doesn’t ask more questions, he couldn’t care less about work right now. He puts an arm around her shoulders and guides Rose back inside.

“Don’t worry, luv.”

 

Easier said than done.

 

All of this, the investigation and U.N.I.T. getting involved, is making her increasingly apprehensive. She’d tried to suppress the anxiety, she wouldn’t even think about it at first but it’s getting harder to ignore. In her mind’s eyes she sees it like that scribble creature that attacked her in 2012, all knotted and twisted and black in the pit of her stomach, agitated and bouncing off her abdomen walls. It’s going to take more than a pencil eraser to get rid of it. In fact, it seems that sooner or later running away will be the only option. Sooner rather than later.

 

She sighs deeply.

“You hungry?” she asks in an attempt to distract herself.

They share leftover pizza and diet coke as well as a shower before going back to bed. There’s no point in pretending either of them wants to leave this place and spend one minute out of each other’s arms.

 

Rose is woken up later by two drunken carnies passing by. Their slurred conversation breaking the peace of the night.

“You awake?” Alec murmurs.

He feels her nod against his chest. As her eyes get used to the darkness, she can make out his silhouette. She sinks further into his embrace despite the warm night making their entangled limbs damp. She nuzzles the crook of his neck like a cat seeking affection. When he runs his hand through her hair she sighs contently. In the darkness of the night, in the safety of the bed sheets, it’s easy to believe they’re happy.

 

The roof vent above their head is opened and the full moon fits right in. Rose closes one of her eyes and raises her thumb to hide it the way she used to do as a child.

 

“Reminds me of when I was a lad. I sort of fancied myself an explorer,” Alec’s voice his hoarse with sleep but she can hear the smile in it, “when I got my first car, I’d go out of town every week end, by myself with my tent and backpack. And this one time, about two hours north of Glasgow, I found an old abandoned estate, like a Victorian manor in ruins. Anyway, it was a full moon too and I managed to get on the roof, almost broke my neck a few times, I was bampot that way. The moon was really bright, and big, bigger than I ever saw it, but then I started hearing wolves howling not too far off and it just freaked me out and I got the hell out of there,” he laughs, “Good grief, I hadn’t thought about that in years.”

 

She entertains the thought that it was the Torchwood Estate he was at and maybe through some weird pandimensional destiny thing he was there on the same date.

 

“I went to Scotland once,” Rose says, eager to share something with him too.

“Really, when?”

“A couple years ago, I think. We wanted to see this concert but we got lost, of course, and ended up in the middle of nowhere, in the highlands somewhere... timorous beastie, they called me.”

“Sounds about right... So, you remember some things from your past, then?”

“It comes and goes,” she replies.

 

His question brings back to her mind everything she keeps from him. How careful she has to be, always watching what she says, always keeping part of herself hidden. She wonders if it’s a blessing or a curse. She could be a whole new person, get a second chance and a new beginning.  But it would always be in the back of her mind, like dragging a ball and chain everywhere she goes, every time she’s with him.

 

She feels panic rising in her chest, her heart constricting, each breath too shallow to fill her lungs. The scribble creature expanding.

 

 All the lies.

Among which the fact that she is indeed the killer.

Chapter Text

The Doctor never taught her how to bury a body.

 

It hadn’t conveniently disintegrated or flaked away or disappeared in a burst of flame. It fell to the ground with a dull thud. It lay there, limp, its large, lifeless eyes still opened. A rivulet of blood, as green as the new springs of grass, slowly leaked out of its tiny mouth and down the side of its face. In a state of complete shock, Rose had spent an incalculable amount of time staring at it. It looked so real, so much like killing a human being.

 

The body started rotting not long after, its skin, as pale and thin as lilac blossoms, gradually turned a darker shade of violet and started emanating a putrid odor.

 

Rose found a shovel and started digging.

 

It was a cloudy night when she encountered it. Hadn’t it been for the strange, dolphin like, noises it made, she would have thought it was a human. The creature had immediately adopted an aggressive position, snarling with its hands held up like claws. Rose had tried to talk her way out of it. She invoked the Shadow Proclamation (she had learned a thing or two about it after the Sycorax incident) and offered her help. She held her hands down and opened in front of her, non-threatening, like she had been taught to during a Torchwood diplomacy seminar. The thing is, without the TARDIS to translate, her peaceful words were ineffective.

 

The alien lunged towards her.

 

There’s a tiny button, on the side of her vortex manipulator that should never, ever be pressed. Unless one finds oneself in a life or death situation. There was a scuffle between them. The creature was at least one foot smaller than her but it was incredibly strong. Rose found herself on her back. Fighting, struggling, choking. She pressed the button. A smalll laser ray hit the creature straight in the sternum and it fell to the ground.

 

The following days were a total blur, she went about her usual routine completely numb. Then the police showed up. That morning, three days after the murder, she saw Alec and John for the first time. And then she foolishly – selfishly – pursued them. She latched onto the hope that her journey in this foreign universe would be worthwhile, that she hadn’t killed in vain.


Rose realizes she hasn’t slept at all when she hears the first warblers chirping outside her window. She had spent most of the night trying to figure out what she should do. Alas, it seems that there are no easy solutions to her predicament. In almost every scenario at least one person gets hurt and when no one gets hurt the whole of reality is destroyed.

 

How she wishes she could duplicate herself: one to stay in Broadchurch and one to continue trying to get back to her family and the Doctor. She has to – wants to – find the Doctor. He’s the love of her life but the chances of seeing him again are so thin, ethereal, slipping between her fingers. In her dreams, she keeps trying to grab his hand but it’s like clutching water. She hasn’t seen him in years, maybe she should get over him, except the dimension cannon started working and that’s got to mean something. 

 

And then there’s Alec. She likes him a lot considering she’s only known him for a short while. She knows she could be happy with him. It’s real, tangible, within reach. And he’s human and that makes all the difference because it means... well, the one adventure the Doctor could never have. She doesn’t dare think about the possibilities, it will only make it that much harder if she has to leave.

 

She perks up when she feels Alec stretch and yawn beside her. He kisses her forehead and it’s like the sun shining through the clouds in her mind. He says he has to go and Rose holds him closer with a protesting groan and he chuckles. He closes his arms around her, squeezing her and rocking their bodies from side to side until she’s on top of him, twisting the bed sheets around them. Her hands and knees are on each side of him and she’s grinning with her tongue-touched smile.

“Ha! You’re trapped now! You have to stay with me,” she declares in a sing-song voice.

 She likes the view underneath her, the messy hair, the whiskey eyes still hooded with sleep and that lazy smile. She runs one finger on his cheek along a red line left by a crease in the pillowcase. With a hand in her hair he brings her mouth to his. They laugh when their noses bump and exchange a tender kiss.

 “I’d take a day off but someone’s got to keep an eye on U.N.I.T...”

 “Oh alright, at least, let me get you some breakfast, yeah?”

She gets off him and rummages about until she finds clean knickers and a red tank top. He complains about her lack of tidiness when he can’t find his own clothes among all hers, strewn across the tiny room.

 

She opens the fridge, hoping to find some breakfast food.

 “Ooh, I’ve got some bananas!”

Much to Rose’s surprise, Alec’s nose wrinkles and he shakes his head.

“How do you feel about pears?” she inquires.

“I’ll have one.”

“I don’t have any.”

He shakes his head with a smile. He has already accepted that she doesn’t always make sense.

 

She offers him a bowl of Lucky Charms and he sits down next to her at the table to eat the cereals. He grimaces after his first spoonful not used to such sugary food in the morning. Rose drinks some orange juice and steals star shaped marshmallows from him. “They’re the best ones,” she explains. He starts eating more carefully, pushing the stars towards the rim of the bowl all the while been highly aware of how silly it is. Anything to make her smile. He so rarely elicits that reaction from people nowadays.

“Have you got any plans for tonight?” Rose asks.

“I’d like to see you again, if you haven’t left,” there’s a slight bitterness to his last words, “Just.. come see me before, if you decide to leave,” he cups her face gently, thumb stroking the apple of her cheek.

“I will.”

His hand lingers.

“I will, I promise,” she repeats, then turns her head to kiss his palm and that seems to appease him.

He finishes eating while they discuss their plans for that night.

 

Leaving takes longer than he had anticipated. They spend several minutes saying goodbye, wishing each other a nice day and kissing next to his car. Only when a few of her colleagues pass by, whistling and shouting rude comments, do they finally part. She waves as Alec drives away, unable to stop from smiling despite Jim mocking her.

 

She skips back to her trailer and goes about her morning. She puts on a second-hand BABA t-shirt (this dimension’s ABBA), braids her hair and starts tidying up her humble abode. She watches some morning talk show on BBC and does a load of laundry, busying herself to feel normal and keep the anxiety at bay.

 

Around noon, she drops by Mariam and Zeena’s since her friend had offered to help Rose touch up her roots. From outside, she can hear the mother and daughter arguing in Afrikaans. That’s never a good sign. Zeena storms out before Rose has a chance to knock on the door. She grabs her friend’s arm and they walk to Rose’s trailer as Zeena explains why she’s mad at her mother.

“I can’t believe she’s even considering leaving you behind because she’s losing money. I know it’s hard in this economy but you’re practically family. You’re like a sister to me, I’m not gonna let you down when you need me.”

“Aaw thanks, Zee,” she squeezes her friend’s thin arm, “I really don’t wanna cause you any trouble. You could leave and I’d catch up with you when all of this is over, it’s not like you’re going to another country, I’ll just join you wherever you are.”

As she says the words, Rose realizes how unlikely it is. She always knew that she wouldn’t spend the rest of her life travelling with the circus and her new friends but it feels very real suddenly.

 

They sit on the grass, their backs against her tiny mobile home, soaking up the midday sun.

“I wouldn’t be entirely alone without you, Alec stayed over last night.”

“Are you going to tell me anything about it this time?”

She does and for a while she feels like an average young woman, like the Rose Tyler she was before meeting the Doctor. It’s nice but she isn’t that person anymore and deep down she knows it’s for the best. Thereupon, three red berets show up. She recognizes Private Ross Jenkins but not the other Privates, both men stand straight, holding their guns close to their chests while a sturdy middle age woman comes closer.

“Rose Tyler?”

“Who’s asking?” Rose replies, defensive.

“I’m Captain Marisa Magambo.”

Both girls stand up and Zeena introduces herself.

The woman puts on a pair of strange glasses with thick frames and lenses that are tinted but not the same colour. She inspects the two girls, walking around them, touching them.

 “Oi! D’you mind?”

“Just as I thought, she’s covered in void particles. Who do you work for, miss Tyler?”

Rose’s heart speeds up. With great effort, she overcomes her fight or flight response and carries out a somewhat calm demeanor.

“I work for the circus, I’m an acrobat, well I say acrobat, more like an assistant. I can do a cartwheel, I can show you if...”

Her voice falters as she takes in Magambo’s serious glare. The Captain repeats her question, enunciating each syllable carefully, an inch from Rose’s face.

“Who. do you. work. for?”

 

A phone rings, breaking off the tension.

“It’s the Colonel, Ma’am.”

“Magambo. I’m with Rose Tyler, Sir, she... oh... how many?” the Captain’s eyes widen and she puts a hand across her mouth, “... Ok, yes, I’ll be right there.”

She hangs up and tells the two privates that they are going back to HQ and then orders Rose to follow them. Zeena insists on going along but they won’t let her. Rose gives her friend a hug and is carried to the military SUV.

 

On the road, she tries to get more information on what they are going to do with her and what the phone call was about but they all remain completely silent.

 

Once at the police station, they guide Rose downstairs to a brightly lit room that smells like formalin and chemicals. John is there, sitting on a stool in front of his computer.

“Dr Smith, run some tests for background radiations on this suspect and take a DNA sample while you’re at it.”

John replies with a mocking salute and a roll of his eyes while Mrs Magambo runs back upstairs.

 

On she’s alone with John, Rose’s fear is quickly replaced by uneasiness because of what happened yesterday when he dropped by only to find her half-naked with Alec. She toys idly with her loop earring and tries to come up with some appropriate small talk. Her eyes wander around, taking in the melamine cabinets that used to be white and all the stainless steel. She recognizes some of the equipment from the Torchwood labs but she never asked what it was for. Her eyes finally land on his laptop where a Manchester United football match is streaming.

“I thought you were from Liverpool?”

“I moved there to study but I’m Manchester born and bred,” he answers proudly. “So what’s going on?”

Rose shrugs, pretending to be as clueless as he seems to be.

“Background radiations, what kind of lab do they think this is? I don’t even have a cyanoacrylate fuming chamber.”

He looks over at her like he expects an empathetic reaction, he only gets a pair of raised eyebrows and an uncertain smile.

“I guess I could always do a bit of jiggery-pokery with the spectrometer, the Rofin polilite flares and the hyperspectral camera, measure the omega resonance and so on. That is, if I cared to obey them.”

"You think you’re so impressive with your big scientific words," she teases him.

"I am so impressive!" he hugs her with one arm, laughing.

“Ok maybe you are a little impressive,” she holds her thumb and forefinger an inch apart in front of her squinting eye.

“It’s true that I am no detective inspector...” he smiles like it’s a joke but there’s an edge to his voice. “So you and Hardy, then?”

 “Sor' of, yeah”

“Why? Hardy he’s...” he inhales deeply, “he’s not very nice.”

“You don’t know him like I do.”

“I’ve known him longer than you and that’s barely more than two weeks.”

“Where do you get off? I haven’t known you that much longer either,” she says, her voice more high pitched.

“Yeah and we haven’t slept together.”

“Is that it? Is that what’s going on?”

"I'm married," he blurts out.

Rose is too stunned by this revelation to reply. John runs a hand along his jaw, the sound of his scruff scratching his palm fills the room. After a moment, he apologizes and Rose sits down on the stool next to him.

 

“Maybe my wife’s right; maybe I am having a midlife crisis. I should just buy a Porsche.”

“What makes you say that?”

John explains his career changes motivated by a need for something more, more action, more adventure. He longs for a greater contribution to mankind and discovering new things. Rose nods along to everything he says because the more he speaks the more she recognizes the Doctor’s character in him. It all makes sense.

“Take this case for example, I dislike this job, but this victim it was... never mind, you’ll think I’m barmy.”

“Go on,” Rose encourages him with a smile.

“I think maybe it’s alien.”

He explains his theory, carefully monitoring her reaction. Rose starts hoping that she might have someone with whom she can share the truth about herself.

“I’m sure U.N.I.T. are in on it,” he adds, “that's why I don’t understand why they’re so hellbent on accusing you. They say they have their own reasons for suspecting you, whatever that means.”

 

Rose’s smile turns into a frown; that last bit of information is worrisome.

"Yeah well, what can I do about it?" she absentmindedly picks up a skull from a nearby shelf.

"I was thinking, I could..." he leans closer to her and lowers his voice, "I could lie, about time of death, say it was before the circus arrived in town. All they have right now are circumstantial evidences."

Rose’s eyes widen.

"Why would you do that for me?"

“Because when I see you, I… look I’m not coming on to you but the thing is, when I look at you, after all I’ve seen, I know there’s still some good left in this world. And when you look at me, it’s like I’m… like I’m forgiven.”

Her eyes well up, feeling overwhelmed and unworthy of this man’s trust.

“Hey, don’t cry, c’mere. Everything will be alright, you’re innocent and we’ll prove it.”

He holds her close, attributing her emotional reaction to her situation rather than to his offer.

“Won’t you get in trouble if you do that, though?” she says in his shoulder.

She feels him shrug. He’s not going to say it but she knows he could end up in prison for something like this. There’s no way she will let him jeopardize his life for her.

 

Rose spends the rest of the afternoon hanging out with John in the lab. He doesn’t have much work to do since they took away all the evidence and the corpses. They watch the end of the football match and he gives her a tour of the lab. He teaches her how to use the microscopes and shows her star shaped cells and fungi that look like galaxies.

 

When the clock strikes four, they say goodbye with a hug and a promise to do something together one night this week. She goes upstairs to Alec’s office.  The second floor is surprisingly silent, only a few DS are working at their desks, the sound of their keyboards breaking the silence. It looks like all the soldiers have left with Magambo, following the alarming phone call she received.

 

Alec welcomes her with a bright smile that makes her feel all mushy inside. She likes how his whole face lights up and how he looks ten years younger when he smiles. What she likes even more is that this smile is just for her. He stands up and removes his glasses. After a careful glance out his office window, he gives her a quick peck on the lips but Rose is having none of that and she pulls on his gray tie to deepen the kiss, bringing back memories of their first time in his office. Much to her satisfaction, Alec looks quite flushed afterwards and he’s grinning from ear to ear. Unfortunately, his smile doesn’t last long when she explains her presence at the station. As she tells him what happened earlier that day, she realizes that Zeena must be worried about her.

“Can I use your phone?”

He pulls his mobile out of his shirt pocket and hands it to her before sitting back behind his desk.

 

A text message flashes across the screen, from Julia: “Call me asap xox”. She feels a pinch of jealousy and wants to ask who this Julia is but she reigns in her temper, reminding herself that they are not an official couple. If anything, it’s probably better that he has someone else in his life.

“All right?”

“You have a text.”

She gives him back his mobile and tries to act casual but checks out his reaction out of the corner of her eye. Alec frowns when he sees the message and immediately calls back.

“Hi darling. What’s going on?”

Alec listens intently and whatever it is this Julia is telling him it’s making him very upset. His fist clenches around the phone, almost breaking it.

“Bloody U.N.I.T.!” he shouts after hanging up.

He hits his desk with his closed fist, startling Rose.

“They followed my daughter around and asked her all sorts of questions about me. It’s unacceptable! I’ll give that bastirt Mace a piece of my mind when he comes back,” he looks up at Rose and takes in her stunned expression, “I have a daughter, Julia, 15.”

 “Will she be okay?”

“I don’t know, she’s really freaked out. We always tried to protect her from our work but I’m not there to,” he groans and pinches the bridge of his nose, “I don’t think they’d hurt her.”

“I’m sorry that this whole mess is affecting her.”

“Not as sorry as they will be.”

 

When Alec doesn’t offer more information about Julia, Rose asks:

“Where is she?”

“She lives in another town, with her mother,” he’s flippant, still angry.

“To whom you're not married anymore, yeah?”

Alec jumps from his seat, suddenly realizing what’s going on in Rose’s head.

 “Of course, I’m divorced! It’s a complicated story, not very pleasant,” he says, grimacing. He puts an arm around her shoulder, rubbing up and down her arm.

Rose kisses his cheek. She wants to know more about this daughter and this ex-wife but she doesn’t ask. She can tell he doesn’t want to talk about it. And just like he’s not pushing her to reveal her past, she doesn’t ask more questions about his.

“Do you still wanna come over?” he asks, once he has calmed down.

“Yep. I’m getting hungry, though.”

“I have some vegetarian lasagna, homemade.”

“Vegetarian? You’re full of surprises.”

“With my heart condition, I’ve got to eat healthy stuff, less meat.”

“And I went and fed you Lucky Charms and pizza. I’ll have to learn to cook properly.”

He likes the sound of that. She hasn’t mentioned staying in Broadchurch again but that’s giving him hope.

 “So vegetarian lasagna, it is then! Just lemme call Zeena before.”

 

Her friend is indeed glad to hear from her, she was very concerned about what would happen to Rose.

“I think they let me go because of that phone call,” Rose explains, “some sort emergency, they’re all gone. I wouldn’t be surprised if they came back tomorrow, though.”

“Some of them are here right now,” says Zeena, “and they’re interrogating mama and asking questions about you and Aaron and some teenage girl. Real bullies, they are.”

“But that’s rubbish, she doesn’t know anything! It’ll all be over soon, Zee, I’m gonna take care of this.”

“How?”

“Just... don’t worry about it.”

 

While Alec clears his desk and turns off his computer, Rose comes to a decision:

“Tomorrow,” she promises herself, “Tomorrow I’ll do it.”


 

 “So you like BABA, then,” Alec asks as they’re washing the dishes after dinner, standing side by side in the narrow kitchen.

“A bit, yeah, my mom liked them. But the t-shirt’s not mine, s’just part of the clothes people gave me after they found me.  Those are mine,” she adds, standing on her heels and tapping the white tips of her Converse together.

“I used to have a pair like that, way back when,” Alec says, “well, not pink, obviously... I was a bit of a punk rocker.”

“What, a real one? With spiky hair and a dog collar?” she bursts out laughing just imagining it.

“Nah, just the shoes and holes in my jeans and t-shirts. I wasn’t much of a rebel either, I liked that song, you know, I fought the law and the law won. Oh!”

He throws the dish towel on the counter and skitters off and up the stairs. Curious, Rose follows him to a baby blue room filled with boxes.

“Where are they?” Alec mumbles, opening several containers, “Ha! Ha!”

Triumphantly, he holds up a vinyl with a man smashing a guitar on the cover.

 

They carry the box and a dusty turn table to the living room. Rose gets two lagers from the fridge while Alec plugs everything in. When she comes back in the room, he’s reverently putting the needle on the record. They sit down, cross-legged, on the beige carpet as the familiar intro to London Calling echoes in the room. Alec mouths the lyrics and nods along to the music. He tells her about going to concerts with his mates when he was a teenager and failed attempts at learning guitar. Back when his life didn’t revolve around his career.

“It feels so long ago,” Alec sighs.

 

As the catchy Rudie can’t fail comes on, they start going through the content of the box. Vinyls, CDs and cassettes, each one a piece of Alec’s history. She laughs at some of his more questionable purchases and puts aside those she wants to hear.

“My father had quite the collection too,” Rose says, “my mom said he’d come back from gigs all the time, with a new record, claiming he’d just discovered the next Beatles, always planning these daft little schemes to get rich.”

Alec realizes that it’s the second time that night that she has mentioned her parents. The detective in him whispers: ask her about her parents, about Pete and Jacqueline Tyler and the Powell Estate arson. But then she smiles at him, that luminous smile of hers that warms his souls. Not tonight. Tomorrow he'll ask. 

“Are you comparing to your father? I'm not as old as him am I?” Alec asks with mock outrage.

Rose actually stops to think about it, she’s not quite sure how old Alec is but he can’t be as old as Pete. He certainly has more hair.

She walks to him on her knees and wraps her arms around his waist.

“Age doesn’t matter, does it?”

“I suppose not.”

Alec’s embrace tightens, he buries his nose in her hair and takes a deep breath. She can feel his heart beating against her chest as if knocking, asking for permission to come in and nestle next to her own heart.

“I’m not good at saying... things – important things – that women want to hear... But you can count on me, Rose, to take care of you and defend you.”

She knows. She learned, a long time ago that actions speak louder than words. She doesn’t say anything, instead she kisses him. Lips moving slowly, tongue teasing, hands gripping his collar to keep him close. One of his hands grasps her hip, the thumb sneaking under her shirt to stroke the soft skin, sending a shiver down her spine.

“So, in that collection of yours, you got any good music for shagging?”

“Let’s see,” and she loves that he’s taking her inquiry seriously.

He keeps a hand on her and uses the other one to flip a few albums before finding what he’s looking for.

 Jim Morrison’s deep voice resonates in the room, “Wishful, sinful...”, as they undress each other, revealing more skin with every verse.

“I’m so glad I met you.”

Chapter Text

The next morning, Alec lets Rose sleep in, only giving her a kiss – or four – before reluctantly leaving her. On her walk back from his house, Rose stops by a flower shop for a big bouquet of red gladioli and birds of paradise as well as a large box of Zeena’s favourite salted caramels. She then goes directly to her friends’ caravan. Before knocking on the door, she takes a deep breath to reign in her feelings. It’s probably her last opportunity to spend any time with the two women who welcomed her into their home and took care of her as if she was family. Mariam greets her with a big smile.

“Oh thank you, hartjie, what’s the occasion?”

“No occasion, I just wanted to say thank you for everything.”

 

Over plates of Zeena’s famous orange and chocolate pancakes, they discuss U.N.I.T.’s visit the previous day. Despite being one of the strongest women Rose knows, Mariam is clearly shaken by their intervention and anxious regarding the future of the circus if the situation persists. This only serves to strengthen Rose’s resolve to act today. She insists that they continue their tour of England, stating that she would catch up with them as soon as possible.

 

Afterwards, she goes by her trailer for a shower and to gather a few important items then heads back into town.

 

When Rose enters the police station that afternoon, for the first time in months, she feels like she’s doing the right thing. She has to speak up, her mistakes are affecting too many people. Zeena and Mariam and then Alec and his daughter, but most of all John who offered to lie for her, laying his career and life on the line.

 

She goes by the laboratory first. At the sound of the door opening, Smith looks up from the eviscerated computer lying on his slab. She slides a fresh cup of coffee towards him.

“You in trouble again?” he asks with a smirk.

“Don’t know yet. I just wanted to tell you that you won’t have to lie, I’m taking care of everything.”

“How?”

“Just don’t worry.”

Her words are meant to reassure him but, judging by his frown, they have the opposite effect. She tries to smile and gives him a quick hug before leaving.

 

She then goes upstairs, purposely avoiding Alec’s office on her way to the conference room. When she enters the blue room, Captain Magambo is applying a bandage on Colonel Mace’s nose, their jackets draped over the back of the chairs.

“Ah, Miss Tyler, I just had a very unpleasant run in with your friend DI Hardy,” the older man says.

 “I’m sure you deserved it,” Rose crosses her arms over her teal tank top. “Where is he now?”

“He left the station,” the woman answers, “It would save us all a lot of drama if you would just admit to everything.”

“I do have some information and I’ll share it with you if you give me your word that you’ll leave my friends alone.”

“We won’t need your friends anymore once we know the truth.”

Rose sits down in front of them and tries to look more confident than she really is.

 “Say, hypothetically, I did kill him, what would happen to me?”

“It depends, why did you bring them with you in this universe?”

Rose’s jaw drops and she feels the blood drain from her face.

“Them? But there was only the one. It attacked me...” she promptly shuts up before revealing too much.

 

The Colonel opens one of the files in front of him and hands her a computer generated image of an alien face. Rose recognizes the large eyes and thin, lipless mouth and, of course, the lilac skin.

“That’s the creature you saw, isn’t it?” Magambo says, putting away the first aid kit, “Do you know where it’s from?”

She does know. It’s from Callufrax Minor. Five months ago, a Callufraxian spaceship crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in Pete’s world. Her Torchwood team had gathered information on that specie, getting ready for an intervention. It seemed that their planet had been stolen. However, another team accomplished the mission because of the more pressing matter of The Darkness coming. Now that she thinks about it, she never did hear back from that team.

 

The Colonel is not fooled by Rose’s silence. He stands up and walks the length of the room with his arms behind his back.

“Four months ago, our scientific team observed a disturbance in the space-time continuum. A spaceship appeared in the Atlantic, 20km off the coast of Dorset around the same time.”

“How d’you mean appeared?”

“One second it’s not there and the next it is. We would know if it had crossed our atmosphere. It materialised there, the same way you did, in London.”

Clearly, the Colonel is aware she is from another universe. It most likely is because of the void particles Captain Magambo discovered on her yesterday.

 

Rose falters under the Colonel’s intent glare and finally decides to come clean about her origins.

 “It all started when I was a shop girl at Henrik’s in my original universe...”

She talks to them about the Doctor and Torchwood, the dimension cannon and getting stuck here. She describes her encounter with the alien and how she killed it. The words come pouring out of her mouth after holding them back for so long. Relief floods through her. Not only that, but after months of laying low, the adrenaline coursing through her veins and the thrill of this mystery makes her feel more alive than she has in weeks.

 

Magambo takes some notes while she speaks. The Colonel remains stoic but every once in a while, his face betrays his surprise. Once she’s finished, he fills her in with the latest information. After weeks of inactivity, the spaceship had started emitting sound waves a few days ago but there were no signs of life inside. Yesterday, two mutilated corpses washed up on the shore in an isolated bay, 8 km out of town. Despite the terrifying damage to their bodies, they managed to identify them as Aaron Waters, a member of the circus, and Emily Fitch, a teenager who was reported missing by her friend.

 

“Well, Miss Tyler, I think we better get to work if we want to stop these aliens from hurting anyone else.”

 

Two more officers join them and they start planning their next actions, relying on Rose for more information regarding the Callufraxians. The more they talk, the more she realizes that they mean to destroy the spaceship and its passengers using weapons. Rose disagrees vehemently with a preemptive strike and argues that they should use a more diplomatic approach.

“It not their fault if they’re here, they accidentally traveled with me somehow and their planet disappeared. They must be afraid. Let’s help them.”

The officers scoff, throwing her condescending looks. If only the Doctor were here, he would know the words to convince them.

“Your help is not required anymore, miss Tyler,” Mace declares, dismissing her.

“Good, ‘cause I don’t wanna help anymore.”

 

She storms out of the conference room only to come face to face with a fuming Alec.

“We need to talk.”

He grips her a little too forcefully and she jerks her arm out of his grasp. She follows him outside, down a narrow path that leads to the beach, away from prying eyes. After a few minutes of walking in tensed silence, he finally stops and they sit on a big boulder by the sea. Bulky black clouds, heavy with rain, cast shadows across his glowering face and the on cliff behind them. Only the screech and squawk of the seagulls disturb the peace of the secluded spot.

 

“Please don’t look at me like that... Just because I don’t tell you everything doesn’t mean that everything was a lie.”

Rose reaches for Alec’s hand but he doesn’t let her take it.

“I can’t protect you if you don’t tell me the truth,” he says.

“Don’t you see? I'm the one protecting you.”

Alec sighs and looks out at the sea, then at Rose, whose face is partly hidden by her windswept hair. "Just...Tell me something real about yourself, anything."

I once met Charles Dickens. I’ve been to the year five billion. I’m from another universe. I care about you. It feels like clutching water again.

"I don’t know what you want to hear, Alec."

“I want to know what’s going on, it’s not that complicated, is it?”

“You won’t believe me, you’ll think I’m a nutter, you won’t like you me anymore.”

“Well, I don’t like you very much right now...”

He hates the pained look on her face, he puts a hand over his forehead and closes his eyes with a grunt,

“Do you know anything about the murder?”

She doesn’t want to hurt him but it seems the longer she waits the more hurtful the truth will be. And with what she learned today about the Callufraxians, maybe he should be warned.
“... Yes.”
“Are you the killer?”

Rose hesitates again, biting her thumb nail.

“Fuck! I told Ellie don’t trust anyone and  I...” he kicks a rock, sending it flying into the sea.
“It was self-defense!” Rose argues, grasping at straws.

Alec takes a deep breath, hands on hips, blinking slowly.

“I can’t believe I’m going to ask you this but: was it an alien?”
“Yes, from Callufrax Minor.”

Finally, a sliver of hope, maybe she can tell him the whole truth, maybe it will all be okay. But then he looks at her like he doesn’t recognize her.
“How do you know that? Where are you from? How can you have a laser weapon? What did you do before joining the circus?” he asks all his questions in one breath, not leaving her any time to answer.

When he stops and looks back at her, Rose asks:
“Does the term ‘parallel world’ mean anything to you?”

She explains, as simply and briefly as she can, her work in Pete’s world, the walls between worlds collapsing, the dimension cannon and her universe hopping adventures.

 

Alec sits back down next to her, his arms hanging between his thighs, taking some time to process what she just said.

 “And how many other men have you-” he stops talking abruptly, realizing the absurdity of his question, but he’s said enough to hurt Rose’s feelings.

“I tell him about aliens and parallel worlds and he wants to know if I’ve slept with other men, typical bloke,” she says to no one in particular. “I’m not shagging my way through the multiverse! You’re the first man I’ve slept with, the first man I’ve... fancied in years.”

“Prove to me you’re not a liar.” He demands, holding her gaze.

“I have this bracelet, to travel between dimensions,” she digs it out of her jeans pocket, “but, well, it’s not working anymore.”

Alec rolls his eyes.

“I can turn it on but it won’t take me back, I don’t know what the hell’s going on over there, if Jake’s got his head up his arse...” Rose taps the screen and it lights up.

 

At the same moment, there’s a flash of light right next to them, like a lighting strike, that blinds them. When the spots in her eyes fade away, she recognizes the silhouette coming towards them.

“Mickey?”

“Rose!”

The two old friends jump in each other’s arms.

“What took you so long?” Rose asks, “Four months I’ve been stuck here, I thought I’d go mental.”

“Wha’?” Mickey steps away from her, eyes wide in disbelief, “It’s only been four days back home.”

Rose gasps. She had an inkling that time moves differently in this world, she felt out of sync and her reflexes seemed too slow. However, she wouldn’t have thought that it was at such a different rate.

 

Mickey peers over her shoulder.

“But you found the Doctor, that’s great. No offense mate, but you look like shit.”

Luckily, Alec is still too stunned by Mickey’s sudden appearance to understand.

“Er, Mickey this is DI Alec Hardy,” she says, clearly enunciating his name. She moves to Alec’s side, putting one hand on his shoulder and the other on his forearm where he’s rolled up his sleeve, “he’s from the Broadchurch police, he’s been a... a good friend to me these past few days.”

“A copper? Human or…?”

Now that, Alec reacts to.

“Of course! Where d’you find that idiot?”

“It’s Mickey, he’s one of my best mates,” Rose snaps, “he works with me.”

At a lost on how to navigate such a situation, Alec falls back on good manners.

“Nice to meet you, Ricky.”

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me! It’s Mickey.”

“Like the mouse? Mickey,” he tries out the name, “naw. What’s your last name?”

“Smith.”

“That won’t do,” Alec shakes his head.

 

An awkward silence settles in until they hear someone shouting her name. They turn around and see John running towards them, looking alarmed. He quickly reaches them and, between two gasps of breath, he explains that every member of U.N.I.T. is looking all over for Rose. Mickey’s mouth opens and closes several times as his eyes go from Alec to John and back.

“And who the hell are you?”

“Mickey, this is John Smith, he works for the police too and he’s helped me out quite a lot.”

 

John is bending over, hands on knees, still trying to catch his breath. He nods in Mickey’s direction. Rose puts her fingers across her lips and gives Mickey a pleading look, hoping he will shut up about the resemblance.

“What do they want?” Alec asks John.

“An emergency Rose is supposed to know about. What’s happening?”

“You’re working for U.N.I.T.?” Mickey asks, voice filled with disapproval.

“Sor’ of.”

She ties her hair up in a ponytail both because of the strong wind blowing it in all directions and to avoid the three men’s questioning eyes on her. As she tries to come up with a good explanation, a strange, high-pitched sound diverts their attention. It’s a dolphin like noise that strikes terror in Rose.

Chapter Text

As she tries to come up with a good explanation, a strange, high-pitched sound diverts their attention. It’s a dolphin like noise that strikes terror in Rose.

 

The four of them turn around simultaneously and find two aliens standing in the waves, their purple skin and black skin-tight suits glistening with water in the last rays of the sun. The sound they produce intensifies, turning into a deafening, outlandish screech. 

 

Alec shifts closer to Rose and she takes his hand.

“Ok, I believe you now.”

“Fantastic,” John murmurs, eyes like saucers.

 

The creatures twist their bodies into an unnatural position, a sort of crouch with their hands up like claws. The group immediately spins around, ready to run away only to have two more aliens land right in front of them, having jumped from the top of the cliff.

 

Surrounded, Rose pulls her bracelet out of her pocket to use the laser ray but two sodden arms wrap around her, trapping her upper limbs. She kicks her head back to hit its nose but the alien is smaller than her and she only hits air. Her body is whirled around into the sea. Salty water fills her mouth and nose. She twists to dislodge herself but the vice-like grip tightens and the bracelet slips from her fingers. She jerks her legs but only hits sand at the bottom of the sea. The alien’s body is heavy over hers. She sinks deeper. The last of her oxygen leaves her lungs.

 

She doesn’t realize she’s free from the grip until she’s pulled out of the water by her ponytail. Arms close around her and she fights back weakly, still dizzy and gasping for air. “Rose!” It’s Alec. He drags her out of the water and lays her down on the sand. In the waves, she sees John fighting with a Callufraxian. The alien is smaller but quick. After a few punches through the air, John successfully jabs it straight in the chest, a painful crack and the creature bends over, howling in pain. Running out of the water, he shouts at Mickey to aim for the sternum.

 

Another creature emerges from the sea, jumping high and landing right next to John. Alec runs to his rescue. Rose tries to get up but wavers and falls back, her body too weak, still recovering from almost drowning.

 

She hears footsteps in the sand and a purple being appears above her, all teeth. It kicks her in the stomach and she rolls on her side in a foetal position. The alien straddles her, crushing her with its weight. She starts panicking, looking around her for help, she spots a pointy rock but it’s slightly out of reach. She extends her hand as the Callufraxian’s fingers wrap around her throat. She feels the rock right under her fingertips, with the last of her energy, she jerks her legs, destabilizing the alien and allowing her to reach the makeshift weapon. She whirls it around and punches the alien straight in the chest. Green blood spurts out of the wound and coats Rose’s hand. Her eyes meet the creature’s large ones, they’re filled with fear. “I’m sorry.” It wails, a prolonged, mournful cry.

 

A bullet cracks its skull and it collapses over her.

 

Private Jenkins appears above her. She hadn’t even realized that U.N.I.T. had arrived. He pushes the corpse off her.

“You alright?” he asks.

She hears more gun shots and looks up just in time to see the last Callufraxian falling to the ground.

 

John is at her side in an instant, he’s high on adrenaline, hyper alert, nervous. She gives him a quick hug and feels him shiver and twitch under his soaked jumper. Her cold fingers running along his skin, she inspects his face.

“I’m fine,” he snaps, pushing her hands away.

Satisfied, she scans the beach, searching for the other men. In the twilight, it’s hard to tell the silhouettes apart. She recognizes Mickey, lying on the sand, motionless, a few meters away. Hardy is squatting beside him, checking his pulse.

“No, please, not Mickey.”

She tries to get up too fast and falters when she feels a blistering pain in her side. John helps her and holds her up, one arm under her shoulders, and they stagger across the sand.

 

Rose’s stomach twists in a knot when she sees that Mickey’s eyes are closed and that there’s a deep, bloody scratch on his cheek. But the rise and fall of his chest gives her some hope and the circles John rubs on her back bring her a little comfort.

“He’s unconscious but he’s alive.”

She sighs in relief. A soldier with a first aid kit settles next to Mickey as Rose kneels on the sand and takes his hand. Alec’s hair drips on her shoulder when he rests his forehead on her temple, his breath cold on her neck. She takes his hand too, icy fingers twining with hers.

“Are you hurt?” he asks her, before bringing their joined hands to his mouth, kissing the sandy knuckles.

She nods but doesn’t give him more details, her focus is on Mickey.

 

The eight U.N.I.T. soldiers gather around them, patting each other on the back and laughing. Rose feels rage building inside her, like lava erupting in her chest and throat.

“What are you cheering about? They’re all dead!” her voice breaks, “We didn’t even give ‘em a chance.”

They look down at her, dumbfounded and embarrassed.

“We won, how ‘bout that. Now go away,” John says his voice is low but commanding.

Properly chastised, they all leave except for the medic who is attending Mickey’s wound.

 

Rose feels her friend’s hand move in hers and she immediately looks down at his face, he opens one eye then the other.

“Mickey?”

“I’m fine,” his voice is coarse, “I’ve been through worse.”

“I know, I was there.”

He smiles weakly and squeezes her hand back. With the help of the medic, he manages to sit up.

 

The sickening smell of the quickly decomposing alien bodies rises in the air, carried by the salty breeze.

“Let’s get out of here,” Alec says.

 

They lean on each other for support as they walk unsteadily across the beach. They follow Hardy to his car without asking questions. None of them want to be alone right now. A suffocating silence fills the vehicle, a silence heavy with hurt and grief and disbelief.

 

When they arrive at his house, Alec fetches towels and a change of clothes – t-shits and sweatpants – for Mickey and John. He shows them the first floor bathroom and pulls the phonebook out of a cupboard in case they want to order something to eat. His host duties fulfilled, he takes Rose’s hand and guides her upstairs. She knows Mickey is glaring without even looking at him but she couldn’t care less right now.

 

Alec and Rose remove their drenched clothes, piling them in a corner of the room, and step inside the bathtub. Rose goes under the hot water first while Alec pulls the shower curtain. She stares at the green blood disappearing down the drain, hypnotized by the swirling motion. She startles when Alec puts his arms around her waist from behind, a reminder of the earlier attack.

“Shhhh,” he whispers against her neck.

She turns around in his arms and lays her head on his chest, only steam separates their shivering skins. He’s stiff, muscles still wired up. Her fingers massage his tense back and he seems to relax.

 

“How are you?”

She’s not sure he heard her until he finally answers: “I’ll be fine.”

“It’s not what I asked,” she points out.

“It’s a lot to take in… I don’t think I like it,” he admits, “If that’s your life…”

He holds her closer, protectively, one hand on the back of her head. She melts in the shelter of his body. The stress finally withdraws from her limbs, leaving her feeling utterly drained.

“It’s not always like that, you know, I’ve seen so many extraordinary things,” she replies, but her heart is not really into it.

“Not as extraordinary as you, I’m sure,” he kisses the top of her head.

“Shu’ up,” Rose says with a chuckle.

 

He steps away and tilts her head up with a finger under her chin. He studies her, her beauty and her battle scars. She’s new to him now that he knows the truth; it doesn’t make him want her any less.

“How long can you live like that, though? If you go back…” he can’t finish the sentence.

Her eyes slide away and she bites her upper lip. Of course, he figured out she might have to leave. She closes her eyes, there’s too much to say about that and none of it will make them feel any better.

 

She feels his lips, butterfly kisses, on her eyelids, her nose, her cheeks, her mouth. She kisses back, slowly at first, up on her tip toes but soon she’s wrapping her arms around his neck, one hand in his hair. She feels the slippery tiles against her back as he presses his body into hers. Dopamine floods her brain, erasing any physical pain from her injuries.

 

The kiss grows hungry, daring tongues and greedy teeth. Their damp, warm skins slide against one another, his chest hair tickling her breasts and his growing hardness rubbing into the softness of her belly. Heat pools between her legs as she slides her hands down his torso. One hand goes to his buttocks, nails digging, urging him on and the other wraps around him, strokes him. He makes a strangled noise, bucks his pelvis but stops himself. He takes a deep breath, steps away, his glazed over eyes roaming her face. Gently, softly, he brushes her hair off her forehead and behind her ear.

“Don’t be sweet,” she pleads.

 

In a split second, he’s flinging her over his shoulder and dropping her on the bed, soaking the covers. He spreads her legs and positions himself. His member slides between her wet folds and she arches her back with a deep, throaty moan. He bends over her, still not in her, just sliding back and forth, creating a pleasurable yet lackluster friction. She crosses her ankles behind his back, trying to bring him closer.

“Alec,” she whimpers almost begging.

He grips her hips, pinning her to the bed. His tongue darts out to collect droplets on the underside of her breast, circle her nipple and then his teeth are pulling and it hurts so good.

 

Finally, he nudges her entrance, waiting for one more desperate moan, before pushing in roughly. He grunts and she sees stars she thought she’d never see again. His beard scratches her skin as he nibbles along her jaw and down her neck. She meets his every thrust, rolling her hips, making wet slapping noises echo in the bedroom.

 

As their rhythm increases, his fingers close around her breast, kneading, crushing, leaving bruises. She’s too far gone to care, frustratingly close, teetering on the edge. Her heart soars with every blissful push in and she clings more to him with every distressing pull out. She loves and hates him all at once. Their eyes meet, their hands find each other and their fingers intertwine. Her orgasm wracks her body, shaking her to her core and he follows, shouting through his release.

 

Breathing heavily, he slops down on her, his pacemaker working overtime. She nuzzles the spot where shoulder meets neck, breathing him in, trying to commit his scent to her memory.

 

“I can keep you safe,” and that’s as close to begging her as he will go.

“You can’t, not from The Darkness coming.”

“We could watch the apocalypse together.”

Chapter Text

You know that feeling when you’re falling asleep and you’re aware of it, when you feel wonderfully heavy and slowly going under. Rose loves that feeling but not today, every time she starts drifting off, sinking, she jerks awake, gasping for air. After the day’s events she’s exhausted, physically and emotionally drained, and yet she’s restless. She stayed curled up in Alec’s side for some time, focusing on the ebb and flow of his breath and his heartbeat against her cheek. Even in his sleep, his arms stay firmly around her. She disentangles herself gently and slips out of the rumpled sheets.

 

Mickey is lying on the couch, wide awake, when Rose comes down the stairs. They all slept at Alec’s house, John in the guest bedroom that was optimistically set up for Julia. They had retired almost right after taking showers, too exhausted to do anything else.

 

“D’you wanna go before they wake up?” Mickey whispers when he sees her standing in the doorway.

“You can take me back?”

They hadn’t really taken anytime to discuss his presence in this dimension. She expected it of course but hearing him say it is a different thing altogether. It’s real.

“That’s what I’m here for.”

“I... I don’t know.”

She sits down next to him, stealing a corner of his blanket to cover her bare legs. Her mind feels groggy, a result of the lack of sleep

“What d’you mean, you don’t know?” he sits up abruptly, “Jackie’s real worried about you. You already abandoned her once for the Doctor and you’d do it again for someone who just looks like him?” he keeps his voice low but she can hear a sliver of anger and frustration in it.

 “’course not! S’just... You don’t know what it was like, Mickey. I was stuck in this universe for months. I worked for that circus, yeah? The Bad Wolf circus, that’s gotta be a sign, but after a while it wasn’t enough to give me hope and there was the Callufraxian I had killed and I was really desperate and then I met them... I just, I had a purpose again... and I know they’re not him but they’re good men.”

“Yeah but did you have to sleep with him? That’s just fucked up, Rose.”

She feels a Tyler slap coming but refrains from executing it, throwing a cushion at him instead. Count on Mickey to tell it like it is. After all, he’s not completely wrong.

 

He begrudgingly apologizes, mindful of her feelings but standing by his opinion. He tries a different approach, explaining that things got worse while she was gone. The Torchwood team detected a major disruption, they think that a whole new dimension was created right after she jumped. Rose sighs deeply and tosses her head back. She knows what she has to do and she wants to do it, she really does, but it comes with a price. She’s starting to understand how the Doctor must feel.

“I know you’ll do the right thing,” Mickey says.

 

The sound of the back door squeaking on its hinges interrupts their conversation. Curious and slightly apprehensive, Rose gets up and walks silently along the wall until she reaches the kitchen. Through the window above the sink, she sees John standing in the backyard.

 

His eyes are closed, his face turned skyward. His Roman traits are highlighted by the moonlight and Alec’s Scottish Police College t-shirt is stretched across his larger torso. He’s breathing heavily, deeply, slow inspirations and expirations, in and out like waves. When the wooden step creaks under her feet, John startles and instantly turns towards her. “Sorry.” They sit down, shoulder to shoulder in the stairs, her small hands covering his shaky ones. A warm breeze blows across the field behind the house, pushing the clouds away and enveloping them with the smell of dewy grass.

 

“What’s going on?” she asks after a while.

“Nightmares, ‘cause of the fight this evening I guess.”

That would be her fault. She made him worse, not better. Not on purpose of course, but she did drag him into this whole mess with U.N.I.T. and the Callufraxians. Seeing her dejected face, he quickly dispels her worry.

“It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to me in years. Not that I’m happy they died, that’s just terrible, human or not. But it’s like my life was... on hold. And now this, it’s incredible.”

The phrase joie de vivre comes to her mind as she looks at his beaming face. She feels only partially relieved, still worried about him.

“I wish I knew everything you know,” he adds.

She smiles faintly, she doesn’t have the heart to explain to him the pros and cons of such knowledge. A blessing and a burden.

 

In the little time they have before the break of day she tells him of impossible planets on the edge of black holes and exotic worlds in the heart of nebulas. She tells him about beaches of amethyst dust with tall frozen waves and tangerine trees with marmalade skies. And through it all she tells him about an outstanding man who taught her everything she knows. She doesn’t say much about him, doesn’t have to, he can see it, as clear as day, her love for that Doctor seeping through her words, her whole face radiating. And the smile disappearing when he asks where he is.

 “I hope you find him,” John says sincerely.

He then looks up at the firmament, eyes scrutinizing the darkness before adding:

“Mickey said the stars were disappearing because the whole of reality is collapsing... I can’t even find the Bad Wolf constellation anymore.”

 

And that’s when she knows that it really is time to go back.

 

In the distance, the first rays of the sun breach the night, the horizon line turning orange and the inky sky fading to blue. The earliest seagulls wake up, disturbing the quietness of the night with their noises. John and Rose stand up in an unplanned yet synchronised motion. She stretches her arms above her head with a yawn and John takes the opportunity to engulf her in a hug. She hugs him back tightly; it may really be the last time she’ll be in her first Doctor’s arms. She laughs too, feeling as though everything will be alright after all.

 

“Can you smell coffee?” she asks when he puts her back down.

Alec comes out on the patio with two mugs. John refuses the one he’s handing him and sneaks back inside, giving them some privacy.

 

She cradles the warm cup in her hands and breathes in the bitter aroma. She looks at him through the steam rising, his adorable bed head and his old Joe Strummer t-shirt, the rising sun casting an orange glow on his face, turning his eyes amber. Every time he puts his cup back down on the patio railing after a sip, she thinks he’s going to say something, his gaze going back and forth between her and the skyline.

“So that’s it, then?” he finally says, his now familiar Scottish accent particularly thick in the morning, “When I woke up and you weren’t there, I thought... never mind.”

“I wouldn’t do that to you,” Rose retorts.

He looks at her, his raised eyebrow suggesting skepticism.

“Why d’you get involved with me when you knew you’d have to lie and leave?”

Rose flinches at the accusation. He screws up his face when he realizes the abrasiveness of his words.

“Argh, bollocks, sorry, it’s not... I can’t do this, I mean, I’m glad that you did, you know, with me.”

Pushing her away in a misguided attempt at making the farewells easier, that’s just like him. Anger, he can deal with, it’s familiar, safe, closer to his guts than his heart.

“A friend once told me that some things are worth getting your heart broken for,” Rose says quietly, remembering Sarah Jane’s words.

 

Alec’s shoulders drop and he stares at her and finally he nods, agreeing with her. He steps forward to take her in his arms. He holds her close, clumsily balancing his coffee cup on her hip and one hand on her hair, she feels his warm breath on the crown of her head.

“I’d do it all over again,” he whispers.

And it gives her hope. Hope that he can see some good in this situation, hope that he’ll risk getting his heart broken again. She wants to tell him not to be afraid to let people in and stop hiding behind that rude attitude and just get out there because he’s brilliant and kind and people would be lucky to really get to know him. But she doesn’t. Even when you know it’s the last time you’re ever going to see a person, you still hold back. Not that he would take kindly to being told what to do. He’s smart, he’ll figure it out. What she does do, is tell him she likes him, just the way he is, after he asks if she’ll look for him in her dimension “’cause maybe that version of me is less of a knobhead, I bet you’d like him a lot”.

 

Deep down, even if he’ll never admit it out loud, he believes that under different circumstances, she could’ve been the love of the rest of his life. Except there were lies and aliens and parallel universes and he’s never believed in bloody happy endings. But a good life with little joyful moments like listening to a good album on a rainy day or making love in the morning or talking nonsense over tea, that he can believe in. And that, he wants. He got a glimpse of that life and maybe his Rose Tyler, one that he doesn’t have to share with a billion galaxies, his very own Rose Tyler is somewhere out there. Not that he believes in bloody soul mates.

 

In the end, you always feel like there’s never enough time to say goodbye and too many things are left unsaid. “I really appreciate everything you did for me,” seems too polite, rehearsed, cliché. And she hates the fake smile she puts on when she exchanges email addresses and phone numbers with Zeena, Mariam and other friends from the circus. She wants to explain why she won’t answer.

“Just know that if I don’t call it will be because I can’t and not because I don’t care about you.”

She’ll save their lives and they’ll never know it.

 

So here they are now, John, Alec, Rose and Mickey, standing in the wood behind the circus. It’s completely silent, no wind ruffling the leaves or sparrows whistling, even the rain seems to avoid them, like it knows something unnatural is about to happen.

 

Rose takes the second vortex manipulator Mickey brought with him and she looks at the two men standing a safe distance from her for one last time. Alec, one hand rubbing up and down his left arm, biting the inside of his cheeks, staring at her with sorrowful eyes. John, shifting on his feet, wavering between the excitement of what he’s about to witness and the sadness to see her go. She smiles her tears.

“Goodbye.”

 

Then it feels like her heart is being pulled out of her chest.

 

Jackie is waiting for her and Rose runs right into her comforting arms.

Chapter Text

“Isn’t your daughter with you?” John asks Alec once they’ve sat down in a booth with a couple of pints.

“She’s at a concert with her cousin. Some boy band...” Alec replies with a grimace.

 He removes his jacket and takes a few sips before inquiring about John’s new job. They’d gotten to know each other quite well in the months after Rose had left, keeping in touch even after John had moved to London. As antagonistic as they had been at first, they were now proper mates.

 “It’s brilliant, I love it. I’m going to Patagonia next month,” he says, eyes bright, not as sunken as they used to be.

“What for?”

“An archeological dig in the Andes, we think a spaceship may have crashed there 5000 years ago. Fascinating stuff.”

“Good, good. To tell you the truth, I didn’t think you’d like it. It’s a bit like the army, no?”

“Not all of it, there’s a whole scientific division to U.N.I.T. that’s a lot less about ranks and guns,” with a barely suppressed smile, John adds, “My wife’s coming with me, to Patagonia,”

“She’s your wife again, eh?"

"Well, we're trying, we'll see."

He gulps the rest of his lager and wipes his mouth with the back of his hands before digging in the basket of chips.

"So, that temp you were seeing...”

John laughs.

“Donna? Nah, one date and we knew we were better off as friends. She might come by later, I’ll introduce you if you want, she’s the funniest woman I’ve ever met.”

Alec shrugs and both men direct their attention to the rugby match playing on the overhead TV.  The increasingly loud cheering of the pub clients makes any further conversation almost impossible.

 

“So what really brings you to London,” John asks during a commercial break.

“S’like I told you, father-daughter weekend in the capital,” Alec replies.

He averts John’s inquisitive glare by rolling up the sleeves of his green oxford.

“Ok, I just thought maybe you’d found her.”

 

Alec looks down at his now empty pint, he makes the glass swivel between his hands, his ever tousled hair partially hiding his eyes. Who is he ever going to talk to about that if not to Smith?

“I may have found her...” John perks up instantly, leaning forward on his elbows, “I traced the mother of the Tyler woman who was killed in the estate fire and when I called, her grand-daughter picked up. Iris Tyler, she’s called.”

 

It had taken him many weeks to begin his search for Rose in this dimension. At first, he refused to even contemplate the possibility, he just wanted to put it all behind him but it was always there, at the back of his mind, a nagging “what if?”. Except it started as “What if she’s a terrible person?”, “What if she’s married?” but eventually it became “What if it works out?”, “What if we could be happy?”.

 

He hadn’t recognized her right away on the phone, her manner of speech being different. A result of been raised in Hillingdon by her grand-parents rather than on a council estate in Peckham, as he'd found out later. He had looked her up immediately after hanging up and he’d managed to find a picture. She looked about the same age as Rose, same plump lips and doe eyes, but her hair was light brown and her face rounder.

“She works for some institute in Canary Wharf,” Alec adds, he hadn’t been able to find any information on that organization.

“What, Torchwood? Can’t stay out of trouble, that one,” John says, laughing.

“How d’you mean?”

“They’re in the same field of research as U.N.I.T. except they’re all about the British Empire,” he says, pronouncing the last words with a mock posh accent. “You won’t believe this: You know how Queen Victoria was assassinated, right? Well, it’s not what they taught us in school...”

 

He tells Hardy about the Lupine Wavelength Haemovariform and Sir Robert MacLeish inviting experts at his manor in Scotland to continue his father’s work. John had learned all that after working with one of Torchwood’s R&D employee last week. Unsurprisingly, Alec looks skeptical but then he starts thinking and a hint of a smile appears on his lips.

 

“Would she know about parallel worlds, then?”

“Maybe, depends on her job I guess.”

 

It had taken Alec a while to work up the courage to come to London after finding Iris. One of the things stopping him was that he didn’t want to introduce himself under a false pretense, he didn’t want to lie or deceive her. As noble as it may seem, it was also a self handicapping strategy to protect himself. But this new information changes everything. The odds that this mad quest will not end up in a complete disaster are looking better and better.

 

“You know, I asked Mace and Magambo, and they say Rose succeeded, she saved us,” in more ways than one, John adds mentally.

Alec smiles, he’d figured as much, given that they were still alive, but it was nice to have a confirmation from someone on the inside.

“I’m glad...  I hope she found what she was looking for.”

 

She did. Just not the way she expected it.

 

The smell of the Tardis clings to his blue suit, something organic with a hint of rust that makes her rib cage feel too small for her expanding heart. His lips are exactly the same but the kiss is different. A kiss like no other, a promise of forever, his arms encircling her tightly, his fingers almost reaching her ribs, his single heart beating against her chest. He’s not holding back, the way he didn’t hold back when he said “I love you”. And she grasps him, clutches at him like she’s afraid he might not be real. But he is and he’s free and so is she. She forgets all about the wind and the cold and her mother watching, she kisses him desperately, deeply, lovingly.

 

She can love him, in a way she already does. She knows that a part human version of him is not a consolation price and that he’s not a lesser being than the Time Lord. She’ll love every gravity-defying gray hair on his head and every wrinkle on his boyish face.

 

A life on Earth, together, her head swims with all the possibilities. Possibilities she hadn’t dared think about before except during her short time with Alec. A hand to hold through the ups and downs of daily life. And he holds hers while the Tardis dematerializes. And she knows he’s going to stay by her side no matter what.

 

That night, they find a secluded spot on the bank of the Sognfjord. They sit down on the gravel, cuddling under a thick wool blanket. In front of them, a majestic landscape of mountains so high, clouds hide their peaks and a sky studded with stars once again. The green and purple glow of the Northern lights dances above their heads and illuminates their smiling faces.

 

“900 years and I’ve never seen an aurora borealis,” he says, “I still have so much to discover.”

“A new new life.”

 

And they kiss again, frozen nose tips pressing against each other and cold fingers slipping under jackets and they never want to stop.

 

After what she went through, she feels like she understands him a little bit better and now that he’s part human, well, they’re not just the stuff of legends, they’re the stuff of fairy tales too.

 

Getting separated was a fixed point in time. The Doctor saw it and Rose as the Bad Wolf saw it. The metacrisis Doctor is a fixed point in time. The Doctor knows it and the Bad Wolf knew it. How Rose would react was impossible to predict but some things could be done to make it easier. The Doctor does it and the Bad Wolf did it.