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i'll take your part when darkness comes

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Rose jumps.

 

Sometimes she sees people, or places, or events that she knows - “ You don’t know a party until you’ve seen the Ymertle festival for the first rising of their sun in three years, Rose!” - but she never finds the one thing - personplaceevent sign - that she’s looking for.

 

Day after day, month after month, as the stars in the sky wink out on by one. It didn’t take them very long to find the right universe using the clothes that they’d been wearing that day , but even a single one is vast, and they’re only looking for one man.

 

It’s like the universe is taunting her. You’re running out of time. You’re never going to find him . You are a child who can’t do anything to save herself or those she loves.

 

Never let it be said that she listens to criticism.

 

She keeps jumping.

 

-

 

“Is there anyone else, who does what you do?” she asks him one afternoon. They’ve been having a lazy day in, watching telly and talking in the console room as he tinkers and reading their books seated next to each other in the library, most recently.

 

He sits up from his near-horizontal slouch. “What’dyou mean?” he asks, his mouth full of popcorn. He makes a face, chews exaggeratedly for a moment, and then swallows big and loud. Rose brings a hand up to cover her smile.

 

“I mean, the travelling. Are you the only person who does this?”

 

“Hmmm...” he says, tapping his lips and frowning. “I’m sure I’ve encountered... Well, I’m sure there is. Give me a moment.”

 

“You can’t remember, can you!” she exclaims, smiling wide and glad, so very glad to be here with him. “You can’t remember if you’ve run into anyone like you!”

 

“Now, that’s not fair-” he says, wagging a finger at her. “There are plenty of people that I’ve encountered over the years. There was this one woman- blonde, I think, her hair just like yours but short. She knew who I was before I introduced myself - told the woman next to her that I was the Doctor and to note the fact that I was in fact taller than both of them. I don’t know, I think it was for a bet.”

 

“You’re making that up!” Rose says, picking up a stray kernel and throwing it at him lightly, still smiling. “Tell me about someone who’s true!”

 

“Why, Rose Tyler, are you accusing me of telling tales?”

 

“‘M not accusing you of anything you don’t do already,” she says. “Now tell me a true tale.”

 

“I’ll have you know, that woman was completely true, and so was her friend Yasmin. Don’t quite remember her name, but the fact remains. Now, as for others... There were others, from my species, who travelled with me or did what I did even if they refused to be in the same room with me.”

 

“Oh,” says Rose, her smile disappearing rapidly, folding in on itself as she worries her lip. “I’m-”

 

“No, no, it’s quite alright,” he says, waving his free hand at her. His other is currently engaged in holding his book, a rather beaten-up copy of Pride and Prejudice. “You know, when I’m with you, it doesn’t make me as sad.”

 

“That so?” she asks, tilting up an eyebrow as she deems it not-touchy enough to tease him about. “Well, I’m flattered.”

 

“You should be!” he says, grinning at her, the wild mop of marvelous hair on his head almost sticking straight up. “Having the company of the Last of the Time Lords, that’s something to be proud of!”

 

“Shut up, you!” she says, picking up a handful of popcorn and hurling at him as she leans forward.

 

-

 

She meets the blonde woman for herself, one day. It’s her third jump in a row - Mickey and Pete and Jackie all hate it when she does them in sequence, but they’re running out of time and they don’t have time for unnecessary precautions or precautions in general - and she’s tired enough that she has to rub her eyes and make sure that she’s really seeing the sight in front of her.

 

“The famed Singing Towers of Darillium,” proclaims a guide a few meters away from her, to his motley group of assorted beings. He’d told her about them several times, said it was on his list of places he was saving for a special occasion.

 

(In the dark of night, when her body is exhausted but her mind is still racing, she wonders - what did he mean by a special occasion. What was he waiting for? What did he want- )

 

As she’s staring up in awe at the beauty of the deep brown towers against a slightly yellow sky, she hears a voice that stands out against the ethereal singing and noise of the crowds. The only reason why she could tell what the guide was saying was that he’d taught her the actual name for the Towers, in the original dialect and everything, just like he had with so much else. It’s kind of cheating, to use a Time Lord’s translation circuit, he’d said, tugging on his earlobe the way he did when he was afraid to tell her something. It’s good to learn what it’s really called!

 

But this voice catches her attention because the speaker is definitely English, just like her. As she freezes in a desperate attempt to hear what he’s saying, she catches nothing more than “Yasmin said she would catch up, and that wife of yours will keep her company, anyway! Come on, I want to go!”

 

She spins wildly, trying to find the speaker, and- there! He’s a black man - probably human, based on his accent, and gesturing at the Towers while speaking to someone she can’t quite see. She almost starts towards them, but stops.

 

The man is joined by a blonde woman - the blonde woman, smiling and nodding along with whatever he’s saying. She looks human, too, and for all that Rose knows she’s a companion and he’s the Doctor, from sometime before or even after her. But- she doesn’t want to rush up to just anyone-

 

She remembers the conversation that she had with the Doctor, so long ago. She hesitates. He’s not here with the Doctor, probably, especially after mentioning the famed Yasmin .

 

“Have you ever been here before?” he asks, gazing at the Towers with an inspired glint in his eyes. “God, I’d love to sit here forever. Earth doesn’t have anything like this!”

 

“You’d do them justice with that camera of yours, I think,” she replies, hopping forwards slightly. “And no, I haven’t been here before. I was planning to- we were going to come, a long time ago, but- but it- it didn’t happen. And then we never really remembered to, once everything was fixed. But my niece has been here before - highly recommended the scallops, in fact. Want to grab a quick bite?”

 

“Sure!” says the man, and they turn away from the Towers. Rose is so busy adjusting - this is the blonde woman, most likely, and this man is certainly human, from the way he’s talking - that she doesn’t realize that they’re headed directly towards her until they almost crash into her. The man apologizes hastily and then keeps walking, too absorbed in his surroundings to really worry about her. But the woman-

 

The woman stops stock-still right in front of her, staring at her face for several long moments. She glances quickly down, taking note of Rose’s leather jacket - it is what one wears after losing a home, after all - and her short hair. She swallows, and Rose notices that her skin is bright pale, standing out against her blue shirt with stripes on it and long blue coat.

 

“You- you know who I am?” she asks. The woman nods slowly, apparently unwilling to say anything. Rose sighs. She has been searching for so long, and she is so tired . “Can you help me find him?”

 

The woman opens her mouth, holds up a finger, and closes it again. Sighs. Looks down at her again, sadness in her eyes. “I can’t. I’m sorry, I just- I can’t help you. It has to- it- No. I’m not going through this again.”

 

“Why not?” asks Rose, because she can’t let this chance go now . The woman doesn’t answer, just brushes past her and keeps walking. “Wait!” she calls, hurrying to follow her, but she’s disappeared into the crowd and the cannon is beeping, anyway. She sighs, slowing to a stop, and looks down, considering calling it quits for today. She’s exhausted, after all, and the woman is definitely not going to talk to her. It’s either waiting here for another twenty minutes or just leaving now. She makes her decision quickly and hits the return button.

 

Guess he wasn’t lying, she thinks, and feels the fade start to kick in as she’s pulled back through dimensions. I hope I get to tell him that he was right.

 

-

 

After the mess with the fireplaces and Madame du Pompadour, Rose- Rose elects to avoid the both of them for a few hours.

 

It’s for everyone’s good, really. If she sees either Mickey or the Doctor right now, she’s going to- she’s going to say something she’ll regret, and she doesn’t want to mess anything else up with either of them. So she’s just... removing herself from a dangerous situation.

 

Yes.

 

That’s what she’s doing.

 

Regardless of her motivations, she finds herself deep in the wardrobe room, thankfully far away from any kind of French clothing. Instead, she’s surrounded by various items of weird clothing, including - but not limited to - a waistcoat covered in question marks, a jacket with celery pinned to the front, and a multicolored scarf that’s got to be at least three meters long.

 

She’s not really sure what’s in this section, but something tells her to keep going. Sure enough, at the end of this row is hanging the one thing she really, really needs to see right now - the jacket. The jacket, the leather one that he wore when he was all big-ears and blue-eyes and sadness - the first him that she loved.

 

She takes the jacket off of its hanger and slides down to the ground, pulling the jacket up to her nose and breathing in the still-there smell of him.

 

This him that would never leave her anywhere.

 

“There isn’t anywhere I want you stranded,” is what he said when they were investigating a time window that led to pre-Revolutionary Russia, and now that she thinks about it, the similarities between that adventure and the rather awful one they just finished up with are rather numerous, aren’t they?

 

Except he told her what he was planning before he did it, and he even gave her a- a ribbon of some kind, that took her back to the TARDIS as soon as she needed it. This him, this time, did nothing of the sort.

 

Ah, he’s just being daft, she can hear him saying in her mind’s eye. His eyes are wide and his head is bobbing, the way that he always used to speak to her, like it was his favorite thing to do in the world. You know how daft I can be.

 

Yes, but you were never this bad, she thinks back, and then tries not to laugh at herself as she thinks about where is she is. Sitting on the ground, sniffing a jacket, and having an argument with the imaginary version of a man who’s long gone.

 

‘M not gone, Rose , he says, quietly, almost like he’s sitting next to her and rubbing her arm reassuringly. You know he would have moved heaven and earth if you had been in any kind of danger. You know he was going to come back for you.

 

I didn’t, though! she thinks, and he smiles, kind of sadly. Well, that needs to be fixed. Rose Tyler - and even imagining his voice saying her name is enough to bring tears to her eyes - I will always come for you. Wherever you are, however daft I’m being, whatever kind of jeopardy-friendly thing you’ve done, know that I will never leave you behind.

 

At some point, his voice has morphed, and now he sounds like her current Doctor - all Estuary, just like her own accent. She’s never dared to think what that might mean, how much he’s had off her in making himself, but she at least is sure that he still feels the same way that the last him did.

 

The last vestige of hurt softens in her heart, and she gets up, hanging the jacket up again for the next time someone will need it. Then she goes to her room, to get some sleep - because the hurt isn’t gone yet, and she still wants to be alone. But it’s better now, because she’s somehow sure now that he cares about her.

 

The how, though, she’s not quite sure about. But she’s tired, and it can wait another day.

 

-

 

She spends so much time thinking about their time together that she sometimes realizes things that he probably never intended for her to figure out. For example, she really doesn’t remember very much of what happened on the Game Station. Or that the TARDIS was more telepathic than she ever realized, and that so was he.

 

That the “imaginary” conversation that she had with him after the France incident? Was probably Her being meddling and showing her how he was really feeling in that moment.

 

It explains why everything he did for the weeks following fit exactly with what he said in her head, she realizes in the middle of a jump to some kind of beach planet in the middle of a twin-sun galaxy.

 

The realization makes her pause, and she doesn’t check her surroundings as soon as she should’ve.

 

This immediately results in her arrest, because apparently blonde hair is illegal in this part of the planet. Of course , all of her effects are confiscated, including the canon and her jacket - which she hunted through parallel-London for days to find - the first time she’d really done anything, after the Bay. She isn’t about to abandon it anywhere, and of course, the canon is programmed to automatically return to Pete’s World after thirty minutes. So she has to get to it before her ride leaves her behind.

 

It’s not really that difficult to break out and steal it back, though. And in the process, she discovers a planet-wide corruption scheme with a side of trafficking innocent beings. All in all, not an awful day - and everyone lives, which not even the Doctor can claim to have the best track record with. She turns everyone into the proper authorities and resets the timer on the canon, which she’d turned off as soon as she caught word that something was up. “You take a stand ,” she remembers telling her mother, as she dusts off and dons her jacket again.

 

It’s remarkably similar to what her life with the Doctor was like, how they would turn up in a random place and be exactly what those people needed at that exact moment. She’d asked him about it, once, about how there was no way anyone - even him - is that lucky.

 

“Oh, well, the TARDIS is an eleventh-dimensional being, Rose,” he’d said, pulling on his left earlobe. “She can see all that’s happened and all that will happen. Is it any surprise that she meddles and takes us places where she thinks we’ll be useful?”

 

“I guess not,” she’d responded, shrugging.

 

So their destinations hadn’t been as random as she’d previously thought. But where she goes, when she’s dimension-hopping with the canon, is completely random, because they can’t really be more precise than ‘this certain dimension.’ Time period, location - all are so off because of the having-to-go-through-the-void-first that it’s impossible to know where she’s headed.

 

Except this isn’t the first time that she’s been placed right-smack in the middle of some kind of revolution.

 

(It’s been happening with alarming frequency, actually, considering that they really don’t have any time to waste with saving people that the Doctor could probably save with much better efficiency.)

 

The coordinates are completely random, though. There’s no way that they could be anything but. She designed the algorithm herself. She knows that it’s foolproof.

 

Of course, she knows that she designed it in kind of a daze, after waking up from a dream with the theory behind the algorithm fully formed. The dream had been full of gold light, distant, distorted screaming, and pain . She woke up with tears on her cheeks and on her pillow and the sense that if she just reached , she could reach, and pluck the strings of -

 

Jack. And the Doctor. Which is ridiculous, and doesn’t make any sense. But the lack-of-memories that she has, about creating the algorithm, reminds her of that period of time between ripping the TARDIS open and waking up on the floor of the ship with a regenerating Time Lord in front of her. She feels like there’s something missing there, something important that she should really be thinking about, but- but she’s too busy to be chasing dreams, despite how much she-

 

I bring life.

 

Despite how much it intrigues her. Because somehow, if there’s something influencing her jumps-

 

If the TARDIS is somehow interfering with her, even from another universe-

 

She tries not to think about it.

 

She keeps jumping.

 

-

 

She doesn’t ask the Doctor about Jack, again. She tried, of course, but he waved her off and then he was regenerating and they were crashing and she had the worst headache-

 

And then she tries one more time, one quiet evening where he’s doing repairs and she’s slouched on the jumpseat, reading some Agatha Christie. He drops his wrench as soon as the question leaves her lips, and then with a flat voice tells her that he doesn’t want to talk about it.

 

Well, that’s confirmation enough for her. He’d said before that he was “rebuilding the Earth,” but she can tell a lie when she sees one.

 

She doesn’t try to ask him about Jack again.

 

But she doesn’t forget, either. She loves Jack, of course she does, of course she still does, because everyone falls a little in love with Jack. He’s always charming and considerate and caring and he always treated everyone like they were the centre of his universe. Which they were - he orbited around people, after all, and if he got a little caught up in their personalities and forgot a little bit of his, she always pretends not to notice.

 

Or she did.

 

Because he’s gone, now, and however much she loves him isn’t going to bring him back.

 

Sometimes, there’s a glimpse- a vague memory of “I give life-”

 

He isn’t coming back.

 

She gets fed up with the silence on the Doctor’s end and the sadness on hers, and clears his stuff out of the kitchen, and the library, and the television room, and the console room. The TARDIS helps her out, moves his room close by, and the first time she walks inside, she has to stop and try to hold back tears because it smells like him . Her best friend, or one of them, at least, and the man who loved her so much that he kissed her softer than anyone ever had before and said that she was worth fighting for. She will never stop missing him, never stop loving him, but she has to move on.

 

The Doctor is an expert at that, and she needs to figure out how to.

 

So she dumps all of his crap - his coats, and books, and notebooks that she will never read, never breach his trust and his secrecy - onto his bed, which he never really slept in, and turns to walk out.

 

She stops at the doorway, though. Stops, and hesitates, and then kisses her fingertips and presses them to the doorway.

 

If I could bring you back, Jack , she thinks, and ignores the gold-gold-gold-pain in her mind, I wouldn’t hesitate. She exhales, and tastes the salt of her tears.

 

I’m so sorry.

 

She closes his door.

 

-

 

Rose’s dimension hopping gets less and less random, it seems.

 

One day, she ends up on some kind of dystopian form of Earth, arriving just in the nick of time to save a woman from being killed by some sort of- some kind of flying spheres, or something. She never catches the woman’s name, in the days that she spent with her afterwards, because she was wanted by the overlord and he’d stop at nothing to kill her. Her name is kept secret - everyone calls her Canterbury, or the Walker, or the Preacher, and pretends not to know who she really is - and every time they leave a town, word comes hours later that it’s been decimated, or at least searched thoroughly by the main man’s forces.

 

She thinks it’s a all little cliche, personally. What kind of person calls themself the Master?

 

But she’s in the right place at the right time, again , and it feels like there are ants under her skin every time she considers not doing anything, so she just does what she can and then gets the bloody hell out of there as soon as possible.

 

She keeps jumping.

 

Mickey’s worried about her, like he always has been, since they were first stuck in this bloody universe. She tends to ignore him, until his worrying gets to the point where it might hurt the mission, and then she goes to sleep for a couple of hours and eats something real, to make him feel better.

 

Her body is changing. She’s operating just as well on less and less sleep, and meals are more of a personal choice than a necessity. She’s not sure what’s going on, whether it’s the Void jumping or it has something more to do with the gold that she dreams of every night and the strings she can feel around her, like they’re tying everyone into some great tapestry that she can’t see yet.

 

She keeps jumping. She tries not to let anyone notice, but eventually Pete does, because he cares about her and she forgets to account for that. He corners her without making her feel like she’s cornered, and tells her that his door is always open to her, regardless of what it’s about.

 

Rose doesn’t want to go to him.

 

She lasts three days before she breaks down and tells him everything.

 

First he wants to go to her mum, which she vetoes immediately. Then he tries for Mickey, and she shuts that down too. They may be the only other people who have any idea of what happened that day they pulled the TARDIS open - the day that she thinks is the cause of all of this.

 

He puts his foot down on the doctor issue though, and drags her to Torchwood medical. It’s kind of the middle of the night, and Owen, everyone’s usual doctor, may be crazy but he isn’t this crazy. Instead there’s a woman manning the office who looks to be straight out of med school.

 

When they approach her, her back is turned and they can’t see her face. But when she turns around to greet them-

 

The flash of gold hits her so strong that she almost falls down. This was meant to be , it seems to whisper, curling around her bones with the comfort that she hasn’t felt since she woke up the morning her life ended. Don’t let this go to waste .

 

“Hello,” says the woman. “I’m Martha Jones, I’m the new doctor here at Torchwood. What do you need?”

 

Pete goes through a heavily redacted version of the story as Rose stares at her in shock. She met this woman, not a week ago, both of them running for their lives in what she assumed was a dystopian world that only bore a passing resemblance to Earth.

 

It’s incredibly unlikely that Canterbury - Martha - was on any kind of alien planet. She was on Earth, most likely. That was Earth. And Rose never listened to any of her stories at all, really - she was too busy trying to keep the both of them alive - but she knows that she was always talking about some man who changed her life, showed her how enormous the universe could be.

 

Either Martha had been travelling with the Doctor or some other sort of alien. And the Doctor’s the only one who really does what he does, except the blonde woman. And Martha never mentioned any blonde women.

 

She has to resist the urge to groan out loud. She was right there, with someone very likely to be her replacement, or maybe one of those people who came before her, and she had a link to the Doctor. Right there.

 

She comes back to reality - her awful, disappointing reality - as Martha begins to check her temperature and ask her questions about her current physical state, still chatting with Pete. She’s midway through a question about the new tech that’s supposed to be on the way when Rose interrupts, still feeling like she’s dreaming.

 

“What made you join Torchwood?” she asks, wincing internally, but she has to know. If this Martha’s met an alien that wasn’t the Doctor before, chances are that the other Martha was on another planet without any help from the Doctor. And that means she didn’t completely botch her mission when her goal was at her fingertips . “Have you met an alien before?”

 

Martha laughs self-consciously, threading a strand of hair that’s come loose from her braid behind her ear. “No, no, it’s nothing like that. I mean, I’m curious about them and all, but really it’s because my cousin works here, and I’d just come out of medical school with a shiny new doctorate and no one to practice on, and she said that Torchwood might be looking for a doctor who’d be willing to work the night shift. And here I am!”

 

“Oh, what’s your cousin’s name?” asks Rose, her mind still whirring. It was him, then. No doubt about it.

 

“Adeola, but I think everyone here calls her Addy,” says Martha absently, shining a light in her eyes. “Open wide.”

 

Rose obeys, and refuses to meet Pete’s eyes. The odds of her meeting parallel Martha, just after meeting not-parallel Martha, are so small that her brain refuses to even think about the numbers.

 

This can’t be a coincidence, she thinks, and hears the echo of the Doctor’s voice in her ears. “ Is it any surprise that she meddles and takes us places where she thinks we’ll be useful?”

 

I guess not , she thinks in response. But Martha could have fended for herself, even in that hell of an Earth. She was perfectly competent. She didn’t need me.

 

A message to lead myself here swirls out of the depths of her brain next. But I needed her . That seems more apt, somehow, and it sticks in her mind for the next hour or so that she spends sitting on the examination table, Pete standing in the corner and Martha taking various measurements.

 

“So, I’ve got something, and you’ve probably figured it out, Rose,” says Martha, jotting down some final notes on her clipboard. Rose startles out of her thoughts, her voice not quite working enough to say anything yet.

 

“What’s the diagnosis?” asks Pete after a minute of silence, and Martha shrugs.

 

“You’re perfectly healthy, as far as I can tell. You’re not showing any signs of distress or outer changes. It just seems like your base rates for, well, for just about everything have changed.”

 

“What does that mean?” asks Rose, her heart in her throat.

 

“We won’t know until we get the genetic testing back - that’s something you asked for, right?” She waits for their twin nods to the affirmative before continuing. She’s very young and a little unsure, Rose notices, very unlike the competent and confident Canterbury that she’d met in the other universe. Travelling with him changes people, she thinks, and looks at her hands. Sometimes literally .

 

“But what I would guess is that you’re not... you’re not quite human anymore.”

 

Pete sucks in a breath, but true to Martha’s prediction, Rose isn’t very surprised.

 

“Um- now would be when I recommend a treatment plan, but I don’t think there’s anything we can do about this,” says Martha, “unless you all are hiding some kind of genetic recoding device?”

 

That phrase sends a shot of deja-vu through Rose, even though she’s never heard of anything like that. Maybe the other Martha dealt with some kind of device that was similar, and- and whatever this is recognizes that . “No, no, we don’t have anything like that,” she says, and slides off of the table unsteadily. “Thank you very much, Dr. Jones.”

 

“Oh, well- of course,” says Martha. “Keep an eye on your body and all, okay? Tell me if anything major changes.”

 

Rose is sure she must say something in response, but she’s not aware of doing so. She walks out the door in a daze, making it a few steps before she sinks down to the ground.

 

Everything is numb, and the one functioning corner of her brain is pretty sure she’s in shock.

 

I’m not human anymore , she thinks, and then, is this what the TARDIS wanted?

 

She remembers a long-ago conversation that they had together, the night they met Sarah Jane. I don't age. I regenerate. But humans decay. You wither and you die. Imagine watching that happen to someone who you- Then the fatal hesitation.

 

You can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can't spend the rest of mine with you.

 

Rose is willing to bet that she’s still physically twenty years old. In fact, probably the exact same age as she was when she woke up on the TARDIS floor with a splitting headache and a regenerating Time Lord on her hands.

 

God, this is the most ironic thing that’s ever happened to her, isn’t it?

 

An eternity of life, a completely new species, and no one who could possibly understand it except the one man who she can’t seem to find.

 

“Bollocks,” she says out loud, and somehow, that makes things a bit better.

 

-

 

Rose meets Mickey when she’s four years old.

 

Well, really, it’s her mum, and it’s Mickey’s gran who meets her. Louisa’s worried about Jackie, all alone in her apartment with no one to help her take care of her little girl, and she offers child care whenever the other woman needs it.

 

Jackie’s touched, but she politely refuses. She doesn’t need any help, she’s managing just fine on her own.

 

She lasts three weeks before bringing a wailing Rose to Louisa Smith’s doorstep, exhausted and almost in tears. Lou takes one look at her and ushers her inside.

 

It kept happening sort of like that, until Jackie realizes that it would probably be healthier for her if she asked for help before she was at the end of her rope, and then eventually gets to the point where she’s able to take Mickey for the evening.

 

It works out well: both children get a playmate, both women get a break once in a while, and they all eventually come together into a family.

 

Rose doesn’t remember her life without Mickey. She never really wanted to date him, just felt like she should (which should not be the basis for a relationship, she knows that now) but she still loves him deeply.

 

And he never stops worrying about her.

 

-

 

“What do you mean, Rose isn’t human?” asks Mickey, as Rose is double-checking the data on the dimension canon before her next jump. It’s been about eighteen hours since she and Pete left Martha’s small clinic downstairs, and she’s now approaching thirty six hours of no sleep. And she feels fine, not drowsy or sleepy or anything.

 

How did it take her this long to realize something was up, again?

 

She tells Mickey about the lack of sleep, and how infrequently she’s been eating, and how once she landed on the Titanic and felt like there were bugs under her skin that stayed there until she finally left. How as soon as the thought of changing something entered her mind, it got so bad that she had to lie down for a full hour. Time senses , she realizes now, and pushes the thought aside.

 

He’s shocked - of course he is - but they have a job to do, and after a minute he’s able to push it aside, which she’s grateful for.

 

“Stay safe,” he says, as she fades away.

 

She fades in on a planet and ducks as soon as she’s solid, almost out of instinct. A second later, a bullet comes whizzing straight over her head.

 

That was weird , she thinks.

 

She keeps jumping.

 

The next planet, she says, “Everybody just calm down!” before her vision has cleared, and once it does she sees that she’s just stopped a murder from happening.

 

She keeps jumping.

 

One day, she feels the fraying of two strands somewhere where she thinks Earth is. They feel like Tosh and Owen, but different ( parallel ) and she reaches out, safely tying them back into the tapestry without interfering past that.

 

She keeps jumping.

 

She feels some instinct telling her to walk faster, and a vehicle wizzes by, right where she was just standing. She gets a strong feeling that she should go into an alley, and finds a child who’s in the process of escaping their kidnappers. She meets a woman whose string in the tapestry of she’s-not-sure-what seems to burn brighter than anyone else’s, and when she carefully sets the cannon to fifty cycles in the future it turns out that she was the best leader that the planet had ever had.

 

She shakes her head and tries to keeps jumping. The most important thing is to find the Doctor, not to waste time on helping people.

 

(“If there's one thing I'm certain of, when people need help, I never refuse,” whispers her brain, and instead of leaving, she stays and makes sure the smuggling ring is shut down. “Good job,” says the voice in her brain, and it sounds familiar somehow.)

 

It’s small things which train her. At some point, she starts turning up in places where things aren’t right, and she can tell that they should be different. She changes the settings on the cannon, feeling like she’s living in a dream, sends herself back ten years, and fixes the part of history that’s broken.

 

Every time she asks a question, whispering it in the depths of her mind, she gets an answer, or she gets the mental equivalent of a pat on the head and a go find out for yourself . Which she proceeds to do.

 

She leads. She grabs peoples’ hands and tells them to run. She helps out where she’s needed and pisses off when she’s not.

 

One day, she wakes up and realizes that she’s the Doctor.

 

That day, she’s out of bed and in Torchwood before she really becomes aware of what she’s doing. Her fingers still on the dial where she’s been inputting coordinates.

 

She’s never inputted coordinates by hand before. They’ve always been randomly generated by a computer system that makes sure wherever she lands has solid ground and oxygen. It’s tremendously unsafe - and stupid - to set them herself.

 

She finishes setting them and straps herself in. No one’s here today - it’s the middle of the night, why is she here - but she feels like she has to do this.

 

Rose hits the button, and fades out. When she lands, the pain in her head is so excruciating that she has to bend over for a second, terrified. The fear - and the sadness , god, what went wrong here? - grip her so strongly that she can’t move for a second. When it fades, she’s left with the strongest instinct she’s ever had, to start running and never stop.

 

Her instincts haven’t led her wrong once, since this whole weirdness started. She takes off, jogging and then running and then sprinting , feeling like there’s something behind her but also that she’s going to miss something vital if she doesn’t get there on time-

 

But all there is is police tape, and an ambulance, and a ginger woman staring at the scene in front of her. Rose slows to a stop. Everything inside of her is screaming that this woman is important, that she’s the only one who can- who can fix something? She’s not sure what.

 

“What happened? What did they find?”

 

“I don't know. Bloke called the Doctor or something,” says the woman. Rose feels the planet - the Earth , because that’s where she is - drop out from beneath her.

 

“Where is he?” she asks, desperately, hoping to god this isn’t what it looks like. The woman shakes her head, her eyes looking sad.

 

“They took him away. He’s dead.” Rose brings a hand to her face. The woman searches her eyes, curious. “I’m sorry. Did you know him? I mean, they didn’t say his name.”

 

“I came so far,” she whispers, the words falling out before she can stop them. And isn’t that an understatement. She worked for years, developing the canon and getting a lock on the right parallel, and she’s been jumping for almost seventeen months now. Far is a gross oversimplification of what she’s done to get here today, and it isn’t fair .

 

“It could be anyone.”

 

Rose stops for a second - her grief almost pausing , her thoughts clicking into place and the sadness leaving her at once - to look at the other woman. “What’s your name?” she asks, curious, grasping at straws. This woman, the only one who witnessed them take him away, she must be important. She wouldn’t be here if this wasn’t important. She wouldn’t- he couldn’t-

 

“Donna,” she says. Donna Noble , whispers the voice in her head that she’s sure is the TARDIS at this point. The most important woman in all of creation. She travelled with him, but not here. Not now.

 

What does that mean? sends Rose, desperately. What am I supposed to do if he’s dead? Now that he’s dead? What’s left?

 

“And you?” asks Donna Noble, former or maybe future companion of the Doctor.

 

“Oh, I was- I was just passing by,” says Rose. “This is- this is wrong. This is so wrong.”

 

She falls into silence for a second, before shaking herself back to where she is. “Sorry, what was it you said? Donna, right?” She can barely see her timeline now, but it’s the dullest, darkest yellow she’s ever seen.

 

If she focuses just right, on a point just behind Donna, she can see one that’s bright gold, twisting and turning on itself the way a time traveller’s should.

 

“Why do you keep looking at my back?” asks Donna, interrupting her focus. Rose frowns. “I’m not.”

 

“Yes, you are,” says Donna. “Why does everyone keep doing that?”

 

What am I doing here? asks Rose, and for once she receives no answers.

 

-

 

They’re back on Earth, so that Rose can see Mickey and Jackie can slap the Doctor again.

 

(Rose is kidding when she says that.

 

Mostly.)

 

But they’ve only been travelling together for a couple of months, and he did take her away for a year, so Rose sort of understands why her mother is so cautious about him.

 

But anyways. He’s parked the TARDIS in the usual spot in the courtyard, and they get out, Rose laughing like an idiot and him smiling indulgently at her.

 

She’s still not sure if he sees her as just a stupid human or not, but she’s getting a good feeling about him, and them. Of course he’s the sweetest person she’s ever met, and hot all the same, but-

 

He stops smiling, abruptly, and reaches out an arm, pushing her behind him and against the TARDIS.

 

“Doctor? What’s going on?”

 

“A bit of hush, Rose,” he says, quietly, pulling out his sonic and scanning their surroundings. “There’s someone here that doesn’t belong on Earth.”

 

“What? What’dyou-”

 

She’s interrupted by the beeping of the sonic, pointing at the dark corner where she met that weird bloke, last New Year’s. She hasn’t forgotten the encounter because it-

 

No. That’s not right. That was only a dream, it never really happened.

 

Or did it? Her memories seem to be shifting.

 

The sonic continues beeping, jolting her out of her thoughts. The Doctor listens to the results - he gets them telepathically, he’s always said - and then abruptly puts his hand down, sighing softer than she’s heard before.

 

“That you, then?”

 

The person in the shadows says, “Yeah,” in a voice so soft that Rose can barely hear it. It sounds very familiar, though, and if she just strains-

 

“You’re not with me,” says the Doctor, his voice flat.

 

“No,” agrees the person.

 

“Why are you here, then?” he asks, and there’s some fire in his eyes again. “What do you want?”

 

“I just wanted to see you. See, there’s-” they hesitate. “-there’s something going on with the stars, and a woman named Donna Noble. Remember that name. She’s important.”

 

“I will,” he promises. It’s almost like he’s forgotten her, and he’s talking with this woman with more warmth in his voice than she’s ever heard-

 

Or not. Actually, now that she’s listening to him, it sounds a lot like how he sounds when he’s talking to her.

 

“I should- I should get going before I change anything,” says the person, and Rose barely avoids stifling a gasp. That’s her voice. Hers . How did she not recognize it before?

 

“Stay safe,” he says, and then clears his throat. “And really, don’t mess anything up. Don’t you know how dangerous it is to trespass on your own timeline?”

 

“Yes,” says Rose from the- from the future. Her voice sounds watery. “Hug Mum for me, alright, Rose?”

 

“Yeah- yeah, of course,” says Rose, and then there’s a- a movement, of some kind, and then there’s no one in the shadows any more.

 

“How did that- how is that possible?” she asks, and the Doctor shakes his head. “I don’t want to think about it. Let’s go inside, eh?”

 

“Sure,” says Rose, but she can’t put it out of her mind.

 

Until, of course, the Game Station, at which point it is quite forcibly put out of her mind.

 

And that’s the end of that.

 

-

 

Rose fixes the Donna situation, with the thing on her back. Of course she does. She’s got all the tools to be the Doctor (including a TARDIS and a UNIT, this time) and plenty of experience. And Donna isn’t half bad herself. She’s clever, and compassionate, and completely without an idea of her own worth.

 

Rose thinks she’s wonderful. She knows why the Doctor travels with her, now.

 

Solving the situation, though - the nightmare one where the Doctor is dead - seems easy, now, though, once she’s done with it. Because now she’s stuck on Earth, not wanting to risk another cannon jump, and she’s dead in the water because neither Mickey nor anyone else know where she is. She’d jumped here in the middle of the night, after all, and she hasn’t left since she first met Donna, on that street just after they’d taken his body away.

 

And that’s when she hears it. That’s when they all hear it. “Exterminate” is broadcasted across the Earth, so that every human can hear it, and that’s when she knows this is it -  this is when she’ll find him - because it always comes down to Daleks, doesn’t it?

 

Always.

 

But Rose isn’t just Rose anymore, a valiant child in a blue fuzzy sweater who tried to bluff Torchwood and failed. This Rose can reach out her hand and nudge someone’s timeline askew, just as easily as she can go back in time and put it back in place. She’s saved planets and galaxies and woken up from a dream, one day in Donna’s wrong parallel timeline, that helped her realize exactly what she’d done to Jack Harkness.

 

I’m sorry, Jack , she thinks, for the fifth time since, and then: could you help me, Jack?

 

He won’t remember the Donna timeline, but that’s alright - he’d accepted her there and he would accept her now, especially with Daleks roaming the streets.

 

She looks down at the cannon and squeezes her eyes shut. What are Jack’s coordinates? she asks.

 

No answer.

 

She opens her eyes and glares at the cannon, as if the spirit of the TARDIS inside of her can see her glare. Where is Jack?

 

No answer except the feeling of a slightly patronizing pat on the head and the vague impression of you should be more patient .

 

She looks up and glances around the abandoned street that she’s on. There’s nothing here, nothing and no one. Rose briefly considers bashing her head against the nearest hard surface, because it seems to not be working properly. She’s wasting time being here when she could-

 

There . She gets a feeling that she’s never felt before but she recognizes, in her heart. The TARDIS. Oh, how I’ve missed you, darling.

 

(The giant gun that Pete had R&D build for her is in the corner of the cannon room, back in parallel Torchwood, and she’s absurdly happy that she’d managed to convince him that she was capable enough to stay alive without excessive amounts of firepower.)

 

She begins to hear the sound as a wind starts to sweep the street. The sound of hope, the sound of home comes echoing all around her, and it’s all been worth it.

 

(Mickey is probably still asleep, her mother feeding Tony, neither of them with any clue of where she is. They’re not apart of this, and there’s no chance that they can be captured or hurt.)

 

The sound stops, and the TARDIS sits in front of her in all of her glory.

 

(Almost absent-mindedly, Rose reaches out around her, feeling the ugly black string of a dalek that leads to this street in a couple of seconds, the only dalek fated to score a hit on the Doctor this entire night.)

 

Slowly, the door opens, and Donna steps out, looking around and somehow missing Rose, standing slightly to the side of her field of vision.

 

(Rose reaches out to the strand of fate that binds the dalek to this universe, this time, to existence, and snaps it in half.)

 

As Donna notices her, the TARDIS door opens and time seems to slow down.

 

(Or is she really, actually, properly slowing it down? Can she even do that?)

 

Rose watches as the Doctor steps out, his hair completely sticking up, and her hands ache to run through it.

 

( Hello, says her mind to the mind that is oh-so-familiar. Missed you .)

 

He looks up sharply, and sees her, a grin slowly unfurling on his face like the most beautiful banner she’s ever seen.

 

( Hello, he sends in reply. I missed you too. )

 

And then they’re both running, suddenly, and it seems poetic that they started running and they’ve come so far but they’re still running.

 

She’s not sure of the moment when they collide, just that they do, and she feels the thud-thud-thud of two hearts and fists her hands in the material of his brown suit.

 

They pull back for a second, just so that they can look each other in the eyes. “Hello,” she says, at the same time that he says, “I love you.”

 

She stares at him for a second, shocked beyond belief, before the meaning of his words hit her and she pulls him closer, pulls him close enough to press her lips to his.

 

And the universe sings .