As days, and finally weeks passed, Rose thought of something the Doctor had once asked of her. Have a good life. Do that for me, Rose. Have a fantastic life.
She took his words to heart. Slowly, she got used to life in her native city in her native time. She started getting up to make breakfast for John before he left for work. She spent the day hunting aliens with Jack or, if no aliens turned up, visiting with her mum. She got better at arriving home before John with enough time to clean herself off and make some dinner. She smiled and nodded in all the right places as she listened to him babble about his job and the people at his job, although as the days went on he did this with decreasing enthusiasm. She let him hold her while they watched telly in the evening for awhile before wandering back out to the balcony to look at the stars, or they went for walks through the city.
“Do you know, Rose, you never say how your day is,” John commented during one such walk.
Rose felt her hand clench slightly in his. “Don’t I?”
“Nope! Just listen to me natter on and on and on and on, and really, you should have told me to shut up ages ago!” He leaned towards her, his shoulder lightly touching hers, his eyes wide with interest. “So, how does Rose Tyler spend her time?”
I saved London from a pack of red lizards that thought the Kensington Roof Gardens would make a nice hatchery.
“Oh, you know…Visited my mum. Cleaned up a bit around the flat.”
John frowned. “All day?”
“Yeah,” she said too quickly.
John’s forehead crinkled with worry. “You know you don’t have to stay in the flat all day, right? I mean, you can do whatever you want. Get some fresh air. You’re allowed to leave.”
“Yeah, I know,” she said distractedly as they approached a chippy. She remembered that chippy; the Doctor had taken her there after her first TARDIS trip, when the Earth had burnt to a crisp. She smiled slightly at the memory, then realised John was still talking.
“…don’t need to stay in the flat or work in a shop or anything, Rose. You can do great things! Make your mark on the world!”
“And do what?”
Rose tried not to feel insulted when John looked stumped. She couldn’t really blame him. She still had no A-levels. Her only job experience was working in a shop, and now she had a pretty big gap in her work history. She wondered if that would have been her life if she’d never met the Doctor: cooped up in a flat with no education, working in a shop or waiting for a husband to come home. She thought again about her A-levels. There wasn’t really time to finish them, with only two months and two weeks left on Earth, especially with all the alien-fighting she’d been doing.
But still, John’s speechlessness hurt.
“I could get you a job,” John finally offered. “At the hospital. We’d see each other more!” He looked delighted at the thought.
“Yeah, but I mean, you’ve gotta have a degree for that.”
“Well there’s always, I dunno, the receptionist or something. You’d get to meet new people every day…or, I dunno, help me with my paperwork?”
Rose’s eyes narrowed. Well, there was one thing John and the Doctor had in common. “So what, is that what I am? Your secretary?”
John’s eyes widened in horror as he realised his mistake. “No, no, I mean—I just meant we’d be able to see each other more, that’s all!”
“Suppose it’s a step up from a dinner lady,” Rose said bitterly, wrenching her hand out of his and walking faster.
“Dinner lady? I didn’t say—but—Rose!” John hurried to run in front of her and took her shoulder. “Rose, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.”
The hot rush of anger faded as Rose looked up at him. She bit her lip. Of course he didn’t mean it like that. John didn’t remember Deffrey Vale. And she hadn’t really thought about it in ages.
She sighed guiltily. “No, I’m sorry. I just…” She just missed him. “I just think you’re right. I do want to do something worthwhile. Just not…not that.” She hugged him, ear pressed against his chest where a lone heartbeat was audible through his t-shirt, and his arms pressed her in closer.
John seemed reluctant to let go but he finally did, faint confusion still on his face. “Are you okay? Really? Is something bothering you?”
“I’m fine,” Rose said automatically, taking his hand and resuming their walk. The sign of the next building caught her eye, Sparrow and Nightingale: Antiquarian Books and Rare DVDs, and she had a flash of inspiration.
“Rose?” John asked as she pulled him inside. A bell made a faint tinkling noise as the door shut behind them. “What do you want in here?”
She gazed determinedly around at the stacks and shelves of books everywhere. “Help me find some books on astronomy or physics or…I dunno, maths!”
“Astronomy?” John said blankly.
“Yeah.” She spotted a shelf of newer-looking books and moved towards it.
“Er, all right. I’ll go check over here, shall I?”
John wandered over to the other side of the shop, leaving Rose to inspect the shelf’s contents. She scooped up a couple maths and physics books and was just contemplating a book called Introduction to Mathematical Biology when she heard John’s voice.
“Sorry?” Rose asked, still thumbing through the books on the shelf.
“John?” Rose glanced back, but John was well entrenched at another shelf, running his fingers over some of the spines. Shrugging, she turned back to the shelf. That book looked promising—Basic Quantum Theory.
“Thirty-eight!” John said indignantly.
Rose whirled back to face her husband, who had selected a book and was flicking through its pages with interest. He gave no indication of having spoken.
She pulled Basic Quantum Theory off the shelf and reached for Starry Night: Astronomy & Astrophysics.
“People don’t understand time. It’s not what you think it is.”
Rose nearly dropped the books. That wasn’t John.
Rose gazed around for the source of the Doctor’s voice.
Over there! She glanced quickly over to John, now engrossed in an old book with a faded cover. He didn’t seem to have noticed the sound of his own voice. Heart pounding, Rose made her way to the counter at the back of the shop…
“People assume that time is a straight progression of cause to effect…”
A small old black-and-white telly sat on the counter, and Rose barely restrained herself from rushing at it. The Doctor’s face filled the screen. He was wearing his brainy specs, and his hands waved enthusiastically. “But actually from a non-linear, non-subjected viewpoint it's more like a ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey...stuff.”
“Doctor,” Rose whispered urgently, touching her fingers to the screen.
“It got away from me, yeah,” the Doctor said forlornly, looking away from her.
Rose had a sudden, horrible thought of a coronation and Magpie Electrics. “Doctor, are you trapped? Can you hear me?”
The Doctor’s gaze snapped back to the camera. “Well, I can hear you.”
Rose’s face was practically pressed against the screen now, panic flooding her thoughts.
“Well, not hear you exactly,” the Doctor amended, “But I know everything you're gonna say.”
Rose heard the door open, but she paid no attention to it. Right. From the look of it, this video was old. So the Doctor had left a message in the past. Why? “Doctor, what am I supposed to do?!”
“Look to your left,” the Doctor answered, leaning his head, and Rose turned to her left.
A blonde woman stood there, her arms full of books and her jaw hanging open. “You’re the girl from the video!” she said in awe. “Rose!”
“Where did you get this?” Rose demanded. “Who are you?”
The woman looked taken aback. “I’m—I’m Sally Sparrow. Don’t you remember me?”
Rose shook her head. “Where did you get this video?”
“The Doctor sent it to me so he could get his box back. From the Weeping Angels?”
“How do you know it was to you, then?” asked Rose, glancing back at the video. The Doctor was nodding in encouragement.
“I've got a copy of the finished transcript. It’s on my autocue,” he continued obliviously.
“It’s his half of a conversation we had last year,” Sally explained, plopping her books on the counter next to the television. “Larry likes to play that thing on a loop, says it gives the place atmosphere. How come you don’t remember?”
“I told you, I'm a time traveler! I got it in the future.”
Sally’s eyes widened. “Oh! That’s right, of course! You’re time travelers! It hasn’t happened for you yet!”
“Guessing not,” Rose said in relief. This meant that they got out of this. The Family didn’t find them, and the Doctor would come back.
“But then…It was me all along. You got it from me!” Sally realised, dashing behind the counter.
“The transcript, the list, everything! You got it from me!” She rummaged through a drawer for a minute and produced a blue folder. “Okay. Listen. One day you're going to get stuck in 1969. Make sure you've got this with you. You're going to need it.”
“Yeah, eh…” On the television, the Doctor waved his hand dismissively. “Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey.”
“Find anything, Rose?” John said, joining her at the counter with two worn books in hand.
Sally looked like she wanted to squeal. “It’s you! It’s really you!”
John’s eyebrows raised in confusion. “Er, yes. Who are you?”
“Sally Sparrow—It’s okay, you haven’t met me yet. It’s just so great to meet you! Really, just wonderful.”
John tilted his head, edging slightly away from the counter. “Er, yes, well, I’ve met you now, haven’t I? Good to meet you, Sally Sparrow.”
On the video, the Doctor’s voice became urgent. “What matters is we can communicate. We've got big problems now. They have taken the blue box, haven't they? The angels have—”
Rose hurriedly shut the television off.
“Blimey!” said John, looking curiously at the darkened television. “That looked an awful lot like me.”
“Well, it was—” started Sally.
Rose drew her hand across her throat and shook her head in a quick motion.
“—Probably your dad or uncle or something. It’s an old video.”
John frowned, eyebrows scrunched. “Nah, my uncle had a mustache. And it wouldn’t be like him to make a video. He was a military man, he was. Brigadier, in fact. Looked nothing like me… But the man on the video did. Bit weird…”
“I don’t see the resemblance,” Rose said as convincingly as possible. “He had glasses.”
John sniffed. “Ah, well, suppose we all have a twin somewhere.” He put his books on the counter.
“First edition Charles Dickens and an unused journal,” Sally reeled off, beaming widely. “Great choice, Doctor.”
At the name, John froze and his face paled, as if she had just announced the time of his death. “What did you call me?”
“Doctor,” Sally repeated, eyebrows scrunching in confusion.
“I was just telling her that you work as a doctor,” Rose said quickly.
John’s tense shoulders relaxed. “Oh, yes, right. Rose, have you got any books?”
“Yeah.” She piled her books on the counter.
“How much for all these, then?”
Still beaming, Sally waved a hand dismissively. “Oh, just take them. Free of charge.”
Sally nodded enthusiastically.
John eyed her warily for a moment before deciding to just accept her generosity. “Well…thanks very much, Sally Sparrow.” He scooped the books up in his arms, but not before Sally had managed to slip the blue folder in with the books.
“Oh, you’re definitely welcome.”
Rose grinned at her. “Thanks. Be seeing you, yeah?”
“Oh, yeah,” said Sally as she waved them off.
“Did something seem a little off to you in there?” John asked Rose as soon as they were out of the shop. “Is she a friend of yours?”
“Never seen her before in my life,” said Rose, her steps a bit lighter. “Want me to take some of those?”
“If you like.”
She reached over and took a few of the books, making sure to get the ones with the blue folder between them.
“Perfect division of labour,” John quipped. “What are you going to do with them?”
She hugged the books to her chest. “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do—I’m going to study.”
“Really?” said John, clearly impressed. “Do you know, if anyone was going to be able to understand this stuff, I think it’d be you?”
“Yeah?” said Rose with a faint smile. “You really think I can do it?”
“Yep.” He shifted the books so he could wrap an arm around her shoulders. “I believe in you.”