|If Woman Can Survive
Author: Coru PM
The world as it could be is still not all it should be. The Ninth Doctor and Rose face down Cybermen and a world that still doesn't have it quite right. AU rewrite of Age of Steel, part of A Man Who Wasn't There series.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama/Romance - Rose T. & 9th Doctor - Chapters: 2 - Words: 7,210 - Reviews: 12 - Favs: 19 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 01-27-09 - Published: 01-25-09 - id: 4818198
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I don't own anything, BBC owns it all.
Beta: Extra huge thanks to Bonnie for beta reading despite not feeling well, and much, much gratitude for the input (and constant prodding) of queenofthecastle!
AN: Okay, before anyone waves the 'Rose was born in 1987' flag at me here's my theory on Rose's age: She was born in mid-April '86, making her 18 when she ran off with the Doctor in March 2005. She's close enough to 19 that she might have just stretched the truth when she told the Doctor (thus him saying she's 19 in Unquiet Dead), she would still be 19 by Jackie's standards in March of 2006, and she would be 26 in 2012, as stated in Dalek. As for Father's Day…well, either the baby was miscast and should have been an eighteen month old, or pretend it happened in 1986 instead, either way works.
The silent march into the factory was nerve-wracking, putting it mildly. Actually that was a bit more than mildly — her feelings were to 'nerve-wracking' the way a Ghost Chili was to a green pepper.
"Calm down." Pete's voice was low and comforting from behind her, though muffled as he tried to keep his lips motionless. "You're ramrod straight."
"Can't help it," Rose mumbled back. "How far?"
"Turn left after the next unit," he said.
She turned sharply on her heel and continued her slow, steady march away from lines of people waiting to be upgraded. They turned another corner and the façade broke, they huddled behind one of the great conversion units and attempted to gather their wits.
"He called you a Tyler."
Rose jumped at Pete's voice, just behind her ear. She shook her head and dragged her eyes away from the helpless citizens of London. "What?"
"Rose Tyler," Pete said. "That's what he called you. And you…you mentioned parallel worlds."
She swallowed and met his gaze. "Yeah," she replied, nodding slowly. She took a deep breath and bit her lip before continuing. "My full name is Rose Marion Tyler. Born in April, nineteen eighty-six to Jacqueline Andrea Suzette Prentice and Peter Alan Tyler."
Pete stared at her for a long moment; he blanched and shook his head, stepping back from her. "This way," he muttered, keeping well away from her as they crept along the stacks.
Rose took several deep, shuddering breaths as she followed, but did not say another word.
A tiny beam of light sliced through the darkness of the cement passage. The origin of the light — a rather tiny torch that was attached to a rather large ring of keys — was tightly clutched in a large and tense hand.
"An' today the role of petulant five year old without his teddy will be played by The Doctor." The fact that he was paying very little attention to his surroundings would probably be a problem for him at some point, but he found he was quite busy berating himself. "Surprised I didn't just demand my key back an' make it a proper repeat. Right paragon of maturity, me."
He rolled his eyes at himself and stomped as hard as he dared as he trekked along the very-nearly pitch black halls.
"Might as well start eatin' pickled onions an' callin' myself Mickey," he muttered darkly. That was when he noticed jolts of movement along the wall, and he began to run as the Cybermen woke.
The transmitter controls, placed in what should have been a very secure metal case, smoked merrily in the cabin of the zeppelin. Jake and Ricky stared, slack-jawed, at the thing which had been a small and handy explosive.
"You know," Mrs. Moore said casually as she stared at the obliterated controls, tossing a spare pulse bomb casually in one hand. "Sometimes I think I'm quite brilliant."
The robot that clenched its fist around her neck, crushing her windpipe a moment later did not seem to agree.
"What's happenin'?" Rose demanded as screams began to ring through the factory.
"The earpods've lost control." Pete had to shout to be heard over the din. "Everybody's panicking!"
"Yeah, I caught that, thanks!" Rose glanced from him to the rushing mass. "Get to the controls, okay? There's gotta be a way to shut them down, but first I've gotta help them get out before the Cybermen decide to start killin' the 'defiant stock'!"
Pete had a hold of her arm before she could take a single step away. "You think I'm gonna let you run off alone? Risk your life like that?"
"It's what we do," she met his eyes squarely. "Someone's got to, an' right now that's me. 'Cause I don't know where the controls are or anything about 'em if I did, but this I can do, yeah?"
"Look." Pete took a deep breath and tightened his hold on her wrist. "Look, okay, if what you're sayin' is true then you're my daughter, an' I'm not sayin' I believe it — but I'm not lettin' you go off to get yourself killed."
Rose threw her free arm around his neck and hugged him tightly. "You'd make a fantastic dad," she said, smiling brilliantly at him, eyes just a bit too bright. "We just never got the chance to know it." She pressed a quick kiss to his cheek and took advantage of his surprise; she ran out of the shadows and began to pull the hapless citizens who had frozen in shock.
More quickly than he could have imagined she had rushed into the crowd, pushing, shoving and calling people toward the great metal doors that marked the exit.
The Doctor rolled his eyes as he was marched into the control centre of the factory. Dingy, grey and poorly lit. Just like a dozen other evil lairs he'd been held in over the centuries — really, couldn't they put just a bit more creativity into it? Just to break the monotony?
Fifteen minutes, and a bit of exceptional brilliance on his part later, he had convinced the megalomaniac to reveal his plot, his method and received rather clear instructions on how to defeat him. It was all a bit depressing really, how easy it was getting to defeat these madmen.
In fact, the most difficult part of the adventure was tracking down Pete — who had been rather useful in the disabling of the microchips controlling the Cybermen, thank you Mr. Lumic — and then, quite a bit more worrying, Rose. Rose, who had seen fit to wander off and find trouble, and had gone straight to Peter Alan Tyler when she found them; Rose who had allowed herself to be pulled into an embrace that was entirely too close to familial for the Doctor's peace of mind.
After a moment she stepped back from her not-quite-father and threw her arms around the Doctor; she took a long, deep breath and smiled at him as she pulled back. "You alright?" She checked softly.
"Always alright, me," he replied glibly. "Just pickin' up me property." He pulled his hands out of his pockets, revealing fistfuls of assorted junk. "Apparently I struck them as dangerous," he sounded a bit proud of this fact, "so they wandered off with my stuff!"
She grinned and assessed the sum total value of his 'property' — a tin of cinnamon mints, a neon purple yo-yo, a ripped white paper bag and several candies which had probably been in the bag at some point, along with his singed sonic screwdriver and a large tangle of keys. The vast majority of his collection could have been purchased at any shop in London for less than five pounds altogether.
Rose tilted her head. "What're they for?" She frowned at the jingling mass hanging from his forefinger.
The Doctor raised an eyebrow and shoved the lot back in his pockets. "Never seen a key ring before?" He held it back up and waved it a little, letting the numerous bits of metal clink loudly against one another.
"Of course I've seen a key ring!" Rose rolled her eyes at him as he started to hurry through the corridors. "Why've you got keys?"
"You really just ask me that?" He gave her a significant look and began to speed up. "The answer of 'openin' locks' didn't occur to you straight off?"
"You only ever open the TARDIS is all," Rose replied, starting to have a bit of trouble keeping up conversation and their stride. "So unless you've got forty-seven copies of the TARDIS key —"
"Rose Tyler, you think that in all of time an' space the only thing I've ever had a key to is the TARDIS?" He glanced at her as they ran, eyebrows raised slightly. "No one's ever welcomed me back to visit? Haven't got any lockers in railroad stations?"
"Well you've got the sonic screwdriver is all!" Rose's voice sounded just a bit strained. "You could just get in when you wanted!"
"An' that's not rude, is it?" He grabbed her arm and forced her to keep pace as they climbed the stairs. "Breakin' an' enterin'? What do they teach in schools these -"
"Oh, shut up!" Rose swiped at him with her free hand and put on an extra burst of speed as they reached the roof, Pete still pounding up the stairs behind them.
There was nothing. No zeppelin, no Ricky or Jake or Mrs. Moore. They'd been abandoned.
"I…I can't believe it," Rose said quietly, stooping by the singed corpses of the guards. "They left us." Her eyes stung, and she muttered something about the heat as she wiped fiercely at them.
"No way down," Pete panted; he was nearly doubled over as he rested his hands against his knees. He pointed with one weak arm to the stairs they had just climbed. "It's getting hotter that way too."
"Stop bein' such a pessimist!" The Doctor was entirely too cheerful as he looked up at the inky-black sky. "An' who says we want down anyway?"
From the depths of the billowing smoke a ladder was slowly dropping to the roof of the factory.
"They came back!" Rose bounced on her heels, beaming up at the zeppelin.
"No," Pete said, shaking his head. "That's not Lumic's zeppelin, look!" He pointed to the logo on the bottom. "That's from a bloody tour!"
"From a what?" Rose gaped up at it.
Suddenly a face appeared in the hatch. "Well, are you just gonna stand there or are you gonna climb?"
"JACKIE?" Pete grabbed the rope-ladder, steadying it. "Where did you — how did you —"
"Shelly owed me a favour an' don't ask questions, I'm busy!" She shot them all fierce glares and then vanished back into the airship.
"I don't expect I'll ever say this again, so enjoy it while you can, Rose Tyler," the Doctor said gruffly. "Do as Jackie says!"
The fierce scramble up the ladder was more difficult than Rose had expected it to be, but the small party managed it and soon found themselves in the crassly decorated cabin, staring at a rather defensive Jackie Tyler.
"Who was —" Pete broke off and looked around in confusion at the otherwise empty room. "Jacks?"
"Took lessons." She shrugged awkwardly. "Kept hopin' you'd buy me that zeppelin, an' I wanted to know how to fly it. I figured I might as well get some use out of it since I'll never have my own." The last was added with a rather dark look in his direction.
Pete laughed once before crossing the room and tugging her against him. "Jackie Tyler, you're not half spoiled," he told her warmly. "You're the only person in the world who can turn savin' her husband's life into a whinge about poor birthday presents."
She rolled her eyes but wrapped her arms around his neck anyway. "Think I did it to save your life? You should be so lucky, stupid lump," Jackie replied. "Just wanted a bit of a ride." There was a short pause before she grabbed the back of his head and pulled him down for a kiss.
Despite the intimacy of the moment, Rose could not tear her eyes away; the Doctor showed no reaction, but his knuckles, wrapped around a handrail, were white with tension.
It was over; any living cybernetic men would be rounded up and dealt with at the hands of the government, and the factories — on all seven continents — would be demolished. Jackie was determined to get credit for her good deeds, and the Doctor had already vanished into the depths of the TARDIS.
And Pete Tyler stared into the face of what could have been. His eyes, his mother's chin. His wife's vocal chords.
"You…could stay," he offered quietly. "Never had a daughter. I could be a good dad."
"You could." Rose bit her lip. "But I can't. I'm sorry, but…" She glanced back at the TARDIS, through the open door to the man at the console. "You know?"
He smiled sadly. "Yeah. He's a bit old for you, from a dad's perspective…but still, I know. An' you've got your own Jackie, wouldn't want to leave her alone."
"Yeah," she said, a small sigh escaping her. "Can't leave Mum. At least you've still got her…yeah?" She nodded to the woman arguing heatedly with a policeman.
"Yeah." He nodded. "Think we'll work on it, Jacks an' me. Not too late for kids, like you said…an' now I know we can turn one out not too bad."
"Just, if it's a girl, don't let her drop out of school, yeah?" She frowned. "Especially not for a twenty-somethin' bloke with a guitar an' no money."
"It's a promise." Pete grinned and quickly wrapped the younger girl in a tight hug. "You take care of yourself, and your bloke there. Don't let him treat you like he's better than you either, 'cause you're a Tyler and there's nothing better than that."
There was a peculiar lump in her throat that prevented and answer, but she nodded quickly and returned the embrace fiercely. "Take care, yeah?" She finally choked out.
He cupped her face gently in on hand and pressed his lips to her temple. He pulled back and grinned at her before taking her shoulders and turning her sharply toward the TARDIS. "Go on, go be Jackie's daughter." She tilted her head at him, raising a brow. "Oh c'mon, he deserves it after all that."
Rose laughed once and nodded. Her hand slid into his, and she gave it a brief squeeze before straightening her back and marching toward the timeship.
The Doctor was studiously not watching her as she stepped on board the ship and closed the door behind her; his tuxedo jacket had been tossed over the jump seat and the stiff white cotton of his shirt had been loosened — his bowtie she couldn't even see in the room.
"We ready then?" she asked lightly, smiling cheerily.
"Yup, just about." He paused and looked at her, waiting for a response. She pursed her lips. "Nothin' else you want to do here?" He sounded impatient and a bit irritated.
"Nope," she replied, grabbing hold of the rail that circled the console. "Gonna be bumpy, yeah?"
He nodded slowly and adjusted a few dials and levers on the console. "No comin' back here," he pointed out.
"Yeah, too bad, innit? I liked Jake until he decided to ditch us. Maybe we should look up our version one of these days. You ready, Doctor?" She prodded at him again; her fingers were hovering over the button that she knew would begin the dematerialization process and all she needed was that final confirmation that it was time.
He pounded a small rubber mallet against the side of the console and nodded sharply. She slammed her hand down on the button and hung on for dear life as they were thrown into and through the Void.
After several long, violent moments the ship was still. The Doctor climbed to his feet — he had somehow ended up under the jump seat — and tapped the view screen. "We're in the Vortex," he said, just a bit proudly. "Back in the old universe."
Rose nodded and pushed herself up, sitting stiffly on the metal railing across the room. "Alright then, time to talk," she said firmly. He tensed and she pretended not to notice the way his fingers gripped the console. "Way I figure it, there's two options, yeah?"
"Oh?" He gave her a bright smile, which faltered after a moment.
"Yeah." She held up a finger. "Option one: I've done somethin'. Dunno what it was, an' I didn't mean to do it, but it hurt you an' as soon as you tell me what it was I'll tell you how sorry I am."
He deflated, his expression finally settling into something like guilt.
"No?" She nodded once. "That's what I thought." She held up a second finger with the first. "Then, option two: you've decided for whatever reason to act like a stroppy git an' take it all out on me even though I didn't do anything wrong. An' that means that it's time for you to get over whatever's set you off an' apologize."
He leaned back against the console, arms folded over his chest and his countenance defiant. "Oh, is it, then?" He raised an eyebrow. "An' what if I don't think I've done anything worth apologizin' for?"
"Then you haven't been listenin' to yourself," Rose snapped. "I was, an' I'd tell you what I really thought of you today but the TARDIS is too polite to translate it!"
"Oi!" He straightened. "I saved your life, took you to meet Pete — against me own best judgement in fact — an' even got you an invite to a better life, doesn't that deserve a bit of gratitude?"
"A better life?" Rose stopped and gaped at him, incredulous. "Yeah, they're rich an' Pete's alive, but…he's not my dad. An' there's no — how could you say that it's better?"
"'S got everything you ever wanted, Rose Tyler," the Doctor said coolly. "Your perfect world."
"Everything?" Rose paused and stared hard at him. "You honestly think that's what I want?"
"You've gone to some pretty extreme lengths to have your father back before, so I'd say it's an indication!"
"I didn't know what would happen!" Rose stood up; her hands planted firmly on her hips. "An' that was ages ago; god, you can't still be mad!"
"An' today, that wasn't anything like it then?" The Doctor's mouth twisted mockingly. "Chasin' after him, clingin' to him like he was —"
"Like he was my dad?" Rose scowled at him. "Well he was…sort of, but in case you haven't noticed, I shut those doors an' I'm still here, with you!" He gave no reply to that, simply turning to glare at the view screen. She shook her head and let out an angry breath; she stalked around the console, heading straight for the privacy of her room.
Or at least, so she would have done. His hand moved, lightning fast, as she brushed past him, his fingers locking around her wrist. Her head whipped around, eyes already sparking with fury when they locked with his — and she deflated, her anger abandoning her.
"You're a git," she informed him, just a bit sulkily.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly, regretfully. "No good with this stuff, me."
"I noticed," Rose said, twisting the hand he still held so that her fingers locked through his and rolling her eyes. "So what was it? Were you jealous?" She grinned a little.
"Don't be stupid." He rolled his eyes back at her, but his fingers tightened around hers despite his words.
"I think you were," she teased. She leaned close, bumping her shoulder against his; her grin widened, her tongue peeking out the left corner of her mouth.
He moved quickly but deliberately, pulling her against his chest and crushing his mouth to hers. There was no gentle prodding; he demanded control and she released it. Possession, relief, fear — they all melted wordlessly in a fierce tangle of lips and tongue. "Yes," he whispered, his voice thick.
Rose tried to remember when she had asked a question, why she had asked a question and if it was really that important to get an answer anyway. She thought on it, which was hard to do as cool lips returned to her own, and grinned against his mouth as understanding dawned. Her fingers pressed into the back of his neck as she pulled him closer, the starched collar of his shirt bunching stiffly under her bare arms. Time seemed to slow; her perception narrowed to the insistent press of skin upon skin, the rasp of unshaven scruff against her cheeks and not-quite-painful tugging as his fingers tangled in her hair. She shivered as his free hand slid over the exposed flesh at her waist — and blinked.
"What?" The Doctor pulled back, his brow furrowing at the large rend in golden silk. "When did that happen?"
Rose twisted to look at the gaping fabric, edges splattered harshly with dark red blood. She frowned, trying to remember when she might have caught herself, but nothing came to mind. But…she had been so frantic; high on adrenaline and exhaustion…it could have been at any point in the factory.
"Doesn't look like they got me," she said, poking at the skin beneath the dress. "Not even a scratch."
The Doctor bent, bringing his face close to the tear. He pressed his lips against her unblemished skin and grinned as her muscles jumped beneath his touch. "Did I mention you looked beautiful in this?" He asked, standing again and wrapping his arms loosely around her torso.
"Might've," Rose said, letting out a sudden, bone-deep yawn and resting her head on his shoulder. "You looked pretty alright yourself," she added, smiling softly as her eyes drifted shut.
"Oh, I know." His tone was entirely too smug.
She opened one eye to peer at him curiously.
"Knew the second you saw me," he continued blithely. He leaned down, his cool cheek against the curve of her neck. "This nose isn't just a decoration, you know." He grinned as her skin flushed.
"You mean — you could smell that I thought —"
"You humans - dumpin' chemicals in the air for every emotion." He 'tsk'ed at her lightly, his lips just brushing her shoulder as he breathed deep.
"That's — that's not even a little bit fair." Rose tried to sound stern.
"Superior physiology, can't help it," the Doctor said, once again smug. "An' now," he added, turning her sharply to the right. "You, Rose Tyler, are goin' to sleep, because your inferior human physiology is 'bout to make you fall over."
"What, am I dumpin' sleepy hormones now?" Rose grumbled a little as he led her toward the hall.
"Nope, used my superior Time Lord eyes to see the fact that yours keep closin'," he grinned at her. "An' I'm not carryin' you to your room if you pass out on the jump seat."
"Mmm…'s a shame," Rose smiled sleepily. She tilted her head up, biting her lip rather nervously. "Doctor?"
"Could we go to London tomorrow?"
She felt his muscles tense where she still leaned against him. "If you want," he replied neutrally.
"Just…want to see Mum," she continued, lacing her fingers through his. "An'…I sort of want to talk to Mickey. I know it's stupid, but…I gotta see they're okay, yeah?"
"Not stupid," he corrected, stopping her in front of her door. "It's a bit much, seein' how things might have turned out. Seen it before, me. Don't blame you for wantin' your mummy after."
"Oi," she swatted at him lightly and smiled. "Good night then, Doctor."
He nodded and shoved his hands in his jacket pockets, waiting until her bedroom door had shut behind her before moving deeper into his ship. It had been a rather trying day, and even Time Lords needed to sleep on occasion.
Maybe the TARDIS would even give him his razor back, if he promised to clean those rusted transtemporal thermocoils, and that was a terribly essential job — one he shouldn't put off just for tea at a typical English flat, certainly…he grinned and whistled a little to himself as he made the trek back to his own quarters.