Warning - First Chapter contains references to major character death and has lots of angst.
Huge thanks to my grammar goddess veritascara, who took the time and patience to fix the grammar on this for me, I very much appreciate her and owe her infinite hugs
It was a gray day for Rose. The sun might have been shining. It might even be warm, with the sounds of birds in the air. There may have been flowers scenting the breeze, their bright colors standing out from the green of the grass. All of those things just might have been happening, but not for one Rose Tyler.
One year had passed since the accident that had drained all the color from her life. It was just a stupid accident–a wet rainy night, a car skidding out of control. Then the things that mattered most to her in all of the universes were gone: her mother, her father, her baby brother, and her husband of a bare two months–all of them gone in a flash.
How many times had she regretted telling them to go ahead, she'd catch up to them? If they had waited for her, maybe this would not have happened. If she had gone with them, then maybe she wouldn't be here alone. If, if, if. Her life seemed to be filled with nothing but ifs now. If the Doctor had never been shot by the Dalek, he would've kept her with him. If she had never slipped from the lever in the first place, they'd still be traveling together. Instead, she found herself trapped in a world, in a life, where she had lost her family and her human Doctor.
After the accident, she took control of Torchwood and made sure it was a living legacy to Pete and the Doctor. Pete had become her father; he had chosen her as his daughter in every way that mattered. She wasn't going to let Torchwood degrade into something he couldn't be proud of. She wasn't going to let it become the kind of organization her Doctor would feel compelled to take down. Even if the color was drained out of her life, she could still make the lives of people around her better. Rose could defend them–help them live happy lives.
Yet she wasn't really living; she just existed, working long hours and often forgetting to eat unless Jake made her. He was still there with her, a loyal friend and a staunch deputy to Torchwood. Oh, she smiled, and even fooled most people into thinking she was happy, but not him, not Jake, the one tie she had left to color and life. There was absolutely nothing romantic between them, only bonds that were forged in battle and shared grief. They believed in and wanted the same things for Torchwood. The difference was he still had a life; all she had was her job and defending the Earth. Rose Tyler already felt like her life was over, at the age of twenty-eight.
A soft rap sounded from her doorway, and she looked up to see Jake there. The blonde was studying her carefully, a box in his hands. His hair was styled the same spiky blonde as the day she had first met him. He still favored combat-ready gear over anything formal, and he wasn't afraid to be blunt when needed. Rose offered him a smile as he closed the distance to set the box on her desk.
Cocking an eyebrow, she looked down at it and then back up to Jake. "What's all this, then? Because if research is trying to pull another practical joke on me, I will have their tea and coffee substituted for blue Kool-Aid."
Jake didn't return her light smile; instead, his expression remained serious as he studied her. Rose was dressed in a posh suit and seemed comfortable in the director's office, but he could still see the faint signs dark circles under her eyes and the way her smile never quite reached her eyes. She was very good at faking it, but he knew her too well by now to be fooled. Rose wasn't getting any better. Something needed to happen; she needed to make a change. He removed the lid from the box and pulled out a small circular device that was slanted towards the top, only an inch high. He set it in the middle of her desk. "Fulfilling a promise I made a while back." Jake bit his lip, thinking over what to say next, "And Rose, whatever happens, whatever you decide, you have my complete support. I want you to be happy."
Puzzled, her eyebrows drew down and in. "Jake, what the heck are you talking about?" In response, he depressed a button in the center of the device and took a step back.
A twelve-inch-tall hologram of a very familiar person sprang to life from the center of the device. There he was, her Doctor. Messy, sticking-up brown hair, blue suit, sexy glasses–it was utterly him, down to the smile on his face. She felt as if all the air had been sucked out of the room as she stared at the image, which started to speak, "Hello, Rose, if you are seeing this, then something happened to me, and Jake kept his promise. I really hope you never have to see this, or you are watching this when we are old and gray and having a laugh. Ooh, there's a thought. I'm sure I'd look all distinguished and handsome even then."
He waggled his eyebrows at her and puffed up a little in a way that startled something between a sob and a laugh out of her, allowing her to breathe again. Then his expression went solemn, and he grimaced a little. "But if something has happened to me, I'm sorry, so sorry. I wanted to keep that promise of living our lives out together for our forever. You, Rose Tyler, have been through so much for me. I wanted to give you all the love and laughter you deserve. Sometimes, though, well, let's face it–quite often the universe isn't kind, and apparently it took me away from you. Whatever happened, I know it wasn't your fault; it couldn't be your fault. I know you would do whatever it took to keep us safe and together. You found me, remember?"
His image started to blur, and Rose realized it was from the tears brimming in her eyes. She wiped them away, not caring if anyone saw. She just wanted to drink in the sight of her Doctor, even if it was just a hologram.
The hologram remained silent a moment, as if knowing she would need time, and then started again, "So, if you are seeing this, I'm not there, and well, you might not being doing too well. If you were happy, living your life and moving on, then Jake wouldn't need to be showing this to you now like I asked him to. Don't yell at him for not showing it to you before; I asked him to wait at least a year if anything happened. He's been a good friend to both of us, and I know he'll know if you need it or not."
Rose looked up at Jake, who had moved around to the side of her desk. She stood and embraced him, his arms surrounding her in a warm hug. Her breath hitched once, and she leaned into him before turning back towards the hologram.
As before, it had waited a beat, perhaps to gather his words, or perhaps just because he knew Rose well enough to know how she might be reacting to things. "Sometimes home isn't a place; it is a person. And when we lose that person, it can be really hard to go on. Sometimes we need a change or a big kick in the bum to get us going and realizing what we are doing. When I lost . . ."
Here he paused, taking off his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose before continuing, "When we were separated, it took me a while to keep going. One of the things that did get me going was the fact I knew you would want me to. That's what I want for you. I want you to keep going, and I want you to have a wonderful, brilliant, beautiful life–a fantastic life, even."
The word fantastic brought a small smile to her face, and she leaned more into Jake, listening to the hologram. Her Doctor gave her a little grin when he said that, if a slightly sad one. "If you are seeing this, you are having a hard time having that life, and maybe what you need is a bit of a change. Weeellll, maybe you need a big change depending on how things are going. It took a very loud ginger yelling at me to get me moving. Blimey, Donna could slap almost as hard as your Mum."
This comment startled a giggle out of Rose. She knew it was just a recording, but it was all him–the babbling, the rambling off topic a little. It was all so very him, and it warmed a bit of the empty space inside her. The image put the glasses back on his face and rubbed his cheek for a moment, as if still feeling that slap.
"Anyways, I may have found something to give you a new adventure. There is a rift here, just like there is in our universe, and the rift is, as you know, a weak spot in the fabric of space and time. Sometimes, just sometimes, it gaps open a little bit, and people and things fall through. What I did was build a device that will take advantage of those gaps to take you through the rift . . . and possibly into another universe."
Rose's breath caught, eyes wide at the implications. The Doctor stuck his hands in his pockets now, his expression sober. "The thing is, I can't tell you where or when you will show up. You might show up in the past or future of Pete's World. You may show up in a totally different parallel universe–past, future, or present. There is a chance, mind you only a small chance, you'll end up in our original universe. You better believe that if that happens, I'm sure the TARDIS would find you and other me would be beyond happy to have you back. For him, it would be rather like the best Christmases and birthdays all rolled into one. Trust me, I would know."
The Doctor's shoulders slumped as Rose struggled with the implications. "You have to remember, Rose, that possibility is small. I really have no idea where you would end up. It might not be any place better. You probably would end up someplace where you just had to start over again. What I can tell you is that it would be someplace different."
Shrugging a little, the hologram gave her a bright smile. "You can always stay here, Rose. There are lots of people that care about you here, and I'm really proud of what you have accomplished. However, if it is too much, well, this was a way for me to offer you one last adventure. Whatever you decide, I recorded a few more messages for you here on the hologram. They are programmed to play after certain lengths of time, and whether you jump through the rift or not."
A few images popped up around him, detailing objects, as he continued, "I prepared a few things so you don't have to go empty-handed. You can take whatever fits in the backpack I put together for you, which is actually quite a bit." He grinned and scratched the back of his neck. "I may have made it a bit bigger on the inside for you. Whatever you decide, the gifts in it are for you, and I trust you to know what to do with them."
Dropping his hand, he ducked his head, looking down before looking back up earnestly at her. "Rose, I want you to know that I love you." A few tears slipped down her face at those words, but she kept her gaze fastened on the image. "I will always love you, no matter what happens. I will also always be proud of you. I hope you have a wonderful, brilliant life, not for me, but for yourself. Because you deserve that. Don't be alone. Make new friends, and well, don't be alone. I want you to be happy. Rose Tyler," he paused, a big smile flashing on his face, "you were fantastic." Somehow his grin grew even bigger. "You know what? So was I. And together, we were brilliant."
Much to Jake's relief, Rose took her time deciding what she wanted to do. The nineteen-year-old Rose may have had no trouble running off with a stranger to travel space and time. However, this Rose had many more responsibilities and a great deal of experience under her belt. The lure of a new adventure and a new beginning somewhere else proved to be too much for her. She desperately needed what this offered: a fresh start.
In the end, she took a month to make up her mind and another two to make all the arrangements. Vitex had a wonderful director, so she made no changes there. Rose just distributed some of the wealth amongst Pete's relatives. More of it went into trusts for injured Torchwood agents or for their families, if they died on the job. Some went to a trust for Torchwood itself, so it wouldn't be dependent on government support. Jake became the new director of Torchwood, and she made certain he would stay that way for the foreseeable future. He would ensure that Pete's and the Doctor's legacy stayed true.
Once all that was done, she liquidated anything extra of value, so she wouldn't start out destitute. Rose wasn't going to carry much cash. For one, she had the sonic the Doctor had made for her, which meant that if there was a cashpoint, she could liberate some funds. Secondly, currency here probably wasn't going to work wherever she ended up, so precious jewels and other items would be far more useful. Those she would convert to the local currency as soon as was feasibly possible. She also had the psychic paper that had been in her pocket at Canary Wharf.
Most people thought she was simply going to be off traveling, a sort of helping mission across the world. While the traveling part was true, and Rose would probably even be helping people along the way as she sought her fresh start, it wasn't going to look anything like what most people imagined. Jake–loyal, trustworthy, incredible Jake–knew the truth, and he would keep her secrets, all of them.
That was the hardest goodbye: the one between her and Jake. He had gone with her to Cardiff. The rift was there, after all–the best place for her to make transit. They stood there in the cool light of dawn, the sun just beginning to rise. It promised to be a spectacular day, but for Rose, it still felt a bit like gray nothingness. Jake was the only spot of color to her here. Even her own blue leather jacket and maroon jumper seemed colorless, though she knew in her mind they were each a vibrant hue.
They walked a short distance, and then something in her urged her to stop. She turned and gave Jake a half smile. Blowing out a breath, he gave her a good hard look. He still had some misgivings, but the prospect of this adventure had finally started to put the spark of life back into Rose. "Are you sure this is what you want?"
Rose looked up into Jake's worried face. Her smile got a bit bigger, and this time it started to reach her eyes. "Yeah, I am. I just can't stay, Jake. Not anymore. The Doctor gave me a chance at a new adventure, and I just can't turn it down."
They had been over all this, back and forth, for the past three months. Whatever misgivings Jake had, he knew that she needed it and that, in the end, it was her choice. He wasn't going to stand in her way. "Alright, Rose. Just promise me that you will take care of yourself and try to have that happy life."
He drew her into a hug, muffling her voice a bit as she answered into his neck, "I will. Take care of Torchwood and everyone for me. Don't forget me."
Pulling back, he gave her a smile. "No one is ever going to forget you, Rose Tyler." She finally pulled fully away from him, giving him a bright smile.
Rose removed a device the size of a small toaster from her bigger-on-the-inside pockets and carefully held it in her hands. Flipping the switches to turn it on, the lights on it slowly came to life. They glowed a soft green, showing everything was ready and good to go. Giving Jake one last smile, she moved away, so there was twenty feet between them. Her hand hovered over the button that would take her across the rift. The memory of her late husband's thirst for adventure made her lips twitch. Softly, to herself, she muttered, "Allons-y," and pushed the button.
Jake let out a pent up sigh when she vanished from sight. He didn't have a strong belief system, but still he sent up a little prayer that wherever Rose landed, she'd be safe. No, not safe, but happy, and finding the life and adventure she craved.
Rose felt a moment of gut-wrenching motion, and then she was suddenly someplace else–or, well, not really someplace else. Instead, she seemed to be pretty much in the same place as she was before she pushed the button. But there was no Jake there. It was the same time of day. Finally, she looked up, twisting around in every direction. Not a single zeppelin in the sky–that at least was different.
Walking around, she further took in her surroundings–nothing more than a quiet morning in what appeared to be Cardiff. Biting her lip, Rose considered her options. She could just stay here and try to suss things out. However, she was more familiar with London. Even if this were a parallel world, its "London" (if that was what it was) would be easier for her to figure out than this world's "Cardiff."
Rose stuffed the now-dead device in her pockets and made sure the backpack was firmly settled on her back. Pulling back the sleeve of her jacket, she started punching some buttons on a device strapped there. It wasn't a vortex manipulator; she couldn't travel through time. It was, however, her own personal teleport. It could send her in any direction in a limited range. Not enough to say, get her off planet, but just about anywhere on. It had a number of safety features built in, including the fact that it was locked to her biological signature, so only she could use it. It was one of the presents her Doctor had left for her. That way, no matter where she ended up, she wouldn't be trapped. It automatically stored the direction of the last location if she needed to jump back quickly. She also could set several default locations for emergency jumps, as well.
Taking a chance, she set the coordinates for what had been a park in Pete's World's London. There was a coffee shop and a library near that location. If she was lucky, this world would mirror that. If she was a little less lucky, it would hopefully be a discreet place to land. If she was a bit less lucky than that, well, at least the worst that could happen was that she would suddenly appear in front of a crowd. Safety features prevented her from materializing in a hostile environment or a wall.
Slapping her hand down on the button, she felt another gut-wrenching sensation, and then she landed. Luck seemed to be on her side. Rose couldn't count on it all the time, but for now she was in a park. Giving a quick glance around, she noticed a nearby cashpoint. A bright smile lit up her face as she made her way over there. A few minutes later, she walked away with hopefully enough cash to get her through a couple of days. Now to find a coffee or tea shop, and perhaps some internet-like access. If not that, then she needed a library for a bit of research, because she really needed to know more about her surroundings.
Briskly walking, her steps slowed as she noticed a homeless person sitting on one of the park benches in her path. If she had been less lucky, there was a chance she could have ended up in that position. So, while she didn't always give out money, she often did when she could. Pulling a couple of bills out, she offered them with a smile. "Cheers, mate. Get something to eat on me."
The person, a young woman, gave a nod and small smile of thanks, watching as Rose walked away. Her eyes were a bit wide, though, because she'd seen something that Rose was unaware of. You see, this particular person had managed to see Rose's arrival, her appearance out of thin air. Now most people wouldn't listen to the wild ramblings of a homeless person–perhaps thinking that they were drunk or high on drugs. So even if Rose had known she'd been seen, she wouldn't necessarily have thought much about it.
However, in this London, there lived someone who used the homeless as an information network. He knew which ones could be trusted to give reliable information, and he invested in them.
The young woman looked at the cash in her hand and then over to the cheap phone in her other hand. It wasn't much, but it was good enough to discreetly take a quick picture, which she did. Sure, the stranger had given her some cash, but there was no way of knowing if she ever would again. However, Sherlock Holmes, he would most likely give her cash again. Anything out of place interested him. And this just might get her a few more quid, if she reported it in. After a quick debate, she sent the picture and typed in the text.