"You are. You are... you're my Rose. You're my Rose grown up."
PART THREE- I'VE NEVER HAD A LIFE LIKE THAT
If Rose's father had lived, had not been hit by a car one ordinary day, Rose might never have met the Doctor.
The night of the Auton invasion, she might have left work slightly earlier because her father was coming to pick her up, or she might not have been working in Henrik's at all. She might have watched on the news the aftermath of the shop explosion, and not given it a second thought. She might have passed a man in a leather jacket once, on the street on an ordinary day. She might have married Mickey. She might not have married Mickey. She might have married Mickey and he might have had an affair with Trisha, or she herself might have had an affair.
She might have tried to rescue people on the day of the Christmas Invasion, or she might have sat on the roof and cried. She might have found herself a good job, or she might not have done. She might have become a writer, or a scientist, or a singer, or a historian, or a doctor.
She might not ever know.
The wedding was held in the afternoon- Rose had the whole morning to get ready. Jackie questioned her about what she'd done with the leather jacket. Rose did not give her a real answer, and Jackie stopped asking for one.
They met Sarah Jane at the church, and sat with her. Rose watched the entire ceremony, and did not cry.
Shareen was also at the wedding. Since returning, Rose had had one awkward phone conversation and one extremely awkward face-to-face meeting with her. They were obviously not best friends anymore, but Rose wanted to try talking.
So much had changed. Shareen was currently trying to break into the journalism business- a far cry from the faintly lazy and unambitious girl Rose had known two years ago.
"You met Sarah Jane yet?" Rose asked her, at the wedding party. "She's a journalist. She might be able to give you advice."
"Yeah," Shareen said. "She has. She's nice."
"Yeah...she's...nice. Mickey introduced me to her."
And then she drifted off to talk to Trisha, and Rose was left alone in a room full of people. Almost alone- Sarah Jane came over to her holding two glasses of wine.
"Here," she said, handing one to Rose.
"Thanks," Rose said, and she took it and drank it and wondered if she should get drunk. There was always one at weddings, wasn't there? The one who got drunk and starting bitching about the bride and groom and everybody else, and embarrassed herself. From intergalactic time traveller to woman throwing up and sobbing in the toilets: no thank you.
"You having a good time?" she asked Sarah Jane, because she couldn't think of anything else to say.
"Yes. The food's good. You should try some of the cheesecake."
Rose shook her head.
"Or you could talk to Mickey and Trisha, of course."
"Maybe in a minute."
Before long the dancing started- Mickey and Trisha danced first. They looked very much in love, and Rose forced herself to watch. No-one asked her to dance, but she left the room before anyone really had a chance to. She waited in the corridor, and looked out at the world. She felt like she was caught between two worlds again: friends and family on one side (the music was leaking through to the corridor- it was dancing music, but she didn't want to dance) and a beautiful but empty world on the other side. And where did the Doctor figure in?
The door opened behind her.
"S'only me," Mickey said. Rose turned and looked at him- he was neatly dressed in a black suit, clean and tidy and good-looking. Perhaps this wasn't the man she'd fallen in love with- but it was. He'd just changed. Everyone had changed.
Except perhaps her.
"I love you, Rose," Mickey told her. "Just thought...I'd say that."
Then he went out again.
Rose remained where she was for a few minutes, faintly stunned, and then she went back in. She had some food and she sat down with Sarah Jane and watched the party. Everyone seemed so happy. And Rose loved that they were happy, she honestly did, but she somehow also hated that their happiness was the ordinary kind. The kind you felt when you looked at someone who loved you, instead of what you felt when you stepped out into an alien world.
But the two kinds of love were beginning to confuse and merge in her mind. She could make little sense of it now, especially after the I love you, Rose.
The day after the wedding she lay in her bed- she didn't cry, just thought.
Have a good life. Do that for me, Rose...have a fantastic life.
Perhaps she could. If she really tried.
"We saved the world, didn't we?" Rose said, out of the blue.
Sarah Jane looked at her.
"S'just...a funny thought. That this place...is here," Rose pressed on. "And it...might not be...if we'd done just a couple of things differently. Like when we were fighting the Siltheen, right, they might have taken over the world, but we stopped them. And the Gelth, and the Krillitane..." She trailed off. "It was just a thought. A really weird one."
"It is weird," Sarah Jane said slowly. "But it's very true."
"Kinda like having the weight of the world on your shoulders, right?"
"Yes. In a way. But it wasn't just you, or me, was it?"
"No," Rose answered. "But still-" She looked out of the window, at the sky. "It kinda makes you see things differently."
Exactly three months after the Doctor had left Rose on Earth, she had a dream about him. She'd had other dreams, of course, but this one was the most vivid and strange. She was walking in the park amongst the Bad Wolf graffiti that still remained, wearing her pink hoodie and jeans. She realised the Doctor was behind her, and she turned around- it was the old Doctor, in his black clothes and leather jacket.
"I'm so glad I met you," he said fiercely. "Let the whole world get eaten by Reapers once, just for you. You wouldn't have left me, would you?"
"I-" Rose said helplessly.
"You'd rather stay here, then? Stay here and see Mickey the Idiot get it together with the girl from the chip shop?"
"Don't call him that," Rose said irritably. "What do you care about any of this? You don't...exist any more, do ya? Same as the me who worked in Henrik's don't exist any more."
The Doctor stared at her with some sort of pride, and then the dream flashed forward- Rose was in a metal box, looking at a mirror. Reinette, the Other Girl, was staring out. She said nothing. Then Rose noticed all the other mirrors: Trisha was in one, Sarah Jane was in another, and poor dead Lynda from long ago was there too. Other people too, some whose faces she couldn't even see.
"Rose," Sarah Jane told her, "You're not special. You're just like us- that's not so bad, is it?"
"He loved me, alright?" Rose snapped at her. "The other one. The one I met first. I was the most important to him, yeah, even if it was over so quick."
"Mickey loved you too," Trisha pointed out. "It's weird- you were special to him, but you didn't care."
"The Doctor loved you, no-one is denying that," Reinette said patiently. "But he loved others, too. This is what the world is like."
"No it's not," Rose said, like a spoiled child.
"Then why did you leave him?" Reinette asked. "Because you took each and every word of his to heart?"
"Leave me alone, alright?" she shouted back, and collapsed down on the metal floor. The women in the mirrors were silent, but there was screaming in the distance.
"Maybe you didn't like all the people dying?" quiet little Lynda spoke up.
"Leave me alone!"
"Rose?" said Jackie. But Jackie was not in a mirror.
Rose woke up to find her mother looking down at her.
"Rose. Time you got up, sweetheart."
Rose got up, and wandered through to the kitchen. She poured herself out some cereal and ate it, slumped on the sofa still wearing her nightclothes.
"Look at you," Jackie said, disapprovingly. "Rose, love- you thought about getting a job now? Just a temporary one, maybe," she added with a sigh.
"No," Rose answered.
"Why don't you look into it? Ask that nice Sarah woman to help, maybe. Do something, Rose. You ain't doing much at the moment, it's not good for you."
Rose shrugged. "I go to Sarah Jane's, don't I? And...stuff. I'm not ready for a job yet, Mum. I'd just bollock it up."
Sarah Jane, however, did have a job. She always seemed to have time for Rose, though. Rose was grateful, even though Sarah Jane sometimes spent their meetings looking through papers and apologising when her phone rang. But today she wasn't working.
"I thought of something the other night," Rose told her. The weather was sunny, so they were outside. K9 was wheeling himelf round the garden. "What if," she went on, "the Doctor comes back, and...he's got someone else with him? Another girl from Earth?"
Sarah Jane laughed. "That's already happened to me once."
"Oh yeah," Rose said, disheartened. "Yeah. Sorry."
"Don't apologize," Sarah Jane said. "That girl might sit with us in a few years time, talking about the first time she set foot on Mars, and we'll be glad of her company."
"Yeah," Rose said, wonderingly.
"Are you having second thoughts about a club, Rose?"
"I dunno. Can we not call it a club, though? That just sounds..."
"Are you thinking about it, though? There are people I'd like you to meet."
"I...maybe someday, alright? Maybe someday, yeah, I wouldn't mind."
After five months and two weeks of Rose's one year had passed, Rose noticed how old her mother looked. She hadn't noticed before, but now she did. Jackie was getting older. Maybe one day, the mother she knew would exist only in photographs- maybe one day Jackie would be too old to walk or talk or laugh.
Rose felt like crying. She had known all her life that no-one was immortal, but then she had met someone who virtually was, and had forgotten.
Five months, three weeks, two days:
"Rose," Jackie said carefully, as Rose wandered into the room, "Rose, I got some news."
"What?" Rose said, instantly concerned. An alien invasion, maybe? Something big and terrible happening all over again?
Rose gawped at her mother, then sat down on the sofa. "No way."
"Mickey told me, sweetheart. He's really excited about it all."
Rose drew her knees to her chin glumly. "Alright." she said flatly. "Thanks for telling me."
"That's it? Just 'alright'?"
"Yeah." But questions were flying round her mind. "How's he gonna support a kid? He's still just a mechanic."
"Ah," Jackie said. "On the phone he told me something else, right- he might be getting a job at UNIT. You know about UNIT, don't you?"
Rose's jaw dropped again.
"Trisha's pregnant," she told Sarah Jane, the next time they met. And then she was silent, and stared at the ornaments and thought about the Doctor instead.
"Really?" Sarah Jane asked, interested.
"Yeah. Mickey's gonna have a kid." She realised while saying it that she really had surprisingly little genuine emotion about it, and that worried her.
"Do they know if it's a boy or girl?"
"I didn't ask."
"I've been thinking for ages that you and Trisha need to have a proper conversation, Rose." Rose shrugged listlessly.
"Oh Rose, I worry about you sometimes. You've been here nearly six months. You ought to start taking your mum's advice- get a job, or leave London for a bit, perhaps."
Rose felt a flash of anger. "How long did it take you to just...come back and carry on as normal? Things are different for me, yeah? 'Cos he's coming back."
Sarah Jane looked annoyed, but she kept her voice normal. "Rose, things...change. He might come back a different person- yet another one- he might come back with another companion at his side, he might come back being chased by monsters-"
"-or he might not come back at all." Rose finished.
They sat in silence.
"Rose, I'm not your mother, and I won't pretend to be some sort of older sister if that's not what you want," Sarah Jane said. "But I need to give you advice, okay? You came back to see if you could live, so live. Find a job, go out and enjoy yourself, talk to your old friends again-"
"They've moved on," Rose said flatly. "That's one of the problems. They moved on because of me."
"Don't let them move on. Talk to Mickey and Trisha, talk to them properly. Let Trisha know exactly where you stand- she's probably actually a bit scared of you." "Why doesn't she hate me?" Rose wondered out loud. "I mean, you know, resent me at least."
"She probably does resent you," Sarah Jane said. "Probably not often...at night, maybe, when it's all quiet and dark and she's alone apart from Mickey, and she figures she'll never have all of him. She probably resents you bitterly then. But she'll never speak a word of her resentment- that's the sacrifice you make for love."
Rose considered this carefully and sadly.
"Why don't I hate her?" she said, almost wonderingly.
"Because the Doctor taught you not to hate."
Rose found a job in a bookshop, a dusty little place located next to an internet cafe. One day she saw a tall, thin man in a brown jacket examining the display in the window of the clothes shop opposite, and she followed him with her eyes all the way down the street. It wasn't the Doctor.
One day, when there were no customers and she was all alone, she got thinking about Jack. He would be a wonderful person to have around- she honestly had loved him as a friend- but she'd long given up hope of running into him again. She wasn't even completely sure if he was alive or dead- if he was in the future, in the past, or in the present. Mickey was now a part of UNIT- she knew nothing about his work, only that it involved fixing things. Working with alien machinery, maybe. She could ask him to ask about Jack. See if he'd shown up.
She remembered the Doctor's first description of UNIT- good people. She wondered if he'd known somehow that the man he'd called an idiot would end up in their ranks. He might have done.
She resolved to ask Mickey. A little hope couldn't do her any harm.
She asked him via phone, but a few days later went to his house. Trisha opened the door.
"Rose!" she exclaimed. "I wasn't expecting you..."
"S'okay," Rose said. "Is Mickey in?"
"Yeah, but he's working..."
"Can I see him?"
"I'll go ask him. Come on in..."
Rose went in.
"How's the baby coming?" she asked Trisha. Trisha smiled.
"Great, thanks. It's a boy."
Rose smiled back.
"Mickey!" Trisha called. "Rose is here to see you."
The three of them sat in Mickey's study- Rose on a chair, Trisha on the leather sofa, Mickey at his computer.
"I'm sorry, Rose." Mickey said. "I tried everything. There's no records of a Jack Harkness anywhere. I'm really sorry..."
Rose hid her disappointment best she could. "It's alright, Mickey. At least you tried."
"I can try again, try harder- look into secrets and stuff-"
"It'll get you fired. No. Just...thanks for trying, yeah?"
Mickey nodded, and everything was quiet.
"I'll go and- I mean- does anyone want a Coke or something?" Trisha said. She didn't wait for an answer. "I'll go get some..."
She hurried out. Mickey stared after her, and Rose could read the expression in his eyes.
"Rose, have you...?" he asked.
"Have I what?"
"Have you decided what you're doing when the Doctor comes back?"
"Oh." She didn't know what to say. "No...not really. Not yet."
Mickey looked at her and Rose knew for certain he was about to tell her, "Say no." But he didn't. In fact, he didn't say anything at all.
Trisha came back with Cokes, and they talked about other things. Mickey suggested that all three of them, plus whoever else they could get to go, went to the cinema at the weekend- Rose said no. Trisha asked how Sarah Jane was doing. Mickey talked about Jackie. Then gradually the conversation ran out.
"You should get a job at UNIT, Rose," Mickey said as he walked with her to the door. "I mean, I think it'd be good for you."
"Um." Rose said. "Maybe." She felt weird all of a sudden- like she'd been walking down a pathway and come to a fork in the road. But how could she get a job at UNIT when the Doctor would be back soon?
She turned to Trisha. "Good luck with the baby," she said, and hugged her. Trisha hugged back. And then Rose left the house.
Five months slowly slipped by.
Rose tried looking up Jack's records herself, discreetly. She didn't find anything. But then again, she reminded herself glumly, it was hundreds of years before he was even born.
One night she had a dream about the Doctor where she and him were getting married, and the Reapers came to the church and the Doctor ran outside to be hit by a car. She woke up in tears, and then forced herself to get over it. But oh, she missed him. Missed the jokes and companionship and the dancing. It had never been just the travelling- how could it have been? If only the Doctor had been human.
But that would have been utterly wrong.
Christmas came. She had a quiet Christmas- her and her mother and Mickey and Trisha and Sarah Jane and K9. Jackie was rather taken with the tin dog, and made a big fuss of it. Rose realised halfway through Christmas dinner that she was quite happy, and the happiness made her terrified. But she couldn't help herself- these were the people she loved. And then she thought she understood, understood how someone could love more than one person.
After that came New Year's Day. Rose stood on the balcony and watched the fireworks. Someone who she didn't know and never would shouted 'Happy new year!' at her. Rose didn't consider until later that it might have been the Doctor, but she knew it wasn't.
The date of her decision drew ever nearer.
Eventually, there was only a week to go until the Doctor came back, and on that day Rose went for a walk, alone. She thought about life before the Doctor, when there was just pubs and football and getting into work on time, and she couldn't say she'd hated it but she'd wanted something more. She'd been given something more, and...
...maybe you didn't like all the people dying?
She had loved so much of her new life. She had loved the frozen waves and the quiet planets and the worlds long gone and the spaceships and the stars and the dancing. Had she been so busy dancing through the different worlds that she'd never noticed, never noticed all the death and the people back home being caught in wars they barely understood-?
Christmas had been fun. She had been happy at Christmas.
Her mind wandered again, to that awful day when she'd been sent home- against her will that time. When she'd sat in a chip shop and justified herself.
It was...it was a better life...
No-one had died, last Christmas. Not like the Christmas Invasion.
Not the... I don't mean all the travelling, seeing aliens and spaceships and things, that don't matter. The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life.
Was it this?
You know, he showed you too. That you don't just give up, you don't just let things happen. You... make a stand, you say no...you have the guts to do what's right when everyone else just runs away...
And was she everyone else now? Did everyone in the world become an everyone else, in the end?
She thought she heard a voice in the back of her mind, telling her that she wasn't an everyone else to the people that loved her. But one person who she'd thought she loved had gone away, hadn't he? She'd sent him away.
She felt so hopelessly lost. She kept walking.
It was a better life.
That statement made no sense anymore.
She walked to the top of a nearby hill, and looked out at the world. The world looked back.
Three days left til he came back. Rose was lying down on the sofa in the living room when Jackie came back from work. She had found herself a job as a hairdresser, not so long ago.
"Budge up," Jackie said to her. "Need to rest my feet."
Rose moved herself.
Jackie took her shoes off and looked at her daughter. "Rose, we ought to have another talk, love."
"There's three more days, yeah? You must have decided...haven't you?"
"I'd feel better knowing that you had."
Rose shook her head.
Jackie put her arm around her. "Rose. You can't travel for ever...it's just not realistic, you know?"
"It's a time machine," Rose said pointedly.
Jackie left her on the sofa for a bit, and then came back with a photo album. Rose glanced up- it was the photo album that contained the only photos of her father.
"I want to tell you something," Jackie said softly. "I want to tell you about us. Because you met the Doctor and you went off with him, yeah, so many things have happened to us. We've all nearly died a couple of times. But," she said, holding up a finger to stop Rose talking, "I want you to think about this. Mickey's married and about to get a kid, and he's got a good job and money now. I've got a good job and money now and I've changed, Rose. We all have. Me and Mickey and Sarah Jane and even Trisha and your old mate Shareen...everyone's changed. 'Cos of you and the Doctor. And that's it, yeah? Surely that should be the end?"
Rose couldn't think of anything to say.
"I got that wrong, didn't I?" Jackie murmured.
"No, you didn't," Rose answered. She felt the tears coming, and held them back. "Thanks, Mum. Love you."
"I love you too, sweetheart," Jackie said. "Whatever decision you make."
She left the photo album with Rose.
Rose spent most of it in her room- Jackie left her alone, and Rose figured she'd told Mickey not to come. She had nothing to do except think, and she needed to think.
Could she really give him up, forever? Never see him again? Never know who he was, if she did see him again? Have only the memories of dancing?
She leafed through the photo album many, many times, tracing her fingers over the photographs. This was the real world in the pictures, and she'd given that up by accident.
"Dad," Rose said.
She was sitting by the bed in the spare room, photo album in her lap, talking to someone who wasn't there.
"Dad, if you're listening, it's me, yeah? Your daughter Rose. Listen, I- I don't know what to do. It feels like I've given everything up hundreds of times over, and I'm just lost. I need your help. Please, Dad."
But there was no answer. Rose cried into the photo album for a bit, and then she looked up and saw the wardrobe door was open. Quite probably she'd left it open herself, but...she wasn't sure. She went to it and saw the two jackets in there, hanging up side by side, almost identical.
Pointlessly, the words she'd heard so many times drifted through her head: everything has it's time and everything ends. But it was said in her father's voice this time.
Jackie knocked on the door.
"I made you beans on toast," she said. "Are you hungry?"
"I'm starved." Rose said. She came out and sat at the table with her mother, and neither said a word for a while.
"Please come back, sweetheart," Jackie whispered. "I just can't keep doing this. Go if you want to- but get him to return you to only a second after you've left. You go off into wars, Rose. I just..." She sighed. "Please. Don't make me wait anymore."
"I won't, then," Rose said, because she thought she knew now what it was like to wait. "I promise."
"You promise?" Jackie asked, a little surprised.
"Yeah," Rose said. "I promise."
She remembered the day she'd gone to work for the last time- kissed her mum goodbye and gone out. Neither of them had known what would happen that day, that everything would change so much and so fast- and neither of them really knew now, Rose realised.
Five hours to midnight. She went to the wardrobe and took out her father's leather jacket, and put it on and went outside to wait.
Do that for me, Rose. Have a fantastic life.
She heard the noise eventually- the noise of ancient engines. She waited. The TARDIS materialised in front of her, and the Doctor stepped out. She ran to hug him, and only after that did she think of looking around to see if anyone else stepped out of the TARDIS after him. But no-one did.
"I've missed you like you wouldn't believe," she whispered.
"Rose," he said in reply, "you've changed so much..."
They stood there staring at each other for a good few seconds.
If only he was human. If only. We could have dated, married, been forever on the move. Been always on top of the world.
But the man she stood in front of was not human. And she was.
"Rose," the Doctor said. "What's happening, then?"
Rose looked and him and realised she loved him but she wasn't in love, and of course he was not in love with her. The Doctor had shown her how to live her life- but no mention had been made as to where to live her life.
"I..." she said.
The Doctor held out his hand. "Rose," he said again. "My Rose. What did you decide?"
It was the My Rose that did it: she felt the tears welling up. She thought of Christmas and she thought of dancing, and she thought of the gravestone. She thought about walking in history, her first step on an alien world, the Doctor's hand in hers.
"I think I did decide," she said sadly.
Dear reader, she did choose. Perhaps she chose what was best for her, or perhaps she did not. Perhaps she chose what was best for the Doctor...or perhaps she did not.
Either way, she made her decision. And when you decide what that decision was...whether she stayed or whether she left...
...you know what your definition of 'tragedy' is.