A/N: This is the story that has references to my other story "Come Together" which as yet is unfinished but I'm working on. Each chapter has a reference to a song. The chapters are probably a bit too long! Sorry! But I hope you enjoy it all the same!
"And I just can't understand it. I don't think I ever will. You went away, a year ago today."
Rose woke up with a start. She sat straight up and cracked her head on a half open drawer. She yelped and rubbed the top of her head. She'd fallen out of bed in the night again, tangled up in her double duvet. She hadn't even noticed at the time. She really should fix that drawer; that was the third time this week that it had happened.
She scrambled off the floor and began putting her bedclothes back on the bed. It was only six-thirty. Her mum would still be fast asleep, no doubt dreaming of the glory days when George Michael liked women and shellsuits were haute couture. Rose briefly considered returning to bed, but she knew she wouldn't sleep. Her mind was racing with all the things she'd dreamed. And the noise that had woken her up. The noise that ended every dream, making her jerk herself awake with false hopes.
She pulled her dressing gown on; they'd turned the heating off last week to try and save some money. Unfortunately, they were experiencing one of the coldest Mays on record, or so the weatherman said. Not only that, but it was windy and wet too. Horrible weather for anyone but ducks. She looked out the window now. Yep, rain again.
She glanced in the mirror as she went past it. She'd forgotten to take her make-up off again last night. Her mascara had streaked down her face. She'd been crying in her sleep again. For the three-hundredth and fifty-sixth night in a row. A year of tears. The anniversary hit Rose between the eyes suddenly, as her brain cleared from the make-believe world of dreams it had been wallowing in for the duration of the night. This wasn't a dream. This was real life. It was a year to the day since she had been left behind.
Since that day, she'd managed to hide her upset at being betrayed by the one person she trusted more than any other in the world. The man who had risked his life and the lives of others for her, who had promised her the world and delivered it, for a time. Everyone had told her he was dangerous, that he wasn't the sort of man she should be involved with. But she hadn't cared; she'd ignored them all, her mum, Mickey… She couldn't let them all believe that he'd hurt her. So she'd pretended it was all fine, that she was perfectly fine with him leaving her here, with nothing but memories. And not even a goodbye.
But she'd grieved in private for him, for what he'd meant to her. If she closed her eyes she could see his face, both faces. The one who had taken her away from this, shown her the delights of the universe, and the one who had left her behind. Her heart ached and she missed everything about both of them. The first's stupid great smile and his huge ears. His accent and the smell of his leather coat. The second's ruffled hair and deep brown eyes. The mothballs in his jacket pockets. At first, her anger and betrayal and plain grief had all been wound so tightly that she couldn't pull them apart. From crying, she'd find herself throwing things and shouting. Then as time went on, and with the help of two special people, she'd found that she could separate them. She could now think of him without wanting to break things. She could remember the good times and almost forget the following heartache. Almost.
"It's a year today, you know."
Sarah-Jane put her cup of coffee down as Rose spoke. She regarded the young girl carefully for a moment. Rose was playing with sugar sachets, staring at the metal effect table. She'd looked a bit more down than usual when she arrived, with even more make-up on than normal, covering up what were decidedly puffy eyes. She hadn't responded to any of Sarah-Jane's attempts at conversation with more than a nod or a murmur of agreement. Now she'd spoken.
"How do you feel?"
Rose shrugged. The age old question evader. Sarah-Jane could see the girl's jaw clench, as she tried to find a voice that wouldn't let her emotions out. "I don't know."
Sarah-Jane nodded. "I know. Have you been… um… dreaming again?"
Rose met her eyes guiltily. "Every night. Every night for the past year." She hesitated before saying, the words spilling out almost without any thought: "And it's always the same thing, he always comes back like nothing's happened and he… he takes me away with him. Like a fool I just forgive him and forget what he's done. And then there's the noise…"
Sarah-Jane raised her eyebrows. "What noise is that?"
Rose sighed. "You know. The noise the…" she lowered her voice even further, "the TARDIS makes. It always wakes me up."
"Rose, sweetheart, you can't expect miracles. He was a huge part of your life for so long. A few dreams now and then… it's a small price to pay. Look at what you've achieved in the past year."
"Oh, I know." Rose shook herself out of her reverie. "I know all that. You didn't call me to hear all about this anyway. How are you? How's K-9?"
"We're both fine." Sarah-Jane smiled. "I'd have brought him today but you know how people stare at the mad old woman and her tin dog." She laughed. "Sad, isn't it really?"
"That tin dog saved our life," Rose reminded her. "Well, his previous model did." She stirred her tea thoughtfully. "He's lasted well this time, hasn't he?"
"Well, he hasn't had to fight off a bunch of Krillitanes this time around," Sarah-Jane pointed out. She sighed, smiling. "He's a good dog, really. Best gift I've ever been given."
"He does leave you with good presents at least," Rose said thoughtfully. Then she shook her head. "Sorry. Anyway, why did you call me?"
"I hadn't heard from you in a while. I wondered how you were," Sarah-Jane said awkwardly before adding, "And I remembered it was a year. I thought you might want to talk." When Rose didn't answer, she decided to press on with other business. "Well, never mind. I also called you to see if you wanted to come with me on a story I'm running."
Rose raised her eyebrows doubtfully. "Me? Be a journalist? I can barely write my own name right."
"Oh come on, Rose! You're more intelligent than that." Sarah-Jane shook her head. "Anyway, I wasn't thinking about it like that. I'll do the write up. If there is one. It's all a bit odd."
"Yes. There's this super-market up near Manchester. The staff have been behaving very oddly by all the accounts I've heard; especially the manager." She hesitated. "I thought maybe we could head over and check it out…"
Rose bit her lip. Investigating again. She hadn't done anything like that for a year. And never on her own. Sarah-Jane was always off looking into this and researching that. This was the first time she'd invited Rose along. It felt reckless to be even considering it; Rose had worked so hard to get over the loss of her old life. She'd had to go cold turkey and become just Rose Tyler again. Now she had a taster of it all dangled in front of her again and she was getting the familiar butterflies and tingles down the spine. It felt dangerous and exciting… but she knew she shouldn't.
She shook her head abruptly. "I… I can't."
"You know why! It's… it's too soon!"
"It's been a year, Rose. Over a year."
Rose was still mentally backing away, not trusting herself not to leave that second with the other woman. "I… I can't just up and go, Sarah-Jane! I've got too many responsibilities! Anyway, Mum would never let me go and I can't just keep going off on my own like this!"
Sarah-Jane looked at the girl sadly. "Rose, you never just 'go off on your own'. You're always here, always barely a mile away from home."
"I don't have a choice!" Rose reminded her angrily. "It's not like I've just got some tin dog at home you know! I've got a baby, my daughter, to look after! I can't just abandon her!" There was a long silence. Rose felt embarrassed at everything she'd blurted out in the small coffee shop. She sat back in her chair awkwardly. "I'm sorry. I'm just a bit stressed at the moment. But I can't come with you."
Sarah-Jane nodded finally. "I know. I'm sorry, it was a silly suggestion." She sounded disappointed, and she was a bit. She'd only met Rose once before she'd been left behind. She remembered how resentful she'd been of the intruder into her relationship with him. The feisty way she'd spoken to her. This girl was a shell of the old Rose, broken down and broken hearted. There was nothing of the old spark about her.
Rose didn't want to disappoint Sarah-Jane. God only knew, she'd disappointed everyone else enough already. Sarah-Jane was her idol, the proof that there was life after the Doctor, life after seeing everything. She could come out the other side. She gazed out the window, wondering if she should give in after all. The day outside was as dreary as ever. Rain bounced off the pavement, forming pools around the full drains. Cars passed by, splashing pedestrians who were wrestling with their umbrellas in the wind. Everyone was rushing past each other, too busy to notice anyone. Apart from one person. One small person was looking around her, fascinated by every drop of water, every mangy pigeon sheltering in the eaves of the shops. She couldn't have been more than about three, with two blonde pigtails and a pink coat and pink wellies on. She was holding on tightly to a man's hand, her little fingers clasping his large ones. She splashed through the puddles and looked up for his approval. And he rewarded her with a fatherly beam that nearly tore Rose's heart in two. Her little girl would never have that, would never kick up water while holding her daddy's hand. She'd never have a father. She couldn't lose her mother too. She'd made the right choice.
A/N: Lyrics for this chapter come from "A year ago today" by Delta Goodrem