AUTHOR: Matt, March 2006, rewritten August 2000
SUMMARY: He left her on her mum's doorstep with a cheery, "Have a nice life, Rose." Nine/Rose
DISCLAIMER: Characters belong to the BBC, et al.
NOTES: Thanks to everyone who helped me with this piece, including lj user"textlife" and lj user"brunettejedi" for their input.
It had all happened so quickly. One minute they'd been mucking about by the TARDIS console and the next he was going ballistic because she'd inadvertantly hit a button on it. He'd run around frantically, pulling levers and pushing buttons, and all the while ranting about "stupid humans who don't know to keep their hands to themselves."
She'd been on the edge of commenting that she'd never take his bloody hand again - if he felt that strongly about it - when he'd announced she was going home. Less than an hour later she was deposited on her mum's doorstep and cheerfully told, "Have a nice life." She'd been struck dumb in disbelief. He couldn't do this to her, could he? She'd waited days for him to return and, when he didn't, she'd spent the next couple of weeks in a mindless daze. Finally, her mum had yelled at her to "move her arse," or else.
She chose the 'move' bit over the 'else.' Her mother had rebuilt her own life after Pete Tyler's death. Rose could do no less.
She found it difficult to get work due to her abbreviated education, so she enrolled at the local college to take A-Levels. She'd wanted to take physics and learn about wormholes, but the guidance officer assigned to her application steered her away from the subject. Instead, she took English Language, English Lit., and History, and passed them with flying colours.
Thanks to the English courses, she also found a creative writing class she enjoyed. There, she discovered, she could write of her adventures traveling around the galaxy and pass them off as fiction. The teacher wasn't sure about her chosen genre, but he was impressed enough with her material that he submitted one of her short stories to a writing magazine. It was published and she got fifty quid for it.
She applied to university, and moved out of the council flat and into a tiny bedsit. It didn't matter that there wasn't any space; she spent most of her time at the campus library. When she visited her mum, she was told she'd changed – and not for the better, in Jackie's opinion.
"You're getting above yourself," Jackie would say with a sniff.
Truth was: Rose couldn't go back to who she had been. She'd changed the day she accepted the invitation from the stranger in the blue police call box. Going out and partying was so mundane after that. Her idea of fun now consisted of visiting distant planets and different time periods. How could anything compare to that? But, knowing she'd never have that life again, she chose to put her head down and study. She ignored the nasty comments about her having no friends. How could she be friends with people who had no idea what was really out there? Even Mickey had been no help to her; he knew what was out there but he wanted no part of it.
That was where she met him – in the campus library. They were sitting across from one another. There was a disturbance somewhere in the room and, as she looked up from her notes, they made eye contact. He introduced himself and his accent reminded her of someone she once knew. When he asked her out, she said yes.
She wasn't quite sure why she accepted his marriage proposal six months later. It was apparent that he loved her, but she knew he would only ever come second in her heart. They married upon her graduation, but it didn't take a time machine for her to know it wouldn't last. When she lay in her husband's arms at night, she would imagine he was someone else she'd known a long time ago. But the man she'd known was long gone. And it wasn't as if they'd even been lovers anyway.
She was in her new flat – after the divorce – when she came across the short story she'd written so long before. It was stuffed away in a box of books and other papers, stuff she'd never even glanced at while she was married. She sat back on her heels, held the paper in her hands, and thought a bit.
And, after another bit, she got up and walked over to the computer. She turned it on, opened up Microsoft Word, and began writing. Within two years, she had a new name and a bestseller on her hands.
Her first work wasn't all that brilliant, she knew that. Plastic dummies coming to life and terrorising harmless high street shoppers wasn't exactly original. Her second work, however, got all the critical acclaim. Called Cassandra, it was set in a future where every other business was a plastic surgeon, and people were being nipped and tucked as though there was no tomorrow. Reviewers called it a 'wake-up call for humanity,' but it didn't stop the surgeons from making a living. The third book described the end of the world, from the point of view of aliens who were watching it happen from a viewing platform.
Book four was a marked departure from her previous work. It told the tale of a solitary immortal man, condemned to wander the galaxy after his own planet was destroyed. Her agent wasn't even sure if it would be published. But, to his amazement, the book sold well and Hollywood producers wanted the rights to it.
She said no, unable to picture anyone portraying the lead character. For her, only one person could be that man, and he'd left her behind with a wave and a smile after a petty argument over a wrongly-pressed button.
She's sitting in her back garden, on a picnic bench with a laptop in front of her, when she hears that once-familiar sound. It's a whirring sort of sound, the sound that tells her a TARDIS is landing. She looks up in surprise, and her breath catches in her throat. She's never met anyone else with a TARDIS, but she's not entirely sure who will step out of it.
Then, the door opens and he storms out, looking exactly how she remembers. And as she deliberates whether to greet him with a smile or a slap, he starts to shout.
"What the bloody hell is this, then?"
She looks at the object in his hands. It's a copy of 'Walks Among Stars,' her fourth novel. "It's a book," she retorts.
"It's a load of bollocks, that's what it is." He throws it down onto the table and she can see now that the copy is looking rather on the worn side. "I had to read it three times to make sure you weren't taking the piss." He pauses. "And what's with the name? R. T. Doctor? That's a crap name."
"Well, it's better than Higginbottom," she mutters. An androgynous name worked for J. K. Rowling, so why shouldn't she have done similar?
He stares blankly at her. "What the hell is Higginbottom?"
"My married name." Somehow, she never got around to changing it after the divorce. And it's easier somehow to maintain the two names. They divide her life into two neat piles – her life as an author, and her life as a divorced woman trying to make it on her own.
He pales. "Married?"
She's on the verge of taking pity on him - and telling him that the marriage is over – when he turns and storms back to the TARDIS. In moments, he's gone and the only thing left to prove he was even there is the dog-eared paperback.
She looks at the book and, while she recognizes the title and the name, the cover design isn't one she's seen before. Curious, she opens it up and finds a publishing location that's definitely not on her home planet and a date that's not in her lifetime. "Brilliant!" she says to herself with a smile. Thumbing through, she discovers he's underlined bits and scribbled things in the margins. There are question marks and exclamation marks all over the place. "Idiot," she says softly.
Less than ten minutes after it leaves, the TARDIS returns. The door is again flung open and he crosses her lawn with an unhappy look on his face. "Forgot this," he says as he snatches the book out of her hands. It almost makes her want to laugh. Why would he come back for something he's determined is rubbish?
However, she's also not about to let him escape so easily. "Hold it right there, Doctor," she commands and, wonder of bloody wonders, he actually stops.
"What, Rose?" he asks wearily, his back still turned to her.
She stomps up to him and looks him square in the eye. "Why are you here?" she asks. "Because I'm fairly sure it's not just to tell me my book's crap. You'd never go out of your way just to do that. So, tell me the truth, Doctor. Why are you here?" She folds her arms across her chest and waits for an answer.
He takes a step forwards, but she's blocking his route to the TARDIS. So he stops, and looks sideways since he apparently can't look at her. "Seems last week I made a bit of a mistake, like," he says quietly.
"Oh, really?" She doesn't care. Whatever scrape he's got himself into, it doesn't concern her. It stopped being her concern the minute he dumped her back in front of a London tower block.
"I, er..." He scratches his head. "I forgot how bloody miserable it is travelling on me own."
So, he'd found another companion, had he? And lost that one as well? She wonders who the poor creature was that he'd treated so miserably, and then decides it's nothing to do with her. If the bastard doesn't know how to treat his companions right, it's not her problem.
"Bad luck," she says. "If you found someone to replace me, I'm sure you'll find someone else who can replace them."
"Replace you?" he asks, incredulous. "It's you I'm talking about, Rose."
She's stunned. He's admitting he made a mistake in taking her back home? That's a turn up for the books, that is. There's just one slight problem with his statement.
"What do you mean 'last week?' You left me fifteen years ago."
She walks back to the picnic bench and sits down. At this point in the conversation, she doesn"t think he"ll leave. He's far too curious to do that.
He follows her back. "Got a TARDIS, remember?" he says cheekily as he takes a seat opposite her.
"So, you decided to leave it this long? Why not just come back here fifteen years ago?"
"What? And let you miss out on all the joys of domesticity? If I'd come back then, you wouldn't have got married. It's part of human life, Rose. How could I take that away from you?"
She rolls her eyes at him. "See a wedding ring on my finger, do you? I got divorced too."
He grins. "So? You got the whole bloody experience."
"Yeah, thank you very much, Doctor. So, why come back now?"
"Yeah, now. Today. Why, Doctor, why?"
"Well, here's the thing. After I left, I went back, well, forward, and did a bit of digging. Found your obituary."
She's not sure she likes the grin on his face when he says that. It's a little off-putting having someone smile at you while they're talking about your death.
"Which leaving are you talking about?" she asks cautiously. "The fifteen years ago leaving, or the five minutes ago one?"
"The five minutes one," he says, as though it should be obvious. And it probably should have been, or he'd have known she'd been married. It's starting to come together now. He left her five minutes ago - her time - because he thought she was married. Whenever he went to, he found her obituary – presumably in a newspaper – and discovered she was no longer married. So he's come back. The book has nothing to do with it. He's just a jealous idiot. Typical for a bloke, she thinks scathingly.
"Why wait so long?" she asks as she remembers that question hasn't been answered.
"I left," he begins.
"You went on your merry way, as I recall. My mum was right furious."
He winces. "How is she?"
"Same as ever. Answer the question."
"I am, alright?" he snaps. "I left, and after a few days, well, I knew I'd made a mistake."
"Really? And what if something had happened to me? Would you have come back earlier then?"
"Will you let me finish, you silly woman? Yes, I went forward in time to check up on you. Wasn't anything else for me to do," he justifies. "That's when I discovered you'd written these books. For some reason I can't figure out, they're extremely popular. But I guess there's no accounting for taste."
"Charming," she mutters.
"I couldn't exactly deprive all those adoring fans," he says sarcastically. "So I decided I'd give you a chance to write them. And now you have," he finishes.
"Will I write any more?" she asks, curious.
"Rose, I was wrong to make you leave and I'm sorry, alright? Now, are you coming with me or what?"
"Oooh, ain't that lovely," she scoffs. "I feel ever so faint at that proposal."
"Who says it's a proposal?"
"Oh, right. You don't do domestic. How could I forget?" She looks him full on. "What does my obituary say? Do I stay here or do I go? Because, well, you must know, yeah?"
His response is to pull out two pieces of paper and place them on the table in front of her. "Future's what you make it, Rose," he says gently.
She looks down and recognizes her picture on both papers. One is clearly a product of Earth, but the other is alien. Words jump out at her from them; death, died, passed on, divorced... beloved Companion... and she looks up at him.
He smiles. "It's up to you, love."
She knows she's made up her mind when one of the papers fades away in front of her.