Standard disclaimers, mostly unbeta'd. Yes, I bowed to peer pressure. This is for Zenna… it's been done since before your review ; )
In the grand scheme of things…takes place after Devourer of Souls and Sunshine People. Ya probably only really need to have read, like, the last few chapters of Devourer of Souls to get this.
Rose woke from her nap to a gentle breeze pushing the window sheers past the heavy curtains, making them lap at the room like foamy ocean waves. Stretching, she closed her eyes and buried her head in the soft pillow for just another moment. It had been a good one; a needed one. She was supposed to go back to work tomorrow, but really didn't feel like it. She loved her job and all that, and it was well past time to face the music for not telling Torchwood they had a fully functional TARDIS right under their noses, but really—sleeping was just too good.
Taking just a fragment of the vortex into herself had been exhausting. The control needed to maintain the interest of the shadow creature and make sure Violet safely got where she was going was just too much. They'd given her a month off to recover, and she'd at first thought it too much, until she tried to go shopping with her mother about a week after the affair, and had gotten as far as the arcade and had to find a coffee shop to rest in for several hours.
Her mum had taken it all like a real trooper. Her dad included. Mickey seemed to be worried for the whole lot of them, that they were, for the most part, dealing rather well with Violet's sudden departure to parts unknown.
Managing to drag herself from under the covers, Rose made it over to the window, trying to draw in some fresh air. They were far enough away from the hustle and bustle that the air was, indeed, fresh. It had a bit of a musty smell, now, as spring approached and last winter's decay thawed and continued renewing the earth.
It was a gloriously warm day, drooping icicles melting from eves just above the small patio outside her door. It had snowed last week; it had been entirely unexpected, an entire foot of it, so the melting was slow. She could see patches of grass appearing, the withered remains of the gardens popping up though.
Everything had its season. The snow would melt and spring would pop through, and life would go on. She'd managed without the Doctor all these years; somehow she'd manage without Violet. Especially since, if the last message on her phone was any indication, the girl was having the time of her life.
Her first adventure. It made Rose gush to think of it. The message had been impossibly short, but a garbage planet with half-organic robots sounded like just the thing. And if she was reading the abbreviations correctly, Violet had destroyed the place herself.
Her girl was going to have a wonderful life. It gave Rose such a rush of joy to think about it.
It was only when Rose thought about not holding her again any time soon, or thought about how she'd miss all of Violet's firsts out there in the universe… then she'd end up in Violet's room, hugging the girl's pillow to her chest, playing it all back through her mind, trying to find another way.
The door creaked open behind her. "Hey, you're up. I'm going out for pizza, maybe a movie. You feel up to coming with?"
Mickey closed the door behind him, sitting on the edge of her bed, waiting for an answer.
She closed the window, then began making the bed right. The bottom wasn't too out of sorts, so she left him sitting there. "Yeah, I'll give it a shot. Last night of freedom and all."
Mickey handed her the last of the pillows. "You missed a great one today. The inner-departmental meeting from hell. Mehndolson was giving a talk about coordinating with similar organizations around the world, and how we were failing miserably, then he launches into his five year plan for cooperation. He could have just handed out the notes version of the slideshow presentation, and we could have skipped the whole stammering muttering bit of it." He chuckled. "And Pete's no good at those things. He always wants to be serious. So you were sorely missed in the playing hangman, trading phone messages department."
While he was talking, Rose went into her wardrobe and tossed off her heavy flannel jammies, pulling on a t-shirt and jeans. Regretfully, she pondered the top drawer of under things then slipped on a bra as an afterthought. She wanted to be comfortable, but at this point in her life, bras weren't really optional. Violet had breast-fed for what seemed like ever, and it had certainly taken its toll.
Grabbing a sweater, she came out of the walk-in, closing the door behind her. "I can't believe they let him talk in public. Anything else I need to know, before walking into the fire tomorrow?"
Mickey shrugged. "Dunno, same old. Gridoins want more rice, but they're offering the design for the anti-gravity thrusters, so that might work itself out. Pete's probably going to get stuck negotiating that one. Wouldn't be surprised if he tries to drag you along. I think he thinks he's getting too old for the narrow escapes. I can't imagine what could go wrong, but I'm just not very good at imagining."
Rose tugged the green sweater over her head, pulling her hair over the collar. "Are you kidding me? They're getting six tons of rice a month, and all we're asking is some technology in return. The negotiations are a formality. And boring. Have I mentioned boring?" She didn't cherish the thought of being in hot water when she came back, but she also didn't cherish being so well-loved as to be forced into a non-life or death treaty situation. Not only was she better at the thinking on her toes thing, versus the careful planning, moving the chess pieces around the board thing, but it was just a heck of a lot more interesting that way. "If Pete has any love for me at all, he won't drag me up there with him."
Mickey cleanly avoided getting in the middle of that one. He already had bets placed on Rose getting called in for this one, regardless of how badly the section heads thought she'd handled the situation with Violet—the anti-grav technology was that important to them. "Ready?"
Rose grabbed her keys. "Last night of freedom—haveta capitalize on that. Lead the way."
The pizza hadn't been too bad, perhaps a bit salty. They'd spent an hour talking about everything but work, and it felt good to be getting back into circulation. It wasn't until they were waiting for the movie to start that Rose started thinking about things.
Mickey saw it in her eye, as soon as it started. "What?"
Staring at the blank movie screen, she shook her head. "I don't know. I had her for so long—longer than I had him, even. I should be grateful for what I had, y'know." Rose shook her head. "I want it all, Mickey. That's all. I'm not asking for too much, am I?"
He nudged her with his shoulder. "Hey. None of that, now. You said she's coming back, she's coming back."
The movie had been unremarkable; an action thriller better suited to summer or a holiday break and released at entirely the wrong time. For Rose's sake, Mickey tried to throw himself into it, however. He laughed at the awful jokes, cheered at the explosions, and generally tried to have enough fun for both of them.
They were out onto the wet street and he was still trying to talk it up. "Did you see that gun? If it was really that big, he'd have collapsed under it. But he just picks it up and is shooting bugs all over the place." He pantomimed the action, shooting over the piled snow at passing automobiles. He hadn't seen this much snow in…ever. And it had just landed on their door step, for no reason at all. "What I wouldn't give for one of those things. I wouldn't have to think or negotiate any more. You don't do what Mickey Smith says… POW."
Rose was smiling, happy that he was happy—but he knew her. It was the same look in her eyes as when she'd first arrived here with Jackie—a haunted hollowness in the eyes that had taken almost half a year to dissipate. She might have talked about how excited she was for Violet, but Mickey knew the truth; she was in mourning.
It was a hellish day back, and it was only ten in the morning. No sooner had she shoved her lunch into a desk drawer had she been called into the boss's office. She was grateful William was doing this in private, at least.
The office was extremely bright, mid-morning light pouring through the wall of windows. The last of the snow was gone, but everything was glistening wet, making the glare from the street below even more powerful.
Rose stood in front of her chair, arms crossed—she'd refused to sit, no matter how many times she'd been asked. A relaxing conversation wasn't really what she was in here for, after all. "What was I supposed to do? Let that thing get her?"
William pinched the bridge of his nose. "No, Miss Tyler. But had we known, we may have been able to help. And then you would have Violet--"
She cut him off, not letting him finish the thought. "And you'd have a functional TARDIS, which you can't operate. But you wouldn't. And I wouldn't. And don't DARE to bring her into this. You and I both know that she's where she needs to be." She'd accepted it, and Violet was her whole world. It killed her, but she accepted it. Why couldn't THEY?
"And how do you know that, exactly?" William leafed through the report. There wasn't much more than her own official statement, brief though it had been, and the reports of all the other eye-witnesses.
She didn't know how much more to tell them. No one had gone into the Bad Wolf thing, and she didn't want to say more than that. "I just know. I can't tell you how I know—I just know."
William leaned across his desk. He was frowning, light glaring off of his bald dome. "We give you a lot of leeway here, Miss Tyler. And trust. An incredible amount. But I'm sorry—that's not good enough."
Composing herself, Rose took a few deep breaths, carefully considering her words before answering. "What leeway might that be? I do more than my fair share, here—both in the office and in the field. I have a specialty that you're going to be hard-pressed to find in anyone else. For Godsakes, William, I let you people poke and prod my daughter for seven years under the auspice of wanting to learn more about Time Lords." The last caught in her throat. It wasn't like she'd had much choice; she couldn't just take Violet for checkups with a regular physician. Still—she'd been far more than cooperative.
Smoothing out the wrinkles in her black skirt, Rose composed herself. "She wasn't meant to be here, William. I'm lucky I had her for as long as I did. She's meant to be with HIM, out there. Where she can learn how to do some good."
Her boss opened his mouth, and she knew what was coming before he said it, but that didn't make it sting any less. "We could have done that for her."
Rose needed a nap already. Fighting this uphill battle was making her tired. She liked William; she bought his kids birthday presents every year. He was, in general, the most understanding section head, and it was true—he gave her, usually, just enough rope to hang herself. Fortunately, it always had worked out in the past. This, however, hadn't worked out to Torchwood's immediate advantage.
"Yeah, that'd be great." The sarcasm was noticeable in her voice. "She'll grow up into some kind of agent for Torchwood, doing what we want, when we want. First of all, that's more power than any organization should have. Second of all—he's had a hell of a lot more practice with this saving the universe stuff. If anyone's going to teach her anything worth knowing—he will."
"But what good is she THERE?" There being a whole other reality, of course. There being some place where she couldn't 'help' here. And once again, he was thinking in the Torchwood mindset. He was fairly easy going—but he was also a company man.
There must have been times when the Doctor felt like this—frustrated with those who didn't see the big picture. This wasn't about Torchwood, or realities competing for Time Lords. This was about all of time and space.
Sitting down in the chair finally, Rose folded her hands in her lap. "This is off the record."
As a gesture of good will, her section head closed the folder. "Alright."
Rose crossed her ankles, cursing her uncomfortable work clothes. She did it because she had to, but she'd never fully adapted to the dress code here. And she was back in jeans before you could spit, if trouble stirred up. There was an unwritten rule that she wasn't expected to save the world in a business suit. "How many times have I saved the earth? Twice on my own, once with Pete, and who knows how many other things I've diffused before they got ugly. That's an awful lot. That's like… Doctor levels of trouble, and it's followin' me around. And there's other stuff going on out there, stuff we're just getting backlashes off of. It's not supposed to be like this, William. The universe is falling into disarray without the Time Lords to set it right." Mostly without the Doctor to set it right, but that was a bit more personal than she wanted to get with her employer.
It was a conclusion she'd come to over the last few years and it had helped her make her peace with letting Violet go. "She's comin' back. I don't know when. But I believe that."
She hadn't mentioned the messages to her phone. She hadn't mentioned the Doctor telling her about the tiny lifeline that had opened up between the two realities. "THAT is going to be her job when she gets here: putting things right. Not working for Torchwood, not doing what one little organization in one little country on one little planet tells her to do. She's going to do what Time Lords do. And I'm going to stand behind that. If the Institute does anything other than let her and the Doctor do their thing—you're going to have me to contend with. And you can pretty much bet, if you have ME to contend with, you're going to have my family to contend with. You want to work with the Time Lords, not against them." All whopping two that there were.
William said nothing for a few moments, and when he did speak, it was just as carefully worded as the beginning of Rose's explanation. "Well. I thank you for your candor, Miss Tyler. I also thank you for making your allegiances clear."
And once again, they just didn't get it. "My allegiance is to my family, first of all. The fact that they are who they are—ANY of them, that's a separate issue. My allegiance is to the universe not falling apart and earth not being enslaved or destroyed. Torchwood is a means to an end, Mr. Galveston." since we're being formal about it, Rose wanted to add. "Right now, despite our differences, I think we have a mutually beneficial arrangement, currently."
The thing was—Rose knew the cards were stacked in her favor. They might bust on her, give her some lousy assignments and treat her about as kindly as her coworkers usually did, but in the end they needed her. And if she was right, and Violet DID come back, they wanted to be in the good graces of one or both of the universes' remaining Time Lords.
So why did she have such a bad feeling about this?
As William closed the folder, he wouldn't look at her. After he put the file away, he locked the desk drawer, and it was like a nail in the coffin. Her special relationship with Torchwood had always been a precarious thing, and it had just changed.
Mickey and Pete had just better keep their eyes and ears opened…there was no way of telling how this would go.
"I really don't want to be eaten by lions today."
The hive-like crossing brass metal bars slid back from the cell door. Pete pulled Rose to her feet and away from the two-headed doggish-lionish thing she'd been thrown in with. "I have it scheduled for next Tuesday," he snapped, dragging her through the opening.
Closing the cell door before the thing could pounce, he turned looking for more guards. They took off towards the transmat pads, not even thinking of how many people and creatures would be between them and there.
Hearing the clopping of feet behind them, he fired a warning shot from the stick-like animal training device he'd relieved a guard from earlier. "I'm too old for this."
Rose's trainers skidded as they turned another corner. "They're NEVER going to believe this," she breathed, kicking a control panel, which caused another ornate brass door to close between them and approaching pursuers. "Who's going to believe they're using rice for evil?"
Not letting her think about it any further, Pete pulled her toward the lifts.
The transmat thing hadn't panned out. They'd ended up boosting a shuttle. The thing hadn't had much fuel and they were only marginally sure how to fly it. Fortunately they'd only been in orbit over the earth, so it wasn't as hopeless as it could have been.
Pete had kept it together through the atmosphere, but they'd ended up making the best landing possible in the ocean, which meant plummeting for half an hour until they hit the bottom, then waiting still longer for a rescue.
They had quite a bit of time to stare in the dark at the things that might be fish brushing up against the glass, admire the brass work, and think.
Rose sat with her feet propped up on one of the control panels, knees tucked toward her chest, staring at her nails. Hair wavy and pinned out of her face, shredded jean hems hanging down, she looked almost how Pete remembered in those first few times they'd met.
She had a bit more grace now. Instead of just a girl bold enough to rush headlong into all of this madness, she was a woman taking calculated risks. There was a weight that hadn't been there at the time, though. "I'll talk to them," he told her. "They'll see that we did the right thing, eventually."
Rose sat up. "Don't you dare. They don't know that you and Mickey knew. If they knew that…" she shook her head. "Things are changin' there. I can just feel it. They're going to start cutting me out. It's already started. I don't think I got all the intel for this mission. They're going to start doing it with you and Mickey, just because you're associated with me. Don't give them excuses to make it overt."
Leaning back in the pilot's chair, Pete nodded, seeing her point. "I won't say that we knew anything. But… this is ridiculous. It's going to work out to their benefit in the end."
Twisting in the seat, Rose looked at him with stern seriousness. "They don't see it like that—they see the now. And really—is it going to work out to their benefit? Who's side has the Doctor ever been on? If they think they're going to control her, they're wrong. Which means they have pretty good odds of being on opposing sides, and where do you think that's going to put us?"
The fuel was low, so the temperature was steadily dropping. Pete crossed his arms over his chest, looking down at the dark green polo he'd been wearing. He'd gone slightly casual. It wasn't really his thing, but he'd lost enough cufflinks and destroyed enough favorite shirts to be more flexible on these off-world ventures.
The tail of something large slapped the glass in front of them, and he concentrated on that point of contact for a moment. "We'll get through this too." It was a reassuring statement, but his voice betrayed the seriousness of the situation. "They're just Torchwood."
Rose's eyes had wandered to the carvings on the walls, but then they snapped back to his. "And currently the most powerful organization on this planet."
Pete shook his head. "You're not listening to me. They're just Torchwood. In the grand scheme of things, small beer. They are not the only organization on this planet, nor is this planet the only one out there. They are not more powerful than the Doctor, nor are they more powerful than this family." He brushed her cheek with his finger. It had taken a while to get used to the idea of being a dad, much less one to an adult daughter. But he'd taken to it easily enough, especially with all the trust Rose had given him. "Listen to your dad. We've been through it with Daleks and Cybermen. The Torchwood Institute would be just another self-involved government agency mucking up the fate of the earth without us, just like that other Torchwood. And they'd do well to remember that."
Some of the burden seemed to lift from her eyes.
He was glad to see that—they'd all had a tough month, her most of all. "And if they forget—we'll have to teach it to them again."
It was a statement of optimism, but they both felt the underlying current—eventually they very well may have to. That would be a very ugly time, indeed.
"Until then," Pete instructed, "We play it as we always have. We let on nothing, we give them nothing."
Rose took solace in his resolve. They had started this for Violet and they'd keep doing this for her. From the moment the Doctor had taken her hand and ordered her to run, she and her family had been set on this path. It was higher than the one Torchwood rode, and it had to be. They were all on the cusp of something much, much larger, with the potential to change the Universe as they knew it. Torchwood wouldn't and couldn't stop that. She had faith enough in herself, the Doctor and her family.
There was also her unwavering faith not just in Violet, but faith in her unlimited potential.
Pulling herself together, she sniffed, clearing something out of her eye. "Alright. Now that that's out of the way." Tugging on her jacket, she sat up straight, preparing to face what lay ahead. "I guess that just means we need to find some way to explain, in very small words, why and possibly HOW they were turning whole grain rice into bombs."
Pete slapped her arm. "That's a girl."
(Aww, who am I kidding, really. Just the end of this part of the tale.)