Title: Here. After.
Author: Rummi
Rating: G
Spoilers: Through "Doomsday"
Notes: Because most fans say inconsistencies are simply a part of the Who-verse, and as such should be ignored for full enjoyment of the show. So here's me: poking at some of those pesky inconsistencies that do tend to crop up.

I wrote this snippet nearly two years ago, the day after I watched "Doomsday." I'd intended to take it in a particular direction, then never did. But I think this part stands okay on its own. It feels a little unfinished, but maybe it's supposed to.

Summary: It took Rose a few weeks to wonder if she might not be as alone as she thought.

Word I was in the house alone
Somehow must have gotten abroad,
Word I was in my life alone,
Word I had no one left but God.
- from Bereft by Robert Frost

At first she felt stranded – adrift – so very alone. More so, even, than the first time she'd found herself billions of years away from what she called home, staring at the burned shell of the planet that had once been the Earth. In such a short time, she'd been to the farthest reaches of the universe, but this . . .

This daily living – carving out some semblance of an existence in the day to day – that was what felt alien to her now.

At first the chasm in her broken heart felt like it was growing more and more empty with every passing moment. But with the sadness came an even sharper anger – at the unfairness of it all, but mostly at herself. Anger at the idea that, if she'd just held on a moment or two longer, this wouldn't have happened. If she'd just been stronger or faster, she wouldn't be feeling so hollow and alone.

It took Rose a few weeks to wonder if she might not be as alone as she thought. And when she did, the first thing she reached for was a phone book.

She crossed her fingers, flipped to a section near the back, and began the daunting task of scanning pages upon pages of the same surname. She had never realized before how very many people had that particular name. When her finger finally slid down to the entry she was looking for, she almost didn't believe it. She had to reread it several times to make sure she hadn't been mistaken. Then she copied down the corresponding address and slipped it into her pocket.

It was another week before she could muster up the courage to look at it again. Still another before she managed to force herself to board a bus to that section of town. When she found herself in a quaint, quiet neighborhood in front of a house with a trellis of yellow roses and the address matching the one in her hand, Rose didn't know if she had any courage left to make her legs move.

What if she had been wrong? She didn't know if her heart could take the pain of even more separation – another link severed, a final hope dead.

Yet her feet found their way to the door and before Rose knew it, she was knocking.

It felt like an eternity before she received an answer, although it was probably only a few moments. Rose's stomach twisted at the delayed silence that surrounded her as she stood on that front stoop, but she fought the urge to turn and run. Her heart fluttered in her chest and she almost knocked again. The next moment, however, the door in front of her opened.

The woman framed in the doorway looked just as Rose remembered – petite, brunette, and attractively middle-aged. Rose's breath hitched in her throat and she took an unconscious step back. She suddenly didn't want to do this anymore; she didn't want to know she had been completely wrong. This was an alternate Earth, after all – for every familiar detail, so many more were so very different.

But Rose had come this far. She wouldn't be the girl who could risk death at the hands of monsters and Dalek emperors only to quail at the prospect of getting her heart just a little more broken. She didn't allow her brain to interfere as she finally spoke. "Are you . . . you're Sarah Jane Smith?"

The woman looked surprised for a moment, then regarded Rose with polite curiosity, as though trying to place her. "Yes," she said. "Have we met?"

Rose stared back for what felt like a very long time. Then her body gave a little shake. It was as if some remote part of her brain was trying to prod her into coherence. She suddenly didn't know what she wanted to say.

"No," she finally muttered. Her hands fidgeted in front of her. "No, I guess not. Not really."

"Is there something I can help you with?" Sarah Jane stepped toward Rose. She looked as sympathetic as she had the last time Rose had seen her . . . even if it hadn't been this Sarah Jane.

Rose glanced in several different directions and her eyes caught sight of the flower-covered trellis that decorated the front of the house. "Rose," she finally said, her brain suddenly stumbling to catch up with the words coming from her mouth. She shook the cobwebs out of her head and faced the woman before her. "I'm Rose, I mean. That's my name . . . Rose Tyler."

Sarah Jane smiled. "Nice to meet you, Rose Tyler," she said. "What can I do for you?"

Rose returned the smile grimly and her shoulders sagged. She realized that she had no idea what she really wanted to say, so she just let the words come. "I don't know," she said. "I don't even know why I'm here." She gave a rueful chuckle as she felt tears burning behind her eyes again. She blinked to keep them back and was surprised when it actually worked.

"Look," she said, "you don't know me. And you probably already think I'm mad, but I just . . . I needed to talk to you."

Some distant part of Rose's mind echoed the same refrain it had been playing since she the moment before she had reached for that phone book: the last thing Sarah Jane – the other Sarah Jane – had said before leaving the TARDIS all those months ago.

"Find me . . . if you need to one day. Find me."

And Rose had needed to, even though, deep down, she had hoped she never would. She had needed to find her, because in the midst of the entire world collapsing around her heart there was a chance – a very slim chance, time and space being what they are, but a chance nonetheless – that someone in this new world had actually once known what she was feeling. Her family and Mickey understood her pain, of course – her mother had even felt it to an extent once. But this was different; this involved the Doctor, and if anyone in the universe could help Rose – could teach her how to begin picking up the pieces of her broken heart, tell her how to live with the "after" – it would be Miss Sarah Jane Smith.

Even if this Sarah Jane had never met the Doctor, Rose still felt the need to find her – to seek the help and sympathy that Sarah Jane had once offered.

"I'm sorry," Rose continued. "I know how this is going to sound, especially if it turns out that I'm wrong, but there's a chance you may be the only person, besides my family, who wouldn't think I'm completely insane." Rose took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. She was prepared to hastily remove herself from the premises should this alternate version of Sarah Jane see fit to call the authorities about the crazy girl on her doorstep.

Without any further preamble, Rose blurted, "Have you ever met a man called the Doctor?"

Sarah Jane didn't react to that. There were no telltale signs of recognition: no stiffening of her posture, no sudden and blatant recollection on her face. She merely stood there regarding Rose with a small frown.

Rose's heart pounded painfully in her chest. She felt as though the last strand of hope, to which she had clung like a lifeline, had snapped, leaving her sinking into a crushing dark ocean.

She knew it had been a long shot anyway – seeking out someone to talk to, someone who had known him, someone who had lost him, someone who would know exactly how Rose was feeling right now. But the Doctor had been right, as usual: Travel between worlds – between dimensions – was supposed to be impossible. Rose was here; he was there.

And this Sarah Jane had never met the Doctor.

When the tears came this time, Rose knew she would have no power to stop them. So she began to move back toward the street, searching for an escape before she inevitably lost all control. "S'all right," she muttered. "Thanks anyway."

It didn't surprise Rose when Sarah Jane also moved back toward the shelter of her own doorway. It did surprise her, however, when the woman pushed the door farther open and gestured toward the hallway beyond.

"It's all right, Rose," Sarah Jane said. "Perhaps you'd better come in."

Rose froze where she was and blinked. The smallest glimmer of hope rekindled and clung to life as she began to take unconscious steps forward again. She stepped inside the warmth of the house, and Sarah Jane closed the door behind them.

The End