Disclaimer: I own nothing, BBC owns all.
As ever, thanks to Bonnie for beta reading!
"Got guests," the Doctor said, crouching by the bushes that lined the Tyler home.
Rose nodded slowly, her eyes still wide as she stared at the mansion housing this universe's Pete and Jackie Tyler. "February the first," she said. "Mum's birthday. Even in a parallel universe, she still loves a party."
The Doctor fought – and lost – against an evil smirk.
"Oi, whatever you're thinkin', I know it's not nice!" Rose shoved his shoulder gently. "Mum's been much nicer to you since Christmas."
He made a non-committal noise in the back of his throat. "Either way, looks like an easy way to make an appearance." He produced a flap of leather from his pocket, grinning just a bit. "An' I've got our invite."
"Psychic paper!" Rose bounced excitedly.
"Yup," he replied, folding his arms in a pleased fashion. "Who d'you wanna be tonight?"
"The Doctor, plus one?" Rose grinned back. "Been a while since we had a proper date, you know."
"Oi, I take you places all the time!"
Rose's tongue peeked around her teeth in a cheeky smile. "An' I always have to pay," she pointed out. "Hardly fair, is it?"
"Right then, Rose Tyler," the Doctor stood, taking her hand and pulling her with him. "Date it is, what's your fancy?"
"Think the TARDIS will have the wardrobe back up?" Rose's eyes glittered with excitement.
"Oh, maybe with a bit of sweet talkin' she could pull it up," he replied, raising a brow curiously. "What've you got planned?"
"Can't exactly show up to a fancy party in jeans, can we?"
"Oi, I can show up in anything!" The Doctor objected as she took hold of his jacket sleeve and began to tug him after her. "This is a bit more reasonable than I used to be, no need for you to go harpin' on about it so much!"
"I don't harp on about it!" Rose objected, laughing a little. "It'd just be nice to shake it up a bit, yeah?"
"Humans and your fashions," the Doctor muttered. "Can't keep an idea for five minutes together before you change your mind."
"Less whinging, faster walking!" Rose commanded, pulling him with her. "We're on a time limit you know!"
By the time of their return, the TARDIS was a good bit more welcoming than it had been at their departure – the lights were still dim, but they were lit. Rose smiled and ran her hand along a rail, shivering happily when it hummed, however faintly, beneath her fingers.
"She's much better already," the Doctor informed her, quietly. "She's healin' herself."
"It doesn't feel as empty," Rose said, tapping a nail against one of the tall coral struts. She raised an eyebrow at the Doctor. "Think we can get in the wardrobe?"
"No harm in checkin'," the Doctor shrugged and leaned over the console, apparently finding meaning in the complex, morphing geometrical symbols on the display. "Down the hall, second on your left."
Rose stared blankly for a moment. "Why's it moved?"
"She hasn't got the rest of the ship ready yet," he explained, turning and facing her. "My bedroom, wardrobe and kitchen are all she's got. Oldest rooms are easiest."
"Right…makes sense," Rose said, still frowning a little. "I'll go on then; we gotta get back to the party, yeah?"
"Yes, yes," he waved a hand at her. "Third floor, second row on the left should have something for you, an' don't take all day at it!"
Rose rolled her eyes as she hurried out of the room, anxious – though she wouldn't tell him so – to return to the Tyler home. She half-snorted at the thought; as if he didn't already know.
She didn't bother searching the wardrobe however; she knew exactly which dress she was going to wear and exactly where it was located. One of the few disappointments of life about the TARDIS was a sad deficit in opportunities to dress up; she usually ended up running for her life and it was rarely a good idea to put herself in heels beforehand.
The gown in question was a pale gold sheath; made of stiff silk with lacing up the front of the bodice. It hugged her curves in all the right places, but it was comfortable; she could still move and was relatively confident it wouldn't impair her breathing at all.
She couldn't be entirely sure how she managed to get herself in it without assistance, but she patted the TARDIS rails in appreciation just to be safe – and heard a rather warm hum in return. She wore a pair of strappy gold sandals that elongated her legs in a lovely way, and then she grabbed a small, bigger-on-the-inside black clutch from the wall and stuffed it with a pair of simple, pink trainers – because she wasn't quite fool enough to think that any 'date' with the Doctor was guaranteed to be free of running.
Her return to the console room, face made-up far less dramatically than she typically preferred and hair brushed until it shone, was less than an hour after she had left. Very nearly half, in fact, which she thought was a rather remarkable feat of speed, considering.
Though she had to admit that all thoughts of her timeliness fled the moment she laid eyes on the Doctor. She had always thought that heroines who claimed their 'hearts stopped' at the sight of their heroes were being a tad melodramatic. That was before she saw the Doctor in a tuxedo. A perfectly tailored, perfectly fitted, all-together gorgeously made black tuxedo that brought to mind all sorts of things that good girls didn't think about. It was stuffy, and just a bit wrong on him, but that didn't stop her from noting exactly how well the wool suit across his shoulders and how utterly edible he looked.
"Blimey." The exhalation was not, as she first thought, voiced by her. The Doctor's eyes were roaming over her, a good deal more brazenly than he had ever allowed himself before. "You're beautiful."
Rose smiled and met his eyes, blushing under the intensity of his gaze. "For a human?"
"Nope," he said, stepping forward and extending an arm toward her. "Far beyond humans, you. Put you closer to the scale of the people on Betaqailimarz XI, now there's a people with mind for beauty. Genetically built for it actually, not a plain face on the planet. Nice lot, might take you there when we're done, you'd like them –" he paused, thoughtfully. "Second thought, maybe not; I have enough trouble keepin' pretty boys off my ship as it is."
Rose laughed and tucked her hand into his elbow. "You look all right yourself," she replied. "For a Time Lord," she added, smiling a bit wickedly.
He took a deep breath and a slow grin spread across his face. "That a fact?"
He just grinned a little more smugly and pulled her with him out of the TARDIS.
By the time they returned to the mansion, the party was well underway. The Doctor disappeared almost instantly as Rose slowly wandered through the rooms. This was the place she could have grown up, where her toys would have been tossed after a long day, or where she and her girlfriends would have giggled the first time a boy kissed them.
A Rose Tyler in this world wouldn't have had a constant parade of 'uncles' through her life and her mother's bed; she would have never fallen for an act like Jimmy Stone's, or if she had, she would have had a dad to chase him off. She wouldn't have spent six months broke and miserable on a dirty couch in a dirtier apartment, and – and she wouldn't have had Mickey to pull her out if she did. After all, she wouldn't have been in the same schools; she wouldn't have had Shareen or Keisha to tease about dates and dances. She wouldn't have worked at Henrik's. She would never have had the Doctor.
No contest. She smiled a little as she spotted him across the room, being terribly subtle as he snuck up the stairs in search of whatever danger he could possibly track down. It was probably unhealthy to find his troublemaking charming. She would have to rebuke herself quite sharply later.
She took a sip from her glass of champagne and watched her mother laugh with a man who was, according to one of the serving girls she'd been chatting with, the President – not Prime Minister – of Great Britain. Jackie Tyler was joking with a world leader, and not offending anyone. The proper Jackie couldn't spend five minutes with Cousin Mo without starting a fight. It was just…too strange.
"I remember her twenty-first." The voice at her elbow made her jump. "Pint of cider in the George."
Rose searched her mind for a response and fought desperately against the desire to stare at the man who was-but-wasn't her father. "You've, um," she stuttered. "You've been married that long?"
"Yeah, twenty years," Pete replied, a brief, awkward smile crossing his face. "We started out workin' from our flat on the estate; me with my drinks and Jacks with her haircuts. Now we're here."
"An' no kids?" Rose asked, her eyes just a little too intent on his response.
"Kept puttin' it off," Pete said, looking away. "She said she didn't want to spoil her figure."
"Not too late," Rose pointed out. "She's only forty."
"Thirty-nine," Pete corrected, smiling a little.
"All right." Rose laughed a little. "Thirty-nine."
Pete chuckled with her for a few moments, but the grin dropped off his face as he set his eyes once again on his wife. "Still too late," he said quietly. "I moved out last month. We're gonna keep it quiet, you know – it's bad for business."
Rose managed, somehow, to maintain her brave face. She nodded, and tried to remember what the Doctor had said so many times already that day – this was a different world. Her Pete would never have left her mother, they would have made it. She knew that, no matter what anyone tried to tell her. The fact that she felt like someone had punched her in the gut was a natural reaction to a man's pain, sympathy only.
Something inside of her snorted rudely about denial.
"Why am I telling you all of this?" Pete shook his head and focused on Rose. "We haven't met before have we?" His eyes narrowed. "How did you get an invite?"
"I – I didn't, actually," Rose stammered. "I came with a friend; I'm his plus-one."
"Who's your friend?"
She almost unconscious began to lean away; the expression on his face was rapidly turning angry. "The Doctor – Doctor John Smith," she answered, holding her glass of champagne a bit closer to her chest. "I don't know where he got his invitation."
"We must have met before." Pete stared at her for a long moment. "You're not one of those columnists are you? Lookin' for another scoop on my family?"
"No!" Rose's eyes narrowed in response. "I'm not out to get you! An' you, you came up to me!"
"Yeah." He deflated quickly. "Sorry, it's just – you seem…" he trailed off, eyes focused on her.
Hope flared in her as she reached out to touch his arm – only to have him jolt away suddenly, inventing an excuse to chase down a man across the room. Her hand dropped back to her side, fingers twitching uselessly.
Parallel world. Different. Not hers. Even if she 'seemed'.
She bit her lip and moved quickly for the door; she needed air and she needed it quickly. She all but flung herself onto the patio, breathing heavily. "God, 's not fair," she mumbled, looking over the expansive grounds.
"All right, love?"
Rose jumped at the voice and turned. Jackie Tyler, wealthy wife of a millionaire, stood just outside the door.
"Don't mean to pry," Jackie continued, stepping a bit further. "Was on my way out here myself, you just look like you need an ear."
"I'm okay," Rose answered, managing a small smile. "Just been a bit of a day."
"And me, too," Jackie said, nodding slowly. She took a seat on a small stone bench and sighed. "A man?"
"Couple of 'em," Rose replied, shooting the woman who was not her mother a small, bitter grin. "You?" She hoped that her question didn't sound entirely too desperate.
"Hmm." Jackie sighed again. "Isn't it always? Even after twenty years…"
"He seems like a nice bloke though," Rose ventured. "I was talkin' to him earlier. Bit of a Jack the lad, I s'pose, even if he has got money…but he seems all right."
"He's good at that," Jackie replied, not a little bit of venom in her voice. "Brilliant at it, makin' people like him, an' trust him." As she got angrier her carefully cultivated voice began to slip, revealing more of her coarse London background – and by extension, cementing her place as Jackie Tyler in Rose's mind. "But he's been married to that company for years now, never mind me!" She sagged. "Liked it better when he was jus' chasin' after blondes. I could fight off a woman, can't fight a corporation."
"If it means anything." Rose's voice was low. "I never saw a bloke look so sad as he did when I asked if you had any kids."
"Well, that's not about me," Jackie replied, leaning back a bit. "We nearly did, once." Rose jolted, but Jackie didn't notice. "I was pregnant, right after we got married. Had an accident, took a long time before I thought I could try again. An' by then…wasn't sure I wanted to bring a baby into a house like that." She laughed a little, bitterly. "Always wanted to name a daughter after my Granny Rose; guess I gave up when we got the dog. Used her instead."
"Named it Rose?" Her face froze, she knew she wore a horrible expression but she couldn't help it.
"Yeah," Jackie replied and frowned. "Why?"
"Sorry." Rose coughed. "'S just, it's my name. Rose." She paused. "Rose Smith."
"Oh!" Jackie laughed and held out a hand. "Didn't even think to ask your name, did I? Guess you know mine. You can call me Jackie though."
"Thanks," Rose replied, shaking the proffered limb. "An' it's okay. Not askin'."
"Here." Jackie stood up, tugging the younger girl after her. "I'll make amends. Sit in the kitchen, have a cuppa?"
"That'd be amazin'," Rose said, a smile creeping over her face. "You know, my mum loves that. End of a long night – she never goes straight to bed; she always stays up to have that last cup of tea."
"Oh, I'm the same!" Jackie smiled back, not releasing Rose's arm.
Rose grinned and nodded a little. "Two suga-" she broke off as a clang ripped through the air, the sudden floodlights aimed at the house nearly blinding her. She tightened her grip on her not-mother's hand. She shot her an anxious glance. "Get inside," she ordered quietly.
"I-" Jackie started then froze. Her eyes were locked on the metallic men steadily marching toward her home. "What are they?"
"I dunno." Rose allowed herself one moment of panic, staring at them – and then she jolted back into motion, pulling Jackie through the glass doors. "I've gotta find the Doctor, he'll sort it!"
Once inside the house she released her hostess and pushed herself to her toes, trying to see over the guests. Across the room, the Doctor appeared in the doorway, eyes wide and worried. A knot of fear began to settle, low in her belly.
"Rose!" Their eyes met for just a moment and then they both moved to the window, peering through to the monsters approaching. "No," the Doctor whispered, his voice low and furious. "Not again."
"Again?" Rose tilted her head at him.
"I keep fightin' them an' they keep comin' back."
"Who? What are they?"
With a resounding crash, the metal men entered the Tyler mansion.
"What are they? Robots?" Rose murmured, as the remaining humans were quickly herded together and encircled by the cyber creations. The President was already arguing over his earpiece, demanding that 'Lumic' stop his creations.
"No. Much worse," the Doctor replied. "They're the ultimate upgrade."
"Not anymore." The Doctor stared into cold metal eyes. "Just a brain in a steel suit. No heart, nothin' left that can feel. Nothin' like a person at all."
"Why no feelings?"
The Doctor gave her a long, sad look. "They hurt."
Rose slipped her hand into his, squeezing tightly.
"We have been upgraded," one of the Cybermen intoned.
"Have you now?" the Doctor demanded. "'S that what you'd call it?"
"We are the next level of mankind. We are Human Point Two. Every citizen will receive a free upgrade. You will become like us."
"I'm sorry." The President was already shaking his head as he walked between the cybernetic men. "I'm so sorry for what's been done to you. But listen to me –" he turned sharply and began to pace. "This experiment ends! Tonight."
"Upgrading is compulsory."
The President raised his chin proudly. "And if I refuse?"
"Don't do that," the Doctor interrupted sharply.
"What if I refuse?"
The Doctor stepped forward, invading the President's personal space. "Stop it, you don't want that answer!"
He was ignored. "What happens," the President asked quietly. "If I refuse?"
"Then you are not compatible."
"What happens then?"
His answer, a few moments later, was final and ultimate. "You will be deleted." A steel arm grasped him about the neck and with a jolt of blue-white light, he collapsed to the ground.
Rose looked around anxiously for a moment before she spotted Jackie; the older woman was joining in the panic and looking to run. Rose grabbed her arm and told her in a solid voice to stick with them.
Jackie nodded just once and then Rose was being dragged away through the throng.
"We can't stop them!" the Doctor said, pulling her through a broken window. Jackie followed, and a moment later they were joined by Pete as they raced around the house, dodging the troops.
"Where are we going?" Jackie panted, attempting to keep pace with the time travellers.
"Trying to get out of here!" The Doctor snapped.
"Side gate!" Pete said breathlessly, pointing around the corner. "Who are you?" He demanded, locking on the Doctor for a moment. "How do you know so much?"
"Long story that you wouldn't believe anyway!" The Doctor broke off as they charged into another contingent of the monster. "Oh fantastic!"
"No need for sarcasm!" Rose pointed out, trailing a little behind as they ran. In front of the floodlights, two figures began to run toward them. "Oi, who's that?"
"Get behind me!" One of them shouted, slamming to his knees and bringing a gun to bear on the Cybermen. Bullets ricocheted off the metal men; they stopped but showed no signs of damage.
"Oh my god," Rose whispered, staring at one of the pair. "Mickey?"
"It's Ricky," he corrected, scowling at her. "Who the hell are you?"
"Can we save the pleasantries for later?" the Doctor interrupted. "In case you haven't noticed –"
"We're surrounded," Rose finished for him, panic beginning to press against her chest for the first time.
"The guns are no use," the Doctor warned quietly. "Put 'em away."
The other young man ignored him, firing a volley of bullets toward the Cybermen. The Doctor ripped the weapon from his hands angrily.
"I jus' told you! Are you thick?" He tossed the gun to the grass and straightened, slowly turning as he addressed the former-humans. "Right! You got us! No need to fight, we'll come in peace!"
"You are rogue elements." A Cyberman stepped forward.
"No, no, not rogue, this is us, surrenderin'!"
"You are incompatible."
"You will be deleted."
"We bloody well will not!" Jackie yelled from behind him.
"Jackie Tyler, you shut up!" The Doctor shouted back, voice just reaching frantic. "Ignore her, we're surrendering!"
"Defiant stock cannot be upgraded. Man will be reborn as Cybermen but you will perish under maximum deletion." Its arm rose toward them, and in a moment all their voices had joined together in one ominous, echoing word. "Delete!"