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Disclaimer: Doctor Who and all its characters, aliens, and concepts belong to BBC. I own my notebook, and…not a whole lot else. I'm making no profit off of this.
Character/Pairing: Rose Tyler, Mickey Smith, Pete Tyler, Adam Mitchell, Rose/The Doctor, Rose/OC
Rating: PG – because, well, girls grow up. Really, though, quite clean.
Summary: The Doctor—her first Doctor, right before he burst in flames—told her to have a fantastic life. On the beach, her Doctor said, "Rose Tyler: defender of the Earth." Her mom turns it into a plaque, Mickey tries to make it a joke, and others want it to be a publicity stunt, but Rose pays attention to the difference.
Spoilers/Author's Note: Quotes abound from everything up to and including Doomsday; otherwise, basic spoilers for 4x01, the mid-s4 season trailer, and an interview that Billie Piper gave about Rose's character in season 4. I wrote this a while back, before watching Turn Left (let alone anything after it), so it is AU, but I decided to go ahead and post it here anyway.
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I am a constant satellite
of your blazing sun
I obey your law of gravity
this is the fate you've carved on me
~Gravity by Vienna Teng
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Rose cries on Bad Wolf Bay until she can't anymore, and then she lets her mother lead her away.
Her hand is so very empty, but she doesn't reach for anyone. Not her mum, who's holding her tight enough to pin her to this same (wrong) ground forever, and not even Mickey or Pete. No more funfairs, now: just the slow path.
* * *
The Doctor—her first Doctor, right before he burst in flames—told her to have a fantastic life. On the beach, her Doctor said, "Rose Tyler: defender of the Earth." Her mom turns it into a plaque, Mickey tries to make it a joke, and others want it to be a publicity stunt, but Rose pays attention to the difference. If there was one thing in all the universe(s) she paid attention to, it was the Doctor: defender of the Earth, he called her, and she thinks, well, 'kay then.
Torchwood gave her a gun when she signed up. She starts her lessons six months later, and the shots are almost louder than the words left unsaid.
* * *
There are no Time Lords in Pete's world. Perhaps even worse, there are no chips. This, she thinks, is completely unfair and almost not surprising. She remembers chips and a hand to hold, time and new ground under her feet every time. She and her mum spend days learning how to make cheap fried potatoes with vinegar and salt exactly like the chippy did back in the other world (home), and then convince the staff that they aren't quite mad, whatever they see in Rose's eyes. The recipe catches on, sort of. Torchwood people start stealing a chip now and again at lunch, looking bemused and then grinning as they try a bit of Rose Tyler's eccentricity.
The chips aren't the same, but they're something. The old taste fades a little, and she adjusts to the more conventional spice bread—extra spices and salt for her, but it isn't the same if her fingers stay clean.
The Time Lords are another matter. Oh, not the Time Lords, not really—she cares (cared) about them for him, for his loss and guilt, and for a people massacred, but how can a stupid ape see the change and darkness of a universe without stuffy Time Lords? The Doctor is another matter (and isn't he always). Pete's world is missing chips, and it is missing the Doctor—or even just (never just) a Doctor.
When she stops crying every night, when she learns to keep her hands too busy to be empty, she thinks more about a universe with no Doctor. No higher authority, no protector, even no pusher of great big threatening buttons that should never ever be pushed—just apes and aliens. No Doctor, only his companion.
That's a work in progress. Give her time.
* * *
Everyone at Torchwood knows that she isn't quite right. Well, people in general do, too—Pete Tyler suddenly has a daughter, and an adult one at that, and the rumours fly like hair in a catfight. Paparazzi follow her, and in a post-Cybermen world, strangers wonder about her. But Torchwood is full of ex-Resistance members and other paranoid investigators, all of them quick to realize that Rose Tyler, (shopgirl) heiress to millions (but no A-levels), knows more about aliens and saving the world (universe) than the rest of them put together. She has the wrong accent, the wrong dye job, and definitely the wrong shoes for her quickly gained position. And she doesn't like guns. She may as well be from Mars, the way they watch her.
The story comes out slowly, trickling through speculation about her early depression and her vague definition of "travelling." When Pete asks her about the Sycorax, the crisis has her blood pumping as she tells him and Torchwood that the Doctor…
The would-be invasion comes, and so does blood control. With no Doctor to do better, an ex-shopgirl is gutted by a sword, and shots are almost fired. When she wins the duel anyway, she remembers him well enough, even a year later (forever), to say that the Earth is defended, and the Sycorax can never return.
She has been in Pete's world long enough to want, more than (almost) anything, for the Doctor to find another hand to hold. Her own stays empty, but she has her mum and Mickey, Pete and little Susan to hold her up until she can stand. The Doctor's rubbish at being alone, period, not alone-without-her. If he has to, she can be just the Sarah Jane who (take me back, take me back!) can never ever see the Doctor again (I like impossible). It isn't like she'll know the difference if he mentions her or hides her just like the others.
(Is that what you're gonna do to me?
No. Not to you.)
Everyone at Torchwood knows about the Doctor—her best friend, the one who showed her the universe, and who (thought he) had all the answers. What they know about her and the Doctor couldn't fill an index card, and couldn't hurt him anyway. Everyone knows about the mark the Doctor left behind, the girl he reshaped into a defender, and she will never forget him, never stop loving him, if she lives forever. (How long are you gonna stay with me?) She made a promise, a broken and human promise, but one she meant. One she chose to keep. But he will live on, long after and before her bones are dust, and he's so rubbish on his own. She doesn't want him to be alone; she doesn't want to be another war wound—she understands better, saw enough in his eyes.
But she is human—so very human, wolf and all—and she wants to be remembered. Just that, if not irreplaceable, if not that one right hand to hold (but I can't spend the rest of mine with you). Just…remembered.
* * *
Life after the Doctor, it isn't all bad. No, it's good, sometimes fantastic, even—she remembers her first Doctor's goodbye, too, she wouldn't forget, even if it does sort of clash with the standard set by her second Doctor. (Do that for me, Rose. Have a fantastic life.)
She's got her mum, and Mickey, and little Susan, and Pete—she got off better there, compared to the Doctor. And it isn't as if she's tied to the ground with a paystub in a shop again. She's proud of her Torchwood, the difference they are—she is—making in Pete's world. She's not a depressed person by nature, and she adjusts. She relearns how to stay in one spot, or at least how to ignore her traveller's lust. She teaches herself not to hear the TARDIS rematerializing, not to turn at thin figures in pinstriped suits.
She doesn't date during the first three years, though she flirts for her mum's sake and because she's still Rose Tyler, even after the Doctor. She has years yet, though, if she wants to try. She'll always love the Doctor, but she won't ever see him again (you can't), and she knows from him and her mum that life doesn't end with loss. She won't settle, though, and she won't pine away her life. That's just as much a part of the fantastic life he once wanted for her as anything else.
It's over four years in Pete's world before she and her assigned field partner, James, start flirting in earnest, start catching hands as they run and laugh. The new hand isn't quite right, but it definitely isn't wrong. He wears a battered leather jacket and close-cropped hair, which makes her wonder if she's going to be infatuated with leather jackets and pinstripes as a new rule, but he's not the Doctor and she doesn't pretend he is. He reminds her of someone she can't think of, always smiling and trusting, always ready for the next adventure, but definitely not the Doctor. She's happy, and she's adjusting to this grounded life.
This, of course, is when it all goes wrong.
* * *
There're things that happen, alien things, and she knows what to do because she and the Doctor already did it, or because she remembers something he said about them. Sometimes it goes alright, and the harm is minimal.
Sometimes she manages okay even if she doesn't have any clues from the Doctor, even with her not-brilliant brain. Sometimes someone else is the hero, and sometimes Torchwood and everyone do quite well—as well as anyone could expect.
Sometimes, though, it all goes wrong. Rose doesn't remember or think of something, or they just have rotten human luck, and people die. Sometimes a lot of people die—like the Cybermen all over again, and with her feet tied to this world, Rose sees all the consequences of her mistakes. She loses people who matter to her, and holds friends while they grieve. Mickey loses Jake one day, and is never the same.
She comforts herself that even the Doctor sometimes fought wars the traditional way, in the trenches with gunfire and bombs and sacrifice. The longer she is in Pete's world, the more she reminds herself of this.
As things get worse, her gun becomes an uneasy friend, and she stops worrying what the Doctor would think.
* * *
The Doctor taught her to see problems right before they explode, right when people need to start acting, and she hasn't forgotten him yet (never). The sky gets darker, and so does Pete's world. New laws replace the stars that are disappearing. In a post-Cybus Industries world, nobody can miss how very wrong things are becoming (but they try anyway). When every trail leads to their own government, Torchwood sends James into Downing Street to find out details. Rose loses him even before their first kiss.
She steals James' leather jacket, and Mickey and her mum flank her that night, but even crumpled up in bed she can't quite cry. Her mum talks about shock, and Mickey about how he felt when Jake died. They watch her like it's Bad Wolf Bay all over again, and she begins to wonder if she's been lying to herself after all, just a little bit (I love you).
When President Harriet Jones is assassinated just a week later, the news report blurs before her eyes, and she pulls James' jacket tighter around her.
She thinks: We need the Doctor (help me). But she's also relearned the concept of impossible; Rose and Pete and the rest of Torchwood lose sleep in meetings and the field. Rose Tyler slips the last of her hope into her back pocket, and prepares for whatever is coming. There is no Doctor—not anymore, not here. Not for her.
* * *
It starts out as a joke, or she hopes it does—gallows humour, she thinks, after the Sontaran almost-invasion; she can't forgive herself for the people they couldn't save. Torchwood starts murmuring that she has a "Doctor complex." Her first thought is that it's a snide remark on her first solution for the encroaching darkness, and perhaps even a reaction to the heart-saving distance she found between her and James (quite right, too). She doesn't wear widow's black, though she has cried properly by the start of the joke. Instead of spotlighting her love life, or belief in a person she'll never see again, however, she finds that Torchwood uses the Doctor complex as a more Rose-referential saviour complex.
The joke (if it ever was that) becomes something else, though, as "Defender of the Earth" meshes with reality. The darker their world gets, the more Rose Tyler throws herself into the fight, and the more she finds herself set up as a hero (you tell them: it – is - defended).
Instead of focusing on her role as a team member, Torchwood starts turning to her for answers and solutions (she doesn't have them half of often enough). New recruits hover around her, watching with wide eyes as she imagines she once did with the Doctor.
They pair her up with a fresh face: Adam Mitchell, of all the doubles she could have met, except this Adam is younger, and he looks at her as if she's the genius. She unfolds secrets before him slowly, and lets him think the alien hair dryer is a gun, and he soaks it all in and asks for more. He doesn't faint the first time he sees the Earth from an alien spaceship, either; apparently, Pete Tyler isn't the only one who got it right in this world.
Adam becomes one of Torchwood's top tech whiz kids, working out the details that she could never track, and that Mickey hasn't the experience or education to do. He always saves his best toys for Rose, even before it becomes Torchwood policy, but he doesn't see Rose Tyler. On his first independent project, he's so excited that he slips and calls her "Doctor Tyler," and he's only the first one to say it to her face.
* * *
Almost five years since she last saw the Doctor, all the stars disappear entirely, and the moon only ghosts in the sky through a telescope lens. Pete Tyler calls an emergency session with the President no one has seen yet, and with other people whose names are second to their titles—Ministers of Defence and Extraterrestrials and the People.
Rose is late because of traffic, but she's just stepped into the council antechamber when she hears the first EXTERMINATE.
* * *
When things are very, very bad, Rose forgets: Her hand opens, her fingers stretch, and she turns to grin (run), and then her hand curls closed on air, and she remembers that she is alone.
* * *
(There was a war, and we lost.)
EXTERMINATE rises in a descant over the years of living after the Doctor, but Mickey (you're the bravest man I've ever met—alright, bravest human) covers her mouth as if she might scream (maybe she could), and he wraps his arms around her, and activates his emergency teleport.
In Torchwood, he lets her go and she wants to cry (you're my daddy), but instead she thinks of the Doctor and the Time War. "Director Pete Tyler is dead," she tells her stunned team. "He was killed by aliens called the Daleks. 'S time to gear up." (The last great Time War.)
(Oh, Rose. They're all dead.)
She tries to answer their questions as best she can—they need all the information they can get—and then she's throwing out orders for scans and short-term missions, and necessary intelligence, and defending the general population, and even contacting other countries, before she realizes that everyone is following her voice as if she's the one who will save them all.
(Rose Tyler. Defender of the Earth.)
There's nothing much of the Doctor in her right now, though—she's Rose Tyler, and she's the Bad Wolf (you are tiny). She is the huntress, the defender, and her people are being attacked (I want you safe, my Doctor).
She plots and thinks as best she can, but mostly she fights. She's not the Doctor; she has Mickey and Adam working on weapons that can be used against the Daleks. There are no Time Lords in this world to fight the Daleks, so it's all down to Torchwood and the Bad Wolf.
* * *
Her hand is empty, and she makes it into a fist so that she won't think about what she doesn't have.
That horrible night when the Daleks come back—survive when she has lost everything and rebuilt what she could through sweat and blood and tears—she falls asleep at her desk, tears blurring her plans into useless ink. Mickey, the only one in Torchwood who still sees someone other than "Doctor" Tyler, carries her to the infirmary to sleep.
* * *
She dreams of light and stars, death and life, the Daleks and Time, her Doctor and the Heart. She feels the Earth turn under her, the expansion of the universe, the birth and death of every star, and all is tiny compared to her, all dances to Time's (her) melody.
Also, the Doctor kisses her. Rose is pretty sure, once she wakes up, that that makes the whole dream suspect.
* * *
She hears the singing everywhere she goes now. It is her comfort (I think you need a Doctor), and it is her war cry (I want you safe).
* * *
Adam dies in front of her, for her, and she'll never forget the glow of his skeleton and then the weight in her arms.
She escapes with fire and fight, the singing at a crescendo as Adam's pet project finally loads and she kills the Dalek who surprised them in an alleyway. She wants to run through the streets, gun blazing, give the Daleks something to remember her by before they think of taking away another person who matters to her. The wolf wants blood, her hands are full of an eager weapon half her size, and she only barely contains both (the moral high ground is mine). There is too much war left for grief, let alone suicide. Rose shifts her gun, and carries her companion to the Torchwood car.
First James, she thinks once she is in the front seat and staring blankly ahead. Or first Jack, really, then James, then Pete (again), and now Adam. Forever separated from the Doctor, she begins to understand him better than ever.
(But humans decay, you wither and die. Imagine watching that to someone you—)
* * *
Every night Rose and Mickey stay up late brainstorming everything they know about Daleks, and every morning they wake up early to put their plans into action, even as the death toll rises, even when people across the globe start vanishing out of thin air. Pete's world falls down around them, but they stand together. He isn't the boy she dated anymore than she is the girl he loved. They tie each other to reality as their friends disappear, and when it happens the sex is never more than a reminder of who they once were—what they need to keep.
She misses the Doctor—not just the hero, but her best mate, her hand to hold (better with two). Her fingers never uncurl from fists these days, and still she can't ever completely forget.
* * *
Five years, seven months, two days, and five-and-a-half hours after Bad Wolf Bay, Rose steps sideways into a world without zeppelins. A world with stars she had almost forgotten, and so many people wandering and talking in the streets, living their lives so casually that it takes her a minute to recognize it as contemporary London.
Rose wonders, before she can stop herself: Her London?
Although she tries, she can't hear or speak to any of these people, as if the wall between the universes—thin and transparent though it may be—has not yet completely shattered. Whatever the ginger lady is trying to tell her, Rose hopes it isn't important.
She turns and walks away to see more of this place (you can't), when she falls sideways again, and she's back in the alley, a defiant zeppelin above her, and a Dalek before her.
"Right, Pete's world," she says, and dives for her weapon.
* * *
(Mind you, I quite like hope. Hope's a good emotion.)
There are Daleks in a world without Time Lords or the Doctor, or—as far as she knows—Time Wars. She thought of it before, at the start, let herself wonder if these were the same Daleks, but with the time gap she, Mickey, and Pete thought…
She talks about Time Lords over an open transmission one day, and gets a reaction the next, when Daleks bend their invasion to find Torchwood and the woman who knows about them. Mickey is captured, and her mum and Susan go even deeper into hiding so that Rose can know, absolutely, that the walls between Pete's world and her own have been torn to ribbons, the impossible done, and they have more than one universe to save.
She wonders if—
Rose and her team attack the Daleks, all guns firing, and they rescue Mickey and as many people as they can, before Rose lets herself think about the impossible.
(Am I ever gonna see you again?
They need the Doctor; Torchwood, Pete's world, they're all in over their heads, and her no less so. There're Daleks on Downing Street, and even the sun is fading now, their sunrise a vibrant display of greys. What they need is someone like the Doctor (but there's no one else like him); they need a legend, a leader, not just the Bad Wolf running at the head of her pack. Her hope, she tells herself, that little bit that she's kept safe in her back pocket all these years, is as much for this world, for all the universes, as it is for her. She's grown up here, after all, as much as she did with the Doctor. She hasn't stood still any more than Wendy Darling did after she left Neverland.
Rose's hand is empty, and she understands now that the weight of the worlds cannot be fully lifted even by the exactly right hand (there's me). Her hand is empty, and she knows how little that means in the grand scope of things, but still it wants to stretch out and catch and hold that other hand as they run anywhere and everywhere, forever.
She takes her last bit of hope out of its hiding place, and holds it high in her empty hand to light the way home.