Chapter 3

"Ah," says Jack. Where does he go from here, exactly?

Rose knows what he's trying to figure out how to say, though. She can tell from his expression. She spares him the worry. "She travels with him, right? She's his new..." she trails off, unable to think of the correct word. "Friend," she settles for, somewhat uneasily.

"She did. Not anymore, though. She works for UNIT now."

"Oh?" replies Rose, "Good is she?"

Jack smiles at Rose's attempt to sound polite. He knows this must be killing her, thinking he'd moved on. Without her.

"Yeah. She saved the World, Rose," he says, because he can't deny it, can he? Martha is more than good. She's his friend. But he knows Rose will think that she's been replaced, and she'll probably feel jealous...

"Good. I'm glad he found someone," Rose says, nodding, and Jack is shocked to hear that she means it. "But not anymore? Who's he with now?"

"I'm not sure. I had an adventure – a long, terrible adventure – with them both, after which I came back to Iant – the team." Rose smirks at his self-correction. "And then, Martha called me to say that he'd got her a job at UNIT once she decided to stay here on Earth instead of travelling with him."

"Oh. But...why would she give it up, though?" Rose questions curiously. She knew firsthand how hard it is to get back into normal life after travelling with the Doctor. Sarah-Jane had been so incredibly right about that.

"Because...well. I think – now don't take this the wrong way, Rose – but it was because of you, really."

"What do you mean? She's never met me." She thinks for a moment. "Has she?"

"No. But the Doctor has."

She looks at Jack strangely. "Yeah..."

"She was living in your shadow, Rose. She fell in love with him, like you did, but he never even looked at her. He liked her, but that was it. She told me how he'd go on about you. She was so jealous of you, when she knew she shouldn't be, because you couldn't be with him anymore, and he wanted you to be with him, so, so much."

Rose feels her jealousy be slowly replaced by guilt. She feels so sorry for Martha. And she is also completely shell-shocked. "He...talked about me?"

Jack snorts. "Of course he did! He was so lost without you. Actually, I have this sneaky suspicion that I caught him talking to you, once. Not you, obviously, not really; but an imaginary you. I think he pretended you were there with him, talking to him. He was chuckling to himself and everything, like he was imagining what you would say. It would've been really quite adorably cute, if it wasn't so heartbreaking," he tells her, and his own voices hitches as he speaks.

Rose gasps in shock at his words. She can't believe it. He'd never spoke to her about his past companions; never even mentioned Sarah-Jane before she met her. And there he was, telling poor Martha all about her.

"What, you expected him to forget about you as soon as you weren't there? Move on? He didn't even want anyone to travel with him anymore, Rose. But he did something...and this woman – Donna, he said her name was - stopped him from..." he trails off, unable to meet Rose's eyes.

Realisation dawns on Rose at the haunted look on her friend's face. "He was going to give up?" she says, disbelievingly, her voice rising in volume. "Just like that? What the f - "

"Do you really not realise how much you meant to him? He was going to tell you, he said. He knew you already knew anyway, but he insisted he would've told you, if he hadn't been cut off."

"He told you about that?" she whispers, voice cracking under the heavy weight of emotion.

Jack nods. "Anyway, this Donna told him he needed someone – she didn't want to go with him, though, apparently. He ignored her advice for ages, though. It was months before he could even come back to Earth. And he said that there are still about eighty-seven other planets he can't visit anymore, because the memories...hurt too much." Jack knows somewhere inside his mind that he probably shouldn't be telling her all this stuff. He's hurting her, he knows that, but he can't shake the feeling that she needs to know just what the Doctor was like without her.

To his surprise, Rose chuckles. "You know, at least half of those planets neither of us can visit ever again, due to the fact that we were banned for...well. Doing stuff we weren't supposed to," she says, and Jack waggles his eyebrows.

"Oh yeah?" he replies, glad to see she's a least trying to keep upbeat.

"Yep," she replies.

"Like what?"

"Wouldn't you like to know," she teases.

"Yes, I would. I missed all the good stuff. Back when he was big-ears it was all intense looks and unresolved sexual tension between the two of you. By the point the sexytime came along, I was gone."

She scoffs, rolling her eyes. "'Sexytime?' Haha! As if!" she denies, giggling.

"And you know what he said to me once, when you were in the shower?"

She frowns. "Do I wanna know?" she asks.

"All I did was politely ask if maybe, just once, I could join in. And he was all 'nah, Jack. It's better with two.' I mean, how insulting! And what a tease, too! Making me think I was missing out when you hadn't even done that yet. I'll have you know that - "

" - It is though. It's better with two. That's why this Donna girl wanted him to find someone. She could see that he needed someone. He's so much better when he's showing someone the great wonders of the universe he holds the key to," she says softly, seriously, and Jack knows that now...now they are talking about the Doctor's life.

"No. It's better with you," Jack says before he can stop himself.

She rolls her eyes.

"Seriously, Rose. I mean, you're right, he does need someone. But that someone wasn't Donna, and it wasn't really Martha. And it wasn't me, either. He needs you, Rose Tyler. That's precisely the reason Martha left; she couldn't replace you, however much she wanted to. It might seem unlikely to you, because he's what, like nearly 1000 years old? So you'd think, he must've felt like this before, don't you? But he hasn't. At least, not this much. He'll never get over you."

She bites her lip and snuggles into Jack's side as he brings his arms around her. A few tears trickle down from her eyes but she refuses to acknowledge they are there. Jack rubs her arm affectionately and continues to whisper in her ear.

"He thought it would be easier, knowing that you were alive and living a life day after day rather than being dead. But he said..."

"What? What did he say?" Rose mumbles into his chest when Jack is silent for a few moments.

Jack clears his throat. "He said that he knew it was selfish, but he hated the thought that you were going to be happy without him, with the life he could never give you – the husband, the children, the house and the dog."

Rose sits up. "How could he say that? How can he even think that? I never wanted that life! I'd never want that life, not unless it's with him. I've tried to forget how wonderful he is, but I can't Jack..."

"I know, honey, I know," Jack murmurs soothingly.

"I always dream about him. Every night. I tried not to sleep at first, because it hurt too much to dream, but after about two days of that nonsense I decided that I wanted to sleep - all the time, so that I could dream about him. It's the only time I get to be with him, and I..." she pauses, taking a deep breath. "I don't think I'll ever move on. Remembering all that...I mean, I wouldn't have missed it for the world, and I know that it's better to have loved and lost than never love at all, and I know how disappointed and guilty he felt when Sarah-Jane said that she never married because he was such a hard act to follow, but you know what? She was so right, and she never even touched the surface with him. I could never be with anyone else. Never."

Jack strokes her hair as she tries to control her breathing.

"I think about him all the time, Jack, I really do. All I have to do is see a bloody banana, or a jar of marmalade and I lapse into this trance-like state of remembering, and - "

Jack grins at her.

"Oi! Don't look at me like that, we didn't use flipping fruitand marmalade like, inappropriately or something, Jack, it's just what he used to like to eat." He nods, and she continues. "It's funny how food can be so...I dunno, sentimental? Like, I haven't eaten chips since I've been away from him. I'm that sad, it's ridiculous!" she laughs softly, but her eyes say everything. "And then there's stuff like certain words - I'll hear the word 'brilliant' or someone saying something at 100 miles an hour and I'll think 'stop it, you're not him' like he owns the words or something. It's really, really stupid. But I can't help it. I'm not..." she stops, her words had been coming out disjointed as she tried to hold back her sobs, but she can't stop herself anymore.

Jack can't bear to see her like this, but he doubts she's had the chance to let all this out properly before, with Mickey or her mum, so he knows he needs to listen and comfort her.

Beginning to cry properly, but still attempting to ignore it, she carries on, sniffing constantly. "I saw what Torchwood does, all that violence and stuff, and I refused to take part in it. I try to negotiate, try to 'evoke peace' or whatever, because I know he wouldn't want me to be like that – he tried to stop you being like that. So I tried to live life best I could, but I never got properly settled, because I knew that one day, I'd get back to him. I'm not...I'm not happy, Jack. I pretend I am doing okay for Mum, but I'm not. I feel...hollow. It hurts, right here," she says, holding one hand to her chest, and the other to her stomach, trying to stop it quivering. "It hurts, Jack," she repeats.

"I know Rose. It's hurting him too."

"All I need is that daft old alien's hand back in mine and I'll be happy. I'm not happy without him. I'm not anything. My hand has never felt so empty," she says, looking at her hand as if she's not quite sure what to make of it; like it's not supposed to be there. "And I don't care if he never says it again, or never even feels it, because this feeling I have, this love I have for that stupid, stupid man is enough for both of us and I'll be happy enough to just be with him and I can't move on, Jack, I can't, I just...can't."

Jack pulls her closer, and squeezes her to him, comforting her in the only way he knows how.

"You love him so much, and you have so much faith in him. But Rose, why have you never been able to recognise just how much he loves you?"

She looks up at him, her nose running, mascara smudged across her face, and she opens her mouth to respond, but the words don't come out. She heaves in an exhausted breath, and swallows thickly. "Because he never told me," she finally manages.

"But you knew, right? You know?"

She sniffs, and Jack doesn't stop her when she starts wiping her face with his shirt-sleeve. "Yeah. I wondered...for ages, I didn't know. But then...well. He couldn't hide it that well. I knew there were moments when he almost said it, but like, caught himself at the last minute and said something else instead. He was such a coward," she chuckles, "It was actually quite endearing. But yeah. Of course I knew." She pauses, remembering all those happy times...the times before Canary Wharf and the Battle and her heart breaking. All those times he hugged her, or simply looked at her with such love and affection and pride in his eyes. All those times that he had her hand to hold. "Oh, of course I knew," she smiles.

"Then that's all that matters."

"It'd still be nice to hear it though. That day, on the beach in Norway – it was the worst day of my life. And I couldn't even kiss him goodbye. And then...he ran out of time, and he never - "

"- finished his sentence."

"Exactly," Rose smiles wearily.

"So what happens now? Shouldn't you be contacting your Torchwood or UNIT or whatever to let them know you're in the wrong time?"

Rose hesitates. "I suppose so," she says in the end, very reluctantly. "I just...seeing you again, Jack – I don't want to leave." She sighs to herself for a moment. "But then again, universes to save and all that, so..."

"Do you ever wish that you could go back to living your normal life, before you got caught up in all of this...this..."

"Alien stuff?" Rose replies, smirking.

"Yeah."

"Never."

"Really? But think about it – you could be young and free and single, and yet you've got the worries of the world, all worlds, on your shoulders..."

"I wouldn't want to go back, Jack. I'd be nothing without all this. Even without the Doctor, I can recognise that I am something now. If I hadn't met him that day, I'd still be working in a shop, living on the estate, going nowhere with my life. At least now I have a purpose. And a chance."

"A chance?"

"A chance. A chance to get back to someone I really love, rather than moping around full of regrets."

"Yeah. I know what you mean."

"But..."

"What?"

"I don't want to go."

"Then, don't. Stay here, until the times match up."

"Well..."

"Rose..." he begins, thinking. "The date..."

Rose turns to where Jack's pointing to a calendar behind them. "Ah," she whispers.

"What? What is it? How long until...?"

She swallows thickly. "I don't know if I should tell you. But...well, it's soon."

"Soon? How soon?"

"Very soon. And I have got some things I need to do here, so...and if I go back, there's no guarantee I'm going to get back to the right time and place anyway, so..."

"So you can stay? Fight it with us, together?" Jack asks hopefully.

"He must be coming here sooner or later, so I'll stay until I can trace the TARDIS. Then I'll go find her, and her annoying pilot, and he'll save everyone," Rose decides, with a definitive nod of her head.

"Okay, good plan. So, how long?" he asks innocently.

She looks at him gravely. "I can't say..."

"Rose. Please. How long?"

Rose grabs his hands in hers and squeezes them tightly. "You can't tell them. Any of them. Not even Ianto. Tell them, and they'll panic, and then they'll be of no use at all. So don't tell them anything."

Jacks nods. "Deal."

She swallows thickly. "Six and a half months, and this world matches the date when things started to go horribly, horribly wrong in Pete's World. Of course, it might not work out the same, but...well, the sooner I can find the Doctor, the better really, so it's a much better idea that I stay in the place he is most likely visit – 21st century Britain."

"Right. Wow. Okay. And you have no idea what it is – the thing bringing the darkness?"

She grins wolfishly. "No idea!" she cries cheerfully, and Jack shakes his head in part-amusement, part-horror at her flippancy over the fact that she has no clue what sort of enemy they'll be facing. She's just like the Doctor, he thinks. "But we'll be ready. And that's all that matters," Rose finishes, in a much lower, more serious voice. He sees the defiance in her eyes and knows she means it.