Author's Note: As with On Charms and Chickens, I'm creating this fanfic file to hold a collection of shorts and snapshots about the new couple, while I wait for the Muse to strike again with another Big Idea. This one isn't going anywhere in particular, just a holding pattern, keeping my hand in while other things simmer. Enjoy! The first story here takes off seconds after ReichWorld's end, tying up a tiny little end I'd deliberately left dangling therein.
"I want to go home," said Jackie. "I may never leave the house again."
As she'd just made the jump from the Reich World with Rose and Jared a few minutes before, after several weeks not knowing if they'd ever make it home, that sentiment was perfectly understandable.
"Me, too," her husband replied. He glanced at his watch. "If we leave now, we can check us boys out of the hotel, and get home in time for dinner." He looked up at Rose and the Doctor – at least, he presumed it was him. He wondered fleetingly where the TARDIS was, but didn't really care just then. "You two coming?"
Rose shook her head. "No, not right now. You guys go ahead. We'll come up for a visit in a few days." Jackie almost whipped around at that, and Rose gave her a silent Duh! "No, Mum... I'm not going back through this thing again. Neither of us are. We just need a holiday – and some time alone."
Mum looked slightly mollified, and simply said "Call me?" before tamely letting Pete lead her through the door, toddler Tony in her arms clutching his Mum tightly and chattering at her about all his activities the past few weeks with Dad.
Jared hadn't said a word through all the byplay; now he turned to Rose, perplexed. He hooked a thumb at his own chest and simply said, "Confused?"
She grinned. "I told you I lived in the mansion when I'm there... in London." A beat. "This is St Ives. And I've got my own place down here." His face clearing, he beamed back, and she laughed at his transparent relief. "It's not much, just a tiny little flat, but it's quiet, and private, and mine... and it's got a great view. And it's walking distance from here."
Stopping only to introduce Jared to the two Torchwood techs manning the cannon, Danny and John (giving them each a huge hug for bringing them all safely home at last), and a quick search for a rope-cum-makeshift-leash for Tock, Rose then led man and dog up through a short series of tunnels and dank staircases hewn from solid rock, emerging at last through what looked like cabinet doors into a small room, this time with daylight streaming dimly through a tiny flyspecked window high up in one wall. Turning to watch her close those doors, Jared laughed – they had indeed come out through a false-backed cabinet. The rest of the room was cluttered with odds and ends and dust and cobwebs; obviously a "little-used storage room". Rose peeked through a small window next to the only door to make sure the way was clear; as Jared passed it, he realized it was covered by a wooden screen of some sort on the other side.
Going on through, he discovered a small, ancient church; the door and window were hidden amid the carved screen covering the wall behind the altar. They walked quickly down the single center aisle and out the main doors, and Rose paused at last to let him take in the view – letting Tock run around loose for a bit, too.
The church was at one corner of a green park covering the promontory sticking out into St Ives Bay. Rose explained as they strolled down the pathway towards the town that the promontory was called "the Island" by the locals, and the church, St Nicholas' Chapel, had been there since the fifteenth century. "The Cornish Rift here in – Beta World, we're calling this now, right? The Rift is anchored here, in the old smuggling tunnels below the point. We – meaning Torchwood – did some very careful digging and redirecting to close off that section and disguise it, so we could use it undisturbed. The Coast Guard," and she motioned towards their tiny station on the western point, "know we're here, and that we're running some kind of secret government experiment. We keep all kinds of crazy, extreme rumors circulating to keep people guessing, but keep them away."
"Brilliant!" Jared beamed his approval.
Coming to the tiny car park, Jared whistled Tock close again and grabbed his leash, then followed Rose down the lane beside the strand to St Ives proper. A quick stop in a tiny grocery for supplies and a bag of dog food, then a short walk west brought them to a small street lined on both sides with two-story cottages, many of them turned into single-story flats. Rose opened the door to one in the middle of the block and led the way to the top floor, and at last they were home.
The staircase occupied the center of the street side, dividing the flat naturally into quadrants; the corner beside the stairs enclosed the bath, while the other three were one large, open L-shaped room with seafoam-green walls and a hardy, sandy-colored Berber carpet.. A small but well-designed kitchen took the other front corner, separated visually from the rest by a tiled peninsula which did double duty as a work space and eating surface for the stools lined up on the living room side. A large overstuffed corner group in doeskin brown leather with scattered throws offered rest in the L's middle, vying with the king-sized bed taking up most of the other end, piled high with comforters and pillows in all shades of pink and purple – Rose's colors, always – in luring weary bodies to a well-deserved rest. Fishing nets on the walls studded with starfish and glass ball floats assisted the coffee table, a glass round set atop a huge twisted driftwood knob, in maintaining the seaside flavor.
The inevitable focal point of the flat, though, was between bed and couch: a set of wide glass french doors flanked by even more windows (the entire back wall was virtually made of glass) leading onto a balcony stretching the length of the building. Jared was irresistibly drawn across the room and out those doors, and found himself looking right down onto Porthmeor beach, running west and south from the Island point. Spectacular nightly sunsets across the bay were guaranteed by the north-west orientation of the wall. Even the presence of tourists on the beach (as it was still high summer) didn't detract from the beauty of the place.
Jared leaned against the railing and breathed the salty air deeply into his lungs, closing his eyes blissfully and raising his face to the late afternoon sun. He felt he'd been running for, oh, about nine hundred years... and could finally stop and catch his breath. The mad dash across Reich World had left him barely any time to simply think, and begin to adjust to his new status, his new life. Even though he'd deliberately separated himself from the Doctor by repudiating the very name, he knew he still had to figure out who this new person, Jared Blue Wolfe (he'd decided to keep the middle name Rose had jokingly given him), really was. He sighed deeply. That's a process, I suspect, that will take me a very, very long time. Maybe my whole life. He was getting used to the shock that sizzled across his mind and body whenever he realized – again – that he was now "mortal", with a single, human life to live. As long as I'm living it with Rose... It's enough. It's everything I ever wanted. The visions he'd had when he'd opened the chameleon fob watch, of the normal life "John Smith" could have led with the nurse Joan Redfern, flittered quickly through his mind, the image of Rose's face superimposing itself upon Joan's, and he felt again the intense longing for that life. Now it was possible.
The sounds which had been drifting out from the room behind him had let him keep track with one corner of his mind of what Rose was doing: pulling out a couple of bowls from the cabinet and filling them with water and dog food for Tock. He'd half expected her to come out to stand beside him after that, but the space under his arm remained cold and empty, so he turned at last to look for her – and got another shock.
She was still in the kitchen, leaning against the counter while ostensibly watching Tock eat, but her face had twisted, tears coursing down her cheeks. She noticed him looking out of the corner of her eye, and turned away, a hand jammed into her mouth to muffle the sobs that abruptly started.
Without conscious thought he was by her side, putting a soft, tentative hand on her shoulder. "Rose? Sweetheart, what's wrong?" She didn't answer, but didn't pull away, so he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her in to hold her close. "It's OK, love," he whispered as he felt her continue to try to stifle the sobs. "Let it out. Whatever it is, let it out." And so she did, her head wilting onto his shoulder and her arms coming around his waist at last to hold on tight. After a few beats, he scooped her up and carried her over to the waiting nest of pillows on the bed, tucking himself around her. Tock finished devouring his meal and claimed a corner of the couch, curling up and watching his new humans through sleepy naptime eyes.
"I'm sorry," she croaked when her shoulders finally stopped their heaving, but he shook his head violently.
"No. Don't ever apologize for having feelings, love, whatever they are."
She pulled her head back and looked up at him, surprised and grateful, then leaned in for a quick, tender kiss. "It's just that..." she began haltingly, feeling her way through her sniffles. "For three years, everything I've done – absolutely everything – was geared towards one goal: getting back to the TARDIS. Not just to the Doctor – you – but to the ship. To that life. I loved that life, Jared. I adored living that way, hopping through space and time. And I wanted it back. And now..." She took a huge, shuddering breath, and made herself say it. "Now it's gone, completely, and I'll never get it back. And it hurts... And I don't know what to do now."
She paused for a moment, and focused on Jared, bringing her hands from his back to cup his face with them. "I know I'm being selfish. I'm not saying for a minute that my situation is worse than yours. I know full well that I've lived most of my life outside the TARDIS after all. But you... I can't imagine how this must be for you, love."
His mouth quirked, sadly. "Well, if you look at it one way, I've lived most of my life outside it, too, now – after all, we were left on that beach less than a day after this body was born." She gave a tiny smile, snorting softly, then he sobered and nodded. "But you're right. I still have nine hundred years of memories of living that way. Now we both have to figure out a whole new way to live."
Sighing, he leaned over to put his forehead to hers, and they sat breathing together for a moment, eyes closed. "We'll be all right," he reassured her – and himself. "As long as we're together, we'll be all right. We'll figure it out." Some psychic echo of the words made him stop and focus on the magnitude of that truth, and he raised his head again to gaze into her eyes.
"Rose..." he began haltingly. "I need you to promise me something this time." She nodded, acknowledging the reminder of the promise she'd extracted from him in Reich World, and he went on. "I know it won't always be easy, I know we'll face tough times. And there's always the chance that we won't make it. But I need you to promise me this: that you won't give up on us easily. I need you to promise that you'll fight for us. Rose, I need you, so much. I won't make it without you." He stopped with a tiny snort. "I sound like one of those crazy stalkers. And I don't want to. I'm not crazy. But I really..."
Rose saw him struggle against tears, and put her fingers across his lips to silence him. "I promise, Jared. I promise. I won't give up on us, ever." She shook her head. "I couldn't... I was fighting to get back to you, too. And I won't ever... give up on that. On us." And she sealed it with a long, passionate kiss.
A minute or two later she sat back, with a glint in her eyes he was beginning to recognize. "You know what I've always disliked about this flat – apart from the tourist hordes on the beach?" she asked, her dancing eyes belying the supposed non-sequitor.
"What?" he bit.
"This bed... is entirely too big. It's frikkin' lonely... Think you could help me out with that?"
"What," he began, sliding the most wide-eyed innocent look he could manage across his features. "You want to get a smaller one?"
What else could she do? She slowly reached behind her head for a pillow - and koshed him. And thus began their first epic Pillow Battle.