In an obscure corner of the universe, the last gap between realities coughed once and snapped shut, leaving a tiny shuttle and its single pilot lost in an unfamiliar world.
Rose yanked on her shoes and flew out the door. She was late for work, which usually didn't bother her, except that they were actually doing field work today. Some reports had come in from just out of Bristol, and Rose and Jake were assigned to investigate.
"The Doctor's going with you," Jake announced the moment Rose walked into her office.
Rose frowned. "Says who?"
"Says him. And your dad." He handed Rose his stunner. "There hasn't been any alien anything since you got back."
"Why aren't you going?"
Jake scooted out from behind the desk to reveal a clunky leg brace. "Ski accident in Norway over the weekend. I'm gonna miss all the fun. But I'll be in the Tower for your mission."
"You're gonna make me go on a mission by myself?"
"You're not by yourself, Rose. I told you, the Doctor's going with you."
Rose just glared.
"It's not like I meant to twist my leg skiing. Go on, you're gonna be late, and I gotta get up to the Tower." He stood up and limped to the door. Rose strapped on the extra gun and stalked out to Torchwood's Arsenal—an old warehouse that was made over into a storeroom for the autos and equipment used by Torchwood's finest.
The Doctor was already there, dressed in the standard all-black uniform, trying to convince the weapons officer that he didn't need a gun.
"You don't have to use it, Dr. Smith, but Torchwood policy states you have to have it while you're in the field."
"Give it up, Doctor. If you don't take it, you can't come along," Rose said, hoping he'd choose his no-gun policy over his desire to investigate aliens, even though she knew he wouldn't.
"Fine." He took the stunner-laser from the officer, checked to make sure it was set to stun, and strapped it on. "Are we going?"
"In a minute. I need the brief first."
"Got it already."
Rose huffed. "We don't have a jeep."
He held up a set of keys.
"Fine, we're going. Do you have your earpiece?"
"In my pocket."
"Put it on." Rose took the keys from him and went to start the jeep. She double-checked to make sure her earpiece was secure and turned it on. "Tower, this is Rose Tyler."
"Got you, Rose," Jake confirmed as the Doctor took the passenger seat.
"Tower, this is John Smith," he said, looking awkward.
"Confirmed, Dr. Smith," Jake replied.
The Doctor nodded and took off the earpiece, holding it carefully in his palm.
"You're supposed to wear it all the time," Rose said irritably as she drove out of the Arsenal.
"It doesn't make you nervous?"
"I trust Pete." She turned onto the main road to Bristol. "So, what's your guess?"
"What do you think's really going on?"
"I haven't seen anything yet."
"Based on the reports."
"Oh, come on. Reports? Half of them don't know what they're seeing."
"It's a game, okay?" Rose gripped the wheel a little harder in irritation. "Something to pass the time, since it's going to be a couple of hours before we get there."
There was silence in the jeep for a few moments before the Doctor asked, "Rose, are you okay?"
"How are your mirrors?"
"I've known you long enough to know when something's wrong, Rose."
"I'm fine," she repeated, but she knew she didn't sound very convincing at all. She could feel her hands starting to shake a little.
"Let me drive," he said.
"You aren't licenced!"
"I can drive a TARDIS. I can drive three hundred different classes of space ship. And I was licenced to drive a car, before I came here."
She didn't make a move to pull off the road, but gripped the wheel harder. "I'm. Fine."
He didn't press the issue. The rest of the drive consisted of awkward silence punctuated by comments on the passing landscape, and Rose wished he hadn't brought up the mirrors. The mirrors had been perfectly normal after she'd gone to his flat and thrown that mirror at him. Not that he'd know; he'd left her alone in her flat and they hadn't spoken for days. He hadn't told her anything, and that wouldn't have bothered her if it wasn't for the way he'd talked about the curly-haired River Song woman.
"Rose, you're going to miss the turn," the Doctor commented, and it took Rose longer than usual to register his comment. She slammed on the brakes and veered around the corner, throwing him against the door of the jeep. He didn't remark on her driving, but she could see he was a little more apprehensive, and he warned her well in advance now of every turn they had to make.