Rose walked up the steps of Bucknall House, her heart thudding against her ribs. She'd put this off for too long, and now she had even more to tell Jackie. She reached the door and knocked, biting her lip.
After a moment, it swung open, and Jackie blinked at her, surprised, before pulling her into a bone-cracking hug. "Rose! Why didn't you let me know you'd be stopping by? Where's himself?"
"He's helping out with something in town—an' that's actually what I came to talk to you about. Well, that and… " Rose swallowed. "Can I come in?"
"'Course you can, sweetheart! Sorry it's a bit of a mess, I only just got back from Mo's. Here, just let me get us some tea, all right?" Rose slumped down on the comfortable couch, playing with her fingers. Jackie came bustling out of the kitchen, steaming mugs in both hands. "Here we go. Now, what's it you wanted to talk to me about? You aren't pregnant already, are you?"
"What? No, that's ridiculous! I don't even know if the Doctor and I can have kids."
Jackie pursed her lips. "Fine, but you'd better find out soon. I don't know if I want to be a grandmum yet."
"No, what I wanted to talk to you about…" She paused. "Remember when you got the tow truck, when the Doctor was stuck in the future?"
"It's not exactly somethin' you forget, is it?" She sipped her tea, and stared down into her cup. "You were gone for so long, Rose. I thought I'd sent you off to die."
"No, Mum. When we opened the TARDIS, though, she connected with me. 'Bonded', the Doctor calls it." She took a deep breath. "I'm not exactly normal anymore, Mum."
Jackie froze, her mug caught between her lap and her mouth. "What do you mean, Rose?"
"When the TARDIS and I bonded, Mum, we kind of… made a few adjustments." She stared down at the familiar pink mug in her hands. "I'm not aging, Mum. I don't know if I ever will. An' anytime I get hurt, she heals me."
"'Anytime you get hurt'?" Jackie set her mug carefully on the coffee table, her movements tight. "What happened, Rose?"
"We were helping a group of rebels, an' there was an ambush. One of 'em got me, and the Doctor thought I was gone until I started glowin'."
Jackie swallowed heavily. "What are you?"
Rose bit her lip and took a sip of tea. "I don't know, exactly. But I know I'm going to be able to stay with the Doctor for the rest of our lives."
"The Doctor. Always the Doctor." Jackie's jaw tightened. "What have you done to yourself, Rose? What about your life?"
"This is my life, Mum." Rose glanced down at the small gold band on her hand. "We promised 'till death do us part, Mum. It'll just be a bit longer than for most people."
"What happens if it doesn't work out, Rose? What happens if you two have a fight an' end up splittin' up, and you're left someone, immortal an' alone? What are you going to do without 'im?"
"That's not goin' to happen, Mum." She shook her head when Jackie started talking again, interrupting. "But that's not the only thing I came to talk to you about today. When the Doctor and I told you about Mickey stayin' in a parallel world, we weren't lying. We really had been pulled into a parallel world, and Mickey stayed there four years before comin' back. But there's something we didn't tell you about that world." She took a deep breath. "In that world, Pete Tyler never died."
Jackie dropped her mug with a clatter, spilling tea on the rug. She stared at her daughter. "What?"
"He didn't get run over on the way to the Haskins' wedding—but he and your alternate never had kids, either. After the other universe's Jackie died in an attack by these creatures called the Cybermen, I told 'im who I was. He didn't really take it well." Rose glanced up at Jackie and bit her lip. "The reason Mickey came back is 'cause the Cybermen were trying to break into this universe, and he came over here to try an' stop them. But there's somethin' else, Mum. Pete's coming, too."
Jackie gasped in a deep breath, her eyes filling with tears. "He's… he's comin' here? Pete Tyler?"
Rose looked at her mum, her own eyes stinging with tears. "He is, Mum. But he won't know this you. He lost Jackie four years ago, just like you lost him twenty years ago."
"If it's Pete Tyler, Rose, he'll know me." Jackie's lips pursed. "You know more about this than you're lettin' on, don't you? You know where he's goin' to be."
"Mum, it's a government agency. I can't just bring you in."
"The hell you can't. You an' the Doctor waltz into wherever you want all the time." She picked up her mug from the floor and straightened her shoulders. "Now I'm going to go get freshened up, an' when I'm out you can take me wherever it is."
"Mum—" Jackie disappeared into her bedroom, and Rose covered her eyes with her arm and groaned. "The Doctor's goin' to kill me."
INSERT HORIZONTAL LINE HERE
Sergeant Lundy's face would have been hilarious if Rose hadn't been so nervous. "Ms. Tyler, the Brigadier did not authorize you to bring civilian bystanders back to Torchwood with you."
"Bystander?" Jackie snorted. "Remember the giant rock in the sky last Christmas, an' how everybody didn't die? That' was 'cause of me."
Rose straightened her shoulders. "Listen, if you get in trouble 'cause of this, just tell 'em it was me, but I'm not backin' down. She comes, or we don't go."
Sgt. Lundy glanced back and forth between them and nodded finally. "All right, but we go directly to the Brigadier—no tours of the facility or anything like that."
"I understand." Rose and Jackie slipped into the back of the Jeep, and Rose dug her elbow into Jackie's side and spoke quietly. "What was that about the Sycorax?"
Jackie pursed her lips. "Well, it was my tea that woke 'im up, wasn't it? Otherwise, he'd still be snorin' and everybody else would be pancakes on the pavement."
After several minutes, she glanced at her daughter and looked back out the window. "Rose, what you said earlier, about the TARDIS… she'll keep you safe, now?"
Rose nodded, and Jackie sighed. "I can't say I'm happy with the idea of it, but it's already happened, hasn't it? If the Doctor ever tries to leave you behind, though, I'll haunt his skinny arse for the rest of time."
Rose burst out laughing, and Jackie smiled begrudgingly. Sgt. Lundy cleared her throat and glanced back at them. "We're here."
The white room was still buzzing with activity when Rose and Jackie arrived, and Rose saw the Doctor impatiently looking around for her as she approached him. His eyes met hers and widened when he noticed her guest.
A balding ginger-haired man stood next to him, and turned to follow the Doctor's gaze. Jackie's hand grabbed Rose's in a vise-like grip, and she gasped out a breath.
Pete Tyler's eyes widened and his jaw dropped. "Jacks?"
She nodded tremulously, smiling through her tears. "It's me, Pete."
"I… I lost you."
She sobbed out a laugh. "An' I lost you, twenty years ago. But look at us. Here we are again." She shook her head quickly, blinking back tears. "'Course, we're a bit old now."
Pete smiled softly. "Not in my eyes."
Rose slipped over to the Doctor, leaning her head on his shoulder. The Brigadier appeared on her other side, smiling a bit as he shook his head. "Is this your idea of discreet, Ms. Tyler?"
She glanced up at him and looked back to her embracing parents. "Nah, not really. But it is my idea of right."
The Doctor grinned and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Think about it this way, Alistair. Now you know you'll never have to worry about his loyalty." He paused and cocked his head. "UNIT still has me on file, don't they?"
"Of course, Doctor. We never know when you'll pop up, so we keep a running account for you."
"Good." He looked back at Pete and Jackie, who were speaking quietly to each other, alone in the universe. "Use my account to fund anything Pete Tyler needs to get settled in this universe. There should be more than enough in there."
The Brigadier coughed into his hand in a poor attempt to cover his laughter. "Actually, Doctor, we tend to use your account whenever you leave a particularly large mess behind." He glanced at the Doctor, and his mustache twitched. "You can feel proud to know that you helped fund the reconstruction of 10 Downing Street."
The Doctor's jaw dropped. "Oi! How's that fair? I was saving the Earth!"
"Oh, we know that. You also destroyed a historical and patriotic landmark to do so, and construction in London can get frightfully expensive these days—especially when the crew keeps coming across pieces of roasted extraterrestrial." He raised a hand at the Doctor's protest. "Don't worry, old friend, there is more than enough to acclimatise Commander Tyler."
Rose bit her lip, her eyes dancing. "So, what, is UNIT the Doctor's accountant?"
The Brigadier chuckled and shook his head. "A bit humbling to have it put that way, but you're not inaccurate."
There was a small commotion at the door, and Rose and the Doctor looked over to see Donna strolling over, followed by two hassled-looking soldiers carrying a full set of matched luggage. "I decided to take you up on your offer. Is it all right if I drop my stuff off?"
Rose grinned. "I'll let you in."
INSERT HORIZONTAL LINE HERE
Donna finished carrying the last of her luggage into her room, setting it down on her bed with an exhale and stretching her back. "Well, that's the last of it. I should be ready for anything, now."
Rose grinned and leaned against the doorway. "Y'know, there's a wardrobe down the hall."
"Yeah, but that's just not the same thing as wearin' your own clothes, is it?" She paused. "Those were your parents, weren't they?"
"Not really, I remember." Donna smiled. "They definitely seemed to know each other, though."
"Yeah, they did." Rose smiled and walked back down the hallway with Donna. "I don't think I've ever seen my Mum that happy."
"Well, I'm right glad for you."
"Thanks, Donna." They found the Doctor waiting impatiently outside the doors, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet as UNIT and Torchwood workers scurried around him.
He brightened when he saw Rose, a smile flashing across his face. "Ah, there you are. I was beginning to wonder if you two had gotten lost in there."
Rose grinned and stuck her tongue out at him. "Nah, she likes me too much to let me get lost."
The Doctor screwed up his face. "You're probably right about that. Anyway, I've shown Dr. Warner how to patch up the Void as best they can, but there's some more repair work that only I can do." He glanced down at Rose, who was watching her parents again. "Would you be alright with leaving soon?"
"Yeah, I think that'd be okay. Give them some time to get used to each other." She leaned up and gave him a quick peck on the lips, and walked over to say goodbye to her parents.
Donna grinned. "She really has you wrapped around her little finger, doesn't she?"
"What? No, that's ridiculous." She continued grinning at him, and he sighed. "Maybe a little."
Mickey and Jack joined them, and Jack laughed. "A little? Keep telling yourself that, Doc."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "Remind me, who asked you for your opinion?"
"See, that's the amazing part of the whole 'social interaction' thing. People interact." He laughed when the Doctor rolled his eyes. "So, are you two off, then?"
Donna raised an eyebrow. "We three, actually, flyboy. I'm goin' along."
Jack blinked. "Just like the old days, I guess."
"You're always welcome, Jack." At Jack's disbelieving look, the Doctor flushed and tugged his ear. "You really are."
"Maybe some other time, Doc. For now, Torchwood needs all the help it can get."
Mickey nodded. "The place is really in shambles, right about now. Reminds me a bit of the other world after the Cybermen attack, to be honest."
"Well, you've both got Rose's number. Give us a ring if you need anything." Rose rejoined them, wiping her eyes. The Doctor frowned. "You okay?"
"I'm fine. No, I'm brilliant." She glanced at her parents again and beamed. "We off, then?"
Rose hugged Jack and Mickey tightly and followed the Doctor and Donna into the TARDIS, shutting the door behind her. She grinned and joined the Doctor at the console as Donna situated herself at the jump seat. "So, where are we goin' then?"
"Into Time…" The Doctor grinned at her, waggling his eyebrows, and she giggled and finished, "And space!"
He threw the switch to dematerialize as Donna groaned. "You two are so corny."
A/N: And that's the end of this installment! I've been working on a few other stories that don't fit into this storyline, so I might end up posting those sometime soon—depends on the muse, really. Thanks to all of you who read, and especially those who reviewed—feedback is a large part what makes writing so enjoyable. :)