A/N: Thank you to my lovely beta Latessitrice for all the help with this.
I hope you all enjoy reading.
Above the Horizon and Across the Sea
Sometime in the future, there is a war.
There was fire and broken bodies, matching the debris from buildings that fell with ash. The world was pink and gold, and Rose stood amid the violence, eyes running from fear and smoke. She wondered for a moment if the gun in her arms was a hindrance or a blessing, but realised soon that no one could see her. They were running. Running from the explosions, the death, and the mass of black and grey that formed across the sky. They didn't see the woman standing still in the midst of their flight for survival. A woman who did not belong in this time or place who witnessed something she shouldn't be able to see.
It faded away as soon as Control got her back. They told her afterward that she was gone for less than five minutes. Rose felt as if she lost years of her life in a war she had no part in. It's one of the many visits she never spoke of again.
The first time she jumped, she landed on her arm. She sprained her wrist and scratched her cheek, but learned the necessity of landing well. Rose had told them all she didn't feel anything when she used the cannon. She wasn't sure if they all believed her, but she was a willing participant and fed their curiosity. In truth, it felt like dying. It felt as if every part of herself was torn apart and reformed to make a new self, one that didn't quite respond once she stood on the other side. It became easier in time, which she wasn't sure was a good thing. She wasn't sure if she began to adjust or the machine began to adjust to her. It was alien technology after all, pieced back together with elements from this parallel Earth. The sensible part of her mind told her she shouldn't do this, it wasn't meant for her. But she needed to find him. She needed to stop the stars from going out, the end of everything and just him. She learnt to land, and learnt to live with the pain.
She always landed in the future, never the past. They managed to control at least that much of her journey. It didn't seem to get her close to him though. It was all too far ahead, and she was already steps in front. It reminded her of the past, the first time she returned home to find herself missing for a year. She needed to make their timelines meet, and that was something she didn't have the power to do. All she could do is jump, and land, and hope, and wish. Sometimes she thought that was all she'd ever been able to do.
They couldn't tell where she would land until she got there. Locking onto her location also took time, but that again seemed to be out of her control. Once she landed so close to the edge of a bridge she couldn't make herself jump again for weeks. She saw things too. A building made entirely of glass, panels of sun-reflected rainbows casting shadows. A bonfire so high the flames reached beyond the horizon and sliced through the night. A lake with a burning boat in the centre, figures watching it sink from a beach. There was war, and technology, and tranquility. One day, she landed in a park. The grass was so green it could've been out of a child's imagination and she sat on a bench cool as marble. A girl and her father played a game, while a couple kissed under a tree.
They took a while to find her location that time. She faded away watching, but didn't see.
The gunshot stung more than it hurt.
Rose couldn't explain where she jumped to. It might have been a rebellion, a protest gone wild, or a massacre. There were people, noise unlike anything she'd ever heard, and then the gunshot. There was no reason for it to happen, but every reason at the same time. She appeared in a flash, a woman holding a weapon and looking suspicious to those who are in their time and place. It turned out that the bullet only passed through the flesh of her arm, but it was too close a call for anyone to ignore. Her mother cried. And screamed. And begged her never to do it again. Jackie cried again that night, Rose assumed as she knew her daughter would still go back. She always did go back.
Except this time, the cannon stopped working. It shut down as if it had never been active. They ran tests, diagnostics with both alien and human technology. It would not work. Rose sat with her head against the machine, her arm sewed up and healing, her fingers twitching. It felt alive, and she wondered for the first time about this creation. They had made it certainly, but it almost seemed to have a mind of it's own, a purpose and a will. It worked when it needed to, sent her where it wished. Almost like another machine she'd once almost wanted to believe they were connected, that this technology had been sent to her, like words scribbled in chalk across a playground. But there were no words, and the machine seemed connected, but above her. There was nothing she could do but hope and wait.
Her arm healed, a scar marking the incident that would probably never fade. Two days after the stiffness had left her shoulder, the cannon came to life again. It was that jump where she first met Donna Noble.
People didn't usually notice her. Apart from the shooting, she'd not experienced any interaction with the time she landed in. She was a bystander, and obviously not right. If anything, she was avoided, almost as if they could sense she did not belong. That was why she remembered this jump in particular.
She'd landed in a familiar time. She recognised buildings, places and fashions. Elation was the right word, until she saw the flash of blue that only came with disaster. She ran past houses and London landmarks until she was blocked by the police. That was when she looked up. Those around her stared, looking up at a spaceship in awe and fear, but with the knowledge that this wasn't the first time. But the ship leaving. She could tell from this distance that what would come after was damage control, the clean up crew. She didn't usually stay long enough to see that.
Rose knew she was too late. She'd been close, so close though. He had to have been here. If they were leaving, then only one man, one Time Lord would have stopped them. Control buzzed in her ear, and she knew it was time to go home. That coordinates were calabrating when the woman approached her. At first she didn't understand the words, the fact that she was noticed at all knocking her off balance. Then she saw it: The look in her eye, the tone of her voice, the excitement.
It was who she once was.
The woman said something about keys in a bin, then left. Rose turned away, unsure if she was still breathing. Control called, and she walked away, the street becoming the lab, and realisation trumping shock. She'd found the Doctor's traveller. Now she just had to find him.
After that, the universe began to crumble. That's what it felt like to her. She punched through by other means, reaching him and making contact. They tracked him, tracked the TARDIS and she followed when she could. She jumped less when they knew his movements, could pinpoint when he would be on earth. Rose learned the name of the woman he traveled with. Donna. She wondered how long it had been since that day on the beach for him. How many he travelled with after her, and if he even remembered her. She bitterly thought as she geared up for a jump that perhaps he didn't even care. That she'd spent so long trying to get back, when he'd carried on, even after she'd been promised they were different. She would not be Sarah Jane, abandoned in Aberdeen. Instead she was Rose, abandoned in parallel Norway. So much for his words.
She wondered for a long time after if that attitude was partly why this jump left her stuck in an even more parallel universe.
Having knowledge gets you far in the world. It took time, and a lot of close escapes, but she managed to find Donna. To build a time machine. To re-write the world. And this time, she did it alone. Rose felt the world begin to shift and before she knew it, Control was buzzing in her ear. They'd lost touch for a while, but now they were online. She didn't correct them, but returned home as soon as she could. This time, she knew that when the cannon started up again, she'd find him. She'd planted the words across the universe again, sending Bad Wolf out with Donna, directly to the Doctor. Her Doctor. If those words meant anything, it would send her back to him again.
She decided to sleep. One more sleep, and then it would be time. Perhaps, she thought to herself as she watched the shadows fall and widen, she needed to do this. To travel above the horizon and across the sea before she realised what she could do. She couldn't follow him. She couldn't just wait for the cannon to take her there. She had to do it herself. She had to find the knowledge and ability that had always been there. Only then could she be the woman who would cross the universe and stop the stars from going out.
And once tomorrow dawned, that's exactly who she would be.