Once upon a time, there was an ocean,
But now it's a mountain range.
Something unstoppable set into motion,
Nothing is different, but everything's changed.

- Once Upon A Time There Was An Ocean by Paul Simon

Apparently, I name all my stories after songs now. Anywho, this story is a bit of an experiment. After reading through all my stuff, I came to the realization that my stories all involve a lot of standing around and talking. Hopefully, I'll actually get to some action in this one. (*Note: There will still be a lot of standing around and talking. I can't help it!)

This story is part of my Certain Dark Things series of stories about Rose's Dimension Cannon jumps.

Reentry was always a bitch.

The air around her crackled with a now-familiar, violent energy as her molecules forced their way into a new reality. The energy feedback from the Dimension Cannon sent her careening forward, and she ended up crashing into some black shape, tumbling arse over elbows, and hitting the thinly carpeted floor with a bone-rattling smack.

Groaning, Rose struggled to sit up. She kicked her leg, trying to free her ankle from a…computer chair? Yep, a big, black computer chair, now lying on its side, one wheeled foot still spinning crazily. Well, could have been worse, she figured—at least no one had been sitting in it. She scrambled up, hefting her shoulder pack, and scanned the room.

She was in a large office space, standing in one of many cubicles. Some version of late twentieth or early twenty-first century Earth, by the looks of it, and definitely human, judging by the framed pictures of smiling, waving children sitting on the closest desk. The room seemed to be empty, though, and a glance at a nearby clock told her why: it was 12:26 PM. Lunch hour.

"Well, looks like I've got the place to myself," she said, falling back into her habit of talking to herself during jumps. "Convenient, that."

Just to make sure, though, she did a quick walkthrough, because nothing was more annoying than getting arrested for trespassing while visiting parallel worlds. The room was definitely empty, but as she passed by the door leading out into the hallway, she spotted a few people milling around a water cooler a few doors down.

Human. Definitely human. Better and better.

Rose had traveled through so many different parallels, ranging from the mundane to the bizarre, but she had yet to find her own reality. Her team at Torchwood had high hopes that they were narrowing in on finding her native universe. As she approached a series of floor-to-ceiling windows and looked out, pressing a hand against the glass, Rose wondered if she had finally found it.

London. Definitely London. She could even see the Thames. Not a single bloody zeppelin in the sky.

Her hands trembled a little as she shrugged out of her shoulder pack and rooted around for her equipment. She pulled out the Native Universal Resonant Frequency gauge (otherwise known as NURF) and set it up on a nearby desktop, where it sat, looking vaguely like a short, squat, semi-adorable robot.

Rose was not fond of it.

"C'mon, you rotten little sod," she muttered as she snatched a paperclip out of a convenient dispensary and dropped it in the NURF's handy matter input valve. "Give me some good news for a change." She thumped the top of the machine's shiny black casing a couple of times for good measure.

The NURF ignored her abuse and happily accepted the sample, emitted a couple of productive-sounding bleeps and bloops, and began humming in a cheerful manner. A series of lovely little lights on the front undulated back and forth, indicating ongoing analysis. In a couple of minutes, she would have her answer.

The NURF was designed to measure the incredibly minute differences between the harmonic resonance of matter at the quantum level, and it compared its readings from each new parallel with a sample of matter from the target universe (in this case, a small clipping of hair that Mickey had been compelled to sacrifice). With the NURF, Torchwood had been able to map Rose's journey through hundreds of parallel worlds.

Moreover, because the NURF's design had received ample (and arguably unnecessary) input from Torchwood's User-Centered Design Group, it was an absolute paradigm of pleasant interactive usability. Rose's protest that she was the only actual NURF user and that it had virtually no marketability outside of this one mission had fallen on deaf ears. The NURF would be innovative, enjoyable, and user-friendly, and that was final.

During the past year and a half, Rose had come to deeply resent its simulated enthusiasm as she and the NURF had traveled through parallel after parallel. Something about the way it chimed so cheerfully every time it told her that she was in the wrong reality really got under her skin. In fact, the more happy the NURF seemed, the more annoyed Rose generally became.

Still, if this really was HER London… She left the NURF to its work and went to stand by the window. The building was quite tall, and the window commanded a nice view of the London skyline.

Something about it niggled at her, but Rose couldn't quite tell what it was. The room was warm and a bit stuffy, making her sleepy, so she shrugged off the blue leather jacket that she wore for every jump these days and stuffed it in her satchel while she waited. With some chagrin, she glanced down at her outfit. It was fortunate that no one was there to see her—black trousers, black vest, black boots, even black bra and pants…she looked like a villain in a James Bond movie.

It really wasn't her usual style. No matter her own personal feelings about being trapped in a parallel universe, Rose usually tried to dress cheerfully. But she'd been putting in incredibly long hours at Torchwood these days as they got closer and closer to a successful jump, and her laundry pile had fallen by the wayside. Just that morning, she'd thought longingly of the TARDIS as she stared at the scant offerings left in her wardrobe and wondered what she wouldn't give to be back living in a ship that actually did her laundry for her (well, at least when it was functioning properly).

That the man she loved just happened to live on board that ship was really just a bonus, she'd thought with grin.

Behind her, the NURF let out a self-satisfied 'ping!' interrupting her thoughts and announcing that it had completed its analysis. Rose took a deep breath and crossed her fingers.

As she turned back toward the desk, something on the NURF caught her eye…a blinking green light. A NEW blinking green light, one she'd never seen before. With a shuddering breath, she almost tripped over herself to get back to the desk. She fumbled a little, picking it up, and stared at the little data screen on the front of the NURF.

Native Universal Resonance…CONFIRMED. Congratulations, Rose Tyler.

"Oh my god," she breathed. "Oh my GOD!"

This was it. This was her Earth. This was her universe.

He was out there somewhere. She and the Doctor were occupying the same reality.

"OH MY GOD!" she squealed, dropping the NURF onto the desk with a clatter. She jumped up and down in glee, wrapping her arms around herself in the absence of anybody else to hug. "Ha! Impossible, my arse!" With feverish happiness, she snatched up the NURF, just to read the word CONFIRMED again.

"You're certain," Rose sort-of said, sort-of asked, almost pleaded. "Maybe we should double-check?" She cleared out the matter input, her hands shaking, and grabbed a bit of an eraser off the desk. "Sorry about your office supplies, mate," she muttered to the absent desk occupant.

Several tense, finger-drumming minutes later, and the NURF gave its answer: she was home.

Or at least close enough.

Rose swooped down and kissed the NURF on its shiny, black casing before tossing it carelessly back in her bag. "Ok, so long, thanks for your many contributions to our cause!" she sang.

She pulled out another piece of equipment, one she hadn't had the chance to use yet. The Trans-Universal Resonance Transmitter, or TURT, was designed to gather the necessary coordinate information for this universe and beam it back to the Dimension Cannon in Pete's World. A successful transmission would mean that they would have the pan-dimensional coordinates necessary to repeatedly send Rose to this reality—no more random dimension hops.

The TURT wasn't ergonomic, was barely user-friendly, and completely lacked flash. Rose immediately preferred it to the NURF. She had never operated it before except in training, but she knew what to do—reviewing the tech's operational manuals prior to each jump was part of the Torchwood mission protocols.

She booted it up and scanned the small screen. Data acquisition initiated… it read. Total time until transmission completion—six hours twenty-six minutes.

Well, she had some time to kill. She placed the TURT gently into her pack, where it could continue its process. Grinning ear-to-ear, she went back over to the window and pressed her hand against the glass.

Finally, she was here, in her own London. The first hurdle had been cleared.

Rose knew better than to think that it would be easy going from here on out. In fact, the hard work was really just beginning—now that they were in the correct parallel, she had to be incredibly careful during jumps so as to not disturb the timelines. It would still take a lot of effort to perfect the aim of the Dimension Cannon so that they could get her to the correct time and place, according to their timeline measurements.

With a leaping heart, she remembered what Jacobson, the senior Cannon Operations Technician had told her: once they managed to reach the correct parallel, it was likely that they'd be quite successful at getting her close to the correct point in the Doctor's timeline, thus reducing the dangers of causing a paradox. Certainly, she would at least be post-Canary Wharf for him, which would prevent her from running into herself. Proximal in time, but probably distant in space—he'd said the Doctor could be anywhere within a radius of a thousand miles from her landing location.

And that was fine, because, per the mission specifications, Rose was absolutely NOT supposed to attempt contact on the first jump. Her team at Torchwood would need time to analyze the data that she gathered on this jump and determine how close she was to the target point in time/space.

And she understood that. She really did. There was too much at stake to play fast and loose with causality. Wrong word, wrong time? Change an entire causal nexus.

Still, she thought, it wouldn't hurt to go out, get some chips, and stare up at a sky devoid of zeppelins constantly advertising Vitex, and the latest reality TV shows, and the fact that she was NOT in the right bloody universe. And somewhere out there, within a thousand miles, was the Doctor.

Rose briefly indulged in a fantasy in which she was sitting on a bench, eating chips, when the Doctor just happened to run by. "Hullo," she'd call out, all cool and casual. "Good to see you! How've you been?"

The look on his face would be priceless, she thought with a snort.

Then she shook her head. No way was that happening. Contact at this point would risk damaging the timelines, and they were precarious enough already. Besides, if she really did see him run past, Rose had the feeling she'd be tackling him in the street. With a sigh, she made her way through the work stations and poked her head out the door.

The hallway was clear; everybody seemed to have left for lunch. Rose spotted the sign for the lift, and she headed for it, the Doctor's old advice—walk about as though you owned the place—running through her head.

As Rose waited for the doors to open, the TURT started to beep from inside her pack. The lift arrived, and she rummaged around in her pack for the transmitter as she stepped inside. She hit the button for the ground floor absently, frowning at the TURT display, and barely noticing when someone else nipped inside the lift just before the doors closed.

The TURT was asking for the local time and date. Damn. She should have checked back in the office. Surely there were day calendars there. She'd just gotten too distracted by the view of from the windows.

"Hey, mate," she said still staring at the screen. "I don't s'pose you could tell us the date?"

"'Fraid not," he answered, HE answered, and ohmygod, that voice, that accent. Rose's head snapped up, and he was there, right there, standing next to her, STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO HER IN THE LIFT, in his old leather jacket, and his eyes, his piercing, ice-blue eyes were locked on the piece of tech in her hands. "Forgot to check, myself."