NOTE: This story disregards the events of the Doctor Who 2005 Children in Need special, in which the Doctor tells Rose that Jack is busy rebuilding the Earth. When I started writing this, I hadn't seen that, and I assumed that Rose thought he was dead. I don't feel like going back through the story and changing it now that I have seen the Children in Need special, and it works much better for the fic if Rose thought Jack died on Satellite Five. Just go with it.
Universe jumping is a bitch.
That's the thing about these new-and-improved dimension-hopping devices. The old ones didn't hurt a bit. But with these new ones, you're not just jumping through a hole in the fabric of reality that already exists – you're tearing that hole for yourself, and you come through feeling like you've just gotten hit by a truck.
It happens every time. Whenever they test out the device, she's always the one to volunteer. The first bunch of tests, nothing happened at all. It was perhaps the eleventh test when something actually did happened, and she wound up trapped halfway in between for two days before Tosh and Mickey could figure out a way to get her out. After that, they started running a lot more simulations and doing a lot less actual tests, but eventually you actually have to start trying it out again for real.
Then they had another batch of failures, some of which did nothing, some of which teleported her across the room, and one of which actually zapped her three hours into the future. She came through to find Tosh and Mickey panicking – they couldn't figure out what had happened. It wasn't until the thirty-first test that they actually achieved the desired results.
She wasn't sure exactly where she came out – some alley somewhere – but she materialized in a flash of blue light and really freaked out a homeless guy. She was only there for a split second, and then the dimension hopping device (or 'dimension cannon', as they'd chosen to rename it) failed and she found herself right back in the Torchwood base, completely unharmed but feeling as though her entire body was battered and bruised.
At first, they thought she'd just been teleported, but eventually Tosh was able to gather from the readings that she had, in fact, spent a half a second in her home universe.
She bought everyone drinks that night.
The next morning, it was back to work, and now the problem wasn't getting her through to the alternate reality – it was getting her to stay there. That's what they've spent the past few months trying to achieve, and finally, they've managed it. Here she is, aching everywhere, standing on an empty street. She waits for one minute. Then two. Two minutes and thirty-seven seconds is the longest they've ever sustained a connection to the alternate universe before (Ianto timed it – he loves that stopwatch of his, for whatever reason). She waits, barely remembering to breathe, counting the seconds. Thirty-six… thirty-seven… thirty-eight.
She lets out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding and looks down at her dimension cannon, flipping it over to the side opposite to the yellow button, where the words CONNECTION STABLE are visible on the little display screen.
She can't help but cheer.
She did it. They all did it. It took over a year, but at long last, Rose Tyler has come home.
Oh, God, she's done it. She's back. She's home. More importantly, she is sharing a universe with the Doctor.
She wants to scream and laugh and jump up and down and punch the air. She's closer to him than she has been in nearly a year. She can get back to him. She can see him again.
She is literally to ecstatic for words.
The rest of her team must've realized that they've passed two minutes and thirty-seven seconds, because, in a blinding flash of bright blue light, Mickey Smith appears next to her, their second prototype dimension cannon in his hand. It's an older version, the one that never gets further than two minutes and thirty-seven seconds. "Have you got it?" he asks. "A stable connection?"
She just nods, a wide grin on your face.
He nods back. "Alright, come on back. Tosh can run some tests, analyze the data, we can work out a plan, and we'll come back tomorrow."
He frowns. "No?"
"No," she repeats simply. "I'm not coming back. I've already got a plan."
"Mickey," she says, "for all we know, this is a one-time thing. This could be my only opportunity. I'm not coming back."
He sighs, and replies. "Alright. But – come back eventually, yeah?"
"Eventually," she agrees. "I've got to say goodbye to everyone. But right now, more important things."
"Yeah," he murmurs despondently. "Alright, I'll tell the team. See you, Rose." Then he looks down at his watch and counts the time he's got left. He vanishes at two minutes and twenty-nine seconds.
She almost feels bad about brushing him off like that, but she doesn't let it get to her. She won't let anything spoil this brilliance, this sheer, undiluted fantastic-ness. She's sharing a universe with the Doctor. She's going to see him again. It's going to happen.
She's happier than she's been in nearly a year. Maybe longer.
She finds a nice spot on the ground in an alley, tucked-away and somewhat sheltered, and lies down, taking off her hoodie and using it as a pillow. She sleeps there, more soundly than she typically does in her own bed. And when she wakes up, the sun is shining.
It's a new day. A new day in her universe.
And she's still here. The cannon hasn't pulled her back yet. She's really managed a stable connection, and now she's completely here. Nothing tying her to the other universe; no tethers, no strings attached. She is really and properly here.
She hasn't really got a plan, but she's got an idea of one, and that's the rift. The Cardiff space-and-time rift, the one that Gwyneth closed in 1869. He brings the TARDIS there sometimes to refuel – if she sticks near it, he's bound to show up eventually. And oh, the look on his face when he sees her will be priceless.
So she gets up, puts her hoodie on, makes sure she's still got the dimension cannon in her pocket and her TARDIS key on a string around her neck, and sets about figuring out where she is.
"Hello, you've reached the TARDIS. That's Time and Relative Dimension in Space. If you're calling this number, it's probably very important, but I'm off saving the universe somewhere, so leave your name and time coordinates and I'll be with you in a second."
His voice on the answering machine is very nearly enough to cause her to burst into tears, but she maintains her composure. It takes a few moments after the beep for her to pull herself together enough to speak, though, but she manages it eventually.
"Doctor," she chokes out. "It's me, it's Rose." She takes a deep, shaky breath. "I'm here, it's me. I got back. Took me long enough, but I'm here now. And before you think this is some sort of complicated alien trickery or whatever, give me a minute."
She takes another deep breath, and begins. "First word you ever said to me. Basement of Henrik's, surrounded by shop window dummies. You took my hand, you looked me in the eye, and you said to me, you said… run. And then after you regenerated, I didn't believe that it was really you, and that was what you told me to convince me. That story. First word you ever said to me.
"First place you ever took me was the end of the world in the year five billion. You thought you were so impressive. We had chips." The last three words come out as a strangled laugh. "We met Charles Dickens in 1869, and a woman named Gwyneth closed the Cardiff Rift. We met Jack Harkness in 1941 during the London Blitz, when nanogenes were turning all those people into gas mask zombies." She use her free hand to wipe a tear from her eye and struggles to continue around the tightness of her throat. "You swapped out his gun for a banana, and then told him not to lose it because it was a good source of potassium."
She gives a choked laugh, and then continues with the convincing. "I kissed you while Cassandra was possessing me. Britain's royal family are werewolves. Pre-Revolutionary France on a spaceship with Mickey and a horse. Cybermen in an alternate universe. I lost my face when we tried to go see Elvis but ended up fighting the Wire on the day of the Queen's coronation. You got stuck in an eleven-year-old girl's drawing during the London Olympics, 2012… and then you carried the torch. That's when I told you that they kept trying to split us up, but they never ever would, and you told me… never say never ever. And then came Torchwood and the ghosts, and you tried to send me away with Mum and Pete and Mickey, but I came back, and I said to you, I said… I said, 'I made my choice a long time ago, and I am never gonna leave you'." She sucks in another deep, unsteady breath. "So this is me," she says. "Not leaving you."
She pauses for a while, and finally adds, "Cardiff, Doctor. Come to Cardiff. Present day. That's 2007, mind you. Cardiff, same place you always park to refuel, right on top of the rift. That's where I'll be. Right there waiting for you."
She pauses for a long time, opens her mouth to say something else, closes it, and hangs up. Then she shoves her phone back into her pocket and heads for the Cardiff rift.
"Jack," Toshiko Sato calls, though she doesn't look up from the monitors of her computers. "There's someone hanging around outside."
"Who is it?" Captain Jack Harkness calls back, and he doesn't look up from his coffee machine.
"I don't know," Tosh replies. "Some girl. Young. Come and see."
He picks up the cup of super-strength coffee he's just brewed and walks over to her, looking over her shoulder at the screen. Their security cameras aren't as high-definition as he wishes that they were, but he can see the girl Tosh is talking about. She's average-sized, with shoulder-length straight blonde hair. She sits on a bench near the entrance to Torchwood, watching not the people, not the monuments, but…
Empty space. That's all. She's just watching this empty space on the sidewalk, close to the square with the perception filter, but not close enough to make him think that that's what she's looking for. She's not doing anything, not moving, just watching, but she's grinning like crazy.
"Can you zoom in and enhance?" he asks, taking a sip of his coffee.
"I can try," Tosh replies, and hits a few keys; the camera zooms in on the girl, and the image quality gets a little better.
Jack nearly drops his coffee cup.
This is not lost on Tosh, who looks over her shoulder to frown at him, or Gwen, who has come down the stairs and is looking at the footage from beside Jack. "What is it, Jack?" she asks him in her smooth Welsh accent. "Something wrong?"
"I'm not sure," he replies. But that grin; the barely discernible facial features; her posture; that bleach blonde hair… "That girl…"
Gwen leans towards the computer, peering at the girl. "Just a girl. What? Do you know her?"
"She looks like…" He pauses. "Like someone I used to know. A long time ago. But that can't be right."
"Because," Jack tells her, already putting his mug down on Tosh's desk and moving towards the perception filter platform, "she's dead."
He steps onto the platform and Tosh, without questioning him, enters the command to raise it. Slowly, too slowly, agonizingly slowly, it floats upward, and eventually, it pushes him out onto the street, locking into place with the rest of the pavement.
He looks around for a few seconds, and it doesn't take him long to find the girl from the footage. Thin and pretty with warm hazel eyes and a sheet of light blonde hair, shorter and shinier than he remembers it, but definitely the same color. She glances to the side, and he gets a full view of her face, and oh, God, it's her.
It's really her.
It's impossible. She's supposed to be dead. He thought she was dead.
But she's here. It's her.
He steps off the perception filter just as her gaze begins to drift back towards the place on the concrete she'd been watching; it passes over him and continues on for just a second before snapping back to him in a frantic double-take. She takes in the handsome face, the well-built body, the long dark blue military coat; her jaw drops and her eyes widen, and in an instant she's on her feet.
Across the space between them, he can still hear her murmur of "Captain Jack Harkness."
"Rose," he says, and then they're running towards each other, tearing through space and crashing into each other, all clumsiness and laughter and shouts of surprise and delight. Eventually, they manage to turn their ungraceful embrace into a real hug, and she buries her face in her shoulder as he repeats her name, first and last this time.
"Jack," she laughs. "I thought you were dead! Satellite Five, and the Daleks, and I thought –"
"Nope," he replies, pulling back and holding her at arm's length. "Just fine. Managed to get back alright. What about you?"
"What about me?"
"Well," he says, "I sort of thought you were dead."
"Me?" She frowns. "Why would you – oh." Realization dawns on her face, and she nods. "Right. Battle of Canary Wharf. List of the dead. Yeah, sorry about that. Nope. I'm alright."
"I can see that," he agrees. "Feel like telling me how?"
"It's sort of a long story."
"I've got time."
"Alright, then," she says, and moves back towards the bench. "Come on, sit down." He follows her and they sit, and she begins, "So, start from the beginning, yes?" She sucks in a deep breath. "Alright. There's this organization, it's called Torchwood –"
She sees him stiffen, and frowns. "What?"
"Nothing," he says. "But – I know all about Torchwood."
"Oh." She purses her lips. "Guess that makes this easier, then. Don't have to explain as much. You know all about Canary Wharf, too, right? Daleks in the skies, Cybermen in the streets. And then they all got yanked right back into the building." Another deep breath. "Well, that was us."
"Figured you and the Doctor probably had something to do with that," Jack tells her.
"See," Rose continues, "the Daleks and the Cybermen, they came through from an alternate reality. A parallel universe, you know. Like on TV. And the Doctor figured out that if we opened the Void between the universes, then they'd all get sucked back in, because anything that's been through the Void is sort of soaked in Void stuff. It's hard to explain, but it works. Trouble was, we'd sort of been through to the alternate universe before. Really long story. But anyway, the Doctor, he sent me and my mum and Mickey all through to the alternate universe before he opened the Void, but I came back."
"Typical Rose Tyler."
"Shut up," she instructs, but there's a smile in her voice. "So I stayed, and we opened the Void, and we were holding on so we wouldn't get pulled in, but I – fell. Pete, that's my dad, he came back through from the parallel world in time to catch me and take me back with him."
"Isn't your dad –"
"Dead, yeah," Rose confirms. "Not in the other universe, though. Anyways, the Void closed up and I was stuck on the wrong side. That's where I've been for the past year. Trapped in a parallel world."
"Ouch," Jack sympathizes. "How'd you get back here?"
"Joined up with the other universe's version of Torchwood," she explains. "We managed to build these." Reaching into the pocket of her hoodie, she pulls out a small yellow button. "We call it a dimension cannon. Blasts a hole in the fabric of reality and lets you jump from one universe to the other."
"And the Doctor?"
"Yeah, he – he's still here," she replies, tucking the dimension cannon back into her pocket. "S'why I came back. To find him." She takes another deep breath. "So, what about you? How'd you survive Satellite Five?"
He opens his mouth to begin when he hears Tosh's voice in his ear. "Jack? What's going on up there?"
He lifts his hand to his earpiece and replies, "I'm a bit busy at the moment, Tosh. Do you need something?"
"I'm getting some interesting readings," comes her response. "You might want to come look at this."
He sighs. "Alright. I'm on my way." Turning to Rose, he says, "Sorry. Duty calls –"
"Torchwood," she interrupts.
"You work for Torchwood," she states. "I can put the pieces together, Jack. We're standing outside this reality's equivalent of my Torchwood's headquarters. The way you just appeared out of nowhere over there, that's the platform with the perception filter. And that woman you're talking to – Toshiko, right? She's with Torchwood in the other reality, too."
He sighs. "Yeah. Alright. Yeah. I'm with Torchwood."
"Well, then." She stands. "We shouldn't keep Tosh waiting. She hates that."
The instant he comes through the door with a girl they don't know, the entire Torchwood team is on the alert.
"Jack," Tosh says, sounding worried, as her eyes flick between him and Rose. "Who's this? What's going on?"
"Should she even be in here?" Owen Harper calls over. "Is she even allowed to be in here?"
"Tosh!" Rose exclaims, sounding delighted as she grins at the Japanese woman. "Good to see you – and Owen Harper." She sounds significantly less delighted now. "Hello there." Leaning over to Jack, she murmurs, "You've got all the same team as me."
"Good to know."
"Few changes, though," she muses. "No Suzie, and –" She frowns at the way they all flinch at the mention of that name. "What? Suzie?"
"Suzie Costello?" Jack asks, sounding very much as though he hopes she'll tell him no, a different Suzie.
"Yeah," she agrees. "That's her. Why, does she work here, too? Is it her day off or something?"
"She's dead," Tosh says shortly.
"Oh." Rose frowns. "Sorry about that, then. Didn't know. And you're new," she adds, pointing to Gwen. "Swear I've seen you somewhere before, though."
"Jack," Gwen asks warily, "who is she?"
"Gwen Cooper," Jack says, "Rose Tyler. She's an old friend."
"Hello there," Rose chimes, waving. "Nice to meet you, Gwen Cooper."
"How does she know all of us?" Tosh demands.
"She's been living in a parallel universe for a little while," Jack explains. "She worked with their version of Torchwood. She doesn't know you, she knows… different versions of you."
"Oh, my God, I've got it!" Rose exclaims shrilly, pointing at Gwen with a wild-eyed, bordering-on-panicked expression on her face. "You're Gwyneth!"
"No," Gwen corrects slowly. "Gwen. Haven't gone by Gwyneth since I was four."
"No, but you are!" she insists. "Jack, she – she's from this time, right?"
Jack frowns. "Yeah. Why?"
"She didn't, I don't know, fall through the rift in the 1860s and end up here?"
His frown deepens. "You know about the rift?"
"Yeah, space-time rift in the middle of Cardiff. She closed it."
"I'm not from the 1860s," Gwen says helpfully. "Dunno what you're on about, but that's not me."
"Right. Huh." Rose bites her lip. "Related, then. You're pretty much identical."
"Rose," Jack says. "Explain."
"Second place the Doctor ever took me," she tells him. "Christmas in Cardiff, 1869. A bunch of blue ghost things called Gelth coming out of a rift in space and time tried to kill us, but a woman named Gwyneth closed up the rift. She died doing it." She nods to Gwen. "Your girl over there looks exactly like her."
"That's funny." Jack turns to Gwen. "Gwen, you haven't been time traveling lately, have you?"
"No," Gwen replies. "Has she?"
"Not lately, no," Rose says brightly. "Been about a year since my last trip."
At the blank look she receives, Rose frowns. "What? I did mention the Doctor earlier, didn't I?" Now she's getting blank looks from Gwen, Owen, and Tosh. "Doctor? Not ringing any bells?" She spun to face Jack. "You haven't told them about the Doctor?"
"It wasn't important," he replies.
"Not im–" Her blonde hair flies outward, propelled by the centrifugal force as she turns and stomps a few paces away from him, an outraged expression on her face. "How can you say that?" she demands; her face is contorted in anger as she turns to face him again. "Jack, it's the most important thing in the world!"
"Rose," he ventures, holding out a hand to her, "I didn't mean it like that –"
"No." She shakes her head passionately, stepping backwards away from him; underneath the anger, there's something in her expression that's almost like fear and distrust. Like she doesn't know him anymore. "What else, Jack?" she fumes. "What else haven't you told them?"
"No!" she interrupts. "You don't get to – not anymore." She's breathing heavily as she turns away from him and mutters, loud enough for everyone to hear, "Once a con man, always a con man."
There's silence until Gwen asks, "Jack, what's she mean by that? What does she mean, con man?"
"So he hasn't told you." Anger still burns in Rose's eyes as she turns back to the Torchwood team (but deliberately doesn't look at Jack), but it's not blind, senseless anger. It's clever anger, thought-out anger. Anger of a much more dangerous sort. "That's what he is," she spits. "A con man. A Time Agent turned con man. That's how we met. A con gone wrong in 1941. Right smack in the middle of the London Blitz. He almost killed hundreds of people, did he tell you that? Hundreds of innocent people might've died, all because he was stupid, and careless, and greedy. But they didn't." She takes a deep, shaky breath. "Because of the Doctor. Because the Doctor came in and cleaned up the mess you left behind." At this point, she's turned her head and is addressing Jack. "He saved all those people, and so many others, so don't you dare say that he isn't important!"
For almost a full minute, silence fills the base. No one speaks. No one moves. Gwen, Tosh, and Owen watch Jack and Rose, somewhere between curious, confused, and scared. Rose stares Jack down with fury burning in her usually warm, comforting chocolate-and-olive eyes. Jack avoids her gaze, because he knows she's right.
"I'm sorry," he says eventually, his voice uncharacteristically soft. "I'm sorry, Rosie. That's not how I meant it."
"Maybe it is and maybe it isn't," she replies strongly. "It's wrong either way." He doesn't reply, so she continues. "Now I'm going to tell these people who the Doctor is, because in the universe where he doesn't exist, they know, and they really ought to know here. And because they should know just how much they owe to him." She turns to Gwen, Owen, and Tosh, and begins.
I actually wasn't intending for Rose to get mad at Jack here. It just sort of happened. It's like I tell people all the time - the characters are in charge, not me. I have no control over them.
Anyways, this will be a 10/Rose story, but the Doctor might not show up for a few chapters.
To those of you who read my other DW multi-chapter, The Slow Path - don't worry, writing this story won't slow down the updates of that one. I actually have this fic completely written, which is why I feel safe posting it even though I'm already in the middle of The Slow Path. So yeah. Also, being done with this story means that you lot can get rewards! Like hints and early updates and stuff! And all you have to do is review! For example, if we can get to five reviews, I'll give you Chapter Two early. Hoorah!