I've been working on this for a few weeks (thank Muse, thanks a lot) and I'm already posting it on Teaspoon and tumblr but I wasn't sure if I'd post this here as, but my roommate thought I should so here we go.

Season 3 AU. Exactly what it says on the tin. Enjoy.

"Is he treatin' you right, Rose?"

"Yeah, 'course he is."

Rose watched as her former best mate shot a look at the tall, skinny alien currently occupying the corner of her living room. He was leaning against the wall, seemingly engrossed in the newspaper he'd bought when Rose had said she needed to nip by Shareen's, but she knew better. He was listening to every single word, ready to rescue Rose if her friend got too close to the wrong subjects.

"I still don't like him," she muttered, not knowing he could hear. "You disappeared, Rose. A whole year! Not a word to your mum, or to me! And it was 'cos of him, that's what your mum said! And now you've been gone again for near a year! I know you needed to get away because of your mum, but you didn't even call, not even to let me know you were still alive yourself and not dead halfway up some bloody mountain! No emails, no texts, not even any photographs!"

There wouldn't have been any photographs to show. What had been a year for Shareen Costello had only been about two weeks for Rose; two painful weeks of nothing but lying around, sleeping, crying, reading, eating, talking, tea, telly, and more sleeping. No grand adventures, no alien planets, just floating.

For a moment, Rose's throat constricted painfully and she knew the pain was showing on her face but she didn't care.

She'd gotten to say goodbye to them. The Doctor had worked without sleeping for a week, scanning time and space for a remaining crack to get a message through or, better yet, a hole they could step through. They'd found a crack, just one crack, wide enough for a message but no more. He'd used his telepathic abilities to call to her mother and when he was certain the message had gotten through, he set them into orbit around a supernova for power, and she'd gotten to see them. Her mother, Mickey, and the parallel version of her father who could offer Jackie everything this universe couldn't. Everything except her daughter. But, that universe was kind, it seemed, because by the time Jackie had gotten to the bay where the crack came through, she was two months pregnant. Another daughter? A son? Rose would never know. And it hurt, knowing her mum was going to bring a life into existence that Rose would never know anything about it. The three of them had made the Doctor swear to take care of her on the pain of a slap from Jackie, the likes of which she promised he'd be feeling well into his next body.

She hadn't really had a chance to grieve, holding onto the hope in the days before the message that she could get all the way through the void, maybe find a permanent hole they could go through on a regular basis, as silly of a notion as it was. And then within minutes after losing connection, Donna had appeared and Rose had to dry her tears quickly as the ginger bride ranted and raged, wanting to know where the hell she was and how the hell she was there and what the hell had the Doctor done to poor Rose to make her cry like that?

After Donna was gone and Rose had recovered from the strain on the Huon particles that lurked inside her (something she had yet to admit to the Doctor), they'd temporarily retreated into space, and for the first time, Rose truly felt like a vagrant. She had no mum waiting for her in that flat in the Powell Estate. Jackie's words rang through her head. "When I'm dead and buried, you won't have any reason to come back home. What happens then?"

Rose had known when she came back that she would never see her mother again if she stayed with the Doctor, but it hadn't really registered, not when faced with the possibility of living without the Doctor. But all of a sudden, it was there. She was never going to see her mum again.

She'd managed to hold onto her grief as she and the Doctor moved through the flat, sorting through everything, deciding what she would take onto the TARDIS with her, and what would stay behind to be dealt with by the authorities who would eventually come to call.

She held on while they added Jackie Tyler to the list of the dead.

She held on while talking to Shareen, who had been watching the ever growing list of the dead and called her immediately upon seeing Jackie's name. They hadn't even left London yet, so she and the Doctor had swung by, the Doctor only coming because Shareen had a few words for him, making him swear up and down, just as Mickey and Jackie had before, that he wouldn't leave Rose now that she was alone, telling Rose that if he ever did she was welcome to crash at her place until things got sorted.

They stopped to see Sarah Jane who was immensely relieved they were both alive, knowing all along they'd had some part in the swift defeat of the invaders, but not knowing if they'd survived. There was no mention of Jackie. Rose held on through it all.

Only afterwards, when they went into the Time Vortex again, leaving 2007 London and the aftermath behind, did Rose allow the grief to show, and then there was no stopping it. No matter how you looked at it, Rose had lost her mother. She was as good as dead. Mickey was gone. Shareen and her other human friends, well, she'd really left them behind a long time ago. She was alone. Except for the Doctor.

Two weeks floating, doing nothing. He'd practically gone mad with boredom, but he willingly endured the restlessness because Rose needed him. He stayed with her through it all doing anything and everything to help her, whether it was rubbing her back, stroking her hair, or staying as she slept; bringing her tea, singing to her softly, and just holding her. And when the storm of grief had passed, he'd helped her sort the stuff from her flat.

Feeling better after days of living under a dark cloud, Rose had craved something normal. Something reliable and familiar and had decided on chips. The Doctor happily agreed—this body loved chips as much as she did. They landed in 2008, far enough into the future that Canary Wharf wouldn't be hanging over the city like a cloud, but close enough that Rose could swing by and see Shareen, who had phoned a few times to check on her, and now here they sat on the couch together in Shareen's flat, just as they had done dozens of times.

To Rose, those days with Shareen felt like another lifetime.

"Rose," Shareen said softly, holding Rose's hand. Rose looked up.

Shareen's hair was strawberry blonde, long and curly, almost like coils. She straightened it almost every day since she was twelve and her mum let her use her straightener. She had brown eyes that she loves to frame with blue eye shadow, black eyeliner, and a little mascara. She had a mole on the back of her neck that she covered with makeup every time she pulled her hair up, and even sometimes when she didn't. She despised Bliss and loved Burberry. She would willingly fork over fifty quid for a tiny bottle of perfume, even if she hated the scent, because she loved collecting perfume bottles, especially the ones with fancy designs on them. She hated fish and only had a mild liking for chips because of Rose, but she loved ice cream and would eat it by the pint if allowed. She preferred coffee over tea any day. She'd admitted to crushes on twenty different boys throughout her adolescence. She was an amazing singer and could write the most beautiful songs, she actually had her A-levels, and she'd been lucky enough to be one of the kids in school that didn't live on a council Estate, but she wasn't unusually brave or smart, she didn't have the spark the Doctor liked in his companions (she'd asked), nothing to help her move on in the music industry. She'd be better off trying to get into a university but she wanted to be a singer and damned if she'd give up.

And how did Rose know all this? Because Shareen had been her best mate since primary school. They'd grown up together, they'd gone through puberty together, they'd skipped school together; they'd had crushes on the same guy, they'd spent hours at night talking, they helped each other with homework, they talked to each other about everything. Or they had, before Rose had gone off with Jimmy Stone. Shareen had seen through him, she'd tried to warn her, and had been hurt when Rose ignored her. But when Rose came back, Shareen was there for her, picking up the broken bits and putting them on right.

But then Rose had met a madman who'd offered her the universe and she'd run into the blue box without looking back. She'd made an effort to contact Shareen to ensure there were no more incidents like last time just in case the Doctor made another piloting error.

Shareen didn't really like the Doctor. She blamed him for exploiting the wanderlust in Rose's soul even though she'd always known of Rose's desire to go places, meet new people, try new things. After all, Jimmy had tried to exploit it, too, with his false promises and poison smiles. (Though Shareen admitted the Doctor, aka John, didn't have the same feel to him that had alerted her to Jimmy Stone.) She blamed the Doctor for stealing away her best friend, for making her forget her friends and family for a whole year, and taking her away again almost immediately after she came back.

"I'm fine, Ree," Rose promised. "Really, I am. John is a good man and a good friend. I'm happy with him."

"I just don't want you to get hurt again, Rose," Shareen whispered. "I know I offered you a place here if you ever need it, but I never, ever want you to have to take me up on that."

"I don't plan to. It's been…" she paused to remember what year it was for Shareen, "…three years and we're not sick of each other yet. He hasn't laid a hand on me or forced me to do anythin' I don't really want to do."

"Hasn't given you a ring, either," Shareen noted.

Rose refused to look over at the Doctor. "I don't care about that, Ree. I've been to a lot of places, places you can't even imagine, seen so many cultures and traditions…really puts things into perspective. A ring is just a ring, doesn't mean anythin'."

Shareen's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "He been feedin' you that?"

Rose shook her head. "No. I figured that out on my own. This," she reached under her shirt and pulled out her TARDIS key, "was the first thing he ever really gave me. I know it's not much, but that was when he promised he wouldn't just dump me and swan off. He's kept his promise. It ain't much, but this key means more to me than any stupid ring ever could."

Shareen actually smiled then, something in her eyes softening, then they flicked over Rose's shoulder and sparked. "Oi! We're havin' a girl talk here, mate. Go back to your paper."

Rose turned her head. The Doctor was staring at her, mouth slightly open in surprise, his eyes wide. At Shareen's words, he closed his mouth, swallowed, and went back to staring at the newspaper. Rose felt a blush creep up her cheeks but she didn't care. He knew how she felt, even if she'd never said it, just as she knew how he felt. They saw it in each other's eyes, felt it in every embrace and holding of hands—in every kiss he'd pressed to her head, cheeks, and recently, her lips.

"Men," Shareen grumbled, pulling Rose's attention back to her friend. She smiled.

Later, when they were about to leave, Shareen grabbed the Doctor by his tie and yanked him down to her level. The Doctor let out an unmanly yelp, trying to pull away, but Shareen held firm. Costello women had a reputation for ferocious tempers that Rose knew from experience could match the Tyler's.

"Listen here, mate," she said. "I don't care if you're goin at it like rabbits or whatever—"


"—but don't you dare just leave her!"

"I won't," the Doctor said hastily. "I promised you before and I've kept it, haven't I?"

Shareen narrowed her eyes, giving the Time Lord a look full of righteous anger and protectiveness for her friend, causing him to reconsider his earlier assessment about the lack of 'spark' in her. "You do and I don't care if you crawl into the deepest, darkest jungle in Africa, I will come after you and make sure you don't leave it ever again. She deserves more than that."

"I know."

"And I don't care if you are in some deep, darkle jungle in Africa—if Rose ever wants to come back and visit, you better be bookin' a flight right then and there."

The Doctor smiled and gave her a two-fingered salute. "Yes, ma'am."

Shareen leaned forward and whispered one last thing into the Doctor's ear, then stepped away and released his tie.

That night in the TARDIS, which was still parked on Earth, the Doctor leaned against the head of Rose's bed. The owner of the bed was currently sound asleep, curled against his side, while his fingers ran through her soft blonde hair. Shareen Costello's words ran through his mind over and over.

"She loves you, really loves you, and I think you love her, too. I don't care what it is, but you better give her somethin' better than a key."

He knew Rose was fond of her TARDIS key, she always wore it around her neck. She had it on now. He'd given her many things during their travels: various trinkets and oddities; clothes and makeup; flowers and food. But out of all of that, she valued that key more than anything else?

Shareen had seen his love for her, and she hadn't ever been around him much. Jackie had seen. Mickey had seen. Pete had seen. Jack had seen. Detective Inspector Bishop had seen. A bloody Dalek had seen. Everyone had seen. He was pretty sure Rose had seen.

He'd loved her when he gave her that key, even if he hadn't realized it yet; he'd loved her. She'd been a bright, golden light that penetrated the darkness in his heart, and he'd been drawn to her like a moth to the flame. He'd given her the key because he trusted her, because he wanted her to know she was special, because he wanted her to know he wasn't going to leave her. What else could he do or say that would top that? What else in the whole bloody universe could ever mean more?

Shareen Costello, you certainly know how to give a bloke a headache.

The next day, they ventured out again for more chips. As they were out walking, the Doctor suddenly stopped and stared at a hospital a few blocks away. After a few moments of watching him watch the hospital, she asked what he was staring at.

"I noticed them yesterday," he murmured. "And there's more of them now. Plasma coils, at least a dozen of them, all gathering around that place."

"Well, that's not normal, for starters," he said. "That doesn't just happen. Someone or something is causing them. Oh, look at that…there's more of them! They just keep building and building…"

"So, something's going on in there?"

"Must be…why's it always London?" he murmured, staring at the building intently for a long moment. And then abruptly he was grinning that manic grin that meant things were going to get interesting very soon. "Want to check it out?"

He held out his hand. Well, Rose had wanted normalcy, and when you lived with the Doctor…

She grinned at him, lacing her fingers with his, and that was all the answer he needed.

So, what do you think? Good start? Kill it with fire and stake my muse?

Review please and let me know :)