A/N Rose begins to process the situation and has a chance to do some necessary reflecting along the way.

Chapter 10

Rose's assigned position within the Registration Center consisted of checking guests in and out upon arrival and departure, and logging overall visitor traffic. Her work, however, involved more than simply being a desk clerk. She helped to monitor the northern sector arrival ports for incoming crafts docking on the planet, and communicated with the Interstellar Traffic Control Center when the ports began nearing their capacity so that new arrivals could be re-routed to the overflow docking stations. She would then enter into the registration system a log of those who intended to stay and reserve lodging.

Due to her new employment position, Rose learned that the city had a monitoring configuration that put even London's extensive CCTV system to shame. A satellite monitoring system covered the entire region, and a specific area could be pinpointed and pulled up for examination at any time.

Upon learning of this, Rose immediately realized how this could be used in relation to her recent situation. She went to Jaise with this request, and he had assisted her in pinpointing exactly where the TARDIS had previously been located. The timeframe for when the Doctor had gone back to the ship that last time was then entered into the system. The subsequent visual stream that was retrieved was able to replay those moments. Rose watched, trying to keep her emotions in check, as the Doctor was seen boarding the TARDIS and leaving of his own free will. There had been no coercion or meeting with trouble along the way. He had simply gotten in the TARDIS and left.

On the one hand, this was a substantial relief to Rose in knowing for certain that he was safe. But it also left no doubt that his departure was intentional, lending further evidence to the possibility that his continued absence was as well.

As a result, Rose threw herself into her work as a necessary distraction. She was, however, continually watching for any sign of the TARDIS returning again through use of the system's monitoring station. The TARDIS' energy signature was unique and would be easily identifiable if it reappeared. She would be able to know the minute the Doctor returned. For the time being there was nothing more she could do.

Rose was thankful she had work duties to focus on each day in the midst of this or else she might have gone insane. She was a quick study when it came to learning the various systems and protocols, and by the end of the first week she was working proficiently with minimal supervision. The work helped her focus her mind, at least to some extent, on something other than her own personal debacle.

Though she never would have wished for such circumstances, this time on her own apart from the Doctor was bringing about quite a bit of self-reflection. As Rose gained independence in her position and was making her own way, she came to realize that perhaps she had unwittingly become too dependent on the Doctor. In some ways this had been inevitable due to the nature of their life. He was the designated driver, time-traveling expert, and on the most fundamental level, the provider of basic needs in the form of the TARDIS and its essential provisions.

Rose had always known this, but she had never really stopped to reflect upon it. She'd never been forced to. Despite the ways the Doctor could have asserted dominance, they always worked as a team so she wasn't cognizant of her level of dependence while traveling with him. She had never thought about what she would do if she were suddenly without him. 'Forever' was firmly set in her mind, so she never thought she would need a contingency plan. Yet faced with his absence, she had woken up to the fact of being utterly stranded with nowhere to go and no means to get home. While leading a life that led her across the vast universe and far from her own world, Rose literally had no resources other than her wits if she didn't have him.

She had been so relatively young, just beginning adulthood when she had first been whisked into this life with the Doctor. She had grown and matured substantially during their time together, that was certainly true; more so than some people do in a lifetime. A case in point was their previous pivotal journey when she'd had no choice but to take charge of their situation during the Doctor's injury. But this current state made Rose realize how much more growth she'd still had to achieve. She was now getting a crash course in self-development.

Rose was also having adequate time to truly reflect on the sudden turn her relationship with the Doctor had taken prior to coming here. Unlike typical marriages, there had not been time or opportunity to really consider it or weigh the outcome before it occurred. It had all happened so fast, and in the midst of it they had been trying to simply hold on tight and figure out how to progress. This time apart, painful and disconcerting as it was, had given Rose a chance to really reflect on all of this.

She had been so consumed by her love for the Doctor, and she had wanted nothing more than to make this work once the possibility of such a relationship became real. She had, to a certain extent, been willing to overlook things like her dependence on him and his guarded nature with her. Those were not healthy factors for a relationship, though. She was certainly now catching up fast in terms of non-dependency. And she had been trying to address his issues of cautious restraint. Maybe she still had more to learn in this regard, too. The Doctor wasn't going to change centuries of ingrained behaviors overnight, and she couldn't make headway by forcing the issue. Perhaps if she had tried to be even more understanding of his perspective and he had made more of an effort to be forthcoming, they could have somehow met in the middle. Would they even get that chance at this point?

Yet despite painful doubts that would not have even existed in her thoughts if not for the way things had stood between them when he left, deep down she knew even still that the Doctor would be back. She knew in her heart that he would not truly leave her stranded this way for good. But whatever the reason for his absence, even if he was being a brooding git and would come back when he was ready, she knew that he could not simply run from the difficult things between them when it suited him. They were going to have to strike a balance here.

In all of this, Rose had come to one important conclusion. When it came down to the heart of the matter with all other issues stripped away, she didn't love the Doctor out of desperation or immature need. She loved him because she chose to embrace not only the fundamental passion and innate connection between them, but to embrace all that they were together; and it was not always an easy choice, as she was learning now more than ever. It was, however, a type of fierce love that would not give up. It was this kind of love, firmly rooted and sure, that stood the only chance of enduring the present circumstances, and whatever else they may face in this mad life.

Just before Zobulan, the Doctor had ominously predicted that there was a storm approaching. Maybe she was now in the eye of that storm. Or maybe, she thought with a bone-aching chill, there was still something more to come. But whatever she might face now or in the future, this experience was confirming to Rose that she wasn't the type to curl inward and give up. She would ride out her storms. That, she was quickly learning, was who Rose Tyler was apart from him.


It was now one week into this ordeal, and one of the small bright spots for Rose in this was the friendship that she had developed with Jaise. She might have gone completely mad if not for having someone to talk to in this. At first Rose had been self-protective and even embarrassed to admit the full situation to anyone. She had tried to be vague on the details of the Doctor's absence.

And then on the morning of this week's final work day, she was checking in a newlywed couple from the Xanthe Constellation. She immediately noticed what they wore as symbols of marriage, which consisted of polished armbands in a crisscross design. They were gold instead of silver and worn higher up the arm rather than around the wrist, but Rose was instantly reminded of the spiraling silver wrist bands she and the Doctor had exchanged on their wedding day. Her pain came flooding back anew, and she'd had to quickly find Jaise and ask him to finish the couple's registration process. She had not broken down publicly until that moment when it finally all came to the surface. She had been strong through this, but sometimes it took strength to let those emotions finally break free.

Afterward Jaise found Rose in a back office behind the registration desk trying to collect herself and stop the tears. It was then Rose opened up about her entire situation with the Doctor, beginning with their recent unplanned marriage that had ultimately led them here. Rose found a sympathetic ear in Jaise, and would soon learn he was someone who had experienced his own broken relationship and thus could relate.

He kindly offered to take her to lunch at the nearby Sky Café, and it was later on that he shared some of the details of his own experience.

They arrived at the unique eatery, which was located within a cluster of robust towering treetops. The view from the lofty dining platform was phenomenal, offering a remarkable panorama of Paradise's entire central city. Rather than distract from the absence of the Doctor, however, it only made Rose miss him all the more. They were supposed to experience things like this together. Especially on what was supposed to be their honeymoon, a mocking concept that only hurt a little more with each day that passed.

Rose was picking at her lunch with lackluster interest. The meal she had ordered was a delicious mix of ripe local vegetables roasted to perfection and served on a bed of something similar to risotto with a rich, creamy sauce, but nothing was appealing when one lacked an appetite.

Having learned the full details of her situation, Jaise realized Rose needed to move on, and he thought the sooner she was able to do that, the better.

He looked across at Rose, and decided now was the best time to share some recent positive news that might help her in moving forward.

"I have a bit of news for you that might lift your mood," he finally interjected into the lagging conversation. "I've spoken with the District Chancellor about your position. I've told him you've been a valuable asset to the Registration Department during this active season, and he's agreed to let your position here be permanent."

Rose looked up, surprised by this. The last thing she had associated with any of this was the word 'permanent.'

"I'm really grateful," Rose finally replied.

"You've earned it."

"But I can't accept," she finished.

He leaned back and sighed. "This isn't an offer you should turn down without careful consideration, Rose. I know you probably don't want to think about this yet, but you're going to need a permanent job here. But if you're not happy staying in Registration long-term then you could consider other options. I can give you a recommendation if there's another department that interests you."

"No, it's not that. I enjoy the job, and I'm grateful for it. I am. I don't know what I'd have done without it. But I can't consider anything here permanent. When the Doctor comes back, we–"

"Rose," he cut her off, "I'm going to tell you this for your own good, even though I know it's hard to hear. You have to accept that he isn't coming back and move on. I know it isn't easy, but you can't let this hold you back from moving forward with your life."

"The Doctor will be back," Rose said with resolve, challenging his assertion otherwise.

He leaned his arms forward on the table. "Alright. Let's assume that you're right. If he does come back – in another day or another week or in a year – then what? Will his grand return suddenly solve everything, or will you just be living your life waiting for it to happen again? Is this really the type of man you think you want to build a lifelong relationship with? Do you think you even could?"

Rose understood what he was trying to say. Some of his points even had merit. She knew this, because a few of them had already made their way into her own head. She also knew something else, though. On a deep, fundamental level she believed in the Doctor completely and knew there just had to be some sort of explanation for this. She believed in him and what they shared, wholly imperfect as it might be at the present.

"I know how he must seem to you. But you're on the outside looking in, and at one of the worst possible times. You just don't know him. You don't know what he's really like."

"The trouble is, I do," he replied back. "I know exactly what he's like because I was…," he shrugged in resignation and slouched back. "Well…I was just like you when I was younger. There was a woman – always begins that way, right?" he added with a jaded, trace-smile. "Or in your case a man. But at any rate, she was a charming, exciting woman who I thought was the key to my happiness – my soul mate. I fell hard and couldn't even see my life without her. I followed my heart and not my head, and I didn't think it was even possible for me to be happy unless she was in my life. Sound familiar?"

Rose looked down, remaining quiet.

"The problem was, she didn't feel the same way about me. I don't think she ever did. But I didn't realize it until it was too late to keep from being a victim of misplaced emotions." He took a breath and went on. "She was a member of Rajara's Exploratory Fleet that continues to search out new uninhabited worlds for possible development. She was charismatic and adventurous, but the last thing she was, was committed. She just couldn't stay in one place with one man. Oh, she thought she could and even told me that's what she wanted – a life with me. It wasn't long before that spark to move on was burning her again." The napkin in his hand became a crumpled ball in his tightening fist. "Do you know how the woman I loved let me know she was leaving? She had one of her fellow members of the Fleet tell me after she was already gone. I don't think it was even that couldn't bear to tell me face-to-face. It was that she couldn't bear to be here, standing still, for another minute." His voice darkened. "And she didn't just move on to other places. There were other men, too. Fool that I was, I'd been the last one to find that out later through others."

"I'm sorry," Rose offered quietly.

He shook his head. "Just don't be like me, and then you won't have to be sorry."

"But the Doctor isn't like that," Rose protested. "Even if this wasn't just some sort of terrible mishap – even…even if he got scared and ran, he would never just run off to someone else." But even as she defended him, the image of a certain Jeanne Antoinette Poisson came unbidden to her mind, along with the clear recollection of the Doctor charging through a time window and leaving herself utterly stranded in a dangerous situation without so much as a backward glance. Rose immediately tried to shake the memory from her thoughts. That was the last thing she needed to think about right now on top of everything else.

Jaise's voice pulled her back to the present. "I just don't want you to make the same mistake I did, believing in someone who isn't worth it. You deserve better. No one is worth experiencing that kind of pain. You're far better off alone. Believe me, I know. The only one you can really trust is yourself."

They both let the subject drop after that. It wasn't really comfortable for either of them to continue down this path. But as Rose looked across at this man who harbored such resentment and cynicism toward relationships in general, she couldn't help but wonder, in a dark corner of her mind, if perhaps she was seeing herself in the future.