It had taken years - about two - after a cold day on a beach in Norway, for Rose Tyler to feel like she was making real progress. After being told she couldn’t go back, could never see the Doctor again, she had been devastated. Of course she had, because that was her life, the one she knew and the one she wanted. Being stuck on one planet in one time was bad enough, but she wasn’t even in her correct universe.
Sure, she had her family, and the welcomed addition of Pete and then Tony, but was that supposed to make up for what she had lost? How could it? She loved them all. Seeing how happy her mother was made it almost worth it, almost. She took to her role a big sister with an open heart and eagerness to help out. Pete would never replace the father she had lost, but he was supportive and their relationship grew quickly. She just knew that this wasn’t what she wanted anymore.
How many times had Rose seen the impossible proven to be only improbable? When she presented her plans to the Torchwood scientists, they all stared at her with open annoyance. She didn’t care. She only cared that they did their jobs and researched what she asked. One day while she was sorting through boring paper work at her desk, a member of her team stopped in to tell her that something was happening. He had been messing with components of the cannons and found parts of them active.
After the walls had closed completely, the cannons became nothing better than paperweights. Yet, suddenly, they were showing signs of activity. It still took lots of time and tests and red tape and ridiculous protocols, but eventually Rose was ready.
Her mum tried to talk her into letting someone else try first, but this was Rose’s baby and she was not putting anyone else in that position. They knew the cannons worked brilliantly before, but couldn’t be sure how they would act now.
Rose’s first few jumps were not perfect, but the cannon worked. Each time she used it she got light headed and nauseous, once blacking out. Thankful that had happened on a return trip and her team was there to assist her, she started testing out her eating habits in conjunction with jumps and found what worked best for her.
The biggest discovery after her first few jumps, however, was that she wasn’t jumping back to her home dimension. In fact, each jump sent her somewhere new. The best explanation anyone could come up with was that the cannons must have been reset somehow after the walls were closed.
Soon enough, Rose was beginning to adjust to a life of jumping into new universes every other week. She had started out unprepared because, how does one prepare for the unknown? Sure, she had pockets full of things for all the 'just in case' scenarios they could come up with, but none of it had been expressly necessary, yet. It was more the mental and emotional preparedness that she had lacked. After traveling through time and space with an alien who changes every cell in his body in lieu of dying, one would think they were ready for just about everything.
She had encountered all sorts of worlds, and shockingly in all sorts of time periods. Initially, they had assumed that the jumping only occurred laterally. She should have appeared in the same point in time in each of the different universes. That was not the case. After a jump that landed her in a prehistoric atmosphere, they remembered that there had been a difference in progression of time between this universe and her original. More time had passed for Mickey and Pete than had for the Doctor and Rose when they all met back up. It seemed there were some major differentiations across universes as far as the flow of time.
It didn't happen the first five or even ten jumps. But then, on her seventeenth jump, something changed. Rose was walking down a street on an autumn day, enjoying a light breeze. Nothing seemed too out of place here, yet she could feel that it wasn't home - either of them. As she was waiting for the cannon to recharge, she had lost herself in thought; lost in memories of a life that seemed so long ago.
She heard faint laughter grow louder as she progressed down the footpath until she was standing across from a Primary School. She crossed the street; hands tucked into her pockets and slowed her pace, watching the young children chase a man who must have been their teacher around the school yard.
“Mr. Peterson, help!” The man had fallen, quite obviously on purpose, and the children were piling on top of him. Rose smiled at the scene.
She heard a light chuckle and saw movement out of the corner of her eye. Another man was approaching the giggling group and Rose shifted her eyes to the newcomer.
“Now, now children. I know I have taught you better than this.” He paused, standing over the pile, with his hands in the pockets of his coat. “If you have him down, you have to take the opportunity to tickle him!”
Rose felt her herself gulp at the air, suddenly aware she hadn't taken a breath for a few moments. Mr. Peterson, she presumed, was tall and thin with dark hair and bright brown eyes. She could just make out the freckles across his face and narrowed her eyes at him. He looked spot on like her Doctor. All he was missing was a bit of hair wax and a brown pinstriped suit with Converse.
He watched as the children assaulted the man on the ground for a moment with a wide smile before turning and walking back to a small table. Rose was walking up the path to the gate and had it opened to walk through before she realized what she was doing. As she approached the table, he looked up at her with a smile.
“Hello there,” he said politely.
“Hi,” Rose replied, nearly choking on the word.
A minute passed before he raised an eyebrow and tilted his head slightly. Right… he was waiting for her to explain herself.
“Is there something I can help you with?” he continued. “I don't recognize you as one of our parents.”
Rose sat on the edge of the table's bench, opposite him, and grinned. “No, um. I was just wondering around the neighborhood.”
“Oh, new here?”
“Thinking of becoming new here?”
“Possibly,” she smiled. It wasn't a complete lie. If she couldn't find her own universe, would it be so bad to settle for one where the Doctor's doppelgänger resided?
He closed a folder and folded his hands over it, “Looking for a good school, then? You have little ones?”
Tony's face flashed in her mind and she smiled.
“I couldn't help but notice that you and,” she stopped, glancing back toward the children now rolling the other man around who had tucked himself into a ball.
“Mr. Poppy,” the man inserted.
“Are quite wonderful with the children.” She brought her eyes back around to the man before her.
He sighed and nodded, “He's a bit, unconventional at times, but I have come to believe that we make a great team.”
“It would appear so.”
He stretched his hand out over the table, “Donald. Peterson.”
“Rose. Pleasure,” she said as she took his proffered hand, noting the gold band on his ring finger.
“Pleasure? That's not one I think I've heard before.”
“Oh. No, um. Tyler.” She noticed his smile had turned a bit playful and blushed at the realization he was attempting a joke. “You have children of you own then?” The question had just popped out and she opened her mouth to apologize, but he beat her to it.
“I do, two boys. Twins.” He reached a hand down below the table and shifted in his seat before revealing a leather wallet. “I have a photo.”
Rose leaned forward and felt her chest tighten at the picture of the two small ones.
“They can't be much more than eighteen months,” she said.
“Will be exactly that in two and half weeks,” Donald smiled.
She was openly staring at him now, but the pride in his eyes as he looked over the photo before putting the wallet away was just about the sweetest thing she had ever witnessed.
“I shouldn't keep you; looks like you had some work to do.” She stood to leave and he stood with her, offering his hand once more.
“It was nice to meet you, Rose. Hope you decide to give us a try.”
She managed a smile and nodded before turning on her heals to walk away.
Two weeks had passed by and Rose was once again off to find her Doctor. Finding herself standing in a pre-indoor-plumbing London, she sighed. She zipped up her leather jacket and shuffled off to find some place to hide away until she could once again return to her Torchwood team.
“Come along, Giac,” she heard a man say.
Rose smiled fondly, thoughts of a cavalier captain filling her mind. A young boy stalked by her and Rose watched as he followed behind two men. One of them turned around to make sure he was in fact following and Rose bit her lip. No way.
The street was crowded as Rose walked a few meters behind the trio until they stopped to speak to a street vendor. She walked past them, turning to get a better look at the tall man and swallowed when piercing blue eyes met hers. Blue eyes? That wasn't right. She randomly wondered if this was some weird hybrid between her first and second Doctors, but as she took him in, realized that the eyes were his only resemblance to her leather wearing Doctor.
“Hello there,” he said.
“Oh. Hi.” He was smiling at her and a bit lasciviously; if she did say so herself. She unconsciously took a step back.
“Giacomo Casanova the Chevalier de Seingalt.” He bowed, proffering his hand.
Rose stood stunned (only partially by the Italian accent) for a moment before remembering herself and laying her hand into his. He glanced up at her, still bowed and winked.
“I- I'm sorry. Did you say Casanova?” She hadn't meant that to come out as an accusation.
His grin widened as he answered, “The one and only.”
Rose felt heat rush to her cheeks and knew they must be pink. Good lord. Giacomo Casanova - and he was identical to her Doctor, only with the clearest blue eyes she'd ever seen.
“But you can call me Giac.” He raised her hand up to his lips, placing a soft kiss on her knuckles.
“Rose.” She choked her name out. Shaking her head, she relaxed a bit as he straightened back to his full height.
“Well, Rose, I must certainly insist on your company for dinner, providing you don’t already have plans?” He wrapped his fingers more securely around hers.
“I, well, um. Not precisely, no. I just got into the city.”
“What a coincidence, as did we.” He gestured with his free hand to the other man and the boy, his eyes never leaving hers. She nodded at the other two.
As he began to walk, curling her arm into his, she had to bite her tongue to keep from letting out a mass of giggles. Casanova, the Casanova, was taking her to dinner. She felt her cheeks flush again at the possibilities of what he was planning for the after dinner festivities. She couldn't help but wonder if this man was the same as the one she'd heard stories about in her original universe. All evidence thus far proved he was quite suave. She certainly wasn't sure why she had allowed him to lead her away at his own leisure. Possibly, she was just so flustered by his appearance and his mythology that her mind hadn't quite caught up to her reality just yet.
At dinner, she didn't miss the way he never truly acknowledged young Giac, and her heart went out to the child. She made every effort to talk to him, even as he didn't seem intent on responding. She did elicit a smile from him once or twice and took that as a good sign. His father seemed a bit flustered by all the attention his son was getting and stood, asking Rose for a dance. She smiled up at him and nodded, taking his hand and allowing him to lead her onto and around the dance floor. Giac was quite the eloquent dancer; spinning her here and there, dipping her deeply, and guiding her from one end of the floor to the other. She was short of breath when he pulled her back in from a spin, gripping her waist so that their hips were pressed together.
He certainly wasn't trying to hide his intentions and Rose stumbled as she felt the manifestation of his arousal. He only flexed the hand on her waist, keeping her steady. When he leaned in, cheek to cheek, she felt his warm breath on her skin as he told her exactly what it was he wanted to do. Rose choked on the air she was attempting to breathe.
“I'm sorry. I have to- I have people waiting for me. They'll be worried.” She stepped back, putting space between them.
He only smirked at her and bowed his head, arms falling to his sides. “We wouldn't want to worry anyone. Can we escort you?”
She smiled at him, shaking her head, “It's not too far from here. I'll be fine. Thank you, very kindly, for dinner.”
“It was my pleasure, Rose.” The way he said her name sent shivers up her spine and she was momentarily distracted. He took the opportunity to once again close the space between them. With one hand on her cheek and the other on her waist, he pressed his lips against hers in an unhurried kiss.
Taken by surprise and slightly embarrassed, Rose said her goodbyes to the trio and made her way through the city. All she could focus on was the revelation that kissing a man from before the time of toothpaste was not nearly as unpleasant as she would have guessed.
Rose folded her legs and sank to the ground. Nothing. There was nothing. She could see for miles and there was nothing to break the horizon. This was going to be a long wait. Although, after her previous two jumps, she almost welcomed the quiet.
What kind of sick joke was the universe playing? Why, suddenly, did she keep running into physical copies of the man she loved? She let out a slow breath. The first time, with the teacher, she had accepted it as a coincidence. Now that it had happened twice, in a row, she was slightly less convinced. The idea of two of any person existing wasn't so hard to fathom. But there were no Time Lords in her current universe of residence. So, no Doctor. And as far as she knew, there was no doppelgänger either. She hadn't run into any random man wearing his face in the market.
Yet, in other universes there apparently were other versions of him. That wasn’t all; she seemed to have a magnetic connection to them. Of all the 'impossible' things she had encountered over the past few years, this was the hardest one to wrap her mind around.
Rose stood back up and started walking. The sun was high in the sky and maybe if she stuck to one direction she would find something to break up the monotony, eventually. At least if she were moving, it was a way to pass the time until she could jump.
Mr. Donald Peterson had seemed almost too kind and gentle; proud of his family. While looking at the photo of his twins she had observed, though upside down, that the other photo had been of a woman. She assumed it to have been his wife. She was pretty, but not the sort of pretty Rose suspected he could have pulled. It had made Rose want to get to know the man. She wanted to catalogue the differences between him and her Doctor. His smile had been reflected in his eyes, even though it was far from the manic grin the Doctor had worn when he was excited about something. He seemed to be living a typical day-to-day life just as happy as could be. A life she was certain would drive the Doctor spare.
Then, then, she had come across the anomaly that was Giac. The Doctor was a gorgeous man. Slim, but solid form, perfect dimples that accompanied the most infectious smile she'd ever encountered, and really—really great hair. But Casanova, with his barely lighter hair (tied back into a queue) and his clear blue eyes had thrown her for a loop. She had dreamt about the Doctor many nights since Norway. But over the last two weeks, more often than not, her Doctor now had eyes like reflecting pools in those dreams.
She couldn't stop thinking about the dancing. She had danced with her first Doctor, after some coaxing and a bit of jealousy thanks to Jack, but her second Doctor had never held her that way and moved with her to the rhythm of music. As much as she had wanted to imagine the hands holding her had belonged to her Doctor, Giac was too much his own man. Holding her gaze, while he spun them around, as if everyone else would make room for them. And it seemed they had. Rose had been unable to look away. The constant reminders that this was a different man staring back at her.
Then there was his ability to make her flush. Never had a man been so up front with her about his intentions, and have it come across as sincere. It was invigorating, whether she shared the desires or not. She scolded herself for wondering if it would have been so bad to let me him have his way with her. That sort of thinking was exactly what she shouldn't be indulging in.
She loved the Doctor with every fiber of her being.
She had loved the first version of him, just as she loved the one she had been ripped away from. Two men, the same man, different faces. How did that compare to same face, different man? Different men. Were they in some actuality the same man? All of them?
Rose shook her head. This was all too confusing. Of course she would be attracted to a man who wore the face of the man she loved, even if he were a different man. Even if he had different colored eyes? And his truly great hair could use some styling? Evidently. The freckles had been the same right down to the placement of the one low on his neck. That being the case, her urge to put her lips over it remained. Even with cerulean eyes staring back at her, she had to bite her lip to refrain from actually doing it.
Rose stopped walking, pulling out the cannon to check on its progress. This place was driving her nutters. She had to get out of here. Being left alone with her thoughts was the last thing she wanted or needed.