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Alec Hardy's unexpected Christmas Present

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Rose was bored out of her mind. How had she ended up agreeing to speak to a dozen or so stuffy board members at their annual conference in not so sunny Weymouth in the middle of February? Mickey had conveniently said he had an urgent matter to attend, probably chasing poor Martha Jones again and Jake had said his boyfriend Simon hadn't forgiven him for going away for a weekend when they'd been trying to 'persuade' a group of mischievous aliens to go home when they'd had a stopover in Blackpool and were winning coins galore on the slot machines.

The arcade owner was at his wits end and had called Torchwood when he'd noticed the group weren't quite human and lucky Jake had drawn the short straw and had taken Chrissie and Ewan to try to persuade the aliens they couldn't take the coins with them as Earth currency had no value anywhere else.

"Miss Tyler," the secretary had nudged her when she was on the verge of nodding off while the others debated the finer points of diplomacy towards 'visitors'.

She'd laughed at Jake finally getting the latest of them to leave Blackpool by them giving most of the coins back and the grateful owner had given then sticks of gooey rock instead, which she'd found hilarious and they found it serious.

"May I remind you," the stuffy secretary continued as Rose tried to look awake. "May I remind you such incidents expose people to the fact visitors from other planets can just drop in whenever they want?"

"Oh come on Miss James," Rose yawned, checking her nails and playing with one of her hoop earrings. "It wasn't that serious. Jake and his team handled it quite well. It was a bit funny though, how they did it."

"We shouldn't encourage them," another delegate joined in as Rose wondered when coffee was being served – again.

She needed it to stay awake.

"Come on, it's 2013, the Earth's population get thrills out of alien sightings," Rose persisted, knowing the members of Torchwood weren't quite used to her way of doing things.

She had spent the best part of four years training on the job, under Jake's guidance after she and Mickey had 'arrived' on this alternate version of their home and her mother had married Pete so now she had a cheeky three year old brother called Tony who she would do anything for.

"What about those recent rumours?" one delegate raised a question.

"What would they be?" Rose tried to stifle a yawn and it was only eleven in the morning, the final day of the three day conference and how she'd survived, she'd no idea.

She'd been spotted twice the night before when she'd gone with her only ally, her PA Sally and they'd gone to a bar on the seafront and despite denying who she was, she'd had a crowd around her getting her autograph. Being the Vitex heiress took its toll on her. When she wasn't dodging the press for being a wild child with more money than sense, she was being chased for who she was currently dating or who she had been seen out with last. Being flung three years ahead and being only just turned twenty when she and her mother had arrived, with only the clothes they were wearing had been hard to adjust to.

Now she was only twenty three and supposed to be twenty six and she should be acting like it but she didn't care. She knew it would catch up with her eventually though and something was just waiting to happen.

Pete had let the press know they could only go so far before he put a stop to it but he could do nothing about her getting involved with Torchwood business when she'd kicked some alien butt back to their own solar system. She was brought back down to this Earth.

"Miss Tyler, I refer to the events a few months ago," she was reminded. "Those readings we were getting, signs from your old universe."

Rose wished they'd stop going on about it. Signs had appeared and had been gone in a few hours, leaving no time to get the project they'd been working on into action and she'd been let down again.

"Miss Tyler," another delegate addressed her. "The rumours were that a team was on standby to get you back from where you came."

"Don't be daft," Rose defended herself. "Do ya think I'd still be here if there was a way back? I don't know what ya all heard, we're nowhere near ready for anything like that and the fact we got those reading was never covered up."

"Can we be sure of that?" she was asked. "Who knows what your stepfather is keeping from us. We're all heads of departments, some of us have been with the organisation since before he took over."

"So?" Rose asked. "He wasn't the one who let the Cybermen infiltrate it and escape, was he?" Rose snapped back.

"I think we should take a break," Sally suggested, seeing Rose was getting flustered when things became personal.

She took Rose aside as she took her a coffee, Rose staring out of the window.

"Sorry Sally," Rose apologised. "I shouldn't let it get to me. Maybe getting totalled last night wasn't such a good idea without taking the anti-alcohol pills?"

"You don't have to apologise to me," Sally smiled. "It was my job to give them to you. I know it still upsets you that you can't get home."

"I'm gonna head back to London later, you stay tonight if ya want?" Rose told her.

"So you don't want to try your luck tonight with that dishy blonde-haired bloke in that bar again?" Sally grinned.

"I swear he's someone famous but I can't place him," Rose replied. "Never mind, at least he didn't ask for my autograph. I think I'll leave as soon as the afternoon session breaks up, pack my stuff up will ya?"

"Sure. It'll be busy on the roads though, is it a good idea to set off at that time?"

"Yeah, I need to wake up Sal, this is worse than kicking alien butt," Rose grinned.

Rose got the map up on her phone and plotted the least busy route, avoiding the motorway and seeing it took her though several towns but figured waiting at traffic lights would be less painful than sitting in a queue on the motorway for no other reason than some person in a control room miles away had forgotten to switch off a hazard warning to go 20mph and drivers were actually heeding the warning.

Sally spotted the route she was taking.

"You do know that route takes you through that town, the one where that girl was killed?" Sally asked her, seeing 'Sandbrook' in bold letters.

"Yeah, I'll be through it in no time and no, I'm not stopping there because that detective in charge could use our help finding the killer," Rose replied.

"Did I say anything?" Sally grinned, knowing her boss had noticed the similarities between the Scottish detective and a certain person she used to know.

Everyone who was important in Torchwood knew about the famous Doctor who had saved them all from being converted into Cybermen but no-one mentioned him in front of Rose. If they did, Rose would go off in a huff and they'd all know about it by getting a warning off Pete to leave it.

"That reminder about those signs," Sally continued. "They know not to bring it up."

"It doesn't matter," Rose sighed. "I have to face it Sal, it was just a fluke, nothing's gonna come of it, no matter how hard they try to get that dimension cannon working properly. When they got signs, well that was the longest we've had but not long enough. I'm here to stay and that's it."

Sally touched her arm. "Sorry, I know what it would mean, if there was a way."

"Yeah, Pete would never let me go anyway unless it was tested and by then, it could be too late. He may not be my version of the Doctor if I do make it, then what? Back to the boring conference then?"

Sally sneaked off to pack for Rose and was waiting for her just after three in reception.

"See ya on Friday?" Rose asked, since she'd given Sally the next day off to get home. "Sure you can hitch a ride?"

"Yeah, don't worry about me, I'll get back. Be careful, yeah?" Sally assured her.

Confirming the route on her phone, she attached it to the holder stuck on the car windscreen and started the engine of her metallic blue sports-type car. She debated if she should warn her mother she was coming back a day early but thought she'd surprise Tony. It was his fourth birthday in six weeks and she was charged with getting him a police boat for his bath and Pete was trying to arrange a short ride in a police boat for him.

Somehow, she'd got roped into going with him though she thought she might get Mickey to volunteer, if she could tear him away from chasing after Martha. She often wondered if that was what she and the Doctor had looked like to others, the way Mickey tripped up every time he saw the student doctor, who was Owen Harper's intern.

She got onto the main road once out of the seaside town, it taking her a while to get across since traffic was already building up and just after five, she was approaching the turn-off for Sandbrook and decided to take a break. Seeing a sign for the new shopping mall, she decided it would be easier than finding somewhere in the town centre and turned off, following the signs and driving up the ramp to the roof car park, seeing a lift area as she pulled in.

Meanwhile, in the town's police station, Alec Hardy was working late – again. He had nothing to hurry him back to his one bedroom flat, he was just biding his time until the chief could palm him off on another town, for taking the blame of letting evidence get stolen though his bosses had decided his intentions were good and had let him off lightly.

"Not going home?" his only friend in the department asked him.

"Not yet, what's the point?" he replied, pretending he didn't care. "I'll just catch up on a few things, see you tomorrow."

"Don't work too late then," his DS told him.

Back at the mall, Rose had queued for a famous chicken takeaway food stand and was enjoying the meal after two days of fancy food, which despite her new status, she didn't get what it was all about and loved nothing better than sneaking off with Mickey in their lunch break to go visit a local burger place. Once finished, she thought the traffic might still be a bit heavy getting back onto the main route so on her way to the ladies room, she browsed in a few dress shops and ended up buying a new top and some underwear, a nasty habit she had now she had some money to spend instead of raiding the local charity shops.

Pleased she'd not spent that much, she went up in the lift and once on the top floor, stepped out. Her face dropped when seeing there were only a few cars, she'd backed the car in to easily get out and saw a dent where the number plate was. Opening the rear passenger door, she put her new purchases in and went to inspect the damage.

The number plate was cracked but not in danger of falling off but the dent in the bumper was noticeable and would need repairing when she got home. Great, now she'd have to admit where she'd stopped off, not that she'd get away without paying for it herself, it wasn't worth claiming on the insurance.

She thought about calling Pete but that wouldn't do any good, she could safely drive the car home but what then? Would the person responsible try and blame her if they were that way inclined if they found out who the car belonged to? Going to sit in the car, she found the address of the local police station, seeing it was only about ten minutes away and thought she'd best report it before the offending driver did, if they hadn't already done so.

Alec was about to leave, closing his computer down and putting his jacket on when his desk phone rang.

"What?" he answered gruffly.

"Sir, can you come down to the desk?" the nervous night sergeant asked him, knowing Alec's reputation and his habit of being in a mood if he stayed late.

"What needs my attention?" he asked, feeling hungry all of a sudden, not surprisingly since it was after six now.

Rose had parked her car, making sure it wasn't for police vehicles only and gone inside, thankful Pete made her carry her driving licence and insurance with her and gone up to the who looked like he was as bored as she'd been at the conference desk sergeant.

"Can I help you Miss?" the sergeant asked without looking up.

"Yeah, I need to report a minor traffic incident," Rose replied, used to reporting things but this was a first and she didn't want anyone taking advantage.

"Name?" the sergeant asked, still without looking up.

"Rose Tyler," she replied, thinking he could at least look interested.

He was as he put his pen down.

"Miss Tyler, sorry, I didn't realise it was you. Please accept my apologies."

Rose was going to say he should have been paying attention even if it wasn't her. Things must be slow around here after all the media attention had died down.

"What can the Sandbrook police do for you?" the sergeant continued.

"Some idiot either reversed into my car or rammed it, in the shopping mall car park," Rose replied, hoping there was only one shopping mall as she couldn't remember what it was called. "The number plate is cracked and there's a dent in the bumper. I'm not that bothered but if they took my registration number, well they could try making it look like it was my fault. I just wanted to get in first," Rose replied, thinking this was a waste of time.

She knew the first thing Pete would ask was had she reported it. Since she'd learned to drive, sending Mickey and her driving instructor crazy, Pete had told her anything at all, she had to report it even if it wasn't an insurance claim, which this wouldn't be. He'd told her all the crazies would crawl out of the woodwork claiming for new cars should they discover who they'd hit.

"Just how bad is your car damaged?" the sergeant asked her, getting a traffic accident form from beneath the desk.

Rose got her phone out and showed him the two photos she'd taken before leaving the mall.

"I see Miss Tyler, just a moment then. Could you start by writing the registration number and the make and model?" he asked, picking up the phone.

Rose took the form and glanced at it, she was an expert at form-filling after working for Torchwood. She went to sit down and was just filling in her name and address when Alec came through the stairs door.

"What's so important?" Alec asked at the desk. "Why didn't you tell me on the phone?"

The sergeant nodded towards Rose, who hadn't glanced up.

"Is that who I think it is?" Alec continued.

"Yes Sir, someone bumped her car at the shopping mall."

"Well, what does she want us to do about it?" Alec asked dryly. "Is the car drivable?"

"So she says but given who she is, she thought someone may make a false claim," the sergeant told him.

"Why does that not surprise me? We must get half a dozen calls a day that someone blames someone else for a traffic accident. Leave her with me then and get someone to check the damage, I don't want her stepfather complaining we ignored her," Alec ordered.

Rose was now looking in his direction. It was just his luck she'd decided to stop in his town, she was all he needed and if the press got hold of it, well he'd had enough fending them off with a killer walking free and his almost ex wife saying she was glad to be rid of him.

"Miss Tyler? I'm DI Hardy, would you come this way?" he asked, pointing to the informal interview room. "Someone will check your car and make sure it's drivable. Can I get you anything?"

"No ta, that's why I stopped off. I can drive the car, I told your sergeant some idiot might find out it's my car and make a claim," Rose replied.

"Yes, I can see why you're concerned but now we have your report, I can assure you any false claims will be dealt with. If you don't mind me asking, what are you doing passing through town?" he asked, not that she was likely to tell him.

"A boring conference, I just wanted to get away so I took the scenic route," she grinned as she passed him the form. "Can you recommend a hotel, I might just stay here tonight, I'll have to call my stepfather."

"Then please do so, does he think you are still at the conference?" Alec asked her, gesturing for her to sit and skimming over the report. "You did not put your mobile number," he noted, since she'd put the Torchwood number as her contact and left that blank.

"Sorry, force of habit," she smiled. "I usually get away with it. You'd be surprised how many people don't notice. I don't give it out even though any number is screened first to make sure some stupid claims company's not calling."

She put her number in, Alec noticing she stuck her tongue out of the side of her mouth while doing so and gave himself a mental slap for watching. Hell, he'd really hit rock-bottom after his divorce and should try dating again. If Tess could get someone, there was no reason he shouldn't – at least he'd waited until after the divorce. Rose was looking at him.

"I will process this for you and file the report, you make your call. As for hotel's, the nearest is just by the shopping mall, they should have plenty of vacant rooms. I'll try not to keep you much longer Miss Tyler."

"Oh, call me Rose," she grinned at him, getting her phone out and seeing a missed call from her mother, since she'd put it on silent. "Best call my mum first, she has ESP and she probably already knows I'm not where I'm supposed to be."

"I expect all mothers do that, my ex keeps a tight reign on our almost teenage daughter. Since when did twelve year old girls need a mobile phone?" Alec grumbled, getting up and picking up the phone.

"Geez, when I was twelve, my mum used to shout over the railing of our block of flats when it was time to go in," Rose laughed.

"Well at least she knew where you were," Alec remarked.

Rose thought it was a good thing no-one knew that had all changed when she'd gone off with the Doctor.