She'd forgiven the Doctor for everything, even the lost-missing-year, when the TARDIS doors opened and Rose stepped out alone. The only thing Jackie Tyler had left from her old life, from her husband, and from everything she ever thought she wanted, was her daughter, her little Rose, and the Doctor had finally, finally sent her back. She was alone and devastated, heart-broken and unconvinced, but she was back.
And then, Jackie herself had helped Rose do something that probably signed Rose's death certificate. Rose's words, always so persuasive, had been turned on Jackie Tyler, and the wedding photos revealed the words to be true. There it was, one forgotten candid shot, of an out-of-place couple off to the side of the true subject, blurry and unknowingly photographed, a man with big ears and a leather jacket, and a blonde girl just out of her teens.
Two months later, Jackie still looked at that photo and wished she'd never seen it. If she hadn't, then Rose might still be here, alone and devastated, heart-broken and unconvinced, but still here. She might have a job down the chippy by now, getting on with her life, wishing she could have saved the world and the Doctor. She would be walking by that damn blue box every day, but she would spend less and less time staring at it.
Mickey would have broken up with Trisha Delaney and would still be coming round, trying to convince Rose to come down the pub with him. Maybe she would go, once in awhile, and maybe she would smile on some random Tuesday. And maybe, just maybe, one day the blue box would disappear, and Rose would notice, and cry, but that would be the end of it. They would all get on, back to their ordinary, day to day lives.
Instead, two months had passed, and there was nothing. If Rose had found him, she had died of what she'd found. The Doctor was probably dead of it, as well, because Jackie couldn't find it in her to believe that the man would bury her daughter on some forgotten moon, remembered by none, when he could bring her home to her mother, where she could at least be mourned by all.
The damning photograph lay there, and Jackie Tyler was alone and devastated, heart-broken and unconvinced. They had a time machine, for God's sake. The Doctor was, apparently, a rubbish pilot. Maybe they'd won, and meant to come back immediately, but missed the time.
But by two months? Yes, Jackie told herself firmly, because to believe anything else was to surrender her last hope. Most days, she got by with making tea and working, lying to friends and family, and wishing on fallen stars. At first she'd wished for her daughter's return - with or without the Doctor. Then, she'd wished for at least the Doctor's return, so he could tell her the truth. By now, she was wishing she had a time machine herself.
What was there left for her in London, anyway? A home that reminded her of loss after loss, her father, her husband, her daughter, and her daughter again. There were days when she seriously considered packing up everything she owned and getting the hell out of the old place.
Then there were days like today, when she just considered walking away.
The year had seemed bad. This, this was worse. This was killing her by inches and she was dying with less reluctance every day. Rose hadn't said anything about dying when she'd left for the year. Rose hadn't been fighting giant green things and evil aliens when she'd first disappeared. For all that Jackie had accused Mickey (as he was the closest target), she'd known deep inside herself during that horrible year that Mickey was crap at keeping secrets and that Rose could kick his skinny arse. (She'd honestly believed if she put enough pressure on him, Mickey would eventually tell her who Rose had run off with, and they'd find the girl alive.)
The Doctor, on the other hand, for all that he was forgiven, was still a killer. Alone and devastated, heart-broken and unconvinced, he was still capable of terrible things. Jackie admitted to herself now that he was reluctantly capable, but that was cold comfort when it was her daughter's life he held in those blood-stained hands.
Jackie Tyler had helped what was left of her world fly away from her in a bright blue box. She wasn't sure she was going to make it through this, not even one more day. She had taken to begging powers she didn't believe in. If they'd let her find Rose, she'd believe. She'd do good things, she'd save the damn world herself with her bare hands, she'd protect Rose and even the Doctor himself, if necessary, for the rest of her life, if only they would send Rose back to her. Failing that, at least, at least give her something to hope with.
So lost in her fear and her prayers and her contemplations, she almost didn't recognize the sound of her hope when she heard it. It was distant, but so familiar, like the sound of bits of the sky ripping open to make room for something that didn't belong there.
Jackie Tyler raced out the door, taking the stairs two at a time, at least. She was looking around desperately, everywhere, as she rushed away from her hopeless flat and out into the suddenly hope-filled Estate.
The blue box didn't appear, but something else did. Jackie couldn't describe it, not really. It looked a bit cobbled together, if she was honest, and a bit smaller than the Doctor's ship, which was saying something when his looked like a small coat cupboard on the outside.
The woman who stepped out was carrying a beeping box that also whirred. She had dark hair that was in a tangled disarray, and was wearing clothes that had seen better days. She almost walked into Jackie before she noticed the Earth woman staring from her to her ship and back in disbelief.
"May I help you?" the woman asked in a fine, posh accent. Her current appearance looked nothing like she sounded, if Jackie was honest.
"Do... do you know the... that is... have you seen the Doctor?"
The woman's eyes went huge. "He's alive? You've seen him? Where is he?" She stuffed the box into a pocket and hurried to stand just inside of Jackie's reach, her blue eyes bright with concern and curiosity. "I keep looking, but I can't find anyone," she added.
Jackie met the strange woman's eyes, and saw a kindred spirit. Alone and devastated, heart-broken and unconvinced, this woman must be one of the Doctor's people. She might be one of the survivors of the War Rose had mentioned once, or worse, one who didn't even know that the War had happened. Rose had said the Doctor was the only one, or that the Doctor thought he was the only one, but it was obvious he was wrong.
As usual, Jackie decided with a touch of her old snark coming back to her.
"Come inside," she told the woman, gently. "You can get cleaned up, have a cup of tea."
The woman looked anxious and dubious, started to turn away, but Jackie shook her head. Sadly, she continued, "I have a story to tell you."
When Rose returned for Christmas, with a new Doctor and a gap in her memory, she found she'd come home to an empty flat. The electric was still on, and the heat, but that couldn't serve, not by a long shot, as anything like a replacement for her mother's arms. She tried to ask Mickey what had happened, but he didn't know, just helped her dump the Doctor down on the bed in Rose's old room and went to find his girl friend.
It was an hour later before she finally found the note. It had been left, along with a photograph, on the kitchen table, next to a half-drunk, ice-cold, cup of tea. Rose lifted the photo and recognized it as being from Jackie's wedding album. She'd seen it a hundred times before, easily, but she'd never realized that she herself was in that photo. There she stood, though, blurry in the background, with a man who just might be lost to her, even though he was sleeping in the next room.
Alone and devastated, heart-broken and unconvinced, Rose opened the note, and bit back a yelp of shock.
If you find this, I'm very glad, as I've been here for two months with no idea if you're even alive. No phone call, no letter. Typical you, I'm thinking.
I've not disappeared, and I'm not giving up on you. If I have to search this whole universe over to find you, I will, and now I have a friend who can help me do that. If we don't see each other again, it won't be from lack of trying by me.
You told me before if I could see it, the size of it, I'd never stay home. I'm going to find out, now, because you're out there, and given that size you're so proud of, it might take me 'til never to get back to you.
So you search for me, love, and I'll search for you, too. Hopefully we'll meet in the middle before we're both too old to enjoy it.
Until then, I am always,
Your loving mother,
PS: If that Doctor's still with you, tell him thanks for trying. And I owe him a slap.
PSS: Oh, and Romana says hello."