Rose Tyler was back, and she looked like she meant business.
Dr Martha Jones stood and looked at the woman who had appeared behind her desk. She was doing some freelance work for UNIT, cooperating on a research mission on treatments of Zygon diseases with Ms Osgood, and suddenly there’d been a phone call with ”A Rose Tyler to see you, ma'am”. Which made no sense.
”Aren’t you supposed to be in that other universe?” Martha asked, because she had to say something. ”The one that’s closed off from ours.”
Rose shrugged and smiled. ”Yeah, I was. Now I’m not.”
”I thought —”
”The Doctor may have planned that I would stay there for the rest of my life. The Doctor doesn’t get to decide about my life, though. I do.”
Good for you, Martha thought. ”Just… How did you get here?” And why did she come here, to Martha, she wanted to ask, but she didn’t.
”There’s a Torchwood in that universe, too,” Rose said. “Only it never went bad like the Hartmann version, so we had more than the ruins of Canary Wharf and a tiny team in Cardiff. Anyway, it had some pretty serious technology years ago, to open the border between the universes. There’s stuff here that needs to be investigated. The border between the universes isn’t as tight as it should be anymore, and someone needs to secure the weak spots and close them again. So I volunteered to go.” She sat on Martha’s desk and grinned. ”I’d like company, though. Someone who knows what they’re doing. John — well, that human-Doctor double I got shipped to the other world with — has told me enough that I figured I should look you up.”
”Wow. Thank you.” Martha didn’t know what to make of it. ”Why me?”
Rose shrugged. ”It sounds like you’re pretty darn competent. And you know what it’s like. Also,” and she smiled, looking a tad self-conscious, ”a long time ago, I got awfully jealous of anyone else traveling with the Doctor. And I’m over it. I reckon anyone else who’s been there must be pretty awesome. And I kind of liked you.” She grinned.
”Oh.” Martha couldn’t help grinning back.
”So, Martha Jones. I’ve got cool tech, lots of coordinates, and a mission. Do you wanna come with me?”
There was a light dancing in Rose’s warm brown eyes, an inviting glint. Martha had only seen it in one other person before. Except in Rose it was more youthful, more pure. She didn’t need to think long. She grabbed Rose’s hand and grinned. ”Hell yeah.”
”Fantastic! How soon can you leave?”
Martha considered. Osgood needed her help, but really, all that she needed to was finish checking the samples and write her report. ”How does tomorrow sound?”
”Great! I’m gonna need some time to plan anyway.”
”Where are you staying?” Martha asked.
Rose shrugged again. ”Dunno yet. I hope I’ll find out.”
”Be here around six tonight. You’re coming to my place, and tonight you can tell me all about what’s happened.”
Rose’s grin widened. ”Deal.”
At seven that evening, Martha and Rose were at her kitchen table huddled over maps and paper print-outs, and Martha was typing up notes on her computer. Rose had explained what her mission involved, at least at first, finding and closing some minor cracks between the universes that were bleeding energy into the other world again. They were in various places on Earth, somehow connected to unusual activity that had happened in one universe or the other. Rose had a number of sophisticated instruments with her that would enable her to close the cracks on this side.
”Wow, some of my colleagues at UNIT would love to see this,” Martha said and whistled as she examined some of them.
”Do you work for them?”
”No, freelance only. I did before. But they asked me to do stuff I wasn’t okay with, and I decided I wanted to work on my own terms. But I do always keep getting mixed up with this stuff. It’s just too exciting, I suppose.”
”I hear you on that,” Rose said.
At nine, Martha came home with two cartons of Indian take-away, to find her bathroom filled with the smell of papaya-scented shampoo (she had no idea where Rose had managed to find that; did she carry it with her while dimension-hopping?), and Rose seated on the sofa in Martha’s purple bathrobe, with her old (very old) turtle slippers on her feet. It was a surprisingly adorable view, and Martha realized how empty her flat had felt for the past few years.
”These are adorable,” Rose said, wiggling her feet. ”Where did you get them?”
”My sister gave them to me for Christmas one year,” Martha said, laughing. ”I must have been about nineteen.”
”I hope you don’t mind that I borrowed this bathrobe. Ugh, I just had to get all that travel gunk out of my hair.”
”Is it sticky in between dimensions?” Martha asked, putting the food parcels on the table and going to search for drinks and glasses in her kitchen.
”No, but the traveling is a little imprecise. I ended up on the Isle of Man. Took me a while to get here.”
Martha laughed. ”That sounds familiar. The TARDIS didn’t like showing up where the Doctor meant to —” She paused, realizing that Rose hadn’t given up travelling as willingly as she had.
But Rose only laughed, loudly. ”Tell me about it! Did you ever hear about the first time the Doctor took me back home?”
”No.” Martha didn’t mention that the Doctor hadn’t much liked to talk about his past with Rose — just that she was in every way superior. It wasn’t Rose’s fault, and she quite liked the woman, to be honest.
”Well, he got the place right, I’ll give him that,” Rose said. ”He said I’d be back 12 hours after I left — but it was actually 12 months.”
Martha nearly dropped the glasses. ”No way!”
”Oh yes. And me still living with my Mum back then.” Rose went serious. ”Actually, it wasn’t fun. It was dreadful. She’d worried herself half mad and the police were trailing Mickey.” She shook her head. ”But maybe it would be hilarious if it happened to someone else. Someone I didn’t know. Mum slapped the Doctor, though. That was funny!” She giggled.
Martha grinned. ”Mine slapped him, too. I wonder if he gets that a lot.”
”I wouldn’t be surprised. When my Mum met him, he was still his previous self. He didn’t really get parents. Or her, anyway.” She grinned. ”But sometimes he got the TARDIS timing spot on. Like when we rescued Jack from being blown up by a German bomb.” Rose went wistful and quiet. ”You travelled with Jack, too?”
”Yeah, he caught up with us at one point. It was… a lot later for him.”
Rose was combing her hair with the fingers of one hand. ”Yeah, the Doctor — the other Doctor, the human one — told me just what had happened with Jack.”
”What happened to him, anyway?” When Rose opened her mouth to reply, Martha added: ”Not Jack. I mean the human Doctor. Why aren’t you back there with him?”
Rose smiled a tight-lipped smile and looked at the TV, which was showing one of those ubiquitous talent shows. ”I was. But it’s been many years. Time passes faster in that universe than it does here. And you know… Well, things change. Or work out differently than someone might think.” There was bitterness in the word ’someone’.
”I’m sorry,” Martha said, truly feeling it.
Rose smiled a melancholy smile and shrugged. ”It’s okay. We had our times. And it’s not like he’s lonely or bored over there.” Suddenly a wicked grin appeared on her face. ”What do you know? The other universe has a Jack, too.”
Martha’s eyes widened. ”No way!”
”Ooh, yes way!” Rose giggled. ”And it turns out that the human Doctor is quite open to new experiences.”
”Oh, wow.” Martha didn’t know what else to say.
”Yeah.” Rose grinned. ”So what did you bring us? Ooh, is this palak paneer? Can I have it?”
”Go ahead. Any ginger beer?”
”Ooh, yes please. And now,” and Rose settled snugly against Martha as though they made a habit of sitting together on the sofa every night, ”please bring me up to date on the telly programs. Everything’s changed since I was here! What is this even?”
Martha racked her brain. ”I think that’s the X Factor…”
The next morning, Rose clambered up from Martha’s sofa looking like a disheveled twenty-something who had no idea what day or time it was. But once she had gotten dressed, put on her make-up and stuffed a few slices of toast and a large mug of tea inside her, she was all business again. She packed quickly, and looked almost like a soldier ready to go, or maybe more like a ranger with some unusual equipment.
The first part of their task was relatively easy. Their target was located in the basement of a school. A young English teacher named Clara was all too happy to offer them her assistance, though Martha thought she seemed very nosy about what they were up to. Martha was able to distract her for just long enough by talking about recent rumors of alien sightings so that Rose was able to finish their task undisturbed. Fortunately Rose returned before she accidentally let anything important slip.
Their second target was a quarry in Wales, so a significant part of the day was spent traveling there. Rose drove, and they passed time by swapping stories about their adventures during and after their time in the TARDIS.
They were in luck, as the quarry was quite a popular destination due to staggering amounts of trilobite fossils in the area, and nobody would think twice of the two women trekking there. Though on the downside, as Rose pointed out, was the risk that an intrepid fossil-seeker would stumble upon them at a sensitive moment.
”Look at it all,” Martha murmured as they were pretending to be busy fossil-hunters and admiring at a rock with a beautiful trilobite fossil on it. ”To Think that the Earth used to swarm with these creatures. Aren’t they beautiful? Just the, you know, the abundance of life that’s been on this planet.”
”Yeah,” Rose said, with a quiet kind of marvel in her voice, kneeling close to Martha. ”It’s funny that I used to think the world was so boring, that it was all just ’go to work in a shop, eat some chips’, same thing every day. All the while there’s all this amazing stuff everywhere. You don’t even need to go to other planets or other times for it. Though that opened my eyes. Didn’t really see it before. But now that they’re open, there’s so much to see.”
”I’m sure you would’ve opened your eyes eventually even if you hadn’t been able to travel.”
”Maybe.” Rose looked around. ”Okay, I think the kids are gone. This way!”
When they had completed the task, it was getting dark. They walked back to their lodgings at a local inn, watching the sky above them, glittering with myriad stars. Far away from the city lights, you could see the Milky Way, and the faint smudge that was the Andromeda Galaxy. But Martha wondered if the most amazing miracle wasn’t that she was walking here with Rose Tyler, the woman she had once been envious of and seen as her rival, but who was now becoming her friend and companion.
They stayed up late that night, talking. ”I’m glad you came to look for me,” Martha said.
Rose smiled infectiously, her brown eyes warm. ”So am I.”
”Okay, the next part is more tricky,” Rose said. It was the next morning, and they’d just finished a hearty breakfast in the inn, and were back to their room to pack their stuff. ”Mainly because it’s in Saint Helena.”
”Saint Helena? As in, the island off the African coast that Napoleon was exiled to?”
”Yup, that one. I’ve really no idea why, but someone must’ve been up to something odd there at one point.” Rose glanced at her. ”You don’t need to come if you’ve got other stuff to do.”
”Are you kidding?” Martha said. ”Of course I’m coming.”
Rose looked at her, surprised smile on her face. ”Really?” Oh, thank goodness, she sounded excited and happy, not like she’d been hoping Martha would say no.
”What do you think?” Martha asked. ”That I would let someone as foolhardy as you go off on her own on some desolate island? Next thing I’d know, you’d drop into a time rift and find yourself in the time of Napoleon’s exile or something. You’re going to need me to look after you.”
Rose mock-pouted at her. Martha grabbed her arm and pulled her close.
”Besides, no way I’m going to miss out on all the fun. Saint Helena! I may have been to the end of the universe and to Shakespeare’s London, but I’ve never been to Saint Helena. When are we leaving?”
Rose grinned. ”You sound like my kind of girl. The answer is, any time we’re ready.”
”One more question. What happens after that mission? What are you going to do? Are you going back to the other world? Wouldn’t that just open the border between the worlds again?”
”That was four questions,” Rose said, smiling.
”So, what’s the answer?”
Rose looked at her. ”Yes, it would, and no, I’m not going back there.”
”So you’re staying here?”
Rose grinned. ”Yup. I thought I’d cause mayhem and have more adventures. Wanna join me?”
”Oh yes.” Martha took her hand. ”Rose Tyler and Martha Jones, the Great Adventuresses. Wait, Adventurers. Which one sounds better?”
Rose squeezed her hand back. ”They both sound great to me. Come on, let’s make plans!”
Martha smiled. ”Yes, let’s.”