It had been a difficult jump, first because before she had gone, she had argued with Alec that it was the last time but he'd been far from happy about her returning to London for her final mission. She'd tried to get out of it, Pete had tried to get her out of it but she had signed the contract for the number of dimension-hopping missions, which she'd got out of when she stayed in Broadchurch to be with the broken detective, fresh from his putting a killer in prison.
It had started when Rose got the dreaded phone call just as Alec was getting ready for work one morning. The director of missions for the dimension cannon was calling, the ring tone being Darth Vadar's march from StarWars, a franchise Rose had been only too happy was on this world and had dragged poor Alec to nearby Weymouth when he'd said he'd never seen it to go buy the DVD box set of all the movies and they'd spent a rainy Sunday between watching them and Alec getting compensation by groping her ass and stealing kisses until she wafted him away and told him if he didn't stop, she'd make him watch it again.
With a smirk on his face, just as Rose answered, he pinched her bum which got him a 'stop it' as he put his jacket on. He knew who it was though, the person who may take her away from him, for a short while at least and he knew what the conversation would consist of, Rose trying her best to get out of it.
"Rose Tyler, what can I do for you Yvonne?"
Yvonne Hartman was the director of operations for the dimension cannon, Rose not being too happy about that since she, on another world, was responsible in part for her, Mickey and her mother being here in the first place.
"You know very well what I want Rose, don't pretend you don't. You've been putting this off for too long now, you're in breach of your contract and not even your stepfather or your friends can save you. We need you to come back to London, today, if you look outside that ridiculous riverside chalet you and your detective boyfriend call a home, there's a car waiting to take you to Exeter zeppelin port, flying is marginally quicker than driving. You'll be briefed when you get here."
Alec wanted to snatch her phone from her, tell bossy Yvonne Hartman to go stuff herself and throw the phone into the river. It was all Rose could do to retain it.
"Tell her you're not going Rose, or I will," Alec snarled as she shushed him.
"Yvonne, what's so important that you need me all of a sudden? You've not found my original world have you? If you have, I've already told you, send Mickey, I'm not going back now, I've got Alec and I'm not leaving him – for anything, not even for the chance to find the Doctor again. We've been through all this."
"No, it's not about finding your original world, I can't tell you on the phone anyway, you'd just tell your boyfriend and believe me, he won't want to know. Don't keep the driver waiting and no, it's not Jake or Mickey, I wouldn't trust them to bring you here."
"Does Pete know about this?"
Yvonne turned in her chair to see Pete Tyler glaring at her, knowing how he felt about her sending his stepdaughter on one last mission when she'd settled down in that quaint seaside town that had been in all the headlines for a young boy being murdered and Rose had fallen in love with the detective in charge. As Pete stared at her, he knew that if at least Rose got this out of the way, she might actually get the detective to marry her, which would please her mother no end.
"Rose, this is Pete," he interrupted on the speaker-phone. "Listen love, just get this out of the way, then you're free and I'm sorry, I really am but it's not even in my power to get you out of this, you know I would, if it were at all possible but you signed that contract, like you all did. I take it Alec's listening?"
"Yes Pete, I am and I don't like it. Can I at least come with her?"
He put his arms around her and waited for the answer.
"Pack an overnight bag and be ready in ten minutes," Yvonne relented, seeing Pete's face that had said if she didn't, she would more than likely be replaced at the next annual review.
Alec was ready in five, not bothering to take much with him and from what she'd told him, she could be away for any length of time, since it may be forty five minutes for her before her device would re-charge itself but it could be hours, days or even weeks for them but he would wait, no matter how long it may be because he loved her and when she did get back, she would no longer dread the phone call reminding her of her 'one more mission' obligation, she would be free of it and he would finally ask her to marry him.
He'd already called Pete, to ask his permission to buy Rose the engagement ring in his pocket but they all knew, the day would come when she'd get that final call and Alec wondered if it would be better she went off as his girlfriend or as his wife. There was no easy answer, both were preferable to the thought she may never come back though so far, no-one had ever gone missing permanently, though what was permanent when it came to dimension hopping when mere minutes on another world could be agonising for a person to be waiting for their loved one to come back?
So they had got into the car, waiting behind their chalet, Alec calling the station to say something had come up and he was taking some leave, thankful if it got complicated, Pete would save his job for him and they held hands all the way from Broadchurch, onto the zeppelin waiting for them and the short car ride from Canary Wharf zeppelin terminal, where Jake was waiting for them. Jake and Alec shook hands, clearly not happy himself Rose had been dragged back to fulfil her contract.
"Sorry Rosie, there was nothing I could do. Nice to see you again Alec, when I heard Rose had been summoned, I knew you wouldn't let her come alone."
"You're damn right I wouldn't, what do you take me for? You forget Jake, there's nothing I don't know about Rose's past life so if she's getting flung into another parallel world, I at least owe it to her to be there to watch and to wait for her coming back and she is coming back. Well, shall we get this over with? I'm looking forward to meeting this Yvonne, she's going to know exactly what I feel about this."
Jake smiled, patted him on the back and wished him luck with that, he had no idea about Yvonne Hartman. They all filed into Yvonne's glass-fronted office at the far end of the dimension cannon room, the top floor that had once been home to the lever room, where on that fateful day, Rose had screamed at the wall for it to take her back to the Doctor but now, she was silent, still holding her lover's hand. She didn't want to dwell on that day, when she'd stopped crying, her mother had led her downstairs, Jackie not trusting a lift operating on emergency power though recalling walking down identical staircases back in her own world.
"Ah, you must be the infamous Alec Hardy then? You did a good job on that last case of yours. Now you're all here, Rose, sign this please, it's your release from your contract – when you've completed your last mission, which we're preparing for at this moment, you'll be free to leave. Any questions?"
Alec had plenty but let go of Rose's hand so she could lean forward and sign the release form, wishing the wording would change that said she was released before she went on her last mission.
"Just one. Where am I going and why me?"
"Don't you want to be finally free?" Yvonne asked, tearing the copies apart, handing one to Rose and one to Pete and retaining the top copy for herself, she was a firm believer in doing everything in triplicate.
"Yes, she does want to be free so why don't you just get on with it?" Alec demanded, as Rose handed him her copy for safe keeping.
Rose trusted Alec with everything. He took care of her, he put up with her when she was in a bad mood once a month, her saying he wasn't the one that had a monopoly on being grumpy and he was the one who she made love to every night and most mornings, unless she wanted to sleep in and he'd let her, never bothering about it and he was the one who was too stubborn to go get his heart fixed but she'd finally worn him down and it had been scheduled.
"I can see why you like him Rose, he's very impatient. I'm sorry but I can only discuss the mission with Rose herself, even Director Tyler isn't privy to that information and only the operator knows where the cannon is aimed. Rose, the cannon will be ready in twenty minutes, you might want to prepare yourself. You can pick up your regular items as you are called forward. Then, I'll tell you where you are going and why."
"Well I want to know why it's so secretive," Alec demanded, stroking the back of Rose's hand.
"I thought you knew everything Alec?" Yvonne smirked. "We're a secret organisation what do you expect? Well I know the police are aware but the general public are kept somewhat in the dark, except we're 'special ops'. We'll leave you and Rose to talk."
Pete and Jake got up, both patting Alec on the back and hugging Rose until the two of them were left alone. Rose moved over to the window, small zeppelins floating past and looking down at the river.
"This isn't goodbye Alec, I used to do this all the time, well not all the time, it was limited, the cannon uses a lot of power and every agent wanted a go. You know why I agreed to do it in the first place, I wanted to get back, to the Doctor but you know I don't want that any more."
Alec put his arms around her and turned her to face him. It reminded Rose of so long ago, standing in the other Torchwood, joking about her mother looking normal and the Doctor in his silly 3D glasses and then being torn away and her being stubborn and going back. If only she hadn't taken off that device around her neck as she had been flung towards the void, she could have used it to get to safety, back to him.
"Rose, you know I love you darlin' ever since we met, when you get back, we have plans to make, ok?"
"Yeah, I want to make proper plans with you, you know I do."
She leaned her head on his chest, his heart was beating irregularly as she'd become used to all the time she'd known him, almost six months and she loved him unconditionally, the love she had felt for the Doctor but Alec returned that love with his broken heart and he was finally going to do something about it – for her because he wanted to make a life with her.
"Then when you get back, I've something very important to talk to you about and no, I'm not telling you what about, you have to come back to me to find out."
Rose stood on her tip-toes and kissed him. "Mmm, you'd make a great Torchwood agent Alec, do you know that? You're almost as bad as Yvonne out there."
She nodded towards the other woman, who was reading last minute adjustments out to the cannon operator and the assistants. Pete and Jake were over the other side, talking, Mickey was away in Scotland sorting out some aliens who thought it was amusing to start dyeing sheep different colours.
"No way am I joining this lot Rose, I've seen what it's done to you and I thought we'd finally got it behind us, to start a new life – me after that last case and you, leaving Torchwood for good. You know I accepted what you did though I hated it and you promised even though this was hanging over you that we'd ride it out and hopefully it would be forgotten about but I never expected for you to be called in for it so soon. I've hardly got started with you, I love you Rose."
"I love you too Alec, you and your broken heart, that you're finally gonna get fixed. I wore you down, the great Alec Hardy, ha ha!"
"Yes, you did, Miss clever clogs, don't be so smarmy about it. When you get back, we'll go off for the weekend, ok?"
"Ok lover, now give me a good snogging and make sure Yvonne sees what she's depriving us of."
They only broke apart at the impatient tapping on the door and Yvonne pointing to her watch.
"Time's up you two. Come on Rose, it's almost ready, go get changed, you've got five minutes, then pick up your things."
Alec mumbled something about she could have given them another five minutes snogging but it would never have been enough. He knew when he'd accepted what Rose did, this was what it must have been like for her, getting ready to go.
"Relax, it's all routine Alec, honestly. They do this all the time, it's very precise and as soon as my portable device recharges, which is forty five minutes, I press the button, the cannon receives a signal and when everything is checked, which only takes a few seconds, it brings me back but in emergencies, it can move us from one point to another by pressing it twice in quick succession."
Alec had so many questions but Rose just kissed him, picked up the purple long-sleeved jumper and the blue leather jacket and went off to the ladies room. She got changed, looked in the mirror and smiled, surely what Alec had meant was he was going to propose to her when she got back – another incentive to get all this over with. She loved him and nothing would make her happier than being Alec Hardy's wife, even if it was his second one.
The final calculations had been typed into the computer that controlled the cannon, Rose stuffed a universal credit card into the jacket pocket and a mobile phone, which had a sort of 'universal roaming' on it though it was dimensional roaming really which enabled her to be able to call any number wherever she landed should the need arise. A team were working on agents being able to call inter-dimensional and it was close to completion so if they needed, the controller could move them to different locations, which was also being worked on but she would never get to use it, this was her last mission and nothing would persuade her otherwise, she was going to marry Alec.
One last kiss, in front of everyone, they didn't care. Pete had told Jake that Alec had asked him for his permission to marry Rose, Jake had said if Alec asked, he'd be his best man and Pete had said Jackie hadn't been told yet or she would have the date set with the caterers already planning it.
All Alec could do after their last kiss was walk her across to where Yvonne was waiting.
"Bye Rose, you will be careful?"
"Yeah, I will and you'll hardly miss me but if I don't get back for a while, promise you won't go back to Broadchurch without me, will you?"
"No, I promise, I'm sure your mother will be only too happy to put me up overnight."
"Oh, I'm sure she will and she'll have plenty of questions about your intentions towards me."
"You can bet on that sweetheart. I'll see you soon. I love you Rose."
"I love you too Alec. Bye everyone, try to keep Alec calm while I'm away or he'll be having that surgery before I get back."
"Maybe that would be a good thing, eh Alec?" Pete smiled. He had a feeling Alec would bring the surgery forward if Rose agreed to marry him.
Alec gave the best smile he could, mainly so it was the last thing Rose would see, not that he had anything to smile about except her maybe saying yes to him, which he doubted she'd refuse and maybe not even think about it. As he watched Rose and Yvonne, Rose finally learning the nature and urgency of the mission, which to Rose didn't justify tearing her away from the man she loved, whom she was certain was about to ask her to marry him, he saw Yvonne move away, a buzzing on the dimension cannon itself and Rose disappeared in a flash.
He crossed over to Pete and Jake.
"I know you've done this before, not only with Rose but with others but how long does it normally take?"
"We can't be certain Alec, it depends where she's gone, I'm sure she's explained to you this world runs ahead of many others, sometimes it's behind and sometimes, rarely, there's no difference. We're working on projects where we can communicate with the traveller, even move them short distances if needed but that won't concern Rose once she gets back. Now, if she's gone a while, Jackie will insist you stay with us tonight and if Rose comes back, it will only take her half an hour to get home or you can come down and collect her, I'm sure she'll wait for you."
"Fine but we stay here, as long as we can, I'll not leave until I have to."
"I'm sure Yvonne will welcome your company Alec but Jake and I have to get back to work, we'll be called when she comes back and she'll need debriefing."
Alec crossed over and sat himself on the sofa in the corner by the window and waited for the love of his life to come back. Only tiredness would get him away until she returned to him, he was way beyond annoyed with the whole situation but he'd promised her he'd put up with Torchwood for her sake and he had but now it was showing.
As Rose had landed, having forty five minutes to wait and having to complete her mission, she knew she wasn't on her original world and had been surprised by what the nature of it had been and why her. She knew the cannon measured timelines and they'd found one in particular that was mystifying to say the least and Rose soon found what she wanted, the cause of why a completely separate world was springing up but she was under strict orders not to interfere.
There were no signs of a Doctor here but as her time was almost up, Rose saw a mist building up around her and she was counting the moments when she could activate her device, knowing it would take a few seconds for it to carry her back to her adopted world and her lover. To Rose, it felt like the whole world was folding in on her and if she wasn't extremely lucky, she would be lost here forever. Everything around her had been veiled by the mist, all sounds were muted, all except the beating of her own slightly faster than normal heartbeat and she knew what it must be like now for Alec.
Then she heard the beeping of her device, she'd never been so glad to hear it. She pressed it once, waited and the mist was replaced by blackness and she knew after that, she'd arrive moments later in the dimension cannon room and Alec would be waiting for her. She wondered as she pressed the button, how long she'd been away, it never normally was more than a few hours, a day or two at most, she was happy it was never too long, she didn't want to miss Tony growing up and now, she didn't want to miss Alec's surgery or him proposing to her.
The blackness cleared but instead of the familiar top floor of Torchwood tower, she was surrounded by rubble. She was standing right where the tall building should have been, the other buildings intact all around her but as she looked up, there were no familiar zeppelins she'd become used to seeing in the sky and the device she was still holding went dead, which didn't bother her in particular as it only was good for one jump but where the hell was she and more importantly, where was Torchwood and Alec?