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Book One: Bad Wolf

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It was a day like any other day. Rose woke up in her overly pink bedroom, reaching for her phone to instantly call Melody and inform her she's getting ready for work. Deciding she's spent too long in bed already, Rose gets up and gets ready before heading out to bid her mother goodbye. Like any other day, Rose went to work. She went to lunch with Mickey, Mels, and Oswin. Rose went back to work. She folded the clothes, she reorganized the make up counter fantasising about pocketing one of the lipsticks – and like every other day she didn't, she did everything she always did. It wasn't until Mels dropped by at the end of her shift that things changed. The guard reminded Rose of another duty of hers that almost slipped her mind. The lottery money. Rose sighed as she took the bag and headed back down to the basement where the chief electrician was.

“Wilson,” Rose asked as she stepped around the basement. She was slightly fearful but Rose hated showing fear. Especially in the face of pranking university students who seemed to have it out for the shop workers. Stupid rich kids with nothing better to do. Rose loathed them. “Wilson, I need to collect the lottery money,” Rose said, far more confidentially this time. But then again... Rose walked towards the mannequins, tilting her head before jumping back with a scream. They moved. Mannequins don't move... and Rose was terrified. “Right, I don't have time for students being stupid. Leave!”

Her voice shook more than she wanted it to. Rose didn't want to be terrified of the mannequins, she didn't want to die here in the basement of a shop, and she didn't want to die at the hand of some bored rich kid. She'd been at the mercy of others for too long. Rose felt the anxiety taking over her, closing her throat up. The thoughts ran through her... oh god I'm going to die being the main one. And then something warm... something human wrapped around her hand. Someone had grabbed her hand. And a gruff, Northern accent suddenly told her to run. She looked over to see a man with the largest ears she'd ever seen and piercing blue eyes... and Rose instinctively trusted him. She ran with him, escaping the dummies. She was almost shocked when the man yanked someone's arm off. That trust wavered for two seconds but then again... if they had tried to hurt her, this man had still saved her life. That had to count for something. Even if he just ripped off someone's arm. “Who are you, then? Those students teacher? This isn't funny!”

The man turned to her, an amused look on his face. As if he knew something Rose didn't know. Rose was torn between punching him in his condescending face and wanting to snog him senseless. She elected to do neither, instead shrinking away from him. He suddenly seemed dangerous, even though she had the strange feeling he'd never hurt her. That made no sense. “Why do you think they're students?”

His question disarmed her, leaving her shocked. Why that question? There were... they hadn't even introduced themselves to each other and now he was grilling her on her assumption they're student. She'd be annoyed but for some reason... she wanted to impress him. “Well... students are always the ones to come to the shop and dick around,” Rose said, a bit shocked when the Doctor tossed the arm at her. “And they have no respect for shop employees...”

“Good guess,” the tall, strange, big eared man said. It was that grin again – that stupid, big grin that was just too big for his face... and yet it was completely charming. It was like the hardness of his face vanished when he smiled. That made Rose's heart skip a beat – and she thought herself completely ridiculous. She was still dating Mickey... and Mickey was... safe. Reliable. Much better than this tall, strange man.

While Rose was a bit pleased with herself, all she could muster up was a sarcastic “thanks”. That was a bit harsher than she meant it to be. Sometimes Rose could handle meeting some strange new man and flirt with ease but this was definitely not a normal situation for Rose. It was disarming... and alarming. And far too hard to keep Mickey out of her head. She didn't want to hurt Mickey and flirting with this man... would definitely hurt him. Rose couldn't figure out how she knew that... she just did. Mickey didn't usually care when Rose flirted around... why would this man be different? Strange... her thoughts were clouded and difficult to rearrange. “They're not students.”

Rose didn't fully understand what he had just said... not students? That was... who was it then? Obviously he had to be in on the prank with them. So Rose puffed herself up, trying to appear threatening. He very clearly did not seem intimated by her, but rather vaguely amused by her. “Well, when Wilson sees this, he's going to call the police.”

“Wilson's dead.”

Her jaw dropped, all the faux bravado gone from her. Wilson had been one of her closest friends around here and had taught her and Mickey some stuff when on break. Mels even got Wilson to show them how to pick a lock – though Rose didn't use that information that much. Mels got more mileage out of that trick... and more mileage on how to conceal stuff in store. Rose used those tips to spot no good shoppers trying to nick stuff. She'd learned so much from Wilson... just a few hours ago he was making jokes with her as he fixed the lights. How could Wilson be dead? “That's not funny,” Rose said automatically, denying it even though Rose knew this guy had been telling her the truth. “That's sick... that's really sick.”

Yet... she followed him. Rose couldn't explain it. She felt inexplicably drawn towards him... like she was supposed to know him. That was... insane. Rose was going to have to have a long talk with Oswin and Mels later. Maybe one of them might know what was going on. Both of them seemed to have experience in strange and inexplicable things... it's why Rose liked them so much. The Doctor finally told her to leave, go have beans on toast... other strange things. He talked so fast that Rose had a hard time keeping up. And then he slammed the door in her face. She was about to walk off when he opened the door again. “I'm the Doctor, by the way. What's your name?”

“Rose,” she said, as if piloting on automatic.

“Nice to meet you, Rose,” the Doctor said, and Rose liked the way he said her name. All... gruff and manly. Now that was a terrible thing to think when she had a nice man waiting at home for her. “Run for your life!”

It was that instant trust... like destiny taking over. Rose hated that term – it sounded hokey. She'd have to come up with something better when she described this to Mels and Oswin later... without Mickey around. She didn't want Mickey to think this man was competition for him. She ran off, hoping he would be okay... up until the store exploded. Rose suddenly felt... sad. Rose never needed fancy words to describe anything before but seeing the shop blow up with the Doctor in it, sad didn't seem like enough. It seemed like a word that some child would use to describe how they felt about losing their favorite toy. It seemed petty and small. Everything seemed small now.

Maybe she was wrong. Maybe it was Shareen she needed to talk to.

*** *** ***


At home... Rose found it hard to care about her mother prattling on about compensation and how Rose could've nearly died. Rose knew the truth – she was never in any danger of dying. But her mother was struggling to make ends meet so Rose merely nodded and went along with whatever exaggeration of her emotions that her mother wanted to place on her. Her mother cared... Rose couldn't be nasty when her mother cared about her possibly getting hurt. Her mother handed her a cup of tea, telling someone on the phone all about how Rose had been traumatized for life.

Maybe she was traumatized. Rose had experienced trauma before... when she came back home to her mother after two years of being with Jimmy with tears and apologies. Her mother hadn't called anyone then. The reflection on that moment, when she finally went home. Her mother had pulled her into a tight hug, telling her that she didn't have to apologize for running off with Jimmy, that she didn't have to apologize for dropping out of school, that she didn't have to apologize for the debt she'd gotten into... and Rose had felt horribly guilty despite the black eye and bruised ribs. Somehow... the injuries hadn't seemed like enough. That she'd been such an awful person that she'd deserved far worse than what Jimmy had dealt out. After all... she'd walked out on her mother and made Oswin cry.

Was she worth anything? It was hard to figure that out. Sometimes she still felt small. And somehow, she still wondered how she'd managed to escape with her life. At the time, Jimmy coming into the flat and telling her to get out and not to ever sic that strange guy with a bow tie on him ever again had been the worst thing to happen to her. She'd gone home to her mother in tears, expecting to have to deal with the fall out all on her own. Her mother had taken her by surprise to take her back in.

Rose still didn't know who that guy with the bow tie was. She wondered if it had been her year eleven's maths teacher... but that seemed odd. Mr. Smith didn't seem like he'd threaten a twenty something band guy in a leather jacket for her. Yes, he seemed to care about her, but Rose couldn't imagine he'd care that much about her. Mickey showing up drew her out of her thoughts and flashbacks. “I came as soon as I heard. You know what you could use? A night out with the girls and me. Let's go to the pub.”

Rose barely concealed a smile. There had to be a match on. Sometimes Rose would bow out, if only because she had no interest in football. Or sometime she bowed out because it was a work day and Rose didn't want to go into work with a hangover. She only had to work hang over once and it had been a nightmare. She vowed never again to go in with a hangover. Yet now, after everything that had hapened,... maybe she needed to duck out of the house. It wasn't like she had to wake up early tomorrow anyway. She looked over at her mother, before shrugging. What could it hurt? “Yeah... I need to talk to Mels and Oswin anyway.”

*** *** ***


Down at the pub, Rose burst into a bright grin when she headed over to Mels and Oswin, pulling both of them into a tight hug. Mels groaned, pushing Rose off of her. “Thought I said no hugs, Tyler.”

Rose rolled her eyes as she threw her arm around Mels's shoulder, mockingly making kissy faces at Mels. She almost always ignored Mels's 'no hugging' rule and in her defense, Mels was supposed to think she had almost died. Sure, she hadn't almost died but she could have. “You know I love you,” Rose said with a light teasing grin, leaning on to Mels. “But really, you guys have to hear this. Bartender! Round of beers over here!”

Oswin grinned as she went over to the bar to pick up the beers, heading back over to their usual table where Mels, Mickey, and Rose were already sitting with a bunch of light grins all around. Rose slammed on the table, with a light laugh. “So there I was, right in the basement surrounded by these shop dummies and I just thought 'oh god, some rich asshole is going to kill me,” Rose said, becoming more animated with each word. Telling the story was always easier than living it. It was probably why she kept telling stories from the two years when she was with Jimmy – it was just easier that way. “And then this guy in leather with really big ears grabs my hand and tells me with this gruff accent to run! I dunno why, but I did!”

Oswin laughed, shaking her head. “No way,” she said, leaning on the table with a wide grin and taking a swig of her drink. “You did not take orders from a stranger! The Rose I know never takes orders! Not since Jimmy!”

“The Rose you know has never been threatened by some punk ass bitch in a dummy costume,” Rose said with a laugh, leaning back and taking a swig of her drink. Rose had to admit – it was odd that she just instinctively trusted this man to have her best interests at heart. She hadn't felt that way about anyone in her life... was it possible that she just developed an instant crush on this man? “And he seemed to know what he was doin. So I just... I run! And then he goes on about how he's saving the world or whatever and then he blows up my job!”

Mels seemed more interested now. Rose barely noticed how Mels sat up straight now, tilting her head and acting rather out of character. “Did he ever say what his name was?”

Rose paused. For some reason, it suddenly seemed like a ridiculous name and one she couldn't just tell her friends. “Er..,” Rose said slowly before tossing back a bit of her drink. Rose could trust her friends, after all. “He said he was the Doctor.”

“Doctor,” Mickey half snorted, placing his arm around Rose in a rather possessive manner. “Doctor who? Sounds like a joker if you ask me.”

“Sounds dangerous,” Mels said, taking a swig of her drink and leaning back in her chair with a raised eyebrow. While Mels usually sounded sarcastic, this time she sounded... serious. Like Mels was concerned for Rose's safety but trying not to show that. “I mean... he just shows up... blows up your job and what you said is probably a bunch of students... d'you know what you've gotten yourself into, Rosie?”

The smile slide right off Rose's face. She hadn't even thought of that. All of it suddenly seemed more sinister... and Rose instantly she felt just a little sick to her stomach. Did the man seriously mean well... or was he every bit as dangerous as the things he claimed to fight? “Oh, don't be ridiculous,” Oswin said suddenly, interrupting Rose's thoughts. “I'm sure he's not dangerous. Like Rosie said. He'd saved her life. I'm certain he's not a bad guy. I'm going with Rosie on this.”

Thing was... Rose wasn't sure who he was.

*** *** ***


She went back up to Mickey's flat, trying to figure out exactly what happened. Mels didn't trust this man, Mickey thought he was a joker, and Oswin... well, Oswin always was kind of optimistic about people. Oswin tended to believe the best in people even if they were awful. She thought Jimmy was a lovely fellow, after all. It had been Mels who had seen his true colors. Maybe Mels was right on the Doctor as well. Either way, Rose went to Mickey's computer to run a Google search on him.

Except Rose hadn't utterly thought that through. She'd rarely thought things through anyway but when searching “doctor” pulled up nothing but local doctors, she realized she needed something else to find. She leaned back with a light sigh. Rose wasn't sure what to do next. How was she going to hunt down a man who'd only given her a name? She remembered the news report – no mention of a man being found or anyone being hurt.

But then she remembered something. The bright blue box she'd ran past from... that had to be important, right? She leaned forward, adding “blue box” to her search. Suddenly, she saw a photo of the same man she'd seen. She clicked through the photos, trying to figure out if it was Photoshop. Rose almost didn't believe what she was reading.

How could he have been in 1880 Sumatra? Or the Kennedy assassination in 1963? She'd seen him... he was... he looked exactly thirty-ish. Maybe forty tops... she wasn't good at math but Rose was pretty sure that 2005 minus 1880 was way more than forty. Rose couldn't wrap her mind around it. So she made a decision – a rather stupid one pulled straight from Mels. She contacted Clive and got an address to go to. The man claimed he didn't trust contact over the internet.

Rose left Mickey's bedroom, almost nervous. She wasn't sure why. Maybe it was because of how attracted she was to this Doctor – and she felt somewhat guilty about that. It wasn't like Rose had even done anything but still... there was something about Jimmy in the back of her mind yelling at her for things like looking too long at another guy. But Mickey wasn't Jimmy Stone. Mickey was a good man who cared about her... who'd do anything for her. Who wouldn't get upset if Rose was fascinated by something. Maybe that was made this so difficult - it was betrayal in the highest degree. “What is it, Rose?”

This was her chance. She could ignore what she'd seen and do what the Doctor suggested. Go back to her average life, hang out with Mickey and go to lunch with him. Get dinner with Mels and Oswin. Go job hunting and go back to her average life. Yet... even before she asked the question, she knew she couldn't do that. She couldn't go back. She'd already seen so much and she wanted to see more. Rose wanted to know more about the Doctor. She wanted to explore that mystery. “Can you drive me somewhere?”

*** *** ***


Rose was laughing as Mickey proclaimed the man as a murderer and a total nut job who lured girls into his home. He'd seemed nice enough when Rose was talking to him earlier. “Come on,” Rose said as she unbuckled herself from the car. “I don't think he's a murderer.”

“You got close with a guy who blew up your job,” Mickey reminded her, struggling with the decision to get down from the car or... there was no point in both dying, after all. Rose almost smiled at that – she knew Mickey too well. He wasn't a fighter. That was what she liked about him... why he was so safe after Jimmy Stone. He was trying to sound tough, though... and clearly worried. Even though he probably wouldn't get down from the car, he still was concerned she might not be safe. It was the thought that count. “I'll stay here... first sign of trouble.”

She laughed, pointing at him with a tongue in teeth grin. “First sign of trouble,” Rose repeated with a teasing tone before heading up to the man's house with a bright grin and knocking on the door. A middle aged, heavy-set man opened the door and Rose grinned even bright. “'Ello. I'm Rose. I was askin bout the Doctor?”

The man seemed surprised to see her there – as did his teenage son right behind him. His son looked about Rose's age and Rose felt a slight pang of jealousy at the teenage son. He got to grow up with his dad... he knew who his dad was. Rose couldn't help but wonder if this would've been her life if her dad survived. A pang hit her head the minute she thought about her dad.. for some reason she felt like she had to hurry home to her father... but that didn't make sense. It made no sense. Rose was breathing heavily, shaking her head. She can't let herself get caught up in her own head. “Right,” the man's voice brought her back to Earth. “I keep all that stuff in the garage.”

Rose quickly gathered they had talked about something related to the Doctor... but Rose couldn't remember what she had said. Odd... Rose shook it off, figuring she had just spaced out. It had been an odd past two days. Two days... Rose double backed in her mind – had it really only been two days? What was she doing? What was she thinking? Going into a stranger's garage over a man she'd met only two days ago... Rose barely paid any attention to the man. She was more interested in what he had to show her about the Doctor... so many odd sightings and cropping up in journals of people of the past... Rose's brow furrowed in confusion. She wanted to know what the mystery of the Doctor was, but something about this guy seemed like he didn't know what he was talking about. And when he claimed the Doctor was an alien from outer space... she left.

She'd returned to the car, going on about how the guy must be a nutter and how Mickey was right all along when... well, Rose couldn't wrap her head around it. Mickey seemed... odd. Extremely odd. Maybe it was just because she'd been acting so weird lately and he wanted to give her a taste of her own medicine. “Right,” Rose said slowly after he kept calling her 'babe, sugar, honey'. Odd didn't describe it. Maybe she was just losing her marbles. That was a quicker and easier explanation and just as solid as anything. “Anyway, I'm thinkin pizza. Maybe we should call Oswin, Shareen, and Mels? I think mum's right – a night out with friends might help.”

Rose would've worried more about Mickey if she wasn't so lost in her own thoughts.

*** *** ***


"Maybe I should take my A levels," Rose said unceremoniously. She'd been considering that for ages now but somehow it seemed more important now. Like she'd need an education. "It's all Jimmy bleedin Stone's fault that I never took em. If he hadn't been so charming..." Mickey normally listened to her rants on Jimmy Stone ruining her life, and was usually sympathetic about it. It was out of character for him to ask about the Doctor. Rose pause, before testing Mickey. "Sorry, wasn't I just talkin about myself?"

He didn't call her on that attitude at all. Definitely not Mickey. A waiter was insisting on offering them champagne, and Mickey said they didn't order any. "I reckon everything started with the Doctor."

Rose shook her head, almost holding back from defending the Doctor. "You were just callin him a joker only five hours ago," Rose said, holding her hand up to the waiter. "It's not ours. What's goin on, Micks? Are you mad I went to talk to that guy about the Doctor? Cause that's nothin. I just got caught up in a mystery, is all."

And then the not-Mickey looked up to comment on the Doctor. Rose looked up in shock to see him with his bright grin and piercing blue eyes again. That was definitely unexpected. "Don't mind me," the Doctor said. "Just toastin the happy couple."

Her eyes went wide when the cork went into Mickey's head and seemed to... Rose couldn't figure out how to describe this particular moment. Why did it want to get close to her? Did it think that she wouldn't notice Mickey acting strange?

Rose almost had a freak out when she entered the police box. It was... bigger on the inside. Her mind looped that phrase for a few moments before the Doctor turned around to face her. “Any questions?”

There were so many questions. Was Mickey okay? Was Mickey still alive? Was anyone in danger? What was going on? Why did he keep showing up? Rose had run into him twice in two days. Where did he get this box from? And the most important one: how was it bigger on the inside? Rose could hazard a guess after the past two days. Suddenly that daft mention of thinking of the Doctor as an alien from outer space didn't seem so ridiculous anymore. In fact... it was now a logical conclusion. Rose couldn't help herself from commenting on the sheer size of the interior of the box. “It's bigger on the inside.”

He seemed to like that response, judging from the grin on his face. And once again, Rose was left wondering why he would be grinning like a madman at that response. “Yes.”

“It's alien,” she said, feeling rather foolish for stating the obvious.

“Yes.”

Rose paused, still trying to wrap her mind around it. The next question was an obvious one. An obvious question with an obvious answer. Yet... “Are you alien?”

“Yeah, I am,” he said, the grin slightly sliding off his face. “Is that alright?”

“Yeah,” Rose said instantaneously. And then the sheer weight of the situation hit her. The sheer gravity of having her entire world view chucked upside down on its head. Who else did she know was alien? If they could look and sound like they were from the North, then what was stopping anything else around her from being alien? She started crying. It was such a childish response – and she would've hated herself for it but she couldn't help but remember the “list of the dead” comment from the man earlier. “Is he alright?”

He seemed alarmed by her crying. “Is who alright?”
d
“Mickey,” she half yelled, unable to believe this man. Maybe Mels was right... maybe this wasn't a man she shouldn't trust. He was callous when it came to Mickey's life, after all. “You ripped his head off then forgot about him! And now he's melting!”

“Melting,” he questioned before turning around to see the melting head over the console. Rose was almost taken aback by how hollow the interior of Mickey's head look. She wasn't a doctor, but she was fairly certain there should be things like veins and a voice box and a brain. “No, no, no! I'm losing the signal!”

He cared more about a signal then the possible death of Mickey? “Mickey could be dying,” Rose exclaimed, her eyes widening. “Don't you care about that at all? How is Mickey dying any different from when you tried to keep me from dying surrounded by those shop dummies!”

The Doctor barely noted her words as he pushed buttons. “Listen, if I forget about some kid named Rickey -” Rose cut him off to correct him only for him to pretend he didn't hear her - “it's because I'm trying to save the Earth and the life of every stupid ape on this plant! Is that alright with you?”

Rose felt as if she'd been slapped... was ape supposed to refer to her? Rose found herself wishing Mels was here. Mels wouldn't have put up with that sort of crap from this man. But all she could do was shrink back, almost feeling like he was testing her. “Is Mickey alright,” she asked, more forcefully this time. “Will everyone be alright? At least answer that question!” He was deliberately ignoring her – this much Rose knew. She followed him to the doors, almost backing up. “You can't go out there. That... thing is still following us!”

“Nah,” the Doctor said blithely as he continued to the doors while ignoring her very sincere worries about his safety.

“It'll be alright.”'


He opened the doors – and Rose was in shock. They had moved... to right outside the London Eye. He was ranting on about a transmitter and Rose almost went into a panic attack. It was only the sheer familiarity with the scenery that kept the edge off. She could do this. Maybe she could even help him find this transmitter – and by extension, find out what happened to Mickey. “Doctor,” she said sharply, for the first time getting his attention. “What does this transmitter look like?”

“It looks like a transmitter,” he said, rather helpfully. Rose almost smacked him but held the urge back. “Big! And circular!” Rose couldn't believe it. He was literally missing the London Eye. She nodded towards it. “It can't be too far from here! It must be completely invisible.” Rose had to bite back laughter at this point. It was then that the Doctor realized Rose was having a fit of laughter. “What?” He said and she gestured to the London Eye behind him. “What?” This time she did let a giggle escape her. How could he be so dim? And then it clicked. “Oh,” he said as he looked back at the Eye before turning back to her that very daft grin. “Fantastic!”

*** *** ***



He'd ran down to the London Eye, Rose following close after him. She'd found herself wishing she'd stuck it out during gym and hadn't skipped it with Mels and Shareen to go down to the shops. This was exhausting. Did he live like this every day? Why did Rose care so much? She didn't care... not really. He'd grabbed her hand to take her to where the London Eye was. She didn't care about that either... his hand was a little cold. Yet... it was nice. Nice enough to where she actively thought about the meaning behind the gesture. Ridiculous and over the top. Exactly what was ridiculous and over the top... Rose couldn't understand. He referred to some sort of Shadow Proclamation... something about a treaty. He'd shown her some anti plastic – said it was security. Rose already had a nasty feeling about this but then she saw Mickey and one of her worries quelled. She ran over to Mickey, her heart racing. “Micks,” she said, as soothingly as she could in such a distressing situation. “Are you alright?”

Mickey nodded, and pointed to the dummies with an alarmed look on her face. “They're alive! And they're dangerous, Rose don't go near them!”

Rose almost shrieked with laughter from the relief of seeing Mickey alive. “It's alright, Micks is alright,” Rose shouted in the direction of the Doctor before looking Mickey over for any sign of wounds or trauma. Granted, that was a little difficult when Mickey kept yanking his limbs away from Rose.

“Yeah, there was always a possibility that was the case,” the Doctor said, as if Mickey were unimportant to him. “Keep him alive to maintain the copy.”

“And you didn't bother to tell me,” Rose half yelled, getting up to look over the scene with critical eyes. How could he expect to be diplomatic when he couldn't even let Rose know that one of her best friends was actually alive this whole time? True to Rose's expectations, the diplomatic talk started to go bad. She looked over at the TARDIS and then over to the chains.... and realized that she had two choices here. She could run away, go back home, and go back to her normal life. Or she could be the hero. “I've got no A levels... no job,” she mumbled as she picked up the axe. “I've got no future. but I tell ya what I have got - Jericho Street Junior School - Under Sevens Gymnastic Team - I got the Bronze!”

With that, Rose took the chain and used it to fall towards the Doctor, attempting to kick at the dummy holding the anti plastic – and succeeding. The dummy fell into the vat and the Doctor reached out to help her steady herself back onto her feet. She couldn't help but grinning at him.

*** *** ***

Rose almost instantly regretted saying no to the Doctor. Traveling through space definitely felt like something big that she just gave up. Rose picked Mickey up, wrapping his arm around her shoulder. “Right,” Rose said ruefully. “Let's go find Mels, Oswin, and Shareen and go get some drinks, yeah?”

She half expected the Doctor to come back immediately but he didn't. She didn't know why she'd expected him to. What was she but some random girl on Earth? “Drinks sounds fine,” Mickey said, rather shakey. She'd imagine a near death experience would leave one feeling shakey. “I think... I'm gonna do something with my life. I'm gonna do A levels.”

Before, Rose might have been shocked by Mickey deciding to head back to school but now it only made sense. In fact... that's what she should do, shouldn't she? Now that Rose had seen there was so much more out there, she wanted to know as much as she could. She wanted to be ready the next time the Doctor showed up. “Yeah... I think I will too,” she said vacantly as she started to dial her mother's number to make sure her mother was alright. Her mother answered and sounded... terrified. “I'm already out, mum,” she commented. “But I'm fine. Where Micks and I are... we didn't see anything like that.” She laughed as her mother started going on about how she should really get home. “Mum, seriously, we're fine. I reckon it was just some students.”

Her mother was placated by this idea, suggesting that they get worse with their pranks every year and that someone should really complain. “Right, you get right on that, mum,” Rose said as she and Mickey started to head over to the pub. “Tell you what, I'm going out with Oswin, Mels, and Shareen later. I'll be back around midnight, okay?” She hung up after telling her mother that she loved her, moving over to rest her hand on Mickey's arm. “Mum says that we shouldn't stay out too late.”

“You lied to your mother,” Mickey noted. “Any reason for that?”

“You saw that thing,” Rose said pointedly. “Mum wouldn't... mum's definitely not going to like the idea her entire world view might be challenged. It's better to let her think some students did it. But really... Oswin and Mels. Got a feelin they might understand?”

*** *** *** THREE WEEKS LATER *** *** ***

Rose couldn't forget her encounter with the big eared alien with the Northern accent. Mels thought it for the best but Oswin seemed to disagree. Any time Oswin got Rose alone, she kept saying that if the Doctor showed up again she should take a chance on it. In fact... “You really should take the Doctor up on that travel offer next time he shows up. Imagine it! Getting to see the stars up close!”

Oswin's insistence the Doctor would come back for Rose almost made Rose wistful. She wanted Oswin to be right but the truth was... the Doctor had no reason to come back for her. Why would he? But still she smiled at the thought of the Doctor showing up again to whisk her away to strange new planets and new galaxies. “C'mon, you know there's no way he'll show up again,” Rose said as she flipped through one of Oswin's textbooks. She'd taken to astronomy the same way Oswin had... as if knowing a bit more about the sky above them would cause the Doctor to suddenly appear again. “It was probably just one of those things, you know? One of those once in a lifetime things.”

Sometimes the universe is very kind and grants incredible, impossible things. Oswin knew this better than anyone for her existence was just as implausible and yet... here she was. “You have to have faith,” Oswin said, with a sly grin Rose's expression turned incredulous at the sound of the blue box's wheeze. “Is that him?”

Rose rushed over to the window, her hazel eyes wide and then she looked over at Oswin with the brightest grin. “It's him.”

Oswin pushed Rose's phone into her hand and gave her a big hug. “Go to him,” Oswin said. “I'll take care of things here. Promise.”

Rose gave Oswin a quick peck on the cheek before rushing down the stairs of Oswin's flat to the bright blue with a large grin. She almost started to laugh when the Doctor stepped out, a daft grin on his face. “Did I mention it travels through time as well?”

 

Chapter Text

Without a doubt, Rose was taken aback by the sheer size of the TARDIS yet again. While she'd seen the interior before... it was hard to believe this man could actually take her to somewhere outside of her time and to strange new worlds. It was so hard to believe but Rose always did like to believe in impossible things. “Right then. Where would you like to go? Backwards or forwards? It's your choice.”

Her choice? Now that was something to think about... how many trips would he allow her? Just the one? Maybe make it something she couldn't just read in a history book... “Forwards.”

The Doctor's manic grin appeared again, messing with a few dials on the console before standing back with an air of smugness to him. “Step outside, we're a hundred years in your future. The height of the New Roman Empire.”

“You think you're so impressive,” Rose said with a light grin, coming out without ever really thinking about it. The truth was... she did find it a little impressive yet it was easy to tease him.

“I am so impressive,” he said, sounding slightly offended before fiddling with some more dials. “Tell you what... I know exactly where to take you.” They landed and he looked to be slightly smug with himself.

“Where are we,” she asked, and he just gestured towards the doors. She wanted impressive but she didn't quite think it through. Rose was shell shocked by the sun taking over most of the view... and the Earth below. “Welcome to the end of the world.”

Rose knew that one day the sun would expand and destroy the earth and yet... it was one thing to read about it in science journals and another thing entirely to actually see it happen in front of her. The world was coming to dust... and Rose Tyler, some poor shop girl from 2005, was going to have a front row seat to the destruction. Did she even have that right? “So are you going to save it?”

The words were dumb and Rose knew it. She felt herself grimace at that. She should've known better than to ask such an incredibly daft question. “Nope,” the Doctor said, far too cheerfully for someone who'd brought her to see the destruction of her home planet. Rose felt slightly annoyed at that. “I'm not savin it. Time's up. Some people have been preserving it but the money ran out. Nature's taking over.”

Of course it was. “But,” Rose said, suddenly feeling a surge of emotion she couldn't quite place. “What about the people? All the humans? The animals on there?”

“All gone,” the Doctor informed her and Rose shook her head, unable to believe that. Six billion people were on that planet five billion years ago. Rose couldn't fathom how many more existed now. How could they have all... left? The animals and humans... all gone from the planet. “Couple million years ago, humanity took to the stars... took their beloved pets with them. All left. Preserve the planet for as long as they can, but money runs out. And thus... the Earth exploding.”

It was hard enough to wrap around the idea that space travel would exist in the future and it'd be just common place. Now she was having to deal with the idea that not only was space travel commonplace, it saved human life. And not just human life but the lives of animals and every living creature on that oddly brown looking sphere below her. She imagined the Earth looks like a desert – there was no sign of water anywhere on the planet. “So everyone I know is dead.” Rose knew she was missing the point – he'd taken her to some incredible, unbelievable place and now all she could think about was how her friends and family had turned to dust. “It's just me left.” She jumped slightly when the intercom mentioned guests arriving. “Guests,” she questioned the Doctor.

“Yes,” he said. “The great and good are coming to watch the earth explode.” The Doctor paused before cracking a grin at her. “Mind you, when I say great and good, I mean rich and powerful.”

Rose found that hard to wrap her head around. That was her home. And people were coming to watch it die. It just seemed barbaric to Rose. Then again... they might have the same view of football. She had to remind herself that it was an utterly different time – and the rich had always been a different class of people. To them... no one had been born there in ages. A blue alien came up to them, and Rose was taken aback at how very human he appeared while also being alien. “You aren't supposed to be here! This is a maximum hospitality zone!”

The Doctor pulled out a piece of paper and flashed it at the alien with a grin. “No, I'm a guest,” he said smoothly and Rose almost instantly gravitated towards him. It was just the sheer confidence he exerted that it was so easy to move in closer. “The Doctor plus one. I'm the Doctor and this is Rose Tyler. She's my plus one.”

She almost gave a slight grin – is that what she was, then? His “plus one”? She'd have to call Shareen later and examine exactly what she thought that was about. For now... the guests were arriving and Rose was utterly unprepared for the kind of guests she would see. She'd see the Neastene and somehow it never crossed her mind that there might be equally weird alien creatures out there. Living trees that gave her a cup of twigs, a little blue fat alien on a hovering wheelchair thing that spat in her face, some dark cloaked aliens that gave a weird sphere thing that made Rose slightly nervous... a giant face in a tank called the Face of Boe. It was the face that made Rose beyond slightly uncomfortable to straight up culture shock and she would've left then if it weren't for the announcement.

“Presenting Lady Cassandra O'Brien of Delta Seventeen, the last human.”

Rose had expected someone who looked a lot like her. She was not expecting a piece skin stretched over two metal bars with a brain in a jar. That... was beyond freaky. She circled around Cassandra, expecting there to be some sort of hallucination as Cassandra announced how she was born on that planet – that her father was a Texan. Texas still existed when Cassandra was born? What happened to the political state of Earth over the last few years it was occupied? She wanted to know but she couldn't ask anyone without someone thinking she was daft. “The last Ostrich egg,” was the phrase that brought Rose out of her thoughts. Ostriches were extinct? “Legend said it had a wingspan of 50 feet and could breathe fire.”

Ostriches were thought to be dragons? Now there was something that Rose wasn't expecting. That had her thinking that maybe something similar to dragons did exist but had been greatly exaggerated. Now there was something that she had to ask the Doctor about – dragons. But the real kicker was when they wheeled in a jukebox and declared it an iPod that played humanity's greatest composers. Rose would've laughed if it wasn't so surreal... an item from her time being so obsolete that it was equated to a jukebox. And a rarity? Were jukeboxes really that rare? She hadn't traveled much but Jimmy had managed to get her to America, where he took her to something called a Waffle House. There were definitely jukeboxes there. “Play on!”

Tainted Love. Of all things to play... Tainted Love. Rose glanced around the room, trying to decide what to do first and then she realized she was having a panic attack. It was a surreal experience to not understand her own body. It was one thing to not understand or comprehend the year five billion but it was another thing entirely to have lost all idea of what was going on in her own mind. She needed air but she couldn't very well step outside of the space station to get it. And Rose did the only logical thing: she left the room.

*** *** ***

The sheer overwhelming-ness of it all... while Mels and Oswin had certain done very odd things and mentioned odd things, seeing actual aliens made things very much too real. Rose felt like she had a slight pressure on her chest and it felt all too weird to think of her home as dying. She checked her phone only to see she was just a bit out of range. She put the phone away, staring out the window to the sun, almost longing for some sense of normality in this strange time – something that said this was definitely a future she could relate to. She almost jumped when she heard someone behind her. “Sorry, am I not allowed to be in here,” Rose asked. The blue skinned alien was standing there rather awkwardly, opening her mouth as if to say something. “Er, something wrong?”

“You have to give us permission to speak.”

New culture confused Rose a lot but she figured she might as well just get used to it. “Right, of course,” Rose said as if she'd simply forgotten this aspect, hoping she did come across like the what the Doctor. “You have permission to speak. What's you're name, anyway?”

“Thanks, ma'am,” the blue alien said with a charmingly bright smile. “And no, you're not in the way. Guests are allowed anywhere. I'm Raffalo. I'm just here to check the system. There's a glitch in the system. The Face of Boe isn't getting any hot water in his suite.”

Rose nodded as if she understood what she meant by that. Why would a face that's submerged in... something that definitely did not look like water... need hot water? Maybe it was a want thing instead of a need? The Face of Boe had a gender? That was odd to think about. “Oh, of course,” Rose said. “So... plumbing? That's still a thing?”

“Hope so,” Raffalo said with a light laugh. “Otherwise I'm out of a job!”

She smiled at the joke. It was such a familiar joke that it almost felt like she had a lock on the future – that it really was in her future. Well, her planet's future though technically speaking, she would be buried in the soil on the Earth... as would her mum and dad. Rose wondered if she had a husband who ended up buried in that soil too. Maybe it was Mickey. Maybe they had kids and descendants somewhere around the universe. “Fair enough,” Rose said. “I should... really go find my friend and let you get back to what you're doin. Don't wanna be the reason you're out of a job.”

“Oh, uh, miss,” Raffalo said, causing Rose to pause and turn around. “Thanks for the permission. Not that many people are that considerate.”

Rose smiled at Raffalo again before heading off to find the Doctor again. Maybe now that she'd seen some of the normalcy of the alien culture, it'd be easier to handle it. Culture shock and all – she might just get used to seeing alien planets one day. To think... this was right within the confines of her own galaxy. She'd hate to imagine how it would have felt if he took her somewhere away from Earth.

*** *** ***

A vacant room had a view of the Earth... away from the main room. Rose half considered going back to talk to the Doctor... maybe the “last human”. But after talking with Raffalo, she realized she didn't have a total grasp on the future just yet. And she felt it would be rather stupid to go into the room without any idea of what was going on. She took out her phone, half expecting to suddenly get back in signal range. Of course it was stupid and of course it didn't work. She sighed as she picked up the plant the alien – Jabe, Rose thought she was called – had given her. She'd described the plant as clippings of her... great grandfather? Rose couldn't remember. She had been too shell shocked by a talking tree to even really listen to the words Jabe had told her. “Hello there,” she said towards the plant. At least it was a familiar sort of plant. “My name's Rose... that's a sort of a plant... we might be related.” It was at that point Rose realized what she was doing. “I'm talking to a twig!”

And now she was talking to herself. She was not winning any sanity points here. In fact... Rose was definitely starting to feel like she was losing her mind. Maybe it was just the fact that she was five billion years in the future, on a space station, about to watch her home planet get roasted. A fair enough reason to have lost a few marbles, Rose supposed. She wondered if she would ever adjust to the view.

The sun was expanding – that much she knew. But she couldn't figure out how none of the heat of the sun was touching them. By all rights, that sun had to be burning hot still. She tried to remember her science classes... maybe the sun cooled down? She couldn't remember and that bothered her. Rose was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she didn't hear the Doctor come in... she just turned and there he was. He was an alien – he told her that up front. But how was it that he was an alien and still looked so human? It was a question for which she had no answer. And that was the problem... she'd jumped onto his time machine, his wonderful magic box, and went. She thought about doing it for weeks... but now that it was actually happening, she couldn't help but wish that Oswin had at least come along. “Those were real aliens,” Rose said finally, breaking the silence that had grown uncomfortable. “They were... real aliens. You said you're an alien but those aliens... actually are so alien. Like, they're really... real aliens. You look at them and they're... alien.”

She realized she said “alien” to describe aliens more than three times so she puttered off and noticed the Doctor looked... vaguely amused. Or was he? It was hard to tell if he was amused or annoyed she was missing a bigger picture. “Good thing I didn't take you to the deep south.”

Rose had to stop herself from rolling her eyes – she knew some guys were weird about that. And what if rolling your eyes was a vulgar expression or had an entirely different meaning on her planet? She made a note to be careful about the types of things she did. She paused, another mystery that suddenly was weighing in her head. “Do all aliens speak English or just the ones here?”

“Oh,” the Doctor said, a bit too excited for Rose to be thoroughly comfortable with. “That's just the translation matrix in the TARDIS. Gets inside your head so you hear them speaking English and they hear you speaking their language.”

She paused, a bit shocked by this piece of information. She didn't like it when Jimmy Stone controlled her every move and tried to make her report back to him whenever she went out – exactly how much money she was earning and how much she was spending and who she was hanging out with. She didn't like the idea that his magic blue box was inside her head and controlling her thoughts. Those were supposed to be hers. A little more indignantly than she meant to, Rose asked, “Your machine gets inside my head, it gets inside and it changes my mind and you didn't even ask?”

The Doctor paused, looking a little confused by Rose's reaction. Mostly because he'd never experienced anyone get upset about it before – Rose getting upset was a novelty that he couldn't have predicted. He heisted for a moment, before responding, “I didn't think about it like that.”

It was the second time he'd seen Rose Tyler get angry. “Nahhhh,” she said, a fire burning in her hazel eyes that was just a little too beautiful for comfort and the rage embedded in her voice, “you were too busy thinking up cheap shots about the Deep South.” When he didn't respond to her, she continued her tirade, shouting by this point, “Who are you then, Doctor? What you called? What sort of alien are you?”

Her questions were fair for the kind of person who had jumped on his spaceship without any care to the answer of those questions. He was certain if she stuck around... he'd have to answer those questions eventually. But he didn't know if she'd stick around, so instead he went on the defense – reflecting her questions just in case she left. “I'm just the Doctor.”

She was relentless, demanding answers she did not earn. She couldn't know how painful the question was and yet he resented her for it. “From what planet?”

“Well, it's not as if you'd know where it is,” he said defensively, evasively. Trying to escape her questions was difficult when she was like a lion stalking prey – she was circling him and ready to rip him apart. Ready to change from anger to judgment without ever understanding what happened.

“Where are you from?”

“What does it matter,” he asked her incredulously, knowing it meant everything in the world. How was he going to tell her the truth? She'd call him a monster if she knew. She couldn't know – not ever. He could never truly be honest with Rose Tyler.

“Tell me who you are!”

“This is who I am,” he shouted, desperate to avoid her continuous questions. She was demanding answers that she really didn't want to know the answer to. Rose Tyler, as fantastic as she was, did not have that right. She did not have the right to the answers, she did not have the right to treat him like a gazelle trying to run from her. The desire to escape, the desire to run was welling up in him. He wanted to get away from her. “Right here, right now! Alright? All that counts is here and now and this is me!”

A fire flared up in her eyes. His evasiveness was, without a doubt, the most over the top dramatics she'd ever seen. Didn't she get the right to know who she was traveling with? “Yeah, and I'm here too 'cause you brought me here,” Rose pointed out – refusing to mention how sick it was that he brought her to the end of her own planet. “So just tell me!”

The Doctor stood up, walking quickly over to the window in an attempt to get away from her... but not too far away from her. Whatever reason... going too far was just unbearable. Rose seemed to hesitate in her fire, in her temper before going right back over to him. “I... well, my mate Shareen always said not fight with the designated driver,” she said with a soft sigh. “And it's not like I can call a cab out here.” She paused again, and the Doctor noticed her pulling her phone out. “Actually... can't call anyone out here. We're just... a bit out of range.”

He grinned at this joke before taking the phone out of her hand and begun messing around with it. He might not be able to give her answers but he could at least impress her with this... and maybe get her off his back for a minute. “Tell you what... with a little bit of jiggery pokery...”

“Is that a techinical term, jiggery pokery,” she asked with the most beautiful tongue in teeth grin he'd ever seen.

He almost softened, before joking, “I came first in jiggery pokery, what about you?”

“Nah, failed hullabaloo,” Rose said, grinning when the Doctor announced he'd fixed her phone so she could call her mother. With just a 'bit of jiggery pokery', as he'd put it, he handed Rose a phone he claimed could call back in time. She had to test it out... there was just no way. Her mouth dropped slightly as her mother answered the phone. “Mum... hi. I... hi.”

“Rose,” her mother said from the other side of the phone, her voice the most familiar sound Rose had heard all day. “Oh, this red top's falling to bits! You should get your money back. So, go on... you never phone in the middle of the day. What's wrong?”

“Nothing,” Rose said quickly, bouncing on her toes. Somehow, a huge weight she didn't even notice was there had been lifted off her chest. No matter how alien things got, no matter how strange things got... familiarity with home was just a phone call away now. She never had to worry about oddities going on again. “I'm on top of the world!”

Her mother paused, before asking, “Are you hungover?” Rose shook her head in response – even though there was no way her mother could see her. “Tell you what, put some five quid in the lottery syndicate. I'll pay you back.”

Rose didn't care to mention that her mother never paid her back on that – it was hard to care about something as minor as the lottery when she was five billion years in the future. She had to test this again – just to make sure it wasn't a fluke. That she really could make calls to the past. She hung up and dialed Mels, her eyes going wide when Mels answered the phone. “Tyler, you know I prefer to make the first call.”

“Mels,” Rose said breathlessly, unable to believe it. Mels was five billion years away from her and on a different planet – and yet she still had managed to answer the phone. That was something right out of a magic book and the Doctor had made it possible. Like a wizard or something. “Mels, hi. I'm... I'm out travellin with this man. I told you about him – what day is it?”

There was a pause, then a crash. Mels did not speak for a short time, and when she did it was urgent. “You're travellin with the Doctor,” she asked, harsher than Rose had ever heard her speak before. Rose would've been disturbed by it if it hadn't been for the already strange day she'd been having. “Rose, are you okay? Do you need any help? I can help you.”

Rose didn't understand – Mels never showed care like this. It was always.... half cold. “I'm fine,” Rose said quickly, unable to place what it was about Mels that had changed. “I don't need any help,” Rose said, positive there was no way Mels could get to her even if she wasn't fine. “But yeah... I'm travellin with him and he's just... he's been incredibly nice, Mels. I think that he's a good man.”

The Doctor hadn't expected that description of him to come from Rose Tyler. He grinned, mostly admiring that Rose thought he was a good man. “Rose, I've been reading on him,” Mels said from the other end of the phone. “Everywhere he goes... death follows. I don't want you to get hurt.”

Mels was not a tender woman. In fact... Rose Tyler had met Mels while she was with Jimmy Stone and Mels had been queen of that particular dive in bar. Mels had been slightly older than her and she'd told off Jimmy Stone when Jimmy started to make fun of Rose. When Rose had tried to thank Mels, Mels insisted she'd only done it because Jimmy was ruining her bar's fun atmosphere. In fact... it had been the same place Rose had met Oswin. It'd been like kismat – Oswin and Mels wounded up being Rose's best friends since that moment. Oswin softer, Mels the take no shit kind of woman that Rose looked up to. It was obvious here, though, that Mels had been lying and been lying all along. She really did care. “I'm going to be fine, Mels,” Rose said. “I don't think... I mean, so far it's been great.”

“If you... if anything happens that scares you,” Mels said, hesitating over every word. “Just call me, okay? I promise, no matter how impossible it seems... I'll be right there right away. No questions asked.”

“Alright,” Rose said dubiously – though she was touched. As far as she knew... that was as close to 'I love you' that Mels was ever going to give her. “If I ever feel terribly in danger, I'll call...”

Mels whispered a thank you before hanging up. Rose was left feeling elated, so elated she needed one more test to see that it was true. Mels reminded her of Oswin and that Oswin was the one who encouraged her to travel with the Doctor in the first place. The phone only rung once before Oswin picked up, in her usual chipper way. “Oswin here! Who is this?”

“Oswin,” Rose said with a rush of disbelief. Two phones, three phone calls... it was still utterly impossible to believe. A phone call to five billion years ago – now there was something that Rose had a hard time handling. “Oswin, it's Rose... I... you wouldn't believe what the Doctor was able to do. It's not just space! He... he took me forward in time. I'm five billion years in the future!”

Anyone else would have called Rose a looney but not Oswin. “No way! Oh, I'm so jealous,” Oswin said quickly and breathlessly. “Oh, you have to convince him to take me too. What planet are you on? Oh my god, are you seeing a new galaxy?”

“I'm... I'm at the end of the world,” Rose said finally, knowing that if Oswin already believed she'd traveled forward in time, then she'd believe this. “The sun's gonna expand... and the Earth's gonna come to dust and I'm watching it.”

Oswin paused. “Cheery,” she said, almost sarcastically. “I've always wanted to see doomsday. Think he's got a reason for taking you there?”

“I... dunno,” Rose admitted. “But it's beautiful, in a slightly weird way. It's kind of nice to be able to call you for some sense of normalcy.”

“That's me,” Oswin said with a slight bounce to her voice – something told Rose that Oswin had to be bouncing on her heels. “Completely normal. Well, I'll let you get back to it. See you soon, okay?”

Oswin hung up – leaving Rose almost in awe. “All those calls happened five billion years ago,” Rose whispered, staring at the sun hanging in front of her. It was impossible to believe – and the nasty realization hit her. “Oswin... Mels... my mother... they're all buried in that soil. They're all dead.”

“Right ray of sunshine, aren't you?”

Rose didn't even dignify that with a response. And then the bump happened – the bump that knocked her straight to the ground. The steward announced something over the intercom that gravity pockets are one hundred percent normal and to be expected. Except... the Doctor had that dark look on his face. The one that he was wearing when Rose first met him. “That's no gravity pocket.”

*** *** ***

The Doctor had led Rose back to the big room with all the 'honored guests', as the steward had put it. Rose noticed someone missing – the steward. Where was he? Shouldn't he be back in the party room since all the guests might need him around? Maybe that was just how things worked in the future and she was examining it too closely. Rose couldn't make sense of the future. Perhaps that was for the best – she shouldn't get too used to a time that wasn't her own. He might not even want to keep her around. Maybe he just liked to impressed random girls across the galaxy and drop them back home. He definitely was getting flirty with that tree...

Regardless of her worries, the Doctor was droning on about how he's felt several gravity pockets before and they don't feel like that. He mentioned that it seemed strange to him. “What d’you think, Jabe? Listen to the engines, they’ve pitched up about 30 hertz. That budge you or what?”

Rose was a little offended he hadn't asked her. Sure, she hadn't experienced much in regards to traveling, but he was asking someone else instead of her. What was she there for? Just a bit of eye candy? “It's the sound of metal,” the tree – Jabe, Rose forced herself to call the tree in her mind – said with a smile. “It makes no sense to me.”

“Where’s the engine room,” the Doctor asked, a slight bit of excitement in his voice. Rose wondered if this was a common element to him... just going in to a new place, finding something out of place, and hunting down the nearest bit of technology to poke around in. For some reason, it just made him seem a little more exciting. Like he was just some adventure seeker. Rose shouldn't like that... that much she was sure of.

“I don’t know,” Jabe responded, showing that she was definitely very much unaware of the elements of a space ship. Maybe it only made sense. Rose had never met a talking tree before – perhaps this was how they all were. Unaware of technology. “But the maintenance duct is just behind our guest suite. I could show you. And your… wife.”

Rose was taken aback – were people going to always assume that? Then again... tree. Perhaps there was a slight difference in how living trees and human-ish people interacted. Still, it wasn't very flattering when the Doctor was quick to say, “She’s not my wife.”

Jabe took an inquisitive look between Rose and the Doctor, before suggesting, “Partner?”

“Nope,” said the Doctor and there was a slight feeling of humiliation. Rose didn't even get any input? He'd just answer for the both of them. Well, alright then. Maybe it was better – Rose wasn't sure where she stood with the Doctor and this wouldn't be... her chosen way of finding out.

“Concubine?”

Rose had no idea what that was but for some reason, it definitely didn't seem flattering. She wondered if it would be rude to slap Jabe for the suggestions. Or if she should slap the Doctor for continuously answering for her instead of letting her speak for herself. Once again, the Doctor answered for her. “No.”

The final suggestion came – one that caught Rose utterly off guard. “Prostitute?”

Rose's offense hit its limits. There were a lot of things Rose Tyler had been called in her life – whore was definitely not one of them. Sure, chav, skank, and slut all came to mind but never a whore. She was definitely not letting the Doctor answer that one. “Whatever I am, it must be invisible,” she exclaimed before glancing over at Cassandra. Curiosity overtook her – she had to know how it became possible to be like Cassandra. Was there something she was missing? “Tell you what, you two go pollinate. I'll go catch up with the family. Quick word with Michael Jackson over there.”

She was almost pleased by the way the Doctor smiled at her joke and told her to not start a fight. Her grin slide off her face easily when the Doctor told Jabe that he was all hers. “I want you back by midnight,” she called after him – wondering if that was anachronistic. She decided she didn't care if it was. If he wanted to go flaunt off with some... tree... Rose didn't mind. Why should she mind? It wasn't like she had any claim over him. She looked over at the Face of Boe – wondering if she should talk to him and find out more about that hot water thing. Rose decided the Face of Boe freaked her out too much. Maybe after she talked to Cassandra... Unsure of how to strike up a conversation with her, she just asked her questions point blank. “So what happened to the other humans? Where'd they all go?”

Cassandra replied blithely, “They say mankind has touched every star in the sky.” So... not the last human then. There were others out there. Rose voiced this and Cassandra rolled her eyes before dismissively replying, “I am the last pure human. The other's.... mingled.” Rose felt the way Cassandra stated it sounded rather.. racist. If the term still applied, anyway. Speciest? That might be more appropriate... “Oh, they call themselves new humans, digihumans, and proto humans and even human-ish. But you know what I call them? Mongrels.”

The dripping 'better than you' attitude Cassandra had made Rose a little sick to her stomach. Moreover... she couldn't wrap her head around it. It was so... dismissive of everyone else. “Right,” Rose said, the distaste dripping in her voice. Not that Cassandra noticed. “And you stayed behind.”

“How many surgeries have you had, anyway?”

“Seven hundred and eight,” Cassandra answered immediately. Rose wondered how many of them until her body had been chucked into the bin. How'd she end up just skin stretched across metal? Rose nearly pitied her. “Next week it'll be seven hundred and nine. I'm having my blood bleach.” Cassandra paused – and Rose couldn't tell if Cassandra could even see her. “Is that why you wanted a word? You could do with some flattening... you've got a bit of a chin.”

Rose was promptly horrified. So Cassandra didn't even recognize a human body anymore. Or maybe she did. Rose was still alternating between horrified and disgusted. “I would rather die,” Rose said dramatically, wondering if dramatics was something that was just rubbed off on her from only a few hours with the Doctor. After all... if his ship could get into her head, why not him?

“Honestly, it doesn't hurt,” Cassandra said blithely, misunderstanding Rose's statements.

“I mean it,” Rose said viciously, glaring at Cassandra. Was this really the last human? Someone so... what was the word she was looking for? Maybe it was more of a phrase... “I would rather die. It's better to die... than live like you...,” she said, pausing, before the statement finally came to her, “a bitchy trampoline.”

“Oh well,” Cassandra said, obviously thinking Rose stupid. Rose hated that condescending sound that Cassandra had – if Rose thought it would hurt she'd punch Cassandra in the face the exact way Mels taught her. “What do you know?”

Instantly angry, Rose started in. “I was born on that planet,” Rose declared, not caring about the order of time by this point. In an odd way... it felt like the Doctor's ship was cheering her on. “And so was my mum and so was my dad.. and that makes me officially the last human being in this room,” Rose said, slowly starting to claim her right. “Cause... you're not human! You've had it all nipped and tucked and flattened until there's nothing left. You're just skin, Cassandra! Lipstick and skin!” She paused, before adding, “Nice talking.”

*** *** *** MEANWHILE *** *** ***

The Doctor's thoughts raced at the speed of light. Something was definitely not sitting right with this ship and he was in part determined to find out what that was. It was a good distraction from what happened earlier with Rose... and in his attempts to distract himself, he noticed something strange. There was no one attending the station. Beyond plumbers and the steward, that didn't leave much in the way of engineers. “Jabe,” he said slowly. “Where are the engineers? Anyone who controls the station?”

“There are none. Everything is controlled by the metal mind,” Jabe said, a slight pleased tone in her voice as she lead the Doctor towards the maintenance duct. “This facility is purely automatic. It’s the height of the Alpha Class. Nothing can go wrong.”

“You mean the computer,” the Doctor asked her curiously. The Doctor had a twisted grin on his face as he remembered his last trip on the Titanic. The same arrogance that had gone into designing that particular vessel seemed to show in this vessel as well. “Unsinkable?”

Jabe shrugged, a little taken aback by the comparison. “If you like,” she said with a similar grin as the two started down the maintenance duct. The odd wires and metal casing were definitely not of her element. She only understood what she was told of the metal ship. “The nautical metaphor is appropriate.”

“You’re telling me,” the Doctor said with a hint of sarcasm. “I was on board another ship once they said that was unsinkable. I ended up clinging to an iceberg. It wasn’t half cold.” He stopped, another realization sinking in. “So, what you’re saying is, if we get in trouble there’s no one to help us out?”

The horror of that seemed to hammer to Jabe, falling slightly behind step. She thought about it, and the said slowly, “I’m afraid not.”

The Doctor grinned brightly at this news. “Fantastic!”

He had already started taking off further into the maintenance ducts, looking around for something that could tell him anything about the strange pockets. “I don’t understand,” Jabe said as she followed after him. “In what way is that fantastic?”

He didn't answer her at all. Unanswered questions was something that seemed to happen a lot with him thus far, Jabe noted. His ancestry... the machine wouldn't even recognize him as being real. Jabe herself couldn't believe it when the machine identified him. Time Lords simply did not exist anymore. It was impossible for him to be one and yet... here he was. An absolute fact. He'd just dropped in with no prior registration to the list with a young girl. If the legends were true... then this Doctor was the Doctor. The Doctor with no name, the great warrior of the Gamma forests.

Jabe was utterly fascinated. It was hard not to be. A legend had just dropped into her life, a man who saved the day and made things better. She wondered if the companion he had with him was the Rose Tyler... but she dared not ask. Jabe remembered the stories – time lines were important above all else to the pair. They preserved order and saved when they could. The two... were heroes. Their names intertwined together, never one without the other except when they must. This could be before the two traveled together... or before they knew exactly how long forever was. The Doctor yanked her out of her thoughts. “So tell me, Jabe,” he said, rather conversationally for a man who had just suggested they might all die, “what’s a tree like you doing in a place like this?”

A chance. To learn more, to understand. “Simply about being seen in the right places,” Jabe said with a slight grin. “And what of you, Doctor? What are you doing here?” He didn't answer. Rather, he started tinkering with the engine panel instead. He was deliberately ignoring her, Jabe recognized. But still, she wanted to know.

“And what about your ancestry, Doctor,” Jabe said, much more hesitantly. It had to be a delicate subject, considering where he might be in his time line. Before Canary Wharf, quite possibly. She was hesitant before continuing, hoping to get a gauge on where in the legends he was. “Perhaps you could tell a story or two. Perhaps a man only enjoys trouble when there’s nothing else left.”

His silence was confirmation – Jabe knew where in the legend he was. And even at this point... it must be hard. He had no idea where he was heading. “I scanned you earlier. The metal machine had trouble identifying your species. It refused to admit your existence,” Jabe said, somewhat blithely. After all... she too would refute the existence of him. It was like finding out Robin Hood was real. “And even when it named you I wouldn’t believe it. But it was right. I know where you’re from. Forgive me for intruding, but it’s remarkable you even exist. I want to say how sorry I am.”

The Doctor had just run from Rose for this sort of intrusion and now he needed an out to get away from Jabe. The answer came to him in the form of the fans. “Is it just me or is it a bit nippy,” he said, more of an attempted redirect. “That's a great bit of air conditioning. Nice and old fashion,” he said as he ran his sonic over the panel. “Bet they call it retro.”

An odd metal spider escaped from the panel, scurrying up the ship. “Is that part of the,” Jabe started, curious with his words, “retro?”

“Don't think so,” he commented as he reached his sonic up to the odd metal creature, an attempt to bring it down towards to him. Jabe had the answer – she whipped at it with a vine seemingly grown straight from her arm. “Nice trick.”

“Thanks,” she said, bristling with what was clear pride. “I'm not supposed to show them to anyone.”

The Doctor missed the connection that Jabe was implying, his brain clinking things together. He managed to get some information about some recent actions from the odd spider creature. They were all linked through a technological web – handy. “A sun filter was set down in the steward's cabin,” the Doctor said, working something out. A gravity pocket that wasn't a gravity pocket... no one would just set the sun filters down while the station was still occupied. The option was there to sanitize by fire and supposed to be only done post events after everyone was gone. In his peripheral vision, he noted an odd spider scurrying around before taking note of the far greater problem. “And another's going down right now!”

He took off, grateful for the excuse to get away from Jabe.

*** *** *** ELSEWHERE *** *** ***

Rose would've been shocked to awake in the same room the Doctor and her had been talking in except it wasn't anywhere near shocking. It was a numb 'oh fantastic' feeling – the kind one might have right before a car crash that one couldn't stop. A vague feeling of nothing to be done to fix this. That she was most definitely not in control of the situation. That terrified her out of her mind. Rose had been mostly in control of her situation thus far – at least, as in control as one could be in a situation where one had gotten on board a time machine and taken five billion years out of their time. She knew she said she'd wanted to be impressed but this was going outside her definition of 'impressive'. “Sun filter descending.”

She could scream, but what would be the point in that? Five billion years in her future and she was going to die. It was a numb acceptance at this point. Mels had been right. Mels was always right in the end, wasn't she? She'd remembered back when Mels said outright that Jimmy was going to leave her and Rose had clung desperately to the idea that Jimmy would stay. Perhaps if she'd just stayed in 2005... ignored the Doctor and went out for drinks with Mels instead, she'd still be alright. For some reason, that was a comforting thought.

Mels would have told Rose a funny joke, made her laugh. And the memory of Oswin leaked in as well. Oswin, laughing and her arm thrown over her shoulder. You'll be alright, came what sounded exactly like Oswin. Funny.. Rose never exactly echoic memory. Nor could she remember Oswin ever actually saying those words... but for some reason, there was no way the girl was actually Oswin. The words bad wolf appeared, white hot behind Rose's eyelids and forced her to open her eyes with a gasp. The cheery intercom voice came again. “Sun filter, rising.” Rose let out a breath of relief when the cheery intercom voice came on again.

She heard the Doctor's voice just outside the door and she ran towards it, the Doctor feeling much more safe than where she was right now. She'd take an alien she didn't know the origins of over a sun filter falling down to burn her alive. “Is anyone in there?”

“Doctor,” Rose cried out in relief, getting up off the ground from where she'd run down to hide and running up towards the door. The feeling of relief came crashing over her. He'd saved her before, even if he had been reckless in doing so. Her words were so full of hope. “You can get me out of here, right?”

“Oh it would be you,” he said, in part due to frustration and in part out of fear. The fear that he'd let her down... that beautiful girl he'd stolen away from Earth. He should've known better. “I can't get the door down,” the Doctor said, panic taking over him. He'd brought her here and now she might die because of him. “Stay there!”

“Where am I gonna go,” Rose asked the door, certain he wasn't even behind the door anymore but too frustrated by the fact she had to wait a little longer to be free. “Ipswich?”

*** *** *** LATER *** *** ***

He was indeed no longer behind the door, but rather piecing things together. He'd figured out most of it – the little metal balls given by the Adherence of the Repeated Meme kept those odd little spiders that were scurrying around. He couldn't believe he'd missed it. He'd barely noticed that Rose had been freed from the room, standing right behind with her hazel eyes wide at the metal spider in his hand. “What is that?”

“This,” the Doctor said, double backing to look over at Rose. “This is what's been causing all the ruckus. Thankfully, we can figure out exactly who the little fella belongs to,” he said as he set the creature on the floor. Of course, as the Doctor suspected the metal thing scuttled right over the Adherence of the Repeated Meme. He'd already figured out that and Cassandra only sealed the deal with her response.

“The Adherence of the Repeated Meme! J'acuse!”

Her performance was incredible, the Doctor would give her that. “Well, that's really kind of obvious but really, what is a repeated meme? It's an idea,” he said as he ran his sonic over them and the black cloaks dissolved to the ground. Rose looked scandalized. “Right, Jimbo. Pop over to your real mummy!”

And just like that, the spider scuttled over to Cassandra. “I bet you were the school swot who never got kissed,” Cassandra spat at the Doctor and Rose wore a small smirk on her face that was hard to read. “Fine, I admit it. I had hoped to manfacture a hostage situation, with myself as one of the victims. The compensation would have been enormous. You carried them all tax free, past every code wall.”

The Doctor looked vaguely disgusted. “Five billion years and it still comes down to money,” he said.

“Do you think it's cheap looking like this,” Cassandra asked, annoyance growing. “Flatness costs a fortune. I am the last human. Me. Not that freaky little kid of you. No matter! I'll just go to plan b..,” she said, a vaguely evil grin appearing across her face once the intercom announced the sun's death in minutes. “And there it is. I have stocks in all your rival companies and they'll only go up once you're all dead.”

“But you're stuck here with us,” pointed out one of the guests. “You'll burn with us.”

“Oh I know the use of teleportation devices is strictly prohibited but...,” Cassandra said with a self satisfied grin. “I'm such a naughty girl.”

And with that, Cassandra was gone. Rose had a look of fear across her face. Twice in one day she'd had her life put at risk. It wasn't like Rose wasn't adventurous. Back when she was with Jimmy, she'd gone backpacking across France with the rest of his band and went rock climbing in the Swiss Alps. Oswin had taken her jet skiing and Mels was always trying to get her to try parachuting. Really, Rose had definitely done life risking things before... it's just that before, they were all vaguely human ways to die. Rose Tyler did not want to die above her home world five billion years away from home. She had turned to the Doctor, in hopes of him explaining what was going to happen but he was already gone.

The Doctor had rushed down towards to the maintenance duct, trying to locate the override. He'd moved past fear – he was now angry. Cassandra had set this up. Cassandra deliberately put Rose Tyler in that room in an attempt to kill her. For some reason, it just was too much. All he knew was that it wasn't supposed to end this way. Rose did not end here. “The must be a system restore switch. C'mon.”

Of course it was in the oddest location. “Guess where the switch is.” The reason so many people died on the Titanic wasn't that there wasn't enough life boats. It wasn't even that they weren't warned of the iceburg in time or the captain having some sense of pride. It all started because the passengers messages were deemed far more important than messages from outside the boat and the captain didn't see the iceburg as a result. The second problem? All the lifeboats were in odd, horrible to reach places. No one expected to need to use them so trying to get the necessary lifeboats was next to impossible. The Doctor had been on board that sinking ship before.

A tragedy that could've been prevented if human arrogance wasn't dripping all over it. Satellite One had the same arrogance written all over it.

Yet this time... the Doctor could stop this. He could keep Rose Tyler alive and save everyone else on this station. Human arrogance didn't have to be a death sentence for everyone on Satellite One. He could fix this. Except when he pulled the lever to stop the fans – it didn't stay down. He suddenly wished he had been able to open the door. Having Rose to hold the lever down would go a long way. It was Jabe who pulled the lever down. The Doctor was quick to point out the flaw in that. “You can’t! The heat’s going to vent through this place.”

“I know,” Jabe said, annoyance tinging her voice. He needed to hurry and he was going to argue about her stopping the fans so he could get to the override panel.

The Doctor shared her annoyance, but for an entirely different reason. “Jabe, you’re made of wood.”

“Then stop wasting time, Time Lord.”

Jabe was insisting by this point – there was no way to convince her of the danger. The heat wasn't just the usual heat from the engines – it was also the heat of the sun that was expanding. He could feel it himself and he couldn't imagine that Jabe would last long. He was proven right when he'd only gotten past the first two fans when Jabe caught fire, unable to hold the lever down any more. The fans picked up speed again. And all he could think was he couldn't let Rose die here.

*** *** ***

Rose could tell something was wrong when the Doctor strode in with anger radiating from him. She should be terrified but something told her his anger was to protect everyone on this station. It was understandable from that angle. “You alright,” she asked, gentle as ever.

The Doctor barely looked towards her, already looking for the teleportion feed. “Yeah, I’m fine,” he lied easily, a lie that Rose didn't bother to push. It just didn't feel like the right moment to call out the lie. “I’m full of ideas—I’m bristling with ’em. Idea number one: teleportation through five thousand degrees needs some kind of feed. Idea number two: this feed must be hidden nearby,” he said, before realizing the ostrich egg. He picked it up and smashed it, ignoring the collective gasps of those around him. Inside, there was indeed a small teleportation feed. “Idea number three: if you’re as clever as me, then a teleportation feed can be reversed.”

Cassandra seemed to fade back in, clearly discussing something with her attendants before seeming to realize she wasn't on her ship. “Oh... congrats,” she said, rather lamely. “You've figured it out... that makes you eligible to join the, um, human club.”

Rose didn't know what came over her. “The human club,” she half shrieked. “You tried to kill everyone on this ship and are now trying to cover your arse? Do you really think us stupid?”

Cassandra didn't reply but rather glared nastily at Rose. The Doctor was like a fire, sheer anger and rage pooling from him... yet somehow there was no warmth to it. “People have died, Cassandra,” the Doctor said, not buying her lame excuse either. Jabe had came along with him to explore and paid the price. Rose had nearly died. The steward he hadn't even bothered to learn the name of... “You murdered them.”

Cassandra sniffed. “It depends on your definition of people,” she said cavalierly, very clearly showing she didn't believe them to be fully human enough to mourn. If she had a cheek, Rose would've slapped it. How could Cassandra not see them as human when Rose could? Rose hated the idea that humanity's final descendant... the last “pure” human... couldn't see the humanity in those around her. “And that’s enough of a technicality to keep your lawyers dizzy for centuries. Take me court, Doctor! And watch me smile and flutter and...”

There was a very loud creaking noise, one that Rose was taken aback by. The Doctor, comparatively, simply had a small, smug grin on his face. “And creak?”

“And what,” Cassandra asked, suddenly realizing that creaking sound was her.

“And creak,” the Doctor said in a very I-know-something-you-don't way. “You're creaking. You've turned up the heat and now it's drying you out.”

Rose was mollified. Yes, Cassandra had tried to murder her but at the same time... perhaps Cassandra simply needed a kindness. Something to ground her. Rose moved forward to the Doctor, looking up at him with wide eyes. She'd seen him help before... he'd tried to talk to the Nesteane consciousness before... before it went wrong. “Help her,” Rose said.

The Doctor's eyes blazed as Cassandra begged for someone to moisturize her, calling for her attendants. “Everything has its time and everything dies,” he said, the ice in his voice clearly closing the case. Rose swallowed hard as Cassandra screamed out that she was too young – though young wasn't what Rose would call Cassandra. The pieces of Cassandra's bloody remains splattered everywhere, but Rose couldn't find it in her to be horrified like she normally would be... rather, she felt resigned. Then she remembered the setting, and spun around to run out towards where she had been held.

Rose felt it all hit her at once. Cassandra's death... the fact she nearly died at the end of the world and no one would have known where she went... the fact she was looking at pieces of her home surrounding the space station... she kept reminding herself to just breathe. Chunks of her home. The station was being surrounded by chunks of her home world. The Powell estate... her mother's grave... Oswin's grave... Mel's... all of it had just blown up. “The end of the earth,” she managed to gasp out as the Doctor showed up behind her. She looked over at him, a lump in her throat at the heavy realization. “Its gone...,” she said, desperately looking for some kind of comfort she wasn't even sure she was asking for.

He didn't respond to her, just looked at the debris floating around her. She felt ridiculous for being so close to tears when he seemed so stoic. “We were too busy saving ourselves, no one saw it go,” Rose pressed on, before looking over at the grave of her fallen planet. “All those years, all that history and no one was even looking. It's just...”

She let out a shaky breath and looked over at the Doctor, who was finally looking over at her. He had his hand held out to her, with a look of understanding of what she needed. “Come with me,” he said.

*** *** ***

Rose was captivated by the hustle and bustle going on around her when she got off the TARDIS – right back in 2005 London. It was impossible to believe that she just saw the end of the Earth and now she was standing back on it, seeing all the wonder around her. She felt more appreciative of being able to come home now. “You lot,” the Doctor said with a small grin at her wonderment. “You'll think it'll last forever.” Rose couldn't deny it. If she hadn't seen it herself... she'd think it'd last forever too. “My planet's gone. All my people are gone. I'm not just a Time Lord... I'm the last of the Time Lords. There's no one left.”

She looked over up at him. Suddenly she felt more guilty for yelling at him, demanding to know where he was from. She felt guilty for mourning her planet when he couldn't return to his own world. It must be painful for him to admit this. Her hand rested on his arm light, gently with a wide eyed gaze up at him filled with tears that hadn't spilled earlier. “There's me.”

The Doctor almost smiled. Almost. “You've seen how dangerous it is,” he said hesitantly, considering her feelings by this point. No need to repeat another screaming match because he'd failed to include a disclaimer on the travels. “Do you wanna go home?”

“I dunno...,” Rose said. Her thoughts were racing – she could go home, yeah. It'd be the easiest option. She'd be safe and never have to see another planet explode again. It was horrible to think of history just fading away with no one to witness it. “I want...,” she started, before the waft of chips hit her. “Oh, can you smell chips?”

The Doctor didn't know how to react. He'd expected her to run away now that she'd seen the danger and destruction traveling with him could bring. He'd expected after the culture shock, she'd want to just stay home. For some reason, he had a good feeling about Rose... the kind of feeling he hadn't felt a good century. “Yeah,” he said with a light laugh, nodding again. “Yeah!”

Rose knew exactly what to say now. There was so many words, so many reactions that could be saved for later. They had a time machine, after all. “I want chips.”

“Me too!”

“Right then, before you get me back in that box,” she said and he felt his hearts fluttering – she was going to stay, “chips it is - and you can pay.”

“No money,” he said ruefully.

“What sort of date are you,” Rose asked with a bright grin – one that the Doctor had never expected to be for him. Her laugh was infectious and he couldn't help but crack a grin of his own. “Come on then, tight wad, chips are on me... we've only got five billion years till the shops close!”