Rose Tyler has never done anything by halves. Her mother would be quite likely to point out that one of those things would be sulking, which would be accurate, though not something she'd ever admit. Not in a thousand years. Not to anyone. Not even him. Well, maybe him, but he's not here so it hardly matters.
So she's not sulking. She just…needs her own space for a bit. Could happen to anyone, two years with the whole of time and space to play with, swapped for one time period, one planet, living with her mum again (though living with her mum and dad really hasn't got old yet) and babysitting her new little brother. Oh and the only people her own age she can talk to with her guard down seem to have developed their own private language. She doesn't mind that they've been having their own exciting adventures since she last saw them, she just wants to have some too. But the Cyberman are gone now and the boys are quite content to kick back for a bit and enjoy a bit of safe monotony hacking abandoned alien computer systems and making unhelpful suggestions to the techs at Torchwood backwards engineering the junk that washes up through the rift at Cardiff. She knows they're laying on the stories and the private jokes thick, and she sucks it up knowing full well its pay back for all her Doctor stories back in the day. Though if she hears one more 'daring escape in a Zepplin' story she might hit someone.
The buses in London aren't red. Bottle green is a good practical colour for buses, but it's one of those little things that makes her feel ridiculously far from home. So when a bright red bus rolls past her one wet Thursday afternoon it catches her eye. It's trundling along at a low rate of knots as though the driver is lost and she gets that tingling sensation she associates with the TARDIS. She's running before she can even think, and thankfully it stops. The driver is wearing a huge golden fur coat and hunched over an oversized map spread across the steering wheel. She looks to Rose's stunned eyes like a cross between Barbarella and Mae West, gone somewhat to seed, hair bound up in a long platinum braid, shot through with silver. She looks up at Rose's unceremonious entrance and they stare at each other in curious silence for a long moment. Clearly something needs to be said, so Rose says the only thing that comes to mind.
"The number 22 doesn't go to Putney Common. Not in this universe." The thought she doesn't verbalise is that Putney's in the opposite direction entirely and that number 22s don't normally look like their interior décor was designed by Jules Verne on acid. The driver stares hard at her for a long moment before replying.
"I suppose directions to the big rift in space and time that's lurking somewhere round here wouldn't be out of the question then? Seeing as you seem to be going my way you can read the map."
The rift at Cardiff is smaller than in her own, simply the wrinkle it was before her own encounter with the Gelth. A weak point between the worlds. For good reason, as its only now that they coming sneaking and tearing through, re-animating the dead and ensnaring not a Victorian serving girl with visions but a twenty-first century police-officer with hallucinations. Iris knows and distrusts the Gelth of old, but Rose has seen how this plays out before and she will not loose this one too. Gwen's young and brave and compassionate and more naïve than Rose can remember being about these things, and she won't believe Rose. It's frustrating and she feels the anger burning inside her, fire in her veins. Behind her eyes she sees the carnage the Gelth would cause if they succeed, and the words are flowing from her mouth like lava. Accusations and memories, ghosts and false angels. They know her now, and they show their true faces to hide their fear. Gwen flees to safety, though whether from the Gelth or from her wrath she'll never be sure. The room is cold once they retreat, and she wonders how far is too far, would Iris tell her to stop if she crossed the line?
The hand that slides into hers is solid and lined, and she clings to it desperately, ignoring the feel of the world turning beneath their feet. She's used to Iris all light and frippery, bad jokes and affected cigarettes, the woman at her side is different, her eyes look old and shadowed. She should be scared of this new Iris but she's not, her heart just aches with the familiarity. She wonders if this is what the Gelth saw in her eyes before they fled. Gwyneth was the first to see the wolf in her after all.
"You knew." Not a question or an accusation, merely a statement.
"You burn like the sun, girl. I couldn't not look for you, my TARDIS just started off in your direction without so much as a by your leave. Wasn't till we found you that I realised that you didn't know, I was going to leave you be, but you ran. Not from me but to me. You were calling out for someone to find you and you didn't even know it. How could I ignore that, turn away all that loneliness after so long on my own."
"What am I? Why am I so different?"
"You looked into the heart of a TARDIS, Rose, you think you can do that, survive and not have that change you?"
"They were scared of me."
"As they should be."
"No. I was just reminded of an old, old friend."
"I think I might have met your friend."
"I rather think so too."
She can't go back to everyday life anymore than she can return to her own universe. Nor can she forget him, but that's ok somehow. Iris doesn't belong here either, understands what it means to never want to be bound to one planet or timeframe, to still be half in love with the essence of someone stuck in the universe you called home and always moving on without you. It's not what they hoped for, or even what they wanted, but its all they've got and they're making the most of it. There's adventure and danger, laughter and fear, mix tapes blaring and a hand to hold as they run for their lives and into the future. Together. Burning brightly as his memory fades away.
She did tell them she needed some space of her own. Of course because she's her and she never does anything by halves, that space involves most of it, along with a large section of time. It's strange and wonderful and terrifying and she wouldn't miss it for the world. So this is Rose Tyler finding her own space, it's not got a Doctor in it, but it's got an Iris Wildthyme and this life of theirs is always been better with two.