Howling in the Wilderness Author:
FR-14 (language, violence, dark imagery) Spoilers:
Doctor Who: seasons 1 & 2. Buffy: Season 7. Disclaimer:
All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No copyright infringement is intended. Summary: “It's like when you were a kid. The first time they tell you the world's turning and you just can't quite believe it because everything looks like it's standing still. I can feel it. The turn of the Earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour, and the entire planet is hurtling around the sun at sixty-seven thousand miles an hour. And I can feel it.” What she doesn’t tell him, what she never tells him, is that she can feel it too.
.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. Nov. 2002
Rose Tyler is running for her life.
Men with no eyes and large knives are chasing her down an alley behind the club where Jimmy, her boyfriend, is playing. When an older man squeals onto the curb in front of her and tells her to get in, she doesn’t question it. When she catches her breath and asks to be let out, he says no. She begins to feel fear for herself when he starts talking, explaining about demons and vampires and magic. Talking about the end of the world as if it’s actually starting. He informs her that she has the potential to be chosen, to be the one who will save the world.
She doesn’t believe him and she doesn’t listen. She thinks maybe she was safer with the robed loonies with knives than trapped in a car listening to some creepy old guy’s insane ramblings.
She doesn’t believe the girls with him that she meets when he drags her into a drippy, smelly abandoned building in the middle of the really bad part of town. Rose tries to tell the girls that he’s brainwashed them, but their looks of sympathy finally jolt her into awareness and she realizes that she’s actually been kidnapped by a cult. It takes kicking the older man in the knee and scratching the face of one of the girls, but she gets away.
For the first time in three months, she really considers going home to her mother. Instead she goes back to Jimmy, who thinks she’s high and won’t listen. It’s not like she could go to the cops anyway. She thinks about pervy old guys, and girls that are found dead in alleyways, and she picks up the phone five times to call her mum, but she always hangs up before it can ring.
Being chased by the same scarred men two days later, she regrets not calling. She remembers the fight they had the last time they spoke, the horrible things she’d said. What kind of monster would call their own mother a two-bit whore? And when four of them have cornered her and one’s pulled out his dagger, all she can think of is all the things she regrets. The jewelry she stole from Henrik’s that Nell went to jail for. All those remarks Jimmy made about Mickey that she laughed at. That joint she convinced Cherry to smoke and now she’s a crackhead.
She regrets not living to see 16, regrets not seeing her mother again and being able to say she’s sorry.
She really regrets not going with Mr. Giles.
But when, to her utter amazement, the coppers actually
show up to help, the only regret she can think about fixing is that last one. In the melee between the Bringers and the police, she manages to flee.
When she finally finds the hidey hole that he had taken her, she feels like collapsing onto the pavement and weeping. The not-so-crazy old man and his girls are gone. She doesn’t know where to find them, and now those creepy scarred men will find her and next time she won’t get a last minute rescue. She’s going to die. She desperately searches for any sign, any trace of where the man and the girls went in the dirt and furniture and trash. She finds more than that.
Passport, with a fake name, and even better, fake birthdate. Plane ticket, from Heathrow to LAX, connecting in New York. Fifty pounds cash and five American twenties. An address written on a scrap of paper, hidden in the passport. ‘1630 Revello Drive, Sunnydale California. DO NOT arrive after dark.’ plays like a mantra in her head for two days straight, from the gloomy filthy hole in the wall, through the trans-Atlantic flight, keeping her awake during the night spent in JFK, calming her nerves on her cross country flight. And pounding like a drumbeat on the cab ride across the desert. Finally silenced as she stands on the doorsteps of the place itself.
A brunette about her age answers the door.
Rose has a sudden posthumous terror that she got the address wrong and is going to sound like a loony to whoever it is that lives here.
The brunette takes one look at her, sighs, and leans against the door. “Please tell me you at least speak English.”
“Um, yeah, I-”
“You wouldn’t happen to speak Dutch would you?”
“Uh-uh no,” Rose stammers out, “I’m looking for-”
“That’s too bad,” the kid says while swinging the door wider, “Food’s in the kitchen on your right, shower’s upstairs, but talk to Willow about scheduling it first. I’ll get back to you on sleeping arrangements.”
“So, this is the right place, yeah?” Rose asks, wondering if there’s some sort of no-talking-about-supernatural rule that she missed on her first night. How is she supposed to know if this is where Mr. Giles wanted her to go if she can’t even ask?
“If you’re a potential Slayer being chased by mutilated First-Evil-worshipping monks looking to gut you, then yeah, it’s the right place.”
“… Right, yeah,” she stutters a laugh, tension easing in her gut, “definitely the place I’m looking for then.”
Taking a deep, shaky breath, Rose Tyler steps inside.
.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. October, 2004
“Or… I don’t know. You could come with me.”
The inner chant that’s been pulling her in two directions for months now pounds in her head. ‘Go. Stay. Live. Don’t die.’ But it’s Mickey’s tightening hold on her that decides.
“Yeah, I can’t…”
By the time the alien’s blue box has faded, she knows it’s a mistake. She lets Mickey drag her away, thoughts about wolves and howling hounding her, and she finally remembers where she’s heard the sound of his ship before. She can almost taste the sand.
When she had first run into him in that basement, she had been so terrified. So certain that her past had finally caught up to her, that she would die defenseless and weak. Then once again an older man had rushed into her life and turned it upside down. She didn’t believe him when he started talking about aliens and plastic creatures. Even she could have probably managed an animating spell that would have made the mannequins move. She didn’t believe him. But she listened.
She had wondered if he was the ‘him’ she was waiting for.
Walking back with Mickey, she knows he was. And she missed him.
But before she can fully grasp what she’s done, he comes back for her.
“Did I mention it also travels in time?”
Bursting out in a grin, Rose Tyler runs inside.
.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. May, 2003
“You ready England?” Amanda asks on the bus headed for the school and the seal.
“Yep,” Rose answers with a firm nod of her head, chin out.
“Are you nervous?”
Rose doesn’t look at her friend, gives a quick jerk of her head, “Nope.”
“Me neither,” Amanda confides, shuffling closer, “I’m just….scared out of my mind,” she concedes with a slump of her shoulder.
Rose turns her head toward her lanky friend and laughs nervously, “Me too.”
“Oh. Good. Glad I’m not the only one.” Amanda laughs with her.
Rhona across the aisle turns to them, “Sunnydale, if you weren’t about to piss your pants, there’d be somethin’ seriously wrong with you. Relax. This’ll all be over soon.”
Rose bends forward to look beyond Amanda at her, “Thanks New York. That’s very reassuring.”
“It’s okay,” Amanda interjects, “I know. Just, if we can get through today… everything will be fine. Just have to get through today.”
“Yeah,” Rhona mutters, slumping back into her seat.
Amanda looks across Rose out the window at the deserted town lit in the early morning light, “It’s a nice day. Good day for…” she trails off, “Well…”
“It’s my birthday,” Rose announces quietly, surprising herself for mentioning it, “I’m 16 today.”
“Really?” Amanda asks, “I mean, happy birthday!” she tries with enthusiasm.
Rose smiles a little crookedly and turns to her friend, “Thanks.”
But Amanda latches onto the idea, “We should celebrate. You know. After.”
“Do you think so?” Rose asks, turning to her fully, grateful for the distraction from their probable impending gruesome death.
“Oh yeah,” Amanda nods enthusiastically and sits up higher in her seat. “We can get cake and streamers, and I’m pretty sure we can get Faith to get us alcohol. I bet she’ll do it anyway, you know to celebrate us winning and surviving.” She latches onto the idea firmly. There’s no room to consider what will happen should they fail.
“Yeah. Yeah,” Rose affirms, getting into the idea. “When we win, you and me, we’ll go out and have a proper drink yeah? We’ll get pissed. Drunk,” she clarifies for Amanda’s benefit.
“You’re on, birthday girl,” Amanda smiles, and Rose is grateful they have this moment, to consider a possible future. Even if it’s one of her last.
When the Slayers do win, and they’re holed up in L.A., Giles making frantic phone calls and arrangements, Buffy pacing between hospital rooms; Faith takes all the girls to a shitty demon bar, where she runs or kills everything out of the establishment, and starts handling bottle out for the girls to take with them back to the hotel.
Rose grabs a bottle of whiskey and runs. Runs and runs and runs, and then climbs, until she’s sitting on a roof somewhere where she can see the lights, her feet dangling off the edge and cars rumbling by twenty stories down.
She takes a swig, gags, and sniffs. Then she tilts the bottle, pours a good portion out into the air below.
“Hey Sunnydale,” she says, “we won.” Her voice breaks, and she takes another swig to keep from crying.
.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. The year five billion
So this is how the world ends. Empty, abandoned, and no one left to care about its passing. Except her and she missed it. She’d asked to see the future. Just… a hundred years from now or so. She wanted to know if it would one day be worth it. If someday, they’d finally win. Or even if the world just still existed and hadn’t succumbed to an apocalypse yet. But this…
It’s not right. The earth shouldn’t have died without a Slayer there to mark its passing. All those girls. All that death, all that war and still… Everything dies.
The fragments of the world continue breaking up in front of her, limned in the red sunlight. She wonders if she should say something. Some momentous phrase like ‘one small step for man…’ or ‘are you ready to be strong’ to mark the end of the world.
She wonders how long. How long the fight against the darkness lasts beyond her time. A year? A century?
A million more years? A billion? More?
How many more Slayers? God, how many?
And for what? So that the humans they suffer and die for can die out anyway, leaving a bitchy, greedy, murdering trampoline to speak their last words?
Everything’s gone. Everyone. It’s all… gone. Just gone.
And then he’s there beside her. The Doctor. His whole world’s gone too. In a war he said, and they lost. And she understands that. Whatever else he is, whoever he is – this she understands.
She knows there’s a lot he hasn’t told her. A lot he may never tell her. She only has the barest fragment of who he is, but it’s enough for her to trust him. And when he takes her back to her time, lets her bask in the bright bustle of humanity, she understands. He’s giving her what he would do anything to have for himself.
She understands that too.
“I’m left traveling on my own ‘cause there’s no one else,” he tells her.
“There’s me.” She hopes that maybe he can understand as well. As much as she loves this world, it can never be her home again. Not after all she’s gone through for it. It will forever be tainted. But maybe, she thinks, just maybe, she’ll find home out there. Running among the stars, in strange little blue box with a daft old alien, she’ll find something worth living for again.
Maybe even something worth fighting for again.
Sitting, eating chips he was too cheap to pay for, she pesters him with questions, but none that ask what she really wants to know. She wants more than the fragments he’s given her. Wants to understand all of him, to find out if he’s as like her as she thinks he is. But she can’t ask for more. There’s so much she hasn’t told him, she couldn’t possibly demand everything from him without giving all herself. And there’s so much of herself that she can never give to anyone ever again, not even him.
And she’s afraid. Afraid he won’t know about the demon world, that the one man that could have all the answers is as ignorant as the next. She’s afraid that he will know, afraid of what he could tell her, of the answers he could give. Afraid that once he finds out she was called, he’ll kick her off. Afraid he may already knows what she is. That he can see the blood on her hands, the stain on her soul.
And for the first time in a long time, she wants more than anything to be good enough for someone.
.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. December, 2003
Rose Tyler would do anything for a glass of water. Anything. But as she guts the scaly hell beast in front of her, carefully gathering the bloody liquid streaming from its carapace, she doesn’t drink. Not because it’s disgusting, because although it is, after one year, twenty-seven weeks, and four days trapped in this hell dimension, she doesn’t dare even think ill of the only water source available. No, she doesn’t drink, because she knows from her closed throat and lips that can’t even bleed anymore that if she takes even one sip she’ll drink it all. And Chandra will die.
So she staggers back to the rock outcrop she had left her wounded sister in, the precious ‘water’ kept safe in its leather bag. She urges herself to go faster even as she stumbles. It took hours to find the water beast, the creatures being as scarce as they are valuable in this wasteland. The three suns had barely risen when she left, now it’s only a few hours to dusk. And Chandra had lost so much blood. She had been so weak when Rose had left.
‘Hurry. Faster. She’s dying. Move. Hurry. Faster.’ The words drum through her mind, galvanizing her, keeping her moving. If she can only get back in time. If she can just make it back with the water, Chandra will live. If she can just get back…
She makes all eleven miles before sunset, but Chandra is no longer there. There’s blood in the dust, bits of gory cloth stuck to the rocks, Chandra’s knife and stake and bones. Bones scattered everywhere, broken and gnawed by tiny teeth that mark a swarm of the salamander-like creatures that live here. Chandra could barely move when she left her. The salamanders would have-
The thought makes Rose turn away from the remains and retch. The motion rubs her parched vocal cords together. She tastes blood. And suddenly she is reminded of the water, and she realizes that she is so very relieved that she can drink it all. She starts to sob, there in the blood and the sand, but she has no tears.
Four hours later a portal is opened and she is rescued, to find that a year and a half passed for her in less than six hours for them.
Laying in the infirmary back at the castle and listening to them explain how quickly they worked and how hard it was to locate her, it occurs to her that, really, it was only a few seconds that decided her and her partner’s fates. It’s so funny that she bursts out laughing. She laughs and laughs and cannot stop, even when she starts crying, and it takes a sedative knocking her out to stop her.
.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. November 7, 1987
“I can do anything,” the Doctor had told her and she’d almost believed him.
It had always stuck with her, what her mum had said, about her Dad dying alone, but she’d never really understood what an awful fate that was until she’d known girls who’d had to suffer the same. Until it had almost happened to her.
She’d seen one of her girls literally ripped in half by a Grathok demon. She could stand to watch her father get hit by a car if it meant that he wasn’t alone when he died.
And she hadn’t planned it, she really hadn’t. The Doctor never said, but she wasn’t stupid. Obviously there had to be some sort of rules about not going back and fixing every horrible thing that ever happened, like that telly episode about the woman who went back to kill Hitler as a baby, only it didn’t change anything.
But standing there, about to watch him get killed for the second time in an hour, she just couldn’t not.
And maybe, somewhere in the back of her mind she thought even as she started running, just maybe, if she could save her dad, just an ordinary bloke, not some world leader or famous celebrity or even a well-to-do businessman…
Maybe if she could save her dad, then she could save others. Maybe you could change things, fix things, make the world better. Maybe this is what the wolf meant. Maybe this is what she was supposed to do.
But even if it wasn’t, even if she couldn’t save important people, couldn’t stop wars or battles, she thinks as she tackles him to the ground, she could at least save her dad. And if that’s all, it’ll be enough.
And she’d done it. She’d actually done it. She’d been so happy, so ecstatic to see her dad walking and talking minutes after he should’ve died, and she wasn’t going to let the Doctor take that joy away from her.
She should’ve known it’d all go wrong. Should know by now that hope is a lying bitch, like Faith had said. The world’s going to end because of her. The Doctor’s dead ‘cause o’ her. Everyone dead, because of her.
But her dad, her wonderful daddy, he saves the world. He dies to save the world, and the world will never know.
The irony makes her laugh through her sobs.
The Doctor just keeps rocking her.
.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. April 2004
When Mr. Giles does the final debrief three months later, he asks her bluntly, but gently, “Are you angry at us for not being a few minutes earlier… or are you angry that we weren’t a few minutes later?”
Rose can’t answer, she’s afraid to answer. She knows what she had planned to do. How she had sat and waited, sharpening her knives, knowing the swarm would be back. Knowing she couldn’t kill them all.
Mr. Giles sighs and takes off his glasses, “I realize how difficult it must be to reintegrate-”
“Don’t,” Rose cuts him off, “Don’t you dare. This isn’t about trauma, or adjusting, or even having a death wish. I made my decision and you can’t change my mind. I want the cure. I can’t live in a world where these things can happen. I just can’t. I wasn’t meant to be a Slayer and I never would have been called if you and Buffy Summers hadn’t decided to play god.”
He moves to speak, but Rose plows on, “I know. I know why you did it. I was there, I understand-”
“Which is why your experience is so valuable,” the head Watcher interrupts her, “We have so few-”
“I don’t care!” Rose shouts, “I don’t care about the Watchers you need, or-or the training, or fighting the good fight or anyfing else! I don’t care if the world ends because I’m not doing my duty. It shouldn’ve been my duty and I won’t let it be anymore. I’m goin’ home and I’m gonna forget you and this place and this world and just… I just can’t anymore. Alright, I can’t.” She stresses.
“Perhaps if you’d just take a few more weeks-or months if need be-”
“NO!” She yells forcefully, causing him to pull back startled. She looks down at her wringing hands. “I’m done. Alright I’m done. I’ve done my part for this world, an’ I’m not lettin’ it take any more of me. I’m DONE,” she grits out.
He looks at her a long minute, before sighing and reaching for a pen to sign the papers she brought. There’s no sound but the scratch of ink over paper for a minute until he hands the articles back to her. She takes them with a sigh of relief, but he holds onto them for a moment, keeping them in both their grasp.
“You do understand that the drug only mutes the abilities of a Slayer. You’ll never really stop being a Slayer. And each dosage lasts a full month – you won’t be able to change your mind at the spur of the moment. If you get into trouble, or it comes looking for you, you’ll be as helpless as an ordinary human. It’s what it was designed for.”
“Good,” is all she says and she tugs at the document.
He lets her take it, “Of course, should you ever change your mind-”
“I won’t,” she insist quickly and stands to leave.
“If you change your mind, we’ll always welcome you back Miss Tyler.”
Rose turns at the door at looks at Rupert Giles one last time. “I won’t,” she says with conviction, then leaves, shutting the door with a soft snick behind her.
Daleks. Ever since Van Staten’s bunker, they’ve been at the top of her ‘Scariest MF-ing Monsters’ list. Maybe it’s because they’re not evil, not demonic; they kill just because it’s what they’re meant for, without any malice in intent or any pleasure in the doing.
Maybe because they’re the ones responsible for wiping out an entire species of people as wonderful and powerful as the Doctor. His whole world, gone because of them.
Or maybe it’s just because a Slayer is just as useless against them as an ordinary human.
Well, except when running away.
Surrounded by hundreds of them on their ship, she prays the Doctor remembers what she told him in Utah. She knows what it’s like to be responsible for the death of someone you love. It’s a weight she carries everyday, no matter how hard she tries to bury it. It’s not something she would ever want for him. He carries enough undeserved guilt as it is.
Rose has been prepared to die for years. Why did it have to come now, just when she’s finally ready to live? When she’s just starting to love?
Rose Tyler is prepared to die.
The Doctor’s not prepared to let her.
“I’m gonna rescue her! I’m gonna save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet, and then I’m gonna save the Earth, and then! Just to finish off, I’m gonna wipe every last stinkin’ Dalek from the sky!”
She would realize just how much she loves him right before the world ends, wouldn’t she?
“I’m coming to get you.”
And then there’s no time. The Daleks are coming, the Doctor’s building the weapon and Jack’s setting up the lines of defense. She wants to help, but even if she could get back her Slayer skills they’d be useless, and Jack an’ the Doctor have already come up with as good a plan as any.
Sitting there, stripping wire, she wants to tell him. Wants to explain just how much he means to her, what he’s done for her these last few months. But the words won’t come. There’s just no way to describe… just how fantastic he’s been. And anyway, if she said anything now, it would sound like goodbye. She’s had enough end-of-the-world conversations to know it just leads to awkwardness if they survive, and even more bitter sorrow when they don’t.
They’ll get through this. The Doctor will work it out.
And he does, or she thinks he does. She trusts him so much, it never even triggers the slightest warning bell when he leaves her in the Tardis.
And before she can even process what he’s done or his last words left for her in some stupid recording, she’s back on Earth in a chippy, listening to her mother and Mickey blather on about jobs and pizza.
And he’s dying. Hundreds of thousands of years in the future and at that exact moment he’s fighting and dying to save the world.
And he’s alone. He’s going to die alone.
And that- that is just not acceptable.
She considers contacting the Council, calling in that favor the Coven owes her, or even speaking to Mr. Giles. But the revulsion she feels at going back to that world is a strong deterrent. And it’s not her right to inform them about the Doctor, about aliens and what’s out there. It’s too dangerous. For everyone concerned.
They’re two worlds that should never ever meet, nevermind her.
She thinks and thinks and doesn’t dare hope, and she still can’t come up with a way to get back to him. She half-heatedly listens to Mickey try to talk her back into accepting a normal life, and she wants to laugh at just how clueless he is. He knows almost nothing about her, nothing, and thinks he knows everything. He doesn’t even know what she is, let alone who. Maybe the Doctor doesn’t know either, but he understands and that’s enough.
There has to be a way to save him. There has to be a way. The wolf wouldn’t have given her this destiny just to leave and let him die, it wouldn’t-
Bad Wolf here, Bad Wolf there, Bad Wolf everywhere. It’s spelled out clear enough for a three-year old to catch it. She really is a stupid ape.
And it’s a way. It means there’s a way to get back to him. Maybe to save him, maybe just to die with him, but she hopes and prays it’s the first one.
And as she stares into the heart of the Tardis and gives herself to Time, she swears she’ll do anything, anything, if she can just save her Doctor.
It accepts her bargain.
.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. April 2004
One last test. One last assignment before they’ll let her go.
Every Slayer is allowed to make a vision quest at some point in their life, only when they need it most. Only when they desperately need guidance that cannot be found elsewhere.
Whatever. She’s firm in her decision. If they think this will sway her to stay, they’re wrong. Even if the first Slayer tells her the world will end if she leaves, she still will go. If she lives in a world that demands she sacrifices and suffers more than she already has, then… Well, then maybe that world doesn’t deserve to be saved.
So here she is, in Egypt of all places, waiting for her ‘spirit guide’ or whatever to show up and impart its wisdom on her. She kicks the sand and paces. What a bloody waste of time.
She looks up.
“SHIT!” the curse flies out of her mouth as jumps back. It’s there. Standing not more than an inch from where she’d been standing, not the leopard she’d been told to expect, but a wolf, as tall as her, ink black fur and eyes… eyes that gleamed yellow-gold in the light from the fire that had sprung up on her right. Eyes that seemed to bore right through her and judge her. Lying sprawled in the sand, she has a flashback to the way her mother looked the first time she stole a candy bar. Shame and embarrassment flood her.
But then she remembers Chandra, poor Chandra who-
She leaps up, refuses to back away even as the wolf comes closer. Anger is a good emotion. She can use that.
“Is this where you tell me to suck it up, be a good little soldier, and go back to war?”
“Wait,” the wolf/slayer spirit/whatever says in a female voice that sounds strange and familiar, its jaws not moving at all, and she realizes it’s in her head.
“Wait, little cub. You think you know. What you are. What’s to come. You haven’t even begun.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You’re not makin’ any sense, and I’m getting tired of riddles.”
A soft growl shuts her up with a snap of her jaw.
“You will know when your destiny comes. Your fate does not lie with your sisters, or with your people, or in your heritage. Your path is one that you must walk alone, or all the stars shall fall from the sky, every light from the heavens come to darkness, and all that is shall die not with a whimper, but a scream.”
Rose has never been more terrified so quickly in her life. She stands frozen. The wolf stares back at her silently. Waiting.
The fire crackles and sparks wafts up into the sky.
Rose takes a deep breath, closes her eyes and forces the tears back. It’s just not fair. It is so very unfair. Why? ‘Why?!’ she wants to scream. But instead, with a voice barely audible, she asks, “What do I hafta do?”
“You wan’ me to stay with the Council?”
“They cannot prepare you. You must walk alone.”
“I- I can go home?” she asks, barely daring to hope.
The wolf turns its head sideways, regarding her. “Can you?”
“…Right. ‘course. Should’a’ known betta than to expect a proper answer from you.” Rose straightens her shoulders, “So here’s the deal. I go home. I go back to my mum, to the Powell Estate, to, to-, fish and chips and telly an’ goin’ to bed at night and not having sharp weapons lyin’ around or children dyin’ fightin’ monsters or classes on demon mucus and mating habits. I’m going home, and I’m not coming back. Not fightin’ this war ever again. EVER. You got that?”
The wolf nods its head once, solemnly.
“Oh. Okay. Right then. Good. I’m glad tha’s sorted.” Rose nods her head and puts her hands in her cargo pockets. “I’ll be off then.”
The wolf just watches her, the fire lighting patterns across its fur.
“Actually could you leave first? I have this thing about turning my back on creatures with jaws the size of my head.”
The wolf lifts its head to sky. A low quiet whine begin in its throat, then builds and rises into a crescendo until it becomes a howl that shifts and changes from any recognizable animal noise. It shakes her bones and makes her blood hum, and echoes in her mind even as it dies.
The last strains were fading into the night air when she hears, “Wait, little cub. He comes.”
Rose blinks and the wolf and the fire are gone.
“Who?” she calls out into the empty desert. “Who’s ‘he’? Wha’d’you mean?”
“Who?!” she cries.
Only the whistling desert winds are there to answer her.
“What about that one?” Rose asks her new new Doctor.
“That,” he says, in the drawn out bombastic tone she’s not only getting used too, but is starting to love, “is the sun of the Kach system; it’s only inhabitable planet, fifth from the sun, is Zavirex, where the chief export in the three hundred and fourth century is bobble-headed geisha dolls.”
“Get out,” she laughs, turning her head to look at him lying in the grass next to her.
“I’m serious,” he laughs back, turning towards her, their faces inches apart, and she can’t help but notice, rather pathetically, just how lovely he looks in the double moonlight, and how the shadows throw his new new features into such striking contrast.
“Little tiny Geisha dolls with giant heads that wobble,” he says, over enunciating each syllable, and after a moment to bring her thoughts back into focus, she laughs again.
“You’re‘avin’ me on.”
“I am not,” her responds, mock serious.
“There’s… that doesn’ make any sense. How could a whole planet… No. You’re joking.”
“I am completely serious,” he defends himself. He holds up a hand, “Time Lord’s honor.”
She laughs at the way he makes the sounds, “You are so full of it.”
“You don’t believe me,” he says, for the first time actually looking shocked as he raises himself on one elbow to look down at her properly, “You, Rose Tyler, are actually doubting my wisdom and expertise?”
“What wisdom?” She asks, tongue between her teeth.
He opens his mouth wide as he talks, gesturing with his head hand free arm, “Oh, now, now you’ve done it. That is it,” he proclaims as he stands up abruptly, “We are going to the planet of the giant bobble headed geisha dolls - ooh, say that three times fast - and I am going to show you, Rose Tyler, that you are utterly and completely wrong.”
She keeps grinning, snuggling back into his coat, “If you can actually land us at the right place and time.”
“First my knowledge and now my driving skills, blimey! you’re certainly in a fine mood,” he asks, pretending offense as he rocks back on his heels beside her.
“Maybe the moons bring it out,” she jokes, their run-in with Queen Victoria still on her mind, “Aarrooo.”
She regrets it before she’s even really started, and the fake howl dies in her throat after only a second, remembrances of Daleks and deserts, changes and singing, snuffing out her joy in an instant. She can see the way the Doctor’s face sobers instantly, the way his gaze sharpens on her, and all the things they won’t talk about lying between them like a steel wall.
“Well,” her Doctor says, trying to change the subject, “We should get going if we’re going to make the three hundred and fourth century in time. Wouldn’t want to miss all that bobbling.”
She smiles, the light-hearted mood returning. “You just want to get one for the Tardis console,” she teases.
“I do not!” he protests, but taking advantage of his distraction she’s already jumped up and moving. “Race you to the Tardis!” she yells over her shoulder.
“Rose Tyler you little cheat!” He calls after, even as he hurries to grab his coat and run after her.
She just laughs and runs, runs as fast as she can, laughing with complete and utter happiness, runs until she reaches the Tardis without looking behind her, smacking her hand against the wood as she halts herself. She’s breathing heavily, her lungs and muscles burning, and she feels so very very alive. It’s glorious.
She turns to address the Doctor, certain he’s only a few paces behind.
He’s nearly forty meters back down the hill from where they parked the Tardis and already she can see him slowing down as he tackles the incline.
She can see him looking at her but can’t tell the expression on his face.
The blood drains from hers and her jaw goes slack as horror fills her mind. How long has it been? How many days? She tries to count, but the goodbyes and cat nuns and genies and statues and werewolves all blend together. How many days? Did she forget?
God, how could she forget?
He’s almost to her, and she schools her face, tries to calm her frantic heartbeat even as she starts exaggerating heavy breathing. But she’s noticing now. How well she can see in the moonlight, how the smells of the cool night air are so sharp and vivid, the way her body thrums and begs to keep running, how if she concentrates on the Doctor, underneath his movements and his breathing, she can almost hear-
“Blimey you’re fast!” He says as he staggers to her.
She keeps breathing heavily, leaning on the Tardis and grasping her stomach, hoping it’s enough. “Well I should hope so,” she says, desperate to sound cheerful, “After a year of running for my life practically every day, you’d think I’d at least get good at it.” Let him accept it, oh please, let him accept it.
He straightens, tilts his head from side to side in a gesture she’s starting to recognize as pretending to concede to someone else’s point only to start blabbing at a mile a minute on how they’re so wrong.
“Come on,” she says smiling, opening the Tardis doors, “I need to get changed, and then you’re taking me to see those bobble heads.”
She doesn’t give him a chance to respond, just walks through the control room, through the doorway, down the hall, up the stairs, takes the second left, calmly walking steadily and not too fast the whole way, and finally opens her door and enters her room.
She closes and locks the door behind her, quickly heading to her bathroom and the medicine cabinet within. A small, non-descript case is pulled out and she opens it to see the counter on the inside of the lid.
She quickly tries to take out on of the tiny, individually shrink-wrapped capsules, her hands shaking so bad, she almost drops and spills the case. She manages to get one out and then fumbles and curses as she tries to take the tiny pill out of its wrapping.
She finally succeeds, then practically inhales it as she rushes to swallow it. Two glasses of water from the sink chase it down, and finally, finally, she can calm down.
She resets the ticker in the case to 00 days, closes it and places it back into the cabinet, shutting the door and being confronted with her own reflection in the glass.
She stares at herself for several minutes. She waits.
The minutes pass and the thundering drip of the faucet slowly quiets down to normal levels. The minute details she can see in the mirror, that faint scar beside her ear, every blemish and pore slowly blur. The furor in her body dies.
She breathes and drops her head, her arms grasping the counter top and holding her up.
She’s Rose Tyler again. Shop girl from the Powell Estates. Time-traveling companion to the Doctor.
She won’t forget again.
“So,” she asks ten minutes later, changed and back in the control room, “I’m pretty sure that tossing about that made me bang my knee on the dresser means we’ve landed. Ready to show me some bobbling vehicle accessories.”
“Ah, well,” he says, drawing out the syllables as he stares at the screen.
“We’re not on Zavirex in the three hundred and fourth century, are we?” she asks, a teasing grin blooming across her face.
“Not quite,” he concedes as he rubs the back of his neck. She decides that move means ‘I’m embarrassed, can we please not talk about this?’
She comes right up to him and leans back against the console, grasping it with her hands on either side and asks, “How ‘not quite’?”
“Maybe… a few centuries? Well, millennia. Well… a few tens of millennia. But we’re close spatially! Well, a few systems. Or, a, galaxy,” he fades quietly.
The grin she’s been fighting burst out of her with a laugh. He immediately starts defending himself, rambling about all the long-syllabled parts that need fixing or adjusting or-
“Have I told you lately just how much I love traveling with you?” She asks.
His defensive posture melts and he gives her one of those bright goofy grins that says ‘Rose Tyler is amazingly fantastic and all’s right in the universe’ and that makes her stomach flutter and her knees go weak.
“Not today, you haven’t.”
She leans forward close enough to smell his soap, “Well I do, every second of every day. Even when we don’t land where we plan. Actually,” she pauses to pretend to think about it, “Especially
when we don’t land where we plan.” Her tongue peeks between her teeth for a brief moment, “s’more fun that way.”
He just grins and regards her, “I think so too.”
A moment later he’s bounding around the console, heading for the door, and he turns to watch her skip up to him as he walks backwards, “So, Rose Tyler. Shall we see what’s out there?”
She waits for him to put on his coat, then grasps his hand in hers, “We shall.”
.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. September 2004
Adjusting back to normal life is far easier than she’d thought it would be. Maybe it’s just the monthly potion dose, taken in the disguise of a contraceptive pill and dampening her slayer abilities, maybe it’s the way nothing, NOTHING, has changed since she ran away so long ago, how vastly different this life is from that other one, that makes slaying seem like a dream. It was all just a bad nightmare and now she’s woken up. Or maybe she fell asleep again. Either way, she finds herself scouring the want ads for jobs while eating chips and ice cream and actually being happy about the weight it puts on, no more Slayer metabolism keeping her lean. She listens to her mother ranting about no-good Jimmy Stone and actually enjoys the sound. She doesn’t have nightmares. Oh she dreams about the horrors she’s seen sometimes, wakes up in the middle of the night from one of a thousand memories she’d like to forget. But they don’t terrify her. It’s like there’s a glass pane between her and them and they can’t touch her. Like watching telly or hearing a story that happened to someone else. Not her.
For a while she embraces the normalcy, practically bounces when she gets hired by a shop (She’s a shop girl! What could ever happen to a shop girl?). She runs into Mickey again. Sweet, kind, perfect, wonderful Mickey who forgives her before she can even finish saying how sorry she is for how she treated him. He’s in love with her, a good bloke, a really decent guy who’s not a demon in disguise or a star-crossed and doomed love. It’s like the universe has bent over backwards giving her a perfectly ordinary, boring life, and for a while she embraces it.
But three months in that itch returns. Not the one that makes a Slayer rise in the middle of the night and seek prey, but the one she felt before all that. The one that convinced her to run off with Jimmy, so excited to get off the Powell Estates. She finds herself staring at the stars, wishing once again that she could be a million miles away from all this, wishing even more now that she knows what lurks underneath. She finds her eyes lingering on posters of New York, Tokyo, the Bahamas. She feels a war inside her. ‘Stay. Stay safe. No more fighting, no more bloodshed, never again. Stay.’ ‘Go. See the world. Help people. Find more. There has to be more.’ ‘No more death. Never again. Stay.’ ‘There’s good out there too. There must be a better way. Go.’
The argument plays out in her head. Go. Stay. Live. Don’t die. But she has her mum, who went through hell while she was gone. And Mickey, sweet wonderful and loyal Mickey. Maybe it’s not the epic love most girls dream about, but she knows enough now to know epic loves are usually epic because they don’t end well. And after all he’s forgiven her, how good he is to her now, he deserves more. Her mum deserves more.
She ignores the voice that says she does too.
.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. In the Vortex
“I couldn’t sleep,” Rose announces her presence in the control room.
The Doctor looks up from the book he’s been reading, taking in her rumpled pajamas and drawn face. He closes the book and takes off his glasses, dropping his feet off the console and sitting up. He pats the space next to him on the jump seat.
Rose gifts him with a small smile and shuffles over to him. “Budge up,” she says as she nudges his knee and he makes room for her. She plops down, curling her legs on the seat beside her and resting her head on his shoulder in a single move. He wraps his arm around her, resting his hand on her elbow.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asks.
“They’re just dreams,” she lies.
“Hmm… true. Still, might help to stop having them if you talked about them.”
“You’re one to talk,” she snorts, and then immediately regrets it, “Sorry, I didn’ mean-”
“S’alright,” he reassures her, rubbing her arm.
She’s quiet for a long time. When she finally speaks, it’s in a whisper, “Do you- do you still think about them? Your family, I mean. You- you said you were a dad once and… and when you said you’re whole planet was gone, I never… I just never thought…”
She twists to look at his face. It’s frozen into a mask that would look downright scary if she didn’t know him, if she didn’t recognize the enormous pain behind his gaze.
“I’m sorry you lost them,” she says quietly, and turns back around in his arms. A long moment passes and she bites her lip, considers saying something to distract him, knows how he’ll jump on a new topic and pretend she never brought this up.
“I don’t,” he says suddenly.
She turns her head a bit more into him, but not enough to see his face. “I don’t think about them,” he starts again, “not ever. There’s not really any point to it is there, I mean-”
“I understand,” she cuts him off before he can start babbling and breaking down. She takes the hand not wrapped around her elbow into hers. She threads her fingers through his and brushes the manly hairs on the back of his manly hairy hand and smiles just a little. “I understand,” she whispers again and lets herself think about Chandra who would tell a story nearly every night in hell and Vickie who was an arrogant insulting rich snob every day, all day, until she threw herself on a sword coming down on Rose and Yoshi who never talked to anyone and no one knew very well, and little Diana who had just turned thirteen and was so eager and violent and cute and went out on her own the night Rose had yelled at her and poor brave Amanda who never tasted alcohol or had a job or fell in love or had even ever been kissed she confessed to Rose the night before-
“Take me somewhere spectacular,” Rose says suddenly.
He’s up and bounding around the console, and she can feel the cold seep in from where he’s left her side. “Dress warmly,” he warns as he switches knobs and pulls levers.
He takes her to see a sunrise, a beginning, and she wonders again how they can know and understand each other so well without ever saying anything.
He doesn’t talk, doesn’t go into a rant explaining the planet or the sting-ray like creatures that are starting to wake up and fly around their heads, dancing through the sky in the early morning light.
Rose watches the sky lighten into pink and gold, and listens to the cries of the creatures as they made pirouettes in the sky.
“I had this friend once,” Rose began, “she used to tell me stories. All kinds of stories. Fairy tales passed down for generations to little childhood anecdotes to even boring history lessons I swear she must’ve memorized.”
“This one time,” Rose continues slowly, “when we… well we…” Rose cleared her throat, “I was sor’of down ‘cuz of some stuff that happened and I asked her to tell me a story. I told her I wanted a story that was true, had actually happened in real life, had good and evil and a long fight or struggle… but that ended well. I wanted a story with a happy ending, and she said… she said, ‘There’s no such thing as a story with a happy ending - only a story teller that stops the tale at a convenient spot.’”
“Wise girl, your friend,” the Doctor says.
Rose keeps watching the sky, all the things she wants to say catching in her throat and racing through her mind.
‘The Beast didn’t lie, that approaching storm isn’t nothing, and my dreams aren’t just dreams, and you know it don’t you, Doctor? You know and you won’t say, you can’t say, can’t even think about it just like you can’t think about your family and your people and you won’t think about me when I’m gone will you? You’ll never mention me an’ you’ll never think about me, and I wish I could wish that you would.’
‘I don’t want to die. I’m not ready. Not anymore.’
‘I don’t want to leave you. Not ever, and I’ll fight against the whole universe if tha’s what it takes.’
‘I love you.’
“I don’ know,” Rose says instead, “Maybe you just need a story that doesn’t end,” she muses, and without looking, she can feel the Doctor’s smile.
The sun’s rising an’ there’s a storm coming and in sixteen days the potion’s effect is going to run out and she’s not going to take another dose.
Rose Tyler is prepared to live.
“How long are you gonna stay with me?” The Doctor asks and she can feel his eyes rest on her.
She turns to smile at him, “Forever,” she says and it is not an idle response, but the oath of a Slayer with something to fight for again.
The Doctor smiles back, feeding the hope in her heart, and they stand grinning at each other as the sun finally peaks over the horizon.
.-.-.-.-.-.-.-. September, 2006
“Tea?” Giles asks as he pours himself a cup. The urge to take off his glasses and clean them is strong, but he tamps down his nervousness. He’s the father figure to some of the most powerful living legends on the planet; having a Time Lord, THE Time Lord appear in his office and demand his help shouldn’t shake him so.
“I didn’t come here for a cuppa, I can get-” The alien stops himself and clenches his jaw and Giles recognizes the pain of loss on the deceptively young features. “Nevermind that, can you do it or not?”
Giles added sugar and milk and sat down behind his desk, trying to appear unfazed by the myth standing in front of him. “I’m assuming you’re referring to the request you made to Buffy a few days ago? The one that led to that rather impressive bruise around your eye.”
“Well,” the Time Lord said casually, “I’ve always had bad luck with important historical figures. Least the human ones, they always hate having someone more impressive than them showing them up. Still, least she didn’t try to kill me. Or banish me from the planet.”
“I was under the impression that her knocking you unconscious and throwing you out of the castle had more to do with your insinuating that Buffy doesn’t care for the lives of her slayers, and considers them, what was the phrase she said you used, ‘chattel for her war’ I believe it was.”
The Last of the Time Lords, the Ka Faraq Gatri, stands in Giles office and looks more like a rebuked teenager than a Destroyer of Worlds.
“She started it,” the Doctor defends, pushing his hands in his pockets.
Giles stares at him for a long moment, cup poised in the air, before plopping the tea down, whipping off his glasses and pulling a cloth out of pocket.
“The universe is doomed,” he states as he start furiously wiping the lenses.
“Can you do it or not?” the Doctor asks again, regaining his poise.
Giles leans back in his chair, “It’s not a question of ability, I’m sure you already know. What you’re asking is not impossible. Highly unlikely and very difficult, but you’ll find there are few things we can’t do if we are determined. And even if we refused to help you, I’m well aware that there are other forces in this world that would literally kill one another for a chance to strike a bargain with you.”
He looks the Doctor in the eye, “But have you considered the cost of what you’re asking?”
“I can pinpoint the exact universe for you, I can even help navigate whatever dimensions you need to, I can get the supplies-”
“That’s not what I meant,” the Watcher interrupts him. “Magic always comes with a price, usually not commiserate with the actual deed, but often determined by how badly the petitioner wants what he seeks.”
“The forces you would need for this are not kind bargainers, and you have knowledge and power that can topple and create entire realities. And even beyond that, it is in the cruel nature of such deities to often make the people we love pay the price for our sins, rather than ourselves. You might save Rose, for a little time. But eventually, you would damn her.”
“You don’t know that,” the Doctor persists.
“No,” Giles concedes, “perhaps not. Perhaps you’ll be fortunate and you two will be reunited and nothing bad will ever come of a Time Lord interfering in a pan-dimensional war that’s been raging since the dawn of time itself. Perhaps bringing one of the few truly exceptional Slayers I’ve had the fortune of knowing back into a world that supreme forces have gone to extraordinary lengths to get her out of will have absolutely no effect on the final outcome of the war between good and evil.”
Giles raises his hands in a sarcastic gesture of helplessness, “What would I know about interfering in the destinies of Slayers. Of trying to rescue them from the cruel fates placed upon them. Of the resulting punishments of such actions. I’m not a Time Lord. I don’t have the luxury of knowing the future; only the wisdom to heed the past.”
Giles places his glasses back on the bridge of his nose, “I’m quite aware that I can’t stop you if you’re determined to follow through on this course of action, and I dare say the damage you’ll cause will at least be lessened somewhat if taken through our channels rather than calling upon darker powers.”
“So it comes down to my original question, Doctor,” Giles addresses him, “Have you considered the cost?”
“She’s Rose,” The Doctor says, voice breaking on her name, “She-” the Time Lord breaks off, and if there’s one thing Giles knows, it is heartbreak.
Giles opens up a drawer on his left and pulls out a small brown paper package. He stands and walks over to the grieving Time Lord, “perhaps, if there was some way for you to… accept Miss Tyler’s leaving-”
“What are you talking about?” the Doctor asks him sharply.
“Willow sent this to me yesterday,” Giles answers, handing the package over to the Time Lord, his attention riveted to the small box at the mention of Willow’s name.
“She told me to give it to you, and said to tell you that what we need and what we think we need are two very different things.”
“What is it?” The Doctor asks, hesitantly and reverently taking the box.
“I don’t know,” Giles answers honestly. “When I asked her she said ‘two minutes,’ and then disappeared as quickly as she dropped in. She’s becoming a bit indecipherable these days, I’ll admit.”
“It’s not a way to save Rose,” the Doctor states.
“No,” Giles admits, before gently adding, “but perhaps it’s a way to save you.”
She doesn’t move. Her eyes stay fixed on the horizon, on the grey of the sky blending into the grey of the sea, the buffeting wind sliding across her numbed cheeks.
“Rose, it’s been four hours,” Mickey tries again from her side, but she’s not listening.
There’s a howling in the wilderness.
“Rose,” he tries again, touching her arm.
“Just a little longer, Mickey,” she says, not moving an inch.
There’s a long pause from him, before he concedes, “Alright Rose. We’ll wait a little longer.” He walks away, and she strains her ears, listening to memories and ghosts. If it’s my last chance to say it…
The wolf still howls. It’s calling her again, and she grieves. For a time, for such a brief time, it had been silent and she had known peace. Rose Tyler,
But peace is not for soldiers. Not for warriors.
Not for Slayers.