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Title: Anchor Line
Author: Ponygirl
Rating: PG
Characters: Nine, Rose, Jack, Jackie, Mickey
Spoilers: Season 27
Warnings: Death of a minor character. NOT one of those listed above.

A/N: This fic is for [livejournal.com profile] wendymr, who was the runner-up in my Author Auction. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] cytherea999 and [livejournal.com profile] dark_aegis for their helpful beta-reading.

Who_Daily: a href="http://ponygirl72.livejournal.com/27361.html">Anchor Line by lj user="ponygirl72"> (Nine, Rose, Jack, Jackie, Mickey) | PG | Spoilers: DW Season 27)

Anchor Line

"We should have gone with her," Jack says for the umpteenth time.

The Doctor remains resolutely buried in the guts of the TARDIS console, his voice muffled, but still noticeably clipped.

"She said she wanted to go alone."

"She said she wanted to go alone because she didn't think you'd go even if she asked. She was trying to make it easy on you."

A grunt echoes up from beneath the floor panel and, for a moment, Jack thinks that's all the answer he's going to get.

"Domestics," the muffled voice continues. "Useless at 'em. She's better off with her mum, much as it pains me to say it. Give her a chance to make up with Ricky the Idiot, as well, after all that drama in Cardiff."

Jack rolls his eyes heavenward for a moment.

"Uh-huh. And that's what you want, is it?"

"Jus' want her to be happy, Captain. 'Sides, idiot or no, he's not really such a bad ape."

"And if she's got a boyfriend back home, it helps to avoid certain awkward situations on the TARDIS," Jack suggests, prodding a little.

He is rewarded with eye contact as the Doctor slides back out of his cubby-hole.

"Don't be ridiculous." The mild tone is slightly at odds with the sharp blue gaze. "Y'know, not all of us rely on the little brain to do our thinking for us." His eyes slide down to an area somewhat below Jack's belly button level before sliding back up with a definite this-discussion-is-terminated glint.

Jack raises an eyebrow, unconvinced.

* * *

"... we commend our sister, Shareen..."

Rose Tyler stands next to her mum and Mickey, letting the words wash over her like the drizzling rain, flowing past without really touching her.

"... and we commit her body to the ground. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, and dust to dust."

"Amen," mumble several of the people around her, not quite in sync.

Shareen's mum steps forward, supported by her son, Tommy, and tosses a handful of dirt into the dark hole in the ground. Rose flinches at the sound of earth hitting wood, the cold reality of the noise penetrating the fuzzy cotton-wool feeling that has surrounded her for the last day or so, since her mother's phone call interrupted lunch in the TARDIS.

* * *

"Regardless of that, Doctor, the fact remains that she's a nineteen-year-old woman whose childhood friend was just killed in a road accident. She needs to grieve."

"Grieving's best done in private, Captain," the Time Lord says, tightening a loose connection as if the wires are the most fascinating thing in the universe.

Jack watches the closely guarded features, and is assailed by a sudden and blinding flash of the obvious.

Apparently, none of those doctorates are in psychology, eh, Doctor? Projecting, much? he thinks.

"Bull," he says aloud. "You and I are soldiers. All right," he continues, cutting across the incipient objection, "maybe not anymore... but we were. It's one thing when you're standing in the middle of a battlefield, and everyone around you is a potential enemy, a superior, or a subordinate. But it's different when you're among friends. It's healthy to seek out a shoulder to lean on, every once in awhile."

"She ever tell you about what happened with her father?" The Doctor asks, seemingly out of nowhere.

"Um, yeah. The basics, anyway," Jack answers after a beat, momentarily thrown by the sudden change of subject.

"Then let me tell you what happened afterward. She's strong-- doesn't need the likes of me to hold her up. After her dad died, I brought her back into the TARDIS. Tried to sit her down; make her some tea. Asked her if she needed anything. She jus' looked up, calm as you please, and said she needed some time alone. I let her go. She disappeared into the TARDIS for two days, then walked into the console room the following morning, and asked where we going next. Never said another word about it."

Jack sighs, shaking his head in disbelief. "Then accept a word of advice, from a human who's been around the block a time or two. Don't make that mistake again."

* * *

"Come back to the flat, sweetheart," Jackie says from the front seat of the car. "We'll have a nice cup of tea and then go to the wake. I got some of those little biscuits in-- the ones you like, with the chocolate swirls on top."

Rose just nods. A feeling of pressure is gradually building inside her. She sees Mickey's eyes flicker back to look at her in the rear-view mirror as he drives the three of them back to the Powell Estates. His expression reminds her of the wary looks from the tight little knot of her former mates at the funeral; looks that made it clear they half expected her to run off and disappear like she'd done twice before; the first time she left with the Doctor, and then, again, after the Slitheen. The looks that said she'd become an outsider.

That's what she feels like. She's seen so much life, so much death that she can't fit herself into the old, familiar rituals of mourning in her own time and place. Mourning her own best friend. She needs to get away; to be alone until she can wrap her brain around it, around the blank lid of the closed casket, hiding the round, pretty face, mangled beyond the ability of 21st century makeup to cover.

The doors of the Mini slam behind them as they exit the car, and she looks up at the square grey structure where she lived for the first nineteen years of her life. The pressure rises by another few degrees. They walk, and a flash of blue appears between two columns across the way.

Rose's hand digs into her pocket almost of its own volition, clutching the small piece of metal nestled there.

"Mum... I just need... I'm sorry; I just need a few minutes alone, yeah? I... I'll be up in a little bit."

And she's off, blotting out Jackie's hurt voice; Mickey's look of resignation. Walking becomes jogging... almost becomes running, and then the rough, blue door is under her palm, and the lock is turning under her hand. And maybe Jack and the Doctor aren't in the control room, and she can just slip back to her own room and let everything go for a few minutes, where no one can see... but they are there. Of course they are.

Two pairs of blue eyes dart up, and settle on her. She'll have to be strong for just a little bit longer. She's never cried in front of Jack, and she's only ever broken down in front of the Doctor once-- after the first time she watched her dad die, in 1987.

And look what happened then. She knows she can't be weak like that again.

* * *

Jack is startled out of his verbal stand-off with the Doctor by the creak of the TARDIS door opening. He turns. It's Rose, of course-- who else could it be?-- though she isn't due back for hours, yet.

She looks a little too pale and a little too trapped, standing inside the doorway, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that she's hovering on the edge of mild shock.

"Back early, aren't you? Figured you'd be at the wake for a while, yet," the Doctor says from somewhere behind him.

"Yeah... well, the wake isn't for another hour or so. Thought I'd, y'know, freshen up a bit first." She gestures past them, toward the inner door, and Jack has to fight the urge to shake the pair of them until they drop the "everything's-fine-don't-mind-me" double act.

Instead, as she skirts around the console, intent on escaping into the depths of the ship, he asks, "Are you alright, Rose? You look a little pale. Sure you don't want to sit down for a minute, first?"

He gives her points for meeting his eyes, but her small, pasted-on smile wouldn't fool a blind Atraxian trader. "No. S'okay. I'll just go spend a few minutes cleaning up; it was pretty wet out there. I'm fine, Jack," she insists, slipping past him.

Jack glances over her shoulder. The Doctor is watching her with the weight of years behind his eyes, and for a moment Jack can believe that he's looking at a centuries old alien instead of a human male in his early forties.

"No, you're not," the Time Lord says flatly.

Rose freezes, and Jack can see her begin to tremble slightly. "Wh-- what?"

"You're not fine."

The trembling increases, and Jack holds his breath, afraid to break the moment as the Doctor moves deliberately toward her.

"You feel like you're going to break into a million pieces, and if you let go, you're afraid you'll never be able to stop."

The haunted look in the back of the Doctor's eyes tells Jack everything he needs to know about where that particular insight comes from, but his voice is calm and sure as he comes to a stop in front of Rose. Jack steps up behind her and places a supportive hand on her shoulder.

"I..." she pauses, and Jack can feel her shaking as she exhales an almost-sob. She raises her eyes to meet the Doctor's. "She wasn't supposed to die. She was my best mate! The people I left behind aren't supposed to die!"

"Shh." The Doctor reaches forward and gently pulls her against him. She fights the tears for a moment longer, her hands twisting in the wool of his jumper, before silent sobs begin to heave her body.

Jack rubs slow circles on her back, watching the Doctor provide the very comfort that he can never seek for himself, and feels an unaccustomed prickling behind his own eyes. Following a hunch, he wraps his arms gently around both of his friends.

The Doctor stiffens for a bare instant, then Jack feels a slight, hitched breath as the tension slowly eases out of tightly held muscles... trying to accept the gesture in the spirit that it's being given.

They stay like that for several minutes, until Rose's tears subside and she becomes heavy and pliant in their arms. Jack strokes her hair back from the side of her face. "Better now?"

Hesitantly, she nods against the Doctor's chest.

"Ready to get cleaned up, and go to that wake?" Jack continues.

"Yeah." She sniffles, and Jack performs a quick mental inventory before pulling out the one handkerchief that doesn't have engine grease on it. "It's just..."

"What is it, Rose?" he asks, handing her the white square of cloth.

"Just-- will you two come with me?" She ducks her head, embarrassed, and dabs at her eyes.

"'Course we will," the Doctor says, before Jack can answer. "You only had to ask."

She lets out a breath of relief.

"After all," he continues, deadpan, "I haven't been slapped by Jackie in, ooh, must be several weeks, now, at least."

"For once, I think she's probably angrier at me than you," Rose answers, with the tiniest hint of a smile-- genuine, this time. "Let me sort myself out, and we'll head out. Together?"

"Together," Jack says.


(no subject)

Date: 2008-10-29 04:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wendymr.livejournal.com
Oh, this is just perfect! I love the parallel scenes, so like an episode, with the Doctor and Jack working and talking while Rose is at the funeral. Such a sad thing to happen, and of course she's devastated, and you've used it so well to show her growing alienation from her home and family, and the Doctor's lack of understanding of the human psyche - or perhaps his lack of willingness to understand. He wants to, sort of, but he's afraid of dropping some of those walls. And then there's Jack, who's been in both of their shoes in the past and is just the person they both needed to build the bridge between the Doctor's alienness and terrible experience and Rose's humanity and naivété.

Absolutely lovely, sad, poignant, hard-hitting in parts and very honest as regards the characters, and with just the right amount of comfort. Thank you so much for writing it!

(no subject)

Date: 2008-10-29 12:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ponygirl72.livejournal.com
You're absolutely welcome, my dear. Thanks for your generosity in the auction, both as a writer and as a bidder. I'm glad I could contribute in some small way, and without you, I would never have known about http://supportstacie.net in the first place.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-10-30 05:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cytherea999.livejournal.com
I love it.
You've done really well.
It's nice to see it posted.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-10-30 02:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ponygirl72.livejournal.com
Thank you for all of your help with it! I really appreciate you jumping in to beta read, and I'm glad you enjoyed it. :-)


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