Characters: Rose Tyler, River Song
Edited by: the steadfast buckaroobob
Word count: 1,443
Summary: Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. Two women who should have had more time to know each other.
Author's Note: This was written during the 2012 fandom_stocking effort for canaan , who mentioned her interest in emotionally intense stories involving Rose and River. I love both of these amazing women, and I hope I've proven respectful of them as well.
Disclaimer: as much as I wish it were otherwise, no Whoniverse characters are mine. They are the sole properties of the BBC and their respective creators. I intend no copyright infringement, and take no coin. I do, however, love them all, and thank the BBC for letting me play in their sandbox.
“You’re Rose Tyler, aren’t you?”
“Yeah … can I help you?”
“I’m sure you can.”
It was the way she said it that made Rose abandon both the remains of her lunch and the frayed weariness of another escape fantasy. What she saw made her blink.
The woman looked to be about 45, with an unruly mass of strawberry blonde hair barely restrained in a careless ponytail. She was good looking, Rose thought, eyeing the broad mouth and elegant eyebrows, really good looking as a matter of fact, but she wasn’t dressed very well. That beige sleeveless thing that she’d tossed over what looked like a pair of black tights was odd, and the boots and broad leather belt, not to mention the obviously fake gun holstered on one shapely leg, screamed “cosplay” so loudly that Rose wondered if she’d missed seeing a convention flyer in Mickey’s mail.
“Do you mind if I sit down?”
Warily, Rose gestured to the park bench. It was broad daylight, and the lunchtime crowd enjoying the late spring sun would probably offer insurance against any danger. But she wasn’t sure she liked the fact that the woman knew her name.
Could it be one of Mum’s friends? She resisted scowling at the thought of Jackie sending one of her frowsy acquaintances over to spy on her daughter, the uppity shopgirl. Or — she looked up and past the woman — was Neville somewhere about, having a go at her? He’d already sent her three “customers” this morning, each with ever more ridiculous demands taking her away from her real chores. She had half a mind to go to his manager; he might call it just a bit of fun, but she knew he was angry because she’d slapped his hand away last week.
With a smooth economy of motion, the woman sat down and arranged herself, one knee casually over the other in a pose that made the foolish dress look almost sexy. She leaned back for a moment, letting the sun turn her hair to fire, then said, “Neville didn’t send me. And I doubt your mum would want me anywhere near you.”
Rose’s eyes widened. “Wha-”
“No, I didn’t read your mind. But you just hung up on your mother after a rather loud conversation, and Neville made at least one very rude comment when he directed me over here. He wants disciplining, that one … Don’t you want to know my name?”
The woman arched one of those brows, but the smile seemed genuine, and Rose almost smiled back before she thought better of it and shook herself slightly. This one was strange, and the last thing she needed on a Wednesday was strange. She needed ordinary, and safe, and so she said, in her frostiest tone, “Do I know you?”
The woman chuckled, but it sounded sad. “No.”
Perhaps the sadness was why Rose didn’t simply get up and walk away; that and the unwanted but familiar itch of curiosity at the base of her brain. “You talked to Neville? Were you looking for me?”
“I wasn’t certain I was, until he made his rude comment. He doesn’t think much of independent women, especially the ones who call him a sweaty, eight-handed wanker.” Now the woman’s grin was wicked. Against her better judgement, Rose grinned back.
“Well, at least six-handed.”
At that, the woman laughed delightedly, the sound deep and full-throated as she flung her head back, dislodging more curly tendrils from the increasingly tenuous hold of the hair elastic. Rose joined her.
Once their laughter subsided, Rose pursed her lips and looked at her companion, her eyes narrowed, but still friendly. “Alright, you’ve got my attention. What’s your name, then?”
“Melody.” When she put out her hand, Rose shook it, which seemed to please the other woman a great deal.
“And why were you looking for me?” Rose might instinctively like this unfashionably beautiful stranger, but she hadn’t lost sight of just how odd the situation was.
“Ah. Yes.” The woman — Melody? What a pretty name, Rose thought, almost out of a fairy tale — sighed. “I shouldn’t really have, you know. He’ll be simply furious if he finds out, and I suppose I’ll end up telling him, but I couldn’t resist it. Couldn’t resist you.”
This was definitely where she should get up and run, not walk, out of the park, across the street and back to Henrik’s, Rose thought. Or perhaps over to the police officer over on the corner. And yet she continued to sit.
Melody grimaced. “Oh, dear. I’m being needlessly opaque, aren’t I? And a little rude myself. I apologise. You don’t have to worry about another sweaty, eight-handed wanker. I rarely grope unless I’m invited to.”
“Here’s the thing, though,” she said, suddenly reaching over and taking both of Rose’s hands in her own. “I know someone … someone who is going to be very, very important to you in a very, very short time. You’re going to be very important to them, too. Very healthy for them, you might say. You’re going to bring them at least halfway back into the light. And I suppose that should be enough for me. But it isn’t.”
Melody’s hands were calloused, but gentle and warm. Rose couldn’t remember the last time someone had simply held her hands like that. She and her friends never touched each other. Her mother always hugged too hard; Jimmy had always pawed, and Mickey’s affection was always awkwardly tentative.
The older woman continued to speak, as if this wasn’t a completely surreal one-sided conversation.
“Because I’ve discovered that this person … well, this person tends to know the most amazing people. Really quite remarkable ones, people who can see wonder, who leap into adventure without much of a glance behind them. Brilliant people, some of them. And so many of them are kind — beyond kind, almost irrationally compassionate. They’re all a lot better than m- they’re the type of people who are good to know.”
“My parents are like that,” she said. “But it’s very … very hard to see them these days. And I need all the good people I can find. So I’ve bent the rules a bit. I’ve gone back and I’ve met Martha, and Donna, and I keep in touch with the Capt— no, can’t forget, no spoilers — with someone else you’ll meet. And so many others, some you’ll know and some you’ll never know. And everyone of you are worth knowing.
“But there are so many of you, and even bending the rules doesn’t give me all the time I need.” She frowned then, and looked up at the sun again. “I’m fairly sure I haven’t got much time left.” Rose’s heart clenched at the flat way she said it.
“River, River, River, when would I ever let a simple tri-coded temporal shunt program keep me from finding the trail of that artron-shedding piece of junk you travel with? You’re clever but not that — oh.”
The young man came careening out from behind a tree Rose was reasonably sure was far too slender to have hidden even his weedy frame. He stopped dead when he saw the two of them, his long white hands flying up as if to protect himself. Rose could never after decide whether the look in his deep-set eyes was anger or delight as he looked first at Melody, then at her.
“This is Rose Tyler,” Melody said to him. She looked utterly and supremely unsure of herself.
“I know,” he said, very softly.
“I had to, my love.”
He said nothing for what seemed like a very long time. Then: “I suppose you did. I suppose I’d have been disappointed if you’d never tried to.”
Then he smiled, and Rose smiled, too, because his face was abruptly quite beautiful. “Hello. Hello, Rose Tyler.”
“Hello.” She didn’t know what else to say.
“I’m sorry, but we have to be going.” He sounded as sad as Melody had.
Rose looked at Melody. Melody nodded. “We’re going to see the Singing Towers, you see. He even got a haircut.”
The man’s eyes were bright with tears. “I did, didn’t I?”
“Goodbye,” Melody said. She leaned over and kissed Rose softly on the cheek, then stood up and claimed the young man’s right arm. The two walked out of the park and away from her without a backward glance. Rose watched as they crossed the street and turned a corner, gone from her life as unexpectedly as they’d arrived.
That night, a man in a leather coat grabbed Rose’s hand. She remembered Melody, and what Melody had said about her.