Authors: goldy_dollar & _thirty2flavors
Characters/Pairings: Ten II/Rose
Genre: Angst, drama
Warnings: No standard warnings apply, but it does deal with themes of memory loss.
Summary: When the Doctor is injured during an alien attack, he and Rose are left struggling to cope with the aftermath.
Excerpt: It would be driving him crazy, this sudden and total dependence on her. The Doctor often stubbornly insisted on going it alone and now he had no choice but to rely completely on her.
Previous parts: Part One
Author's note: Wow, this is much later than we intended to update, sorry! One scene took way longer to write than we anticipated. There shouldn't be such a big gap between this and the next part.
Rose woke up feeling stiff and dreading the day ahead of her. The sofa wasn’t uncomfortable, but it wasn’t a bed, and it had been a long time since she’d had to sleep on such a small surface — or alone. She sat up slowly, cracking her back and rolling her neck. How long was it going to be until the Doctor was ready to share a bed again? How long would it be until it stopped feeling like the man she loved had been replaced by a stranger? She could remember feeling like this the Christmas he’d regenerated, but it hadn’t taken her too long to come around to the idea that he was the same man wearing a different face. Now, it felt like the opposite — a new man in the Doctor’s body.
You’re getting ahead of yourself, she thought, taking a deep breath. It had been less than a day. She couldn’t give up on him yet.
But when she turned around and caught sight of the Doctor standing in the kitchen, she couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
He was standing with his back to her, his arms folded defensively across his chest like he used to do. She could tell from his posture that he wasn’t any more at ease with his surroundings than he had been the day before. His suit jacket was nowhere to be found, and the sleeves of his shirt were rolled up to his elbows. His damp hair was lying flat, like he hadn’t quite known what to do with it, and he appeared to be having a staring contest with the refrigerator.
Rose swung her legs over the side of the sofa and stood up, stretching as she walked toward the kitchen. “Morning.” She glanced towards the fridge. “Is... everything okay?”
“Yeah, fine,” he said, in that tone of voice that always meant it was anything other than “fine”.
Rose frowned. It was hard to get the Doctor to open up in the best of times — how was she supposed to do it when he didn’t even trust her?
“Have we got another clothes cupboard or something?” he went on. “All I could find to wear were suits.”
Rose blinked. “Um... no.” She gave him an awkward smile. “You just... like wearing suits.”
The Doctor raised an eyebrow at her. “What, every day?”
“Um... yes?” Rose shrugged. “It looks good on you.”
He stared at her like she was mad — like she was the one who wore the same thing every day — and then went back to staring at the fridge like it was some kind of enemy. Rose looked from the Doctor to the fridge and back again.
“If you’re hungry, you know, help yourself,” said Rose. “I mean, it is your food.”
“Yeah, I’ve got that, thanks,” the Doctor said, sharp enough that Rose raised her eyebrows. Catching her look, he sighed and scratched the back of his neck. “I don’t know what I want,” he mumbled. “I don’t know what I like.” He dropped his hands to his sides, defeat written all over his face. “I can’t even make myself breakfast.”
“It’s all right,” Rose said reflexively, stepping around him into the kitchen. “I’ll make something, you--”
“No.” The sharp edge to his voice was back again, that tone he had when his frustration was ready to boil over. “It’s fine, I can manage.” He reached around her, grabbing something from the fruit basket.
Rose spun around. “You don’t actually...” She flinched as he bit into the pear and pulled a face. “...like pears.”
The Doctor scowled at the pear as though it was solely responsible for all his woes. “Yeah,” he said curtly. “Guess not.” He looked around the room, then pulled open the cupboard beneath the sink and tossed the pear in the bin.
“Here.” Well aware that his irritation was growing every second, Rose grabbed a banana from the fruit basket and tentatively held it out. “You like bananas.”
The Doctor stared at the banana in her hand, apparently trying to decide whether he ought to accept her help or continue forging ahead on his own. It would be driving him crazy, this sudden and total dependence on her. The Doctor often stubbornly insisted on going it alone and now he had no choice but to rely completely on her.
Knowing he didn’t trust her still hurt, though.
Finally he reached out, taking the banana from her. “Thanks.” With a half-hearted nod of appreciation, he turned and sat down at the table, peeling the banana with his back to her.
Rose leaned back against the kitchen counter, biting her lip and searching for a way to break the silence. The Doctor retreating into himself was nothing new; she frequently had to coax him out of his shell. She could only imagine how much harder that would be now that he didn’t trust her, and so she was reluctant to let him stew in his own thoughts for long.
“Did you sleep well?” she asked.
“Fine,” was all he said, and Rose wasn’t sure whether or not it was a lie. “You?”
No, she thought. The sofa had been too small to get properly comfortable and she’d been worried sick about the Doctor and what the future held for them. But she shrugged and busied herself with making a cup of coffee. “Yeah, fine,” she lied.
“I’ll take the sofa tonight.” His tone made it clear he wasn’t looking for a debate. “I’m not kicking you out of your bed again.”
Rose opened her mouth to argue but thought better of it. Instead she took a sip of coffee and tried to ignore the heavy silence that had fallen between them.
Finally, the Doctor creaked around in the chair, tossing the empty banana peel on the table next to him. “I’m sorry,” he said. He paused. “I can’t be very easy to live with at the moment.”
Rose almost sagged in relief. It wasn’t a lot—but it was at least some indication that he was willing to work with her. Setting down her coffee mug, she took a seat across from him at the table.
“It’s okay,” she said. “Believe it or not, we’ve had worse.”
The Doctor didn’t look very reassured. His forehead wrinkled in a frown. “Like what?”
Rose hesitated. How to tell him about being separated by parallel universes without sounding like a complete nutter? Searching for a distraction, her eyes landed on the discarded banana peel. She picked it up, gesturing vaguely with her hands.
“Still hungry?” she said. “I could make you... eggs and toast or something.”
“No, I’m okay. Really.” He paused and then added a gruff, “Thank you.”
Rose nodded and tossed the banana peel in the bin. She sat back down at the kitchen table and took a sip of coffee.
The Doctor watched her in contemplative silence. Then he said, “Tell me something else.”
“I dunno, anything.” He paused. “How did we meet?”
Rose nearly choked on her coffee. She wasn’t sure ‘in a basement with shop window dummies trying to kill us’ would do much to help him trust her. “I used to work in a shop,” she finally said. “And you were sort of... there.... one day.”
The Doctor blinked at her. “I see.”
“That was a rubbish story, I’m sorry.” She frowned and after thinking a moment, she said, “We went out for chips. It was our first proper date.” A smile tugged at her mouth. “I paid.”
She looked over at the Doctor. He mustered up a smile. “And we’ve.... been together ever since?”
Rose shifted in her chair. “Not exactly. We were friends for a long time first — best friends. And then it just sort of...” she waved a hand at him, “happened.”
His eyebrows jumped up slightly. “Right,” he said slowly. He was still smiling, but it was his fake smile, the sort of smile he wore when he was really thinking about how fast the Earth was turning and what Weevils ate for breakfast rather than whatever she was talking about.
Rose fought a wave of desperation. Voice sounding unnaturally high, she said, “We’ve got a date at mum’s tonight.” Off his look, she clarified, “My mum and dad—and my baby brother, Tony—they’re sort of your adopted family, yeah? She’s been demanding we head over ever since you were hurt yesterday. I’m surprised she hasn’t broken down the door yet, actually.”
“Oh,” said the Doctor. His smile slipped and he frowned, not quite able to hide his sudden uneasiness. “Well then. I suppose I had better meet them. Again.”
Without thinking, Rose reached across the table, resting her hand on top of his. The Doctor blinked down at their hands and then slowly raised his head to look at her.
“They know what happened,” she said. “They just want to help.”
The Doctor held her gaze for another moment and then nodded. “Okay.”
But he withdrew his hand from hers, resting it on his lap.
The Doctor combed through her mum’s mansion like he had through their flat. He peered at pictures, flipped through magazines and newspapers strewn out on the kitchen table, and spent a long time staring into the back garden like it would suddenly reveal all the gaping holes in his memory. Rose followed behind him, explaining when she could, but mostly arguing back-and-forth with her mum.
“Are you sure the doctors checked him out properly at that place?”
“Yes, mum. Torchwood knows what it’s dealing with.”
“I never trusted that place, you know. Do you remember that time your father had a sore back and they thought he had contracted some sort of alien parasite? Well, it took the chiropractor three sessions to sort that one out. Made the whole lot of you alien experts look downright ridiculous.”
“Mum, they know what they’re talking about--”
“All I’m saying is, we could take him to see a real doctor.” She turned to the Doctor suddenly, reaching out to pat him on the cheek. The Doctor stared back at her, looking a little bit like a cornered animal. “What do you think, sweetheart?” she said in an overly sugary voice. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Seeing a proper professional doctor?”
“Mum, he’s lost his memories--he’s not five.”
Much to Rose’s relief, Pete finally intervened with a couple glasses of wine and an armful of photo albums. He cleared his throat loudly and said, “Why don’t you two go check up on dinner while the Doctor and I flip through these old pictures?”
The Doctor sent Rose such a pleading look that she had to bite down a laugh--for a second, she could almost believe that this was an ordinary visit to her parents with the Doctor silently begging her to save him from Jackie.
And then it dawned on her that maybe she was one of the people the Doctor was now eager to get some space from.
Feeling vaguely sick, she said, “That sounds like a great idea.” Her voice sounded high and false even to her own ears. She grabbed the wine glasses and passed one to Jackie, giving her mum a Significant Look.
“Give him the name of that brain specialist, dear,” Jackie said, but she followed Rose out of the room, calling over her shoulder. “That Dr Charles — he and his wife had us over for a dinner party just last week, you remember.”
Pete waved her off and Rose took a sip of wine, feeling heat rush to her cheeks. Once they were in the kitchen, Rose collapsed into the nearest chair, fingers playing at the bottom of her wine glass. Jackie made a show of bustling around the kitchen, peering aimlessly into cupboards and drawers.
“He seemed fine to me,” she said as she went. “Bit quieter than usual, I suppose, but that’s nice, isn’t it? I could actually hear myself talking for once. Now where did that maid say she left the roast....”
Jackie opened the oven and made an “ah” noise upon finding the roast. Rose rested her chin on the palm of her hand, watching her mum with tired eyes. She took another sip of wine, feeling light-headed. From down the hall, she heard Pete muttering something that sounded like “wedding pictures” followed by “second wedding pictures.” Outside a car drove by the house and Rose tensed, wondering if it was Tony being dropped off after his play date. Tony worshiped the Doctor — how could they begin to explain what happened to him?
Jackie set the oven and then turned around, her eyes softening when she found Rose hunched over the kitchen table. “Rose, sweetheart,” she said gently, “how are you really doing?”
Something tightened in Rose’s chest and it hurt to draw in her next breath. “I’m...” she began — and then promptly burst into tears.
Jackie was there a second later, murmuring “Oh, Rose” and pulling her into her arms. Rose went limp, muffling a sob against Jackie’s chest as her mum’s arms wrapped around her. She rocked Rose gently, saying nothing.
Rose screwed up her eyes and breathed in deeply before choking out another sob. She tried to keep quiet, thinking of the Doctor and Pete in the next room, but all her pent-up frustration and grief seemed to come pouring out at once.
She thought about the blank way the Doctor had moved through their flat, the incomprehension in his eyes whenever he flipped through photos, and the way he looked at her... like he scarcely believed her, like he barely trusted her.
“He’s gone,” she finally whispered, voice cracking. “It feels like he’s gone, Mum.”
“Oh, Rose,” said Jackie. She smoothed Rose’s hair back. And then said, “He’s still alive, Rose. That’s something, isn’t it?”
Rose breathed out deeply before brushing furiously at her red eyes. “I know,” she said. “And I’m so glad that he is, but what if.... Mum, what if he never remembers?”
“You know what the Doctor’s like, sweetheart,” said Jackie. “He had some trick up his sleeve, I’ll bet.”
“Maybe,” said Rose. She flashed back to what he said, right before he sacrificed himself to that thing--Rose, Time Lords have this trick--but what trick? What had he meant? And what if he had been wrong? What if he was too human now—not quite Time Lord enough?
“And even if he doesn’t....” Jackie trailed off and then said. “You remember what it was like with Pete those first few months, yeah? He looked and sounded like Pete — but he wasn’t my Pete. He had this other set of memories—memories with another Jackie.” She paused. “I couldn’t be that Jackie for him and he couldn’t be my Pete... but we made it work, Rose.”
Rose nodded and Jackie brushed away the last of her tears with the pad of her thumb before rising to her feet. “Mum....” she reached for Jackie’s hand and stared up at her pleadingly. “It’s just that... when he looks at me, it feels like he....” she took a deep breath and then in a rush, she said, “he doesn’t love me.”
Tears blurred her vision again and Jackie squeezed her hand. “Rose, try and think of it from his perspective. As far as he’s concerned, he’s never seen you before in his life.” She softened her voice. “It doesn’t mean he won’t love you or that a part of him doesn’t remember you, but you need to give him some time. Everything is new to him right now, sweetheart.”
“I keep trying to tell myself that it doesn’t matter — that it’s not his fault and he can’t help how he feels.” She paused. “But it still hurts. I miss him so much.”
Jackie sighed deeply, her eyes full of sadness. “Rose, he’ll come around.”
“Yeah,” she said, voice strained. “Yeah, I know.”
“And god knows how much that man loves you,” Jackie said. “He’d never want you to doubt that, not ever.”
Another tear splashed down Rose’s face as she nodded. “I know—you’re right,” she said as Jackie busied herself with the roast again, giving Rose time to compose herself. “Thanks, mum.”
She excused herself and headed to the bathroom, intent on at least making herself presentable before dinner. Jackie was right, though. It wasn’t the Doctor’s fault that he didn’t remember or that he didn’t trust her. Right now he was just a bloke who had nothing. It was her job to keep it together if there was still going to be a future for them.
Tony was already standing in the door to the living room, staring unabashedly at the Doctor, when Rose got back to the room.
“You remember what we told you yesterday, Tony,” Pete was saying, “don’t you?”
Tony gave no particular indication of having heard his father. He continued to stare at the Doctor, oblivious to the way the Doctor was slowly pushing himself further and further back into the sofa in retreat.
“Did you really forget everything?” he asked, his eyes wide with childish curiosity.
In other circumstances, Rose would have found it comical how on-edge the Doctor was around an seven-year-old. Looking at Tony like he was anticipating an attack, the Doctor nodded. “Yes.”
“Even us?” prompted Tony, still sounding fascinated. “Even Rose?”
The Doctor sat frozen, still looking about ready to flee the room at any second. Rose felt a stab of irritation — with herself, with her brother and with the circumstances — and she scowled at Tony. “Why don’t you go help Mum set the table?” she asked sharply.
Tony looked unimpressed with the prospect. “But--”
“Go!” Rose snapped.
Pete stood, and Rose thought he looked every bit as eager to get out of the room as the Doctor did. “Come on,” he said to Tony, gesturing for the boy to follow him to the kitchen. “I’ll help.”
Tony obeyed, though not without pulling a face at Rose. Rose folded her arms, now feeling guilty for the way she’d snapped, and to the Doctor she said, “Sorry.”
“S’okay,” he mumbled without looking at her. He shifted forward to the edge of the sofa again, reaching to pull the photo album on the coffee table closer. He studied one glossy page before flipping to the next, his expression unreadable.
Rose watched anxiously, unsure if she ought to go over and offer explanations for each photo or leave him on his own. She wished she had a better understanding of what he needed now, what he wanted from her, how she could begin to make things better. She tried to imagine what she would do right now if this was before the attack, if he was the Doctor, properly, memories and all. Sit next to him, take his hand? What would he do if she did that now?
“These pictures of your parents’ wedding,” he said, abruptly pulling her from her thoughts, “I’m not in them.”
Rose hesitated before answering, struck once again by the vast amount of personal history the Doctor could no longer remember. She’d asked her family not to bring up anything outlandish, be it parallel worlds or time machines or biological metacrises. She knew she was stalling, and she knew the Doctor desperately wanted answers, but she didn’t think it would be kind to dump so much unfathomable information on him yet. He was overwhelmed enough as it was.
“We weren’t together yet,” she said. “That was... before you.”
The Doctor nodded. He flipped back another page, gesturing to a picture of Rose with Mickey. “Were you with him?”
“What, Mickey? No, he’s... he was just a mate.”
The Doctor turned to another page of photos. “He’s in a lot of these family photos,” he said matter-of-factly. “Right up until...” He turned to a page midway through the album — the first page with a photo of him.
“We lost contact,” she said briskly.
“Does it matter?” What could she tell him had happened to Mickey without lying — or sounding mad?
The Doctor raised an eyebrow but didn’t argue. “No,” he said after a moment. “I suppose not.”
A silence fell between them that seemed to stretch on and on. Rose heard the frostiness in his voice and knew he must feel like she was withholding so much. Maybe it was a mistake, bringing him to see her family so soon. She’d meant it as encouragement, a reassurance that he wasn’t alone — much needed, she’d thought, given the way he’d asked after his own family. But all it seemed to have done was make him more uncomfortable.
It was Tony who broke the silence, poking his head in the door to announce, “Dinner’s ready!” before heading back to the dining room.
Rose looked at the Doctor. He usually made a show of being put-upon when they spent the evening with her family, but over the years Rose had grown confident that this was theatricality and little else. She knew that in truth he was very fond of his adopted family — even her mother.
Right now, though, she was sure the let’s get this over with look on his face was completely genuine.
“We don’t have to stay long,” she said quietly. “We’ll leave right after dinner.”
The Doctor stood and gave a forced smile as he moved to the doorway. “It’s fine,” he said, in a voice that meant it wasn’t.
Dinner that night was the most awkward Rose had ever experienced. Even years ago, when she’d first met the Doctor, before he’d regenerated, back when he used to staunchly refuse to do anything bordering on “domestic”... even in those days she couldn't recall ever feeling like she was trying to bridge such a big gulf. At least he’d been himself then, for all the show he made about not wanting to be around her family more than was strictly necessary.
Now, though, she was keenly aware of his discomfort. He sat beside her at the table and spent most of the meal staring down at his plate, speaking only when spoken to and doing his best to become invisible.
Across the table, Tony stared at the Doctor unceasingly, suspiciously enthralled by the stranger wearing the Doctor’s face.
“I got an A on my science project,” Tony had announced, and from the intensity of his stare at the Doctor, Rose knew well it was intended for one particular person.
Unfortunately for Tony, the Doctor seemed committed to staring at his mashed potatoes in the hopes of avoiding eye-contact with everyone at the table. He didn’t even look up until Rose nudged him under the table and quietly explained, “You helped him with that.”
“Did I?” he’d muttered. “Oh. Um. Well done.” He’d punctuated it with a brief and insincere smile, then gone back to staring at his food. Tony, much too young to hide his disappointment, had responded by stabbing his potatoes with his fork.
Jackie and Pete did their best to fill the silences with idle chatter, and much of the conversation revolved around their high-society acquaintances, people Rose could barely keep track of, much less the Doctor.
It was as the main course was finally drawing to a close that Jackie turned to the Doctor and said, “You know, your hair’s getting a bit long. The two of you come ‘round tomorrow, I’ll give you a trim.”
Rose nearly choked on her wine, and the Doctor stared down the table at Jackie with wide, horrified eyes. “What?”
“Right, sorry,” she went on, “I used to be a hairdresser. That bit at the back there, I could...” She mimed a cutting motion with her pointer and middle fingers.
The Doctor said nothing, but Rose stared at her mother with arched eyebrows. “Are you kidding me?”
“Well, it is getting a little long,” Jackie said earnestly, pointing in the Doctor’s direction.
“You might not have noticed but we’ve got other things going on right now, Mum,” Rose snapped.
Jackie sat back, surprised by the outburst. “Well, you wanted us to act normal--”
“I asked you to treat him like an adult, not to worry about his hair, there’s a difference--”
“It’s fine,” said the Doctor abruptly, looking uneasily from one to the other. Rose could hear the unspoken plea -- don’t make this worse -- and shut her eyes, guilt quelling her sudden temper. “Really, it’s, um, fine. But... thank you.”
The awkward silence at the table stretched on for some time, until Pete finally cleared his throat. “So... tea?”
“Actually, I think we should get going,” said Rose quietly.
Rain pounded against the living room windows when they got home.
Rose chucked her handbag in the corner, feeling more frustrated and hopeless than ever. Visiting her family had been meant to help the Doctor, to show him he had a support system and people who cared about him. Instead, visiting her family seemed to make him more confused and resentful. She worried that it had encouraged him to feel and think of himself as a stranger.
Rose felt a shudder pass through her. Even though the Doctor was standing right behind her, she suddenly and intensely missed him. At the moment she wanted nothing more than to lean into him for a long cuddle.
She briefly contemplated asking him for a hug and then rejected it. If he backed away or said “no”... she wasn’t sure how she would handle it.
Putting on a brave face, she turned to him and said, “Not so bad, was it? I’ve never see you and my mum get on so well.”
The Doctor nodded vaguely, his thoughts obviously far away. Rose’s heart ached. She wished he would talk to her about what he was thinking. She could understand how hard it was for him, but she couldn’t help him unless he talked to her.
“There was a computer in the bedroom,” he said abruptly. “Could I use it?”
“Yeah,” Rose said. Then, “It’s yours too.”
“Right,” he said and then he disappeared, closing the bedroom door behind him.
Rose sat down on the sofa, fighting down another bout of tears as she fumbled for the television remote. As she flicked on the news, she found that she couldn’t remember the last time they had put closed doors between each other.
When the Doctor emerged, he looked so agitated that Rose immediately turned off the telly and pushed herself to her feet. He was holding two pieces of printed paper and she leaned forward to get a better look, but he hastily drew them to his side.
“What’s going on?” she said.
“It’s curious,” he began, almost conversationally, but there was a hard edge to his eyes that told Rose he was furious. “There I am—awake in a hospital bed, all my memories gone, and then you come along. You know me best, you said, and why shouldn’t you? Apparently we’ve been together for years—”
Rose blinked. “Apparently?”
“But you barely answer any of my questions—not about my family, not even about how we met. And that’s weird, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you say that’s a little bit weird?”
Rose’s chest hitched. Never before had the Doctor spoken to her so coldly—even on the rare occasions that they fought, he’d never turned so much anger and impatience in her direction.
“It’s just... it’s complicated,” she said, but even as the words left her mouth, she could hear how ridiculous they sounded.
The Doctor looked incredulous. “Do you think I care about that? This is my life.”
“I know,” Rose said, “and I’m trying my best, I promise.”
The Doctor held up the papers he was carrying. Rose felt sick—they were printouts from the tabloids. On the first one, the headline read PETE TYLER REUNITED WITH WIFE AND LONG-LOST DAUGHTER.
“The article says she just appeared out of nowhere one day,” said the Doctor in a controlled voice. “Odd, isn’t it? How exactly do you lose your only daughter for 20 years? But then, you’re not the only one, are you?” He held up the second article. On it was a picture of both of them, holding hands, and taken soon after they stepped off the plane from Norway. Rose felt a fresh wave of grief—even back then, even when things between them had been so confusing, they stood so close together, like they were terrified of being separated at any moment.
She wanted that man back so very badly.
VITEX HEIRESS RETURNS WITH UNKNOWN PARAMOUR, read the headline. ‘HE’S AFTER HER MONEY,’ CLAIM WORRIED FRIENDS.
Rose almost laughed at the headline. “Rubbish,” she said. “You know how those papers work.”
It wasn’t the right thing to say. If possible, the Doctor seemed even angrier.
“How am I supposed to know what’s right and what isn’t?” He slammed the printouts down on the coffee table and dug his wallet out of his back pocket. He picked out his driver’s license. “John Smith, it says.” He pulled out his NHS card. “John Smith.” His library card. “John Smith. Is that who I am? Is that my name?”
“Sort of,” Rose said. “It’s your legal name, but...”
“Oh, let me guess, it’s complicated,” said the Doctor.
“Listen, I didn’t think about it, all right? Everyone calls you the Doctor. That’s who you are.”
“How am I supposed to know that?”
“You just.... you’ve got to trust me.” She paused. “It’s not easy for me either. I have all these memories of how much we’ve done together, all these things we’ve experienced... and you haven’t got any of them.”
He hunched his shoulders defensively. “I wish I did,” he said in a low voice. “I don’t even know the first thing about myself.”
“You’re learning,” Rose offered. She cracked a smile. “You know you hate pears.”
He didn’t smile back. “And what about us? We’re not married. You’re rich.” He paused. “I haven’t even got a proper job.”
Rose felt a stab of annoyance. “It’s my dad who’s rich, not me,” she said with sudden vehemence. “And I’ll tell you something else, Doctor. The reason you lost your memories? It was ‘cos you were saving someone else. That’s the sort of man you are—you never even stopped to hesitate.” She paused. “I hate you a little for that, but that’s the reason I love you.” She choked back a sob. “I love you so much, and if I could give you all the answers you wanted, I would.”
The Doctor turned around. He no longer seemed quite as angry, but he was still agitated. He moved towards the door.
“I’m going for a walk,” he declared.
Whatever Rose had been expecting, it wasn’t that. “What? Right now?”
“I need to clear my head. Think.”
“But it’s pouring out there.”
He shrugged. “I’ll live.”
She jogged after him. “At least take an umbrella.”
“Do you want me to go with you? You might get lost...”
“Rose,” he spun around, but his face softened when he saw the stricken look on her face. “I need some time alone, okay?”
Rose took a step back. “All right. I’ll leave the door unlocked.”
“Thanks,” he said tersely. In a few more steps, he was gone, and the front door shut heavily behind him.
Rose stumbled back over to the sofa and collapsed down on it, trying to hold back her sobs.
The rain was colder than he’d expected. He stood outside the apartment building with his shoulders hunched and his arms folded, and for a moment he considered heading back upstairs to fetch an umbrella or a jacket. But then he shook his head.
No, he decided abruptly, continuing on down the pavement. He needed to think and he needed some space, hypothermia be damned. It couldn’t be any worse than what had already happened to him.
This was his fault, apparently. Rose had said it like it was a good thing, something noble and heroic — something that made her love him. He thought it made him sound like an idiot. Had he known then what would happen, he wondered? He must not have. Who would ever willingly do this to themselves?
He stared down at the pavement as he walked, avoiding large puddles and eye-contact with anyone who passed him. London was bursting with people and not a single one of them meant anything to him.
He barely meant anything to himself. The Doctor or John Smith — neither name felt right. “John”, well, that was a proper name at least; it just didn’t feel like his name. Nothing really felt like “his” anymore. His name, his clothes, his flat, even his girlfriend... they all belonged to another man. And that man was gone.
Which left him with nothing. Hand-me-downs at best, relics of a life he couldn’t remember, taunting him. He stopped under an awning, rubbing his arms against the cold and staring out at the people who passed him sheltered under umbrellas and raincoats. It would be so easy to disappear. There was no nostalgia here, nothing for him to miss. A block away from his flat felt no nearer to home than ten blocks, or twenty, or a hundred. He was a nobody on an anonymous street with nothing left to lose.
But he had nowhere to go, either, and no means to get there. He couldn’t leave; he couldn’t even make himself breakfast. Whether he liked it or not, he was utterly dependent on a woman he couldn’t remember.
With his previous anger flaring up, he stalked down the pavement again. It was all a bit convenient, her being there when he woke up. It wasn’t as though he had any choice but to believe her. What if she’d lied about it all? How could he possibly know? It would be so easy for her to invent things, to try and steer him in whatever direction she wanted.
He sighed, rubbing his face with one hand. Maybe that wasn’t fair. Maybe she was exactly who she said she was, and she’d lost something, too. What must that be like, having someone you loved treat you like a stranger?
He scowled at his trainers, ducking through a gateway to a park. That still didn’t give her a right to hide things from him. If she cared as much as she said, she wouldn’t be so reluctant to tell him anything of substance. He sat down on a bench, his arms wrapped tight around his chest.
Eyes closed, he tipped his face up towards the rain. Maybe it didn’t matter so much, in the long run. Hearing memories and experiences retold by someone else wasn’t the same as remembering them; listening to a story wasn’t the same as living it. Even if she was honest, even if she told him every last thing she knew about him and his life, it wouldn’t be enough. Identity didn’t work like that. He couldn’t study a fact sheet and turn back into the man he used to be. Her stories were only stories to him now, even if they were true.
Maybe it was better that there was no one else, that there were so few people watching him expectantly, waiting for him to give them something he couldn’t. Maybe it was better that his parents, whoever they’d been, weren’t around to look at him with the same disappointment he saw so often in Rose.
He opened his eyes, looking around the empty park and swallowing thickly. She’d said he’d always been a lonely bloke. He doubted he could ever have been more lonely than he was now.
Continue to Part 3