Authors: goldy_dollar & _thirty2flavors
Characters/Pairings: Ten II/Rose
Genre: Angst, drama
Warnings: No standard warnings for this chapter, but the fic as a whole deals 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: They’d been separated a month, and now he didn’t even look like the Doctor. He was wearing jeans and a simple cotton shirt, his hair was lying flat atop his head, and Rose wasn’t sure she’d even have recognized him if he hadn’t turned to face her direction.
Previous parts: Part One, Part Two, Part Three
Rose barely slept that night.
She was in the same bedroom she stayed in after Bad Wolf Bay, back during those first few days when she’d been too confused to even look at the Doctor properly. If only she had known then what she knew now. Those days felt like wasted time—she’d had the Doctor and thought she didn’t want him. If only she’d realized it could have been so much worse.
She’d forgotten what it felt like to try and live without him. She hadn’t felt this empty since those horrible few months after they’d been separated. But even then she’d had the Dimension Cannon to focus on. She’d always known she’d get back to him, it had only been a question of how and when.
But now... now she was determined to see him through and make sure that whomever he was now, he moved on and made a life for himself. But after that — what was left? What would she do with herself?
Every time she closed her eyes, she replayed the scene with the Squadra again and again in her head. Time Lords have this trick, he’d said, before pushing her out of the way and running into the Squadra’s path. She saw him fall under the weight of the alien, his body shuddering as the Squadra fed on all his thoughts and memories, his very sense of self. If she had only intervened—if she had done something to stop the process, maybe a part of him could still be with her now. Anything was better than the way he stared at her like she was a stranger.
By the time dawn broke, Rose was fully awake. She dressed quickly and headed quietly to the kitchen, hoping that the rest of the family would sleep for another few hours.
She made herself a cup of tea and then sat at the kitchen table, cradling the warm mug between both her hands and letting the steam waft up into her face. She thought about what she had said to the Doctor earlier—about how what happened wasn’t his fault, that it was the Squadra who had done it. And she was right. This wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t her fault either. It was the Squadra.
And she was going to hunt them down and make them pay for it.
Her fingers clenched around the handle of the mug. That’s what she would focus on. Just like she had once focused her energy and grief into the dimension cannon, now she would channel it into finding the aliens who had done this.
And after that.... well, if the Doctor could find peace and move on, maybe she would start letting herself think about doing the same.
It had been a long time since Jackie Tyler had seen her daughter so sad.
A week ago, Rose had shown up on her parents’ doorstep, announced that she would need a place to stay for a while, and then dissolved into tears on Jackie’s shoulder. She’d explained through her hiccoughing sobs that he just wasn’t the Doctor, and that they’d both agreed it was unfair to pretend it would ever be the way it was before.
In the days that had followed, Rose’s grief only seemed to worsen. Jackie remembered what it had been like back when they’d first arrived, when her own joy at being reunited with Pete had clashed with Rose’s utter despair. It had been terrible to watch, and endlessly frustrating as a mother who could do nothing to make her child feel better. Rose had been a shadow of herself in those days, quiet and subdued. Seeing her like that again was breaking Jackie’s heart.
“He’s gone, mum,” she said, every time Jackie suggested that she go back and try and sort things out with the Doctor. “He’s gone.”
Jackie had no response to that. Lord knew, she had spent her fair share of time blaming the Doctor. During Rose’s worst moments in the past, she had even hated him. What sort of good had it done, him bringing them to that beach and then not finding the time to spit out those three most important words?
But now, as much as Jackie hated to see Rose in such despair, she couldn’t find it in her heart to be angry with the Doctor. When it came down to it, she felt sorry for the poor man — waking up like he had with all his thoughts and memories gone. What happened wasn’t his fault, and now he was all on his own, in a world where he didn’t know the first thing about himself.
She would just have to check up on him, then, she resolved. She would look after him. Just like she would take care of Rose for as long as Rose needed her.
She found Rose in the spare room, kneeling in front of an open box. Sunlight streamed in through the open window, highlighting Rose’s pale face and tired eyes.
Jackie bustled into the room, pretending not to see the tear tracks on Rose’s cheeks. “What have you got there, sweetheart?”
“Pictures,” Rose said without looking up. “I just got back from the flat. I was picking up some of my stuff.” She paused. “He wasn’t there, but.... he left them in a box for me. The note said he wanted me to have them.”
“Oh,” said Jackie. “Well, that was considerate of him, wasn’t it?”
Rose sat back on her haunches, pressing her lips together like she was fighting down a sob. “Two years,” she whispered. “We had two years together – enough for one box.” She paused. “He promised me the rest of his life.”
“I’m sorry,” Rose said. She wiped a hand across her eyes and took a deep breath. “One day I’m going to manage a conversation about this without crying.”
Jackie moved into the room and took a seat on the edge of the bed. “You could go back—”
“Mum,” Rose said, in that we’ve-discussed-this-ten-thousand-times-a
“Pete and I—”
“That was different,” Rose said, a marked edge to her tone. “He still felt the same, didn’t he? But the Doctor... it’s like there’s someone new living inside of him.” Rose dropped her voice. “I wish you could understand.”
“I do, sweetheart,” said Jackie. (She didn’t, not really, but she could certainly understand what it was like to be with someone who looked and acted like her husband but remembered a different Jackie, a different marriage). “But think about what it might be like for him — in that flat all on his own.”
Rose snorted. “He’s not alone.”
Jackie frowned. “How do you mean?”
Rose looked away, silent for a moment as she nibbled on her lip, seeming to debate with herself. Then she stood and walked to her nightstand, jerked open the top drawer and tossed a magazine down on the bed next to Jackie. It was a gossip rag; once upon a time Jackie had read them herself, but since coming here and finding her own family the subject of media interest, most of the appeal had faded. As far as she knew, Rose stayed well away from them.
“Page nineteen,” was all Rose said.
Reluctantly Jackie turned to page nineteen, though she was already certain what she would find there. Sure enough, there on page nineteen was a picture of the Doctor in uncharacteristically casual clothes, walking next to a tall brunette woman.
“Doctor” John Smith, boyfriend of two years to Rose Tyler, daughter of multi-millionaire Vitex creator Pete Tyler, was seen yesterday leaving Edwin's — with another woman! The two shared an “intimate” dinner and left together. “It was definitely a date,” sources say.
Smith and Tyler are rumoured to have parted ways, with sources saying Rose has moved out of their shared flat and back into her parents’ mega-mansion. This comes just days after Smith made the headlines as one of the 9 victims of a recent alien attack in London that left Smith and 8 others with a unique form of amnesia. Could this be the reason for the sudden split?
Jackie tossed it to the floor without reading the rest. Frowning, she turned to Rose. “Oh, sweetheart,” she began, “you know how those papers work—”
“Her name’s Robin,” interrupted Rose, her voice high-pitched and strained. “She bought him a drink at a pub when he forgot his wallet. She gave him her number.” Rose took a breath. “He met her before... before I’d even moved out.” She ran her hands through her hair and laughed. “That’s like him, isn’t it? Out with the old, find someone new.” She smiled shakily.
“I’m happy for him,” Rose carried on, as though Jackie hadn’t said anything at all. “I am. It’ll be good for him. She will be. Robin. She can do all sorts of things that we— that I—” She gulped down another breath, her babble becoming more and more frantic. “He can be happy. Normal. He’ll never have to miss the TARDIS again, and he’ll never have to think about the Time War or his people or...”
Rose broke off, her breaths coming short and quick as she fought to keep her composure. Jackie stood and wrapped her arms around her daughter, and Rose sagged against her, hiding her face in Jackie’s shoulder. “He’ll be happier this way,” she whispered.
Rose was upset, and as her mother, it was Jackie’s job to take care of her. So she kissed the side of Rose’s head and held her tight and didn’t mention that she was positive the Doctor was always his happiest when he was with Rose.
Rose yawned and then rubbed at her forehead, bleary eyes trying in vain to focus on the newspaper clippings in front of her. The clock on her desk informed her that it was 2:03am. Outside her office, Torchwood’s halls were dark and empty.
She leaned back in her chair, picking up the paper cup of coffee on her desk. She took a small sip, grimaced, and then set it down again.
For a long moment, she sat still, mind alert despite the early morning hours. They all thought she was mad—Mum, Dad, Jake, even Tony. They thought she didn’t notice their worried looks behind her back or the way they whispered to each other when they thought she wasn’t listening. But she noticed, and she knew why. She’d done almost the same thing when they first arrived in this world. She practically moved into her office at Torchwood. She drank stale coffee, skipped meals, and fell into bed in the early hours of the morning, sometimes only getting a couple of hours of sleep before heading back to the office.
They didn’t understand, though. They didn’t know what it was like when she stopped—like everything rushed in at once, pushing down on her until it felt like she couldn’t breathe. No, if she only kept working, gave herself something to focus on then she could go on to the next minute and the minute after that.
Her fingers skimmed over the newspaper clippings in front of her and a small smile quirked at her lips. She was beginning to figure it out. At first she’d had her suspicions, but now....
Wars. Riots. Revolts. Natural disasters.
It was the same pattern, over and over. They waited for confusion and panic--and then they struck. They probably thrived on it (if the Doctor was here, he could have confirmed her hypothesis but he wasn’t and so she went with what her gut told her).
And after each event, a handful of people ended up in the hospital with unexplained amnesia. The Russian Revolution, the battlefields of World War Two, France during the 1968 strike, the Iranian Revolution, Vietnam rallies in the United States, football matches, and even a hockey riot in Canada in the 1950s. Every time, the same pattern, the same number of people with amnesia in the hospital.
Communication facilities on Pete’s World had always lagged behind her world back home. And since the Cyberman incident, the rest of the world had been reluctant to share their intelligence with Britain in case it was compromised. It wasn’t a surprise that they hadn’t come across the information earlier. She had to dig up the newspaper articles herself, track down the psychologist reports and victim families.
But she was sure of one thing. The Squadra attack that took the Doctor from her was not the first one and it wouldn’t be the last.
There had been a lockout that day at the shopping centre. She just had to stay alert — any scene of trouble or confusion could mean a Squadra attack.
And she would be there.
It was weeks before she saw the Doctor again. She kept tabs on him, of course—she knew the rent had been paid and she’d seen the tabloid picture, but seeing him again felt like too much pressure. On both of them.
And then, one day at Torchwood, there he was.
She spotted him across the lobby almost as soon as the elevator doors opened, and she froze, her heart catching in her throat. They’d been separated a month, and now he didn’t even look like the Doctor. He was wearing jeans and a simple cotton shirt, his hair was lying flat atop his head, and Rose wasn’t sure she’d even have recognized him if he hadn’t turned to face her direction.
He saw her at the same time she saw him, and his eyes widened just briefly before his face settled into an impartial expression. He waved. Hoping she looked as collected, Rose took a deep breath, and walked towards him.
“Hi,” she said.
“Hello,” he said, and Rose knew immediately that she’d been right to leave because his voice was too familiar. She missed that voice — hearing it again felt like being wrapped in a warm blanket — but it was wrong to hear it coming from a stranger. “How are you?”
Forcing a smile and hoping it looked natural, Rose waved one hand. “Oh, I’m... good. Getting on. Busy at work, you know.” She shrugged. “What about you? How’re you doing?”
The Doctor seemed to mull over his answer before speaking. Rose imagined he was wondering how honest he ought to be — trying to spare her feelings, probably. “All right,” he said finally, nodding. “I’m all right.” He tugged his ear, and seemed to perk up a bit. “I’ve got a job! So... that’s good.”
He smiled at her, and Rose smiled back, trying not to dwell on how strange it was to see the Doctor excited by the prospect of employment. “Yeah? What are you doing?”
His smile dimmed while his cheeks turned a bit pink. “Delivering pizza.” He cleared his throat. “I wasn’t... I didn’t really have a — a CV or any experience, but I was in there one day and the owner, she said she recognized me from the papers. She offered me a job and — well, I’ve learned I have a good sense of direction and a good sense of time.” As though realizing his smile had faltered he grinned full-force again. “It’s good, though, it’s... I’m looking for a flat. Another one, I mean, so that you... you can have yours back.” He scratched the back of his neck. “It’ll be a while, though, I’ve got to save. I’m not exactly making six figures.”
“It’s fine,” she said. “Really, the flat’s yours, I can—”
“I don’t want it,” he blurted, but at the hurt look on her face he blanched. “I mean, I just... it’s yours. Yours and...” He shrugged. “I can’t live off you forever.”
This time Rose’s smile, however faint and sad, came naturally. “I don’t mind.”
“I do.” He shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “I’ve kept track of what I’ve spent.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“I’ll pay you back once—”
“Can we talk about this later?”
The Doctor blinked, but didn’t argue. “Okay.”
Rose looked away. Her throat was thick. All she had been able to do for him in the last month was pay his bills, and however impersonal a gesture it was, she liked knowing that there was still something he needed her for, some way she was making his life easier that he couldn’t do on his own. What would happen when she couldn’t even give him that anymore? What would she have left?
With a deep breath, she pasted on another smile and turned back to him. “So, how come you’re here?”
The Doctor gestured behind him towards one of Torchwood’s conference rooms. “Torchwood does these meet-ups for...”
“Squadra victims.” She nodded. “Right.” Duh. Why hadn’t anyone told her he was attending those? “How’s that?”
“It’s...” He frowned, thinking it over. “It’s good to be around people who understand. But...” He ran a hand across his cheek. “Puts things in perspective, I guess. I thought it was harder, not having a family, but...” He glanced behind him, then lowered his voice. “Some of these people, Rose — they’ve got kids. One woman, Nathalie, she’s a single mother! Can you imagine forgetting your own child?”
A heavy weight settled in Rose’s stomach and the last traces of her smile disappeared. She bit the inside of her lip and dropped her eyes to the floor. A beat of silence passed, and she could feel him watching her, sensing her change in mood.
“What?” he prompted, trepidation in his voice.
Rose hesitated. Maybe she shouldn’t say anything. All it would do was hurt him; he was happier not knowing. That was the upside of this whole thing, wasn’t it, the fact that he was free from all those burdens, all that grief—
But maybe the truth was worth it, no matter the cost.
She swallowed, then met his eyes. “You had kids,” she said softly. “A long time ago. Before we met.”
“They died,” she went on. The Doctor’s eyes went wide, the colour drained from his face, and Rose immediately regretted having said anything. “I’m so sorry.”
“What?” he repeated. He shook his head from side to side, disbelief and horror written all over his face. “How? What happened?”
I think you killed them, she thought, but instead she said, “I don’t know.”
“What were their names? How old were they? How—”
“I don’t know.” At least it was the truth this time.
“But I must have said. I must have mentioned — names or photos or birthdays or...” The Doctor raked a hand through his hair, staring at some distant point beyond her shoulder. A silent moment ticked by as he fought to keep his composure, and then he looked at her. “The mother—who is she?” Desperation seeped into his voice. “How can I find her?”
Rose held his gaze but said nothing, watching as the hope in his eyes was replaced with a cut-off look of disappointment.
“Let me guess,” he said finally, and there was a bitter edge to his words now. “You don’t know.”
“You... you never said,” she whispered. She looked down at her shoes while he scrubbed his face with his hands.
“Jesus, Rose, how long were we together? Years? In all that time, did I ever tell you anything about myself?”
Rose didn’t know what to say. She stared at the tile beneath her feet and willed herself not to cry.
“Why the hell didn’t you mention this earlier?” he snapped. His voice shook with barely-contained anger and Rose swallowed, saying nothing. “Any other crucial information about me you might have neglected to share?”
She closed her eyes, gave her head an almost imperceptible shake, and whispered, “No.”
The Doctor sighed — a long, weary sound — and stepped back. She looked up in time to see him turn his back to her, but he made it only a couple of feet before he spun back around and walked towards her again. He stood close, and she could see the anger on his face giving way to fright and confusion.
“What sort of person,” he asked, his voice trembling, “loses their entire family and never speaks of them? Ever?”
“A sad one,” she said honestly. She reached out to put her hand on his arm, and though he flinched in surprise he didn’t pull away. “I know it must seem outrageous now, but when I met you, you’d... you’d lost a lot, and I think you got so used to depending on yourself that it’s never been easy for you to let other people help.” She squeezed his arm. “But I know you, Doctor, and you’re a good man. Your family, whoever they were... I’m sure you loved them very much.”
The Doctor watched her intently, like he was looking for some sign of dishonesty. Then he softened. “You said I’d always been lonely. Is this what you meant?”
Rose smiled sadly, lifting her hand from his arm. “You’ve been through some terrible things,” she said, “including this. We were happy together, you and me, we really were, but you could never quite let all that go. And maybe...” She gave a tiny shrug. “Maybe this is your chance to start fresh. Without all that grief. The people you’ve lost, they’d want you to be happy.” She swallowed. “I want you to be happy.”
The Doctor looked as though he had no idea what to say. He gave her a weak half-smile in return, but the silence wasn’t broken until a short woman with dark hair waved at them from a couple feet away.
“John?” she asked timidly, watching the Doctor. “Hi, sorry to interrupt, it’s just—we’re starting soon, are you...?”
“Right,” said the Doctor, nodding distractedly. “Right, sorry, yeah, I’ll be there in a minute.”
With another smile the woman bustled away, and Rose turned to look at the Doctor, feeling as though she’d been emptied out. “‘John’?” she repeated, followed by a feeble smile.
“Yeah.” His cheeks flushed and he looked apologetic, but he shrugged. “It’s just... easier. You know. Compared to a nickname I don’t even understand anymore.”
Rose nodded, all too aware that her throat felt tight again. “Makes sense.”
“Yeah.” He glanced over his shoulder towards the conference room, looked back at her and shrugged, taking a step backwards. “I should go, they’re waiting for me.”
She nodded again, trying for flippancy. “Right. Well. See ya.”
He took another step back, still watching her seriously. “You take care, Rose.”
“You too,” she whispered around the lump in her throat, and then the went their separate ways.
Jackie shifted the casserole dish under one arm as she reached up to knock on the door. Realistically, she supposed she ought to have called first—but since she could imagine how the Doctor might react to that phone call under normal circumstances, she’d decided on the element of surprise.
She had just raised her hand to knock again—just in case—when the door swung open to reveal the Doctor in jeans and a t-shirt, looking perplexed.
“Oh.” He blinked at her, the crinkle in his brow betrayed his confusion even as she saw him struggle to smile politely. “Hello, ah...?”
“Jackie,” she offered with a chipper smile. “Rose’s mum, remember? How’ve you been, love?”
The Doctor stared at her, clearly still baffled by her arrival at his doorstep. “I’m... all right,” he said distractedly, one hand rubbing the back of his neck. “Sorry, did you call? I haven’t checked the messages since... Are you here to pick up something of Rose’s? I mean, they’re all her things, really, so if she—”
“Nah, just came by to bring you this.” She held up the casserole dish. “Your favourite. At least, that’s what you used to say, and I can’t imagine you’d lie to spare my feelings.” She frowned. “Probably do the opposite, really.”
The Doctor stared down at the casserole dish as though he suspected it might actually be a bomb. It was funny, almost, how awkward he was around her. They might never have had the easiest relationship, her and the Doctor, but in the last few years—even before they’d come to this world, really—they’d settled into something more familial, more relaxed. She took great pride in knowing that she could wind him up just as well—better, even—as he could wind her up. She loved the Doctor, certainly, but it was fun to watch him flounder.
This, though—this awkward floundering as he tried very hard not to offend her... That was new.
She pressed the dish into his hands while he stammered to get out an objection. “You really didn’t have to do that,” he said finally, trying in vain to hand it back to her.
“I don’t mind.” She folded her arms and he lowered the dish in defeat. “Think of it as an apology for the last time.” She grinned wryly. “Probably not the best dinner party you’ve been to.”
He shrugged. “It’s the only dinner party I remember going to.”
As soon as the words had left his mouth, he flushed and smiled apologetically, as though the acknowledgement of what had happened to him was a total accident. That, she thought, was very much the Doctor—he was perfectly happy to complain loudly and rudely about things like food, but utterly reluctant to acknowledge any real trouble. It used to drive Rose mad.
Her smile fading, she nodded. “Guess it is,” Jackie said quietly. “Sorry.”
“It’s fine,” he said hastily. “Really. I don’t mean to...” He trailed off and shook his head, evidently eager for a change of subject. “How’s Rose?”
Jackie frowned. “She’s been better,” she admitted softly. “She misses you.”
He shook his head. “She misses who I used to be.”
“Between you and me, I’m not so sure there’s that much of a difference.”
He didn’t seem to know what to say to that. He glanced away and swallowed before he asked, “Did Rose ask you to come?”
“No.” From his expression, she knew it wasn’t the answer he’d anticipated. “I wanted to check in with you, that’s all. Thought it might be lonely, having that flat all to yourself.”
The Doctor said nothing, but he met her eyes and held her gaze, a silent confession on his face. He looked lost and frightened, and terribly young—rather the opposite of how Rose had been looking lately, world-weary and tired. For easily the hundredth time in the last couple months, Jackie found herself wondering which of them was meant to be benefiting from their separation.
“I know you don’t remember it,” she said quietly, “but you’re the reason Pete and I got back together. It’s because of you we found each other again, and got to have Tony. And Rose—now, I love my daughter and I always have, and she was brilliant on her own before you. But she lights up when she’s with you.”
The Doctor shifted uncomfortably, his back against the door to the flat. “I should probably be going,” he said loudly, almost as if he hadn’t heard her, “I—”
Jackie held up one hand and cut him off. “Oi, let me finish!”
Mollified, the Doctor closed his mouth and looked down.
“Right,” Jackie went on. “Now, I know Rose needs some space right now—or she thinks she does, anyway—and I know Pete and Tony and I must just seem like strangers, really. It probably feels like you’re all on your own. But the thing is, you’re not. We’re family. Don’t forget that. You ever need us, any of us, we’ll be there. You just let us know, yeah?”
The Doctor didn’t move. He stared down at the casserole dish, his fingers tightening around the china, and for a moment he was silent. Finally, almost imperceptibly, he nodded. “Thank you,” he murmured.
With a sad smile, Jackie reached out and gave his arm an affectionate squeeze. “See you around, sweetheart.”
The lights overhead flickered on only after Rose had stepped into the room. They were connected to a sensor — it was eco-friendly, Torchwood said (one of the few things about the organization that was), and in any case it wasn’t often that anyone came down into this level of storage. It wasn’t a room that stored useful weapons, or technologies waiting to be properly catalogued, or a room for things that Torchwood had riddled out and was waiting to use. It was where they kept spare parts, old technologies they were hesitant to discard entirely, and projects that had never worked and had been put on hiatus indefinitely.
The Doctor had liked coming here, back when he was still the Doctor. He’d enjoyed combing through the different bits and bobs, declaring some useless, some not likely be finished for a hundred years’ time, and making off with anything he felt like fixing or finishing himself. He’d made most of his screwdriver out of things he’d found here.
She stuck her hand in the back pocket of her jeans and sighed. She wondered if he’d found any of those incomplete gadgets lying around the flat since she left, and what he’d thought of them if he had. Would he still remember things like that, the science and the maths and all the technical details that were incomprehensible to anyone without a Time Lord brain? If the television broke, would he still know how to fix it?
But it didn’t matter anymore. Shaking her head, she moved deeper into the room, heading straight for the back corner.
That was where they kept the Dimension Cannon.
A fine layer of dust coated the machine now, proof that it hadn’t been thought about in some time. When she’d first come back to this universe, no one had quite known what to do with it. They’d had no use for it, and anyway it had stopped working. That wasn’t a surprise. It had never worked, not really, not without the help of the reality bomb breaking down the dimensional walls. She bent over, blowing some dust from the top of it and resting her hand on the cool metal. Could she make it work now?
More importantly, did she want to?
She had never forgotten the other Doctor, the one out there in another universe with two hearts and a time machine. Over the last couple years, as she’d grown more secure in her relationship with this Doctor, she’d spent less time thinking about the one a world away, but forgotten? Never.
It was just... she’d felt guilty, sometimes. Every so often — less frequently, in recent months, but sometimes — she’d remember that the happy life she’d been leading had come at the expense of a man she loved very much. She’d find herself wondering if he was safe, if he was happy, if he was the same. It hurt to imagine that he was miserable and alone, and yet she shied away from the idea of him having regenerated and found it difficult to picture him with someone new.
Rose bit her lip, wiping the dust from her hands onto her jeans. Was she mad? Getting the Dimension Cannon to work could take years. It might never work at all. And what if it did? The man in the TARDIS wasn’t the man she’d spent the last two years with. It wouldn’t be the same. Could it even replace what she’d lost? Their relationship had never been — he’d never even said—
But he was the Doctor, and that meant he was so much more than she had now. She loved him, still. And it would take some time, of course. There was still the Squadra to deal with, and she’d have to wait until the Doctor found his new flat. She’d make sure he was happy and settled and that he no longer needed her, and then she’d go looking for the Doctor that did.
What else could she do?
Without warning, the lights overhead went out, and the storage room was bathed in darkness. Rose stood frozen, startled and unable to see her own hand in front of her face. Immediately her brain seemed to switch to autopilot, running through the things years of Torchwood — and years of living with the Doctor — had instilled in her. Had the bulb gone out? But it hadn’t flickered — it had been instantaneous darkness, like—
Before she could complete the thought, two of the four lights came back on, and the brightness made Rose’s eyes sting. Generators, she thought, squinting and shielding her eyes. We’ve lost power. Well, that was something. Accidental or intentional? Intentional would mean an attack, almost certainly. Accidental could mean all manner of things — something gone wrong in the lab, or a local power outage.
Unsure how long the generators would last and not wanting to be wait in a dark underground storage facility to find out, she turned on her heel and then froze. A power outage, she thought. That could mean chaos and confusion — and Squadra.
She doubled her speed up the stairs as she set off to find her colleagues, the Dimension Cannon forgotten.
The hallways were already full of Torchwood employees when Rose reached the main floor. It was a bit funny, really, she thought; for an organization that spent its time protecting the Earth from all manner of alien threats, Torchwood was still sent into a frenzy by a power outage. She found Jake quickly in the throng, and pulled him aside.
“Do we knows what’s happened?” she asked, but it was perfunctory. She already had her suspicion; she could feel the adrenaline beginning to flood her system.
“No,” said Jake, “Anna’s calling the power company now. The whole block’s out, at least.”
“D’you think it’s intentional?”
He frowned. “I don’t know. Maybe? Why, have you heard something?”
“I was thinking...” she began, but hesitated. The rest of the Torchwood staff had been wary of the research she’d done on her own. She knew they were worried that she was cracking up under the weight of her grief; they watched her with the same suspicion they’d had when she started work on the Dimension Cannon. She knew there were subsets of Torchwood who had looked down on her for that — Rose Tyler, the director’s spoiled daughter, wasting time and resources just to get back to some bloke.
They’d changed their minds in a hurry when the Darkness has come, and a part of Rose was looking forward to proving them wrong again. It didn’t matter what they thought of her if she could save others from having to go through what she and the Doctor were going through now.
“I think it’s the Squadra,” she said, once she’d found her confidence again. “A power outage, that’s the kind of atmosphere they thrive in, chaos and confusion—”
Jake didn’t look convinced. “Chaos and confusion is a pretty dramatic way to describe a power outage, Rose.”
Rose narrowed her eyes. “It’s true. Those articles I found, they—”
“We killed the Squadra, Rose.” Impatience had begun to creep into Jake’s voice. “You were there.”
Rose folded her arms, her own irritation growing more severe. “There are more than six Squadra in the entire universe, Jake. Those articles—”
“A handful of articles about unconfirmed attacks around the world doesn’t mean that the Squadra—”
“Unconfirmed? What else do you reckon does that to people, Jake? Memory loss that selective, you think that’s a coincidence?”
“I don’t think we can assume every moment of slight discord is some sort of Squadra master plan, no.”
“I’m not saying that!” Rose snapped. “If you’d just listen—”
“I am listening!” Jake shouted back, then he sighed. “Look, Rose, I know how hard this has been for you—”
Rose tutted impatiently, scowling at the wall beside her. No you don’t, she thought bitterly, you can’t.
“—and I’m so sorry about what happened to the Doctor—”
“Yeah, I should hope so,” she found herself saying. “It’s your arse he was saving.”
The words had no sooner left her mouth than she was regretting it. It was something she had been trying hard these last few months not to let herself think about — that it was Jake, really, who that Squadra had been after, and that if it hadn’t been for Jake, the Doctor would still be the Doctor. She wouldn’t wish a Squadra attack on anyone, and Jake was her friend, but she couldn’t deny that there was a part of her would give anything to have the Doctor back.
She looked sharply at Jake, pressing her lips together, her cheeks flushing red; Jake stared back at her, silent and looking guilty. She knew she should speak but she didn’t know what to say, and before she could make up her mind, Anna approached them.
“I spoke to the power company,” she chirped, oblivious to the moment she’d walked in on. “They’re aware of the issue.” She grinned. “They were reluctant to tell me at first but I told them I was with Torchwood and it was very important — apparently one of their employees cut something he shouldn’t have while doing maintenance.” She shrugged. “Said it shouldn’t be much longer than an hour or two, but you know how that goes.”
Rose stood frozen, still unable to find her voice after Anna had finished speaking. Jake, on the other hand, nodded. “Thanks, Anna.”
Anna walked off and Jake turned a piteous, but gentle stare in Rose’s direction. He was looking at her like she was a crazy person, she realized, like she might bolt like a frightened animal at any moment. Rose fought down a hysterical bubble of laughter. Well, of course he was. She sounded crazy, didn’t she?
She edged away from him. “I’m just...”
“Rose—” started Jake, still with that same piteous stare. “What are you—”
“I need to go. Leave,” she blurted. “I just... I need to get away for a bit.”
Jake held her gaze with worried eyes and a rumpled frown. Finally he gave a curt nod. “It might be good for you, Rose. Some time away from this place.”
Rose didn’t trust her ability to respond. So she gave a nod in response and then hurried away, leaving Jake staring after her.
She headed to the car park on auto pilot. All she could think about was how badly she wanted to get away. Jake had been right—looking for Squadra in a power outage was outlandish. But she had been so sure.
She finally reached her jeep—a present from Pete on her twenty-second birthday. It consumed far more gas than was sensible, but it had saved her life more than a few times at Torchwood. It was all black with four-wheel drive and a boot big enough to safely conceal a stash of weapons the Doctor had always pretended he was oblivious to.
She climbed into the driver seat where she sat motionless, staring blankly ahead. What had she even been thinking? So the Squadra were drawn to chaos and confusion--all it had been was a bloody power outage.
She was jumping at shadows, she thought as she turned the keys in the ignition and sped out of Torchwood’s car park. She drove aimlessly, mindlessly following the flow of traffic. But it felt good for the moment to lose herself in the ebb and flow of midday London traffic.
She lost track of time, buildings and pavements and people blurring past her window. But she was too embarrassed to go back to Torchwood and couldn’t quite face going home where every corner felt lonelier and more oppressive than the last.
A wave of disgust swept through her. What would the Doctor think if he saw her now? Have a fantastic life, he’d told her once. And here she was, jumping at power outages, desperate for any chance that might mean a shot at revenge.
What kind of life was that? Tears pressed against her eyes. This wasn’t he life he would want for her.
She pulled the car over to the side of the road and looked around, blinking back her tears. She swallowed — she’d ended up in the east end of the city, in the old industrial area. Its factories had been hit particularly hard by Cybex industries and the Cybermen attacks. Now what remained were abandoned factories and squatters, mixed in with Council flats and a handful of (mostly failed) government make-work projects. The area was mostly controlled by youth gangs and was never a particularly safe spot to stop, but especially not in a Torchwood issue black jeep.
Still, it was daylight and she felt was too shaky to keep driving. It was like all the last few weeks were catching up to her at once — the heartache and confusion, the long hours at Torchwood and the stale coffee — hitting her in one go. And it was exhausting.
She sat still for another few moments, breathing heavily, her fingers twitching nervously against the ignition. She couldn’t go on this way, not unless she wanted to run her life into the ground. She would have to pull herself together.
The thought had no sooner passed through her mind than her Torchwood mobile vibrated. She instinctively picked it up on the first ring.
“Rose!” the voice sounded harried and a little bit relieved. “Rose, listen to me, you were right — it wasn’t just a power outage.”
“Gang fight,” Jake said, “in the east, near the old World War Two ammunitions factory. On the corner of President Henry and Beaconsfield. From the early reports... we think it’s the Squadra.”
Rose went cold. “That’s two blocks over from me.”
There was a stunned silence on the other end of the phone and the Jake’s voice, desperate. “I’m on my way with a team now, Rose. Wait for us.”
“I can’t,” Rose whispered. If she waited, people would get hurt. They would lose themselves. Just like what happened to the Doctor.
“Rose, you wait,” Jake’s voice hissed, “how will it help if you go in without backup, if we lose you too? What good will that do?”
“I know the risks,” Rose retaliated. “Nobody’s spent more time studying them than me,” she said, voice growing more strained. “I can’t stand by and let innocent people get hurt. I can’t.”
“I’m sorry, Jake.”
“Rose, it won’t take us long, ROSE—”
Rose flipped her phone shut, hands beginning to shake. Her heart pounded, adrenaline beginning to course through her body. She suddenly felt alert, recharged.
Her fingers turned the keys in the ignition, the jeep revving back to life. Then she paused, something making her hesitate.
She opened her mobile again, scrolling through her phone’s address book as her breath hitched. Her fingers moved down the list faster and faster and then stopped.
Without giving herself time to think about it, she hit “call” and brought the phone to her ear. She listened to it ring once, twice, three times, her heart sinking with every passing moment.
He wasn't there.
Finally, the answering machine picked up. Sounding awkward and uneasy, his voice said, Hello, this is John Smith. I’m not here right now so please leave a message. There was a shrill beep and Rose hesitated, heart still pounding, but then her mouth opened and she found herself speaking.
“Hi, Doctor. It’s me... Rose.”
Continue to part 5