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: He trusted that she’d loved him, and that she believed she knew him better than anyone. He was less confident that he’d felt the same way about her. If he’d loved her so much, why hadn’t he ever told her anything that mattered?
Previous parts: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four
Author's note: Sorry about the delay again! And special thanks to kazutakia for her helpful knowledge of cars and also apparently London gangs?
John yawned as he stepped through the door to the flat and tossed his keys on the table. Work had been exhausting. That was nothing new, he supposed, but lately it seemed like everything left him feeling drained. He pinched the bridge of his nose, slumping back against the front door. He’d thought things would be easier by now. Not perfect, certainly, maybe not even good, but he’d at least expected it would feel like there was a general upward trajectory.
A woman had recognized him at work today. She wasn’t the first, though she was the first to outright ask if he was “who she thought he was”. Plenty of times when the customer answered the door they’d blink at him and stare, or they’d blink at him and stare and then fumble for their money while trying not to meet his eyes. He could imagine what they were thinking (“is that...? It looks like... I think it is!”) and he could imagine the conversations that went on once they closed the door.
In their defense, he supposed it was probably an interesting topic for discussion: the gold-digging ex-boyfriend of the mysterious Vitex heiress, reduced to delivering pizzas after their abrupt break-up following an alien attack. It was a goldmine, really. There were even factions, judging by the differing swings of tabloid articles: either he was a social climber after the Tyler fortune who was getting what he deserved, or Rose was a heartless miser, casting aside an old fling after a traumatic injury.
As a result, he found himself spending more and more time fantasizing about running away, travelling. He had elaborate daydreams about immersing himself in far-off cultures, blending in with the crowd, meeting people who had no expectations about who he should be or who he had been.
But travel cost money, of which he currently had very little. The tab of expenses he owed Rose increased by the day, though he’d done his best to be frugal. For a week he’d lived on nothing but toast, jam and bananas, worried that any money he spent at the grocer’s would be wasted buying foods he didn’t actually like. It would be a long, long time until he’d paid her back and could afford to think about leaving London.
With what felt like a gargantuan effort, he pushed himself away from the door and strode into the flat. To say that it felt like home wasn’t right — it still felt like he’d invaded someone else’s living space. But it was becoming familiar at least, and familiar things in his life were hard to come by. He moved into the kitchen to fetch a glass of water, and looked over at the blinking red light of the answering machine.
His stomach squirmed with guilt. Probably it was someone from Torchwood. They’d left a handful of messages over the past couple of days, wanting to know why he’d stopped attending their group sessions. Had something gone wrong? Were the scheduled times no longer good for him? Would he like to set up a one-on-one session? Would he call, please, just to confirm that everything was all right?
The problem was that he didn’t want to explain why he’d stopped attending. At the last session he’d attended, he’d run into Rose and then spent the entire time feeling like a fraud. He’d felt cold and nauseous and out of place, surrounded by people whose lives had been devastated by the Squadra. He’d listened to them talk about their families — wives and husbands, parents, siblings, their children — and he’d felt sick. Forgetting those bonds tore those people apart, and he’d sat there, leaden with the knowledge that he’d done the exact same thing by choice.
Because he had, hadn’t he? He’d had children and he’d never even spoken of them to the woman he was supposed to love. He’d torn the flat apart when he got home that night, looking for proof of what she’d said, and he’d found nothing. Not a thing — not even a single dog-eared photo, buried somewhere out of sight. With no names, no dates, not a clue who the mother had been or what had happened to them or even how he’d lost them all, the search was over before it had begun. Whoever his family had been, it was clear he’d forgotten them long before the Squadra had stolen his memories. Whatever platitudes Rose had given him about grief and loss and coping mechanisms, he knew with a bone-deep certainty what Rose refused to believe.
He couldn’t have been nearly as good a person as she thought.
He tightened his grip on the glass and stared at the tile floor. He felt guilty for things he couldn’t remember doing. As much as he wanted to believe what Rose had said about who he used to be, he was finding that harder and harder to do. He trusted that she’d loved him, and that she believed she knew him better than anyone. He was less confident that he’d felt the same way about her. If he’d loved her so much, why hadn’t he ever told her anything that mattered?
He tipped back the rest of the water and set the glass on the counter, striding into the living room. The coffee table was littered with an assortment of odd objects, things he’d found in various places around the flat and as yet been unable to identify a use for. Probably they came from Torchwood, and several times he’d considered calling Rose just to ask. But he supposed if they were anything important she wouldn’t have left them in his incapable hands, and truthfully he liked puzzling over them. He’d take one apart and try to fit the pieces back together, and sometimes he thought the finished product was better than the original. He’d even managed to cobble two individual pieces together to make a third, equally-bizarre object. It was a strange, intuitive hobby and he couldn’t articulate what he was doing if he tried, but he liked the work. It was something concrete to focus on, and he found that if he didn’t think very hard about how he was doing it, it was a welcome distraction from his mad life.
Taking a seat on the sofa, he rested his elbows on his knees and loomed over the coffee table. The thing that held the most intrigue was something he’d found the other day in the pocket of one of his suit jackets. The strange little blue torch was the only item that seemed to do anything — it lit up and made a funny whirring sound when he pressed the button on the side. The first time he’d used it he’d held the button down for maybe thirty seconds when the television had abruptly turned off and a shower of sparks had come from the receiver. Though he’d never turned the torch on again after that — he was worried about what it might do and reluctant to break another appliance — he remained fascinated by it, twirling it in his hands. Why had he kept a torch that whistled and blew up televisions in his pocket?
The phone rang and John flinched in surprise, nearly dropping the torch. He frowned; it must be Torchwood again. Screening calls was very easy when there was only ever one caller.
He looked at the phone, watched it ring, and debated. He knew he ought to contact Torchwood sometime, just to let them know that he was... well, alive, at least. But he also knew that any conversation with Torchwood would encourage them to keep trying. They’d taken a particular interest in him, probably because he was a former “consultant”. With a sigh he laid down on the sofa. Let it go to voicemail, he thought.
Finally, after the fifth ring, the answering machine picked up.
“Hello, this is John Smith,” he heard his own voice say, and he winced at how poor it sounded — weak and unsure and barely-there. “I’m not here right now, so please leave a message.”
Or don’t, he thought, staring at the ceiling. I’d be all right with that, too.
But when the beep sounded, the voice he heard on the recording was not one from Torchwood — or at least, not one he expected to hear.
“Hi, Doctor. It’s me... Rose.”
He furrowed his brow. Surely they wouldn’t make her call him? Were they hoping she’d be able to get through to him?
“Sorry to bother you, I just...” She sucked in a breath and hesitated, giving the impression that she suddenly had no idea what to say. “I just wanted to apologize, for the other day. It wasn’t right, me bringing that up without — without being able to tell you anything worthwhile. I’m sorry.”
He frowned, looking towards the phone. It wasn’t her fault. Maybe he ought to pick up.
He didn’t move.
“Anyway, I want you to know that I really do wish you the best.” She took another deep, shaky breath over the line, and he sat up on his elbows, listening intently. She sounded like she might cry. “I loved... what we had together, and I know one day you’ll make someone else as happy as you made me. That’s good. Maybe you’ll even pay for the first date.” She laughed, but it sounded watery. “I’m rambling, and it’s an answering machine, and I need to go, but I...”
She broke off again, and he was sure now that she was crying. He sat up on the sofa, staring at the phone intently, still unable to reach over and pick it up. Why was she crying?
“You’re a wonderful man, Doctor,” she went on, her voice stronger now. “I know you’ve changed, but you still are. You can’t help it. No one deserves happiness more than you do. I mean that. Really. So in case I... in case I don’t see you again for a while, I just want to say...” With a final deep breath, she steadied her voice, and John found his heart inexplicably pounding in his ears. “Have a fantastic life. For me. ...Goodbye, Doctor.”
The ‘click’ as she hung up was followed by three seconds of heavy silence in the flat. Then the Doctor sprang to his feet, sonic screwdriver in hand.
When Rose rolled to a stop outside the factory, she momentarily thought that Jake had got it wrong or sent her to the wrong place. She expected to find a scene like that day at the shopping centre, of scared people streaming out of the building and the Squadra chasing them down. Instead the pavement was clear, the road mostly abandoned.
And then she saw it, a man on the front step, crouched into the fetal position. She recognized him right away as a member of one of London’s more notorious gangs. He couldn’t have been older than 20, but he was at least twice her size in height and weight.
Rose jumped out of her vehicle. Circling around back, she opened the boot, grabbing two guns. One she clipped to her trousers, the other, she flicked off the safety and tucked into her arm.
She approached the man, the gun held out in front of her. “My name’s Rose,” she said, her voice steady. “Rose Tyler. I’m Torchwood. I’m here to help.”
The man looked up from his crouched position, his face read and scratched as if he’d been digging his fingernails into his skin.
Rose kept her voice strong, but gentle. “Tell me what’s happened.”
“They fired first, the Whitechapel Crew, we were only defending ourselves.” There was a pause and the man looked off into the distance. Up close, she could see that his pupils were dilated. “And then.... they were screaming and collapsing and there were these things, these....”
“Squadra,” Rose whispered and the man looked up at her, helpless and desperate.
“They had long legs and their mouths—”
Rose nodded. “I know.”
“They were everywhere. They were pushing us in the building, herding us like animals.” The man’s voice took on a sudden note of anger and it seemed to give him confidence. He went on. “I didn’t know what was going on — we were shooting at each other — I fell...”
He nodded at his leg and Rose looked down where he was bleeding, a gunshot wound above his knee. That’s why he hadn’t run away.
“They went by me, into the building.”
The man drifted into silence and Rose steeled herself. Holding her gun tightly, she turned her gaze on the building, a feeling of foreboding welling up inside of her. In her pocket, she heard her mobile begin to buzz, ringing on and on. But she ignored it. It would only be Jake, trying to talk her out of what she was about to do.
She didn’t have time for that.
“They’re desperate to feed,” she said, mostly to herself. “We stopped them last time.” She looked down at the man. “How many were they?”
The man shook his head and Rose sighed, going around him. She didn’t have time for this. “A team will be here soon,” she said. “They’ll look after you.”
She headed towards the building, but the man suddenly reached out, fingers closing around the sleeve of her jacket. “Please,” he said, almost sobbing. “My brother is in there. He’s barely sixteen. I didn’t want this for him.”
Rose met the man’s desperate and frightened gaze and found herself nodding. “I’ll do what I can.”
The man’s hold loosened and then he released her. Without another word, Rose climbed the stairs and entered the building.
He stole a car.
Desperate times called for desperate measures, after all, and he was fairly confident that Jackie would have no qualms reimbursing the owner later on.
Besides, he had no time to feel guilty. He had to get to Rose and he had to get to her right now. He drove with one hand on the wheel, screeching by a man on a bike and a woman pushing a stroller while his spare hand dug around in his pockets.
He glanced down at himself and almost froze in horror. What on earth was he wearing?
Once he saved Rose from whatever danger she had managed to get herself into this time—and he would save her—they were going to have to have a very serious discussion about what she was thinking when she let him dress himself in a pair of jeans.
Finally he found his mobile tucked into his right pocket. Digging it out, he dialled clumsily, eyes darting from the phone in his hand and to the road and back.
He pressed the phone to his ear and listened as Rose’s phone rang and rang. Cursing under his breath, he hung up and dialled Jake’s number.
He answered on the third ring. “Hello?” said Jake’s voice, sounding worn and a little wary. “John, this really isn’t the time—”
The Doctor interrupted him. “Where’s Rose?”
There was a moment of stunned silence and then, “I’m sorry?”
“Rose,” barked the Doctor. “Blonde, a little over five feet tall, good with a gun, where is she?”
Even in his agitated state, the Doctor could sense Jake’s confusion. “Doctor?” he finally said hesitantly.
The Doctor nearly drove off the road in frustration. “Yes, well done, glad we’ve solved that,” he said. “Now, will you please tell me where she is?”
“Right,” said Jake, after a beat. Whatever confusion he was feeling, he managed to get past it, because his next few words were clipped and business-like. “There was a Squadra attack in the east end, the corner of President Henry and Beaconsfield. Rose went in on her own—”
“She WHAT?” the Doctor exploded. “And you just let her—”
“She’s been out of her mind these last few months, Doctor,” came the much softer reply. “Crazed, almost. I reckon she.... she saw the chance at revenge and she took it.”
Dread pooled in the Doctor’s stomach. If only he had picked up the phone back at the flat, if only he had just talked to her. But now....
“I’m on my way,” he said grimly.
“So are we,” Jake responded. “But she still has a head start.”
“I’m closer,” said the Doctor. Without another word, he snapped the phone shut and shoved it back into his pocket. He glanced around, doing a cursory check for any nearby policy cruisers, and then he pressed his foot down on the gas pedal. The stolen car bucked briefly underneath him and then sped up.
The Doctor set his mouth in a tight line and tightened his grip on the wheel.
It wasn’t hard for Rose to find them.
She only had to follow the trail of bodies.
Both people and Squadra, she noted. Maybe it hadn’t been their best move, attacking people who were already armed with guns. Some of the people were bleeding from gun wounds, either caught in the crossfire or purposely taken by the rival gang. Others were merely unconscious — those were the ones who wake up in the hospital in a few hours, their memories and identities wiped away.
Rose’s hands shook on her gun, but she followed the trail of bodies. Down a hall, around the corner. From somewhere below she heard the sudden blast of a gun going off, and then a long, wailing scream — a scream that seemed to go on forever before abruptly cutting off.
Rose thought hard. Old ammunitions factory, Jake had said. She would bet the Squadra had herded them downstairs, to the main plant. In a wide open space, the people would be trapped in with few exits and few places to hide.
Rose looked around for a staircase and shivered. They were getting smarter, the Squadra. Last time when they had attacked a shopping centre in the heart of London, they gave the people a chance to flee the building and escape. Now they were picking the furthest and poorest region of the city, boxing their victims in.
By the time Torchwood arrived, it would be all over for them.
Finally, she came across an old lift. She had to manually haul the doors open herself, but the inside was untarnished. For a second, she hesitated. Was she really ready for this? To head straight into a battle she had no hope of coming out from?
But she remembered how that man had looked at her, the way he’d desperately clung to her jacket, begging her to rescue his brother. What did that make her if she left them now to save herself?
Decision made, she stepped into the lift and pressed the ‘down’ button. The rickety lift shuddered to life and then descended. It was a short trip. Taking a deep breath, she wrenched the doors back open.
And found herself staring at the back of a Squadra.
It must be guarding the exit, Rose thought, at the same time as the Squadra turned around. Its bubble eyes bugged and then it opened its jaws. The mouth had no teeth; it was coloured black and looked almost smooth like a giant plastic funnel. Rose instinctively took a step back, banging onto the back of the lift. Raising her gun, she fired once, twice, three times into the wide open mouth.
The Squadra emitted a piercing wail and then collapsed, immobile at Rose’s feet.
First one down.
Rose chanced a look around. There were at least ten Squadra, maybe more, and a handful more people. Some Squadra were bent over, feeding on helpless victims. One or two of them lay dead or near death, bleeding from gunshot wounds.
The remaining Squadra were herding the people into a corner. Most of them had lost or used up their weapons and their terrified gazes jumped around the plant, desperately seeking a way out and not finding it. Most of them were men, but Rose counted one or two women among them. All of them were about her age or younger.
With a sudden burst of anger, Rose trained her gun on the nearest Squadra and fired. It hit the alien in the back, and he shuddered and turned around. Rose fired again, this time hitting him in the head. He fell down without a noise.
She suddenly had their full attention.
There were four or five of them who weren’t feeding and Rose instinctively took a step backwards, nearly tripping over a fallen body. Before she could regain her balance, they jumped, rushing at her, their long legs skittering over the floor. Rose fired, missed, and almost hit one of the remaining victims.
“GET TO THE LIFT,” she hollered at them. “NOW.”
There was no time for anymore instructions. Rose turned around and ran. She could sense them gaining on her, their long strides more than outpaced hers.
The factory wasn’t very big. She was already nearing the other side, her heart hammering frantically in her chest. She chanced a glance over her shoulder, comforted by the sight of so many of the Squadra’s almost-victims running for the lift. Some—maybe most—would get away.
And then one of the Squadra slammed into her from behind. Rose crumbled to the ground, chin banging down on the cement floor, her gun clattering across the floor. Stars exploded behind her eyes and she tasted blood in her mouth.
The Squadra’s legs dug into her arms, wrestling to turn her around. No, Rose thought with a sudden burst of panic. Not that. She would take anything over losing herself.
She thrashed underneath the Squadra, groping for her second gun. Finally her fingers grasped around the head and she pulled it up, fumbling for the safety.
The Squadra flipped her over and she stared up into that mouth, the mouth that seemed to go on forever. Squeezing her eyes shut, she fired.
Above her, the Squadra wailed in pain and then collapsed heavily on top of her. Rose struggled underneath the body, but already the rest of them were bearing down on her. They were moving slowly, their tongues clicking in some alien language she couldn’t understand. It was almost like they were purposely drawing it out.
She clenched her jaw. She wouldn’t go down without a fight. Still straining underneath the weight of the dead Squadra, she brought her gun arm around, aiming at the nearest Squadra. She fired. It hissed as the bullet grazed one of its tentacles, but moved forward.
Rose fired again—but this time a long leg wrapped itself around her wrist, squeezing until tears sprang into her eyes. With a faint gasp, Rose’s fingers spasmed and she dropped the gun. The Squadra made another clicking noise (almost like they were laughing) and then kicked the gun away.
Rose watched it go with a sinking heart. She had wasted that last bullet — she should have turned the gun on herself and finished it before the Squadra could.
Squeezing her eyes shut, she felt one tear roll down her cheek, body tensing as she waited for the inevitable pain of the Squadra’s mouth crashing down on her.
And then there was a noise—a sharp, ringing wail, like nothing she had ever heard before. It felt like the whole building was vibrating, like the noise was reaching inside of her and settling into her bones. It was awful. She cried out, but still the noise continued, loud and piercing. In desperation, she struggled under the Squadra corpse, fighting to free her arms. Finally, finally she managed to cover her ears, but still the noise drowned on. Unending, merciless.
And then it stopped.
Panting, she fought to open her eyes. The ceiling swam into view, blurry and unfocused. Over the ringing in her ears, she heard someone calling her name.
Her heart leaped. That sounded like.... but it couldn’t be. It couldn’t. That was impossible. She was hallucinating, or this was how it felt, death by Squadra attack. She was cracking up, one stolen memory at a time.
But the voice called again. “Rose — hang on, I’m coming.”
Trainers slapped against the ground and then he swam into her line of vision above her. The first thing she thought was that he was wearing the most ridiculous outfit — jeans and a loosely fitting t-shirt with a half-buttoned blazer. It looked like he had put on half a suit and then forgot about the other half.
“Rose,” he said, practically choking out her name. “You’re all right. I’m here now.”
Unwittingly, tears sprang into her eyes. Her chest heaved and it hurt to draw in her next breath. “Oh my God. Doctor?”
She could barely get the word out. In the half-second of silence that followed, Rose felt like her heart was breaking.
But then he was nodding, “It’s me. I’m back. Rose—”
He touched her hair and she sniffled, but she was still trapped underneath the Squadra corpse. She pushed uselessly at the body, fighting tears of desperation. Her head was pounding and her mouth was bleeding but all she wanted was to throw herself into his arms and never let go.
“Get it off,” she said, almost crying. “GET IT OFF.”
The Doctor snapped to attention immediately. With both of them pushing, they managed to heave the Squadra over to one side, enough so that Rose could wiggle out from under the body. She managed to draw herself up to her knees before she staggered, falling almost involuntarily into the Doctor’s arms.
Her heart was thudding as he drew her in close, stroking her hair and whispering soothing noises into her ear. What if it was all just a dream? What if this was where her subconscious had gone to hide? It all felt too surreal.
“How did....?” she began.
“Setting 32E on the sonic screwdriver,” said the Doctor grimly, “and this.” He held up a device that looked oddly like a funnel. “Amplifies the frequency,” he explained. “Made it two weeks ago from bits around the flat, not that I knew what it was. They have sensitive bodies, the Squadra. Incredible hearing. The sensations... it overloaded their system.” He paused. “It’s almost deadly to humans as well, come to think of it.”
She had no idea what he was talking about, but the mindless babble, even the slight hint of condescension at the end--the you-silly-humans-and-your-sensitivities tone of voice, it all felt very him.
She held him tighter. “You left me,” she said, and she sounded tired. So tired.
“I know,” came the soft reply. And then his hands caressed her face, fingers lingering on her temples. “Concussion,” he said.
“Am I dreaming?”
He looked sad. “No.”
She struggled to get up, forcing her sluggish body to move. “Then we have to — there are others, they’re hurt. I have to find... there was this man’s brother....”
She pulled herself to her feet but stumbled, and the Doctor grabbed her by the arms to steady her. “They’re hurt,” she repeated, “lots of them, they—”
“You’re hurt,” he said firmly, gently trying to coax her back down. “Torchwood’s on their way--”
Rose shook her head resolutely. “We have to—we have to help them—”
“I will, Rose, just... sit down. All right?”
Still feeling unsteady on her feet, with her head pounding and her ears ringing, Rose allowed herself to be eased back down. She looked over at the others; it seemed as though everyone who could walk had made it out of the basement. She turned to spit out the blood that had been pooling in her mouth, then looked at the Doctor, still crouched in front of her.
“Go,” she said, wiping the blood away from her mouth with the back of her hand. “They need help. I—”
Her words were drowned out by the sound of the lift door being forced open and Torchwood personnel pouring out of it, guns raised. They froze outside the entrance to the lift, perplexed.
“It’s all right,” the Doctor called. “They’re dead. You’ll need stretchers down here, a lot of people have been injured.”
Jake, standing at the front of the team, turned in their direction first, visibly relieved to see Rose still alive. He nodded at the Doctor’s words and gestured towards his team, saying something Rose couldn’t hear. Her eyes slipped shut and she slumped back, the last of the adrenaline in her system beginning to be dampened by relief. Torchwood was here. They would take care of the people who were hurt.
There was a pounding of boots across the floor and she felt the Doctor’s hand move up to brush her cheek.
“Rose?” he asked softly.
“‘M all right,” she murmured — perhaps less convincingly than she wanted, because the Doctor slid his arm around her back.
The sound of boots came to a stop and then Jake spoke, his voice strained. “Rose, are you okay?”
“‘M fine,” she insisted, cracking her eyes open and sending him a small, bloody smile.
Jake’s concerned frown didn’t go away. “Jesus, Rose, you scared us.”
“I couldn’t just wait, there were people—”
Jake sighed. “I know.” Then he grinned. “Glad you’re still with us, Tyler.” He looked at the Doctor. “And I have no idea how the hell you’ve done it, but welcome back.”
The Doctor barely seemed aware of the acknowledgement. “Thanks.” He was still watching Rose closely, a small frown at the corner of his mouth. “You’ve got a concussion, and you’re exhausted. I’m taking you to the hospital. Allons-y!”
Exhaustion and the pounding in her head and ears made her movements uncoordinated, but with one of his arms gripping her waist and her other arm looped around his shoulders, Rose was able to hoist herself to her feet. She leaned heavily against him as they found their balance, and they shuffled towards the lift.
“By the way,” he called back to Jake, “find the owner of a blue Audi A5 with the license plate D351FYR and tell them their car’s parked on Beaconsfield.”
Gripping the Doctor’s jacket tightly, Rose watched her feet carefully as they walked, and it wasn’t until they were in the lift that Rose turned to stare at the Doctor suspiciously.
“Did you steal a car?”
Continue to Part 6