Authors: goldy_dollar & _thirty2flavors
Rating: PG-13 for angst and (eventual, off-screen) violence
Genre: Drama, angst. No seriously, angst.
Characters/Pairings: Ten2/Rose, Jackie, Pete, an assortment of others
Warnings: Character death
Summary: Years after settling in on Pete's World, the Doctor must face something he thought he could escape.
Excerpt: The Doctor did as he was asked and crossed the room to Pete’s desk, feeling a dull sense of wariness and foreboding. He was fairly certain that nothing good could come from being asked to shut the door to your boss’ office.
Author's notes: This chapter is rather short; I blame goldy_dollar.
Previously: Part One, Part Two
The following day at Torchwood was the tensest the Doctor had experienced. If he’d thought the rest of the staff was scared of him before, they were terrified of him now. No one quite seemed to meet his eye, and any verbal acknowledgements were monosyllabic at best.
It suited the Doctor just fine. He hadn’t started at Torchwood to meet people or to make friends; he’d started at Torchwood because there were twenty-four hours in a day and he wanted to spend as few of them as possible in the flat he’d once shared with Rose.
Nonetheless, he couldn’t pretend he was surprised when he was asked to meet “Director Tyler” in his office.
“Pete,” he said in greeting, giving a tight nod as he entered the room.
From behind his desk, Pete looked weary and tired. He gestured to the door with one hand, the other rubbing his forehead. “Shut the door, will you?”
The Doctor did as he was asked and crossed the room to Pete’s desk, feeling a dull sense of wariness and foreboding. He was fairly certain that nothing good could come from being asked to shut the door to your boss’ office.
“Sit down,” said Pete.
The Doctor glanced at the chair. “I’d rather stand.”
“Sit down,” Pete repeated, and after a moment’s hesitation, the Doctor complied.
From his seat the Doctor couldn’t see the front of the photograph on Pete’s desk, but he studied the back of the picture frame intensely, one hand reaching into the breast pocket where he still kept the letters from Rose. He hadn’t yet read another one, though he’d been sorely tempted. They were a last living relic of Rose, the last time she’d ever address him, however remotely, and keeping them unread felt like keeping them—and her—alive. The incredible, heartbreaking sensation that Rose was with him even now wouldn’t last beyond that first read, and the Doctor was determined to preserve that as long as possible.
There was a grind of wood against wood as Pete opened a drawer to his desk and pulled out a small, square object. He tossed it towards the Doctor, who caught it in both hands. “Do you know what that is?”
The Doctor ran around in his hands a few times, inspecting it, appreciating the cool feel of the alien metal. “Sure.” He held it up to the light, squinting at it. “It’s… well, it’s like a black box. Alien black box, sort of. All sorts of information in one of these – type of craft, planet of origin, number of passengers, purpose of the voyage, all that.”
Pete nodded. He turned to face the Doctor directly and folded his hands, resting his elbows on his desk. “A Torchwood employee named Toshiko Sato tracked and found that one yesterday.” He held out his hand, and the Doctor gave him back the device. “It’s from the ship you shot down. Made it through the atmosphere.”
The Doctor kept his hand outstretched. “I can read it, I—”
“No need.” Pete put the device back in his desk drawer. “Toshiko already has.”
The Doctor felt a chill slither down his spine. “They were invading.”
“No.” Though the Doctor stared intently at Pete’s desk, he saw the movement as Pete shook his head. “They were tourists.”
The Doctor’s head jerked up instinctively. “What?”
“Tourists, Doctor,” Pete said again, a hint of steely anger buried in his tone. “Earth was part of the package. The scenic route, as it were.”
Disbelief tingled throughout the Doctor’s body. “But there were ten ships,” he reasoned, distantly aware of the way his voice was shaking. “You don’t send ten cruise liners to the same island, that’s – that’s – well, that’s—”
“That’s what happened.”
For a long moment the Doctor sat in silence, barely aware of anything aside from his own rapidly increasing heart rate. His mouth was dry, and so he swallowed twice to find his voice. “How many?” he whispered.
Pete looked for a moment as though he wasn’t going to answer, but finally said, “Eighty in each ship, plus crew.”
A wave of nausea wracked through the Doctor’s body. He closed his eyes and bowed his head, trying to stave off the feeling that he was going to be sick. Eighty, plus crew. Eighty—
“I’m sorry, Doctor,” he heard Pete say, “but there’s absolutely no way I can overlook this. You disregarded authority and acted in an irrational, emotional manner that cost eighty innocent people their lives. I can’t let that happen again.”
The Doctor laughed, the absurdity of the situation slowly seeping in. “Are you sacking me?”
“You’re not fit to work here. Right now, you may not be fit to work anywhere.” Pete’s stare was hard. “You killed more than eighty innocent tourists in an economic downturn. There could easily be much worse ramifications than a sacking.”
The Doctor’s lip twitched humourlessly. “Yeah.”
“Toshiko has agreed to keep quiet about it.” Pete leaned across the desk and dropped his voice. “I’ll protect you this once,” he said, “because Rose loved you, and Jacks and Tony love you, and you’re family. But this absolutely cannot happen again, and if it does…” He shrugged. “You’re on your own.”
The Doctor nodded mutely, not fully trusting himself to speak. A strange sort of numbness had begun to spread throughout his body, competing with the nausea. He stared at his hands as they trembled in his lap.
Pete stood. “I think you should go home, Doctor.”
The Doctor laughed. “Home. Yeah.” He stayed seated, staring intently at the back of the picture frame on Pete’s desk. “And do what?”
Pete frowned. “I don’t—”
The Doctor laughed again, finally tearing his gaze away from the photo and looking at Pete. Suddenly he felt panicked and trapped and terrified, his breathing coming in short, quick breaths. “What am I supposed to do for the next, oh, fifty years, stuck on this planet in this pathetic human body?" He could see the timeline stretching out before him, a long, useless human life without respite or purpose. The other universe, at least, had needed him to do its dirty work. "What the hell am I supposed to do?”
“I don’t know.” Pete shrugged. “Buy a new flat. Take a holiday. See that grief counselor Jackie knows. You need to figure out who you are without Rose.”
The problem was, the Doctor thought, he knew exactly who he was without Rose. He was the sort of man who shot down a ship full of tourists on the off chance they might be invading. He thought of Rose, nineteen years old with dark roots and loose jeans, protecting a Dalek. What about you, Doctor? What the hell are you changing into?
Trying to calm his breathing, the Doctor stood on shaky legs and nodded. “Yeah.”
The first thing he did was cash his inheritance cheques from Rose. Then he went out and bought booze.
The Doctor had never bought alcohol with the sole purpose of getting drunk before. As a Time Lord, he’d enjoyed the social aspect of drinking, but he’d never really felt the effects until he turned human. He was fairly lightweight in this body, and so had made a conscious effort not to overdo it.
Now it seemed fitting. That’s what humans did, wasn’t it? Hit rock bottom, destroy a bus load of tourists, and reach for a shot glass.
Evening was descending when he finally arrived back at the flat. The light on the answering machine blinked with a new message from Jackie, but he ignored it. Instead he strode into the living room where he set a bottle of whiskey down on the coffee table. Then he reached into his jacket, pulling out the package of letters from Rose. He tossed them on the table next to the whiskey.
He stared at the letters for a moment, considering. Was this how he wanted to spend his very last moments with Rose? Getting drunk, alone, as night fell over London?
Yeah, he thought, and reached for the whiskey. At least if he was pissed out of his mind, he’d be less likely to kill people.
He unscrewed the cap and brought it to his lips, taking a deep swig. The alcohol burned down his throat before pooling heavily in his stomach. He pulled the bottle sharply away and coughed into his arm. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he took another swig before setting the bottle back down on the table.
He glanced at the pile of letters and then reached for them, hands shaking. He grabbed the whiskey with his free hand, swallowing a mouthful before carefully resting the bottle against his thigh, wedged in the corner of the sofa.
He studied the first letter. It was folded in two and he could just make out Rose’s dark and messy handwriting under the folded page. He drew his glasses out of his pocket, hooking them on his nose before unfolding the first letter.
He read them one-by-one. He read about Rose’s hopelessness after their separation and her determination after Bad Wolf Bay. He read about how building the dimension cannon gave her a reason to get up in the mornings and keep pushing forward. He read about Tony’s first birthday party and Rose’s quick promotion up the ranks of Torchwood. He read about her first alien invasion at Torchwood and the first time she woke up in the hospital after a mission gone wrong.
Finally, dates between the letters increased and then stopped altogether sometime around the beginning of the darkness. He folded down the last letter and reached for the whiskey, realizing it was far lighter than it had been. A dull headache pounded in the back of his head, but the whiskey was doing its job. He felt numb—numb to Torchwood and Rose and the look in Pete’s eyes when he told him he’d destroyed a spaceship of harmless tourists.
He stretched out on the sofa, cradling the whiskey bottle in front of him, hovering near his lips. He reached blindly for the television remote, finger hitting the corner of the table before grasping it. He clicked the telly on and fumbled for another drink as a late night ITV talk show filled the screen.
The room was beginning to spin. He closed his eyes, dozing against the backdrop of a cheerful ITV talk show host covering the news.
He dreamed about Rose right before she died, showing off her new suit and kissing him over toast. "Diplomacy is sort of the key word here," she'd said, but he should have known. He remembered running towards the Thames, feet pounding against the pavement, chest heaving with exertion. But he hadn’t been fast enough. They took her and they killed her and he hadn’t been there to stop it.
He jerked awake as something in his stomach churned violently. A rock band was playing on the telly, casting a strobe of light around the room. He struggled to sit up, nausea building in his stomach. Pressing his arm to his mouth he rolled off the sofa and half stumbled, half crawled to the toilet. There, he leaned over and threw up.
It seemed to go on and on. His throat and nose burned and he gasped for air as his stomach violently recoiled.
Finally, panting, he stopped and slid to his bum, resting against the toilet with his arms linked around his knees. Only then did he notice he was still holding the whiskey bottle. He felt a wave of disgust with himself and rested his head against the cool ivory of the toilet seat, breathing in deeply.
He used to be a Time Lord--he had held all of time and space in his hands. He had saved worlds and changed the past. And now...
Now he was the sort of person who shot down innocent people and who could only cope by feeling nothing at all. The problem was, he thought, as he pushed himself to his feet, alcohol could numb the wound for a while, but it eventually came rushing back up.
He turned to the washbasin and caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. A pale face, dark eyebrows, and dry lips stared back at him. Once he had thought it was a face he could live and die with, but he suddenly missed his ability to regenerate with a fierceness that surprised him. Regenerating had always meant being given a second chance.
He turned away and flushed the toilet. He cleaned himself up without looking into the mirror again. Then, with the taste of vomit still fresh in his mouth, he bent down and retrieved the whiskey bottle before plodding his way back to the living room.
It took him a moment to notice that it was quiet—so quiet that he could hear the German shepherd down the hall whining to be fed. He paused, listening intently for the telly.
That couldn't be right--he was sure he'd left the television on. Pushing forward, he turned into the living room and gasped. The whiskey bottle fell from his hand, rolling along the floor and spilling amber liquid across the carpet. But he barely noticed—his entire focus was on the television.
It was Rose.
A breath of air whooshed out of him and he stumbled closer, falling to his knees in front of the TV.
“Rose,” he croaked, voice sounding scratchy and foreign.
The Rose image on the screen mouthed his name, eyes desperately sweeping over the room—no, not the room. The TV wasn’t a camera. She couldn’t see him.
This was a message, then. Fingers feeling heavy and useless, he jabbed at the volume, turning it up all the way.
“Doctor—” his heart soared at the sound of her voice, “I really hope you can hear this. I’m... well, I dunno exactly. I reckon—” there was a crackle of static and Rose’s face vanished before reappearing, “—miles away from Earth. I—” The video cut out again and when Rose reappeared, she was grainy and translucent. “—don’t have much time. They’re still after me, but I’m staying one step—”
The image began to flicker. “No, no, no,” the Doctor mumbled. He pulled out the sonic screwdriver and pointed it at the screen.
Rose solidified in sharp focus. “—really miss you,” she said, with a sad smile.
Then she vanished. A second later, ITV’s talk show filled the screen again. An interview with an American Senator blared through the apartment.
“No,” he whispered. “NO.” He turned the sonic screwdriver to its highest frequency. The screen snapped and crackled, but Rose didn’t come back.
“Oh, no you don’t,” he repeated. He pushed himself to his feet and then brought one fist down on the TV. The image on the screen filled with white static and he hung his head as the American blathered on about the ills of socialized medicine.
He gulped in a breath of air. And then another one. Finally, he pulled himself upright and headed toward the door.
Rose was alive. She was alive.
And nothing would stop him from getting her back.
Continue to part 4