Fandom: Dr. Who
Previous Chapter: Nineteen
Characters: Jack/Rose/The Ninth Doctor
Words: 4,341, per Google Docs
Edited by: the ever-faithful buckaroobob /dr_whuh, with help from the delightful a_phoenixdragon
Summary: A cold and beautiful world, a market, a bolt of silk, and three people walking through the doors of their memories.
Author's Note: In which sleep is very much to be considered, valued and sought after. After having completed just one chapter in 2013, it's my solemn wish to finish the story this year. Please wish me luck.
Disclaimer: As much as I wish it were otherwise, no Whoniverse characters are mine. They are the sole properties of the BBC and their respective creators. I intend no copyright infringement and take no coin. I do, however, love them all and thank the BBC for letting me play in its sandbox.
The Doctor never slept much.
Rose had noticed it when she first started running with him. She’d put it down to “Alien, yeah?” and had, after her first few ill-advised attempts to keep up with him, insisted that he allow her time to rest between adventures. His gripes were perfunctory; he obviously understood that humans didn’t simply want downtime, they needed it.
Shortly after they watched the Earth burn, Rose discovered her own room on the TARDIS. She assumed that the Doctor had set it up for her and thanked him, only to be told that She had prepared it. Thank Her, the Doctor had said, the capitalized pronoun Rose’s first uncaught hint that the phone box was more than a machine.
That day she’d nodded, uncomprehending, then retreated to the bedroom to sort out her thoughts. It was larger than her room at home, its dusky blush walls slightly darker than she was used to, but it proved surprisingly welcoming despite the lack of windows and the simple furnishings — the bed, a side table and one chair. She’d burrowed beneath the bed’s comfortable flowered counterpane and slept for hours, waking with a half-remembered cadence in her head that was her introduction to the ship’s constant rhythm.
As time passed, she made the bedroom more personal, at first with things she’d retrieved from her mum’s flat and later with treasures she found in other places, other times. By the time she and the Doctor met Jack, she was used to sleeping at odd hours, and after odder adventures. As long as it was in her TARDIS bedroom, with the TARDIS’ rhythm playing to her as she slept, she always awoke refreshed and eager.
And the Doctor was always there in the console room; waiting for her, equally eager.
Everyone is wrong, Rose thought as she wiped the tears and snot from her face – you never quite “cry yourself out.” There are always more tears waiting to trip you up.
She knelt in the alley, waiting for the next bout to hit her, barely feeling Luisa's arms around her. If that was who was in charge now, Rose thought bitterly; a dead girl. And that did it again. She couldn’t stop her ugly gasps and sobs, didn’t know if she would even if she could. The TARDIS was gone, and Jack was gone. She was alone and everything she’d done since waking in that cell was for nothing.
“Rose, please, you've got to be quiet,” the other woman said softly, sounding calmer than Rose had ever heard her. “You've got to, you've absolutely got to, because that Maldad will be back, and he'll take us in. We know that.”
Perhaps it was her calm; perhaps it was the ‘we’ that caught her attention by nibbling at her curiosity; had Luisa and Filomena come to some sort of accommodation with each other?
Or perhaps it was the realization that not quite everything had been for nothing. Rose forced herself to tamp down on her rage and disappointment and focus on the one person, whoever it might eventually be, that she had managed to win free of the cells.
It’s not fair! some part of her wailed resentfully. Why should I have to take care of a crazy woman?
No. A dying woman, Rose amended silently. And that finally, forcibly, stopped her tears. Luisa was already dead and Filomena was dying. Even a shopgirl with no A-levels could figure out what the repeated convulsions and sky-high body temperature meant. The girl beside her had two minds battling for one brain, and she didn’t need the Doctor to tell her that couldn’t end well. She did need the Doctor if she wanted to save this woman who she had, of her own free will, made her responsibility.
The world seemed, if possible, even heavier on her shoulders. But the weight felt somehow steadying.
“OK. Alright. Sorry. Just lost it a bit.”
“Because that blue box disappeared into thin air.”
“Yeah. It was (home) our ship. And my friend must have …” She trailed off. What could have made the TARDIS disappear? She didn’t think Jack knew how to pilot Her, but perhaps she was wrong. But why would he have left? She refused to believe that the man who’d willingly accepted his own apparent death in the form of a bomb he removed for her and the Doctor would run away from them now, although she reluctantly acknowledged that it could be the case. Then again, the TARDIS sometimes did what She wanted to; wasn’t that what the Doctor said?
Rose blinked as that last thought lingered and routed her considerations into odd channels. Until now, she’d thought what the Doctor said about the TARDIS was one of his quasi-apologetic jokes, employed when his own navigational skills failed. But why should it be? Why shouldn’t She be able to do things like that? We talk of her as She, after all. As if she’s alive. And any girl alive has the right to change her travel plans.
A girl, the Doctor’s “Old Girl.” Rose thought about that. Could the TARDIS have been going to find the Doctor? Was Jack inside, helping Her? Was he an unwilling passenger? Or was he somewhere else? The internal barrage of questions quite overwhelmed her despair, which was probably good, but they also weren’t helping her or Filomena. She gave her nose one last wipe and turned to Filomena, asking, “What do you think we should do right now?”
Filomena looked pleased at having been consulted. “We can go home. To her home.”
“Whose home? Luisa’s or your’s? Erhm … who am I talking to?”
The little blonde woman grimaced. “Me. Filomena. Mostly me. But the other one … uh, Luisa … she’s sort of telling me things. Or things are leaking through from her to me, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to remember them.”
“So you think we should go back to the house?” Rose had already experienced one night outside in Lizhbau’s cold weather. She didn’t want to risk another, and it was already dark. She shivered and moved closer to one brick alley wall in a fruitless attempt stay out of the omnipresent wind.
“No, we should go to her place; Luisa’s.”
“But — “
“She didn’t live with her father and aunt. She was married. Is married. To Salvha Adao.”
“‘Vella?” Rose ventured.
Filomena nodded. “And she’s really sure that we should go back to the house they had together.”
Rose didn’t like the idea of running into the hatchet faced stranger who had so viciously rejected her companion, but she couldn’t think of anyplace else to go. At the very least, they needed to catch their respective breaths again, before she tried to figure out a way to catch up with the TARDIS. “What do you think?” she asked again.
Indirect light from a stuttering street lamp beyond the alley turned Filomena’s skin even more sallow and ashen than it really was. “I can’t think, really. It’s getting so hard …”
Rose held her breath.
“ … but we might as well go there. He might not be there, and I can’t go on much longer.”
That settles it then. “Do you know the way?”
“I think I know how to get there even if she can’t tell me,” Filomena said heavily. “I know that area pretty well myself. Cidad’o Biche. But go softly. They don’t call it Rat Town for nothing.”
Before she’d met the Doctor, that kind of neighborhood nickname might have made her roll her eyes. Now Rose wondered if she should be on the lookout for real, large rats.
“Not real rats,” the other woman said, as if she’d read Rose’s thoughts (and let’s not go there). “Not more than usual for poor neighborhoods, anyhow. But the place is crawling with informants and Maldads and government people. Don’t know if her man is one of them.”
“I don’t think so,” Rose responded dubiously, thinking about the attack on the transport. “Look, if you think you know how to get there, let me help you up and we’ll get started, yeah?”
Filomena slowly got up from her knees, leaning heavily on Rose. They shuffled out into the street, and Rose was relieved to see neither tourists nor Maldads. Now all she could hope for was as short a trek as possible to a place where she truly hoped not to be greeted by a potentially very violent little man.
Jack must have been exhausted when he first came on board. Yet he actively resisted sleep, at first. He claimed not to need it, although it was painfully obvious that he did. He would prowl the halls of the TARDIS for hours — she didn’t stop to think about how she knew that, she just knew it — and when he would finally, reluctantly, head for the room he’d been told was his, he fell into slumber almost fearfully. Rose knew that, too, again without knowing how she knew it.
She talked to the Doctor about Jack’s fear of sleep shortly after his arrival, wondering aloud what he must have gone through to have such a grey cast to his skin, so much weariness under all the charming words. She’d asked if it had anything to do with his missing memories, then wondered, a little diffidently, whether the Doctor might be able to help with that. The Doctor’s “Leave it, Rose. He’ll tell us when he decides it’s the right time.” had both chagrined her and, after some thought, made her more hopeful about Jack’s place with them. It had been good to know that the Time Lord thought Jack would be around for a while.
She took her cue from the Doctor, and never asked Jack about his past. Over the next few weeks, or whatever passed for weeks in the TARDIS’ timeless interior, Jack became more comfortable. As he did, the circles under his eyes faded, and his energy seemed less desperate.
“This place is good for me,” he’d said to the two of them in an unguarded moment.
“Why’s that, then?” she’d teased.
He hesitated briefly, a momentary look of bewilderment in his eyes. “I sleep better.”
She had started to ask him what he meant, but something — perhaps the memory of her own nights here — stopped her.
“You’re dead on your feet.”
“So are you.”
“So are we all.”
Jao and Nico turned their attention from each other to glare at Hilda. She said nothing more, just raised her eyebrows and jerked her head in Jack’s direction. He sat collapsed in the jump seat. Even the green-gold TARDIS light couldn’t disguise the bruises under his closed eyes.
“What?” He opened those eyes reluctantly, feeling their combined gazes on him.
“Can you fly this — ” Hilda hesitated. “Can you fly this ship?”
He frowned. “Not ship. TARDIS. I told you, She’s called the TARDIS. And, yes, I can. I think I can. If She lets me.” He closed his eyes again, and didn’t have the energy to mask his uncertainty; the bidasfeina had worn off a long time ago.
Hilda shook her head. “No, I don’t think you can. Not as tired as you are.” He started to say something, but she held up a hand and went on firmly. “Don’t deny it. We’re all on short sleep but you are most definitely in worse shape than we are.”
“I suppose I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” Jack said, trying for humor and barely reaching it. He was indeed tired, so much so that his eyes and lips were burning with fatigue. It was hard to put one thought in front of another.
“No, that wouldn’t do at all,” Nico said. “We made a deal, and you’re going to have to stay alive long enough to keep your side of the bargain. If you must die, sleep beforehand.” He managed his attempt at levity a little more successfully than Jack had.
“Hilda’s right. You’re exhausted, it’s plain to see. And the three of us aren’t much better. So; this TARDIS … does it have crew quarters? I don’t want to risk heading back to the safe house, much less the bar or … or where I live, without some sleep under our belts. I’m willing to sleep on the floor,” he continued, looking warily at the grill beneath him, “but a bed, even a hammock, would be preferable.”
“Speak for yourself,” Jao said mutinously, but largely under his breath. Nico ignored him.
Jack didn’t answer for a moment, as he tried to wrestle his mind back to efficiency. All he could muster initially was fear of how angry the Doctor would be when he found out Jack had let strangers into the TARDIS. But that assumes the Doctor is going to be around. And he’s not, not until I can find him and rescue him.
“I think we can find some beds,” he finally said. “What about Salvha and his father-in-law?”
For answer, Nico pulled a mobile of some sort out of a trouser pocket, tapped some sort of text message out, then tucked it back into the pocket. “I’ve told Salvha not to expect us for a few hours.” Then he frowned slightly at Jack’s badly hidden surprise. “You saw the lab, and are astonished by this?”
“No, sorry. Just … hadn’t seen any of you use them before.” This was the first he’d seen of anything approaching modern communicators, not counting an old cradle-phone at the safe house and a public booth outside “Cheap Eats Here.”
“We travel in land line neighborhoods,” Nico said by way of explanation. “My — the Governor has restricted the sale of mobiles. and their price is almost prohibitive. It’s easier to track land lines; legislation requires the communications companies to provide his administration with whatever tracking information they request.”
“Of course.” Oh, all you brave new worlds, that have such old-fashioned and predictably paranoid tyrants in them. It wouldn't be good form to remind him of what he probably already knows; his father's people have undoubtedly unencrypted the mobile systems, too. Still, there's only so much paranoia one can swallow and live with. Jack said no more, simply gestured down the hall. The others followed him through one of the organically curving corridors, so tired that their wonder was well in check. The TARDIS showed them two simple but comfortable rooms. Nico and Hilda claimed one immediately, while Jao accepted the second.
“Can we afford five hours?” Hilda asked, gazing longingly at the bed.
“Make it three,” Nico corrected. “We need to get back to the safe house as soon as we’ve recharged a little.” Hilda groaned, but agreed. She and Jao headed for bed.
As Jack started back down the corridor to the console room, Nico put a hand on his shoulder. He stopped and let the taller man turn him. His own passive response told him he was almost critically overdue for sleep. “What?”
Nico lowered his head slightly, looked at the floor then back up at Jack. “Your TARDIS … When I consider this place, I am not altogether sure that I am dealing with human beings,” he said, softly enough that the others didn’t hear him. Jack thought he saw banked excitement in the other man’s eyes, and perhaps a touch of fear.
“I’m most definitely human,” he replied, equally quietly.
“I know you are. But are your companions?”
A beat, and another.
“Get some sleep,” Jack said. “Three hours.”
Nico’s mouth tightened, but he spoke no further, and followed Hilda into the bedroom. Jack was alone in the hall, listening to the thrum of the TARDIS.
“Thank you,” he whispered to Her. His head muzzy with exhaustion, he wondered what She thought of his fumbling attempts at rescue. She’d helped him thus far — would Her cooperation continue?
The gentle surge of warmth he felt at the base of his neck (You can nudge my limbic system all you want, darlin’) reassured him. “Wake me in three hours?” he whispered, then staggered off to sleep.
Rose had no idea how long it took for them to reach a narrow side street, where the faded houses seemed to lean against each other for support, although it was still dark and the streets still blessedly empty. But she was grateful when Filomena pointed at one and whispered “That one. There should be a key tucked under that delivery box. I — she — always leaves one there. They used to fight about it.”
Rose tightened her grip around Filomena’s shoulders, looked around one more time to see if anyone was in sight, and headed over to the house. She saw no light seeping from the one downstairs window, nor any from the two on the upper storey. Did that mean no one was home, or that everyone was asleep?
She didn’t care. “Where was the key supposed to be?”
She found it. It was very easy to open the front door, but less easy to see inside. “Filomena, I’ll take the lead, but be as quiet as possible.”
“Did you think I was going to be anything else,” Filomena muttered back.
They inched themselves into the house. Rose gingerly closed the door behind them, fearful that the click might alert someone to their presence. “How do you turn the lights on?” She still whispered.
“The light at the front’s broken. If the bill got paid, there should be a working switch a little farther up the hall, by the back parlour door,” Filomena said.
A minute of creeping in the near-total darkness, which included at least one instance of walking into furniture and noisily knocking some unseen knickknack to the floor, convinced Rose that no one was going to interrupt them. When they finally reached the end of the hall, she groped around and found the switch.
Apparently someone had paid the utility bill, because the room brightened faintly. That wasn’t an improvement; it was a mess, dust and unidentified detritus on the floor, papers piled on mismatched end tables, partly covering plates of dried and mouldering food, books and spread sheets sliding untidily from stacks haphazardly abandoned on a sagging sofa.
That sounded like Luisa, from the changed tenor of her voice. Rose grimaced at the floor, then looked to her companion and saw the telltale signs that the dead woman’s consciousness was pushing to the top; increased trembling, a new sheen of sweat across Filomena’s face. “He can’t take care of himself … look at all of this, he couldn’t keep clean in a closet,” she continued, as if the two of them were simply chatting about boyfriend foibles over a cuppa. That ended when she started coughing, doubling over in an almost vain attempt to catch her breath.
“Alright, sweetheart. Take it easy,” Rose said, craning her head to see farther into the house.
“Gnnh … “ The grunt was painful. Her breathing was labored, and Rose heard the wheeze and rattle that once again reminded Rose of her Gran. The other woman sank to the floor, stretching out her legs and letting her arms fall to her side. She looked like an abandoned marionette.
Luisa surfacing probably wasn’t a surprise, given that they were sitting in her home. It had to be calling to her, Rose thought. When you’re in a place that’s yours, you feel more like yourself even if you’re not really there — Rose shook her head to stop that train of thought. Best just to accept whoever appeared, whoever talked to her, she decided.
They truly were alone, Rose realized as the coughing fit brought no one into the foyer. “Here, use this,” she said, pulling off the ragged kerchief she’d kept on her head and handing it to the other woman to wipe her mouth.
“Sangre.” Filomena said, looking at the kerchief after she used it, and startling Rose with the rapidity of her reappearance. “That’s not good.”
Rose looked and saw the blood. “No.” There didn’t seem to be anything else she could say.
“Your friend, the one who’s a doctor — does he understand the brain?”
Oh, if Jack was here, he’d have so many jokes to hand. “Better‘n anyone I know.”
“That’s good. Maybe he can save us. Me.”
Maybe, Rose thought. Maybe you. Not her. But I’m sure as hell going to try to get him to save you. The two of them sat silent for the next few minutes, until Rose decided that she couldn’t stand sitting on the floor in a dusty parlour hall anymore. She had to get Filomena somewhere she could lay down. And, she realized with resignation, some place she could collapse as well. She was knackered.
“Is there a place you and I can rest?”
“I can’t use the stairs,” the other woman said. “Not right now. But there’s a little room off the kitchen, there’s a day bed there.”
“Then let’s go.”
Rose didn’t mind having to share the sagging day bed in the cubby-room just off the unpleasantly garbage-strewn kitchen with Filomena. It was chilly in the house, as if it had been abandoned for a long time, so combining their body warmth was welcome, even though Rose felt guilty about benefiting from Filomena’s fever.
“I’m sorry,” the other woman whispered as she settled in.
“For what?” Rose couldn’t tell who was talking.
“I don’t know. For being sick, for …”
“Don’t be sorry. Wasn’t your fault, was it? It was the man who did it to you, to both of you. Blame Inverno. We’ll make him pay, I promise.” Rose didn’t mind the blood thirsty imagery that popped into her head as she said that. She hugged Filomena gently.
But there was no response, at least not in words. Rose heard her bedmate softly crying, and had to force herself not to start crying in sympathy. Instead she stared at the ceiling, silent until the other woman fell into a fitful slumber. Rose tried to do the same, but couldn’t. There was too much to do.
Her thoughts raced. What should their next move be? At this point, much as she was loath to admit it, she had to stop looking for Jack. She had to find her own way back to the Doctor. If Jack was gone (no!), she’d have to rescue the Doctor by herself.
And why shouldn’t she, she decided, furiously pushing back past the dread that had strangled her thoughts like vines ever since she watched the TARDIS disappear. Jack says I’m a quick study, and besides, I rescued the Doctor from the Nestene Consciousness, and that was without any time to plan, so I’ve got to be able to do better than that this time. But how?
The darkness held no easy answers, just the hard one that said she’d have to retrace her steps and head back to that nightmare of a prison. She chewed her lip in the darkness. The prison … first step was to find out how to get there. She needed to search for street maps, then, she thought; find a way in through the back way, maybe hide out near where the juggernauts left at night, try somehow, some way, to slip in as one of the transports rumbled out. No one would expect someone trying to break in, would they — and then she thought of what Filomena had said about being discovered. Would that have made Inverno order an increase in security?
Assume that, then, she thought to herself. Assume that they’ll have doubled their watches and just … just try to be even more careful when you slip in. Maybe she could use the sonic? She’d held onto it since their escape, but hadn’t done anything with it except make sure that the water cannon she’d been blasted with hadn’t fried it completely.
Wait. This was Luisa’s home, and her husband had (almost) successfully sprung her from a prison transport that Rose was reasonably certain was meant to be a secret. That meant her husband had to be more than a horrid little man; he had to be some sort of rebel, and a pretty bad-arse one, too, if the destruction of the juggernaut was any guide. So maybe there was something in this house that had things that rebels needed, like — her mind raced — a map? Maps of the route of the juggernaut transport!
The adrenaline rush of realization shot through her, and she was in the process of slipping out of bed to search through the house for the map she was certain was there under some pile of papers, when a wave of dizziness hit her hard enough to make her clutch at the side of the bed, certain she was about to be pitched off it. She thought she heard something, music perhaps, as she struggled to recapture her equilibrium without waking Filomena.
And then, just like that, she was steady again, and so very sleepy that she barely controlled her fall back onto the lumpy mattress.
The last thoughts she had before sleep claimed her were odd and scrambled; trying to count the hours she’d been asleep, thinking it could somehow help her figure out how long she’d been away from the TARDIS, half-coherent visions of the Doctor’s eyes, of Jack’s … so blue … TARDIS blue ….
my little ones are/will be/have shut down/sleeping/will sleep/time to tell them/help him/now/then/now/now/listen, little ones/bend time/break rules/you love/you love/I love/My Doctor/My Doctor/I knit your then with your now/listen/hear me/save him/I connect/will connect/failed to connect/connected/you/Me/listen/save him/he burns/he is burning/he burned/he starts to burn/no, no, no/he burns/save him/here/find each other/this way/your help/time’s rules/I reject/I disobey/I rebel/I need your help/follow me to you/to him/My Doctor/your Doctor/our Doctor
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