LIKE GUM ON YOUR SHOE
Rose/Ten - Post Journey's End
Beta Babe: None! Do I need one? Probably!
Spoilers: Not really...but there is an idea in this I got from my beta babe, Keswindhover today. Right after she saw the Children In Need clip for the 2008 Christmas Special. We don't know if it truly is a spoiler...if you know...don't spoil anyone else.
Summary: Apparently, things didn't go that well for Rose and Ten 2 in my version of their life together.
Warning: There are some dark things implied in this chapter.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the rights to these characters. All rights belong to Russell T. Davies, the BBC and other production houses.
The blood remembers
What the mind forgets
The soul is a quiet animal
Given less to thought than memory
More to dreams than plan.
~from~The Quiet Animal by Julia Cameron
“Right then, who's hungry?” the Doctor asked, giving Pippa a bounce of encouragement in hopes she would take the bait.
He had a pocket full of sweets he was sure could loosen tongues and sooth tempers, but he felt a flush of pride when he realized Pippa wasn't so easily lured into lowering her guard. She tucked her head into the hollow of his shoulder and said nothing. A few of the other children, however, shuffled forward and there was a general murmur of hopeful voices. The Brig, sensing her authority slipping, whipped around to focus her steely eye on the gathered Pack. The Doctor couldn't quite hide his smirk. He loved inciting anarchy.
The Brig brought her humorless glare to bear on him. “Nobody eats until the traps are collected,” she informed him. “And its nearly sunset. We've wasted precious time hunting you.”
“And me nothing but skin and bone,” he joked, giving Pippa a little squeeze while silently praying these children would take that as a jest. He didn't know what he would do with a family of cannibals.
“Don't tempt us,” the Brig growled. “Though I must say,” she reached out to pinch his bicep, “I've never seen such a stick figure hero.”
“Oh, shades of Jackie Tyler, hey?” he said, feigning a hurt pout. He shifted Pippa so he could search her eyes for some evidence of recognition as he went on, “Do you know Jackie? I'm surprised she's not here Mother-henning the lot of you. It's not like her to miss an opportunity to slap me.”
Slower than the rest, Tony was only just arriving in the doorway. His baritone rumble sounded hollow as he said, “She's gone.”
The Doctor winced as the words bore into him, twisting to his soul. He didn't want to believe it, but there was no mistaking the boy's meaning. Jackie Tyler was dead. Mouth in a grim line, the Doctor tried to blink away a sudden blinding mist and focus again. Circumstance rarely allowed him the luxury of grief. He drew a ragged breath as he lifted his chin in solemn acknowledgment. Rose's fiercely loyal, remarkably vital mother would only haunt him in memory from now on. He crossed to a far window and looked out, touching his fingertips to the cool glass and tracing the outlines of siloutted buildings. Somehow, the devastation of this ravaged world paled in comparison. He couldn't reconcile himself to this much simpler loss. Pippa's weight proved too much for him. He let her slide down to stand on her own feet as he looked back at Tony.
“I'm sorry,” he muttered. The pat phrase had become meaningless. He'd said it so many times. “How?” he asked.
“Going after Rose, when...” Tony's voice cracked and he had to clear his throat, “...when...they took her to the Agency.”
“Someone took Rose?”
Tony didn't answer his question directly. “Mum wouldn't listen to reason,” he went on, “We all tried to convince her to stay hidden. Rose wouldn't have wanted... Mum just wouldn't listen. We tried to stop her. Dad slipped her a sleeping pill and handcuffed her to a heating grate. It took her most of the night to work free, but she did. She knew what they were going to do. We all knew...”
“What?” The Doctor took a step toward the boy. “What did they do to my Rose?”
One of the last rays of sunlight slanted across Tony's face, etching in the heavy lines of sorrow. His dark eyes glittered with menace, but he tucked his chin down and stood silent. The Pack held its breath. Nobody spoke or moved for several seconds. Then, the Doctor started toward the boy with a half-formed intention to comfort him somehow. He'd taken no more than three steps when Tony cast his particle gun aside and charged.
“Those experiments,” he hissed through bared teeth. Face a crimson mask of hatred, he seized the Doctor's jacket front in two white-knuckled fists. Momentum carried them both into the plate glass window. The glass cracked as they struck it but didn't give way. “You bloody bastard. How could you?” he asked, lifting and shaking the Doctor. “How could you just leave him here...leave her to manage that...monster?” He wrenched the Doctor back and forth as he raged, knocking him into the glass again and again. “He was your problem. Yours. Your misbegotten bastard son. Look, what he's done.” Despite his lanky build, Tony had muscles like iron. He spun the Doctor around as if he weighed nothing and slammed him into the window again. “Look!”
Shock and the fact that his feet weren't in contact with the floor for most of the encounter kept the Doctor from defending himself during the first rush of the assault. Pressed against the cracking glass, he resembled nothing so much as a wind-buffeted heron, suit rumbled, shoulders hunched, one leg raised and the other extended. Given leverage, at last, he scraped together some measure of dignity and recovered his equilibrium. Bracing against the window, he ducked and rolled under Tony's arm, coming up behind him to establish a half-nelson hold. His mouth opened and closed, forming meaningless syllables while his brain scrambled to make sense of Tony's accusations.
One phrase stood out for him. “My—son? Price?”
“What else would you call him?” Tony gasped, clawing at the Doctor's arm. Gradually, his fingers lost their sense of purpose. They began to flutter randomly.
The Brig tried to intervene. “Enough. That's enough,” she said, attempting to force them apart, but the Doctor stubbornly tightened his grip, his arm a constricting snake across his opponent's windpipe.
“Why did you call him my son? Why did you say that?” he demanded of the slumping figure in his arms.
Pippa stepped up to say, “The Price is half you and half someone else.”
“Donna Noble,” the Brig and several others said.
“Like a son,” Pippa explained, “if you're the real Doctor, the proper one. But that Doctor is good.”
The Doctor jerked and inhaled sharply as if he were waking from a bad dream. The room came into focus again. Suddenly aware of how still Tony had gone, he quickly gave him air. The boy gasped as he was shifted into the Brig's waiting arms. Drawing a trembling hand through his hair, the Doctor moved a few feet away. The children gave him a wide berth.
“My son,” he repeated.
He turned the new concept over in his mind as he turned it on his tongue. Trust these children to tip his personal reality on its ear. One thing about Rose, he could always count on her to notice whatever piece of the puzzle he was overlooking. She could, with a few well chosen words, reveal the universe in a startlingly new light. He'd traveled with a lot of people, but no one had ever compensated so well for his blind spots. And he had been blind about this, pigheadedly certain that what came from the unprecedented meta-crisis was another him.
A Time Lord injured beyond the scope of a simple regeneration, burned to ash or missing vital organs for example, could be transferred to a new body via instantaneous biological meta-crisis. This was what the High Council had done for the Master. What they might have done for the Valeyard, if he'd proved his point at the trial. The regeneration had given Price his memories and his face. Confronting something so familiar, he had simply assumed that the man must be a sort of human clone, like Jenny. The truth was Jenny was more him than Price, and yet, he'd thought of her as a daughter. Looked at from that angle, Price would be his son.
This changed things. It had to change things, didn't it? How could he kill his own son? Could he do that even to save Rose? It struck him only then that he'd been planning a murder. He covered his face with his hands.
There must be a way to save both of them. And all of these children, his grandchildren. Rubbing his stiff fingers over his eyes and the ridges of his cheekbones, he ground his teeth together. Could nothing be easy? Surely Sisyphus had no edge on him when it came to unfair burdens. Boulders? Ha! He felt like he'd been rolling planets uphill for a thousand years. Lowering his arms to his sides, he turned and swept his troubled gaze over the gathered Pack, counting them. There were over forty children staring back at him, their faces wearing attitudes of fear and suspicion.
“I'm hungry,” Pippa said. Her sharp tug on his sleeve focused his wandering attention to the more pressing matter of caring for these young wards that Rose and fate had put in his path.
“No dinner tonight,” the Brig said. “The sun is gone and we're in the open. We should all get back to the TARDIS.”
“Good idea, that,” the Doctor agreed, “but first...” He sent a hand into his pocket, groping around until he was rewarded with a papery crinkling. “Aha!” He drew forth a crumbled bag, turned its top down and, crouching, presented it to Pippa. “Jelly baby?”
The girl stuck her nose, and then one small hand into the paper sack. “What are they?” She drew a red and white speckled, person-shaped treat into the light and held it under her nose. “It smells like...fruit?”
“Sweets,” he told her. “Fruit flavors. That one is cherry vanilla. The black current ones are my favorite. There's lime and orange and strawberry and peppermint.” His face twisted into a comic frown. “Which isn't a fruit, is it? Nor is popcorn and I have popcorn flavored ones, too. White and yellow spotted. Where do you come from that you haven't heard of jelly babies?” Tapping his temple with one fingertip, he confided, “Best thing for the old synapses.”
“Best thing to rot her teeth,” Tony grumbled, rubbing his throat. “We don't have dentists here.”
The Doctor performed a quick slight of hand movement and the brown paper package disappeared. “A world without dentists,” he said, in a marveling sort of way. “Some people would call that paradise.” He sniffed, dismissing the notion as he went on, “Not me. I once developed a toothache while visiting Earth's Mesolithic age. Give me a competent fellow with a drill and a hypodermic any day. Or a lady.” He leaned closer to Pippa as he patted his other pockets. “Lady dentists have a bit more sympathy as a rule. Sometimes, if you don't squirm, they'll give you a lollipop after. Keeps them in business. And these would put them straight out.” He magically produced a different bag of jelly babies, this one black plastic. “These particular jelly babies are from the early Alpha Centurion colonization period, chock full of beneficial enzymes. They not only protect your tooth enamel and fight nasty bacteria, they also settle your digestion and leave you with current-fresh or cherry-vanilla-fresh or I suppose popcorn-fresh breath all day. Have one,” he said, thrusting the open end of the bag at Tony.
Tony bristled. “We don't want your sweets,” he said, biting down on the end of each word as he spoke.
The Doctor swayed back, tilted sideways and peered around the belligerent Tyler. “I've also a few tins of pudding and a packet of tea?”
Hunger charged pandemonium reigned for a moment, until the Brig cut it off with a bark. “Quiet! Everyone! You'll bring the swarms down for sure.” To the Doctor's amazement the children fell silent. “Tony,” she grabbed her uncle's elbow, wresting his attention away from the Doctor. “No more fighting. We need to get back to the TARDIS, right now. We've got Pippa here and Alex.”
“Pippa is with me,” the Doctor said, taking the girl's sticky hand. “Nothing is going to happen to her.”
The Brig gave him another cool appraisal, but she followed it with a curt nod. “I'll get Alex,” she told Tony. “You take point. Those who can jump, use the shadows. Trace? Molly? Leanna? Stay in front of me, keep to the middle way. We're going home!”
To the Doctor's amazement all around him children began disappearing. They melted into every dark corner. A moment later only seven people remained in the room. Tony marched through the door. Trace and a girl dressed completely in blue leather followed him out into the hall. The Brig had her crossbow loaded and ready. Her free hand rested on the back of a boy close to Pippa's age, Alex, the Doctor presumed. A red-haired girl of about twelve stood near the windows. This must be Molly or Leanna. A very faint buzzing came to the Doctor's sensitive ears. He squinted into the dark outside, tipping his head to one side, trying to locate the source of the irritating sound. He couldn't tell where it was coming from, but some instinct made him swing Pippa behind him.
“Do you hear that?” he asked. He bobbed his chin to indicate the window. “There's something out there.”
A heaving shadow blew around the corner of the building. The shadow pulsed against the window and it shattered inward, showering the room with broken glass. Tiny shards peppered the arm the Doctor raised to shield his face. A glittering five-inch blade sliced straight into his thigh. Ignoring the pain, he sprang forward to seize the red-haired girl, just as a multitude of creatures swarmed into the room. The lurching hop of the shadowy things reminded him of rabbits. But surely rabbits didn't hop up walls and across ceilings. Rabbits were skittish, fluffy and cute. Rabbits didn't flash razor sharp mandibles as they tore into flesh. Rabbits didn't swarm against the sky. These things had blue exoskeletons and silvery, gossamer wings. The noise he hadn't been able to locate came from everywhere, all around the building. It came from hundreds of thousands of wings beating.
The red-haired girl was torn from his grasp. Her scream cut off abruptly. The Doctor fought to reach the place he'd last seen her, flailing among the winged bodies. The insects drove him back. He could make no headway against the whirring swarm. But he saw enough to know the girl was beyond help. Bits and pieces of her were being carried away. Panic rose in his chest, dousing any sorrow he might have felt for the unknown child. Pippa huddled behind him, still alive. They'd been cut off from the Pack. Somehow he had to get them both out of there.
He remembered her flamethrower. She no longer had it but he had something similar in a pocket. He rummaged through gadgets and bottles until his fingers closed on a butane lighter. Never leave home without fossil fuels, he thought. He tossed the small bottle high, sending it spinning into the middle of the swarm. Taking careful aim with his screwdriver, he shot the lighter as it reached the apex of its arc. A tiny fireball exploded, scorching and scattering alien locusts. The Doctor took advantage of the swarm's confusion to bolt for the exit.
“We'd better jump,” Pippa told him as he swung her into his arms. “Hold on.”
Before he could ask what she meant, they were plunged into a airless no place, the void, he realized. It was bitterly cold for almost no time and then they were somewhere. He could breath again. The air smelled of roasting meat and wood smoke. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw a free-standing mirror and realized he'd just stepped through it. Glass could bend light, of course, just like a black hole. You could make a time machine, a crude one, using a circle of mirrors. But to use only one, as a focal point, you would need a massive source of energy.
Looking around he saw they had arrived in a lofty room, several stories high. A spiraling ramp snaked up one wall and down another. Here and there above him, metal gratings formed small landings. A roaring fire gave off a comforting warmth and strings of Christmas lights, wrapped around safety railings, provided a festive glow. Forty or fifty children stared down at him from above, as if he were this evening's entertainment at the amphitheater. Other children slept on pallets or milled about in groups or dangled their feet over the ramp edges. It took him a second or two to notice the roundels in the walls. When he did, he recognized the place as the wardrobe of his TARDIS.
“You're bleeding,” Pippa said.
He glanced down at his ragged suit and the shard of glass in his leg. “So I am.”
“Did they get you?” the Brig said, striding up to him.
“You realize there's a fire burning in the floor of my TARDIS? A bonfire. A rough conflagration. A...”
“Were you bitten?” the Brig said with more urgency.
“A fire,” he said, sticking to his own point with equal singlemindedness. “She's not what she once was, I'll grant you, but...”
“Doctor,” the Brig snapped. “They're poisonous.”
With a sinking feeling, the Doctor turned from the Brig's flushed and concerned face to peer into Pippa's sheet white one. She was clutching her side. A thin trickle of venom stained the bodice of her wool dress.
END THIS PART
Fic: Like Gum on Your Shoe Part 3/10, Adult Eventually, AU from JE
January 2nd, 2009