I'll be posting a chapter a night.
Title: More Than Breathing
AUTHOR: Laura H
FANDOM: Doctor Who
CATEGORY: Angst, Romance, Ten/Rose
SPOILERS: Season 1, TCI, CiN special and kinda sorta Doomsday
RATING: PG (It is Doctor Who after all)
DISCLAIMER: If I don't put this part in is the BBC really going to sue me?
Rose first felt the tug in a greasy spoon café in Bethnal Green, complete with faux wood panelling on the walls and faded plastic fruit in the window. She put down her knife and fork and stopped chewing her mouthful of beans on toast.
“I think I’m going to be sick.”
The Doctor looked up from his copy of the Daily Mirror and took a sip from his mug of tea, the front of which was emblazoned, with no trace of irony, with a picture of Charles and Diana and the date of their joyous nuptials.
“No wonder. Brown sauce with beans on toast? It’d turn anyone’s stomach.”
“No,” said Rose, “not sick like that. I feel…” She gagged. There it was again. A sensation like someone had caught hold of a loose thread on her stomach and pulled. A feeling like she was unravelling from the inside out. Instinctively Rose clamped her hand over her mouth.
But she had already bounded from the table, almost falling through the door of the dingy little toilet and made it to the bowl just in time for her breakfast, complete with HP sauce, to see the light of day for the second time within the space of half an hour.
“She knows. She feels it.”
The figure stood , bathed in the blue light of the monolithic screens in front of him. He adjusted his tie and watched, with concern, as events unfolded in front of him in pixellated monochrome.
“Of course she feels it.”
“Will she try and stop it?”
“ She won’t. She wouldn’t know how.”
The figure smiled and nodded, content that their machinations would go uninterrupted.
“She won’t. But he might.”
The smile disappeared.
“Mickey, it wasn’t food poisoning! You can’t get food poisoning from Heinz Baked Beans!”
Mickey sat on the edge of the bed in Rose’s room, holding a glass of water that he insisted she keep sipping.
“You can, you know!” Mickey gazed at her earnestly. “I heard about this guy, one time, who got mad cow disease from eating grapes!”
Rose stared at him. “Grapes,” she said, her face impassive, and then shook her head, trying desperately to retain her patience. “Mickey, it wasn’t bloody food poisoning, ok? It felt weird, like… like something was catching my stomach. Or like…” Rose trailed off, knowing how ridiculous her next sentence would sound out loud.
It felt like something was pulling at me.
“Wind!” declared Jackie, marching into the room, armed with a cup of tea and a bottle of Pepto Bismol. “I’m telling you, I was a martyr to it when I was pregnant with you, sweetheart.” She walked round to the other side of the bed and sat the tea on the bedside cabinet.
“Now here, take some of that, then drink your cuppa and you‘ll feel as right as rain,” she said, proffering a capful of the pink liquid
Slowly but deliberately, Rose took the cap and the bottle and sat them next to the mug of tea.
“It’s not wind. It’s not food poisoning. Honestly, mum.” She grasped her mothers hand in hers and stared earnestly at her. “It was something else.”
“Oh love,” said Jackie, gently, worriedly, “you’re not pregnant are you?”
“Mickey, she’s not pregnant is she? I thought you two would’ve been more sensible than that!”
“Mum, will you…?”
“Hey, don’t look at me, Jackie! I’ve hardly seen Rose in the past few months never mind…y’know…”
“Mum, I’m not…”
“Well, if you and Rose haven’t, then who…?”
In unison, both her mum and Mickey turned to where the Doctor stood in the doorway. Rose groaned and sagged backwards onto her pillow. Just when she thought her mortification was complete and had begun fervently wishing for a freak seismic event in the Lambeth area to facilitate the ground opening up beneath her, she caught sight of his face. He wasn’t even looking at them, wasn’t even listening to this bizarre conversation that was crashing ahead despite her best attempts to stop it. He was leaning against the door jamb, hands in pockets, staring straight ahead as if his gaze was fixed on some distant point in time.
For the first time since he had changed, it struck her how familiar this man was now, his face, his eyes, the long lines of his frame. She couldn‘t picture any part of him looking different than it did now, even his teeth. Sometimes her willing acceptance made her wonder if she was betraying him somehow, the other him. Initially she had wondered if he was watching the two of them from some other alternate universe. Watching them and cursing her for giving up his memory so easily, for accepting this usurper without question. But always she came to the same conclusion. Her Doctor, her friend, wasn’t anywhere else but here with her.
As she watched him, she thought about the experiences that were now open to her thanks to him, experiences beyond the imagination of a London shop assistant. She thought about how he had lain galaxies, planets, worlds at her feet, how he had brought the possibility of sights and sounds that stretched into infinity.
Then she considered the one place that was closer than any of them and yet completely alien to her. Inside the Doctors mind. She was used to the feeling that there were thoughts and images circling around in there that she would never know and couldn’t even begin to comprehend; ideas that spanned the length and breadth of time and space. The knowledge left her dizzy and bewildered. It amazed her, left her in awe sometimes, but it didn’t scare her. Until now.
Standing in her doorway, just eight feet away, he looked, despite his nonchalant posture, as if he was … somewhere else. And the sight of it chilled her.
“Doctor!” Jackie’s exclamation broke in on Rose’s thoughts and she started up from her pillow. “Doctor, are you listening to me?”
The Doctor turned his head slowly and stood upright. Then he blinked, once, twice, like a man emerging from a dark room and trying to adjust his eyes to the sunlight.
“What?” he said and his voice sounded groggy and hoarse. He swallowed. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Haven’t you got anything to say about the condition my daughter’s in?!” Rose placed her hand on her mum’s arm and squeezed gently.
“Mum, no,” she said, softly.
“But, love, really! He should know better! He’s a doctor for God’s sake!”
“Mum, please, leave it. It’s not that. It’s not what you think.” Shaking her head, she desperately hoped her mother would understand her silent message.
No, mum. Don’t say anything else. Something’s wrong here. Something is very, very wrong.
She almost cried with relief when Jackie pressed her lips together and then stood up.
“Well, this tea’s cold now. I’ll have to make another pot. Mickey, come and help me.”
“But, Jackie, I..”
Whether it was conditioning or something else, Mickey obediently followed Jackie into the kitchen, shooting the Doctor what Rose thought was supposed to be an intimidating look as he brushed passed him.
“So..” Rose sat forward on her bed and pulled her legs under her. “That was a big deal out of nothing, eh?”
“Hmm? Oh yeah.” He paused and looked at her. “How are you feeling now?”
“Oh fine! Yeah, it’s gone now. Maybe mum was right and it was just…” She paused and thought about whether she really wanted to talk about her possible wind with the Doctor. “…indigestion.”
He nodded and she wished he would come and sit with her. But he didn’t move, just stood there, watching her.
“Do you want to…?”
“I have to go,” he interrupted, abruptly.
He sucked in a breath as if about to say something else, but then turned and walked from the room, leaving her alone. The next sound she heard was the front door slamming shut.
The Doctor stood in the control room of the TARDIS and blinked at the screen in front of him. The screen blinked back. The words written on it didn’t change. He had entered the variables ten times, each time hoping irrationally for a different outcome. But each time the outcome was the same. Nothing varied apart from hope that diminished a little bit more with each computation. On the screen the cursor blinked again, expectantly, as if waiting for him to tell it what to do.
He had to get to her. To bring her back to the TARDIS before it had gone too far. Turning from the console, he sprinted towards the door of the ship, which seemed further away than even the impossible dimensions of the room would allow. Before he got there, however, he was assailed by the sudden sensation that he was floating, like a current had a hold of him, pushing him backwards, away from the door. Noise, like white rapids, bombarded his ears and the air thickened, slowing his movements, making him feel like he was swimming through mud. He couldn’t believe it was happening already. The door was just inches away but the current was getting stronger and the noise, louder. Suddenly he wanted to let go. Let the current take him. It was too hard to keep control and letting go would be so very easy.
Stop fighting, just let it take you. It’s just how it has to be. The way it was meant to be.
The Doctor opened his mouth and yelled, long and loud, not knowing if he was even making a sound. He needed an anchor, something real to hold onto and to keep him from losing it completely.
And there it was. Her hand. He closed his eyes and summoned to the forefront of his mind every time that he had held out his hand and she had willingly taken it. That was their connection, their link and it was the only thing he thought could possibly save him. Holding Rose’s hand.
Gradually the sound of the rushing water subsided and his limbs were freed from the force that held them. Still, though, he held onto the image that had stopped him from being swept away.
But something was wrong. The Doctor clenched and unclenched his hand, over and over, trying to summon the sensation that had so often prickled the skin of his palm. In his mind’s eye he could see it happening, could see her fingers threading through his. But the memory of her touch was gone and the image was like a silent movie played on an old projector. Distant and unreal. And in that moment he knew why.
The memory wasn’t his anymore. What was left was a recording, damaged and faulty. The memory wasn’t real because Rose had never held his hand in the first place.