AUTHOR: Laura H
FANDOM: Doctor Who
CATEGORY: Angst, Romance, Ten/Rose
SPOILERS: Season 1, TCI, CiN special and kinda sorta Doomsday
“You gonna eat that?”
“Mickey, don’t talk with your mouth full. It’s rude. And no I’m not going to eat it. I’m full up.”
“But you’ve hardly even eaten anything,” said Mickey, swallowing and reaching over to steal the last slice of pizza from Rose’s plate.
“Yeah, tell me about it, greedy guts. You shovelled most of the pizza into your mouth before I’d even finished one slice!” replied Rose, laughing. She turned and looked out of the window at the busy street. “I’m not that hungry. My stomach feels weird.”
“How’d you mean?”
“Dunno. I feel kind of anxious or something. Like the way you feel before your driving test. I’ve got this niggle that I’ve got something important I’m supposed to do.” She frowned. “Was I supposed to pay the gas bill?”
“No, it’s on direct debit. Oh, what about the wedding cars? You were supposed to do that.”
“It’s not that. I phoned them last week.” Rose shook her head and taking a sip of her Coke, tried to ignore the unsettling sensation that she’d forgotten something very significant indeed.
It had started to rain as the Doctor pushed his way through the ranks of Londoners marching to and fro along Oxford Street. The light drizzle coated his hair and clothes in a fine mist, but he was unconcerned by the dampness. He was on a high. An energy coursed through his veins and it was all he could do not to laugh out loud. What ever it was he was looking for was near, so very near, yet still he didn’t know what it was or even why it was so important.
He looked around him, taking note of the grim faces that surrounded him, hiding under umbrellas their eyes downcast for fear of catching the gaze of a fellow city dweller as they passed in the street. Every one of them scared to make that momentary connection on the off chance that they were forced to smile and maybe even acknowledge that in this city not everyone had to exist in a vacuum.
The Doctor wanted to grab each one of them, hug them and then shake them. He wanted to tell them to look around, look at the magnificent people that walked into their lives every single day and then walked back out seconds later without them even realising it. What was wrong with smiling? Why were they so reluctant to take an interest in the lives of others? Humanity was beautiful. Why did they refuse to celebrate that? And then there was…
The Doctor stopped. He sniffed. There it was. Something in the air. Something almost intangible. Not a scent exactly, but a ghost; an echo of something from… another place.
He turned towards the shop in front of which he had stopped, Di Nardo’s Pizza, and he knew that his search was nearly over.
“Failure of this project is imminent! Something must be done now!”
The Administrator laboured frantically at his work station.
“I can install a firewall. It’ll prevent anymore…unnecessary information from leaking through.”
“Then do it! Do it now! The columns must balance!”
A few more keys pressed and then, “It’s done.”
The first Administrator would have sighed in relief but breathing was not a function necessary to this form.
“Are we safe?”
The bell over the front door jingled and Paul Di Nardo turned to where Rebecca was emptying the broken glass into the dustbin.
“Go and see to that customer, Becky. Let’s see if you can do that without any more disasters shall we?”
“I said I was sorry! It’s not my fault that I tripped over your stupid table cloth. Maybe that’ll teach you not to have them trailing on the floor.”
“Less of your cheek, young lady. Any more of that lip and you can look for another job. This may just be pocket money for you but it‘s still me that‘s paying your wages. Now go and see that gentleman to a table.”
Becky scowled and turned to walk to the door but stopped with that expression of disdain on her face that only teenagers seemed able to master. The one that condemned you to premature incarceration in a nursing home because you didn’t know who the Arctic Monkeys were.
“What’s he doing?”
“Him.” She gestured with her head. “He looks a right nutter.”
Paul turned to find the man crawling on the floor waving around a little torch with a blue light.
“What the bloody hell…? Er… excuse me.” He walked around the counter and approached the stranger as he crawled over to one of the empty tables. “Excuse me.”
The man looked up but remained on all fours. “Oh I’m sorry. Am I in the way? I’ll budge over a bit, shall I?”
“You can budge right out of this restaurant, if you don’t mind. What the bleeding hell do you think you’re doing crawling around on my floor?”
The man stood. “What’s this?” he asked, holding something up to the light.
“What is this?”
“Well it’s a piece of glass, isn’t it.”
“Yes, that’s what it looks like. What’s it doing here?”
Paul frowned and folded his arms over his large stomach. “What do you mean what’s it doing here?”
“Ok…um…what’s your name?”
“Paul,” said Paul, reluctantly.
“Ok, Paul, if you’re going to repeat back every question I ask you then this will take a lot longer than it needs to be. How about from now on you just assume that what I say makes perfect sense and give me an answer straight away. How’s that sound?”
Much as he didn’t want to, Paul found himself nodding in agreement to this request.
“Ok then why don’t you tell me what this broken glass is doing on the floor?”
“Well it was my waitress, wasn’t it. She’s a bit of a handful. Always cheeking back when you tell her to do something. Thinks she owns this place and not me. Funny thing is she’s normally very good at the actual job. She can balance four plates on one arm, y’know. Gets round the customers in double time without dropping a thing. In fact…”
“Right, Paul, when I said you should give me a straight answer maybe I should’ve specified that we keep it down to one sentence.” Paul looked back, blankly. “The glass, Paul?”
“Oh, right. Well Becky tripped over this table cloth and dropped a tray of drinks all over the customers who were sitting at this table.”
The man frowned and sniffed the piece of glass and then waved it in front of his little torch, which Paul had started to think maybe wasn’t a torch at all.
“Any flashes of light or strange noises?”
“Paul, this is very important.” The man stared intently into Paul’s eyes until he started to feel distinctly unnerved. “What happened to the customers?”
“Well they left, didn’t they. Can’t say I blame them. That young girl was soaked to the skin. She was nice enough about it of course, but I think her clothes are ruined.” But Paul realised he was talking to himself as the bell jingled again and he saw a flash of brown outside as the man hurried away down the street.
“Well I think you were right about him being a nutter, Becky,” he called over his shoulder.
“Yeah, I heard,” said Rebecca as she walked up behind him. “What a freak eh? But you know those customers you were talking about? You were wrong about them.”
“What do you mean?”
“They didn’t leave. Well the guy did. Which was a shame coz he was well fit. But his girlfriend’s still here. She’s in the toilet trying to clean the stain on her shirt.”
Rose had been scrubbing for the past 20 minutes but all she’d managed to do was soak her blouse and make the dark stain look bigger. How was she supposed to go back to work looking like this? Mickey had had to head back to the garage in order to avoid a bollocking from his boss and now she was stuck on her own in a restaurant loo with cola all down her front. The only course of action open to her it seemed was to lock herself in a cubicle and wait till the day was over.
But as she headed for the hand dryer in an attempt to dry out her top something took hold of her. A compulsion; an urge that told her she had to leave right now. She had to get out of this toilet and into the street. Something was there. The important thing that she’d forgotten about was right outside.
She grabbed her bag and rushed from the toilet, ignoring the over-the-top apologies from the restaurant owner, barely hearing the jingle of the bell as she ran out of the front door.
And it was at that moment, as she stood on the street in the pouring rain, her blouse stained and sopping wet that the realisation struck her. She looked like a fool.
Rose held back a giggle. What in the world had got into her? Reaching into her bag, she fished out her umbrella and set off back to work. She would buy a new blouse from the sale rack and put this afternoon’s silliness behind her. Rose ducked her head under the brolly and began walking in the direction of the tube station. She didn’t see the swirl of brown coat tails as they disappeared into the swarm of the crowd.