Characters/Pairings: 10.5, Rose, alt!Ianto, alt!Lisa [and mentions of alt!Yvonne Hartman and Jackie off-camera]
Word Count: 4914 [in Microsoft Word]
Genre: Angsty Character Study, mostly-Gen [open to interpretation, of course!]
Spoilers: S4’s Journey’s End
Summary: Both stuck in an alternate universe, a newly-“born” 10.5 and changed Rose are thrown together by the Doctor. Things aren’t as happy or easy as either of them had hoped for, but now they must work together to find their new place in the universe and, by extension, what they truly mean to one another. Can Rose come to terms with another loss of the Doctor and living with his “replacement”? Can 10.5 come to terms with his new life and job at Torchwood in the alt!verse? And in all the chaos, what will their relationship finally hold?
All your Doctor Who are belong to us
Sadly, I own nothing related to Doctor Who et al. I am just playing around in their sandbox for a bit of fun.
Author Notes: This story was written for scarlettgirl
: “The Doctor assumes Rose can help 10.5, but Rose isn't the same girl. The Doctor most likely would not approve of everything she and Alt!Torchwood, but how will 10.5 react and what are the consequences?”.
I really hope that she likes it!
The title comes from the Ancient Greek festival of Thargelia where a scapegoat or “pharmakos” was chosen amongst the community and then expelled (and sacrificed, according to some scholars) during a time of crisis in order to purify the community. The casting off of the alternate version of Ten – seemingly a symbol and effigy of the Doctor’s sins – into the alt!verse (i.e., outside of the “community” of our own world), reminded me of this practice, so it is alluded to in the story. For more information, feel free to check out this wikipedia entry
Oh, and feedback is happy-making, so please leave a word or two [even if I am a bit slack in responding, your comments always make my day].
“So, what’s your name going to be?” Rose asked, as they made their way back to London via one of the world’s Zeppelins.
He could tell that she was still sizing him up as she regarded him – so obviously feeling that telltale battle of pushing and pulling within herself, of whether to push him away or hold him close, to love him or to hate him.
He – the Doctor, who also was not
the Doctor – knew that feeling far too well, but as always, he chose to ignore it.
“John Smith, I suppose. It’s as good a name as any,” he replied with a shrug.
Names have power, but did he
“John Smith it is, then.”
He smiled at Rose and then looked back out of the window and into the clouds, finding himself suddenly growing somewhat excited about the plethora of possibilities his new life in this world might have to offer.
He’d not yet come down from that initial sheer inebriety of just being there,
of being so close to Rose again, of finally living that ‘one adventure (he thought) he could never have’…
Just a few weeks later, though, he would find himself starting to hate his new name and resent this world he was now trapped in.
Just a few weeks later, he would crash indelicately back into reality, all his senses – not as keen as they should
be, he’ll think to himself bitterly – sobering to the true situation at hand.
Being John Smith isn’t just a fantasy or just a name he could masquerade around with just for fun anymore – this was his life
now – his slow, meandering, human
“I think I might be dying,” he groaned as he lay in his bed.
Since he’d been there, he’d been given his own room at the Tyler mansion, situated just down the hall from Rose.
(He had been surprised, actually, when upon his arrival, she’d rejected him from sharing her room -- her bed
-- and even more surprised at how she’d always just pushed him away when he’d sneak into her room those first few lonely nights, just hoping to be close to her. They’d even tried to make love once, with their clothes pulled off and flung onto the floor in swirling tempest of fervor, only to mysteriously escalate not into a passionate interlude, but instead into her suddenly crying and swiftly pushing him away yet again.
She’d barely let him touch her since.)
“You’re not dying, it looks like you’ve just got the flu,” Rose scolded him, feeling his forehead with her palm as she sat next to him.
“Influenza, I’ve never had influenza!” he exclaimed excitedly, his tone belied by a voice that seemed that little bit broken
and a body that was obviously weak. “Did you know that influenza comes from the Italian word for ‘influence’ as it was once thought that unfavorable astrological influences caused it? Isn’t that funny? You humans, you always – “
Rose put a thermometer into his mouth to quiet him.
Even though he tried to continue speaking around the beeping device, his words only came out as mumbled nonsense, lost against the curves of plastic pressed against his lips and tongue. He decided to stop himself speaking, quieting himself to focus on the sporadic beeps from the device instead.
His thoughts (still always thinking of time, though his grasp on its intricacies seemed to slip further and further from him with each passing moment) began to liken the rhythmic sound to a ticking stopwatch. He listened closely, letting the resonance of each high-pitched tone wash over him, as he imagined each one counting down those final years, days, hours, minutes
of his life.
For a fleeting moment, he felt as if he might actually still have the ability to influence
that protracted string of the twists and turns of his lifetime – to pull and stretch at it’s elasticity, to cheat death, to be both timeless and time-full,
to be both ageless and aged, to be more like his (old) self again –
The device indicated it was ready, jarring him from his thoughts, and Rose pulled it from his mouth to look at it. She frowned and groaned in exasperation.
“I don’t know what it’s supposed to say. I think you have a fever, but I don’t know with you being part human and part Time Lord.” She angrily tossed the thermometer onto the bed, tears now evident in her eyes. “I can’t do this. I don’t know what he was thinking, but I can’t do this.
I can barely take care of a pet or even plants. I kill plants, I do. Mum had this ficus tree once and she went on holiday and I was supposed to look after it, but I killed it dead in two weeks. Two weeks!”
He put his hand on her knee in try to calm her down. “You are starting to sound like me,” he said weakly, stretching over to pick up the discarded thermometer. He regarded the numbers and then lightly tossed it onto the nearby nightstand. “Looks like I do have a fever, from what I can tell. I don’t know for sure as I am still trying to figure out my biology, but that is my theory at least. And it’s okay, you can
do this, we
can do this. It’ll be a bit of trial and error, but we’ll make do. Besides, I’m not a ficus tree --- at least last I checked I wasn’t.”
Rose bent over to lay her head down on his chest and his heart began to race that little bit
as if to rise up to meet her, to thrum against her touch, as the hope swelled within him that she might fill that excruciating absence beneath where she lay, where his one heart ached to be completed (again) with another.
He reached up to caress her hair, loving the rare moment of closeness between them. They sat quietly for several long moments, both of them seeming to just simply enjoy the mere presence of one another, until he broke the silence again.
“I wish Martha were here,” he murmured.
Rose sat up quickly and he was startled to see her glaring down at him, her body now rigid. “What do you mean?”
I just meant because she is a doctor and perhaps she would know what to do.”
“Better than me, of course,” she spat, her tone dripping with a palpable pained sarcasm.
“Rose, she is a doctor.
That’s all. That’s what I meant.”
“Well, maybe the Doctor should have left you with her then instead, hmm?” she snarled, getting up and quickly walking out of the room. He jumped a bit from the harsh slam of the door.
“Rose,” he called out after her weakly, and then added quietly, more to himself than anyone, “What did I say this time?”
“You’re not really him, are you?”
Part of him thinks the same of her – how she is so different now from how she was when she still traveled with the Doctor and how different she is from all the dreams and fantasies he’d had of her since she’d been ripped from his life.
It had been several days since he’d fallen ill and while he was now feeling much better physically, he wasn’t feeling better emotionally – at least about their relationship. No, instead he was feeling almost consumed in worry about the growing acrimony between them, as well as helpless in how to heal it.
“I am and I am not.” It was all he could manage, as he reached forward to caress her skin again, wanting her close, needing
“I’ve got to go to work,” she said sharply, moving away from him, her eyes betraying her growing aversion to his mere presence. He bristled. “The maid should be here in a moment with your breakfast.”
Rose left the room quickly and he lay back on the bed with a staggered sigh, trying to keep his emotions in check – emotions that seemed so much stronger and more heightened in his near-human skin.
One of the maids came in a few moments later, carrying a tray of breakfast for him. In his piercing loneliness, he’d asked her to stay. Before he knew it, he’d coerced her – all charms and smiles – to sit on the bed with him to talk, and then as he stroked her blonde hair, he seduced her with Rose’s name on his lips.
The maid quit the next day.
“You need to get a job. All you do is sit around watching soap operas all day,” Rose said to him, frowning down at him from his doorway, as he sat on the couch in his bedroom in front of the television.
“Ssh, be quiet. I’ve never seen Broadberry Hill,
they don’t have it in the other universe. I think Sally is about to find out if Steve loves her – “
He looked up at her. “That’s not
my name,” he replied harshly, each syllable clipped and biting, and then resumed watching his show.“John.
John Smith. I have a job for you at Torchwood. It starts tomorrow.”
“Oh!” he whined, pointing at the screen as the credits began to roll, “it’s a cliffhanger.”
“Did you hear me? Tomorrow, Torchwood.”
“I don’t like Torchwood,” he said, evenly, still only watching the screen as it now showed an advert.
“Well, it’s not as if you can work down at the grocery store or whatever. It’s Torchwood or UNIT and seeing as how we have connections here at Torchwood, it’s the former for you.”
“And what if I don’t want to?”
“Don’t be a child. Torchwood, tomorrow, and please change into some other clothes, you’ve been in those same clothes for days now and you look positively haggard and smell like a tramp.”
With that, Rose left the room.
He bristled at her ultimatum, feeling the tension that still hung thickly in the air. Since living in this universe, she had become the protégé of this universe’s version of Yvonne Hartman. At first, he was proud that Rose had started to become so professional and driven in her life, but a closer peek also revealed a bit of severity that almost made him uncomfortable.
Lost was much of the compassion she’d had when she had traveled with the Doctor – she’d become rough around the edges, perhaps to cope with losing the Doctor twice now, and it pained him a bit to see her now pushing nearly everyone away.
If he were honest, he couldn’t imagine himself ever
working for Torchwood, but after some contemplation, he considered that it might be his best option to acquiesce with Rose and perhaps assist in making her happier with him (something that he had to admit that he was becoming more and more confused and despondent about).
Rose was still angry with him over the incident with the maid (even after he explained repeatedly that he’d only done it because he’d wanted her
instead, that he was feeling unwanted and lonely) and it seemed that he was having trouble pleasing her all around since his arrival.
Perhaps joining Torchwood might be just what they needed to start to rebuild the bridge between them.
John’s breath hitched. Before him – reaching up into the sky – was Canary Wharf.
He’d only been to the one in the other universe once since the battle, on its anniversary when he’d reluctantly agreed to take Martha there to leave flowers in honor of her deceased cousin Adeola.
As he stood before the monument with Martha that day, with the long list of the dead laid out before him -- a relatively short list, he’d thought, compared to all the lives he’d helped destroy elsewhere, else when
– he couldn’t help but remember that day when he’d encountered Adeola – or what was left of her – himself.
He had started to speak, started to tell Martha the truth about that day, but he was stopped when he knew that he could never truly bring himself to tell her that, in the end, he’d been the one to finally kill her cousin. He never could, because he knew that he needed someone to believe in him and not see the dark side of him that lurked beneath his wide smiles and manic exaltations.
He always needed that belief – he needed it then and he certainly needed it now.
The problem was that he wasn’t sure anyone believed in him that way anymore, not this version
of him, at least – the castaway, the scapegoat, the pharmakos.
(In nightmares he’d been able to smell the figs on the ropes they – the Doctor, Donna, Rose, all of them
– drew him around by and he’d cried out when they’d harshly whipped him with the fig wood and threw stones at him – each stone a complaint lodged against his very existence – and chased him from them.
“Be gone!” they’d chant, again and again, and as he’d burn in sacrifice for them, he’d contemplate how he was not only a pharmakos
– scapegoat – cast away from the world with the TARDIS and his other self, but perhaps also pharmacos
as sorcerer, a lost magician of time and space, or even worse, a poisoner, poisoning everything and everyone around him, bit by bit by bit
The flames would usually consume him then, taking away both everything and nothing all at once, and he’d wake up sweating and screaming and alone.)
Darkness shifted beneath his skin as he looked upon Canary Wharf that day, but he was pulled back into the moment by a tug on his hand from Rose. He gasped as he knew he was going to have trouble hiding that monster inside him forever (especially now that he had no where to run from it) and he wondered if perhaps the Doctor had done the right thing after all by casting him out.
“Remember to eat.”
He felt his phone buzz against his hip and flipped it open to see Rose’s text message reminding him to eat lunch. Regulating things like eating and sleeping were a day-to-day challenge for him, he had to admit, but he was having particular trouble with the eating part. Some days it seemed that he would just gorge on food, eating and eating as if he were a starved man, yet other days he would forget to eat entirely.
Much to his dismay, the gorging was more common and something that was bothering him a bit, especially when he noticed the growing paunch of his belly.
He self-consciously ran a hand over his stomach, frowning that, with his new hybrid metabolism, he might have to consider joining a gym or whatever it was that humans did. Walking on a treadmill in front of too-loud televisions, alongside vapid people gossiping about celebrities, didn’t sound at all like his preferred way to spend his time.
He let out a deep sigh.
He wanted to be out on adventures again, running from aliens, but instead he was stuck in a lab in the basement in the offices of Torchwood. Yes, between his second day working there – when his “bad judgment” had almost got one of the field crew killed when they were hunting a weevil (they got a bit too close, it happens
– but his superiors did see it that way) – and various heated arguments with the more powerful people in the organization, he’d acquired a “dangerous, but useful” label in his file.
Their punishment for his apparent transgressions was relegating him to a basement lab under the guise of reassigning him to Research and Development. He knew that they were just mostly trying to sweep him under the proverbial carpet to keep him quiet (squeaky wheel and all that), using him only when they needed him (which, honestly, with his headaches and bouts of memory loss seemed less and less as each week passed).
The worst part was that he felt as if he were too exhausted to even fight it anymore, winding down to finally accept that this was his lot.
He popped a pill of paracetamol to help with his current headache. He’d acquired the bottle from Rose – who unknowingly almost gave him aspirin instead. He’d explained to her how aspirin is fatal to Time Lords and, while he wasn’t entirely sure what it’s actual effect might be on this
body, he didn’t want to chance it --
(Though that didn’t mean that days later, in a much darker moment, he would find his hand hovering over the bottle of aspirin in her medicine cabinet, contemplating on taking just one
just to see what might happen after all).
Migraines were becoming a daily occurrence for him and he could only assume it was his physiology fighting against his metacrisis. He wasn’t sure what would win that battle in the end.
The memory loss was even harder for him to cope with, harkening back to the amnesia problems that he – the other
he, at least – had suffered during his eighth regeneration. While he could remember everything from his other self, it seemed each day those memories were slipping from him, like sand through the sieve of his desperately grasping hands.
He had started to keep a journal – calling it “A Journal of Possible
Things” in a moment of frustration -- to sort all them out, but it still didn’t quell the anxieties of losing all those memories someday. Isn’t a person, in many ways, the sum of their memories?
He would think. And if they were all gone, who would he be?
“Watch where you’re going, you idiot!”
“Donna?” he gasped in wonderment, seeing Donna in a flash before him, before he blinked and she was gone – replaced by a rather angry looking, tall redheaded stranger standing over him instead.
“I’ll send you my dry cleaning bill, whatever your name is – “ she waved her hand expectantly at him, her tone exasperated.
“John, John Smith from R&D.”
She dabbed at her blouse with a napkin and then groaned irritably, storming off the opposite way across the Torchwood canteen.
He had been lost in thought as he was carrying his tray of food – trying to go over some mathematical equations in his head that should have been easy, but frustratingly weren’t
any more – when he’d run smack into her, knocking his tray of food into his chest and falling to the ground.
He supposed the incident and her yelling at him should have shaken him up, but instead he only felt himself shaken up by his unsuspecting flashback of Donna. Always shouting at the world, she was, when he’d first met him – so much like the tall woman who was now wearing his Spaghetti Bolognese.
He felt his stomach knot at the memory of Donna and, despite having done his best to try and not dwell on her absence since being away from her, those suppressed feelings rushed to the surface unbidden.
He desperately wondered how she was, where she was, when
He also wondered (though he wished he did not) if she was even still alive, his near-paralyzing worries punctuated by many nightmares about what damage a Time Lord-Human metacrisis might do to her and how he, trapped on this world so very far away
from her, could do nothing to save her.
It was moments like this that he simply felt lost without her – his other half, the DoctorDonna, the missing piece of his puzzle –
“Do you need some help?” a male voice came from his left. A Welsh
He looked to see a young man in a suit and tie kneeling next to him. He was surprised to see it was that man from Cardiff’s
Torchwood he’d seen on the subwave network Harriet Jones had set up.
Or at least when his other self – the Doctor – had seen, well, the other him.
“No, I’m alright, just a bit of clumsiness on my part,” he replied, standing up and dusting off his trousers.
The man waved one of the cleaning staff over, who diligently began to clean his mess from the floor. “Ianto. Ianto Jones,” the man said, reaching out for a handshake.
“Good to meet you,” John replied, shaking his proffered hand.
“Why don’t you join me at my table? I’ll replace your lunch for you. Oh, and don’t worry about Margaret, sir, she’s always in a foul mood.”
“I’d be honored if you joined me, sir. I confess that I know who you are,” Ianto paused, looking a bit self-conscious, “and I’ve been intrigued with much of the research you are doing.”
John felt himself beaming just a bit, excited and elated by the rarity of someone extolling his virtues these days. “I’d love to join you.”
John sat at the table, while Ianto went and bought a replacement lunch for him (he’d insisted on getting it for him and for him to just wait, even after several failed refusals on John’s part). As he waited, he tapped his fingers merrily on the table, humming a little tune as he felt the welling hope that this day may have turned around after all.
“Mr. Smith?” a young female asked, sitting down across from him. He smiled widely at her -- she was very pretty, he had to admit.
“I’m Lisa Hallett, Ianto’s girlfriend. We are both so pleased to meet you. He can’t stop talking about you, especially in regards to the research paper that you submitted a week ago on the effects of the EM radiation spikes employed here on the Earth’s climate. I’m sure you aren’t making many friends with your hypotheses, especially as they use those spikes in an attempt to power that alien engine they salvaged downstairs, but I agree with Ianto that things like that need to be brought out into the open.”
“Well, Lisa, there is
a reason they hide me in the basement,” he replied with a wink. “I’m glad the word is getting out, though. The best way to implement change is through small steps on the inside. Besides I might as well use what knowledge I have to shake things up a bit here before I end up as just a janitor.”
“A janitor, sir?”
He didn’t want to go into his rampant amnesia with a stranger, however nice she seemed. “Nothing, nothing, just a joke.”
“Here you are,” Ianto announced as he returned, setting the new tray of Spaghetti Bolognese before him.
“Thank you very much, Ianto. Again, you really shouldn’t have.”
“Ianto is great at service-oriented things,” Lisa said with a teasing nudge to Ianto as he sat. “In another time, he would’ve made a great butler.”
“Oh, I’ve known many a good butler, Lisa, so that’s quite a nice compliment.”
“I can only imagine, with you living at the Tyler estate and all,” Ianto said and then blushed, “I mean, that is where you live, yes?”
John sighed. “For the moment, yes.”
“Anyway, you should try his coffee sometime,” Lisa offered, smiling at him.
For once, John wondered if he finally
might be making friends here.
“What’s all this?” Rose exclaimed in surprise as she entered her bedroom and noticed the multitude of candles lit throughout the room.
John had taken the tube home alone as she was going to be working later than he was, but he’d also taken a detour to pick up some candles and wine. He was now sitting in an over-stuffed chair in her room, reading a book on the history of this world’s London.
“I just wanted to do something nice for you,” he replied, setting the book aside. “I was also going to order in some dinner, but I didn’t know when you would be home, so I thought I’d wait on that until you got here.”
“Something…nice?” Rose asked, obviously still surprised, though her tone also hinted at a bit of softness he’d not heard from her in quite some time.
“I had a wonderful day, made some really nice friends, did some research, rocked a few boats, and…well, on Broadberry Hill,
when Steve wanted to make amends with Sally after a fight they’d had, he filled her bedroom with candles and made her dinner. I can’t cook much, well nothing of consequence at least, and you know neither Jackie nor the cooks will let me near the oven anyway, so Chinese takeaway will probably be the alternative, I’m afraid.”
Rose slowly walked into the room and sat down on the bed across from him. “I don’t know what to say.”
He stood and walked over to sit beside her, still reticent that she would want him near, but doing it anyway.
“Rose, I know that I’m not really what you wanted. I’m simply the consolation prize instead of the man you truly loved and you are just as stuck here as I am. Still, despite all that, I would like us to at least be friends. I went out looking for flats the other day and found one rather close to Torchwood that I can afford. I hope to move there in about two weeks time. I was thinking that perhaps we need some time apart, so that we can then perhaps come back together with a new start and a fresh slate. We’ve both been thrown together without any say or any chance to really get to know one another without the spectre of the Doctor looming over us. Perhaps this way, if I am out of your hair for a while, we can decide then
what our relationship to each other really is and what it should be.”
Rose looked over at him, her expression suddenly sad. “I never meant to make you leave, I just – “
“It’s alright, it’s all growing pains. You never asked to be my keeper or to be tossed back here after so much effort to get out of this place. Still, there is a whole world out there for both of us and no one said that we have
to conquer it together,
as much as I would like that sometimes.”
“I just want him back,” she said with a staggered sigh, falling into his arms. “He’s left me, he’s really left me for good.”
“He left us both, Rose,” John said, rubbing her back. “He’s left us both.”
“You look like a ghost.”
He remembered her words from when the Doctor had said his first goodbye to her on the beach, as he looked at her now sitting across from him – her hair swirling in the breeze, and her eyes sad and empty.
Rose, it seemed, was the one who now looked like a ghost instead.
Teatime in the park was something they shared weekly now, especially in the few months they’d been living apart. John had to admit that he liked those quiet stolen moments with her, when the sunlight would shine down on them and he could imagine the time of his speeding life standing still.
(It gave him a false sense of control over the flow of time in a way, his brain missing those beautiful moments of firing synapses where he’d held the time lines by his fingers much like the strings of a puppet.)
Rose had a new lover these days – a tall blond man by the name of George – but John could tell her heart was not really in it, that instead she was just testing her personal boundaries to try and see for once where the Doctor’s influence on her stopped and she
John was trying to discover those boundaries within himself as well, extricating himself from the man he (almost, never) was and molding himself into the man he would become. Though still affiliated with Torchwood, he was teaching these days instead – finding himself in front of many of the Torchwood staff’s children, in a school sponsored by the organization, teaching young eager (mostly, at least) minds about science, instead of being relegated to the basement.
He was glad to be away from that basement, glad to be in the light again instead of feeling like he was something that needed to be hidden away in the darkness and forgotten.
Rose reached over the table and caressed his hand. “It will be okay, you know,” she said softly, pulling him from his thoughts with her reassuring words.
He tried not to focus on the fact that her eyes seemed to tell him different, but instead focused on the growing bond between them. Neither of them were sure where things were headed between the two of them – especially as both of them were in the midst of rebelling against their past selves.
They both knew, though – even with words hanging in the wind between them unspoken -- no matter how far apart they might become, in the end, their lives would always been entwined in some way. Even if the string that binds them frays beyond recognition, they will hold to it with grasping fingertips and fierce resilience.
They both knew the real ghost that needed to finally be exorcised from both their lives -- their very souls.
The ghost that needed to be cut out from them like cancer, so that they might finally live fully: