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The Price of Humanity
"Get down!!!!!" The Doctor shouted, and before Rose could react, she was on her back with a very distressed Time Lord above her. "Did they see you???" He asked her urgently.
"I-I don't know!" she yelled back over the small explosions going on right by her face. The Doctor looked at the grating beside her, and then quickly rolled her out of the way just as a shower of sparks shot out from the floor. He pulled her up by the shoulders, gripping her tightly.
"But did they see you?!?!" His hands dug into her shoulders. Rose tried not to panic.
"I was too busy running!" The Doctor pulled her closer to him so that they were nose to nose and gripped her arms even harder.
"Rose, it's important-- Did they see your face?!?!" His dark eyes bored into her.
"No, they couldn't have!" He held her a moment longer, as if to make sure of her answer, and then jumped up, threw his coat on one of the struts, and ran over to the Time Rotor, slamming it down and sending them hurtling through the Vortex, nearly throwing her to the ground in the process.
"Off we go!" Alarm bells sounded, and Rose looked at him in alarm. He screamed in frustration “They're following us!" The Doctor looked at the screen wildly.
"How can they do that, you've got a time machine." He ran around the console, throwing levers and pushing buttons rapidly.
"Stolen technology; they've got a Time Agent's Vortex Manipulator." Rose's eyes went wide. "They can follow us wherever we go, right across the universe. They're never going to stop. Unless..."
The Doctor's voice had taken on a certain breathless quality she had heard several times over the past three years. She only ever heard it when he knew he was probably going to get himself killed saving them. "I'll have to do it... Rose!" He ran to her and took her hands, holding them tighter than her ever had. "Rose, you trust me don't you?"
"Of course I do!" She replied shakily, staring into his wild eyes.
"Because it all depends on you." He breathed. Rose took a step back, concerned.
"W-what does? What am I supposed to do?" He looked at her for a second, worry written all over his face, and then held up a silver fob watch with Gallifreyan symbols on it.
"Take this watch. My life depends on it. This watch, Rose. This watch is--"
John Smith jolted awake in his bed. Little glimpses of sunlight peeked out from behind his drawn curtains. He sat up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
What a bizarre dream! He thought. And again, it was about the Doctor and his friend. Rose... He felt his heartbeat increase at the mention of Rose. But why? He wondered. She means nothing to me. She’s a serving girl, for heaven's sake!!! A knock at the door roused him from his thoughts.
"Come in." he replied, and the door opened. Rose, his maid walked in with a tray of his breakfast. Her eyes went wide, and she turned back for the door when she saw that he was still in his night clothes.
"Pardon me, Mister Smith. You're not dressed yet. I can come back later."
"No, no, it's all right, it's all right." he said, fastening his robe. He gestured at the table on the other side of the room. "Put it down." She nodded her head and placed the tray on the table. "I was, um...... Sorry, sorry." Rose looked at him for a moment, and then walked to his window. "Sometimes...I have these extraordinary dreams." He squinted as she drew back his curtains, and his room was suddenly filled with sunlight.
"What about, sir?" she asked walking to the other windows, and drawing back their coverings as he spoke.
"I dream I'm this..." His voice trailed off as he struggled to find the right word. "Adventurer. This...daredevil. A madman. 'The Doctor' I'm called. And last night, I dreamt....that you were there. As my... companion." She looked up at him incredulously. At least she tried to. John Smith wasn't enough of a fool to miss the sadness in her eyes.
"A teacher and a housemaid, sir? That's impossible." He caught the hint of sorrow in her voice, and tried to cheer her up a bit.
"I was a man from another world, though." She laughed, a tad bitterly, under her breath.
"Well, then it can't be true, 'cause there's no such thing." She cleared her throat and began to set his breakfast out on the table. He walked over to the mantle and picked up the small, silver fob watch that lay there.
"This thing--the watch, it was..." Rose looked up at him in surprise. Since his back was turned, he missed the glimmer of hope that lit up her brown eyes. Then, just as quickly, he put it back down. "Yeah, it's funny how dreams slip away. But I do remember one thing. It all took place in the future! In the year of our Lord, 2007." He turned to face her, a little smile playing across his lips.
"I can prove that wrong for you sir." She said, handing him a newspaper. "Here's the morning paper. It's Monday, November 10th, 1913, and you're completely human, sir. As human as they come." He stared at the headline for a few moments. Rose watched him carefully to make sure he wasn't looking, and wiped away a single tear from her face. He hummed in agreement.
"That's me. Completely human." He smiled. Rose smiled back. Almost.
Later that day, Rose found herself scrubbing the floor of the main hallway to the school at which John Smith taught. Her new friend and fellow serving maid knelt next to her. Her knees ached and her hands were being rubbed raw by the rough bristles and the lye soap she was using. And to make matters even worse, The Doctor, her Doctor, had turned himself into a human to escape whatever it was that had been chasing them. And now he didn’t properly remember who she was. He had confided in her this morning about his dreams, and his other life in his dreams. The Doctor’s life. It had broken Rose’s heart to have to hide her feelings for him, and even more to tell him that it wasn’t real, wasn’t possible.
But Rose knew that she had to keep the act up for his sake. She looked up as footsteps echoed through the hall. It was the Doc—John Smith. She had to remind herself that this wasn’t the Doctor, not really.
“Good morning, Mister Smith.” She said, smiling up at him from her position on the floor. He turned back and looked at her, clearly very puzzled.
“Yes…right…” He said reluctantly before continuing up the stairs. Rose’s heart sank. Why had she been so foolish as to speak to him like that? Of course he wouldn’t acknowledge her like the Doctor would; he wasn’t the Doctor. Rose wiped away a stray tear. Jenny quickly tried to raise her friend’s spirits.
“Head in the clouds, that one! Don’t know why you’re so sweet on him.” She said with a smirk. Rose ducked her head to hide the blush now coloring her pale face.
“He’s just kind to me, that’s all. Not everyone’s that considerate, what with me being…” She trailed off, guilty about having to lie and tell Jenny that her parents had died several years back, and his family had kindly taken her in as their servant when they found out she was living on the street.
“A Londoner?” Jenny chirped, speaking instead of the other part of her story. Rose laughed, and resumed scrubbing.
“Exactly. Good old London town!” The two women laughed as they scrubbed at the floors. A pair of school boys walked up.
“Ah, now then. You two.” One of them said venomously. “You’re not paid to have fun are you? No. Put a little backbone into it.” He smirked at his friend. Jenny nodded her head.
“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.” The other one looked at Rose.
“You there! What’s your name again?” He sneered.
“Rose, sir. Rose Tyler.” Rose smiled sweetly at the boys, willing them with all of her strength to just go away.
“Tell me then, Tyler, has your master acknowledged his little pet yet? Or are you still following him around like a lost little puppy.” The words were spoken with mock venom, but all the same Rose felt their sting. The first one to speak laughed, and then gave her a smirk and walked away. Rose held back her tears as she watched them go.
“That’s very funny, sir.” She said quietly. Jenny put her hand on Rose’s arm.
“Careful now,” Jenny warned. “Don’t answer back.” Rose scrubbed vigorously at the floor.
“I’d answer back with my bucket over his head!” Jenny laughed and resumed scrubbing alongside her friend.
“Oh, I wish!!! Just think though…. In a few years time, boys like that will be running the country!” Rose stilled in her scrubbing, thinking of the coming year. The war…
“1913…they might not…”
John Smith walked down the upper corridors of the school, arms laden with a large stack of books for his class.
“Good morning, Mister Smith!” Matron smiled, as he passed by her. Johnturned back to wish her a good morning as well, but dropped a few of his books in doing so.
“Oh! There they go…” Matron reached for his fallen books.
“Here, let me help you.” She was stopped by John’s foot reaching out and trying to pull the book towards him.
“No, no, I’ve got it…no..um..how best to retrieve? I tell you what, if you could take these…” He handed his large stack of books to Matron, and bent down to retrieve his fallen book. “There! No harm done.” He smiled at Matron, and felt his heart pounding in his chest. She looked so beautiful today… time to change the subject! “So..um.. How was Jenkins?” he stammered out eventually.
“Oh, just a cold. Nothing serious.” She replied. “I think he’s missing his mother more than anything.” She rolled her eyes slightly. John smiled at her reaction.
“Aww, well we can’t have that.” He chuckled a bit.
“He received a letter this morning, so he’s a lot more chipper.” She looked down at the large stack of books she was carrying. “And I appear to be holding all of your books.” John gasped.
“Oh, yes! So you are! I’m so sorry. Just let me—“ Matron stopped him from taking all of them books from her.
“No, why don’t I take half?” His smile widened.
“Ah, brilliant idea. Brilliant. Perfect! Division of labour.” She shifted the books until they rested comfortably in her arms.
“We make quite a team.” She said, grinning up at John. John grinned back, slightly breathless.
“Don’t we just.” She gave him a big smile, which he reciprocated immediately.
“So, these books, were they being taken in any particular direction?” She asked her still-grinning coworker. He kept smiling at her for a few seconds, and then seemed to hear her question.
“Hm? Oh, yes! Um…this way.” He stepped back and allowed her to walk in front of him. He stood for a second staring after her, and then followed like a schoolboy in love for the first time.
“I always say, Matron, you give the boys a good head of steam, they’ll soon wear themselves out.” John said proudly, as they walked down an empty hall of the school, still carrying his books. Matron sighed.
“Truth be told, when it’s just you and me, I’d much rather you called me ‘Nurse Redfern.’” She laughed a little bit. “’Matron’ sounds rather, well, matronly.” John looked stunned for a few moments, and then rediscovered his ability to speak coherently.
“’Nurse Redfern’ it is, then.” He smiled at her, once again a tad bit breathless.
“Although we’ve known each other for all of two months, you could even call me…. ‘Joan.’”
“Joan?” He asked, quickly losing his ability to speak again. She chuckled quietly to herself.
“That is my name.” She said with a slight smirk.
“Well…..obviously…” He breathed. She looked at him.
“And it’s ‘John’ right?” His eyes went wide.
“I—um—I…yes, yes it is.” She smiled gently at him. They came up to a bulletin board on a wall by the last flight of stairs. She pointed to a piece of paper in the middle of it.
“Have you seen this, John?” she asked of the piece of paper. John smiled at her use of his name. “The annual dance at the village hall tomorrow. It’s nothing formal, but rather fun, by all accounts. Do you think you’ll go?” John gaped at her, his mouth going dry.
“I—I hadn’t thought about it.” He stumbled out.
“It’s been ages since I’ve been to a dance, only no one’s asked me.” She looked at her feet, a shy smile gracing her face.
“Well…. I should imagine that you’d be… um… I never thought you’d be one for… I mean, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. If you do. You may not. I probably won’t.” He stammered, unable to ask her to go to the dance with him, only capable of whatever popped out of his mouth. “But even if I did, then I couldn’t—um, I mean, I wouldn’t want to--.”
“The stairs.” Matron said, as John backed precariously close to the edge.
“What about the stairs?” He asked, continuing to back up.
“They’re right behind you.” She said, just as he ran out of room, and tumbled down the accursed stairs.
In no time at all, John found himself sitting in his study with Joan running her fingers gently through the back of his head, checking for any injuries he might have sustained during his magnificent tumble down the stairs. Her fingertips brushed over a particularly sensitive spot, and he groaned in pain.
“Oh, stop it! I get boys causing less fuss than this.” Joan admonished, picking through the last the unchecked hairs at the nape of his neck.
“I know, but it hurts.” John reminded her, wincing a bit. Suddenly, the door to the infirmary flew open and Rose rushed in, her face a mask of concern and her long blonde hair coming out of her bun.
“Is he alright?!” She asked, panting and out of breath. Joan frowned at her from behind John’s head.
“Excuse me, Rose. It’s hardly good form to enter a master’s study without knocking.” She said with more than a little distaste coloring her words. Rose narrowed her eyes and retreated to the door.
“Sorry, right. Yeah. Fine.” She opened the door, and knocked three times. Then she quickly ran back to John’s side. “But is he alright?! They said you fell down the stairs, sir.”
“No, it was just a…tumble, that’s all.” John said, trying to cover up his obvious carelessness. Rose looked up at Joan.
“Have you checked to see if he’s broken anything??” Joan stiffened, rising to her full height before Rose.
“I have, and I daresay I know a lot more about it than you.” Rose took a step back, remembering her job for an instant. She bowed her head.
“Sorry.” Rose said, with a little more than just hurt feelings in her tone. “I’ll just…tidy up your things.” Rose walked to his desk slowly, kicking herself for being so bold. ‘You idiot!’ she thought to herself. ‘You could have ruined everything!!!’
“I was just telling Nurse Redfern—“John’s soothing voice brought her out of herself punishment. “Matron, about by dreams. They are quite remarkable tales. Um, I keep imagining that I’m someone else. And that I’m hiding.” Rose looked at him cautiously. Just exactly how much of their life did he remember???
“Hiding?” Joan asked inquisitively. “In what way?”
“Um…almost every night—“He broke off, chuckling and clearly a bit nervous. “This is going to sound silly—“
“Tell me.” Joan chirped, and Rose’s stomach turned inside out with jealousy. John licked his lips before continuing.
“I dream, quite often, that—that I have two hearts.” Rose’s blood froze. If he could remember that, then what else could he remember? His regenerations? Gallifrey and the Time War?? Her hands began to shake with horror as she realized that he could remember the night she told him of her feelings. The night he had walked away with fear and guilt in his eyes. Thinking back on it, Rose recalled seeing something else there, too. Something different in his fathomless eyes that she had never seen there before, something she couldn’t quite identify.
“I can be the judge of that.” Joan’s voice grabbed Rose and roughly jerked her back to reality and out of her thoughts. “Let’s find out.” Joan reached into her medical bag and brought out a stethoscope. Rose’s hands clenched at her sides as Joan put her hand under John’s jacket and placed the stethoscope over the left side of his chest. And even though Rose sent a silent prayer to whatever gods existed in the vast universe that it wasn’t true, she could have sworn that she heard John sigh contentedly and relax under Joan’s touch. She listened for a few moments, and then moved it over to the right side of his chest, where it lingered for an instant.
“I can confirm the diagnosis.” Joan announced, taking the stethoscope out of her ears. “Just one heart, singular.” They shared a smile and Rose’s single, fragile, all-too-human heart shattered into a thousand pieces.
“I have, um, written down some of these dreams in the form of fiction.” John said, a slight blush playing across his cheeks. “Um…not that it would be of any interest.” Joan turned and smiled at him.
“I’d be very interested.” John’s face lit up.
“Really?” She nodded. He stood up quickly, crossing over to his desk and picking up a small, leather bound book. “Well, I’ve never actually…shown it to anyone before.” He opened the book to its first page and handed it to Joan.
“’The Journal of Impossible Things’” Joan read out, and then proceeded to flip through the first few pages. From Rose’s position on the other side of the desk, she could make out the Doctor’s familiar messy handwriting and hastily drawn pictures, and she smiled in spite of herself. ‘Some things stayed the same, then.’ She thought. “Just look at these creatures!!” Joan exclaimed. “Such imagination!” John looked over her shoulder at the book, smiling with her at his work.
“It’s become quite of a hobby.” John said a grin of proud satisfaction on his face. Joan continued to turn the pages and admire his drawings.
“It’s wonderful.” She breathed. She turned to a page close to the middle of the book and her eye brows rose in amusement. “Quite an eye for the pretty girls.” She smirked. Rose craned her neck to see which of his former companions he had drawn that had caught Joan’s eye. After a few seconds of stretching she finally got what she had wanted, and the result stopped her heart. It was a drawing of her, from a year ago. He really was a gifted artist, even as a human. John looked at the drawing of Rose that Joan was pointing to. Clearly he recognized her, because his eyes went wide and he started stammering for an excuse as to why his serving maid’s picture would be in his book.
“Oh, her? Oh she’s….she’s no one.” Rose’s shattered heart burst into flames. She had to turn her head away to hide the tears gathering in her eyes. “She’s just a…invention. A figment of my imagination.” John ran his hands worriedly through his hair, a nervous habit the Doctor had always had, and it earned Rose her reward for chancing to look again. The first of many tears fell down her face, and she quickly got a brush and pretended to be scrubbing his floor to hide her tears.
“I—I call her… I call her…” He stumbled around in his head for an answer, and finally resigned to tell Joan the truth. “Her name is Rose.” He said defeatedly. Joan went rigid, and her hands gripped the book even tighter. Rose paused in her scrubbing to see if she had heard correctly.
“Well.” Joan said brusquely. “That’s not much of a surprise.” John looked at her, eyes wide. “You told me that your parents took her in after her mother died, correct? So you have grown up with her. It’s no wonder you dream about her…” Joan’s voice trailed off, and Rose couldn’t have been happier. She didn’t know how much more of Joan’s apparent hatred of her she could take before she snapped. Joan turned the page again.
“Ah! That’s the box, the blue box.” John said. Rose looked up, ignoring her red, puffy eyes for the moment. “It’s always there, like…um…like a magic carpet!” John exclaimed, happy to be able to change the subject. “This funny little box that transports me to faraway places.”
“Like a doorway?” Joan asked, once again eager to hear about his other life. John nodded, thankful that she hadn’t walked out on him. She had begun to mean so much to him in these past two months.
“I sometimes wonder what life would be like if stories like this were true. If only… But, it was just a dream!” He chuckled lightly.
After the bell had rung, Rose waited until John’s back was turned to run as fast as she could after Joan.
“Ma’am!!!” Rose shouted as she dashed after Joan. “That book—“Rose began, but Joan cut her off stuffily.
“Oh, I’ll take good care of it, you don’t need to worry. He did say I could read it.” She reminded Rose, her eyes burning holes into Rose’s face. As she turned to walk away, Rose scrambled for a reason for her not to keep it.
“But it’s silly, that’s all.” Joan turned back around to look incredulously at Rose. “Just stories.” Rose insisted, holding her hand out for the book. Joan frowned at it, and Rose slowly drew it back to her side.
“Who is he, Rose?” Rose looked at her for a minute, unsure of whether or not she should answer that question.
“I—I’m sorry?” She finally stuttered out. Joan sighed and rolled her eyes.
“It’s like he’s left the kettle on! Like he knows he has something important to get back to but he can’t remember what.” Rose laughed nervously.
“Oh, that’s just him.” She smiled a timid smile.
“You arrived with him, didn’t you?” Rose nodded. “He found you employment here at the school. Isn’t that right?” Joan interrogated. Rose nodded, going into story mode.
“Our families were close, and so we always spent time together as children. His parents took me in after…” she trailed off. Joan was such a sweet woman, and she had never done anything to Rose on purpose. But she had to stay secret, for the Doctor’s sake. “After my mother died.” A thought came out of Rose’s mouth in the next moment before she could stop it. “We were childhood sweethearts, actually.” Joan eyes widened in shock and surprise.
“And now…you’re his maid???” Joan asked. Rose could tell she had gone too far with the lie. Scrambling for an excuse she blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “That was before my mother passed away. When his parents took me in, I had to work as a maid in their house to pay for my schooling. H-his father didn’t approve of his son falling in love with a maid, so he forbad it. Things have never been the same with us since, but he was kind enough to get me a job here. His parents are dead now too, and I have nowhere else to go.” Joan lowered her eyes.
“He’s never mentioned you two being childhood sweethearts to me before.” Joan retorted. Rose kicked herself mentally. ‘Why didn’t I think of that?! Of course he wouldn’t have mentioned any of that. It never happened! In either life…’
“He doesn’t like to talk about it…” Rose finally answered. “He told me before my mother died, that when we were of age…” Rose trailed off, and then regained the courage to finish her statement, hoping that this would be enough to keep Joan away from him until they could leave. “When we were of age, he would marry me.” Rose finished, bowing her head against the tears that were coming from her wishful thinking.
“Well, in light of the fact that you can no longer be together, I would be more careful. If you don’t mind my saying,” Joan said harshly. “You seem a bit too familiar with him to be just his maid. Best remember your current position.” And with that said, she turned on her heel and left Rose alone in the hallway.
“Yes, ma’am.” Rose replied in a whisper. She walked as quickly as she could back to John’s study, locked the door, and let the events of the past hour wash over her. Her ragged breaths soon turned into sobs, as the awful reality of the situation struck her. The Doctor was human and falling hard for Nurse Redfern. She was nothing to him, a serving girl, property. Maybe the Doctor had loved her, in some part of his hearts, even if it was just a little bit or as a friend. But this wasn’t the Doctor. This was John Smith, and she was his maid. Nothing more.
The morning after the green light had appeared in the sky, Rose got up early, bundled up, and rode her bicycle down the fields to the west side of the school. It was only a short ride until she reached an abandoned shed. Smiling, Rose dismounted her bicycle and leant it against the outer wall of the shed. She looked around to make sure that no one was watching, then opened the door and hastily walked inside and shut it behind her. Her face lit up with a bright smile as she withdrew the TARDIS key from the inside of her coat. She gently caressed the blue wood of the phone box before inserting her key into the lock and opening the door.
Rose stepped inside to the quiet hum of the sentient Time Ship she had begun to call her home over the past three years. She closed the door and leaned her body against it like a propped up piece of wood.
“Hello.” Rose said, addressing the consciousness that the Doctor constantly reminded her of, and always seemed to be having a secret conversation with. “I’m talking to a machine.” Rose said after a few seconds of no response. In some dark corner of her vast interior, the TARDIS wept for her little human. Rose slowly walked up to the console, the only source of light in the room. She brushed her fingers over the TARDIS’s controls and closed her eyes.
“Get down!!!” The Doctor shouted, tackling Rose to the floor. Rose’s eyes snapped open and her hands gripped the edge of the console. She walked over to the screen on the other side of the console and looked at it In vain. Its usual Gallifreyan symbols evaded translation.
The Doctor screamed in frustration. “They’re following us! They can follow us wherever we go, right across the universe!!! They’re never going to stop. Rose! Rose, you trust me don’t you?” The Doctor grabbed her hands and held them tightly.
“Of course I do.” Rose answered in a shaky voice.
“Because it all depends on you.” Rose focused intently on the screen, trying as hard as she could to read the writing, but it did not want to be translated. Rose screamed in frustration, slamming her hands down on the console.
“Talk to me!!!” she yelled. “I know you can, you did it with him all the time!!!” She waited in silence for a few moments, but that was all it took for the memories to wash over her again.
“Rose, this watch is me.” Rose nodded uncertainly for a second, and then took the silver fob watch from his outstretched hand.
“Right, okay. Gotcha.” She said, trying to sound sure of herself. She failed. “No, hold on. Completely lost.” The Doctor turned to her from his position by the TARDIS controls.
“Those creatures are hunters. They can sniff out anyone. And me being a Time Lord, well, I’m unique. They can track me down across the whole of time and space.” He said, somehow perfectly calm.
“Ah. And the good news is?” Rose asked.
“They can smell me, but they haven’t seen me. And their life spans are sunning out, so we hide. Wait for them to die.” He replied, still fiddling with the many levers and buttons on the console.
“But they can track us down!!!” Rose countered. The Doctor stopped and looked at her.
“That’s why I’ve got to do it. I have to stop being a Time Lord.” Rose’s eyes went wide as saucers. “I’m going to become human.”
“Stop it!!!!!” Rose yelled at the air, holding herself and collapsing onto the metal grating, great heaving sobs wracking her body.
The Doctor looked up at the ceiling, drawing Rose’s attention up towards a complex silver headset dangling from wires high above their heads.
“I never thought I’d use this. Oh, all the times I’ve wondered.” He said while the headset was slowly lowered down to eye level.
“What does it do???” Rose asked, more than a little bit terrified.
“Chameleon Arch.” The Doctor replied, his eyes fixed on it intently. “Rewrites my biology.” He turned and looked at Rose, his dark eyes locking onto hers. “Literally changes every single cell in my body. I’ve set it to ‘human.’ Now, the TARDIS will take care of everything—invent a life story for me, find me a setting, and integrate me. It can’t do the same for you; you’ll just have to improvise. I should have just enough residual awareness to let you in.” The Doctor turned away from her and snapped the watch into the circular indentation on the forehead of the Chameleon Arch.
“But hold on,” Rose said, grabbing the sleeve of his pinstriped suit. “If you’re going to rewrite every single cell, isn’t it going to hurt?” She asked, and when the Doctor turned to look at her, he saw all of the fear and love she held in her heart right now for him displayed in her eyes.
“Oh yeah, it hurts.” He replied, and his blatant honesty chilled Rose to the bone. The next thing she knew he had hooked himself up to the Arch and it had begun rewriting his biology. Blinding white lights flashed, and the Doctor screamed and writhed in the grasp of the metal headrest, and she had stood there, hands clasped over her mouth and tears running down her face, unable to move or help him or do anything.
“STOP!!!!!!!!!!” Rose screamed, rolling into a ball so tight that she could’ve crushed her own bones. Eventually the heaving sobs receded into little shaking sighs. After a few minutes, Rose stood up and returned to the screen. She placed her fingers gently on the keyboard and typed in the command that would bring up the Doctor’s message to her on the screen. After a moment the Doctor’s face appeared.
“This working?” The Doctor said his voice grainy and recorded. He tapped the camera twice, and then decided everything was functioning properly. “Rose, before I change, here’s a list of instructions for when I’m human. One, don’t let me hurt anyone. We can’t have that, but you know what humans are like. Two, don’t worry about the TARDIS. I’ll put it on emergency power so they won’t be able to detect it. Just let it hide away. Four—no, wait….three! “Rose flipped a few switches and suddenly his voice sounded like he was in the room with her. Tears welled up again in Rose’s eyes as she remembered her first Doctor, all short hair and leather jacket, standing as a hologram in front of her after activating Emergency Program One to send her back home. His final words still echoed in her head. “Have a good life. Do that for me, Rose. Have a fantastic life.” But she had come back for him. And now look at the trouble she was in.
“No getting involved in big historical events. Four, you. Don’t let me abandon you.” Rose looked up at the screen and couldn’t hold in a bitter laugh. He had abandoned her, and there was nothing she could do about it. “And five, don’t let me eat pears. I hate pears. John Smith is just a character I’ve created, but I won’t know that. I’ll think I really am him, so he might go and do something stupid, like eat a pear. In three months, I don’t want to wake up and taste that. And six—“Rose turned the small dial directly below the screen, and the video skipped ahead.
“But there was a meteor! A shooting star, what am I supposed to do then???” Rose asked the recording. She pushed a button and the video stopped.
“And twenty three, if anything goes wrong, if they find us Rose, then you know what to do—open the watch. Everything I am is kept safe in there. Now, I’ve put a perception filter on it so the human me won’t think anything of it—to him, it’s just a watch. But don’t open it unless you have to. Because once it’s open, then the Family will be able to find me. It’s all down to you, Rose. Your choice.” The Doctor got up to leave, but quickly returned to his seat.
“Oh, and one more thing: Thank you.” Then he smiled his Doctor-y smile and the picture faded back into the circular symbols of his home planet. Rose stared blankly at the screen.
“I wish you’d come back.”
“Right. Come with me, you little oik.” John Smith watched as Hutchinson dragged Timothy Latimer off of the firing course. All of the other students followed stiffly after them. Only Baines remained. He sniffed loudly, causing John to turn his head.
Anything the matter, Baines?” he asked, looking the boy over suspiciously. He had a very peculiar look on his face that John had never seen before.
“I thought—no, sir.” Baines said, still retaining his peculiar face. “Nothing, sir.” Baines nodded to him, and then followed his classmates off the field.
“As you were, Mister Smith.” Said the Headmaster before walking away.
“Uh, Pmbleton, Smythe, Wicks, take post!” John called out to the three remaining boys as he crossed to the path where Nurse Redfern waited, a distant look on her face. “Ah! Nurse Redfern!” John said with a grin. His voice seemed to bring her out of whatever daze she had been in.
“Oh! I’ll give you your journal when next I see you.” She replied, clearly still uneasy.
“No, no, no, you don’t have to.” John told her. She shook her head, clearing away an imaginary fog.
“Excuse me, Mister Smith, I was just thinking about the day my husband was shot.” She turned and walked away, pressing a hand to her mouth. John watched her go and felt like a fool.
‘That’s right, her husband…..’ He thought to himself. ‘I had forgotten that he had died after being wounded by a gunshot.’ He followed resolutely after her, determined to apologize.
“His name was Oliver.” Joan told him as they walked down the street after school. “He died at the battle of Spion Kop. We were childhood sweethearts.” The hand furthest from John clenched into a fist when it made her think of his old relationship with Rose. She sighed. “But you see, I was angry with the army for such a long time.”
“You still are.” John said, realizing just why she had been so upset at the scene earlier on the field.
“I find myself, as part of that school, watching boys learn how to kill.” She spat, looking at the ground.
“Don’t you think discipline in good for them?” John asked tenderly.
“Does it have to be such military discipline?” she questioned in return. “I mean, if there’s another war, those boys won’t find it so amusing.”
“Well, Great Britain’s at peace, long may it reign.” He said, hoping that this would calm her a bit.
“In your journal, in one of your stories, you wrote about next year, 1914.” She looked at him inquisitively.
“That was just a dream.” He replied, pushing away the chill he felt at the memory.
“All those images of mud and wire…” She said, picturing it clearly in her mind. “You told of a shadow, a shadow falling across the entire world.”
“Well, then we can be thankful it’s not true.” He reassured her. “And, I’ll admit, mankind doesn’t need warfare and bloodshed to prove itself. Everyday life can provide honor and valor and let’s hope that from now on this…” His voice trailed off as he saw a young mother pushing her baby in a stroller around the corner and headed straight for the piano two young men were struggling to lift.
“This country can find it’s heroes in smaller places.” He saw a young boy beside him tossing a cricket ball from hand to hand, and watched as the rope continued to unravel. “In the most…ordinary of…of deeds.” He finished, grabbing the ball from the boy’s hand and tossing it at a collection of metal pipes, causing them to fall onto a wooden block that tossed the brick on it up into the air which knocked down an empty container in front of the mother, effectively stopping her just before she stepped under the piano that picked that exact moment to fall.
“Lucky.” John breathed, completely floored by what he had just managed to do. Joan looked at him in surprise.
“That was luck?” she asked. John turned to her and got caught up in the moment.
“Nurse Redfern, might I invite you to the village dance this evening, as my guest?” He blurted out.
“You extraordinary man!” she said looking at him with the biggest smile. They both burst out in breathless laughter, in light of all that had just happened.
“Oh, it’s all becoming clear now!” she exclaimed to him, as they walked through Mr. thompson’s field on their way back. “The Doctor is the man you’d like to be, doing impossible thing with cricket balls.”
“Well, I discovered a talent, that’s certainly true.” He laughed.
Only a few minutes after walking in on John Smith and Joan Redfern kissing in John’s study, Rose found herself inside the TARDIS re watching the message the Doctor had left her.
“Four, you. Don’t let me abandon you.” His smooth voice washed over her and tried to comfort her, but it did her no good. It only fanned the flames of her heartache.
“That’s no good.” She said, blinking away tears. “What about the stuff you didn’t tell me? What about women? Oh no, you didn’t think of that. What am I supposed to do???” Rose stopped the video from fast-forwarding.
“Thank you.” His voice said, and for a second, Rose let herself believe that he meant it. But in the next second, all of her anger at John Smith for loving Joan, at the Doctor for having left her here practically alone, and at herself for being such a fool. She slammed her hands down on the console, her tears dripping down onto the keyboard. “You had to, didn’t you?” she asked the picture of his frozen smile. “You had to go and fall in love with a human. And it wasn’t me…” Rose sat down heavily on the jump seat, willing for the world to dissolve into dust around her. John Smith would never leave now. Not without opening the watch himself. His life had become too important to him. Now he had fallen in love, and if that’s not a reason for a man to keep living, that Rose didn’t know what was.
Rose sat alone on that jump seat for what felt like an eternity, running through what she ought to do if the Doctor came back, if he ever came back. ‘It seems that after this, he won’t want me with him anymore. I’ve caused him—John Smith,’ she reminded herself. ‘So much trouble!!! I’ve almost blown our cover several times, and if he does come back, he’ll know I had to ruin his relationship with Joan.’ Even in her thoughts she colored the name with bitterness. ‘I’ll just save myself some trouble, and tell him I want him to take me home.’ Rose decided. ‘Better to make him believe it’s what I wanted anyway, than to let him know how much I’d actually be devastated if he ever asked me to leave.’
Just then, she felt a slight nudge at the edge of her consciousness. A shy presence and a feeling in her mind like a warm blanket. In the forefront of her mind, she received a sensation, more feelings than words, but crystal clear. Is this all right? The presence asked.
“Umm, I guess so…” Rose said out loud, but then slapped her palm to her face after remembering that whatever this thing was, it was psychic. But it apparently had heard her, because more feelings and thoughts appeared in her mind. Mainly a rich shade of blue that she could almost see when she closed her eyes and a quiet hum. Rose puzzled over these things for a moment, and then the answer came in more feeling-words.
Rose? It’s me. It’s the TARDIS. Rose’s eyes snapped open. Of course!!! Who else would be so polite about coming into her mind?
TARDIS? Rose asked, hoping she was sending her thoughts back correctly. How are you—
I have no time to explain, Rose. You and the Doctor could both be in serious danger. The watch is missing.
How do you know that??? Rose questioned. The TARDIS had been on emergency power for two months! There was no way she could’ve detected a missing watch.
You know I am connected with the Doctor. We share a special bond. I always know where he is. Now that he is human, our connection is considerably…less, but I can get vague thoughts and impressions from his stored consciousness in the watch. He has been talking from inside of it. To me, and to a young boy: one of John’s students. He told me to tell you to warn John not to go to the dance this evening. If he does, all could be lost.
But what am I supposed to do? I’m nothing more than a servant to him now! John Smith only keeps me here out of pity.
He will listen to you, I am sure of it. But be careful of what you say, Rose. His eyes are shut against reason as a human. You will have to sway him some other way. And with the message delivered, the TARDIS withdrew from Rose’s mind, leaving her feeling surprisingly empty and alone.
“I really hope you’re right about this…” she said aloud before running out the door.
Joan stood in front of him in a dove grey dress with small pearls sewn on near the top.
“You look wonderful.” John told her, and he leaned over to give her a light kiss on the cheek. She blushed.
“You’d best give me some warning, John. Can you actually dance?” John thought for a moment, and then replied.
“I’m not certain.” Joan’s eyes widened.
“There’s a surprise.” She said. “Is there anything you’re certain about?” she asked, suddenly afraid if all of his pretty words to her were uncertain as well.
“Yes,” he said, and took both of her hands in his. “Yes, there is something.” He leaned down to whisper in her ear. “I love you, Joan Redfern.” Her heart stopped and her breath caught in her chest. She stammered for a few moments, and then pulled him into an embrace so tight that she was afraid she had left bruises. Once again, the door opened and Joan pulled away like he had singed her. Rose ran in the door, breathless and white as a sheet.
“They’ve found us.” She said, running up to John and grabbing his forearms for support as she tried to catch her breath. Joan’s lips pressed together into a tight line.
“This is ridiculous.” She muttered under her breath and looked to John to support her.
“Rose!” he said firmly. “I’ve warned you.” He pushed her hands off of his arms and backed away from her. Her eyes looked pleadingly at him.
“They’ve found us, and I’ve seen them! They look like people, like us, like normal. I’m sorry, but you’ve got to open the watch.” This was Rose’s chance to see whether or not the TARDIS was right. “You do have the watch, don’t you?” John looked at her incredulously.
“What watch? What are you talking about?” John asked.
“I can’t think of what concern it is of yours.” Joan said harshly. Rose decided to ignore Joan for the time being.
“We need it! Doctor, we are hiding from aliens, and they’ve got Jenny, and they’ve possessed her or copied her or something, and you’ve got to find that watch! “She shouted at him, the last vestiges of her self-control falling away. John’s eyes widened, and he nodded slowly.
“Oh, I see.” He sighed, picking up his journal. “It must be so difficult for you. Rose, this is what we call a story.” He spoke as though he were explaining to a five-year-old. The very thought made Rose burn up inside.
“This is not you!” she said, gesturing to him. “This is 1913!” John nodded again.
“Good, this is 1913.” Rose racked her brain for options. Her mother’s number one option seemed to be the only one that might work now.
“I’m really sorry about this, but since I’m leaving it really doesn’t matter anymore. I’ve got to snap you out of this.” She drew back her arm and slapped him hard across the face. Joan looked at her in shock.
‘Rose!!!” she yelled. Rose bent over him so that she was yelling in his face.
“WAKE UP!!!” She took hold of his hand and began to drag him towards the door. “You’re coming back to the TARDIS with me.” Unfortunately for Rose, he had always been stronger than her and easily switched their places so that he was gripping her wrist and she was being dragged by him.
“How dare you!!!” he shouted in her face. “I will not be dragged about by an insane servant of all people!!! Rose, you are dismissed. You will leave the premises immediately.” He threw her to the ground in front of the door. “Get out.” She looked up at him from the floor, tears now streaming down her face. Joan realized then just how much Rose truly cared for this man.
“No, please don’t make me leave!!! I have nowhere else to go! I’ll be stuck here forever; I’ll never see my mother again, please!!!” She cried. It broke Joan’s heart to have to watch anyone suffer this much at the hands of someone they cared about. John strode over to her and grabbed her wrist again, hauling her up to him. When he spoke, his voice was deadly and low.
“Get. Out. Now.” He threw her back down and moved to open the door for her. She clung to his leg and pleaded with him.
“Please, Doctor, don’t leave me!!! I need you!" Something inside of Joan broke. She would not watch her suffer any longer, no matter how much she had disliked Rose in the past, no woman, and servant or not, deserved to be treated this way.
“John!!!” she yelled. “Stop this! Stop this right now! She is begging for her life, John! Can’t you see that? Insane servant or no, this is all she has left. You are all that she has left. If you let her go now, she will die. Have a heart, John. For me. Please.” He turned to look at her, looked back a Rose one more time, and then let the tension out of his body in one long sigh.
“Very well. You may stay. But see that you remember your position, or I will fire you. Understood?” Rose nodded. “You may leave now.” She nodded, and walked out the door. He turned back to Joan. “The nerve of her! The absolute cheek! You think I’m a fantasist, what about her?”
“The funny thing is,” Joan interrupted his rampage. “You did have a fob watch, right there. Don’t you remember?”
Joan sat contentedly at one of the many tables placed around the dance hall. John waved at her from the refreshment table. Joan’s smile considerably dimmed when she saw the figure walking towards her.
“Please, don’t. Not again.” Joan begged as Rose sat down at the table across from her.
“He’s different from any other man you’ve met, right?” Rose asked, jumping right in and ignoring Joan’s pleas.
“Yes…” Joan answered reluctantly.
And sometimes he says these strange things, like people and places you’ve never heard of, yeah?” Joan started to answer, but Rose cut her off. “But it’s deeper than that. Sometimes when you look in his eyes, you know, you just know there’s something else in there. Something hidden. Something right behind the eyes, something hidden away, in the dark.”
“I…I don’t know what you mean. I—“Joan stammered out before being cut off again.
“Yes, you do. I don’t mean to be rude, but the awful thing is that it doesn’t even matter what you think. But you’re nice. And…you’re lucky. And I just wanted to say…” Joan tensed in anticipation of the brutal things that this woman would surely say to her. “Thank you.” Joan opened her eyes warily.
“What did you say?”
“I said thank you. For what you did earlier. You certainly didn’t have to, but you did. And I needed to say thank you.” John Smith picked that precise moment to walk up to their table.
“Really, Rose this is getting ridiculous!” He complained. Rose looked at Joan in apology, and then looked him straight in the eye.
“You’re not John Smith, you’re called the Doctor. That man from your journal, he’s real. He’s you. And I need him to come back more than anything.” Suddenly, a large, burly man burst into the room with Baines from the school, and Jenny.
“THERE WILL BE SILENCE!!!” He screamed at the crowds of people. “I said SILENCE!!!” He screamed again. The host stepped forward to stop the commotion.
“Mr. Clark! What’s going on?” In an instant, Mr. Clark rounded on him with an alien gun in his hand a fired. The host dissolved into dust. Rose turned back to John.
“Mister Smith, everything I’ve just told you, I need you to forget it. Just forget it! Don’t say anything.” She put a finger to her lips, and he nodded.
“We asked for SILENCE!!!!!” Baines shouted. Rose bowed her head. “Now then, we have a few questions for Mister Smith.”
“No.” A small girl’s voice stated plainly. A little girl in a pink coat carrying a red balloon stepped forward. “Better than that. The teacher—he’s the Doctor. I heard them talking.” Baines looked at him with his goofy grin.
“You took human form.” He said, almost laughing.
“Of course I’m human! I was born human, as were you Baines! And Jenny, and Mr. Clark! What is going on? This is madness!!!” John shouted.
“Ooh and a human brain too—simple, thick, and dull.” Baines retorted.
“But he’s no good like this.” Jenny hissed.
“We need a Time Lord.” Mr. Clark rumbled.
“Easily done.” Baines smirked. He stepped forward and aimed his gun at John. John recoiled in horror and Rose had to keep herself from stepping in front of him and shielding him with her body. “Change back.” Baines said.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” John exclaimed.
“Change back!” Baines yelled.
“I—I literally do not know!” John shouted back. Suddenly Rose felt an arm wrap around her neck and a gun point at her temple.
“Get off me!!!” Rose screamed, kicking at her captor.
“She’s your friend isn’t she???” Jenny asked, keeping the gun trained on Rose’s head. “Doesn’t this scare you enough to change back?!”
“I don’t know what you mean!!”
“Wait a minute,” Jenny cooed. “The maid told me about Smith and the Matron. That woman, there!” Jenny jerked her head in Joan’s direction. Mr. Clark advanced on her, gun aimed.
“Then let’s have you!” Mr. Clark shouted, grabbing Joan roughly by the arm. John felt the tears begin to well up in his eyes.
“Have you enjoyed it, Doctor? Being human?” Baines mocked. “Has it taught you wonderful things? Are you better, richer, wiser, hmm? Then let’s see you answer this—which one of them do you want us to kill?” Rose’s blood ran cold. She knew John would choose her. Simple choice, for him. The one he loved or his maid. She was going to be killed by the man she loved. “Maid or Matron? Your friend or your lover? Your choice.” Baines’s words hung in the air as John looked back and forth from her to Joan. He knew he would always choose Joan over her, but still whenever his eyes passed over her, she saw something flash in them, just for a moment. Something protective and loving and fearful all at once. Something very…Doctor-y.
“Make your decision, Mister Smith.” Jenny hissed.
“Perhaps if that human heart breaks, the Time Lord will emerge.” Baines smiled.
Time Lord… John heard a click and then a voice that sounded eerily similar to his echoed through the room. The possessed humans at the front of the room jumped.
“It’s him!” Jenny loosened her grip of Rose just long enough for her to twist the gun out of her grasp and aim it at Baines.
“All right!” Rose shouted over the din. “One more move, and I shoot.”
“Oh, the maid is full of fire!”
“And you can shut up!” Rose shouted back at Baines, irritated further by his comments. She fired a warning shot at the ceiling just to prove that she was serious.
“Careful, son of mine.” Mr. Clark warned. “This is all so that you can live forever.”
“Shoot you down!” Baines said as he raised his gun to Rose.
“Try it!” She challenged him straight out. “We’ll die together.” For whatever reason, when Rose said this John knew she wasn’t joking, and his stomach sank.
“Would you really pull that trigger?” Baines goaded her. “Looks too scared.” He smirked at her, and Rose’s hand wavered for an instant.
“Scared and holding a gun, it’s a good combination.” Rose steadied her hand. “Do you want to risk it?” Baines held Rose’s stare for a few moments, and then lowered his gun. The other members of his “family” followed suit. Joan ran over to John and grasped his hands tightly. He surveyed her eyes thoroughly for any indication that she was anything more than shaken. “Doctor, get everyone out.” Rose commanded. “There’s a door at the side, it’s over there.” She jerked her head towards it, but John did not move. “Go on!” she shouted at him, still brandishing the gun to Baines. “Do it, Mister Smith. I mean you!!!”
“Do what she says! Everybody out now!” Joan’s instincts kicked in, and she began ushering all of the guests toward the door. “Don’t argue, Mr. Jackson. They’re mad, that’s all we need to know!” Joan pushed one man towards the door. “Outside, all of you!” she shouted. John ran to Timothy Latimer, who had his right hand shoved deep into his coat pocket.
“Move yourself, boy! Go back to the school, quickly!” John pushed him towards the door, and he ran out. John turned back to Rose, who was still holding the gun in Baines’s face. “What about you?” he asked, suddenly deeply concerned for this brave woman.
“Mister Smith, I think you should escort your lady friend to safety, don’t you?” she didn’t even look at him, just kept her eyes trained on her target. He looked conflicted from her to the door a few times, and then ran out after Joan.
“Latimer!” He shouted, running up to the boy after Joan had reached him. “Get back to the school, tell the headmaster.” Latimer slapped his hand away.
“Don’t touch me!” He recoiled. “You’re as bad as them!” He turned from his shocked teacher and ran down the road leading back to the school.
Back inside, Rose let Jenny go, and the Family raised their guns to her.
“Don’t try anything, or sonny-boy get it!” she shouted, aiming the gun from one to the other. The all began advancing on her, lowering their guns.
“She's almost brave this one!” Baines remarked.
“I should have taken her form.” Jenny smirked. “Much more fun. So much spirit!” Rose back up, keeping her gun pointed directly ahead of her.
“What happened to Jenny?” Rose asked calmly. “Is she gone?”
“She is consumed.” Jenny replied. “Her body’s mine.”
“You mean she’s dead?”
“Yes.” Jenny answered saucily. “And she went with precious little dignity. All that screaming!” She screamed once in imitation just for Rose. Suddenly a pair of straw arms grabbed her from behind.
“Get the gun!” Baines shouted, and the straw arms wrenched it out of her grasp before she could knock them off of her. As soon as she was released she bolted out the door.
“Don’t just stand there, move!!!” She yelled at Joan and John who were still standing outside of the building. “God, you’re rubbish as a human! Come on!” Rose grabbed John’s hand and dragged him behind her.
As soon as they were safely inside of the school, John grabbed a hold of the alarm bell and began to ring it.
“What are you doing???” Rose shouted at him over the bell.
“Maybe one man can’t fight them, but this school teaches us to stand together!” He shouted back. “Take arms! Take arms!”
“You can’t do that!” she chased him up the stairs.
“You want me to fight don’t you? Take arms! Take arms!” he shouted up the stairs. Hutchinson ran down the stairs in frenzy.
“I say, sir, what’s the matter?” he asked.
“Enemy at the door, Hutchinson! Enemy at the door!” John shouted back. “Take arms!”
Rose followed John as he led the boys into the ammunition room.
“We can’t do this Doctor!” She pleaded. “Mister Smith! They’re just boys!” Rose tried to get his attention. “You can’t ask them to fight, they don’t stand a chance!” He rounded on her, full fury.
“They are cadets, Miss Tyler. They are trained to defend the King, and all his citizens and properties.” The door slammed open and everyone present jumped.
“What in thunder’s name is this?” The headmaster demanded, striding into the room. “Before I devise an excellent and endless series of punishments for each and every one of you, could someone explain very simply and immediately, exactly what is going on?” John stepped forward, his fury melted into tameness.
“Headmaster, I have to report. The school is under attack.” John stated urgently.
“Really? Is that so?” Rose gulped. The headmaster didn’t seem very convinced. “Perhaps you and I should have a word in private.” John’s eyes went wide.
“No, I promise you sir! I was in the village with Matron. It’s Baines, sir. Jeremy Baines and Mr. Clark from the Oakham Farm. They’ve gone mad, sir. They’ve got guns, and they’ve already murdered people in the village. I saw it happen.”
“Matron, is that so?” The headmaster asked.
“I’m afraid it’s true, sir.”
“Murder? On our own soil?”
“I saw it. Yes.” The headmaster turned back to John.
“Perhaps you have done well then, Mister Smith.” John nodded his thanks. “What makes you think the danger’s coming here?” John hesitated for a moment before answering.
“Well, sir, they said…um…” He looked to Joan for help.
“Baines threatened Mister Smith, sir. He said he’d follow him. We don’t know why.”
“Very well. You boys remain on guard. Mr. Snell, telephone the police. Mr. Phillips, with me. We shall investigate.” He started for the door, but Rose blocked his path.
“No! It’s not safe out there.”
“Mister Smith, it seems your favorite servant is giving me advice. You will control her, please.” He strode out the door.
“I’ve got to find that watch.” Rose breathed, and ran out as well. She didn’t see Joan take off after her. And neither of the women noticed little Timothy Latimer hiding in a corner holding a small silver fob watch.
John pulled the curtains away from the second story window and looked out over the scene before him. The headmaster and Mr. Phillips stood in front of the school, and before them were Jeremy Baines, Rose’s friend Jenny, and ten scarecrows. John couldn’t hear what was being said, only see what was happening.
For a while, none of them moved, just stood there and exchanged words. Then Baines turned, walked to one of the scarecrows, and pulled off its arm. He threw it to the ground and the headmaster extended his hand to Baines. Baines stepped forward, and the headmaster lowered his hand. After a moment Baines spun back around and stalked back to the scarecrows. He turned back to look at the headmaster, and the look on his face sent shivers down John’s spine. Baines walked slowly up to the headmaster so that they were almost toe to toe. They exchanged heated words for a few seconds and then Baines walked back. As he got halfway he twisted around and fired his gun at Mr. Phillips. Baines aimed the gun at the headmaster as he turned and ran back inside.
“Send us Mister Smith!!!” the tiny snatch of Baines’s demand echoed in John’s ears as he slammed the curtains shut. ‘It’s all my fault.’ John lamented. ‘People have died, and it’s because of me.’ The door opened and the headmaster walked in.
“Mr. Phillips has been murdered, Mister Smith.” He said in a grave tone. “Can you tell me why?”
“Honestly sir, I have no idea. And the telephone line’s been disconnected—we are on our own.”
“If we have to make a fight of it, then make a fight we shall.” The headmaster ordered. “Hutchinson. We’ll build a barricade within the courtyards. Fortify the entrances, build our defenses. Gentlemen, in the name of the King, we shall stand against them.”
“Yes, sir!” the boys chorused.
“I know it sounds mad, but when the Doctor became human, he took the alien part of himself and he stored it inside the watch.” Rose confided in Joan, who was standing there trying to process all of it. “I mean, it’s not really a watch, it just looks like a watch.”
“And by ‘alien’ you mean ‘not from abroad’ I take it.” Rose looked up at her.
“The man you call John Smith, he was born on another world.” Joan started trembling a little bit.
“A different species?”
Then tell me, in this fairy tale…who are you?” Joan asked.
“Just a friend. I’m not…” her voice trailed off as her mind went to the obvious. “I mean, you haven’t got a rival, as much as I might… I’m just his friend.”
“And human, I take it?”
“Human. Don’t worry. If we find that watch, then we can stop them!” Joan turned to leave. “Where are you going?”
“Those boys are going to fight. I might not be a doctor, but I’m still their nurse. They need me.” Rose stood in silence as she left.
Joan stood hunched over her medical bag in the entrance hall of the school. John placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Joan, it’s not safe.”
“I’m doing my duty, just as much as you.” She retorted. He looked away. “Fine evening we had together.”
“Not quite as planned.” John let out a nervous chuckle.
“Tell me about Nottingham.”
“That’s where you were brought up. Tell me about it.”
“Well, it lies on the River Leen, with its southern boundary following the course of the River Trent, which follows from Stoke to Humber.” He answered as though it were a speech: memorized and clinical.
“That sounds like an encyclopedia.” Joan commented. “Where did you live?”
“Broadmarsh Street, adjacent to Hawley Terrace, in the district of Radford Parade.” He answered in the same memorized tone.
“But more than facts.” Joan insisted. “When you were a child, where did you play? All those secret little places, the dens and hideaways that only a child knows.” Now she was pleading with him, praying that he would have just one, something to prove Rose wrong. “Tell me, John. Please tell me.”
“How can you think I’m not real?” He asked. “When I kissed you, was that a lie?” She shook her head.
“No, it wasn’t. No.”
“But this Doctor sounds like some—some…romantic lost prince.” His voice was clouded with tears threatening to fall. “Would you rather that?” Joan could not look him in the eye. “Am I not enough?”
“No, that’s not true. Never.”
“I’ve got to go.”
“Rose was right about one thing, though—those boys, they’re children. John Smith wouldn’t want them to fight, never mind the Doctor. The John Smith I was getting to know—he knows it’s wrong. Doesn’t he?”
“Mister Smith, please!” a faraway voice called.
“What choice do I have?” Before Joan could react, he had pulled her into a kiss. She began to melt into him, forgetting their argument, but it was all over too soon. John had pulled away and run off into battle.
John stood warily as the boys shot down the last of the straw soldiers. The headmaster stepped forward to survey the damage.
“Just straw.” He said. “Like he said. Straw!”
“Then no one’s dead, sir!” Hutchinson chimed in. “We’ve killed no one!”
“Stand to!” the headmaster ran back behind the line of sandbags. “You, child, come out of the way. Come into the school!” A small girl carrying a red balloon walked forward. “We don’t know who’s out there! It’s the Cartwright girl, isn’t it?” He extended his hand. “Come here, come to me.”
“Mister Rocastle, please!” Rose ran outside shouting. “Don’t go near her.”
“You were told to be quiet!”
“Just listen to me. She’s part of it! Matron, tell him.” Rose turned to Joan who had run out shortly after her.
“I think—I don’t know—I think you should stay back headmaster.” Joan said, deciding to help Rose out for once.
“She was—she was with Baines in the village.” John added.
“Mister Smith, I’ve seen many strange sights this night, but there is no cause on God’s earth that would allow me to see this child in the field of battle, sir.” The headmaster extended his hand to her again. “Come with me.”
“That’s right, now take my hand.”
“So funny.” She retorted, and then fired her hidden gun at the headmaster. “Now who’s going to shoot me?” She called out to the armed boys. “Any of you? Really?”
“Put down your guns.” John commanded.
“But sir, the headmaster…” Hutchinson argued.
“I’ll not see this happen.” John told the girl, putting down his gun. “Not anymore. You will retreat in an orderly fashion back through the school. Hutchinson, lead the way.”
“I said lead the way!” Baines appeared out of nowhere, brandishing a gun.
“Go on, then! RUN!!!” He screamed, firing his gun at the air. “Soldiers!!! Reanimate!!”
“Come on!!!” Rose shouted, grabbing John’s arm and dragging him, once again, behind her.
John watched the boys running away and turned to the two women behind him.
“Now, I insist, the pair of you just go!” He shouted, trying to push them out of the way. “If there are any more boys inside, I’ll find them.” He opened the door at the other end of the hall only to find the doorway blocked by the straw soldiers. “I think—retreat!” He slammed the door shut and locked it tightly. All three of them ran back down the hall.
Rose led the other two to the west side of the school, hoping to get them both safely to the shed where the TARDIS was hidden, and was met by a horrifying sight: Mr. Clark, with the TARDIS moved out of the shed and standing behind him.
“Doctor! Come back, Doctor!” Mr. Clark called out to the empty fields. “Come home! Come and claim your prize!”
“Out you come, Doctor!” Baines joined him. “There’s a good boy. Come to the Family.”
“Time to end it now!” Jenny stepped forward.
“You recognize it, don’t you?” Rose asked him, noticing the look on his face.
“Come out, Doctor! Come to us!”
“I’ve never seen it before in my life.” John replied, and Rose knew that he meant it.
“Do you remember its name?” She pleaded.
“I’m sorry, John, but you wrote about it.” Joan interrupted. “The blue box—you dreamt of a blue box.” John looked at it again.
“I’m not…I’m John Smith!” He said his voice breaking. “That’s all I want to be—John Smith, with his life and his job, and his love.” He looked at Joan, the tears evident in his eyes. “Why can’t I be John Smith? Isn’t he a good man?”
“Yes. Yes, he is.” Joan took his hand.
“Why can’t I stay?”
“But we need the Doctor.” Rose begged.
“So what am I, then? Nothing??? I’m just a story?” John got up and ran away. As soon as Joan had chased after him, Rose clutched herself and just cried.
“This way!” Joan shouted, veering to the left.
“No, we need to keep going.” John insisted.
“For once, just listen to me John!” He looked startled. “Now, follow me.” Rose looked at John for a second, and then ran after her. John had no option but to follow them. They ran for about a minute, and then they came upon a large white house.
“Here we are.” Joan said panting. “It should be empty.” She leaned on her knees. “Oh, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to run so far.”
“But who lives here?” Rose asked.
“If I’m right, no one.” She opened the door carefully. “Hello?” Silence. “No one home. We should be safe here.”
“Whose house is it thought?”
“The Cartwright’s. That little girl at the school, she’s Lucy Cartwright. Or she’s taken Lucy Cartwright’s form. If she came home this afternoon and if the parents tried to stop their little girl, then…” Her voice trailed off and John gulped. “They were vanished.” She put her hand to the tea pot sitting on the table. “Stone cold.” She backed away slowly. “How easily I accept these ideas.” John walked to the chair at the end of the table and sat down.
“I must go to them, before anyone else dies.” His voice shook.
“You can’t.” Joan begged him. She took the chair next to him and grabbed him hand. “Rose, there must be something else that we can do.” Rose shook her head slowly, eyes focused on the ground.
“Not without the watch.” She said sadly. John rounded on her, slamming his fists down on the table.
“You’re this Doctor’s companion! Can’t you help?! What exactly do you do for him? Who does he need you?”
“Because he’s lonely.” Her simple answer shocked him to the core.
“And that’s what you want me to become?” he cried. There was a knock at the door and they all started.
“What if it’s them?” Joan asked as Rose moved towards the door.
“I’m not an expert, but I don’t think scarecrows knock.” She opened the door to see Timothy Latimer standing there.
“I brought you this.” He held out the silver fob watch in an outstretched hand. Rose took it carefully, and brought it over to John.
“Hold it.” She told him, putting it in her open palm.
“Please, just hold it.” She needed him to just hold it, and then maybe he would understand.
“It told me to find you.” Timothy said. “It wants to be held.”
“You’ve had this watch all this time?” Joan asked. “Why didn’t you return it?”
“Because it was waiting. Then, because I was so scared…scared of the Doctor.”
“Why?” John was starting to get scared himself.
“Because…I’ve seen him.” Timothy said. “He’s…like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. “
“He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the center of time, and he can see the turn of the universe.”
“Stop it!” John raged against the feelings bubbling up inside of him. “I said stop it!”
“And…he’s wonderful.” Joan pulled the notebook out of her coat pocket.
“I’ve still got this—the journal.”
“Those are just stories.” John protested.
“Now we know that’s not true. Perhaps there’s something in here.” Joan suggested gently. In the distance, something exploded. Everyone rushed to the window. On the horizon, balls of fire were falling from the sky.
“They’re destroying the village!” John shouted. “The watch.”
“John, don’t!” Joan pleaded.
Closer, closer. The voice whispered again.
“Can you hear it?” Timothy asked. “Like he’s asleep, waiting to waken.”
Waken me, little man. He hissed.
“Why did he speak to me?”
“Oh, low-level telepathic field.” Rose’s heart exploded and a huge grin appeared on her face. “You were born with it, just an extra synaptic engram causing—“John gasped for breath, the spell broken. “Is that how he talks?”
“That’s him!” Rose exclaimed. “All you have to do is open it, and he’s back.”
“You knew this all along!” he pointed an accusing finger at her. “And yet you watched while Nurse Redfern and I—“
“I didn’t know how to stop you!” Rose cried, advancing towards him. “He gave me a list of things to watch out for, but that wasn’t included. “
John clutched the watch a little tighter. “Falling in love—that didn’t even occur to him?”
“No.” Rose breathed.
“Then what sort of a man is that? And now you expect me to die?” Rose felt like she had swallowed a rock. She had never thought of it that way. Another explosion sounded in the distance.
“It was always going to end, though. The Doctor said the Family’s got a limited life-span. That’s why they needed to consume a Time Lord! Otherwise, three months and they die. Like mayflies he said.” John’s bottom lip quivered.
“So your job was to execute me?”
“People are dying out there.” Her eyes were begging him to return. “They need him and I need him. Because you’ve got no idea what he’s like. I’ve been traveling with him for three years now! He is everything. He’s just everything to me, and I—I…” her voice trailed off and her hands dropped to her sides. “No.” she said. “No, he already knows how I feel. I told him, and he rejected me. I’ve already decided that if he ever comes back, that I’m going to ask him to take me home. I’m done with this torture. If you want to open the watch now, that’s not my problem. I’m giving up.” Rose looked up at him with empty eyes, and a tiny piece of John’s heart died. And then she walked away.
“It’s getting closer.” Timothy said, as the explosions got louder.
“Ah!” John screamed, staring at the watch. “I should have thought of it before! I can give them this—the watch! Then they can leave, and I can stay as I am!”
“You can’t do that!” Timothy shouted.
“If they want they Doctor, then they can have him!”
“He’ll never let you do it.”
“And then if they can get what they want, it all ends in destruction.” Joan looked up from the journal for the first time in minutes. “I never read to the end. Those creatures would live forever, to breed and conquer. War, across the stars for every child. Timothy, would you leave us alone please?” Joan asked. Timothy nodded and walked out the door. Joan walked over to him as the floodgates broke, and all of John’s misery and anguish swept over him in great heaving sobs. She cradled him in her arms as he cried on her shoulder.
When the worst had gone, they sat beside each other on the edge of the table. John stared at the watch in his hand.
“If I could do this instead of you, then I would.” Joan said soothingly. “I had hoped. But my hopes aren’t important.”
“He won’t love you.” John choked out.
“If he’s not you, then I don’t want him to. I had one husband, and he died and I…I never thought, ever again. And then you… You were so…”
“And it was real, wasn’t it?” he asked. “I really thought…” Joan held out her hand.
“Let me see.” She turned the watch over in her hand. “Blasted thing. Blasted, blasted thing. Can’t even hear it, it says nothing to me.” She held the watch back for him to take it. He grabbed her hand, and suddenly visions flashed across his eyes.
A vision of the two of them at their wedding, kissing as the bells tolled out their happiness. The two of them sitting on a bed, holding their child in his arms as she cried. His wife and children running with him through the woods, laughing and enjoying themselves. Joan, holding his hand in bed, an old man, as he asked of everyone’s safety, closed his eyes, and passed away.
“Did you see?” He asked, gripping her hand tightly. She nodded, a single tear tracing its path down her cheek.
“The Time Lord has such adventures,” she whispered. “But he could never have a life like that.”
“And yet I could.” He brushed the tear away, and she leaned into his hand.
“What are you going to do?” she asked after he had pulled away. He looked into her eyes, and took a breath.
John Smith walked into the invisible spaceship. The Family snapped their heads around to stare at him.
“Just…” he stopped, falling into the wall of switches to his right. “Just stop the bombardment. That’s all I’m asking. I’ll do anything you want—just stop.”
“Say ‘please.’” Baines smirked.
“Please.” Jenny pulled down a cover on the main console, and the machine noises quieted.
“Wait a minute.” Jenny sniffed the air. “Still human.”
“Now I can’t—I can’t pretend to understand, not for a second, but I want you to know I’m innocent in all this.” John insisted. “He made me John Smith. It’s not like—like I had any control over this!” His right arm accidentally slid down another line of panels.
“He didn’t just make himself human,” Jenny said. “He made himself an idiot.
“Same thing, isn’t it?” Baines asked.
“I don’t care about this Doctor or your family. I just want you to go! So I’ve made my choice—“He held out the watch to them. “You can have him. Just take it, please. Take him away!”
“At last.” Baines sighed, plucking the watch from his palm. He grabbed the front of John’s shirt, and threw him against the wall. “Don’t think that saved your life.” As John fell, he tried to grab onto something, but pushed down more of those panel-switches. “Family of mine…” Baines said. “Now we shall have the lives of a Time Lord.” He pushed the button on the top, and the watch popped open. On the inside, there was a normal clock face, but not much else. They all inhaled at once. “It’s empty!” Baines shouted, turning on John.
“W—where’s he gone?” John asked his voice breaking.
“You tell me.” Baines tossed him the watch, and John adeptly caught it.
“Oh, I think the explanation might be you’ve been fooled by a simple olfactory misdirection. A little bit like ventriloquism of the nose. It’s an elementary trick in certain parts of the galaxy. But it has got to be said, I don’t like the look of that Hydrokinometer.” The Doctor said, whipping his glasses out of his pocket and sliding them up his nose. “It seems to be indicating you’ve got energy feedback all the way through the retro-stabilizers feeding back into the primary heat converters. Oh! ‘Cause if there’s one thing you shouldn’t have done—you shouldn’t have let me press all those buttons. But, in fairness, I will give you one word of advice: run.” He grinned and ran out the door.
The Doctor walked inside of his beloved TARDIS and shut the door. The Family was taken care of. They had wanted to live forever, and he made sure of it. Unbreakable chains forged in the heart of a dwarf star, the event horizon of a collapsing galaxy, every mirror, and a lowly field guardian, so like the ones he had been fond of creating.
He hadn’t seen Rose since she had walked away from John Smith. She had said she was leaving, but Rose wouldn’t leave without a goodbye. Would she?
Yes, she would. The TARDIS told him. He jumped. It had been so long since he had spoken with the TARDIS and he had forgotten about her almost.
What do you mean, she would? He sent back.
I spoke with her. While you were still human. I had to tell her that the watch was missing. I couldn’t go inside her head without feeling all of her emotions, and she was tortured. She’ll be out soon enough.
What do you want me to do? It’s her choice, in the end.
Go to her. Tell her how you feel.
What do you mean? I’m sure she knows.
She doesn’t. When she told you how she feels you pushed her away! What was she supposed to think?
But…but I didn’t mean—I wasn’t…
Go to her. Before it’s too late.
Rose zipped up her suitcase and grabbed her overnight bag full of all her things just as the door opened. She looked up to see the Doctor standing at her door, pinstripes and think-rimmed glasses back in place.
“Going somewhere?” he asked, looking at her suitcase. She rolled her eyes.
“Thought you remembered everything from when you were John?” she mocked. “I told him, I’m leaving. I’m giving up. I’m tired of all of this, Doctor. I’ve been with you for three years now, and you haven’t looked at me twice. You’re with Nurse Redfern for two months, and you’re in love with her!” Her tone made him flinch. He recovered quickly, and closed the distance between them.
“I was human, Rose. That wasn’t me that was John Smith.” He took one her suitcase out of her hand and set it down.
“You think he was any better than you?” she threw back. “He hated me. He almost threw me out on my own!” Now she was starting to cry again. “If Joan hadn’t been there, I would have been stranded in 1913 in the middle of a war with no way of getting back home!” The Doctor took both of her hands in his.
“I know. And I’m sorry, Rose. I would never throw you out.” She wrenched her hands away.
“No, but you’ve sure been pushing me away lately. Remember?” He winced, and back away a little.
“Rose, that’s not…I didn’t mean to…”
“Really, Doctor? Because it sure seemed like you meant it.” She made for the door but the Doctor stepped in her way again.
“Please, Rose, just hear me out.”
“Look, if I’m never going to be able to love anyone else because no one could ever compare to you, I would prefer to deal with that somewhere that I don’t have to have the fact that you will never feel the same way shoved in my face every single time I look at you!” The tears slowly began to fall, and the Doctor realized just how much damage he had done to this marvelous little human standing in front of him. “You rejected me!” she screamed, slamming her fists against his chest. “You treated me like nothing! Is that it? Am I just not good enough for you?”
“No!” He caught both of her hands in his and held them tightly. “Don’t ever think that, Rose. You are…amazing.” She stopped trying to escape his grasp and looked into his eyes.
“What?” He led her to her bed, and sat her down, still keeping one hand in both of his.
“Rose, you have done more for me than you could ever imagine. You’ve shown me how to see all of the beautiful things in the universe again. After the Time War, I wasn’t alone just because everyone else was dead. I was alone because I wanted to be. I was afraid of letting anyone get close to me, because I was so afraid that I would damage them in some way. I hid behind that leather jacket, and a sense of superiority of other species.” Rose chuckled at his reminder of her first Doctor and his comments about “stupid apes.” He put a finger under her chin and turned her face towards his.
“And then, out of nowhere, in the basement of a shop, there you were: all pink and yellow, and simply amazing. You taught me how to live again, reminded me of how much joy there could be in the tiniest things, and helped me see the universe through your eyes. You are not just good enough, you are too good.” He pushed a stray piece of hair away from her eyes.
“But I thought…” Rose stuttered. “I thought you didn’t want me with you after…after I threw myself at you. I thought you were going to send me home because of how I felt, so…I figured that telling you that I wanted to leave would be the more dignified option.”
Suddenly all of the air was drawn from her chest as he crushed her to him and held her in his embrace. He murmured sweet nothings into her ear, and gently stroked her hair. She pulled back after a while, and placed her hand gently against the side of his face. He pulled back a bit. The hurt look on her face was almost enough to shatter his hearts. He just smiled at her and leaned forward until their faces were millimeters apart. She could feel his breath ghosting over her lips.
“Rose,” he whispered her name a prayer. “Rose, Rose, Rose, my precious Rose.” She lifted her eyes and locked them onto his. “I love you.” He whispered, and then brushed his lips against hers. Rose relaxed against him, bringing her arms up to twine them around his neck.
When the Doctor remembered that air was a necessity for humans, he pulled back and looked at this beautiful human that he had become so close to over the past three years. He brushed away a tear tracing a path on her face.
“Why are you crying?” he asked.
“I never thought I’d hear you say that.” She smiled up at him and gave a watery laugh.
“I didn’t think I’d ever be able to.” He confessed, smiling with her.
“I know that I’ll probably never be able to give you forever, but I promise to stay with you as long as I can, Doctor. I love you, and as long as you’ll have me, I’m staying.” He grinned and captured her mouth once again. This time, when he pulled away, they were breathless, flushed, and grinning like idiots.
They really were perfect for each other.