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sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-17 12:35 pm

In Another Life, Ch 2 of 7; PG-13

In this chapter, there's a visual I couldn't quite capture. When you come across it you'll see why I used this image; that is a genuine Armani blazer-jacket. I thought I might as well make a nice "book cover" for the fic as long as I was showing it off, which is fifty thousand words long and therefore almost the length of a novel.


The Doctor

When they went back inside, Rose pulled him gently into a little conference room off the medical section, where Dr. Harper and a team of technicians were going over the specs for Lisa Hallett's new arm. The Doctor shared a pot of tea with Harper while Rose sat down with the technicians and began asking questions.

"Good day's work," the Doctor ventured, and Harper gave him a tired smile.

"Yeah, s'all right," he said, fingers turning his tea mug around and around. "It'll go easier on her now, at least. She's been aching for a new arm. Fifteen surgeries. Wouldn't put myself through it for less, tell you that for free."

"How'd you come across her? Ianto Jones said Rose found her."

"Rose finds all of us," Harper replied. "I think she saw a news story about her or something. Anyway, Lisa's still got a bit of a road ahead of her. Specially since it's hard to hide a metal hand."

"Why would she hide it?"

Harper frowned at him. "It's a prosthetic."

"So? Plenty of people with prosthetics. Go about one-armed, I assume you get used to a bit of staring," the Doctor observed.

"They'll do more than stare if she flashes it about." Harper's frown deepened. "Where've you been living then?"

" a lot," the Doctor said. "Used to, anyway."

"But you heard about London. The Cybermen. The factories? All over the world?"

"Yeah, I was -- here for that. Sort of. I took off pretty quickly after."

"Lots of people did. Since then, anyway, there's been a backlash." Harper tapped his ear. "Against earsets and such. Some nutters won't even use mobiles anymore."

"And prosthetics," the Doctor guessed.

"Big hate for prosthetics, especially the robotics end. Torchwood's the only one who'll go near the stuff. S'why I came here. People don't like it. Reminds them of the Cybermen, I guess."

"And you?"

Harper glanced away. "Lost my wife Katie to the Cybermen, so they haven't got much room to talk with me. But I don't see how a bunch of sociopaths in metal suits means we can't make peoples' lives better."

"Sorry," the Doctor murmured. Harper shrugged.

"I'm not the only one. Couldn't go near the arm myself at first, but it gets easier. And it doesn't mean we should stop, y'know. Just...tread carefully."

"Wise man."

"Ta." Harper sipped his tea. "Rose says you're a doctor, I think? Medical?"

"Do a bit of it, but it's not really my specialty. I'm more...all-round," the Doctor admitted.


"Yeah, some of that."

"Well, you must be all right if Rose brought you in," he said.

"You trust her that far?"

"Don't you?" Harper asked. "The Peoples' Republic might control Torchwood from the outside but that woman runs this show, and you'd do well to remember it. Isn't a soul in this building from the cleaning woman to the toppest-top-secret biotechnologist that wasn't vetted by Rose Tyler before they came on. Not a few of 'em'd go to the moon for her. Me included."

The Doctor nodded. "Rose has that effect."

"Doctor?" Rose said, breaking away from the technicians. "Dinner?"

"Yup," the Doctor said. "Good to meet you, Dr. Harper."

"See you round," Harper said, and carried his mug over to where the technicians were babbling excitedly over a series of readouts.


When Rose offered Ianto a job as the Doctor's lab assistant, the Doctor had watched his face, glad the young man wasn't overly grateful or enthusiastic. He'd accepted the offer with a sort of wary determination that said he knew he could survive without them and didn't have to place all his faith or trust in either of them just yet.

The Doctor wondered where Lisa Hallett was, in the universe he'd come from. Dead, probably.

He knew what Rose was doing, even if Ianto didn't: she was giving him a puppy to look after, someone other than her to care about. Someone from this world, someone whose experience of the alien and strange was less than hers. Sort of a Companion, he thought, because whatever Rose was she wasn't that anymore. If anything he was hers.

Ianto seemed clever enough in any universe. Last time Jack was on board the TARDIS, as they'd been preparing to drop him off in Cardiff, the Captain had provided an enthusiastic and quite overinformative resume of Ianto's skills and attributes. Rose was probably right (she usually was) and he needed another person about. Ianto Jones seemed to fit as well as anyone would.

The next morning, on the other hand, he woke with a sort of dread in his stomach. If there was someone else in his lab all day, that meant he'd have to at least pretend to do something. And while he was fully confident in his ability to build a sonic screwdriver from component parts, he also felt...

Numb. Like there was something cutting him off -- the silence where he used to hear the universe was bad enough, but now it felt like he wasn't actually touching anything either. He felt clumsy and tired, and his fingers slipped on the cutlery at breakfast, dropping it a couple of times. Rose didn't notice; she was talking to her father about phase regulation. Funny old world.

Jackie just winked at him, like it was amusing, and kept on with feeding Tony. It occurred to him that she probably thought Rose was keeping him up all night, and that he should be horrified or at least amused by this.

Rose left him at his lab with a kiss on the cheek and an extracted promise that he'd come out to lunch with her. Mary Ellen smiled at him. Ianto was already in his lab, fingers drifting over everything, as if he were memorising their positions by touch.

"I've made coffee," he said, and the Doctor took it and drank it. It wasn't really worth the effort to tell the young man he preferred tea. They looked at each other over the rim of the coffee cup for a few seconds.

"If you've work for me, I have a login and all the access I need," Ianto said, tilting his head at one of the computers. "Otherwise Mary Ellen would like some help with the filing."

"Go on with you then," he said, and gave him a smile for good measure. As long as he kept the boy occupied, he was fulfilling his end of the bargain.

He studied the tools he'd left lying around the previous day, then slowly and methodically began to rearrange them. It took about half an hour and, when it was finished, he set an alarm for noon so he'd know when to meet Rose for lunch, and sat down again.


Once in a while, over the course of the next three days, he'd set Ianto a research task simply to keep him busy, always of the kind that required visiting other parts of the building or outside libraries. Ianto's carefully prepared packets of information were a reliable barometer of local human knowledge, and they did help him to discern where exactly this 21st century Britain stood.

At night, while Rose watched the television or worked on a computer, he'd sit and read the packets, marveling at what humanity knew and didn't know. Once in a while, if he managed to pull himself out of the nightmares without waking Rose, he'd curl up away from her and page through them, mostly for something to do with his hands until they stopped shaking. Daleks, Cybermen, Jack, his own self, didn't matter what he dreamed of. What mattered was that he forget the dreams as soon as he possibly could, and stop shaking so that Rose wouldn't wake.

Three thousand one hundred and forty-two, Davros counted in his dreams. Three thousand one hundred and forty-three...

A few times he put Ianto on the thread of something really difficult, just to annoy him, but he suspected someone who could naturally tolerate Jack Harkness was not someone who grew annoyed easily.

After two days Ianto began bringing him tea in the mornings. Perceptive -- or perhaps Rose had tipped him off.

That Friday he thought Ianto had gone early, and was just putting his head out the door to see if Mary Ellen was about and whether tea and a bun were on offer, when he saw Ianto and Rose in the foyer, talking. Well, really Ianto was doing most of the talking; Rose's face was growing darker and more worried by the moment, and he couldn't imagine what Ianto was telling her to upset her. He hadn't sent him to find out anything dangerous, and it wasn't like the pair of them knew many other people in common...

Unless Ianto was giving his Rose some kind of lip, in which case there was a simple way to solve the problem. Well, a simple way involving distraction and interrogation, and then of course the slightly more difficult way, which involved shoving Ianto through a wall.

"Hallo," he called, grinning and stepping out of the lab, catching the door with the heel of his foot so that it wouldn't slam. He shoved his hands in his pockets and ambled down the hall. Rose wasn't fooled by the grin for a minute, but Ianto didn't know him well enough yet to be suspicious. "This looks friendly. You're early," he added, nudging Rose with his shoulder and presenting his cheek to be kissed. Odd habit humans had. Kissing wasn't something Time Lords did, generally.

But, of course, who was a Time Lord in this little soiree? Nobody.

"Ianto telling you all about my mad science?" he asked, an edge to his voice, and something very sad flickered in Rose's face. "Or just office gossip?"

"If you don't need me for anything else, sir," Ianto said, looking faintly anxious.

"He doesn't," Rose said firmly. "Go home, tell Lisa hi from us."

Ianto made his exit with pretty unseemly haste. The Doctor didn't want to say that he'd run him off precisely, but he wouldn't be bothered if you called it that.

"Mary Ellen, will you make sure his door's locked? The Doctor's done for the day," Rose said.

Uh oh. He'd been a human male for about seven days, but even a new player to the game recognised that particular tone.

"Whatever it is, I didn't do it," he said, as they stepped out of the building.

"Yeah, I know," Rose answered. She unlocked her car and gestured him inside.

They drove in silence for a while, until it became evident she wasn't driving them home; she was taking the fast route into downtown London, the sky slowly clouding up with zeppelins as they drew closer. He knew he should be filling the car with chatter, that was basically what he did, but he was tired and he couldn't really think of anything to say that wouldn't make the problem worse, whatever the problem was.

She pulled up in front of a bank of downtown shops and carelessly passed her keys to a valet. The Doctor waited, hands hooked in his pockets, until she took his left wrist and pulled his hand to her, turning it over, palm-up. She ran her fingers across his, as if she were searching for something.

"Been working in the lab for a week now," she said, studying his palm.

"Yes..." he said.

"Not a scratch or a callus," she added. "No burns, no cuts."

"I'm a careful worker."

"Oh, are you?"

"Rose, what did I do?"

She shook her head. "Ianto's smarter than you think and he knows how to work with people who've lost themselves. You didn't even bother to tell him you like tea. You've been rearranging your tools but you haven't done anything with them, have you?"

"Is that what he told you?"


He pulled his hand gently away. "Oi, look. I thought I blew them up," he remarked, tipping his head at Henrik's Department Store.

"New universe, mate," she replied.

"Not for you," he said, still watching people stream in and out of the shop. "You fit here."

"I didn't at first. Don't think this was easy for me. You left me here."

He left you here, he thought. Because Rose would never really have said that to him if she thought he...were him.

"I came back."

"No you didn't. I came for you. And then you...left yourself here. And you're sad, I get that. Doctor," she insisted, tipping his chin around so that he had to look at her face. "You're different. I get it. I just don't think you do."

"I'm still me."

"No," she said sadly. "You aren't."

The unpleasant sensation of the world falling out from under his feet wasn't new, per se, but he hadn't ever thought Rose would be cruel enough to cause it. She sighed.

"You don't understand. Come on."

She pulled him across the street and into the mass of late-afternoon shoppers, through the doors of Henrik's. Once upon a time in a universe far away (or something like that) he'd pulled her through the corridors of Henrik's basement, running gleefully, a bomb in his pocket and, basically, explosion on his mind. He wouldn't mind a big explosion now; then he'd have something to run away from.

She stopped abruptly in the middle of the store and slid her fingers from wrist to palm, holding his hand tightly.

"There," she said.



"I thought you said there," he replied, and she smiled at him. Which was really what made all this worth it. Whatever all this was.

"This is a shop," she said, as if explaining to a very small child. "You can't go round in that one blue suit and Mickey's left-behinds forever. You don't know what kind of man you are yet; that's fine. Find out," she said, and shoved him into a rack of t-shirts.



He drew in a deep lungful of breath and looked around him wildly. This wasn't the TARDIS, things wouldn't just appear as he needed them, he didn't know where anything was. Lord, this one-heart business was complicated. His head spun.

"It'll be good for you," Rose assured him, taking his hand again and squeezing it.

"Do you need help, miss?" someone asked, concern evident in their voice.

"We're fine thanks," Rose answered.

The Doctor looked sidelong to see the man's skeptical face. He put on a reassuring smile.

"Right as rain," he managed, straightening. Rose rubbed a hand between his shoulderblades. The man frowned but faded into the racks of suits and trousers.

"It's just the same as the TARDIS," Rose murmured soothingly. "Except it's like...someone else's TARDIS, innit? Just look around a bit. Find what you like."

It would be easiest to go for the suits. He was sure they stocked a brown pinstripe. Except he couldn't even look in that direction, and as much as it might make Rose -- what, love him? See him as himself? -- he didn't want to be a clown in a costume.

The t-shirt on the rack in front of him said "EST 1973".

Well, only off by a few centuries, he thought giddily.

He realised suddenly that Rose was gone; after another flat moment of panic he spotted her in the distance, examining a display of leather handbags. Hideous things -- he could tell she was mocking them in her head and he was tempted to go over and give her a reason to mock out loud. If he tried hard enough surely he could distract her and then they could get some ice cream or some chips and he wouldn't have to think about things like this.

You don't know what kind of man you are yet; that's fine.

He did know. He just wished he didn't. But he wouldn't be a coward, whatever the cost.

He scanned past the t-shirts, past the jumpers and the jackets and the trousers....

His lips quirked a little. There was always a kilt, if he really wanted to startle Rose. Jack would have been amused, anyway.

Jack would know what to buy, or Mickey or even Pete, he was a sharp dresser. Ianto could have fitted him out in a suit in double-time. They could have said exactly what looked nice on him, and then he'd be done with this. Martha would have stuck at his side the whole time if she'd been here. And...

Oh, how Ace or Jo or the Brigadier would laugh to see him now. Or...or Susan. Susan wouldn't laugh, but she wouldn't abandon him, and Donna wouldn't have either --

No, Donna probably would have done. Donna was a mate and she said what she thought and did what she felt best and she didn't deserve what his other self was going to do (had done, by now) to her. But then, so few people did, out of those who'd touched the stars. So few of his old companions had got fair play from the universe. And whose fault was that?

He wasn't really aware that he was moving or that darkness was swirling through his vision until his head caught the edge of a shirt-rack as he fell.


"Doctor? Doctor!"


Martha Jones

Martha knew for a fact that it had been a slow day at A&E -- it usually was on Fridays, right up until around ten at night when the bars really got going and the drunk-drivers started getting on the roads. There was no reason that they'd need her at half past five. Nobody else had been paged.

"Don't look at me," the duty nurse said, as he handed Martha a clipboard. "You were requested specially."

"By who?"

"Friend of yours? Dunno. Blonde girl, came in with a skinny bloke with head trauma."

Martha shrugged and made her way to the curtained-off bed. The blonde girl, Rose Tyler to judge from the admit paperwork, was indeed in evidence, sitting and holding the hand of a man who looked to be in his mid-thirties. His eyes were closed and a wild thatch of rooster-comb hair had been brushed back to reveal a nasty shallow gash right up on his hairline. One of the interns was already stitching it shut.

"I'm Dr. Jones," she said, and the blonde girl looked up, her face lighting in recognition. "Ms...Tyler?"

"Yeah, I -- sorry," the blonde girl said. "Call me Rose. This is the -- this is Mr. Smith."

"Well, from the look of things on intake, he's doing all right. No major damage done, though we'd like to do a few tests to find out why he collapsed. Can you tell me a bit about what he was doing when he fell?"

"Clothes shopping," she said ruefully.

"She abandoned me," came a hoarse voice from the bed, and Rose thwacked the hand she was holding with her other palm.

"I didn't abandon him, I told him to find himself some clothes. He hyperventilated and passed out," she said scoldingly. Martha raised an eyebrow. Mr. Smith opened one eye.

"Martha Jones," he said, suddenly beaming, and the intern working on his head had to press him back down. "Rose, look."

"Yeah, I know," Rose said.

"I'm sorry, have we met?" Martha asked. "It's just I don't remember you."

"What's happened to my head?" Mr. Smith inquired.

"Six stitches where a clothes-hanger tried to catch you," the intern informed him.

"Mr. Smith," Martha said, trying to re-track the conversation as she began going through the process of checking for concussion, "do you have a history of fainting?"

"No," he said, frowning. His eyes were tracking all right.

"Any respiratory issues? Neurological problems?"

"No. Is that what happened? It's a bit hazy."

"The shop attendant said she saw him breathing heavily and then he fell down. You don't get out of clothes shopping that easily," Rose added, with what Martha thought was a rather callous attitude.

"Wasn't trying to. Still, all life's an adventure. This is new," he added, pointing to where the intern was finishing with the stitches. "Never had that done before. Is my seam showing?"

It looked to Martha like Rose Tyler was smiling in spite of herself -- like she wanted to be angry with him but couldn't. Easy to understand, she supposed. Mr. Smith was pretty good-looking, and very charming.

"I'm going to get us some tea," Rose said, lifting his hand and kissing the back. Ah; no wonder. Bit old for her, but Martha had seen weirder. "You talk to Martha for a bit."

"You asked for me specially," Martha said, when Rose was gone. "Well, she did. But I don't know you."

"No, but we know you," he said.

"How d'you mean?"

"It's...complicated, lots my life lately," he said. "But I trust you, Martha Jones. Does the rest matter?"

She sighed. "As long as your friend Rose isn't here, can I ask you some personal questions?"

"You could ask 'em while she was here, if you wanted."

"Maybe she didn't feel the same."

He gave her a strange look, confused and hurt, but he gestured for her to take the seat the intern had vacated.

"Do you have any history of stroke or neurological disease in your family?" she asked. "Epilepsy?"

"No, don't think so."

"Have you experienced any emotional traumas recently? Loss of a loved one? Personal assault?"

Ah, and there it was: that closed, walled-off look people got in their eyes when the wounds were too fresh to talk about.

"May have done," he murmured, then glanced at her warily. "Why?"

"Well, from what I've heard it sounds like you had a panic attack. It's nothing to be ashamed of," she added quickly.

"Generally what they say when they're trying to make you think everyone else believes that," he answered, but there was a dry half-smile on his face.

"Were you thinking of anything upsetting before you collapsed?"

"My granddaughter," he said.

"Your what?" she asked, startled.

"I mean -- my...children," he said. Martha looked down at her hands.

"The loss of a child -- "

"They're not lost," he retorted sharply. She snapped her mouth shut, startled. "They're just...far off. It's complicated."

"Maybe you should talk to someone about it," she said. "We have therapists on staff."

"I've got Rose," he said.

"Do you talk to her about it?"

"No," he admitted. "But -- she's -- she does enough. And anyway the things I've done, things I've's just too much sometimes, that's all. It'll get better," he insisted. "It has to."

"Well, I'm going to recommend a few tests, just to make sure it's not physical," she said. "And I can call for a psychiatric consult if you want. They can prescribe you something in case you have another one."

"I won't have another one."

"But if you do -- "

"I won't."

"All right. Let's get you up to radiology."


It had been ten minutes since Mr. Smith's tests had come back, and Mr. Smith and Rose were probably eager to leave, but Martha couldn't bring herself to get up from the desk where she was going over his results. This shouldn't even be possible, but the tech said he'd run him three times and got the same each time. The machine wasn't broken, either -- he'd tested it on another patient and gotten totally normal results.

Mr. Smith's brain was lit up like a Christmas tree, or more accurately like a nuclear testing site. There was activity everywhere, all of it at higher than the normal rate. The man should be either extremely manic or showing signs of heavy stimulant abuse, but she'd had the nurse check on him a few minutes ago and he said Mr. Smith was asleep. With brain activity like this, sleeping shouldn't even be an option.

She closed the display with a sigh and stood, trying to figure out what questions she should even ask. No point in putting it off any longer.

Mr. Smith was asleep, sprawled on one side on a hospital bed, Rose sitting with him and absently stroking his hair. She glanced up when Martha appeared in the doorway.

"Find anything?" Rose asked, though she didn't quite succeed in her efforts to sound light-hearted and unconcerned.

"Nothing that would have caused this," Martha said. "But I have to admit he's well outside normal."

"Not news to me," Rose sighed. "What is it?"

"His neural activity's off the charts. I've never seen anything like it. What we're seeing from his scans shouldn't even be possible. He definitely shouldn't be sleeping."

"He's a hard thinker," Rose said affectionately, then turned her face back up to Martha. "But that's not what made him collapse?"

"God knows what it should do. It doesn't seem like it's actually doing anything." Martha shrugged. "You've got an odd duck, Rose."

"Didn't need telling that either." Rose settled one last lock of his hair and stood up, rubbing her palms on her thighs nervously. "Can I ask you a favour?"

"I can't make any guarantees, but you can ask."

"I know doctors sometimes see...weird things," Rose said slowly. "Freak accidents, things science can't explain. Seen a few myself in my time. The last thing he needs right now is to feel more of a freak than he does. I need to ask you to make those scans go away."

"I can't destroy medical records."

"Well, yeah, you can," Rose replied confidently. "And it's in his best interest to do that. Trust me."

"Who is he, really?" Martha asked. Rose leaned her hip on the bed, crossing her arms.

"He's a lost boy," she said finally. "And he's just trying to get home again."

Martha nodded. It was true that there were things she'd seen that she couldn't explain. Most doctors, she'd found, could say the same. Things they didn't talk about, things that were the hospital's secrets. And she liked Mr. Smith and his overprotective young girlfriend.

"I want to see him again in a week," she said. "He'll need the stitches out. And I want you to strongly suggest he get a psychiatric consult."

"He won't, though. It's not in him."

"Then you should try to make him talk to you."

Rose gave her a knowing smile that was incredibly frustrating.

"I can give him something for the attacks -- "

"Martha," Rose said. "He's got to do this his way. It's not the fastest way or the best way, but he's stubborn like that. He trusts you, and that's grand, but I'm the one who's got to see him alive at the end of it all."

"Well, you might try and get him in touch with his kids, at least," Martha replied.


"He said he hadn't seen his kids in ages. Well. He said they were far off." A horrified thought stole over her. "He does have children, doesn't he? If not I'm really going to have to call for a consult -- "

"Yeah, he does. I'll...think about that," Rose said. "Thank you, Martha."

"One week, remember," she said. Rose nodded and bent over Mr. Smith.

"Time to go," she whispered, and Martha left her alone to wake him up. She had three separate scans to remove from the database, after all.


"I hope you don't think of me as one of your kids. Ew."



After everything -- after all she'd seen with the Doctor, and all she'd worked for and suffered for, all the joy they'd had together, Rose rather felt she was at least a little entitled to know his past. If he had been...the other Doctor, the ageless and endless Doctor, she might not have asked, but he was human, and in a new universe, and there wasn't any need for him to keep his secrets so tightly.

Still, Rose had learned subtlety (from him) and a frontal assault after the day they'd had wouldn't exactly be sensible. Instead she called her mum and said they'd be home on Saturday morning. He shouldn't have to face Jackie's interrogation techniques while still mostly high on painkillers.

"Can we get some chips?" he asked, as they left the hospital. His suit had been restored to him but it was spattered with blood on the collar, and she sighed inwardly.

"Course we can," she said, tangling her fingers in his. "I thought we'd find somewhere nearby to stay the night. You're not in any shape for a long car ride."

He smiled wistfully. "Time was you'd trust me to pilot the TARDIS half-conscious. Now I'm not to ride in cars after falling over."

"Yah, well, time was we crashed the TARDIS," Rose teased.

"One hard landing and she never forgives."

"Not true." She leaned her cheek against his arm as they walked. "There's been way more than one, and I always forgive."

His hand tightened in hers.

"I shouldn't have left you alone today," she added. "But you'll have to, sooner or later. You have to know what kind of man you are, Doctor."

"Maybe," he answered. "Maybe I'm not any kind yet."

"You still need new clothes."

"Yup," he said grimly, but he reached up with his free hand and rubbed the back of his head, fingers digging into the indentation just below his skull, and for a second her heart lifted. She knew that gesture; it meant he was thinking, trying to bring up some old bit of trivia or knowledge that he needed. "Seems like...sounds like a book."

"What book?"

"Dunno. I' a lot of books," he said carefully. "A lot of books. Blimey, I should take you to -- "

He stopped sharply.

"I mean," he said, "I should have taken you to The Library."

"I dunno that I'd have liked that. I'm not a big book person, me."

His smile told her it was the right thing to say. "No, s'true, you'd've been bored. Also when I went there last time I almost got eaten. Never very fun."

"Talking of eating," she reminded him, and gently steered him in the direction of food.


The painkillers made him sleepy and the day's events had made him oddly clingy; she couldn't remember a time they'd touched as much, not while they were traveling together. Now it seemed like he was never happy unless he had a hand in hers or on her shoulder, unless they were sitting close together, thigh-to-thigh, or he was standing near enough for her to feel his body heat. It wasn't unpleasant, but sometimes she worried.

He slept naked, as a human, but she suspected he hadn't quite worked out the body-heat balance for a human yet. He tended to pile blankets high on the bed and then kick them off in the middle of the night before tugging them back over again. She didn't think she'd had an uninterrupted night's sleep in days, though that hardly mattered. She'd wake up to hear him breathing hard or silently choking or saying some name -- often Jack or Martha, though also Susan, and others: Sarah Jane, Adric, Romana, Jamie, Turlough. Once she woke to find him insistently tapping his fingers against her hip, the way he'd typed out commands on the Dalek ship, and she caught his wrist in time to stop him from completing the nightmare. He didn't even wake, that time.

Tonight was an easy night, at least so far. He wasn't even asleep, just drifting, occasionally adjusting his hold on her, arm flung over her hip, the uninjured side of his face resting easily on the pillow. She ruffled his hair and he opened one eye.

"Touch and go for a bit at hospital," Rose said. "I thought they weren't going to treat you till we'd given them some ID. I had to think fast."

"You usually do," he mumbled.

"I don't want to pester, but it'd be good to make a decision -- have you thought at all about a name?" she asked softly.

"Not especially. Have you?" he asked curiously.

"A bit. Even if it's only a temporary one. Just so you can get your licence and passport. Can't imagine you being unable to travel."

"What kinds of names did you think of?"

"I dunno. Something...English. Something historic, like."

"Something ordinary," he said. " that what you want me to be?"

"Does it matter what I want you to be?"

"Yes," he said simply. She frowned.


"I..." he bit his lip. "So. What kinds of names?"

Best not to push. "Well, I thought, maybe, William. Like William the Conqueror."

"No, I don't want to be a conqueror."

"William Shakespeare?"

"Met him. Seems like tempting fate."


"He lost his head, didn't he?"

"One of them did. James?"

"I don't think much of James."


"No, thank you."


He looked at her sharply. "And that makes you Guenevere?"

Rose frowned. "Okay. No. Augustus? Julius? Alexander?"

"He was not that great. I should know."

"Ethelred," she teased. "Canute."

He closed his eyes, silent for a long minute. "I don't want to be named for a king," he said finally.

"Shame," she replied. "All the really good English names are kings and queens. What sort of person do you want to be named for?"

He rolled onto his back, studying the ceiling. "It'll come when it's time, I guess."

"Can I still try them on you?"

"If you like."


"Now you're just -- aha!" he said, and sat up in the bed. He pointed a finger at her. "Dorothy Sayers!"

She blinked. "Dorothy Sayers?"


"You don't think that's going to confuse people?"


"You calling yourself Dorothy. I mean, do what you want, it's the twenty-first century, but I feel like I have to tell you that Mum and Dad would never stop laughing at you."

He gave her a confused look for a second. "No! No no no. Sorry, mind somewhere else. Dorothy Sayers, that's the book I was thinking of. Books. Author, actually. But she wrote the books. She was like Agatha Christie only with emotion. Human, very human books she wrote."

"About murder?" Rose asked, now entirely at sea.

"Yes! That was going to bother me all night until I remembered. Rose," he said, putting a hand on her shoulder as she rolled over and tugged the blankets up. "Can we go to a bookshop tomorrow? I want to buy some books."

"Course we can," she said. "Long as you can pick out what books you want without breaking a limb or something."

He slid down and pulled her close, apparently going for as much physical contact as possible. "A second-hand bookshop?"

"If you want."

"A really old and weird one? I love those."

"Imagine my surprise."

"Thank you," he said, nuzzling against her neck.

"But if anyone asks me who you are tomorrow I'm introducing you as Ethelred," she mumbled as she drifted off.


Rose had expected that, when faced with a bookstore and the realisation that he owned no books, the Doctor would pile up everything in sight. She'd been prepared for that.

Instead, he worked his way carefully through the various second-hand bookshops they encountered, strange little places with peculiar-shaped rooms, tiny closetsful of old books, and eccentric owners. He led her up narrow stairs to upper storeys packed with shelves, made friends with a million bookshop cats, and bought...

Four books.

Really she should have known better. Trust the Doctor to be as deliberate in his reading material as he was haphazard in, oh, everything else.

He bought a biography of Marie Curie and two Dorothy Sayers novels from a terrible-tempered Irishman, then picked up a first-edition Agatha Christie from a cherub-faced blond man with a rather eerie collection of bibles. As they left the shop he looked down at them and got that satisfied smirk he always got when he'd done something brilliant.

"I've seen the way you read. That'll last you till tea, maybe," she remarked, as they walked back towards the hotel.

"I'll savour them," he promised.

"Can I ask...Marie Curie? I know you like science, but it's a bit like me reading a book about addition, isn't it?"

"Of course Marie Curie," he said. "I mean. She gave her life to expand humanity's horizons. You're so fragile, humans -- "

"We," she said gently. He stopped dead, fingers tightening on the books.

"We," he said. "Right. We're so fragile, these bodies, there's millions of dangerous things out there. But did she care? She just plowed on, because the science was important."

"Well, don't you go doing the same," she said. "I didn't think she knew what she was doing. I mean, in terms of dying for science."

"But she still did it. That's some kind of...something. I dunno," he added, looking upwards, studying the outlines of the buildings against the sky. "She died for something that meant something. I've done that, but I knew I could come back. And...well, it was never really intentional."

"You all right?"

"It's just -- why was I wasting so much time out there?" he said, still staring up at the sky. Passers-by were beginning to lift their heads and look, too. "What was I doing, really? Banging around in a galactic camper-van. Couldn't do anything for my people, my people were gone, and before that it wasn't like I ever thought much of them to be honest. I should have...picked something to do. Something that'd make me useful."

"You did," Rose said, taking the books out of his hands before he let them slip and fall. "You picked us."

He started and looked down at her, eyes wide and strangely young. Then he looked up, over her shoulder. She turned.

"Oh, lord," she muttered as he brushed past her, heading for a dingy Oxfam storefront. She shoved the books under her arm and followed.

By the time she stepped inside he was already halfway to the back of the shop, moving through the racks of musty clothing and odds-and-ends the same way he used to walk through alien marketplaces or the assembly halls of kings -- striding, head up, all senses on alert. A little voice in her head that sounded annoyingly like her mum pointed out that another fifty years of the Doctor's chaotic mood swings could be a bit exhausting, but a much louder voice was making very pertinent observations about how this movement, this purpose -- those things were the Doctor to the core.

Also, very sexy. She smirked. That's him. He's with me. That's right, the hot smart mad one.

He suddenly stopped short and turned, disappearing behind another rack, and she left the books at the front counter and hurried after him.

"What are you doing?" she demanded, when she finally caught up.

"Shopping," he replied, turning to her with a manic grin.

"I see that!"

"Then why'd you ask? Hold this," he said, and shoved a deep red shirt into her hands. "It's all right here, d'you see. Smell that?"

"Dust?" she asked.

"Humanity," he said, and then he sneezed, which she'd never seen him do before and maybe he'd never even done before because he looked comically surprised. "Little bits of dirt and dead bugs and human skin cells."

"Great," she drawled.

"It IS great! Nothing looks like anything else, it's all different, and it all smells like things, not like commercial carpet cleaner and dry-cleaning. Doesn't this remind you of anywhere?" he asked, and gestured around him. She followed his movement, taking in the high racks of shirts, the shoes in bins at the ends of the aisles. There was a hat hung on the end of the rack-pole.

"The wardrobe room in the TARDIS," she heard herself say. He passed her another shirt, this one deep blue like his suit.

"Exactly. It's all right here, d'you see?"

"You do realise lots of this stuff probably belonged to dead people."

"Recycling. Love it."

The shop attendant was staring at them, and they probably looked a sight: the Doctor with a huge bandage on his head, Rose beginning to stagger a little under the weight of the clothes he was piling on her arms.

"Can I help you?" the attendant asked, as the Doctor bolted for the belts.

"I don't think there's any helping him," Rose sighed, adjusting the shirts in her arms. Two belts and three pairs of black denim trousers were placed on top of them, and then she found the whole bundle being lifted out of her arms.

"Sorry about that," he said contritely. "My stuff, I'll lug it. We want these," he added to the woman, who eyed him warily.

"All of them, sir?"

"Yeah," he said, and strode off again, up to the register. Rose shrugged at the woman and followed.

The Doctor set the clothing on the counter, a massive mess of black and deep red and blue, and then his head jerked up.

"Ouuh," he said covetously. Rose couldn't help grinning.

A mannequin near the window had a coat on it, dark charcoal-grey, not as long as the one he usually wore (no, that was the other him; this one here hadn't any coat at all) but still well below hip-length. There were little strips of cloth like epaulettes on the shoulders, pockets at chest and hip, and a hood hanging down the back; it was like the unholy alliance of a blazer, a duffel coat, and a hoodie.

"That one, too," she said, pointing to the jacket.

"It's priced up," the woman said apologetically. "Last year's designer-wear. Armani."

"Trust you," Rose elbowed the Doctor, who smiled foolishly at her, and for just a moment he really was her Doctor, the one who'd grabbed her in a department store and shoved sticks through the cat-flap in her old flat and been slapped by her mum and showed her the universe. "We'll take it."



The Doctor came in to work on Monday wearing new clothes; black jeans and a slightly threadbare red shirt and a nice coat, which he hung on a hook on the wall before emptying handfuls of small metal and plastic parts out of the pockets.

Ianto, standing near the hob for the kettle, watched with caution. He was fully aware he was likely to be sacked for narking to Rose. On the other hand...the Doctor might be his boss, but his loyalty was to Lisa, and through Lisa to Rose. Besides, there were other jobs. He'd done it before.

"Tea, Doctor?" he asked, because the niceties had to be observed after all.

"Yes, thanks," the Doctor said absently, combing his fingers through all the bits he'd dumped on the worktable. Ianto prepared the tea conscientiously, added a spoonful of honey, and offered it to the Doctor. He took it with a muttered "ta" and sipped it before returning to work -- he hadn't looked away from the parts the entire time.

Ianto waited, because it seemed polite to let the man have his tea before he spoke.

"If you're going to sack me, I'd rather be told sooner," he said evenly, when the tea was done and the parts under the Doctor's hands were beginning to coalesce into something. The Doctor still didn't look up.

"Sorry, just two minutes, this is a fiddly -- " then he hesitated. Ianto watched as he froze, seemed to consider something, and then apparently decided to keep working. Ianto timed it by the clock nearby. Two minutes and four seconds later, the Doctor lifted his hands from whatever he was making and looked at Ianto.

"You thought I was going to fire you?" he asked, honestly curious.

"It crossed my mind," Ianto said. "But I think you should know all that happened is she asked how you were and I told her."

"I know what happened," the Doctor said. One of his hands was twiddling with a little metal sphere.

"Well, then," Ianto prompted, but prompting fell a bit flat in the face of the Doctor.

"Next time, if you're as worried as that, tell me, not her," the Doctor said, and Ianto bit down on a spark of anger.

"If you want to know, ask," he said instead. "She did."

This got him a slow blink and a nod. "Fine then. How are you at electrical engineering?"

Ianto frowned. "Don't know the first thing. I learn fast though."

"Good. Come here."

They worked on whatever-it-was -- the Doctor didn't name it and Ianto didn't ask -- until both of them had sore, reddened fingers from soldering and the little collection of parts had grown from a palm-sized box to a chunk of technology the length of Ianto's forearm. The Doctor made fiddly little adjustments apparently based on some feedback that only he could receive, twiddling dials this way and that, and finally pronounced it good.

"You know," Ianto said, holding a small flange in place while the Doctor worked, "I go running in the mornings. Down by the river, there's a nice flat trail."

"Mm?" the Doctor grunted, trying to angle a six millimetre soldering iron tip into a space only about four millimetres wide.

"Lisa doesn't. She's more of a...gym sort of person."

"Wiggle that little switch. No, the other way -- there."

"Anyway," Ianto forged on, "I could use a running partner if you wanted."

The Doctor stopped again, but this time it was a little smoother; hardly a blip between movements.

"Sometimes it's nice," Ianto said. "Clears the mind."

The Doctor laid down the iron and Ianto took his hands away. A makeshift bent-metal casing was fitted over the whole.

"We wouldn't have to talk, would we?" the Doctor asked.

"God, no," Ianto blurted. "The point is not to talk."

"I'm good at running," the Doctor said, almost to himself. Then he did look at Ianto. "Running, with you?"

"That's the idea."

"Oh." He patted the casing absently. "Yeah, all right."

Ianto found himself oddly gratified by the Doctor's wide grin. He'd only asked really because Lisa's doctors had done as much for him -- not the running bit, but the...caring bit -- on the harder days with Lisa. Just offering someone to be quiet with for a while. Still, something deep down in him was surprisingly pleased with the Doctor's response. It was...easy, to give up a little bit of your soul to the Doctor, when he smiled that way.

"What are we working on?" Ianto asked, emboldened by the Doctor's acceptance.

"Particle-wave sonic energy transducer," the Doctor replied. Ianto blinked. "Sort of a battery charger."

"A sonic battery-charger."

"That's it. Now we've got to build something to build the modulator with. Specialised tools." The Doctor rubbed his hands. "I don't suppose you've done much reading on particle physics?"

"Erm. No. I built a model rocket once," Ianto offered.

"Well, needs must. Come on, let's go flirt with Mary Ellen," he said, and jogged down the hall. Ianto followed quick-step and caught up with him as he beamed charmingly at the front-door receptionist.

"You are the supplier of all that is good in the world," he said to her, and she laughed.

"You're a troublemaker," she replied. "What impossible thing do you want now? Hiya, Ianto."

"I would like a banana, a turkey sandwich, a chunk about yea big of titanium, and three pounds of good clay, please," he said. Mary Ellen looked at him skeptically.

"Condiments?" she asked.

"Mustard. Oh! And some surgical microtools. A full set. Ianto, find out what they use in hospital, that's the kind of thing I want."

And he was off again. Ianto and Mary Ellen looked at each other.

"He's not going to take over the world or anything, is he?" she asked.

"I shouldn't worry. He's easily distracted."

"I'll just prepare an emergency mad-scientist kit then, shall I? Crossword puzzles, Sudoku book, that kind of thing?"

"Word search," he suggested. She laughed.

"He's easy to like though, our Doctor, eh?"

"Yeah. He is."


"Li-saa!" Ianto tossed his coat on the table near the door and his keys in the bowl.

"Welsh-man," Lisa answered from the other room, laughing. Lisa was laughing. "How's your mad doctor, were you sacked?"

"No," he replied, stepping into their little narrow hallway of a kitchen and wrapping an arm around her waist. "Dinner ready?"

"I've told you, this isn't 1948," she replied.

"And a shame it is," he replied gravely. "Don't you want to cook my dinners and be a kept woman?"

"Do you want to keep both your eyes?" she asked.

"I'm attached to them."

She groaned. "You're horrible."

"Yup." He kissed her cheek and let her go. "Right then. I'll do the chopping, you boil the water. How was today?"

"Fine," she said, and he watched her lift the pot with her right hand, turning on the tap with her left. Two arms, two hands. To be perfectly honest, seeing Lisa whole...he'd die for the Tylers if they asked. It was worth it. "Looked for work. Bo-ring."

He glanced at her. "Boring, eh?"

She didn't quite meet his eyes. "It always goes all right till they see the hand."

"Rose said -- "

"I can't work for Torchwood again, Ianto. I know, I owe them this, but I just -- "

"It's fine, it's okay," he said. "You'll find something."

"Yeah. Course. Besides, I've got my hand back. I feel -- whole again."

He carefully took her left hand in his and kissed the metal fingertips. "I never cared, you know."

"I know you didn't. I did. But! You!" She flicked water at him. "You have to tell me all about not getting sacked. Was he mad?"

"He was fine. Bit annoyed, that's all. I like him. Asked him to go running with me. He's lonely."

She smiled. "Ianto Jones. Never happy unless he's looking after some miserable ungrateful -- "

"Hey, now." He took the pan from her and put it on the stove. "He's not ungrateful -- "

"Oi!" she shrieked, throwing a mushroom at him. He caught it and placidly started to chop.

"See? Totally ungrateful, you are."

"S'not true." She kissed him again. "And you're changing the subject."

He rested his forehead against hers. "Well, I -- it's stupid, isn't it, I mean I know all about how to help people who -- lose things, I think I did a decent job with you, didn't I? Broken plates aside?"

"You've been brilliant and you know it."

"Well, then. All that experience is going to waste, if I don't put it to use."

"What's his story then?"

"Don't know." He popped a slice of mushroom in his mouth. "Something bad. Ms. Tyler's taken him in like a pet. Anything he wants, instantly given. S'usually a sign he can't be given what he really wants."

"He still have you digging around in the dark corners of the internet?"

"No," Ianto said, and smiled a little. "We're building things now."

Lisa matched his smile and leaned her chin on his shoulder until the pot boiled and she had to add the noodles.


"Come on, Jones! Keep up! Pretend you're running for your life, it helps!"


Chapter Three

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