|A Life Without
Author: Reichenbach PM
If Doomsday had ended a little differently.Rated: Fiction T - English - Chapters: 19 - Words: 61,676 - Reviews: 199 - Favs: 73 - Follows: 112 - Updated: 08-21-09 - Published: 04-05-07 - id: 3476624
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
When she turned her head to look at him, he was laying on his side, arm propped under his head and watching her wriggle. "He doesn't listen to me."
Jackie frowned, sinking her head into the pillow. "He can't just stay in the attic all day any more. I'd say to lock it, but I know how useless that'd be. Filling it with cement's about the only way to keep him out of there."
Pete kissed her cheek, his hand resting against her naked bulge. "Unless he's at Torchwood, stealing our stuff and making trouble. Jacks, you're the only one that can get him up and about. If you don't want to, I understand. I don't want you overdoing it again. But I'm not going to waste my breath."
Even though it meant a late start to the day, Jackie slept in. It felt like an old bad habit was rearing its ugly head; she'd been getting up at a too early to be a respectable hour with Pete every morning since she got here. But she felt better for it, and Pete had felt the need to stay with her, instead of going into the office first thing in the morning.
It gave her enough energy to tackle her usual first chore of the day.
Opening the door to the attic, she called up the steps. "Get down here and eat breakfast, you lout!" She had better insults, but she was a tad groggy still. "Right now, mister. You have to eat with the rest of us…"
Usually he'd have insulted her back by that point. When he wasn't in a mood—that was when she was worried. Sighing at what that meant, she climbed up the attic steps and looked around at the open space filled with books and gadgets. "Where did you get to now?"
She didn't spend much time looking for him, though. He wasn't up here, that was for certain. Pete would be getting a call from Torchwood soon, to come in and sort the mess their indefinite houseguest had no doubt caused.
Doing her best impression of a penguin the whole way to the kitchen, she almost died of shock at what she saw before her. The Doctor, dressed in clean clothes, eating cereal from a small mixing bowl with a tablespoon, one trainer-clad foot resting on his knee, the newspaper open on the table in front of him.
He pushed the glasses up on his nose, turned the page, then shoveled in another spoonful of sugary flakes, not acknowledging her presence.
Ilsa, their cook, shrugged and went back to stirring something on the stove. It was so weird to have a cook, such a far cry from where here life had been seven or eight months ago, but she was coping with the changes. She'd lost one daughter, gained another, and her husband. In addition to this sad, slightly pathetic pet project of hers—the Doctor.
As she did every morning when she woke, and every night before she went to bed, she wondered what Rose was doing—if she was safe, if she was happy. She also wondered how her daughter had ever put up with the nine hundred year old alien with the messy hair who was currently slurping milk out of the bottom of the bowl like a small child.
Today was hopefully going to be a better day for him. He seemed to go in cycles.
Of course, anything was a sight better than watching him angrily bang his hands raw on that wall, then listening to him apologise for something she didn't blame him for (he should have made note of the day—there wasn't much that Jackie didn't blame on him). Then he'd walked out of the building and away from them, something vacant and lost about him.
He'd been like a sad, orphaned puppy when Mickey had brought him to the house about eight hours later, drenched to the bone and teeth chattering from the cold November weather. Mickey said he'd found him just wandering in the rain, his eyes glassy and the rest of him listless. It broke her own heart to see him so broken hearted, which was something she didn't know she was capable of.
That night she'd gotten him settled, talking to him and treating him as though he were a dull child. She had her own wounds, but he needed looking after, and it kept her busy. Later on, after he was tucked into a bed, staring at the wall without sleeping, Pete had consoled her, in the only way he knew.
Jackie rubbed her belly—the baby was awake already. And that was how her strange little family had come to be. "I think we might be ready for the Second Coming—look who's come down from the attic all on his own."
Wiggling his foot as he turned another page, the Doctor looked up for a moment from his reading. "And a good morning to you, too, Jackie. And how is Mini-Tyler this fine, glorious morning?"
Sitting across from him at the small kitchen table that sat in front of the sliding glass doors, she looked at him critically. "Should I have you checked over for alien spores or something? What's brought this on?"
His smile began to wilt right before her eyes, and she regretted saying anything at all. Realising this, he turned quickly back to the newspaper. "I should leave."
Jackie's eyes narrowed as she took the cup from Ilsa. "If you even try, I'll make Pete find you. Torchwood will have you hunted down so fast you won't know what happened."
Contemplating his own image in the back of his spoon, the Doctor thought about this for a moment. "I can't stay here forever, Jackie. Thank you. I appreciate it. You—I—thanks. But…I don't sit still for this long."
Tapping the table with her finger, Jackie leaned in to whisper harshly, "And just what are you going to do? Where're you going to go? You're just going to wander?"
Closing the newspaper, he folded the section with a fastidiousness that was quite unlike him. "Yes."
Pushing her chair away from the table, Jackie got up in a bit of a huff. "Well, you're not leaving. So tough." He was a Time Lord without a time machine, just how far did he think he could get? Obviously not far enough to escape what was really bothering him. "We all miss Rose."
"Jackie—this isn't about—look." He'd been at a loss for words a lot, recently. She wasn't sure what it meant. "I just have to go."
Leaving the pinstriped suit jacket on the back of the chair, the Doctor got up and left.
Sitting back down, she sighed. Dammit. Everything had been perfectly fine, for once. And SHE was the one that had to go and ruin it. Looking out into the blooming late-May garden, she wondered if and when he'd wander back to Pete's house to hole himself up in the attic for days and days working on endless 'projects' made out of bits and baubles taken without permission from Torchwood.
It was another Tuesday in the Tyler household.
"Thank you, Ianto." Rose lifted the paper cup to her lips, letting the coffee vapours permeate her brain, hopefully to keep her awake for just a bit longer. "And about that matter we discussed earlier?"
His eyebrows raised slightly and he looked around, perhaps wondering if it could be discussed.
Rose nodded—the tent was secure. Taking a small sip of the burning hot coffee, she waited for him to explain himself.
The young man looked into the crater of freshly dug earth and the artifacts contained therein, still partially imbedded in the clay. Ianto didn't look at her; he didn't do that if he didn't have to. She had put a bullet in the head of the love of his life…right in front of him. She wasn't cruel enough to expect that he'd accept her with open arms, or even want to be near her. "All of Torchwood's files on the Doctor now only exist in one location: your computer."
She put her coffee down on the table behind her, crouching on the edge of the hole, locks of hair falling from over her shoulders and into her face as she inspected the relics. "Good. And they'll be deleted as soon as I'm through with them."
Sliding into the gap, she brushed some of the rich orange earth from her jeans then straddled the objects, seven in all, looking closely at the metal cylinder. For as old as it had been dated to be, it amazingly showed no signs of environmental wear, or even rust. That wasn't the part that interested her, though—it was the symbol on the clasp that held the cylinder closed. "I've seen this before." Like an infinity symbol but…more elegant. There'd only been one place she'd ever seen it—the TARDIS. That was what made this important.
They'd sent a few images to her phone, and she'd been intrigued right away, but when she saw the small case and the symbol, she'd had them cease digging immediately, until she could look at it. "I want this stuff in my office by morning," she informed her right hand man. "I'm going to get some sleep."
Accepting Ianto's help in crawling out of the earth, Rose rubbed her hands to get off the worst of the dirt then tugged the edges of her black leather jacket downward, and pulled the zip up to her chin. "Make sure it's actual sleep," he urged, passing the coffee cup back to her.
Rose had to smile as she got to the flap opening of the tent. "Maybe this time, Ianto. Keep warm."
Walking across the wet, cold earth and back toward the ugly green bug that formerly belonged to Mickey Smith, she waved to the other remaining members of Torchwood One. Fourteen of them in all—devastation in an office that once boasted three hundred employees.
She hadn't been with Torchwood during the invasion, but she'd been here for the aftermath. The screams of the dying and partially converted, the blood on the walls, scorch marks on the cement stair wells… It had almost knocked her out of her daze, and it gave her a sense of purpose after everything in her life vanished with that final closing of the void.
Turning the key in the ignition, she listened for the sound of the engine turning over, and got almost nothing. Another few tries, and it started. It took a few moments for it to warm up, which was all her mind needed to travel back to that day.
They'd thought they were invincible before that—solving every problem and laughing while doing so. Then the Cybermen and the Daleks came, courtesy of Torchwood. They'd been trying to close the Void, to suck the monsters back into hell. They'd been so close—so nearly there, but the Doctor's lever had stuck, and the portal had begun closing…
And he'd done what the Doctor does…he'd tried to solve the problem. But not even he could have resisted the pull of the Void forever.
She'd almost wanted to look away, but couldn't bring herself to break eye contact with him. It was a good thing, too. If she had looked away, she'd have never seen Pete pop back into this universe long enough to grab him and disappear again. She'd have lived the rest of her life thinking the Doctor had been pulled into the Void to save this world.
As it was, she'd spent she didn't know how long in numb mourning at the wall, wondering if it was possible for anyone to feel as alone as she felt at that moment. It was impossible to think of life beyond her cheek pressed against that wall—perhaps she could just stand there and wither and die, or be turned to stone and spend the rest of eternity as some weird statue, listening for something she'd never hear again.
It was the cries of the injured that first broke through her near-catatonia, then distant yells of those trying to contain fires and deal with the aftermath.
Somehow she managed to leave the ghost shift chamber—she'd always been kind of fuzzy on the details. The next thing she remembered was pointing and yelling, giving orders, organizing the few that were left to tend to those that could be saved, ordering that those half-converted with Earth materials, who hadn't been sucked into the Void, be put down as mercifully as possible.
That was how she met Ianto. He'd been trying to drag Lisa to an empty office, so that she would not be amongst those killed by her colleagues, but she'd found him. They'd argued—she couldn't recall what had been said, she only had a hazy memory of her own voice echoing distantly, and yelling that the Doctor had not paid such a price—SHE had not paid such a price—to have the world destroyed by his girlfriend.
It was hard, she knew. And a cruel assessment, especially when the full-body cyberisation had left the woman's face so cruelly in-tact. Ianto couldn't see that Lisa was gone. Maybe not entirely—but there was too much chance of tragedy befalling the world if any of the half-converted were to live. And it was just Rose, now. There would be no Doctor to save them from their compassion.
Doomsday. It wasn't the Cybermen or Daleks that had done it, but that was the day Rose Tyler had changed into someone she no longer recognised, fulfilling her mother's prophecy for her. That was the day that she took Ianto's side arm and killed Lisa for him. That was the day Rose had declared herself the head of Torchwood One; the day all of this started. Life without the Doctor—life without sanity, without pity, without her mother's tempering influence. Day One.
The car finally warmed up enough that she could trust it not to stall. Pulling out of the mud and frozen earth, the vehicle trembled as it hit the road and she sped off, back toward the office, and home.
Amazingly, the few of them that had been left had not contested her declaration at the time. She'd been the only one giving orders, and they were a shabby lot—a few scientists, an office clerk, some researchers, two field agents, and Ianto. Ianto who did so much that so few people knew about. Ianto, who'd been brutalised far more by the events of that day than even Rose had been.
The reorganisation had happened almost organically over the following weeks; Ianto became her right hand man, as he'd been for Yvonne Hartman. They'd handled the task of cleanup silently, almost all thankful for something to keep their hands and minds occupied. Now they were putting most of their attention into finding naturally occurring rifts and studying their effects, in the hopes that something might present itself.
The way the Doctor had been talking that day, the odds were so remote that she could get the Doctor back to where he belonged that they'd spend their energies better elsewhere. It didn't stop her of course. This universe had always needed the Doctor far more than it had needed Rose Tyler, who was, truthfully, a very poor substitute. Anything she could do to rectify the matter for the universe's sake, she would do.
Unlocking her office, which was a glorified filing cupboard, she threw the empty coffee cup in the cardboard box being used as a rubbish bin next to her desk, a battered old thing missing a drawer. Sliding out of her coat, she tossed it on the chair, digging for a particular key on her key ring.
The office was a joke, really. But she had more important things to worry about than what her workspace looked like—especially since she'd sort of usurped the job.
Opening the TARDIS door, she stepped inside, sighing with relief to hear the ship's hum. "Honey, I'm home," she muttered, unwinding the scarf from around her neck before tossing it over the nearest rail.
As if petting a cat, she stroked the console, giving the ship words of sympathy regarding leaving her all day. The TARDIS was in mourning, some of her systems were shutting down. Rose wondered how long it would be before she expired completely, but for now company seemed to help. "I miss him too," she whispered, before going off to the library.
After collecting books, she returned to the control room and sat at the base of the console. She did this every night, keeping some sort of odd vigil with the ship. It seemed like the least Rose could do; the ship had consoled her on that first night.
That first day had actually been two; it had taken that long to get everything under control. By the time she let herself into the TARDIS, she had been weary to the bone, the exhaustion taking precedence over everything else, except possibly grief.
Rose might have gone a little insane that day, she couldn't be sure. She'd been so calm giving orders, helping those that could be helped, organising and doing what needed to be done, no matter how wrong and painful. And every last bit done with an emotionless stoicism she'd never known. But the moment she'd entered the ship and sensed it's aloneness, she'd broken down, crying until she fell asleep at the base of the console, arms wrapped around herself.
And so Rose kept the ship company at night, usually while she read, and usually until she passed out herself. That had been life for the last six months, since Day One of the end of the world.
Finding the symbol, she'd gotten a few pages in to the account of Rassilon, the heralded saviour of the Time Lords before she fell asleep with her head on the page, holding her place. The ship kept her there, wrapping Rose in the humming white noise of her remaining systems.
Another Tuesday night at Torchwood.