A/N: I apologise for the sheer miserable-ness of the first part of this chapter, but I've just been watching 'The Mist' and seriously... most depressing ending ever to anything ever in the world of depressing things. This was the first thing that came out (after the half hour bout of tears lol - I looked like Alice Cooper) so... yep, bit miserable. But still, hope you enjoy it :D
7 – Reflection
The room was dark. The Doctor spent a lot of time in the dark these days. Not because it matched his mood, nor for any other self-pitying reason, but for the simple fact that the light was beginning to hurt his eyes. It started off small and barely noticeable. A slight migraine when someone turned on a light, a sharp pain behind his eyes when he stepped out in the daylight. He had been denying the truth for a long time, but since that morning on the hill he had realised it was about time he accepted things for what they were. He needed to accept that it was going wrong.
The corner of the mirror gleamed with the moonlight that came through the window, and even that made him wince when he looked directly at it. He avoided it, and kept his weary eyes trained on his face. He had never expected that face to be his last, though technically it wasn't. His other self would go on to change – regenerate when his luck ran out. But for him this was it. He would watch this face wrinkle and droop; his body grow weaker. The Doctor had always thought of the human aging process as a severely quick process. In the blink of an eye their youth was gone, replaced by nothing but bitterness at not having enough time to do everything they wanted.
He had nothing to complain about. He had seen things that most humans couldn't dream of. Perhaps not with these eyes, but the memories were there. He did see them. That would be enough for any other human, but not this one. He hadn't been ready for it. Probably never would be, with a spirit like his. But he accepted it. It was inevitable. An inevitable thing that no technobabble or insane plans could fix.
He just hadn't counted on it happening this quickly.
Rose would notice soon, if she hadn't already. She was smart. She had cottoned on to his heart problems early on, quite possibly before he even had. But this… well, perhaps she would miss it. But deep down he knew she wouldn't. Even he could see the crows feet growing deeper in the corners of his eyes and the way the skin on the backs of his hands was beginning to thin.
The human aging process was quick, but not this quick.
This was an outcome no one had anticipated. The original Doctor had told Rose that the two of them would age at the same rate, implying that he wouldn't stay young while she grew old. He hadn't even thought of the possibility of…
Time to face facts, he thought morosely. It's happening. I'm aging too fast.
It was hard to believe that at one time he had all the time in the universe at his fingertips. Now it was slipping away at an alarming rate.
'Not long now.' He mumbled, and turned away from the mirror with his eyes closed.
Rose sat at her desk fiddling with the phone cord and tried not to allow her frustration to show through her phone manner. Polite and courteous, she had to remember. People these days were wound up tightly enough without having someone nagging them down the phone. Being rude would only make her wait longer, but being polite might just get her through a little quicker.
Or at least she had thought that thirty minutes ago. Now she was beginning to think that being a bit snappy might get those sackless sods to hurry it up a bit.
Wow, Rose thought while listening to some slightly hypnotising elevator-like music. This Martha Jones is one hard girl to talk to.
Finally, just as she was about to give up, someone answered.
'Doctor Martha Jones.'
Rose jerked in her seat and consequently knocked the phone base off the desk. She cursed and reached down for it, managing to keep the receiver from following it to the floor.
'Hello?' a slightly bewildered voice enquired.
'I'm here!' Rose said, a little too loudly. She mentally scolded herself and held the phone base on her knee. 'Sorry about that, dropped the phone.'
'It's okay,' Martha Jones, M.D. said pleasantly. 'Sorry that you were on hold for so long but I was in surgery.'
Surgeon, huh? Rose thought distractedly. Could be useful.
'How can I help you then, Miss…uh…'
'Tyler,' Rose said. 'Rose Tyler. Yes, I'm just calling to see if I could get some advice from you.'
A pause. 'Okay, but I don't normally give advice to patients on the phone. Wouldn't you be more comfortable taking this up with your GP?'
'Actually… you came recommended.' Rose said, wincing at her choice of words. She had never been good with trying to sound professional on the phone. 'By my da… uh, father. Peter Tyler?'
'Oh, right. Yes of course, I know him.' Rose recognised the new tone in her voice as respect. 'Of course. Okay then, what can I do for you?'
'Actually, it's for a friend,' Rose replied. 'He's been having a few… heart problems recently.'
'Okay, has he been checked already?'
'Well, no. He kind of doesn't want to admit that he has a problem. The Doctor's stubborn like that.' She instantly hit her head with her palm when she realised she had said his name.
Martha chuckled down the other end. 'Well it's true what they say, doctors make the worst patients.'
'You're not wrong there. Anyway… I was wondering… well, it might sound like a really weird question but… um… what would happen if you originally had two hearts and then suddenly wound up with only one?'
A longer pause this time. 'Um…'
'It's more curiosity than anything else,' Rose said quickly, drilling her finger in her temple. 'If you're busy or something then I can just call back later…'
'It's okay. Um… well, if I'm completely honest it's a little… rare. The only way that could possibly happen is if it was a birth defect, but that would mean one was only a dud. Meaning most likely it would just be dead or useless tissue, not really doing the job of supporting a system. Another way would be in conjoined twins, but the two hearts would be pumping blood around two bodies so technically…' She was quiet for a moment, and Rose felt that she could almost feel her thinking. 'But purely speculating – I can't give you a real answer because I've never came across it myself-'
'That's okay.' Rose told her as she chewed anxiously on her sleeve.
'I would have to say that some of the symptoms would be… palpitations? Exhaustion, anaemia, lethargy, loss of appetite, that kind of thing.'
Rose nodded. She was pretty sure she could tick all of those off. 'Right.'
'Can I ask why you're interested in that?' Martha asked, cutting into her thoughts. 'It's just… well, it's a pretty unusual question. I don't normally get stuff like that, if you know what I mean. The questions I'm used to are normally 'is this infected' and 'can you come into the hospital at two am to remove a bucket from someone's head'.'
Rose smiled wanly. 'Martha… or, um… Doctor Jones, rather…'
'Martha is fine.'
'Oh good, cos every time I say Doctor Jones I can't help but think of that Aqua song.' Rose could feel the song rising in her throat, but decided she had made herself sound insane enough without serenading the poor woman.
But Martha just laughed. 'Just please, don't sing the song.'
Rose smiled properly, feeling a lot more relaxed. 'Okay, Martha. Have you ever heard of Torchwood?'
'I think so…' Martha said uncertainly. 'Isn't it… like a military thing?'
Rose scrunched up her nose. 'Kind of. Well, anyway, a man with a Torchwood ID is going to come by and pick you up in about twenty minutes.'
'Don't worry, Martha.' Rose said, twirling the phone cord around her fingers again and spinning back and forth in her chair. 'Your patients for this afternoon are being covered by a Doctor…' She paused to check the yellow post-it she had stuck on the palm of her hand. 'Rodriguez?'
'Andrew?' Martha replied, confused. 'But he didn't mention any of this and I only saw him…'
'Twenty minutes.' Rose confirmed. 'I'll see you at the other end of the car ride.' She hung up on the sounds of Martha's protests and sat back. She knew that Martha would get in the car. She might not be the same Martha from their universe, but she definitely shared her curiosity. She would come.
She just hoped that she could convince her to help.