Title: Beneath Blue Suburban Skies
Characters/Pairing: Ninth Doctor/Rose Tyler
Rating: PG-13 ish?
Summary: The Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler mistakenly end up in 1950s London, but all is not well on Florizel Street…AU rewrite of The Idiot's Lantern, part of A Man Who Wasn't There series.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything, BBC owns it all.
Beta: Extra super huge thanks to Bonnie for beta reading, and to queen0fthecastle for encouraging and occasionally harassing me about this!
AN: Okay, so, I thought I had uploaded this FOREVER ago and I just realized that I only updated my LJ :( (corufic . livejournal . com, fyi) I'm so sorry!
A bell jingled cheerily as the shop door was pushed open; Mr. Magpie looked up from his work blearily, hardly registering the girl he had met earlier that same day.
"Oh, I – I'm sorry, miss, I'm afraid you're too late. I was just about to lock the door."
"Yeah?" Rose glanced around casually. "Well, I want to buy a telly."
"Come back tomorrow," he said firmly, and then sadly ruined it with a rather pathetic-sounding 'please'.
"You'll be closed, won't you?" Rose asked as she stepped further in, watching him closely.
"For the big day?" She paused expectantly; when this earned no recognition from Mr. Magpie, she expounded. "The coronation?"
He blinked, shook his head and looked back to his work. "Yes," he said quickly. "Yes, the big day." He watched anxiously as she came toward him, leaning over his counter and ignoring everything he was attempting to do for her. "I'm sure you'll find somewhere to watch it. Please go."
"Seems to me half of London's got a television," Rose observed, glancing about the room. "Since you're practically giving them away."
"I have my reasons."
Rose smiled slightly and leaned closer to him. "An' what're they?"
Static flickered behind her, and the voice of his nightmares began to cry its hunger.
"What's that?" She failed to show the monster its due fear, but he supposed she could not be expected to know.
"It's just a television," he tried one last time. "One of these modern programmes. Now, I really do think you should leave," he added, stepping from behind his work station and crossing to the front door. "Right now!"
"Not until you've answered my questions," she said, following him. "How comes your televisions are so cheap?"
"It's my patriotic duty. Seems only right that as many folk as possible get to watch the coronation. We may be losing the Empire but we can still be proud! Twenty million people they reckon'll be watching! Imagine that!" He grinned as best he could. "And twenty million people can't be wrong, eh? So why don't you get yourself back home and get up, bright and early, for the big day?"
"Nah." Rose shrugged, taking a step back. "I'm not leavin' 'til I've seen everything."
"I need to close."
"Mr. Magpie," Rose said. "Something's happenin' out there. Ordinary people are being struck down an' changed, and the only new thing in the house is a television. Your television. What's going on?"
"I knew this would happen. I knew I'd be found out." He saw her eyes go wide as he reached for the lock, but it was too late now. She knew too much. He turned the key and pulled it from the lock, slipping it into his pocket as he turned to face her again.
"Alright, then." He had to give her respect for her bravery, but he could see the way her hand on her hip trembled. "It's just you an' me…you gonna come clean, then? What's really in it for you?"
"For me?" He tasted the bitterness of bile on his tongue at the thought of his life, what he had now. "Perhaps some peace."
She couldn't grasp it; the poor thing. She glanced at the television as if it was nothing but a machine; she didn't recognize the power of it. "That's just a woman on the telly; that's just a programme."
"What a pretty little girl," the Wire said in its oh-so-cheery tones.
Fear finally entered her voice. "Oh, my god," she said. "Are you talking to me?"
'Finally, finally,' he thought, 'she understood'.
"Yes! I'm talking to you, little one! Unseasonably chilly for the time of year, don't you think?"
"What are you?"
The face smiled, and the voice chirped. "I'm the Wire! And I'm hungry!"
The light between the girl and the television shone instantly, and so much brighter than any Mr. Magpie had seen before. It pulsed golden in the dim shop, and the screams he heard were not those of a London shopgirl. He covered his ears and cowered low behind the counter, stifling the sobs that threatened to choke him. He just wanted it to end, he just wanted his life back…he had never meant any harm…he was so, so sorry.
The ringing in his ears stopped with the screams, and the burning pressure he had almost come to accept left his mind. He pushed himself to his knees, peering cautiously over the counter. The televisions were off, all of them dead; the girl was standing in the store, her fingers tightening against open air, and her face an empty slate.
"Yoohoo!" A voice that was familiar, yet clearer and sharper than ever before, seemed to come from every corner of the shop. "My dear Mr. Magpie, you have been such a help…now I think it's time for your reward, don't you?"
And suddenly the screams ringing in his ears were his own.
For a moment there was silence in the shop, as he stood slowly and smiled serenely at nothing in particular.
"Goodnight, children," Mr. Magpie said. "Everywhere."
The Doctor crept through a warehouse that was slightly less abandoned than it had appeared at first glance. He was rapidly gaining respect for the British police force; they had managed to fool him, which was truly no small task. Fake carts pushed in front of worn out gates to mask a secret alleyway, he hadn't even noticed how fresh the tracks on the road had been the first time out - top marks, really. Not good enough to fool him twice, naturally, but congratulations were still due for the first time.
Voices drew his attention quickly to a large pen in the centre of the room; two officers were standing on the outside of it, peering in at a large group of frightened and unhappy citizens.
"Well what do we do, sir?" The youngest of the pair was staring at his superior, waiting fearfully for orders. "Should they be released?"
"I – I don't know. It doesn't make sense." The elder officer was watching the people, ignoring their rapidly increasing hysteria and demands for freedom. "The whole business is ridiculous, but if they could lose their faces and weren't functioning without them, how did they get them back?"
"Maybe it's over?" The young one said hopefully. "Maybe it was just one of those things that happen, an' we never talk about again. Like the Americans in New Mexico."
"I've told you not to read those conspiracy rags," the detective snapped. "Gets you paranoid. We'll – we'll sort this out. We can't let them go, what if the faces go off again?"
"You lot really are thick, aren't you?" the Doctor said, strolling into the dim light and rolling his eyes. "These poor people didn't lose their faces because they grew legs an' walked off, somethin' took them. If it gave them back, 's usually a bad sign. Either it's had enough an' it's full, which means it's ready for stage two, or it's found somethin' tastier to eat, an' that's just as bad."
"Who the hell are you?" the younger officer demanded. "Where did you come from – how did you get in here?"
"Doesn't matter," the detective said. He signalled and the burly officers from before came out of the shadows, each wrapping a meaty paw around one of the Doctor's arms. "You're going to come with us, and you're going to tell us what you know."
The Doctor allowed himself to be pulled along primarily because that was what he had intended to do anyway. "So what exactly have you discovered?" he asked conversationally.
"None of your business!" the detective snapped at him.
"Take that to mean absolutely nothing," the Doctor replied. "Have you actually investigated at all, or have you wasted all your man hours trackin' them down an' kidnapping them?"
"And how would you recommend we investigate?" the younger officer asked scathingly. "Walk around town asking anyone if they've seen any face-eating monsters? We've done what we can!"
"Hush up!" the detective snapped. "He's the one being questioned, not you!"
They arrived quickly at a small office, where the Doctor was trundled into a slightly squeaky chair and glared at by several large humans. He thought several impolite things about their species, but kept them to himself; he decided they would probably be less inclined to share their information if he pointed out how similar their current behaviour was to that of their cave-dwelling ancestors.
"Start from the beginning," said the detective, Bishop, according to the label inside the man's collar, leaning over the desk in front of the Doctor. "Tell me everything you know."
The Doctor leaned back; he steepled his fingers in front of his chest and stared at them thoughtfully.
"Well?" Bishop demanded after a long moment.
"It's a long list," the Doctor replied. "I've got to think. D'you want that alphabetically or chronologically? Chronologically'd be a bit more difficult; my timeline or yours?"
"Don't get clever with me," Bishop shook a finger in the Doctor's face. "You were there today at Florizel Street, and now breaking into this establishment. You're connected with this, make no mistake."
"Well, connected might be a bit of a stretch," the Doctor paused thoughtfully. "Involved, that might do. Bit more than you seem to be, Detective Inspector Bishop."
"How do you know my name?"
The Doctor grinned. "Written in your collar. You must have a lovely mum." He paused while the other man glared at him, and adjusted his collar. "An' it does seem like you're a bit unconnected to the whole thing yourself. Just grabbin' people off the street an' hidin' them away in here? Not even a proper investigation. Don't you think they deserve better?"
"It's not my fault!" Bishop began to pace a small track in front of the desk. "Do you think I don't want to be out there? It's just –"
"Bit hard to investigate 'round the television cameras?"
"Not just that," the detective acknowledged, sitting down opposite the Doctor. "With the crowds expected, we haven't got the manpower. And…even if we did…this is…beyond anything we've ever seen. I just don't know anymore." He turned a helpless eye on the Doctor and sighed heavily. "Twenty years on the force…I don't even know where to start. We haven't got the faintest clue where to start."
The Doctor stood and rested his hip against the desk, folding his arms across his chest. "Lucky I'm here to change that then."
Bishop raised an eyebrow. "You're going to help? How?"
The Doctor leaned forward. "Start at the beginning," he said; his face serious. "Tell me everything you know."
They knew very little, as it happened. The reports were all but useless; all that they had were lists of the formerly faceless, no indications of how or what they'd been doing before. The people themselves seemed to have no recollection of whatever had happened, and some were worse; they had only blurred memories of the days proceeding the event, with no specifics to give anyone. All they had to go on was the fact that there were an unusual number of victims who lived near the road he and Rose had driven along earlier that day.
"Found a new blank one, sir." The officer's voice pulled the Doctor from his thoughts; he perked up almost immediately at the promise of more information, anything else to go on.
Bishop swore violently under his breath and stepped forward. "And I thought it might actually be done with," he said bitterly. "There goes hope. Well, Doctor, let's see what you can deduce?"
The sweet peep-toe heels made his left heart stop for several seconds; the right sped up to compensate as shiny pink satin and stiff petticoats were revealed. The junior officer removed the heavy blanket draped over her head and for a long moment the universe went dim.
Voices faded to grey and he saw nothing but the featureless, formless face before him. His hand moved of its own accord, cupping what should have been a soft, round cheek, and behind it there was nothing. His mind fought to reach hers…but found nothing beyond echoes of his own presence.
Voices breached his fog, words finally registering in his mind. "They found her where?" His voice was smooth and calm.
"Just…in the street," DI Bishop replied, shifting awkwardly. "Do – do you know her?"
"Yes," he said slowly. His fingers drifted down, working their way into the rhythmically clenching fist and lacing through hers. The unconscious grip softened, and then locked around him. Even if her mind was gone, her fingers still knew his. "They took her face." The Doctor confirmed, his thumb stroking over the web of her hand. "My Rose…they took her face and threw her out with the rubbish." He nodded once, sharply. "Right. That's good news for you lot."
"Wh-why's that?" Bishop took a step back, moving toward the desk to hide the instinctive flight response that the alien was inspiring.
"Because they've just made this easy." The Doctor's eyes glittered darkly over tightly pressed lips. "Because from now on I show no mercy."
It was well after dawn by the time the Doctor and DI Bishop arrived back at the Connolly's home, and it was only a few minutes after that that they left again; this time with Tommy in tow and a rapidly breaking home behind them.
The Doctor would probably care about the pain of Rita and Eddie Connolly on any other day, but today he did not care that Eddie was an informant, and nor was he particularly worried about Rita's future as likely the only divorcee on her street.
All that mattered was Rose, and the people who would help him save her.
"Tommy," he said suddenly, stopping at the end of the street and turning suddenly to the boy. "Tell me now, everything that happened when she changed. Where was she, what did do, who did she see?"
"No one, she doesn't leave, ever. She was just watching the telly."
The Doctor stopped and then glanced upwards. "Aerials. Just like she said." He closed his eyes for a moment. "Brilliant girl, my Rose. Spotted it straight off." His eyes opened and his gaze locked on Tommy again. "Why's everyone got a television?"
"Bloke up the road, Mr. Magpie, he's selling them cheap."
The Doctor was running long before Tommy finished.
He ignored everything between himself and his goal; he ignored the glass panes that would have prevented him from unlocking the door of Mr. Magpie's shop – and ignored, of course, meant broke – and he completely disregarded the objections of the detective inspector.
He slammed the door open and stormed into the small front room, eyes scanning desperately for evidence. He slammed his hand twice against the service bell. "Oi! Where are you? Come out and speak to me!" There was no response, and he quickly lost interest.
There was a door in the back, shielded by hanging beads and he pushed past them. The locked door gave little resistance to his very heavy boots, and the shattered lock was pushed aside as he made for the stairs to the flat above. He took them two at a time, arriving in Magpie's home with another demanding shout that the man come out and explain himself.
"I'm afraid that's quite impossible," Mr. Magpie's voice informed him, his tones pleasant and modulated. He was dressed in a crisp, clean suit of dark grey, and he was still adjusting his cuffs as he stepped out of the bedroom. "You see, Mr. Magpie was kind enough to surrender his body to me. I assure you that only a séance would allow you to speak to him now."
"You killed him," the Doctor said flatly.
"I believe that that is what I just said, yes," the Wire said kindly. "Now, are you interested in purchasing a television? I have quite a few for sale, you know, and very affordable too."
"You are going to release Rose Tyler," the Doctor said, his voice very calm and his fists clenched very tightly.
"Oh? Shall I?" The Wire smiled. "I'm quite sorry, you seem to be mistaken. I don't believe I shall."
"You are going to release Rose Tyler," he repeated, every muscle tightening as he stared at the creature responsible for her loss.
"That would be rather similar to suicide, and such things are against my religious beliefs. You wouldn't wish me to violate my convictions, would you?"
When the Doctor's fist slammed against the man's nose, the Wire thought briefly that it might have made the wrong decision in attempting to infiltrate the Earth. This was its last thought before the world went dark.
The Doctor watched the shell of a man crumple to the ground, and then gestured to Bishop to help him move the body to a kitchen chair.
"Are we going to tie him up?" Bishop asked, breathing faster as they lifted the surprisingly heavy man. "Have you got rope?"
The Doctor shook his head and began to scan the small, cramped room. "I'm sure he's got something for tying the televisions into the van.
Tommy provided a quick solution – he lifted several long coils of electric cable. "Will these do?"
The Doctor grinned and reached for them. He handed a length to Bishop with instructions to secure the man's feet, and set to work tying his hands and torso to the chair. "Right then," he said. "Detective Inspector, you stay here," he pointed at Magpie. "Keep him from gettin' away. Tommy, follow me!"
Tommy was surprisingly blasé about entering a telephone box that contained a space significantly larger than his entire home. The Doctor had made several trips beneath the grating, returning with lengths of wire and small buzzing devices. Tommy chose not to ask about their origins or purpose, merely accepting that it was his job to carry them.
When they both had solid armfuls, and the Doctor accepted that they could carry no more, he set off again at a solid clip toward Magpie's store. Tommy followed, and tried not to drop anything.
Upon their return to the shop, the Doctor worked quickly, combining the small beeping boxes into one larger device, and working the wires from his creation to half a dozen sewing needles that had been produced from the depths of a jacket pocket. With clinical dispassion he inserted them into key points of Magpie's body, holding them in place with strips of duct tape found in his other pocket.
The Wire, awake again, watched him with wide eyes and whimpered at the piercing needles. "You're a better man than this," the man who had once been Magpie attempted as the final connections were in place. "Can you truly kill someone in cold blood? Are you capable of such a thing?"
"I'm capable of far more than you can imagine," the Doctor said in a voice betraying not one iota of sympathy. "But this can end differently today. Restore Rose."
"I can't!" The cry was almost desperate. "I don't know how – that little girl was something different! I've already tried, and I can't; she's – she's – it's too much!"
The Doctor's expression did not change. "That's your bad luck then."
The Doctor's finger tightened over a large, red button, and a sharp crackle, like static on a sweater, echoed through the small room. His voice came out cold, blank and emotionless as he addressed a single word to the singed remains of Mr. Magpie. "No."
"Won't –" Bishop started, stopped and watched the Doctor for a moment; something very akin to fear filtered across his expression. "Won't it come back? It said it was electricity, didn't it? There are tons of places it could get to."
"Oh, it's got to them," the Doctor's face was grim. "It isn't dead. It's living an' it'll keep on at it; I've just spread out the signal." He took a glance at the televisions lining the wall. "I destroyed its capacity to hold itself together. It'll spend the rest of eternity lookin' out at the universe." He smiled, but there was not a trace of joy in it. "Maybe you'll catch a hint of it, when the signal's gone an' there's nothin' but static, but just a hint. Now it's nothing but a hunger that'll never be sated, an' a voice that'll never be heard."
He straightened and took a step away; he took a long look around the shop and for just a moment he looked sad…but then his expression hardened again and he turned away.
The detective watched warily as the Doctor strode back down the street toward his motorcycle, and it wasn't until the man and the machine had rumbled into the distance that he climbed back into his own car, intent on returning home for a well-deserved and long-overdue rest.
The warehouse was silent; orders had come down to release the Wire's early victims shortly after the Doctor left, and most of the officers had gone with them.
If ever asked, the Doctor would later deny that he hesitated even a moment before entering the office – but in truth, he stood on the threshold for several long minutes, gathering his courage.
The door was pushed open gently, and the sight of her face was both a heart-rending relief and crushing disappointment. Her skirts were wrinkled, the crinolines crushed beneath her weight as she lay stretched out and silent the lone sofa.
The young officer whom Detective Inspector Bishop had argued with sat in a chair by her side, watching the shallow, but steady, rise and fall of her chest. He looked up at the Doctor sadly. "He phoned over to tell me what you did," the young man said sadly. "Guess you saved us."
The Doctor knelt down beside the makeshift bed and took Rose's hand; it was limp, a complete reversal to the tense, clenching fist of the previous night. His thumb stroked the back of her hand gently, as he willed her eyes to open. There was no response, no increase in her slow pulse and no connection as he reached for her mind. She was there, but closed off in a way that terrified him.
He released his grip on her hand and stood, slipping a small key ring out of his jacket pocket. "There's a motorcycle outside," he said suddenly. He tossed the keys to the officer. "Keep it."
The young man stared at the keys in his hands, eyes wide. "What? Why – why on Earth would you –"
"You stayed with her." He met the man's eyes for a moment, and the officer nodded slowly. The Doctor crouched briefly to slip his arms beneath her knees and behind her shoulders, pulling her up against his chest. He stood, bringing her with him. Without a word he turned and left the small room.
The distance between the warehouse and the TARDIS was hardly negligible, but he saw nothing of it. His focus was absorbed in every tiny flutter of her heartbeat, each moment that indicated her continued life. The fact that Tommy Connolly stood outside the TARDIS waiting on them was noted only as he nodded to the boy and allowed himself to be followed inward to the infirmary.
"Will she be alright?" Tommy asked hesitantly as the Doctor quickly attached a series of small adhesive circles to her pulse-points. Machines against the wall began to beep quietly in connection to them, while more medical devices appeared from cabinets along the wall.
The Doctor did not answer, and Tommy decided it would be best not to press.
"Can I help?"
The Doctor glanced up, and nodded once, tossing a long, lightly glowing blue rod to the boy. "Run that over her, feet to forehead. Once you've scanned her body, hold it over the top of her head so it can scan her brain."
He turned away as Tommy followed his orders, and it was some time before he moved from the small computer terminal in the corner. "She's drained," he said finally. "She needs fluids, sleep, and pretty much everything you stupid little humans need to survive."
"Can – can we get that in her? Make her okay?"
The Doctor brightened suddenly, grinning and straightening his shoulders. "Absolutely."
"That's brilliant!" Tommy grinned back at him. He looked around the room, and his expression dimmed slightly. "So, you'll be off then?"
"Just about, yeah," the Doctor said, nodding slightly. He watched the younger boy shift awkwardly and appraised him. "You helped save her," he added, appreciation clear in his voice.
"I like her," Tommy said, smiling a little. "She's nice."
"She is." The Doctor folded his arms and rested his hip against the counter behind him. "We've been alone a while, Rose and me. Could do with company. You could join up."
Tommy's eyes widened. "You'd let me come along?"
"Travels in more than just space, this box," he added. "Time too. You could come along, see the great wonders and horrors of the universe. Might even introduce you to Rose's mum, if you prove you've got a strong stomach."
"That…that would be amazing." Tommy's eyes were bright. "When do we go?"
The Doctor grinned. "You," he said. "Have asked just the right question."