My first Doctor Who fic, though not really. This is basically me playing with words after watching Midnight and being a little too interested in Colin Morgan.
Based on the aftermath of Midnight, but during the Eleventh Doctor. All will become clear. Enjoy!
It starts soon after that dreadful day. Everything changes. There are days he just can't look at them. His parents. He hears them constantly though, in every waking moment, and most of his sleeping ones too. The hypocrisy, the shouting, the meaningless, meaningless words that filled that half an hour play round and round in his head like a bad record. The soundtrack of his nightmares.
He tries to convince himself he played no part – he gives himself a non-speaking role. He tries to forget the feeling of his hands on the Doctor's leg, the weight of him, the blood pounding in his ears like a drum beat under those words. For weeks, months, years, he turns away from his mother, loathes her hypocrisy in her stainless steel world and yet the irony is not lost on him.
His father feels the same, he thinks, until one silent obstinate day he meets a raised fist with a raised eyebrow and is curiously unafraid and unsurprised when the blow lands. He picks himself up, hits back, and they never speak of it. Their relationship is worth more than two blows – they tried to kill a not-quite-man together. They never speak of it. They never speak of anything.
He can't stand his music, because all the words are repeated, meaningless, empty. The anger of the words is wrong, because anger is silence, he knows, he shows, so the music goes. He takes to reading instead, old books without the taint of reinforced steel holding the knowledge in – holding the darkness out – because he can't trust anything sealed tight now. It needs to be open. By the time he escapes his mother and father, escapes to the outside world, he has boxes and boxes. They fill his small flat, cover him round in simple, blissful silence.
He stumbles, dumb but with open eyes, into academia. Where else can a boyman who rarely, if ever, speaks find a home? The university shelters him, here on this planet so far from his parents, so far from that star he never looks for and always sees. He studies hard, learning the span of literature as he once learnt the history of his self-chosen name, and he sometimes wonders why. He thinks he should learn something useful, something to stop it ever happening again, or to understand it, but he doesn't. He surrounds himself with silent written words, and is contained, not content.
Somewhere along the way he loses his name, and that's fine. No one can repeat those words, "Oh no, Jethro, not you," and that is fine. Pronouns suit him well enough, and if people look at him a little oddly, well, at least they don't speak to him.
Because there's another thing. The written word may call to him as an escape, a passion, a bird song without demands, but the spoken word can never reach it. At first he thought it was just his parents, but no. Every meaningless word strikes him to the core, and normal people – he knows he isn't that now, but they are all around him – normal people use so many of them, litter their language with false promises and phrases they don't understand – deus ex machina, I love you, et cetera, molto bene. They stick in his throat, choke him up as he doesn't repeat, doesn't say them.
Sometimes he predicts in his head, without thinking, the next words from someone's mouth, and his heart stops for a moment. It really does. The last time he collapsed for ten minutes, and woke to his mother's shrill voice – SHUT UP, JUST SHUT UP!
He hasn't spoken since. Not to her. Not to anyone.
Literature is different. Every word is meant. Is placed. Novels are an escape and an adventure, a rediscovery of his own voice in Virginia Woolf, Hardy, Kadre. Plays are harder, but the best ring true, the best he can stand to hear, though he doesn't speak them, doesn't participate. His teachers and fellows excuse this; they read what he writes, with his black nailed hands dripping black ink, black blood.
Poetry is hardest. Written to be spoken, for sounds. Repetition, alliteration, assonance, rhyme. It rings in his head, a warning bell. And yet it is the final hurdle, it releases him more than anything else, because here no word is misspent. Everything means. He learns a new voice that speaks in his mind, that finds lulling rhythms and comforting repetitions and hides those thirty minutes in beauty. Poetry is crafted, and yet it is used to contain the best and worst of everyone. It works for him.
Slowly he can start to listen again, and he ignores the meaningless words in favour for those that really count, that matter. The thank yous and hellos and simple things that get lost in the pandemonium. He gestures to his drink at the bar, he touches shoulders, shakes hands, even smiles, but he doesn't speak. His friends, those that he has, understand, but he knows he is a curiosity. Long gone are the days when someone else was the other, the strange.
On his more solipsistic days (how he wonders what that word would sound like, rolling off his tongue, solipsistic) he thinks that may be the point. He's making himself a Doctor, a new one from his wreck of a self, to replace the one he almost-killed, almost-betrayed. Did betray. He's half way there. He has no name. The title will come in time, with the books.
The day she comes he hides from her, though she doesn't know he's there and couldn't, wouldn't look for him. In a corner of the bar he catches glimpses of those leaving her talk, (how can she talk?) flushed and excited, having seen genius, but he doesn't venture out. He cradles his bottle and listens to a conversation, hearing the truth only and wondering if the two speaking know how little sense the truth makes isolated from the lies.
When he looks away she is there, though he knows from the way she stands she hasn't seen him. If he has learnt to communicate with his own body, he has learnt other people far better. He cannot stay still (mustn't, because what might she think then, seeing him hunched and still, like it?) so he moves to her and she turns to him.
He expects disgust beneath the surprise, but cannot see it. He remembers her alone at the end of it, alone in her understanding without the Hostess, alone in everything. She is just the same. She is totally different. He says nothing, but they sit down together and drink and she talks. Every word she says counts. Gone is her stutter, her insecurity with words, though it lingers in her eyes. He wishes he'd been at her lecture, for though he wouldn't have understood a word, he would have known that it was true. She too has lost her name. They call her Professor, her admirers, and only they two see the irony, and the pain of the name.
She means every word she speaks. It makes her beautiful.
As words drop from her mouth like wine he doesn't mind reliving it, because it is true, utterly so. He touches her hand at the hard moments, surely and deftly. His lost words manifest themselves in touch, for the first time eloquent in his silence without writing. He waits long into the night for her to stop talking. He kisses her then.
It's a long, fumbling walk to his flat, and every time she speaks he waits, listens, before they move again. In the gaps between her words she is soundly kissed, silently kissed, kissed. She doesn't ask why anything, even if she doesn't understand. For the most part she does, but she doesn't say so because she can't be sure. It shows in her eyes, large behind her glasses, and he loves her for it and takes her inside, through the books, his palace of silence.
She is so quiet then it nearly breaks his heart. For the first time in years he tries to coax sounds out of someone. His lips on her throat bring a quiet murmuring he recognises as a prayer, but to something more than God. Her cardigan is just the same, and he slips on the large knitted buttons. She laughs, and the sound is new – he has never heard her laugh, nor anyone else near him in several long years. It is not a pleasant thought.
Bare arms distract him, winding round his neck and back again, sliding down his chest and up under his shirt like a pair of brown loving snakes. With sudden strength two hands pull off his shirt while his own curl in her now-loose hair and around her waist. He feels his own hair rumple, and she laughs again, gaining a brief smile in return. He kisses her though, and there is no hiding their darkness, no hiding their reasons now.
Her dress is loose and he helps her step away from it before she joins him again, his arm now resting against the bare skin of her back as his other hand works furiously against the fastenings of his jeans. Her two join his, and he watches them – they keep the lights on, because the dark is too much, far too much, and the white walls give them space to breath, even for ten years – as they work, industrious, eager, desperate. When the trousers are gone and she holds him in her hand for a moment as they pause, breathing heavy, he wonders if she has been waiting without realising too. If she too cannot stand the noises of others, so false and tried. She looks at him curiously for a moment and her fingers move. She gains a gasp, but no words, and is satisfied.
The pleasure his body is feeling suddenly overcomes his mind, his thoughts, and he feels more connected to himself than he has in years, because he cannot think about it as they topple to the bed. The kisses are few and far between now as he bends his head to one nipple and feels the heat, his and hers. How long he has been a lizard, cold blooded, he cannot tell, but now he is human, warm, hot, feverish, because of the woman beneath him. This is solace, but it is still sex, and it washes over him as, hands shaking, he parts her thighs with his knee and thrusts.
Her hands rake down his back as he brings one to brush the hair off her face. Her glasses are still on, skewed, but her breath comes in harsh pants. Neither of them speaks now, but they feel the unspoken build in the room like gas, a pressure, pushing him further into her, pressing her up against him, wholly connected to their pleasure, as though there is nothing else.
It ends quickly, as it always must. She grasps his two pale, too-pale, shoulders, tense as a guitar strong string for a moment and whispers in his ear. A moment or hour or two later he moans the word back at her, forgetting he does not speak, forgetting his palace of silence. In the light she grasps his hand in understanding, they turn off the light, and sleep.
He doesn't start to speak, not after that night. She does not expect it. But neither expects a second time. The third is less of a surprise, the fourth less still. The hundredth shocks him. The year. He doesn't say a word on any of the other nights, though he begins to spot the disappointment in her eyes. He changes though. He starts to hear more truth in others words. He knows they are not more truthful, but she is. He trusts her to mean it all, and through her, other people. She guides him back to the world of the living, teaches him their ways. His heart recovers, beats more strongly. One day he shows a friend, and she jokes that it is love. The words ring true.
He protects her too, in his small ways. To mean everything you say is a burden he cannot conceive, he now thinks he does not speak because of it, so he does not ask, and stops others too with looks and hands, and simple touches on her arm to say she need not answer, need not speak. He listens to her stories, every one, because no one else can stand so much truth and honesty. For him it is almost a drug, but it changes, from it to her. He needs her, he wants her. He cannot speak though, and cannot ask. In the gaps between her words he smiles, loves and tries to fill the hole they have and share.
She gives him back music, and he cannot thank her enough with his touch, the more-frequent smiles. It starts slowly, with just instruments, and she laughs about her own attempts to learn the flute. She shows him Purcell and Bob Dylan, poets of song, with real lyrics, and he cries with her, quietly, without words, but for the first time since the rescue shuttle. In return he writes her an essay on her, everything he cannot say, academically, with rigour, cross referencing and footnotes. She especially likes the footnotes. Some days he finds words that are almost but not quite right and hands them to her. Dickenson's poetry particularly makes its way across the breakfast table and brings him her smile.
One day, when he is reading for his doctorate, and his flat is now their flat, his bed their bed, he surprises her after a lecture. She is used to his silence at home, but here she starts and squeals, "You!" like she did that first night, their first shared word. He smiles, kisses her, and breathes his first real word back into her mouth. "You." She freezes, and they both try to pretend he isn't repeating, that it was a different word. It scares them.
It scares him enough not to try again for months, but then a greater threat than repetition comes. A man arrives and seeks them out, seeks her out and tries to take her. He woos her with Shakespeare, long flowing sentences so unlike the short broken Dickenson that her real lover can only write out. He watches her try to resist, tries to hold onto her with short touches and looks, but the power of the spoken word is slowly coming between them again. This time she is drawn in by the words and he sees all plainly, but it is just the same. They are divided.
He cannot lose her – she is all his words, his worlds, his letters. He knows this desperately, but no poet has written her and so the words go unwritten, unshown, and always unspoken. She needs him too, but her eyes have been stopped by words – she is blind. He is her full stop, but she cannot see this, not when someone has used the words of a genius to capture her ears. He tries to show her Shakespeare from his books, his walls of silence, but she resists, insists on sounds.
One day she tries to leave, pulls out a box, and his walls come tumbling down (Jericho Jethro, Jethro Jericho – who falls, him or them, both, he does not know, but it hurts) . All his borrowed words are askew, fly through the air as pages rip, louder than any words, turn to dust quieter than him. For a second he is angry as she apologises, stifled, frightened, slow-worded in her emotion, but then she fills the box with her things, their things, things he only cares about with her, and it is not important anymore that she has destroyed his world, as long as she does not leave it, leave him, leave. She turns out another box, filled with every poem passed, every letter, note, spell he wrote her as if they were dust, and it breaks his heart into two. His two half-hearts cannot work alone.
She yells at him as she cries, asks him to say anything in response to her screams, her tears, but even the shock of that cannot open his rusty throat. It hurts to, and hurts not to. Speak. She curses him, a no-named man with only borrowed words on pieces of paper. The new one has a name, John, and a voice, and a song and he hates him for it. Yelling, weeping, muttering she packs, and her words leave no space for his, even if they could come.
She is only silent when the bell rings. John is there, to pick her up, pick her out. John is handsome, young, unrecognisable to both of them he is so changed, so new. John sneers. "This is the dumb man, eh? Stripp'd bare of hope and everything, No more to laugh, no more to sing, You sit alone with sorrow." Rossetti comes from his mouth, poetry cruelly twisted, and he flinches at the sound, as does she. In all their passed poetry, they have never touched Rossetti – it says too much. John's speaking it makes it more painful, but not much more. He has lost one heart, one soul to Rossetti's words, he cannot lose another.
But he can, he thinks, he has. He has lost her heart, her soul. Himself.
His reaction then, seems totally natural. He hits John, and barbs drag up his rusty throat, scratch him raw but make their way out as he keeps hitting, a blow for a word. He does not feel twin hearts in the chest he tries to break, does not know he is being healed as she drags him away, kisses his face as he pants that he loves her, will always love her, will say it every day if it keeps her here, keeps her near. His rhymes are unintentional, but later they will giggle over it, claim he was a poet even then. She is stunned silent (and that they will laugh about too) but holds him, holds him for dear life.
He says her double name, her letter, like a prayer, and she gives him back his own again, makes it sound better, beautiful from her nervous mouth. She experiments, Jethro, Doctor Jethro, Doctor Kane, Doctor, Kane, mine, and finds the one she likes best. In the gaps between her words he speaks his prayer, but it cannot say everything. Words are not enough. She silences him, silences herself, shares it. Shares him. Shares herself.
John picks himself up as the door of the flat shuts firmly and the words still being jabbered, full of meaning, are cut off. She is meant to hear them, and no one else should, would or could. It is right. It is fixed, better, healed. It satisfies. Only the corridor, impressive in its silence, hears John Smith mutter foreign phrases. "Molto bene. Right then, allons-y."
They are not whole again (no healing works that quickly) but now he has her again, he does not need words again, and she does not strain to hear them in the silences. He doesn't talk instantly after that first rush, but she is content, he is content, and silences bless them both. He forgets the Doctor and John Smith and never connects the two.
She teaches the children to speak. He teaches them to write. He fills the gaps between her words with silence, with love, with being content. They communicate.
It is enough.