AN/ Yes I know it's late! A combination of broken laptop, university and writer's block is a super effective recipe at preventing updates. I apologise profoundly for my lateness! However, I would like to thank everyone that has reviews this story, especially those of you sending terse reviews telling me to get my ass in gear and update, if it wasn't for those reviews, this chapter would probably not even be up yet.
Oh and I'm not sure if anyone noticed but I have changed my penname from Shinku-Okami to Lykariel, just in case it confused anyone.
Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who, much to my vexation. However, I reserve the right to borrow the characters and torture them for my own amusement bwahahaha.
"You're Rose… Rose Tyler."
The commotion of the rest of the room faded into the background as the air around Rose and River become thick and sparking with tension. Rose was suddenly hyper aware of every expression crossing River's face, bewilderment, realisation, shock, awe… a myriad of emotions, all in reaction to her but not one of them was a look of recognition.
"You don't know me," she said, rebelling against the overwhelming affect her name had on the woman.
"No," she conceded, "not personally, at least. The Doctor – "
"You know the Doctor?" asked Rose, cutting her off.
Sadness welled in River's eyes, her gaze drifted over to the Doctor watching fondly as he worked with Proper Dave at the computer terminal. "It's not a perfect science, calling on the Doctor. You have to know his habits, pre-empt where and when he'll show up, he's not exactly one to have a mobile phone on him. Sometimes, you get it wrong…"
Rose frowned at the cryptic words. "What do you mean? Get what wrong?" Her impatience was heard clear in her raised voice. She flinched at the unintended volume and glanced at the Doctor with the sudden feeling that he was now listening to them very intently.
River seemed to struggle for a moment, as though harbouring a great secret that leashed her tongue. When she spoke, her words were careful and decided. "I know the Doctor but not this Doctor. I sent the message back too far."
"You're from the future," said Rose, finally understanding and with that realisation a sinking feeling of dread coiled inside of her. "You're from the Doctor's future and you've never met me… What happens to me?" She was backing away from River now, as though distance between them would somehow lessen the reality of what she had discovered. She was going to leave the Doctor, after promising she wouldn't. She knew she'd never leave by choice which meant something horrible awaited her. "Am I going to die?"
The awe was gone from River's face, replaced with a look of pained sympathy, "I'm so sorry, Rose, but I can't tell you. Oh if I could, the things I would say to you…" She stopped herself and an ironic smile curled across her face. "Spoilers," she said with finality.
Rose frowned at her words but before she could reply a distinct ringing filled the room, breaking her concentration. "What is that?" she asked, to no one in particular. She glanced over at the Doctor, still at the terminal with Proper Dave and typing at the keyboard.
The Doctor answered her question. "It's me…I think. I'm trying to call up the data core but all I'm getting is that ringing. Hang on, of I try re-routing the interface… There we go!" His voice raised with a hint of triumph as the screen went static before showing the image of a young girl sitting in a living room.
"You video phoned a little girl?" asked Rose with an arched brow.
The Doctor looked just as astounded as everyone one else as he stared at the screen, admittedly at a bit of a loss. Unable to think of anything to say, he resorted to his usual faithful fall back. "Hello…"
Frustration was tangible in the air as tempers rose and questions remained unanswered. The conversation with the young girl had been brief yet still managed to raise more questions than it answered. The girl, though bewildered to suddenly be talking to people in her television, took the situation surprisingly well, she recognised them and had even claimed ownership over the forsaken book graveyard. The connection severed before the Doctor could get any helpful answers from her, much to his vexation.
Rose watched as he stormed across the room barking orders about the lights, his very aura demanding compliance without question. She felt her own hackles rise as River parroted his commands. She was struggling to put her finger on exactly what it was she hated about the woman. So far, she'd managed to narrow it down to everything… which wasn't really narrowed down at all, was it?
A sudden gust of wind brushed past Rose's ear making her gasp. Spinning around at the sensation, her eyes fell on a book just in time to see it land on the floor with a thud. "Who's chucking books?" she demanded.
Just then, two more books flung themselves from their shelves, seemingly unaided. It was as though the very room was becoming charged with their frustration as the books continued to fly across the room, empowered by some invisible force.
"Great, on top of everything else the library's haunted!" Rose huffed, sidestepping to dodge one of the passing projectiles.
"Oh I hardly think its supernatural," said River, her voice patronising. "It's probably some sort of kinetic feed. Could it be the little girl do you think?" the question was directed at the Doctor.
"But who is the little girl?" countered the Doctor. "What's she got to do with this place?"
There was a moment of silence. Rose was the first to speak up. "She said the library was hers, but Mr Lux, you said your family owned this place. Do you know who she is?"
"And what's CAL?" added the Doctor. "It kept showing up on the screen, 'CAL'. Does it have something to do with the data core? And how does that work? What's the principle?"
Mr Lux's face took an amusing red hue when placed at the centre of so many questions. However, rather than crumble under the pressure, he quickly schooled his expression, arched his nosed into the air and with a voice dripping with grandiose attitude said, "Sorry, you didn't sign your Personal Experience contracts."
'Oh… bad move' though Rose, not even surprised when the Doctor's countenance visible darkened and he stalked up to the pompous financer.
Amidst the commotion, no one noticed when a panel in the wall slipped open, no one save for Miss Evangelista. Distressed from the arguing she'd spotted the movement whilst desperately looking around the room as though it held answers that could lower everyone's tempers.
"Excuse me," Miss Evangelista said, timidly.
No one paid her any notice.
"Excuse me, I think this is important!" she tried again, clearly upset at being ignored.
"Not now," came River's terse reply.
The young PA frowned and glanced between the opened wall and her companions, unsure of what to do. With a sigh of resignation she decided to make herself useful for a change and investigate the wall herself. She hated feeling useless. Upon approaching the wall she realised that there was a dark corridor behind dimly lit by the glow of the room behind her. She paid one last look back at the Doctor and the expedition team before bravely entering the shadowed passageway.
Rose felt her anger bubbling inside her once again as she watched River and the Doctor square off against each other.
"Then why not sign his contract?" challenged River, eyeing the Doctor knowingly.
The Doctor stared at her, struggling to find a way to reply. She had a good point. He knew it and he didn't like it.
There was a moment of tense silence. "I didn't either" she said at last. I'm getting worse than you.
Rose couldn't watch anymore. The close familiarity River was expressing towards the Doctor was somehow more painful than the Beast's foretelling of her death. She turned her attention towards the rest of the room, frowning when she saw that everyone else's attention was on River and the Doctor. They were becoming quite the duo.
However, there seemed to be less of them than before. A second looked around confirmed her fear. Miss Evangelista was not in the room with them. Her eyes scanned the room frantically, wondering where the girl could have gone with the main door sealed shut. Her eyes fell on the open wall panel.
A harrowing scream suddenly echoed up through the dark passage. In a split second Rose had snapped a torch from the ground and raced through the panel, barely aware of the Doctor and the others following. She came to a halt when the passage opened up into a large reading room.
Tables arched around the room in tiered semi-circles on either side with steps leading down to the room's centre where a skeleton sat regally upon a lone throne between two spot lights. The bleach-white bone reflected the spotlights with an eerie glow as empty sockets stared unblinkingly towards the library's unwelcome visitors.
Rose approached the throne warily, fighting against the shiver that ran up her spine at the haunting sight. The skeleton sat unnaturally hunched, like a doll dropped into place by an inattentive child paying no care to how it should sit. Careful not to touch the skeleton, she examined it, taking note of the tatters of white cloth that barely covered it and recognising, with a sinking feeling in her gut, the blinking communicator that matched the ones the excavation team were wearing. She didn't need to hear River talk through the communicator to know she had found Miss Evangelista.
Guilt weighed heavily on Rose's conscience. She had heard the young girl's pleas for someone to listen to her but Rose had been so self-absorbed in her own turmoil that she had just blanked her. Her own ability to be so cold and selfish shocked her to her core, maybe if she'd listened just for a second this girl would still be alive.
Surprisingly, Miss Evangelista replied to River's call. Rose listened numbly to the Doctor's explanation of what "ghosting" was. Though the idea of a person's consciousness hanging onto an electronic device after death shocked Rose, she wasn't surprised that the girl had asked for Donna in her final moments. She recalled Donna being the only one of them to show the girl any real kindness.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, spending one last moment of humility before the bare skeleton as the Doctor and the others began to head back. They were a couple of feet ahead of her before she turned to follow them but as she began to walk, another book dropped, landing just to the side of her, near the remains of Miss Evangelista.
Rose stole her nerves before kneeling down and picking up the fallen book. There was nothing out of the ordinary about it. The cover was dark brown and hardback with gold trimmings down the spine but when she turned it over to see the cover she froze for written on it in neatly scrawled gold calligraphy was the title 'The wolf that swallowed the sun.'
The distraction cost her precious seconds for when she looked up, the rest of the group had already left the room. The book was abandoned to land with a resounding thud on the floor as Rose rushed to catch up with the others but when she reached the mouth of the passageway she was forced to stop, where once there had been a clear pathway of dim light, now lay only shadow. She could make out the last of the group members as they disappeared into the previous room, the last remnants of light being swallowed by darkness behind them, sealing the way.
"Doctor," she called, trying to calm her racing heart. He'd be able to get her out, shine one of those big lights down the corridor or give her alternative directions, she wasn't trapped.
The look on the Doctor's face as he reappeared at the top of the passageway quickly put to rest any hope she had of returning to the group any time soon. The terror in his eyes was clear, even in the dim glow cast from the room to his side. "Rose, what are you still doing there?"
Now she'd done it. The carnivorous shadows no longer seemed so scary when faced with the obvious anger of the Doctor, it wasn't something that had been directed at her for a while and she was unused to it, worsening the experience. "I'm sorry, I… I got a bit distracted."
"By what?" he demanded.
"A book?" she replied weakly, cringing as she heard the stupidity of her excuse.
"A book... A book? Rose, I told you not to wander off!"
She had to bite her tongue to resist the urge to retort that technically standing still wasn't wandering off. Somehow she doubted the Doctor would appreciate the difference. "Sorry?" she tried instead.
He buried his face in his hands, briefly attempting to separate himself from the situation in order to think more clearly. "River, bring me that chicken salad!" he called into the room. Moments later he was presented with the salad and he took out a chicken drumstick, glancing between it and that shadowed tunnel.
"What are you doing?" asked Rose.
"Checking to see if this shadow is infected, maybe we'll get lucky and it'll be safe for you to pop on over," despite the lightness that was now in his tone, Rose knew he was about as believing of that possibility as she was, which wasn't very.
"Go ahead then," she said.
The chicken drumstick had barely left his hand before it was stripped to the bone. Both pairs of eyes were riveted on it as it fell to the floor with a loud rattle. They looked back up at each other, both fully aware of what would happen if Rose took one step into the passageway.
"Rose, listen to me," there was no more anger in his voice but the underlying desperation was so much worse. "I'm coming back for you."
Her blood ran cold, she knew he'd have to leave her here but hearing him say it was so much worse than just knowing. Holding back her own fear, she forced herself to nod, fully trusting that the Doctor would come back. "Five and a half hours, yeah?" she half joked.
He managed to look indignant, "Oi, give me some credit! It shouldn't take nearly that long."
She laughed, "course not. You're Mister Impressive after all."
"So you admit I'm impressive then?" he queried with a faltering smirk.
"Oh shove off before I chuck another book at you," she shot back with exaggerated exasperation.
He regarded her silently, reluctant to let her leave his sight. "Stay safe," he said, so quietly that Rose almost didn't catch it.
"I will," she promised. "Beat a whole fleet of Sontarans me! Sammy the Shadow stands no chance."
He sighed heavily as though he'd come to a decision about something. "Rose, there's something I've been meaning to say for a while now, a sentence I need to finish…"
"Don't," she cut him off, she'd be damned if she finally hears him say it just because he thinks it's his last chan. "You're coming back, right?"
He nodded. "I promise!"
Rose nodded back. "You can tell me then, yeah?"
He smiled weakly but Rose didn't catch it in the gloom. "I'll see you soon Rose." He didn't say goodbye but simply left Rose's sight with nothing but the promise of his return.
Rose backed away from the conniving shadows of the passage. She sat down in the dim pool of light, keeping her distance from the staring skeleton, unable to look at it but still feeling its presence behind her. Her mind was blank, she could think of nothing to do besides wait in the shrinking light as the shadows closed in.
Sorry, but writing Moffet's episodes annoys me, he likes to make his plots so convoluted which makes it difficult to bend the story for the purposes of fan fiction. Therefore I may have concentrated a little too much on Rose and neglected the other characters. (Also, I don't like River)
The next chapter will also most likely be fairly Rose-Centric but fear not! The Doctor will get more attention just as soon as he unattaches himself from River's claws.