Author's Note: This takes place post Journey's End (though that would be obvious to anyone a few lines in). It does contain some spoilers for that episode but mostly it takes place later on in Pete's World. This isn't the first bit of writing I've published here but it IS the first fanfic I ever wrote so when reviewing be as harsh as you like but keep that tidbit in mind.
For the moment I gave this a "complete" status. I've had thoughts about continuing it though. So in future you may see further chapters or sequels. It's just not a definite thing at the moment.
"Just leave, would you? I can't stand looking at you!" Suiting action to words she swings away from him but not before she sees him flinch, the light going out of his eyes. She feels regret knife instantly through her guts but she doesn't take it back.
"As you wish. " And just like that he's gone. She hears the door open and close with just a soft click that still seems to echo through the empty flat. Dissolving into tears she sinks down on the couch and sobs until she's choking. She struggles upright again in an attempt to let the moisture clogging her nose and throat drain away so that she can at least breathe again. It occurs to her to wonder where he'll go. Glancing at the clock on the mantle she sees it's half-past one in the morning. He'll just wind up coming back here, she figures, after all he has no place to go in this world.
When she wakes in the morning there's a sterile, dead feel to the air and she knows that he didn't come back. She double checks the guest bedroom where he's been sleeping ever since they returned to this world. She finds no evidence of him having been there since the previous morning. She feels the first spasm of fear curl in her stomach.
"I'll bet he just slept in the lab last night" She reassures herself aloud. Something makes her rush through her morning routine and she won't acknowledge the dread ratcheting tighter through her chest with every pull of the brush through her hair, every stroke of her toothbrush and every swipe of the mascara wand. Skipping breakfast in her haste, she hurries down to the garage and spins out on to the London streets earlier than she normally would. Screeching to a halt at the gates to the underground parking at Torchwood tower she asks the guard on duty if he's seen Doctor Smith come in. The negative shake of his head isn't unexpected she tells herself. He's probably been here all night, right? I mean, where else would he go?
The slow drag of the lift nearly drives her spare as it takes forever to get to the top floor where she has an office next to Pete's. She pops her head in to her father's suite and jerks her head at his assistant.
"Is he in?" Again that frustrating negative.
Slipping across the hall to her own office, she dumps the detritus of her working life on her desk and fires up the screens that link to the security cameras trained on the labs two floors below. She'd never let on to him that she can't quite keep herself from watching him while he works. He doesn't know that there are long stretches of her working day spent with her eyes glued to his image on that screen. Today however, his laboratory is uninhabited. She quickly scans the other labs hoping for a glimpse of his lanky figure but slumps back in her chair when she comes up empty once again.
"I'm not going anywhere without you, not unless you want me gone." His words echo in her mind, going round and round. Was it just two days ago that he'd said that? Shame scalds her when she remembers what prompted that declaration.
They'd been curled up on the couch in her flat watching telly when a tourism advert came on and he'd innocently remarked that he'd rather like to go see New Zealand.
" Just waiting on an opportunity to leave me behind, aren't you?"
She'd flung it in his face, the venom of resentment dripping from each razored word. She'd regretted it almost instantly but she didn't take it back. His eyes had gone all big, his mouth had fallen open to form an "O" and after one or two shocked heartbeats he'd uttered the assurance that was now ricocheting around her brain. She hadn't responded at the time, just trained her eyes back on the program they'd been watching and let the moment pass.
It had been building ever since he'd left her on that beach in Norway...again. She'd yielded to the momentary temptation presented by the words she'd been dying to hear for so many long years. I love you. It was his voice that whispered them into her ear and she'd latched on to him like a drowning woman. Another few heartbeats passed and the worst sound in the universe impinged on her ears, the TARDIS engines phasing away. She'd broken from the kiss just in time to see her world disappearing from view. Even as she dashed toward the fading blue box she knew it was futile. He was gone.
Then he was there, holding her hand and they stared at each other for a long moment before she dropped his hand and turned aside. She paced away from him and tried not to let him see her tears but after only a few seconds she could feel herself shaking all over as the sobs ripped through her. It was finally Jackie she turned and clung to, leaving him standing by the sea, shallow waves lapping at his burgundy trainers.
They'd sat huddled on that beach for hours before Pete arrived to take them back to London. She couldn't look at him and yet she couldn't not look at him. She kept stealing glances over Jackie's shoulder and the sight broke her heart every time. He was clearly miserable sitting there with his long legs crossed, narrow shoulders slumped and huge dark eyes staring sightlessly out across the ocean. Part of her wanted to wrap her arms around him and assure him that it was all right. However she knew it wasn't all right, he wasn't all right and she didn't think he ever would be. He was a spare part and both of them knew it.
As the hours passed he'd slowly curled in on himself and she'd marveled a bit that anyone so tall could occupy so little space. She wasn't sure how long it was before he'd fallen over sideways, clearly unconscious. That broke her out of her misery bubble for a moment.
She'd frantically looked him over,checking his breathing and feeling for a heartbeat. It was both a thrill and a disappointment to find his single heart beating slowly but steadily under her fingers. She knew he only had one heart but it was still somehow a letdown. He looked right but he wasn't the Doctor, he wasn't her doctor. Still, she'd lifted his head from the cold, damp sand and cradled him in her lap until Pete came.
She couldn't help but feel a sense of deja-vu as she helped lift him into the car. She flashed back to the hours after his regeneration when she and Mickey had struggled to get him up to her Mum's flat and then down again the following morning with the Sycorax ship hovering menacingly over-head. She'd felt the same anxious ambivalence then. He was the Doctor but...was he?
Watching him sleep all the long way back to London she couldn't help but notice, not for the first time, that he looked older than he had when she'd lost him before. It wasn't just a few more crow's feet, his face was thinner, almost gaunt. Right now his color was pretty ghastly which didn't help but she knew that wasn't it. He'd told her he couldn't age but clearly he did. What had happened to him since they'd parted?
They had help transferring him to one of Pete's private jets but she kept close none-the-less, hovering over the huge man who'd picked him up like a doll and tossed him over his shoulder in a fireman's embrace.
"Careful!" she'd hissed at the mountainous man. She'd eyed him critically as he lowered the Doctor into a seat with more care. She'd stayed by him every second until the moment he'd opened his eyes again, tucked up in a room in Pete's mansion.
"Did you miss me?" he'd whispered with the ghost of a smile.
She hadn't answered, simply jumped to her feet and fled the room. Even though she took him back to her flat that night, that moment had rather set the pattern for the weeks that followed. She just didn't know what to do with him. She was tangled up in a ball of conflicting emotions, she wanted him, she loved him, she hated him, she resented him. He was the Doctor, he wasn't. It was his fault the Doctor had left her saddled with the spare part, tasked with taking care of the genocidal madman. Except, he wasn't. If anything, he seemed gentler than her Doctor. Much of the sarcastic edge seemed worn off. He was certainly more diffident, he never snapped back at her when she'd have a go at him and that just served to irritate her more.
Pete had arranged a job at Torchwood for him, provided a lab and a new identity. She'd provided the name, remembering how he'd laughed over it back in their universe. John Smith. The most common name in the world for the most uncommon man. His eyes had barely flickered when she'd handed him his new papers. He'd simply said, "Don't start calling me John."
She hadn't. She introduced him to the Torchwood team as the Doctor even though she didn't call him that, she didn't call him anything. When she needed to, she spoke to him directly, either by standing in his space or calling on the phone. Then she'd started to avoid him, while spying shamelessly on him at the same time.
He was different around other people, acting like the Doctor again, flashing that brilliant smile while sparking with brilliant ideas. Charming and goofy, talking a million miles a minute and defying anyone to keep up with his energy. Crazy with references to times gone by and planets yet to be, he baffled the rest of the team who seemed to regard him as engagingly eccentric. He stuck out like a sore thumb; he blended in perfectly. He'd advanced their research efforts by decades in a matter of weeks, explaining the uses of dozens of alien artifacts locked up in the vaults. Other items he confiscated, locking them up in his own lab muttering about human lack of control.
She watched him obsessively when he wasn't looking. She lurked in hallways and doorways and the corners of crowded rooms. Sneaking sidelong glances as they watched telly. Sitting beside him on the sofa was as close as she'd get to him. She even watched him sleeping, long limbs flung in all directions as he snored softly on her guest bed. He was beautiful and she just couldn't take her eyes off him until his regard would swing her way, then she wouldn't look again until she was certain he wouldn't catch her at it.
She knew she was acting loony, she just couldn't seem to help herself. Which added to her frustration causing her to snap at him most of the time. He seemed to take it in stride, never snapping back and rarely walking away. He'd just go quiet and she'd either resume normal conversation or go equally silent. She was ashamed every time she took her frustration and angst out on him but again, she didn't take it back.
Snapping out of her reverie, she picks up the phone and dials Pete's direct line.
"Have you seen the Doctor at all?"
"Not today, no. Why?"
"He's not in," she pauses, biting down on her soft full bottom lip, "We had a fight last night and I haven't seen him since." It's hard for her to say it, even though she knows it's been obvious that all is not well between her and the Doctor.
"I'm sorry, Love. Haven't had a word."
She checks the security logs and finds that he's been there. Checked in at 00:10 the night before. He must have come straight here from her flat. Her heart clenches when she sees he was checked out only 10 minutes later.
He doesn't put in an appearance that day and she feels the dread building and building until she's literally shaking. I'm not going anywhere without you, unless you want me gone. She'd told him to leave, did he think she meant forever? She calls Jackie, though she feels her mother is the last person he'd contact, she's just desperate now. No word, as she knew there wouldn't be.
Gritting her teeth against the knot in her stomach and the voice screaming in her head Don't Look! she forces herself to access the security footage from the night before and there he is. He walks into frame, tall and slim, his hair sticking out at crazy angles. He looks around, rubbing the back of his neck. She watches as he rummages through a few drawers, tucking small objects in his pockets and walking in and out of frame. Finally he heads back for the door, stopping to take a last look directly at the camera before slipping back out of frame for the last time.
In that moment his soft mouth is turned down slightly and his eyes...his eyes are wide and lost and infinitely sad. She's never seen it but he's worn this look before, standing on the other side of the void, his face and hand pressed hopelessly against a blank white wall. It slices at her now.
Suddenly seized with a horrible urgency, she skitters up from her desk and flees down the hall to the lifts. Scorning their slow pace, she bursts through the door to the stairs and hurtles down two flights before slamming through the next door. Ignoring the curious glances of co-workers she runs down the hall to the very end where his laboratory lies. Abruptly she comes to a halt, her hand poised on the handle to the door. She's changed her mind, she doesn't want to know what's beyond this flimsy barrier of wood and metal. Shaking, she slowly turns the handle and pushes forward.
At first glance, nothing seems out of order but her eyes are drawn down the length of the room to where his small, serviceable desk is set up deliberately beyond the scope of the security camera. His laptop is there, closed. Next to it is a pile of small objects. Heart in her throat she draws closer and sees his cell phone, under it lies his Torchwood ID, driver's license and every other scrap of the identity kit her father had obtained for him. Most telling of all are the keys to her flat, mute testimony to her changed reality. He's gone
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