A/N: I started this as a break from writing other stories, and to deal with dissertation madness. It sort of took on a life of its own. If you read my other stories, they will be continued. I just needed to do something fresh.
Thank you to Lamia for pre-reading, and to Latessitrice for the beta work. They are both amazing. And Maria just because I love her and she listens to my random ideas, even though she's never watched Who.
"Rose, what the hell are you doing? Hurry up!"
She rolled her eyes and followed, her too-high heels making the distance seem further than it was. She was walking slower than necessary, and in the end, Charlotte had to stop and link arms with her in fear she'd get lost in the crowd.
I shouldn't be here. This is all wrong. I'm not meant to be here, in this place, in this moment.
The feeling was so familiar that she barely bothered acknowledging it, but its nagging persistence was not. She flashed a smile at the bouncer, those in line whispering behind their hands as they were instantly granted entrance. That was normal, as was Charlotte's chatter, order of two Martinis and scan for her next target. What wasn't normal was the feeling of displacement.
It was easier to think of these feelings in terms of physical pain. The heartburn lasted hours, gradually fading away into nothing. She couldn't predict why or when it would happen, but with time she'd learned to deal with it. The alternative was hard, fast and blindingly overwhelming, just like a phantom stomach cramp. Fortunately, after eight months, she'd discovered everything that caused it.
This was nothing like it. The feeling of not belonging was...a headache. A constant thrum in the background that was always there. It was annoying, new and not what she wanted right now. She wanted to help Charlotte drink herself into a stupor, so she'd forget about that asshole Michael, and then grab food on the way home, and finally sleep. Instead, she was going to be bothered by this feeling all night.
"What about him?" Charlotte asked, pointing at guy by the bar. Rose raised an eyebrow and swallowed a gulp of the Martini. Perhaps if she was hammered, she wouldn't feel like this...
"Urg," Charlotte slumped in her chair, then frowned.
Rose shook her head, the usual sign for how she was feeling. Charlotte leaned forward, worry clouding her features.
"Do you want to go home?" she asked. Rose shook her head vehemently. Instead, she picked up her drink and downed the last of it.
"I would like another drink though," she said with a grin and a wave of her glass.
It had been eight months since she'd woken up in the hospital bed. A car accident was what they'd told her, and she tried not to let herself disagree. Despite her mother's insistence that the accident had been terrible, she'd left the hospital after less than a week. Apart from four stitches on her forehead, she had no other injuries. Scars, yes, plenty of them. But they were old, possibly years old, and Rose was sure none of them were from a car accident. Well, as sure as she'd ever be.
Her memory had been deeply affected. Whatever had happened to her meant that her memories were practically wiped clean of the events leading up to the accident, and hazy for years before it. She remembered snatches, events and faces, not all of which made sense to her. This was combined with nightmares and dreams of varying intensity, some that may have been the past fighting to get through, and others that were pure imagination. She wished she knew the difference. The doctors said this was normal though. Her mind tried to compensate, memories blurred with wishes and nighttime fantasies until she could be only sure of the truth she could see in the present.
She was Rose Tyler, she was twenty-six, and she worked in a department store part-time while working on her undergraduate degree in War Studies, Government and Diplomacy. Her parents were Jackie and Pete Tyler, and her little brother Tony was five years old, and the most adorable child she'd ever met. Since her accident, she'd moved back in with her parents, but according to them, she had her own apartment in London. They'd retrieved most of her things while she was in hospital, and at the moment, she didn't feel like returning. Perhaps it was one of the things buried in her own mind keeping her away, but she really didn't want to go back.
Despite this knowledge, there were parts of her memory that didn't correlate. None of her childhood memories contained her father, and she even believed in the early days after the accident that she could recall being told he was dead. Jackie hadn't been a huge amount of help in this, stating that he'd 'been somewhere else' during her childhood, which Rose interpreted as 'with someone else.' Jackie obviously didn't want to talk about it, possibly because she'd told her as a child he'd died when it was obvious he was alive and kicking, owning companies and selling health drinks. Their remarriage made sense, considering she remembered living in a place that was extremely different from the mansion her parents lived in now, the polar opposite in fact. She also suspected that it had a little to do with her mind compensating due to what she didn't know. She had memories of knowing her father died in a car accident, when in reality her memories had been stolen by a car accident. The connection seemed more than obvious.
Even without knowing exactly how her parents had been reunited, she knew without question that they were happy now. She could see it, and more than that, she felt it like a too stubborn memory that the accident could not erase. They were happy, in love and contented. Just as they should be.
It was probably strange that she worked in Knightsbridge. Of course, Pete made it so she only saw customers of a certain clientele, mostly people that worked for him. He said something about her protection and welfare, and she understood that. Not to mention that the press would have a field day if the eldest Tyler child was working in a supermarket. She didn't mind though. She'd only started working after the accident, determined to do something for herself that was new and had nothing to do with the unknown. Shop work seemed comforting, and comfort was not something she had much of. Charlotte and another girl Alicia were the only friends she'd made at her job, and they knew about her memory troubles. Her parents, and the occasional colleague of her father's that was invited to meet the family, all walked on egg shells around her.
She wished she could remember. Some days, she'd wake up and she could almost taste her former self, as if she'd been her in sleep. The doctors said she could remember, if given enough time. But after eight months, Rose wasn't sure that was possible. Her parents refused to help her, which was frustrating. It was apparently important she remembered by herself, and after a few weeks, she'd stopped asking for hints. She also had the faint suspicion there was something more that they knew, triggered by her thoughts about the crash itself. She hated thinking she couldn't trust them.
Rose stepped out of the private car that dropped her at the front door, cheerfully waving at the driver with her heels, which she'd abandoned when her feet started to ache. She practically skipped up the stairs barefoot, giggling to herself as she fumbled with the front door key.
"Be smooth Rose...smooootthhhhh..." The word tasted fabulous in her mouth, and she repeated it over and over as she stumbled into the dark kitchen, groping for a glass of water. She winced as light flooded the kitchen, and turned to see Pete standing in the doorway, looking amused at her attempts to do a simple task.
"Stand over there, and don't touch anything," he said, pointing to the opposite side of the room. Rose held her hands up in surrender, backing away, and almost slipping.
"Did I wake you?" she asked as her father successful poured water into a glass.
"Nah, I've been up for hours. We have an... issue."
He handed her the glass and she sipped dutifully. The water tasted like the best drink in the world, and she wondered for a moment why she ever wanted to drink anything else.
"Sounds serious," she remarked, before draining the whole glass. Pete took it off her and filled up again.
"It'll be fine. I've got the best people on it. You gonna be okay?" he asked as she pushed off from the counter and took the newly filled glass.
"Promise I'll call if I need a doctor," she said with a laugh.
Her father's poker face was good, but not good enough. Rose winced. She knew it must have been tough for her parents when she had her accident, whatever it was. Mentioning doctors in front of them was taboo, but in her drunken state, she'd forgotten.
"Sorry. G'night," she muttered, fleeing upstairs before she could say anything else stupid.
Her head was already spinning as she fell into bed, and she closed her eyes against the slight pain that was already surfacing.
"I probably do need a doctor," she muttered to herself. It was the last thought in her mind before she fell asleep.
"You shouldn't be gadding around town at 2AM, even if it was a Friday night. Tony, no toys at the table. Honestly, Rose, in your condition you should be taking it easy. Pete, for goodness sake, a computer should NOT be on my breakfast table, Torchwood can wait. Do you want juice?"
Rose blinked at her mother, not in a state to keep up with her mum's conversation. She shook her head at the juice, sticking to her inoffensive toast and tea. Despite the fact that they had a live in cook, Jackie liked it to just be the family for the morning meal.
I shouldn't be here. I don't belong here.
"Not again," she muttered to herself.
"Rosie, can I have a story? I have a new one!"
"Sure, sweetheart, you have to finish breakfast though," she warned the blond boy at the end of the table.
"I don't like bananas," he moaned, scowling at the fruit on his plate.
"They taste awful in this reality," she answered. Her parents both froze, looking up waiting, praying that this time...
Her eyes defocused for a second, glazing over, her muscles in her body tightening for less than two seconds. Jackie closed her eyes against the wave of pain as her daughter returned to her food without any indication she'd said a word. She walked over to Tony, and began convincing him to eat, willing the tears not to fall.
"What did you say?" Pete asked. Rose peered at him, confused.
"I told Tony to finish eating."
Pete nodded, abandoning his project, and pulling up his email.
"All done! Story time!"
Rose nodded, and stuffed the last piece of toast into her mouth before following her brother into the lounge.
"I have a new one!" he said proudly, brandishing a pristine book in her direction.
"Let's see then," Rose said, sitting down and allowing him to climb into her lap before she took a look at the cover.
"Little Red Riding Hood. Aren't you a bit old for something that easy?" she asked.
"Nuh-uh. No one's ever too old for fairytales," he replied seriously, causing her to laugh.
"Oh yeah, and who told you that?"
Ah. Another employee trying to gain favour through impressing Tony. That made sense. She couldn't see either of her parents buying this sort of book for him. She had to admit though, it was a lovely edition. The illustration was amazing, if eerie. A little blond child stood facing away from the book, her hair shining like a halo around her. The red of her cape stood out against dark swirls and brambles of the wood. Rose wished she could see the child's face, but before she could ponder it further, Tony whined for the story to begin.
"Okay," she said, opening the page so the both of them could see the words and pictures, "here we go."