A/N: Thank you so much for the comments and support! I really appreciate it. I hope you enjoy the chapter.
Thank you to my lovelies Latessitrice and Lamia.
Rose felt half dead as she made her way through her early morning classes. Thankfully she was done before lunch time, so could escape back to the house. She didn’t feel like doing anything but curling up in bed, napping and then starting on the plan for her next assignment. Dull as it was, she needed the solitude and monotonous events to counter yesterday.
When she entered the house, the phone was ringing. She dumped her bag in the hallway, and ran towards the phone, only to hear her mother’s voice ring across the kitchen.
“Don’t answer it.”
Rose turned around, confused as her mother came towards her.
“Something I should know?” Rose asked.
Jackie shook her head. “I know who it is. No need to talk to them today. Now sweetheart, come and have lunch, you must be starving.”
Rose shook her head, but allowed her mother to lead her into the kitchen.The phone continued to ring, a constant high-pitched chirping that she tried her best to ignore. She stopped Jackie before she rang the bell for the cook.
“I’m really not that hungry, I’ll just grab something later. I’ll have tea though, if you’re making it,” she added as her mother approached the kettle. The phone stopped ringing and Rose breathed a sigh of relief, only for it to startle her when it began ringing again. Jackie started muttering under her breath as she filled the kettle.
“If you’re that desperate to avoid this person, unplug the phone. How long they been calling?” Rose asked. It was already starting to give her a headache, and she couldn’t understand how her mother had dealt with it for any length of time.
Jackie contemplated this. “About eleven. So nearly two hours. I can’t unplug it, Bev’s calling later and it’s important. She’s going to leave a message so I’ll know it’s her.”
Rose rolled her eyes at her mother’s logic. While she waited for her tea, the phone rang three times, the person waiting for the answer machine to click in before hanging up and trying again. Whoever it was was gratingly persistent.
“Could you call Bev or get her to ring your mobile or something? I need a nap, and I really don’t think I can with this racket.”
Jackie acted as if she hadn’t heard. “Here, take these with you. They’ll keep you going, but you need lunch in a little while, Rose.” Rose took the plate of chocolate digestives, knowing it was best to just go with it. Jackie kissed her on the cheek, and she made her way up the stairs, the ring of the phone and her mother’s annoyed exclamation following her up the stairs.
Rose woke up from a dream in which she was being chased by a floating metal creature that turned into a robot at the last second and threw her down the stairs. She awoke just before she hit the ground, waking into white light that dissipated as she was thrust back into consciousness. Dreams that ended in falling always were the worst to wake up from, and this was no exception, her head pounding and her eyes aching as she sat up and looked around her room. She raised her knees to her chin, dipped her head and closed her eyes, willing the headache to stop. It didn’t. It seemed like hours before her mind cleared of pain, and the haze of the dream world faded into the afternoon light.
By her recent dream standards, this was tame. Robots seemed to feature heavily, and she wondered if that was something to do with her little brother. Not that she made a habit of searching his toys, but she couldn’t think of another explanation. Another favourite theme of her mind was being buried alive, thick dark being pressed in on her, down her throat until she awoke with a dry mouth and struggling to breathe. Thankfully, she hadn’t experienced that one in a while. Right after the accident, her dreams mostly were of her sitting in room by herself while she watched everything there shatter and fall to pieces. Glass, wood, colour blurring and breaking in front of her until she was falling again, back into the white light that she’d fallen into this afternoon. It was either white or black she woke up in. Nothing else.
Noticing that it was almost four, she dressed and went down stairs, knowing that if she slept for much longer, her brother would be hammering on her door. As she reached the foot of the stairs, voices reached her ears.
“All day, Pete. All. Day. This has to stop, it isn’t fair on any of us.”
“Well what are we supposed to do? We can’t just shut him out, you know that.”
“I didn’t say that, you know I don’t want to. But maybe it’s not a good idea to leave them alone again. I don’t know what he said to her, but I haven’t seen her like that since...”
“What’s going on?” Rose asked, walking into the kitchen and causing her parents to jump.
“Oh sweetheart, you’re up. Good, let’s get some food in you. Tony’s been asking about you, said you promised to play with him today. Better be ready for it, no use trying on an empty stomach.”
Pete smiled and shook his head she spoke a mile a minute, then checked his watch. “I’d better go check...things,” he finished, causing Jackie to glare, but she didn’t say anything.
Rose sighed and walked into the kitchen, greeting her brother who was still in his school uniform. Before he could say anything further, Jackie took charge.
“You need to change - I’m not having that uniform ruined, those shirts are a nightmare to clean. Your sister needs to eat anyway, so by the time you’re done she’ll be ready to play.”
“Okkaaayy,” Tony yelled, his voice carrying as he raced out of the room and up the stairs.
“Better make sure you eat quickly,” Jackie warned and Rose couldn’t help but laugh. Her family were the best distraction.
“Alright. So who am I being today?” Rose asked as they stood in the grounds, Tony standing a few paces in front of her. Tony contemplated this for a moment.
“You’re the human, I’m the alien.”
Rose nodded sagely. Her brother was obsessed with aliens and space; most of his games involved space travel of some sort. She had no idea where he’d got this obsession from, seeing as her mother scoffed at Star Trek and she couldn’t imagine her father interested in UFO sightings. Perhaps it was his friends at school, or maybe it was just something he’d developed by himself. Either way, he was certainly obsessed. She opened her mouth to ask for direction, when the sound of a car engine interrupted her. She turned to where she could just about see the driveway. She groaned and turned away when a flash of yellow caught her eye.
“Not today,” she muttered, feeling both anger and hurt flash through her before she could stop it.
It’s not meant to be like this.
Whether or not it was meant to be like this, she needed to get a hold of herself. She was spending time with her brother, not focusing on a man or her mind. Her brother was five years old, full of energy and life, the complete opposite of how she felt today. While she would have loved nothing more than to cocoon herself up in lethargy and waste the afternoon away, she couldn’t do that. She recalled his face from the night before, the disappointment and hurt that had crossed his features when she’d not wanted to play with him. If she could make that up to him now by playing whatever he wanted for an hour, then she’d do it, not matter how she was feeling.
“Let’s move down a bit,” Rose suggested, and Tony happily obliged, charging onwards until Rose told him to stop.
“Okay, what sort of alien are you Tony? E.T? All green with a giant head? Purple, stripey, do you change colour?” she asked, playing along with the game.
Tony giggled. “Alien’s aren’t green, Rose. They look like humans on the outside, but are different on the inside.”
“Really? How do you know all this?”
Tony suddenly stopped and stood still for the first time since he’d come home from school. His face took on a strange expression, one that she’d seen when he’d accidentally broken one of the ugly dog ornaments that Jackie adored.
“Please don’t tell Mummy I said that. I’m not meant to tell you.”
Rose frowned. “Tell me what?”
But Tony shook his head, his mouth clamped shut as he returned to the role of secret keeper. Rose sighed, and resigned herself to not knowing. If it had anything to do with aliens, she was sure it didn’t matter too much.
“Alright then Tony, tell me what I have to do.”
Tony giddily launched into a complex explanation of Rose’s role, something about her being an advocate for planet Earth and convincing him not to destroy the planet. It involved lots of running and jumping behind walls, and the occasional stopping to shout ‘surrender!’ or ‘the people of Earth will not give up!’
After what felt like hours to Rose, Tony’s game came to an end, and he allowed the people of earth to live peacefully. Rose bowed dramatically as he clapped.
“I am Rose Tyler, defender of the Earth!” she announced, hating how fake her voice sounded in her own ears. She wasn’t particularly good at being an alien fighter, and didn’t think she was playing her part well. But Tony nodded in agreement, pleased at the title she’d given herself. It was only a few minutes later as the two were making their way back to the house that she felt she could hear another voice whispering in her ear.
Rose Tyler, defender of the Earth.
The voice didn’t stop as she entered the house, just repeating the phrase, smiling to herself unable to place what she was feeling. Her headache returned and she wished it could just stop, leave her alone and let her stay in the dark without her memories. The voice seemed just out of her reach too, a person with no face, name or memory for her, yet despite her wishing it would leave, she wanted to find it. Just like everything else, it was just over the wall her accident created, a wall too high for her to climb over.
Even though she couldn’t see him immediately, she knew John Smith had to be in her house somewhere. She’d seen the awful yellow car, and was sure he would pop up somewhere unexpectedly, like he seemed to be doing a lot recently. Avoiding him would be both an effort and probably a waste of time, so she simply followed her brother through the house, waiting for the inevitable encounter. Sure enough, he was sitting at the kitchen table next to Pete, a cup of tea half drunk and wearing a suit he’d picked yesterday. Jackie was hovering nearby, a look of disapproval on her face, that disappeared when Tony ran to meet her.
“Rose is the defender of the Earth,” he announced.
Rose smiled. “Yup,” she stated, but anything else she could have said was cut off as Dr Smith accidentally knocked over his mug of tea, narrowly avoiding Pete’s laptop as he did. Jackie began to fuss, making loud protestations about the fate of the particularly ugly china mug he’d been using. During the commotion, Rose realised something that had been staring her in the face all along: instead of just waiting for a memory to fall into place by magic, she should have been watching. She tried to ignore how on edge her family and those around her were, skirting around certain subjects and holding their breath for a breakthrough. She’d noticed it with John Smith yesterday, only she’d been too preoccupied with forcing the truth out of him verbally.
They reacted to her. Little things she said, mannerisms and occasional slips they made revealed something hidden to her.
She smiled to herself as she watched Dr Smith mop at the table with a dish cloth Jackie threw in his direction. She had been right. That feeling inside, the nagging voice was a memory. She was the defender of the Earth, whatever that meant. If only she could work out why such a random phrase was entwined with her past...
“Rose, what are you gawking at? Don’t stand in the doorway, either come in or stay out,” Jackie snapped, obviously losing control of the situation in the kitchen and trying to maintain a hold of something.
Deciding it was best to do as she was told, Rose entered the kitchen, deciding to entertain Tony while the rest of the adults sorted out the mess. She was part way through chopping up an apple when John Smith materialised beside her. Or at least, that’s what it seemed like. She needed to pay better attention to her surroundings.
“Rose, can I have a word with you?” His syllables were so rushed together she could barely make out what he was saying.
“You’ve already had more than one,” she replied without thinking, smiling brightly she turned to him, all teeth and brightness. It seemed to put him off for a moment, and she turned away, wondering again why she’d bothered. Although she knew he’d been lying yesterday, she had no desire to have another conversation with him. Apparently flirting didn’t count in her reluctance.
“Yes, you can. What’s up?” she asked, going back to her brother’s fruit.
He shifted awkwardly beside her as she finished slicing.
“I’d prefer...not to do it here.”
Rose put the apple on a plate, turned and handed it to her brother. “Eat it all, or no dessert tonight.”
Tony pouted, and pouted well. Luckily it had no effect. “Be thankful it’s not a banana,” she replied, which worked in getting him to pop the first slice in his mouth, even though he made sure to make a show of how much he hated eating it as he chewed. Rose turned around to see Dr Smith studying her silently, his face impassive and almost bored. She arched an eyebrow. He looked away, putting his hands in his pockets as he did. Rose sighed.
“Outside?” she asked.
A throat cleared behind her, and she turned to see Jackie glaring in her direction, hands on her hips and shoulders set.
“Mum?” Rose asked, unsure of why she was being looked at like she was fifteen again.
Jackie seemed to realise in the same moment that she couldn’t actually forbid her from doing anything, and Rose took the opportunity to swiftly leave the room, calling that she’d be back in a moment. She heard John Smith stumble over words of goodbye before following her through the house and out the front door. She slowed as she did so, waiting for him to catch up. He said nothing at first as they matched their pace together. She could wait.
“I’m sorry for upsetting you. So sorry.” They didn’t look at each other as they continued to walk, but Rose could tell he was both sincere and finding this difficult to say.
Gravel crunched and the yellow car drew nearer. This is wrong, so so wrong echoed with her heartbeat, but there was nothing she could do to change it.
“I shouldn’t have asked really. As you said, I should be trying to remember.” She decided to speak instead of reveling in the knowledge of how different everything should be.
She saw him nod from the corner of her eye, and she had the distinct feeling this should bother her. She turned, waiting for a sign from him, but he was implacable, his face showing nothing at all. She would have to let this one lie. Suddenly he stopped, midway between the car and the house, planting his feet into the gravel as if he were afraid of being dragged even a step further. Rose waited for less than a second, before turning to face him. His body automatically twisted to mirror hers, his suit flapping in the wind.
She inhaled and for a moment she could smell the sea. The wind, and the sun were combined with salt and it hurt, it hurt so much. Her eyes stung and watered, and when she opened her mouth, she could taste the cold sea air. They were miles away from shore, but she was near an ocean, drowning so abruptly that she was sure there could be nothing but water in the air.
Except she inhaled deeply, and choked, proving that there was air and she was nowhere near sea. As she coughed, Dr Smith jerked forward, hands coming up to pat her back awkwardly. He didn’t seem to know if it was alright to just pat her back.
“Are you alright?”
She nodded, and looked at him, aware that his arm was lingering around her back, although he seemed not to be.
“Not sure what happened there,” she said, attempting to laugh it off, and failing when her voice transformed into a cough. He patted her back again.
“It happens. Well, occasionally anyway. Well, perhaps not many people can say they choke on nothing. Well, most people, but there probably is a steady percentage that this sort of thing happens to on a regular...” He trailed off when he saw the look on her face. He seemed in that moment to notice his close proximity to her, and backed away with something between a jump and a hop. His hand automatically went to his hair, a nervous habit that she wanted to strangle him for.
Deciding that the last few minutes had been enough excitement for the two of them, Rose turned and began to walk, glad when he fell into silent step beside her. When they reached the car, and she didn’t know what to do. The conversation seemed to be over, his apology being the driving force for this impromptu walk. Yet the air around her seemed heavy, and her head ached with possibilities. There was more that could be in every step they took together, but she had no idea how to access it. So, before she could lose the feeling, she turned to him, her hair whipping in front of her face as she blocked the car door. It acted like blinds of blond, a layer of protection against his potential to hurt her again.
“I know you lied yesterday. We weren’t nothing. You wouldn’t apologise over nothing, wouldn’t be here over nothing, and certainly wouldn’t be able to hurt me for nothing.”
Her voice and mind seemed to be running away together and leaving her body behind, so she let them. “I’m going to remember. It’s already happening, and when I do, I’ll have the memory of you saying that to me when I asked.” She swallowed, swiping at her shield of hair and allowing him to take a shot, and to see clearly what she’d been aiming at.
He was just as before, stoic and solid. He looked too real, but so at the same time, he wasn’t there at all. She almost thought that if she reached out and touched him, he’d fade through her fingers and melt into the horizon as if he’d never been there.
“Okay,” she whispered, moving past him and practically running back to the house. She couldn’t help but think she’d just crossed a line that her past self would never have dared, actively attempting not only to get a reaction from this man, but to hurt him, just as he’d done to her. And this new self liked it.
- Current Mood:busy