jedi_of_urth: (dw stargazing)
[personal profile] jedi_of_urth
Title: Though Memory Imperfect
Author: [personal profile] jedi_of_urth
Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters/Pairings: The Doctor (John Smith), Rose Tyler (Anne Young), Martha Jones. Doctor/Rose (John/Anne)
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: ~39,000
Summary: HN/FoB AU, when Martha and John Smith arrive in 1913 they encounter the mysterious Anne Young, whose forgotten past is more important than any of them know.
Disclaimer: Doctor Who isn’t mine. And the basic idea of HN/FB isn’t either.
Author's Notes/Warnings: This story as bee a long LONG time coming, but I think I can finally call it finished. I’ll include more on this as we get later in the fic but I hope it came out alright after all that. Includes fictionalized amnesia, and obviously plot points borrowed” from the show. Thanks to [personal profile] got_swagger for betaing.

It hadn’t been very hard, the fake man John Smith had been so absolutely certain that he belonged here that the headmaster had accepted that that was the case. Just walk around like you belong here, the Doctor had instructed Martha once and it seemed to still be working.

There had been nothing Martha could do about the fact that the TARDIS had brought them to 1913; even if she could have, as soon as they’d arrived the ship had powered down and left her with no choice but to follow the Doctor’s instructions.

First she’d had to drag the Doctor out of the TARDIS on her own, then find out where and when they were, and from that find the provisions they would need. She’d found a selection of suits in his size, tweed but otherwise not too different from his usual attire, and for her the best choice was a simple long black dress that wouldn’t be out of place in their new time.

Once the Doctor – no, John Smith – had woken up, he seemed to know they needed to go. She’d called him John Smith as soon as he came to, using the name he had used for himself when they first met, and he had responded as if it always had been his name. It was who he was now, very much not the Doctor as he got up and continued on to his new job, as if there was nothing odd about passing out in barn on the way there.

He’d quickly commanded her to carry their bags; that had been her first sign that he wasn’t even going to treat her with his usual disinterested friendship. And as she struggled to keep up with his unencumbered long strides down the lane he’d talked, lectured really, to her about the new town they were arriving in and said he would make sure she had a position at the school. When she’d asked what sort of position, he said he was sure they would need another maid and he would make sure she had work.

By the time they actually arrived at the school Martha had been in need of a rest, but mainly wondering how that machine had turned the Doctor into such a prat. Then she’d waited while Smith argued with the school secretary and then the headmaster about being expected here while Martha worried even this insane plan wasn’t going to work.

But it had worked and she had to carry the bags to the office Smith had been assigned and then had to unpack his things and make up the room with the help of Jenny Hatlend, another of the servants, before Jenny showed her to her own room.

“I’m sorry but you’ll have to share with Anne,” Jenny apologized as she opened the door to the drafty servants’ room, “she’s new this term too.” Once they were in the room Jenny lowered her voice to a whisper, “Ms. Young is a bit odd,” she confided in Martha. “She was found by Mr. Steinhold this past summer without a bit of clothing or knowledge of who she was,”

Martha gasped slightly, a case like this was barely understood in her own time, here it must be even worse. But it did at least sound like the other woman was functioning in spite of her memory loss, which was a blessing at least.

“Yes,” Jenny continued. “Mr. Steinhold took her in and cared for her and brought her here when he came back to teach. But I thought you should know, her peculiarity puts some people off.” Her tone implied that she did not consider herself on of those people, but Martha had always despised gossips and thought Jenny might well be one.

The room had two narrow beds, each with a trunk at the end. Martha set her bags on the end of the bed that looked less used and then sat down. As accustomed as she was to running places in her travels with the Doctor it had been a long day, and although the bed was uncomfortable and it was just sunset she wanted to sleep. Jenny must have noticed when Martha drifted off because the nest thing Martha knew the other woman was tugging on her hand. “Oh no you don’t, it’s nearly supper time, we’re to be in the kitchens.”

Martha groaned and drew on reserves of stamina she hadn’t used since a particularly draining round of exams three years ago to follow Jenny back down the many flights of stairs and through the rest of the night’s work. She received a lot of glares from people for the things she didn’t know and she was sure she still didn’t commit everything she could have to memory. The servants didn’t get the chance to sit down and eat, so they ate in shifts and Martha kept to herself as much as possible, not wanting to draw attention that might have repercussions at a later time

She was bombarded with so many names and information that her mind, particularly clouded by need for sleep, couldn’t take all of them in. In spite of so many introductions she never met her roommate until she finally made it back to their little room where the other woman sat brushing her long dark-blond hair by lamplight and smiled at Martha as she entered.

“I’m guessing you’re Martha?” she asked easily and Martha yawned as she nodded. “Of course you’re tired,” Anne said quickly, “we can talk later if you want to sleep.”

“Thank you,” was about as much as Martha could mutter as she changed and fell into bed, asleep before Anne even turned down the light.


Mr. Steinhold had told Anne to pay attention to her dreams in case any piece of information about her life before came back to her while she was slept. She was willing to try, even if she didn’t want to count on dream based knowledge; particularly when her dreams were usually a swirl of confusing images that she didn’t have the words to describe even when she could recall them when she woke. But that night one word stayed with her clearly into her waking mind.



Five months earlier

Rose’s mobile was ringing in the passenger seat of her car but she was too focused on driving through the pouring rain to pick it up. Besides, she could guess it was Mickey calling to find out where she was and if he’d spend a minute looking at the files she’d left on her desk he’d be able to figure it out. Yes, she should have waited for him – she knew that – but she’d wanted to get an early start, especially with the rain, and knew he wouldn’t want to. Judging by the fact that he was only calling now, obviously she had guessed right.

If she could only see the small road signs more clearly through the rain she’d be at her destination shortly, but it was slow and wet going. Finally she found the road she was looking for – an old dirt road that was slick mud today so she slowed down even further. Finally as she came around a bend in the road at the bottom of a hill she could see her destination, a fallen old church that the locals had stories about going back decades. It wasn’t the reason she and Mickey had been sent to this part of the country, but when she’d found the reports she’d felt it equally her duty to investigate this question as help in the recovery of some old – possibly alien but probably not – items the local team had found.

Her mobile rang again just as she pulled up in front of the old building and this time she answered it, noting that it was in fact Mickey on the other end. “Why do I always forget that when they say ‘light rain’ we always end up with a mess like this?” she said as she answered the call.

Mickey’s deep laugh answered her. “Would it have made a difference?” he asked.

She shrugged to the empty car, “Don’t know, guess we can’t say. I take it you finally found my notes.”

“Yeah. I should probably see if I can put you on report for this. You can’t keep running off half-cocked like this.”

“I’ve got a phone, a car, and a gun, and I know how to use all of them. There’s probably nothing here anyway, but I thought someone should check it out. Our friends in the North don’t seem to think the old stories are worth looking into.”

“All I see in the photos are some graffiti on the walls and some rather unpleasant looking statues, nothing that really needs looking into. But since you’re already there, do a good check.”

“Will do,” she said, and closed the phone. Nobody at Torchwood, and very few people in the world used earpods any more so they’d taken several steps backwards into the use of mobile phones; they weren’t very sleek but there was no chance (or at least very little chance) of anyone overtaking your brain while you used one.

She stepped out of the car into the pouring rain but made no move to run through it into the building. The rain was fresh and cool as it slid against her skin but her jacket was enough to keep her warm on the short walk inside. Only once she was inside did she shiver, which had nothing to do with the rain or her wet clothes, there was something not right about this place. The roof leaked in places and some of the window panes were missing and the place smelled of disuse. Nobody really came here anymore, and there was certainly no one around now, but Rose felt like she was being watched.

She kept turning around, trying to catch something out of the corner of her eye that might go unnoticed in direct sight. That was the way with things sometimes, you couldn’t actually see them if you were looking for them, but some fraction of sight could pick up on something that otherwise couldn’t be seen. But no matter how she looked or not quite looked it was always only her and the faded painting and crumbling statues.

She never saw the statue move – no one ever sees them move. She felt the brush of a stone hand against the back of her neck and then the TARDIS key she wore on a chain around her neck began to burn. The next moment there was no world around her, only the warmth against her breast.


It was nearly nightfall when Mickey Smith, along with Don Kingsly from the local Torchwood team drove down the slick rain to find Rose’s car parked outside the old church. “Rose!” Mickey called desperately as soon as he leaped out of the car and skidded his way through the mud into the building.

His flashlight beam soon found a pile of clothes in the middle of the empty room and he approached slowly, knowing and fearing what he would find. They were Rose’s, Rose’s mobile, and Rose’s gun all left in the middle of the floor as if she had disappeared out of them.

“Funny,” Don said, having followed at a slightly safer pace, “I could swear this place used to be full of old statues.” Mickey was too shocked to consider the fresh pile of dirt his hand disturbed as he sat down, he was too busy thinking about what they were going to tell Jackie.


The first thing she remembered was darkness, wind, and rain. She was surrounded by tall, looming trees that blocked out the light of the moon.

She ran. With nowhere to run to she simply tried to outrun the fear. She was naked, her feet were bare, and her skin was scratched and battered as she ran over rocks and twigs until she found cover beneath a tree that had fallen over a rock. It wasn’t much protection from the elements but it was enough to breathe a little easier for a moment. She could barely see her own hands as they tried to rub a measure of warmth into her bare arms.

She had to keep running, no matter how much it hurt. She had to find…something. Something more than shelter and clothing and light. She needed all those things, but there was something much more.


“So,” Anne said the next morning as she faced the other way while Martha dressed, “I suppose one of the other girls told you everything they think you need to know about me.”

“I try not to listen to gossip, and anyway they didn’t tell me much,” Martha admitted.

“I don’t think they think there’s much to tell,” Anne said with a mostly-humorless laugh. “Of course there isn’t much to tell if you think about it.”

“You seem to be doing fine,” Martha said without any real conviction and hoped it didn’t show in her voice. “Amnesia’s a tricky thing, but you never know what’s going to happen.” It was on the tip of her tongue to ask how it happened, but that would no doubt be very insensitive so the silence hung between them for a moment.

Another bell rang in the hallway, calling them to their duties and the two young women joined the stream of servants that wound its way down to the kitchens. The kitchen staff was already rushing about preparing morning meals for the students and faculty. Martha thought of her own days at school and university, she had never given much thought to the work that went into the meals she ate. It seemed chaotic down here, but everyone seemed to move easily through it.

One of the cooks, a young man who still looked like he should be in school himself, thrust a tray into her hands. “Here’s Mr. Smith’s breakfast, you remember how to get to his rooms?” He had moved on before she could answer that she wasn’t sure she did, although she may not have admitted it anyway.

By making her way slowly and reading the names on the doors before she could accidentally opened the wrong one a couple times, she found her way to the Doctor’s –Mr. Smith’s – room. His name wasn’t on the door yet but it probably would be soon she figured as she knocked slightly before entering. She wasn’t entirely sure she was supposed to, but she figured it was good form not to walk in unannounced on a man who may not even have woken up yet. Even in the TARDIS, with the proper Doctor, and nearly always finding him in rooms without doors, sometimes she disliked walking in on him unannounced.

John wandered about the room in his dressing gown while Martha poured him a cup of tea and opened the curtains to let in the daylight. By the time he dismissed her, his mind was clear of the feelings his dreams had left him with and he was concentrating on the coming day and continuing to plan his first lessons for classes that would begin in two days. “Oh, and Martha,” he added just as she was about to leave the room, “Steinhold has invited me to take tea with him this afternoon, so you needn’t concern yourself.”

“Of course,” she said with a nod, and then added after a pause long enough that it implied an afterthought, “sir.” John had never been strict about formality between himself and his servants, as long as the necessary duties got done so he did not rebuke her for her oversight. Other members of the faculty may not be as forgiving, but she would learn what she needed to learn he was sure.

He spent the morning updating himself on the school’s past history curriculum and found it decidedly lacking. The afternoon, which he had meant to spend on his own lesson plans, was instead given over the headmaster who continued instructing him in the business of the school. He had met the majority of the faculty informally the day before, but the headmaster felt the need to make formal introductions as well as instructing John in all school expectations.

He did gather several more invitations to afternoon tea, so he would be kept busy for days to come with that. However he was eventually required to make his appointment for tea today so he managed to separate himself from the headmaster and made his way to Steinhold's rooms.

The door was answered by a slightly familiar young woman with light brown hair and brown eyes. The slight familiarity didn’t require thinking about as it was most likely due to having seen her at some point since his arrival, the school was fairly well populated with servants that he had obviously so far not met. She greeted him with a friendly smile and ushered him into the room, and to a seat at the table in front of the fireplace while assuring him that Mr. Steinhold would return shortly.

"Well then I guess you'll have to keep me company," he said coyly.

The young lady smiled again, having a certain coyness in her own manner to match his own. "Of course sir," she said. "And how would you like me to do that?"

"Well you could start with your name," he said. Then, uncomfortable with their current positions added, "And sit down, you don't need to hover like that."

She sat down on the other chair, but didn't relax into it, which was understandable. "My name is Anne," she told him, "Anne Young."

“And tell me something about yourself,” he prompted. “Whatever you like.”

Her smile slipped off her face and she looked away. “There’s not much to tell,” she said and he sensed that she meant more than having lived a simple life.

“Well I’ve lived a frightfully boring life myself,” he offered, “you must have something to say that would be of interest to an easily amused old man.”

She smiled a little, but it was far from the cheerful look she’d worn before and he found himself wishing she would really smile again. “You’re hardly an old man Mr. Smith,” she teased, but still the grin didn’t reach her eyes.

“John,” he said and later would not be able to explain why he had. “I think you should call me John, Anne,” he said her name softly and experimentally himself.

She smiled pleasantly at him and opened her mouth to speak, probably to protest that it was improper but Steinhold opened the door to the room then and interrupted the moment. Although Anne jumped a little at being interrupted at such a time, John did not sense that she was actually frightened of her employer as she set about her tasks of serving the tea. As she did, instead of watching her face for that elusive smile he had been looking for earlier, he watched her hands. They were not the elegant hands of a lady but they looked both soft and strong. He was aware that it was a strange thing to focus on as he held idle chat with Steinhold about his first day in the school, but he could not seem to look away until Anne was gone.

He most certainly did not know why he regretted her leaving so much.


Five months earlier…

The storm quieted in the morning, but the sky above the trees remained a leaden grey. Still she had to move, to find that...something that she needed to find. There was enough light to see clearly so she no longer scrambled blindly, and her terror had calmed enough the she kept her pace controlled, although she still walked as quickly as the dense forest would allow.

It was late afternoon before she found a road, no doubt she had not been moving in a straight line before then, not only weaving her way through the obstacles nature had arranged but because she had no means of ensuring she might keep a clean course. But eventually she had found the road, but she was then faced with a choice of where to go.

The sky near the road was slightly more visible, the trees having been cleared for at least the few feet of the road's width. Finally, deciding that one way must be as good as another since she had nowhere to go, she simply ran along the road. She was conscious of her naked state, but could do nothing about it, and now the well worn dirt of the road clung to her moist skin. Eventually she had to slow her pace, she could not run the entire distance to wherever it was she was headed, as much as she might like to.

Finally, as the slivers of sky changed to red above her and the tree tops, she heard the sound of a horse and cart approaching behind her and she ducked off the road behind a tree. She did not wish to meet a stranger of the road in her current state, no matter how much she would need answers that could only be provided by other people.

The buggy and its driver went straight past her hiding place, but another horse followed shortly after him and she did not hide so quickly. The second rider pulled up and looked towards her in the fading light. "Is there someone there?" he asked the trees.

She had no plans to answer him, but she found she wanted to, in spite of everything, yet wasn't sure she would find her voice if she did. "I can tell there's someone there," he repeated.

"Help me," she found the words to say, and even they sounded uncertain and unfamiliar in her mouth. But she found enough courage and turned to face the stranger. "Please."


"Martha can you tell me where I might find Ms. Young this morning?" John asked Martha before he dismissed her the next morning.

Although he normally didn't notice if his servant-friend responded awkwardly to his inquiries, he did notice that she looked somewhat uncertain about his latest one. "Mr. Smith..."

"Nothing you need worry about," he assured her. "After my tea with Steinhold yesterday I merely want her to know that if she should require an addition opinion on her situation I would be willing to offer mine."

Martha was still perplexed, but he either didn't notice or didn't care. Which really wasn't all that different from his behavior as the Doctor normally she thought ruefully. "I'm sure Mr. Steinhold is doing everything he can for her. In fact she's already told me that she's very grateful for all his help."

"I know that," John said with a shrug. "Still, I find it an interesting puzzle."

"Don't you have enough going on sir?"

"Martha are you going to answer my question or not?" he finally asked.

Martha sighed inwardly, but controlled her response outwardly. "Yes sir, and several of the servants are going to be preparing students' room today, I believe she is going to be on that team as well."

"Thank you," he said, the barest trace of his previous exasperation still evident in his tone. He didn't immediately dismiss her completely but after a moment she understood that she had been none the less and left the room.

John waited nearly an hour before he went in search of Anne. In spite of his explanation to Martha, or perhaps evident in his lack of one, he wasn't completely certain why he so wanted to take a hand in Anne's attempts to rediscover her identity. But ever since Steinhold had explained the situation to him he had been preoccupied.

What could it mean that she didn't remember anything? That wasn't right for someone so clearly able now. There had to be some explanation and something that could be done to fix the situation. He had no doubt it was true, no matter how strange, although Richard had said that some thought she might only be faking her condition. Richard Steinhold didn't believe that, as he'd taken the girl into his home and very near a part of his family, but even one the doctors he had consulted on her behalf thought it might not be a real condition.

When he did finally find the room where Anne was working, along with two other servants, another young woman and a man well into middle age, he wondered if there might have been a better way to approach her about this. He especially wondered if he ought to have reconsidered when it was the other woman who noticed his presence first and asked him briskly what he wanted.

“Well,” he stammered a little and scratched a phantom itch on the back of his neck, “I was looking to have a word with Ms. Young.”

Anne at least didn’t seem all that surprised by his explanation, though the other two did, each in their own way. But Anne seemed almost amused as she approached him, apparently paying even less attention to the others’ looks than he was. He motioned her out into the hallway to escape the looks of frustration and over-interest.

He felt as awkward as a schoolboy himself as the further he got into this the more he realized how little he had thought it through. But when he failed to say anything she prompted him, “What was it you wanted Mr. Smith?”

“I told you to call me John,” he said, his lips arranging themselves into a smile as he did. “Well,” he started, uncertain of the words, “I thought you should know that I know why you...well why you said you didn’t have anything to talk about yesterday.”

“Oh,” was all she said, but her body language said a good deal more.

“And I suppose I wanted to offer my support,” he finished. This had been a bad idea, to corner her like this to bring up something he knew she didn’t want to talk about and now he didn’t know how to help restore her equanimity. “I’ve been giving some thought to situation at hand and...I guess that’s just what I want to say.”

Than phantom itch was back but he resisted the urge to scratch it, his own discomfort with the way this conversation was going must be nothing compared to hers but she still stood frozen. Finally he reached out and laid a hand on her shoulder. “Clearly,” he said with a self-deprecating grin, “I did not give enough thought to how to approach the issue with you.”

She took an unsteady breath but looked up at him, surprising him by also reaching up to grasp the hand that he’d reached out to her, and he didn’t pull away when she did. “It’s alright,” she said squeezing his hand slightly. “And thank you, I suppose.”

“Thank me if, no when, we find any answers,” he quipped but made sure to sound optimistic and was rewarded with her trying to smile through her fading discomfort.

“Well then I hope one day I can thank you Mr. Smith.”

“John,” he reminded her again.

“John,” she agreed.


It was Martha’s first day off in more than a week and she used up the morning of it going to check on the TARDIS. It was important to make sure the hiding place was still secure and hadn’t been found by anyone, be they innocent farmer or alien tracker. The long walk also gave her time to reflect on her current lot in life; from having to be around the Doctor every day without it actually being the Doctor, to the fact that her time-period appropriate shoes were not good for this long walk.

Overall, Martha was frustrated. Mostly she was frustrated by life in 1913; even being here for less than two weeks had been a trial, and it would still be most of the three months before they could leave.

But trying to blend in with the locals was a problem. Her own differences, while certainly noted by the people of this time and place, were not unusual enough that if the Family came here it would give them away. John Smith however, outside of his name, was not behaving normally. Their unexpected arrival at the school hadn’t caused too much of a stir thankfully, but he was getting far too involved with local affairs.

She didn’t think ‘affairs’ was as fitting a word as some people seemed to, at least not yet. Whatever his relationship with Anne Young was, she was sure it wasn’t sexual. There was nothing in either of them discussing the other that indicated to Martha more that respect on Anne’s side; curiosity on Smith’s; and, she would allow, probably friendship on both. In the scant three months they would be here she didn’t think Anne was in terrible danger of having her heart broken; and the Doctor, when he returned and if he still considered himself bound by Smith’s promise to help her, might be able to help the other girl more than John Smith ever could.

That didn’t do anything to quell the rumors about the time they spent together. It was not behavior expected of a man like Mr. Smith so people talked, and talk could attract something much worse than the rumors themselves. If the Family came here, talk of the newest teacher and his supposedly improper relationship with a mysterious servant would be of interest to them.

There was no sign that anyone else had been to near the TARDIS since she and the Doctor left it so she let herself into the ship. She had never felt truly at home in the Doctor’s ship, but compared to the world she found herself in outside now it was positively homey. She also took the time to review his list of things for her to watch out for, mostly just to hear the Doctor’s voice again.

Then she wandered back into the other areas of the TARDIS. If the control room was dimmed and cool, she wished for a torch and a coat a couple times before she found the wardrobe. She found a few things she could smuggle back to the school without anyone noticing their addition and a coat to leave in the consol room in case she needed to come back here again. It was still summer outside so she couldn’t justify wearing one between the school and the TARDIS, but as she intended to be back periodically she ought to acknowledge the ship wasn’t a very hospitable destination right now.

She walked out of the ship only to discover it was raining and dart back in, cursing slightly. By the time she got back to the school she was going to be even more frustrated than she had been when she left.


Five months earlier…

He shielded his eyes to keep from looking at her naked form and asked her what was wrong. “I don’t know,” she said slowly, each word uncertain coming out of her mouth.

The stranger dismounted his horse and removed his own coat to offer it to her. It was light and didn’t fully cover her, but it made it easier for him to look in her direction, as long as he was careful not to look too directly at certain aspects. “Where are you from?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she repeated.

“What’s your name?” he asked slowly, her manner already making him suspect the answer.

She shook her head and finally looked at him as she said again, “I don’t know.”



A man’s voice whispered in her mind calling to her, pulling at her somewhere in her chest.


He called to her across such great a distance that separated them, but she could feel his call like a breath against her skin.


She followed the voice though the darkness, trusting even though she didn’t know where it would lead. He called to her with such longing and need, a love echoed in her own soul.


“Anne?” a voice cut through her dreaming mind, overlapping with the one she heard only in her mind. “Anne, what’s going on?”

She looked up to find herself in John Smith’s doorway facing the man himself in his night clothes, one of his hands in a familiar position on her shoulder and she wondered if she might still be dreaming, because she shouldn’t be here; it was the middle of the night and she had been asleep in her own bed several floors above John’s room.

“How did I get here?” she asked him, her eyes darting about for some clue but she kept coming back to his worried face.

“I was hoping you could tell me,” he said shyly. “You were the one knocking on my door in the middle of the night.”

“Was I?” she said. She could feel herself blushing as he tugged lightly on her shoulder into the room. “I didn’t mean to, I was asleep.” She stopped. She had been asleep, but there was something important she had been trying to do yet now she didn’t remember what it was. Everything she had been dreaming about was gone, and this time she knew it had been important.

It was dark in John’s office with only one window open to let in the night breeze and the rest of the curtains drawn closed. Outside the moon was high in the sky but only about half full so not much light found its way inside. Anne smiled to herself as John left her to sit on his sofa before he started stumbling around trying to find and light candles so they could talk. It barely crossed her mind that she should feel awkward to be alone with a man she hadn’t even known for a month, both of them in their night clothes but even the beginnings of that thought made her blush, which made her grateful for the darkness.

“I should probably just go back to my own room,” she said carefully.

“Oh,” he said, looking up from his fumble-fingered attempts to light a candle himself. “I guess I assumed, since we were both awake we might talk about this. Is this the first time you’ve ever sleep walked? As far as you can remember,” he added, as if she would forget that she could only be sure of any answer if it had happened in the past six months.

“As far as I remember,” she said sadly.

And suddenly John was kneeling before her, his hands framing her face and making sure she looked at him. The pale moonlight reflected in his dark eyes, adding extra light to their intensity. He started to open his mouth to say something but stopped, staring back into her eyes as intently as she looked into his. Neither of them so much as blinked for a long moment, his hands slowly moving from her face down the sides of her neck and arms until they held her own.

One word came into her mind at the feel of his hands clasped onto her own. “Run.

She pulled away in an instant and stood up. “Goodnight John,” she stammered, “I think I’ll just get some air and let you get back to sleep.”

“Anne?” he said uncertainly.

She turned back to him, and saw that he looked hurt by her sudden turn and she realized she couldn’t run. She didn’t want to run from him either; the word had just come into her mind so powerfully that she had acted almost instinctively. She smiled shyly at him, “Would you like to walk with me?” she offered, reaching a hand out to him. She couldn’t stay in here with him right now; whatever the energy between them had been a moment ago it was dangerous, and staying here would be inviting it back.

He smiled himself but then it dropped. “At night? In our nightclothes?”

He did have a good point, but she knew she would not be able to sleep just now and she didn’t want to risk disturbing Martha by going back upstairs. So she smiled daringly, “I’m sure a night out in clear autumn air will not do me any more damage than being naked in the rain before I first met Richard. I mean Mr. Steinhold.” Before they had come to the school she had often addressed her rescuer by his first name, as she had his daughters, but now that they were employed in such separate spheres it was proper to address him with more respect. She still called him Richard in private, but tried not to do so in front of anyone else.

The mention of her running around naked had caused him more shock than her mistake regarding familiarity with her employer, especially in light of the charged moment between them moments earlier. So he felt slightly awkward taking her hand and stepping out of the room. He tried to put the recent memory and the image out of his mind as they walked down to the main floor and out one of the side doors. Using the school’s main doors would have likely attracted attention so he was glad for her forethought.

He didn’t think about how right it felt to hold her hand in his own as they sneaked outside, he just knew that’s what he felt holding her hand. Right, like nothing else in his life felt. Even his dreams didn’t feel this right and there he wore proper shoes and clothing instead of venturing outside in night clothes and stockings.

Eventually Anne sat down on the steps of the veranda and he sat down next to her, as neither of them had let go of the other’s hand yet. “I like to look at the stars when I can’t sleep at night,” she told him, breaking the long standing silence. “I guess it feels less lonely than being up alone. That probably sounds silly.”

“No,” he said, looking up at the stars himself. “No, I do the same thing myself,” he admitted. “You see over there,” he said as he pointed to a point past her in the sky, “there’s the North Star. It’s been a very important star all throughout history, helps people find their way in the desert or at sea, or anywhere they might be lost.”

She turned her head so she was looking at him, and smiled slightly. “Very subtle John,” she teased.

“I’m just saying that I find the night sky to be very comforting,” he said as he met her eyes and felt the energy in the air change again as it had upstairs. “History…” he started. “Well it’s all very interesting. And I’m thinking, I would very much like to kiss you.”

She looked surprised for only a moment before saying, “Then I hope you will.”

He needed no more invitation than that.


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October 2013

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