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 that at the end of the story 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

Past Chapters: Chapter 1 | Chapter 2



Martha sighed as she entered the TARDIS again. It was still undisturbed outside, and the soft sounds of the ship on minimal power were all that greeted her inside. She had come to make sure everything was the same here, but being inside the Doctor’s ship sent a rush on loneliness through her. She was doing her best to get them both through this, but it was hard to do it alone.

She pulled up his instruction message again even though she had most of it memorized by now. “Don’t let me hurt anyone,” he said again, but nothing about how to keep him from getting involved to the point where there was no way to stop people from getting hurt. “Don’t let me eat pears….Make sure we don’t get too far from the TARDIS…Keep out of the other me’s way if we cross my own timeline…If they find us then you know what to do.” Instructions and instructions, but nothing about what to do if he got too involved personally, which was what concerned her now.

As the recording ended she returned the smile that looked out at her from the screen, “I wish you’d come back,” she muttered to herself and the cavernously empty room. “I wish this was all over.”

Dusk was falling as she made her way slowly back to the school and it was mostly dark by the time she got there. Night was coming on quicker as the days got shorter. Fortunately it was fairly dry and though the air was cool it wasn’t so cold Martha had to hurry. It would be another month before they left and by then these walks would be much less pleasant she knew.

The servants mostly ate after the rest of school, and Martha offered to help clean up afterward so it was quite late before she returned to her room and found Anne unpacking the small bag she had taken on her weekend away. Anne greeted Martha a little stiffly, though understandably so considering their last conversation.

Martha sat down on her own bed and worked her shoes off, sighing in relief as she did; this time period was not known for its comfortable footwear. “Do you have anything planned for tonight?” Martha asked conversationally, hoping her roommate wasn’t too tired from the journey so Martha wouldn’t have to call it a night too soon as she wasn’t really tired yet herself. The sudden tension in Anne posture reminded Martha that maybe she should have approached the question a bit differently considering how that question could be interpreted. “Not like that-” she started but Anne cut her off.

“Actually I’m glad you brought it up, even if you didn’t mean to.”

“Oh?”

Anne finally turned around to face Martha. “Yes. I just wanted to say, thank you for worrying about us. And whatever happens I won’t tell him how you feel about him.”

Martha felt her stomach plummet to the floor. Not only had Anne guessed on of the roots behind Martha’s own feelings on the matter, as closely as she could anyway, but it sounded like this was not leading anywhere Martha had wanted. “But…” she prompted. “Obviously there’s a but.”

“Yes. Look, Martha whatever happens is between me and John, not you. I’m sorry you’re in the middle of this secret but we have to work out how we’re going to handle our situation, not you.”

“Everything I told you was true,” Martha reminded her friend. “Including that there’s someone else.”

“Are you sure?” Anne asked. She did sound a bit less confident than she had at first, but far less convinced Martha was right than she had seemed the other day.

“Quite.” She couldn’t quite keep the scorn out of her voice as she said it. “And I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“I know. And I’m glad you’re looking out for me, but I think I need to figure this out on my own. Something John and I need to figure out,” she added as a correction.

Martha sighed heavily. “Why did you believe me then and not now?”

“Because when you said it thought I’d heard him say another name in his sleep and I thought maybe you were right.”

“Rose?” Martha gambled. She wasn’t sure she wanted to be right about it. That would mean that in his dreams he was still thinking like the Doctor, which he probably wasn’t supposed to do. But if that was the case it ought to convince Anne to back off, that Martha knew what she was talking about.

“Yes,” Anne said, obviously surprised by Martha’s knowledge.

Martha scowled and wished she’d been wrong. Oh course he’d end up remembering Rose. But to Anne she continued to press the issue, “See?”

“Then who is she?” Anne demanded. “Who is Rose?”

It was a question Martha had asked herself countless times in the time she had known the Doctor. Who was Rose and what had she meant to the Doctor? Why was she gone and where? Martha didn’t know, she only knew that Rose was the ghost in the TARDIS that seemed to always be between her and the Doctor. But for right now the question was what she could tell Anne that would convince her to leave John Smith alone.

Martha had never been a very good liar, and if she was too specific with what she said in her lie Smith could easily refute it and he’d be telling the truth as far as he knew it. So something like the truth, but that the constructed man couldn’t talk his way out of. “She’s the reason neither of us will ever have him. We’re just distractions to him, it’ll always be Rose in the end.”

That one hurt to say; because it had been the reality she lived with in the TARDIS. A woman she had never met, seemingly never would, but sometimes seemed much more real to the Doctor than Martha herself. She hated it, and sometimes she hated that other woman, and then sometimes wondered if she had ever existed.

Anne seemed to grow resolved as Martha felt weighed down under the confession. The other girl instead started for the door. “Where are you going?” Martha asked her.

“To see what John has to say for himself.” She was gone before Martha could ask whether that meant she was confronting him over it or just going to get his side.

Martha lay down on her bed heavily, her thoughts spinning with whether she had done the right thing, whether it would work and whether it had been for the best. She lay there for a long moment before she got back up, and forgoing her uncomfortable shoes padded down the hall to Jenny and Paulina’s room.

As soon as Jenny opened the door Martha cut to the chase, “I need a drink.”

~~~~~~~~~~

The door to John’s rooms was unlocked when Anne walked in, but he wasn’t inside. She wasn’t sure if it had been intentional on his part in case she returned before him or if he’d simply forgotten to lock it, either seemed likely. Whatever the case the unlocked door meant she didn’t need to invent a reason to linger in the hallway until he returned so it was for the best.

Even without John around, the room felt welcoming somehow, and although she was still on edge she felt calmer being here. She couldn’t sit down and wait patiently though, so she paced around the room instead. Martha had given her a lot to think about, in their conversation days earlier and the one moments ago, but she wasn’t sure what she believed. Martha believed it, or enough of it that it made little difference, but maybe Martha didn’t understand everything.

Anne certainly hoped that was the case, because she wanted to believe John was the man she believed him to be and that Martha was doing what she thought was best. If it was anything other than a misunderstanding on Martha’s part, both of them couldn’t be telling the truth. Martha’s reasons for possibly lying were already visible, but if Martha was right then John could be covering his lies with more lies. It was a mess, and one where she desperately hoped the simplest explanation was the truth, but she couldn’t know.

It was a cool night and the fire was not particularly warm so Anne stopped to feed it more wood. Having done that she grabbed the mantle as she stood up and her fingers accidentally brushed against a pocket watch that sat upon the smooth surface. As she touched its grooved metal case a surge of energy raced through her body and her body’s instinct was to step backwards.

But she didn’t; another, deeper impulse causer her fingers to move forward until she gripped the watch fully. The initial rush faded but the small object still felt warm in her hand as she examined it. She traced the intricate cover etchings lightly; there was something distantly familiar about them although she certainly didn’t know why. Reason might have told her they were simply decorative, but she was too mesmerized by the design to consider that.

Her feet found her way to John’s sofa and she sat down, turning the watch over and over in her hand. The smooth back and edges were at odds with the engravings on the top and finally her finger came to rest against the simple catch that would open the watch. Was there something inside that could produce the warmth she felt from the watch? But how could that create the warm feeling that pulsed through her because she held it?

Before she could steel herself to open the mysterious watch the air in the room shifted and she looked up to find John had entered the room. He smiled at her, and she smiled at him, trying to regain her thoughts that had brought her here so uncertain of their relationship. But the way he smiled at her made it difficult to collect her thoughts on such a matter.

“Hello,” he said simply as he approached her.

“Hello,” she answered. She did set the watch down as she rose to meet him, and instantly missed the warm connection she had felt with the mysterious object.

“What’s wrong?” John asked.

“What?”

“You just seemed troubled by something,” he said as he reached out for her hand.

When his hand clasped hers it felt like an echo of the sensation she had felt from the watch. “It’s nothing,” she said as she stepped closer to him, “just a bit of a headache.” Between her troubled thoughts from talking to Martha and her unexplainable reaction to a pocket watch her head was swirling, but John felt like an anchor in the confusion. He shouldn’t be, seeing as he was part of the problem, but he was.

Unaware of her jumbled thoughts he squeezed her hand and then pulled her along over to his desk. “There’s something I want to show you.” He reached out and picked up a small journal. He opened it to the first page as he handed it to her so she could read the title, Journal of Impossible Things, written in John’s neat handwriting.

“With you away I did not sleep easily,” he told her seriously, “so I decided to start writing down some of the dreams I’ve had of late.”

She couldn’t help smiling at him as she turned the first page. Martha must be mistaken or wrong, or potentially lying, because John was far too earnest to be misleading her in this. On the first pages John had drawn faces of ten men, only the last recognizable as it was him.

“The Doctor, that’s what I call the character in my dreams, changes his face sometimes,” John explained, “but sometimes it’s me as you can see.”

The next pages were simply notes so Anne turned on, interested more in John’s newly revealed artistic skill. But the page after that there was a small picture in the corner that caught her eye. It was a slightly smudged drawing in the same blue-black ink as the rest of the journal she had seen, but in her mind’s eye she could see the clear blue box as if it sprang off the page.

“That’s the Doctor’s magic box,” John explained, reminding Anne dimly of the story she had told Lily and Lucy only days earlier, “it’s always there. It’s like a magic carpet I guess, goes anywhere, but it just looks like a box.”

She trailed a finger over the illustration again before turning the page onward. “Is this the inside?” she asked when there were pieces of artwork that showed what looked like controls that she could image controlling the traveling box.

“Exactly,” he said excitedly. “I don’t understand why but it all fits inside the box.”

“Well it’s magic,” she supplied with a smile.

There was more writing on the following pages, John’s handwriting having grown noticeably less neat as he continued with his writing. “You were quite busy while I was gone,” Anne pointed out. And then she stopped when she turned the page and saw her own face looking back at her.

It wasn’t her exactly though. In the drawing her hair was shorter and straighter so it framed her face differently than it actually did; and John had added more definition to her features than she saw in her own reflection. But it was still unmistakably meant to be her.

But next to the picture, among the words written all around the drawing, she saw the word Perfect Rose.

“John-” she started but he interrupted her.

“Are you surprised you’re in my dreams?” he asked.

“Then why does it say Rose?”

He shrugged as if it was nothing, but then he didn’t know how much his answer could change things. “That’s what I call the you in my dreams. Or I suppose what the Doctor calls the you in my dreams. It’s a good name isn’t it?”

“I suppose,” she said, not entirely relieved of her worries. He raised an eyebrow at her hesitance, inviting her to continue. “John, I’m not her,” she blurted.

“But you are,” he explained as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “I mean, yes, it’s only a dream so it’s not real. But if in my dreams I’ve taken to calling myself ‘the Doctor’ it makes sense I wouldn’t be calling you Anne there, right?”

Anne studied his earnest face and then down at his drawing and writing. She couldn’t doubt his honesty, and he made no effort to hide anything about his thoughts from her. She was going to have to trust he was right and the drams were just dreams of fantastic adventures. “I guess it doesn’t matter what he calls her,” she said, gaining confidence again as she spoke, “as long it’s me that’s with you.” They were standing close enough to each other that she could feel him tense up at her words. “What?” she demanded.

His eyes didn’t move to her but remained fixed on the drawing in the book. “She is you,” he explained slowly. “But in my dreams I – he – loses you – her. She’s gone…” he stopped, clearly unable to finish the thought so he turned to her. “I won’t let it happen outside of the dreams though, I promise you.”

“I believe you,” she said. Martha’s claims were just the first trial they would have to face as people learned about their relationship, but she believed that they would come through the struggles together.

~~~~~~~~~~

It was only against the rules for students to have alcohol of school property, but everyone knew that the servant staff had best not be seen with any alcohol they had. Most of them though had a supply of their own drink of choice, and even the headmaster probably knew that; but as long as they kept it out of sight nothing was said. But even in an environment where the majority of servants kept a collection of spirits, Jenny and Paulina usually had one of the largest collections.

Usually that was; but the one time Martha came to them expecting a drink they only had enough for a couple rounds. So while Paulina went to find someone willing to share or fetch them more liquor it left Martha and Jenny alone. Being alone with nothing else going on reminded Martha why, even though she liked Jenny, she found it difficult to be friends with the other woman.

“Who do you think she’s going to ask?” Jenny asked as soon as her roommate left, and her tone implied that she had an expectation for who it would be. Martha shrugged, not aware of any gossip she was sure Jenny was dying to spread. “I’ve heard she’s been seen with Baines,” Jenny added gleefully.

“Baines? The student?” Martha asked incredulously. She shook her head. “I don’t believe you.”

“Cook told me.” As if that made any difference; the school’s cook, who everyone called ‘Cook’ because no one seemed to know her real name, tended to imagine things and sometimes forget to include that detail when she told her stories to someone else.

“You’re getting your news from Cook now are you?” Martha teased, hoping to divert this conversation sooner rather than later. “And besides, even though Baines is an idiot Paulina isn’t, and she’s the one that would be hurt.” Fraternization between servants and students of any kind was completely against the rules Martha knew, and it would certainly be the woman and servant who took the hardest fall for breaking that rule when it happened. Servants and teachers was only slightly more allowed, a thought Martha pushed away as soon as it came to her. She was here to relax and put those worries out of her mind.

Jenny laughed then. “Baines is an idiot isn’t he? Can’t imagine what she would see in him.”

Martha laughed too, although hers was still tinged with her own thoughts. “That’s why it’s so preposterous.”

Before either of them could say anything else there was a flash of light outside the large window that dominated one wall of the room. Jenny cooed about the bright shooting star as they watched it disappear into the distance, but Martha wished she could find a reason to chase it and make sure it wasn’t something more ominous.

~~~~~~~~~~

John’s rooms faced almost due east so his windows caught the first rays of red dawn light. His dreams had been full of golden light, but it had been a good dream. Sleeping beside Anne seemed to help keep the darker dreams away. That was only one of the benefits he had discovered in the two nights, truthfully night and a half even, they had spent together.

Waking up beside the woman he loved was another. Although he wished she’d already been awake so they could enjoy more of the main benefit of their new relationship. He very much hoped she woke up soon enough for that, as waking up with her naked body twined together with his had a very expected reaction in him.

He hadn’t intended to wake her, but his shifting to try and relieve some of his tension roused her. Her eyes were still half lidded when she nudged him with her leg, coyly letting him know she knew what he wanted. He couldn’t resist smiling at her just as she looked at him with a wide grin. He’d seen that grin in his dreams before he’d seen it in the waking world; a confident, fun-loving smile that was somehow more Rose than Anne as most people knew her. He supposed it was strange that he had foreseen that look from her, and he might have wondered at it if she hadn’t rolled to straddle him and driven all other thoughts from his mind.

As they moved together outside the sun rose higher into the sky and just at the moment of shared ecstasy the light had advanced far enough to shine golden light over Anne. And though John called out Anne’s name in passion, a corner of his mind called out Rose just as desperately.

Spent, again, Anne collapsed against John’s chest. He would have given just about anything to remain in this position all day, but soon demands outside of them would enter the picture again.

Anne clearly had the same thought. “I can’t stay much longer I suppose,” she said, her tone leaving no doubt that she very much wished she could.

“I do hope that one day soon we won’t have to hide anything.”

“Me too,” she muttered, and John’s heart started pounding hard again, and not with post-coital joy. Of course Anne noticed, as she was in a good position to feel his heartbeat. “What is it?” It wasn’t quite a demand, but it was certainly more than a request.

“It just, what I said, well,” he was babbling, he did that more often than he should, especially with something this important. “Of course, well, not that I was saying it exactly; not that I’m not saying it that is. What I guess I’m getting at, and remember this isn’t something I meant to bring up now; is that well, the only way we wouldn’t have to hide anything is, well, if we were, you know, married. Not that you have to answer, or that I was even asking; haven’t really thought of it even.”

She looked at him in shock and he was about to launch into more babble to fill the silence when there was a knock at the door. “For God’s sake Martha, come back later!” he bellowed. He couldn’t tell what happened outside the door, but she didn’t knock again right away. “Anne,” he said lowering his voice back to an intimate level. “I only meant what I said the way I said it, it was only after I said it that I realized what it was.”

“But you do want that?” she asked, her face and tone unreadable.

“One day,” he said quickly, then decided he needed to say more. “Anne, I love you, and you love me, it’s what people who love each other do eventually.”

She didn’t answer right away but she did snuggle back down against him. He was pretty sure that was a good sign, but she also knew as well as he did that she couldn’t stay there long so he wasn’t sure what she was leading to. After a minute he very much wanted to fill the silence, but resisted the urge, since she was obviously still thinking.

Finally she looked up at him. “Eventually,” she said significantly, “but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just now.”

He couldn’t help it, he chuckled. “A lot of people would say we’d already jumped pretty far.”

That got a smile out of her, though not as broad a one as he would have liked, as she sat up and started moving to collect her clothes. After a moment to pull his dressing gown on he followed her and reached for her hand. “Anne, I’m not jumping, but how about a step? There’s a dance in the village next week, would you like to go with me?”

Her smile that time was as genuine as he had hoped. “I can do a step. Though I don’t remember ever dancing before, I don’t know if I’ll be any good.”

“I don’t mind,” he said, caressing her hand slightly. “I just want to be able to hold you in public. Though I warn you, I may never want to let you go.”

She grinned again. Then there was another knock at the door and she grimaced as she pulled away from him. For the first time John looked at the clock and realized it was still early for Martha and his breakfast tray. “Yes, Martha?” he called.

“Yes Mr. Smith,” Martha replied, her tone strained. “I thought you would want me to wake you early today,” she added.

John sighed. Things with Martha had been strange ever since they had come here, and this wasn’t going to help anything. He looked back at Anne as she finished dressing. “You’ll come tonight?” he asked.

“You have to teach me to dance,” she said coyly.

He blinked, slightly dumbfounded as she headed for the door. He was not too dumbfounded to notice the intense look that passed between Anne and Martha at the doorway; anger and hurt on Martha’s side, defiance on Anne’s. “Thank you for your consideration Martha,” John said, to break the tension and to legitimately thank her for understanding his needs in dealing with his new relationship.

Martha turned away from Anne, but she wouldn’t look at John either. In the past she’d always been more forward than most servants, but this morning she wasn’t and he found that strange. He could believe she was still awkward about his relationship with Anne, but he wasn’t sure that was enough to explain the change in Martha.

With all the other problems at the moment, at least Martha could be somewhat comforted that Smith didn’t notice that she was hung over.

~~~~~~~~~~

As so often happened when someone needed supplies retrieved, Anne was sent out to retrieve them. She hardly ever minded unless it was raining, and even then there was a certain thrill to trekking through the wet outdoors. This morning however was a brisk and clear autumn day so she was quite content to be sent out to see if they could acquire extra apples.

Plus it gave her a chance to think clearly about the night before. Martha had lied to her, repeatedly, that John was on love with some woman called Rose, but Rose was only a fantasy. Anne thought that was strange, but she couldn’t be sure, and she had no one to talk to about what it might mean who wasn’t directly involved. Of course there was Richard, but she felt awkward enough having him know about her secret relationship, she wasn’t quite ready to talk to him about it any beyond than that.

After a wonderful night of lovemaking and sleeping in her love’s arms and waking up to more lovemaking there had been that very interesting conversation. That was the part she really needed to think about, it had just been so unexpected. He wanted to marry her; eventually he’d said, but still she felt it was very soon to talk about that.

What did she know of marriage? Or of relationships at all? She knew that most people would have a problem with what they were doing now, but it was what made sense to her. She wanted to be with John, she didn’t want to label it, she loved him and he loved her, and for her that was enough. Eventually, as he said, maybe she’d be ready to label it, but she didn’t need or want that now.

Anne shook her head. She may only have a few months of memories she was sure of but she was pretty sure that wasn’t the way most people thought. Not here at least, and she couldn’t really come from someplace that different could she? If she did, then how could she have ended up where she did?

The walk gave her time to think but it wasn’t helping her come to any conclusions. And eventually she was going to have to focus on something besides her confused thoughts and feelings.

She had taken the route that took her out by Turner’s Fields; she didn’t often go that direction, but old man Turner had some ages old deal with the school that they would come to him first for certain fruits and so she had to go there on this trip. There was no answer when she knocked at the house or the main barn and he wasn’t within sight of the buildings. She wondered if it was better to wait for him or try to find him. In truth Anne wasn’t very good at waiting, so she followed one of the better worn tracks back into the trees.

But at the first bend in the path, she stopped. The well-worn path curved gently to the left, but there was an older track that veered off into a ravine and near the bottom she could see an old out-building. Most likely, if Mr. Turner was to be found it would be along the well-used path, but there was no harm in making sure he wasn’t inside the old structure.

The aged wooden door to the shed was rotted and stuck a bit as she pushed it open. Inside the room was dark and damp, and lit primarily by light through a large hole in the roof. But what instantly captured her attention from those details was the great blue box. It drove all her other confused thoughts from her mind.

The same one that John had drawn from his dreams. The same one she had nearly seen in her mind as she told a story she had known without knowing how she could. She should run back to the school and find John. He should see that the magic box he had drawn was real.

She was curios and adventurous now though. If it was real, then what else was real? The great inside of the box he had drawn perhaps, too large for the space it took up on the outside? She took a deep breath as she reached out for the knob on the box’s door.

As she touched the mysterious box she felt a warmth flow through her, much as she had when she held John’s watch the night before. But from this the feeling collected in the center of her chest, and spread outward as she pushed open the wooden door. She stepped into the cavernous green lit room and smiled as she closed the doors behind her.

“I came back,” she whispered to herself and the empty TARDIS.

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October 2013

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