jedi_of_urth: (dw happy)
[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 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4



John jumped up to position himself between Rose and Jenny, and Rose used the moment of cover to stash the watch out of sight. The last thing she wanted to do was let go of the Doctor’s presence in her hand, but she knew she had to right now.

“What do you think you’re doing young lady?” John demanded. It was easy to think of him as John when he talked like that, it didn’t sound much like the Doctor.

But John was the Doctor, even if he didn’t know it, and Rose had always fought him when he tried to put himself in danger to protect her. So she stood up next to him so she could clearly see what was happening and have room to act. John had certainly never taken hand-to-hand combat classes with Torchwood. He taught fire arms training sometimes – which seemed so wrong now that she didn’t even want to think about it – but they weren’t armed, unfortunately.

Jenny was sniffing at them, but hadn’t said anything yet. “You don’t have to hurt anyone,” John said slowly, filling the silence with platitudes.

“Where did he go?” Jenny asked, the gun still leveled on the two of them.

“It’s only us here. Whoever you’re looking for, this isn’t the way to find them.”

“He was here. Now...” she smelled the air again, more deeply this time, “there’s only a trace.”

“There was nobody else here,” John told her. Rose was a bit amazed by his calm, he had probably seen enough already tonight to just start rolling with it. “Just Miss Young and I, and you don’t want to hurt us over some figment of your imagination.”

Rose stiffened a little at using that phrase; Jenny was under some influence that probably wouldn’t take any more kindly to being accused of making things up than Rose had. Whether because of the change in Rose’s demeanor or another reason, Jenny’s focus leveled on her. “You were supposed to lead us to him. Where is he?”

“What?” she demanded. “You were using me as some kind of Doctor tracker?” Now she was angry, though whether she was angrier at them for using her like that or at herself for doing it she didn’t have the time to decide. “What do you want with him? What are you trying to do?” She used the anger to justify a small movement and edge into a better path with Jenny and away from the Doctor.

“You’re afraid,” Jenny said with a smirk and another meaningful sniff of the air.

“You’re pointing a strange weapon at her,” John remarked, fear evident in his own voice, but for a moment there was a small sarcastic bite to it that reminded Rose of the Doctor.

“Tell me!” Rose shouted at Jenny.

Jenny didn’t answer, just kept the alien gun trained on Rose for a long moment. Until John broke the silence, “I know the answer.”

“What?” Rose and Jenny both gasped as they turned to look at him. But Rose’s combat training kicked in easily and she quickly took advantage of the other woman’s greater distraction or lack of familiarity with her stolen body and grabbed for her gun hand, twisting it until Jenny lost her grip and released the weapon.

That taken care of Rose could grapple both of Jenny’s arms into submission and stomp on her opponent’s foot to further subdue any resistance. “Find something to tie her up with,” she commanded John as she fought to keep a hold of the possessed woman.

“Like what?” he asked.

“Anything, I’m not going to be able to hold her for long. Grab a belt if you can’t think of anything else.”

That turned out to be as good as he could do with limited time, so they used a couple of belts to secure Jenny’s arms and legs, and shoved a literal sock in her mouth to keep her quiet while they figured out what to do next. Rose picked up the gun before truly facing John again and found him staring at the still struggling Jenny. He looked frightened and uncertain, but she doubted she had time to get into another round with him.

So she took his hand and pressed Jenny’s gun into it. “I’m going to go borrow some things from Richard,” she explained. “Make sure she doesn’t go anywhere.”

He nodded numbly so she squeezed his hand again before letting go. She wished they had more time, but Jenny had said ‘us’ when she mentioned they had used Rose as a Doctor finder, that meant there were others. So she hurried down the hallways until she reached Richard’s rooms and let herself in.

She wasn’t exactly surprised to find the man himself seated at his desk reading a large book, but she had been hoping he wouldn’t be so she wouldn’t need to explain things to him. “Anne, thank God you’re alright,” he said as he quickly crossed the room towards her. “They said you were missing most of the day.”

“I suppose I was,” she admitted. If she had returned to a calm situation she would have felt bad for worrying people during the day, but the situation had advanced far beyond her not being able to easily account for a few extra hours she’d been unaccounted for.

“That’s not like you,” he chided her slightly.

The memory of her mother waiting a year for her without any idea what had happened, and that she was probably doing it again now, told Rose that it really kind of was like her in fact. “I’m sorry,” she said, only slightly apologizing for worrying him, the rest was for what was about to happen. “But right now Richard, I need your help with something big, and don’t ask too many questions until I’m sure we’ve got it under control.”

He looked at her quizzically while she went over to his desk and opened the bottom left drawer where she knew he kept some odds and ends, as well as the box with his personal gun in it. “Anne, what’s going on?” he asked as she pulled out a long length of rope and then the gun box.

“First of all, that’s a question,” she pointed out. She looked up and met his gaze before continuing, “Secondly, it’s not really Anne, it’s Rose actually. So I guess, it’s a pleasure to meet you again,” she joked.

His eyes widened with astonishment. “You remembered?”

“Yes. It also turns out I had a reason to worry about what I might remember. But I did, with a little help. And just in time to try and save the world again.”

~~~~~~~~~~

John never took his eyes off the struggling young woman he had been left to watch. She was turned away from him but he still worried she might know how small a portion of his attention was really on her. He was really thinking about Anne – or Rose as he supposed he should start calling her – and everything they had talked about before they had been interrupted.

He wasn’t real, that’s what it came down to. She claimed that all the dreams, the good ones and nightmares, were his real life. His life when he wasn’t John Smith, but the Doctor. How could he really be that kind of man?

If anyone else had told him that he wouldn’t have even listened, but this was Anne; or, as it increasingly appeared he must accept, Rose. He hadn’t even believed her until he touched that pocket watch and seen so many things. It was like the dreams, but much more concentrated and he knew that she had been telling the truth, and he knew what would happen if he opened the watch. He knew they would come for him, but that he would be whole again when they did.

They had come even though he hadn’t opened it, even though he didn’t want to. They were here, and they would keep searching until they found out the truth or he was forced to surrender. Even if they hadn’t come, one day he still would have been forced to give the Doctor back his form because John Smith didn’t exist.

Neither did Anne Young. The woman he loved was no more real than he was. It wasn’t fair to call Rose a stranger, but he felt like he didn’t know her anymore. He’d wanted her to remember who she was, but he could never have predicted this outcome; how could he have?

He knew Anne had to have a lot of strength and courage to deal with what had happened to her, but he would never have entertained the idea that she would be able to fight the way she had. She’d fought him over whether or not he was really the Doctor, but that was different; not at all the same as staring down a mad woman with some insane weapon. She acted like she did that every day, and given even the small number of memories he had gained from the Doctor, he believed they probably did do that kind of thing a lot.

That morning John Smith and Anne Young had woken up together, and made love in the rising sun; they had talked about their future as if they had all the time in the world. As if there was “one day” and “eventually” for them that they could consider as it happened. During the day he had worried what she thought of his remarks and how people would react when they stepped out to the dance together the next week.

That morning they hadn’t known that by the end of the day they would both be entirely new people who worried about the lives and fates of planets. He would not, could not, deny her if she asked him to open the watch now and it was clearly what she wanted.

And it was what he wanted. Anne had become a stranger to John, but at the same time she was the woman the Doctor loved desperately. The woman he had lost and who had impossibly come back and he wanted to see her and touch her and be with her again. He wanted to take away John’s chance to do those things. To discover if Rose was still the woman he knew and loved when she had been called Anne.

Jenny thrashed violently then, trying to free herself from her bonds. “Stop it,” he warned her, but his voice had no bite to it. Still, his hand tightened around the gun in his hand, a gun made of some alien metal in an alien design, no doubt meat to be carried by aliens. Aliens like him. Whatever Jenny had become she was part of what was happening to him, part of the fact that he would lose his chance to live this life. Was it so wrong to consider how things might change if he simply took action now?

“John?” Anne’s voice interrupted his momentary thought. He turned to find her entering the room followed by Richard Steinhold. His eyes flicked back to Anne but she wouldn’t meet his gaze as she moved to tie Jenny up with rope this time, so he looked to Steinhold only to find the other man staring in shock at what was happening. Instinct told John that the other man really was just the man who found her wandering in the forest and took her into his care, he was no more a part of Rose and the Doctor’s terrifying existence than John was.

Once Rose was apparently satisfied with immobilizing Jenny she finally looked at John directly, but only for a moment before she looked away shyly. “I though Richard could keep an eye on her while we finish what we were talking about.”

John nodded numbly; no matter how terrified he was, there was no escaping what was about to happen it seemed. She was pushing him, and the part of him that was the Doctor inside his own mind was pushing him, and the events around them were pushing him to do what needed to be done. Anne retrieved that damned watch from the sofa cushions, and while it made her smile to herself again it made the captive Jenny sniff the air loudly.

The noise brought Anne back to the prisoner. “You can smell it?” she asked. “But only when we have it. It’s not enough on its own. Did I do this?” she asked the watch as if it would answer, and maybe it could. “When I found the watch last night, did I bring them here?”

There were tears in the corners of her eyes then, so John did the only thing he could do, he crossed the room and took her in his arms, although he was careful not to touch the watch again. They stayed still for a long moment before he moved back and took her hand that wasn’t holding the watch. “Come on, we might as well get on with it.”

“Richard, just don’t let her go,” she said as John started to pull her towards the door. “I know you have no idea what’s going on, but trust me on this.” A small sad smile played at her lips as the last words left her mouth but she didn’t elaborate on why. Finally she put the watch in the pocket of dress, held her head high and walked with John out of the room.

They walked down the hallway hand in hand. He had imagined the day when they wouldn’t have to be afraid of the world knowing all that they were to each other, and he wasn’t afraid of it now. He was too grateful for her touch keeping him grounded as they walked towards Steinhold’s office. The short walk felt like the longest of his life, a condemned man going to his fate, but at least he was finally free of caring what the world thought of his choices in love.

Once they had reached the other man’s chambers, Anne sat him down in one of the chairs by the fire. Just as she had the day the day they met, he reflected; and smiled sadly at the thought. Even thought she had been a stranger to him that day it hadn’t felt like it; as if they already had some unspoken connection. It had seemed romantic when he’d thought about it of late, fond of the idea that they had just known they would be more to each other. And that was true, even the day the met, they already were so much more than strangers.

She placed the watch on the table between them then, and he stared at it rather than her. “Are you ready?” she asked after a long moment.

He shook his head no, how could he ever be ready?

“But you believe me?” It was a question that should have been a statement; she had to know he had no choice now but to believe this wild story.

He nodded. Then there was another long moment of stretched silence. “Anne…” he looked up just in time to see her react slightly to the use of that name. “Rose,” he tried, but to him it didn’t feel natural. “Why did he do this?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I wasn’t there.”

He nodded again and looked back at the watch. “I’m afraid,” he said in a whisper. He shouldn’t admit that, but he knew she’d understand.

“You can’t be afraid of remembering who you are,” she advised him. “Richard tried to tell me that but it wasn’t until I remembered that I knew how right he was. I understand what you’re afraid of,” she said, reaching out for his hand again across the small table. “But it’s a fantastic life once you remember it.”

“Tell me about it?” he asked quietly. So much of what he could see terrified him, and the thought of remembering it as more than dreams was hard to take in. “Tell me who I really am?”

“You are him,” she stressed. “You’re kind, and good, and always convinced you’re right, even and maybe especially when you’re not,” she said with a grin. “You’re a wonderful man, and I know you love me even though you can’t seem to ever say it, I see it everything you do.” That part sounded sad even though she obviously tried not to let it show too much. “You’re a brave man who’s willing to do whatever it takes to save other people.”

“I’m not…” he started but she interrupted him.

“Yes you are. If you weren’t you wouldn’t be here, willing to go through with this in order to stop these people. You know it has to be done and you’re willing to do it because it’s who you are; that didn’t change just because you don’t remember it.

He gripped her hand then, and reached the other out to stroke her face. “I do love you,” he whispered, “whoever we are, that much remains.”

He wanted to kiss her, one last time but he didn’t, because she kissed him first. It was only the lightest pressure of lips against lips; it was a goodbye that wasn’t really goodbye; and a promise that when it was hello and not goodbye it would be more.

“Are you ready?” she asked again, her breath warm against his face.

“As much as I can be. As long as you’re here.”

“As if you could ever get rid of me.”

He was starting to get the sneaking suspicion that that was very much the truth.

~~~~~~~~~~

Martha was still huddled on the floor trying to decide if trying to stand would be too big a mistake, and if she tried it what she could do after that difficult first step. But now she also had a gun pointed at her that was held by the possessed child, the gun seemed gigantic in the girl’s small hand and from Martha’s perspective looking up at her. “Your little friends have captured Mother of Mine,” she informed Martha with icy rage.

Martha’s heart leapt. If the Doctor could still hold on even without remembering maybe there was hope. But then it didn’t sound like they’d tried very hard yet, she couldn’t stop herself from thinking, and they were likely to come at him much harder next time. She could only image what he was thinking now, not knowing why some woman he’d probably never met had just attacked him.

At least they didn’t have him yet. Maybe they were even tracking the wrong person, although Martha didn’t really believe that even in her own mind. She had to hope, but she wasn’t very optimistic. “I can’t help you if you kill me,” Martha said with her voice shaking. This wasn’t the same as other times she’d been captured on her adventures with the Doctor, this time he wasn’t coming for her, he wasn’t even in there to try.

“I don’t think you intend to help us at all,” the older man pointed out.

He was right, but she needed to find a way to make him think she might help them in some way. “They’ll probably kill her if you kill me.” The Doctor wouldn’t, but who was to say about John Smith? And what mattered was that the Family believed it.

She had said “they” without thinking about it, but the girl had said her “friends” captured the mother of the Family – who else was part of it? If Anne had managed to make her way back to the school then probably her, Martha thought with a mental scowl; Anne hadn’t even needed rescuing and Martha had still ended up captured by these maniacs. Smith could keep his little girlfriend, soon enough he’d have to be the Doctor again and everything would be better.

The girl looked at the man she called her father, and seemed to be weighing the options. Then they both closed their eyes slightly and after another moment he began to smile while the child looked back at Martha steadying her grip on the gun. “The girl picked something up and Mother of Mine smells the scent of the Time Lord again.”

“What?” Martha gasped. That didn’t make sense; if they couldn’t smell out the watch why would it be different if someone held it? And it wasn’t even him holding it, which might have made some sense.

“The girl did smell strange, but not enough to be the Time Lord,” the man said in a puzzled tone.

“Mother and Brother of Mine remembered the girl, they said she was very peculiar. Even the humans think so.” That settled that it was almost certainly Anne they meant by ‘the girl’, and in another time Martha might have felt vindicated that her worries about Smith being involved with Anne had led to problems for the Doctor.

But a very different idea came to Martha then, at least it might buy some more time. “You leave her alone,” she commanded her captors, sounding as distressed as possible.

“Oh, and why is she important to you?” the man asked.

Forgive me, Martha thought to Anne and the universe. “You know why,” she said, letting her voice waver slightly. “And if you don’t I’m not telling you.”

Both the man and the girl sniffed at her. After another pause the girl filled in the idea Martha wanted her to guess, “Because the girl is the Doctor isn’t she?”

~~~~~~~~~~

Rose tried her best to keep holding onto the Doctor’s hand as he writhed on the floor, but sometimes he would thrash in a way that caught her off guard and she would lose her grip. In his other hand he gripped to open pocket watch the glowed as bright as the sun as it worked to restore the Doctor to his own self. It reminded Rose uncomfortably of the way he had glowed when he regenerated, and she hoped this went more smoothly. “Hold on,” she whispered. “It’ll be alright; I’m right here.” It was among various words and sounds of encouragement and she had no idea if he even heard her, but she stayed with him until the shaking slowed and then stopped. The glow from the watch dimmed and went out, but now he was so very still.

She squeezed his hand then, and felt him squeeze back; not a shaken, panicked grip the way he had for the last few minutes, but as a real response to her touch.

Finally his eyes opened and sought hers, and she didn’t look away in the slightest. Instead she smiled, a smile so broad it stretched her whole face into the expression. “Hello,” she whispered.

He smiled back, and she knew it was really him in there now, because while John smiled more she’d never seen him smile like that. That was the Doctor’s smile she knew. “Hello,” he said back. The words were the same, as if they’d just been reunited after an adventure that had meant a little too much danger for either of their peace of mind, but nothing beyond the words said that. Everything this reunion really was could be seen on their faces. This reunion had come against odds more impossible than they had ever faced before, but here they were, together again.

“I’ve missed you,” he said softly. She could hear in the way he said it that that was quite possibly the understatement of all time, and it made her feel a little guilty. She’d missed him like crazy, she never really given up on the idea that he would be proven wrong about how impossible it was, but she’d gone on. She made friends with her parents’ high society groups, she’d played baby games with her little brother, she gone out to the pub with Mickey and Jake on nights when she needed a break. She’d started a new career with Torchwood, saved the world a few times, and managed to from time to time convince herself that living in the moment was better than reaching for the past she’d lost.

But with three softly spoken words, she knew how alone he had been without her. So she pulled him into a sitting position and threw her arms around him and felt him embrace her back with what she though was more desperation than he ever had before. “Rose,” he whispered in her ear, her name said the way that only he could. “Rose.”

“I’m right here Doctor,” she told him, “and I’m not planning on going anywhere else.”

He changed position to place a long, lingering kiss on her forehead and then rested his own against it. “Rose, I am so sorry.”

“For what?”

He didn’t answer for a second, for most people she would have assumed the words had just slipped out, but she knew he was probably trying to decide which thing he felt needed an apology he was apologizing for at the moment. “Because we don’t really have time for this,” he said with false brightness. “Things to do, people to save, and all that.”

“Isn’t there always?” she said, the humor in her tone more sincere. “You can make it up to me later,” she added as kissed him near the edge of his mouth.

“Right,” he said, with a slightly dumbfounded tone in his voice that always made him sound more like a teenager with no idea what to do around a girl than a 900 year old Time Lord. “Right, good, but for now…”

“We save the world,” she finished.

~~~~~~~~~~

In front of Martha the two members of the Family sniffed the air and shuddered with something like ecstasy. Martha was being shoved along by the same two scarecrows that had carried her before, and she shuddered with terror. Them being happy could not be a good thing for her.

The man turned and gave Martha a menacing smile. “The Doctor has returned.”


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