Changing Me

DOCTOR WHO.

Rating may be at a precautionary high, but better safe than sorry.

"Doesn't it get lonely?" He paused for a moment, fingers ghosting over the controls. "From time to time," he replied evenly, his tone barely changing. My frown cleared as I joined him near the controls, leaning backwards against the cool metal console. He glanced over, blue eyes unreadable. "It always seems so much better through someone else's eyes." Eventual Doctor/OC.

Story is complete, and part of a never-ending series.

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15. Derailed

Fifteen: Derailed

Three hours later, I’d scrubbed the kitchen floors until they shone, washed every cup, dish and plate, rearranged my book collection and thought about regrouting the bathroom before I realised I didn’t have any grout. I couldn’t help it; when I was upset, I went on a cleaning spree until I ran out of things to clean and was forced to confront whatever it was upsetting me. Throughout my determined mission, I avoided my bedroom like the plague; even that reminded me of the TARDIS and of the Doctor- and went for the kitchen, desperately needing a cup of tea. Four cups later, I was still on edge, and paced the length of the hallway outside my bedroom. I regretted asking to come home, truth be known. I hadn’t honestly wanted to say goodbye to everything I found with the Doctor, but at the same time, I knew I couldn’t look at him without feeling betrayed.

All night, I slept fitfully on the couch, jumping at every strange sound and once or twice, rushing to the window or door every time a car with odd engine sounds drove by. I was furious with the Doctor, but I didn’t want to believe that everything I’d found was gone. For good.

As dawn rolled around, I dragged my disappointed and nearly exhausted backside to the kitchen and was delighted to discover that my power was back on. A glance at the calendar informed me that it had been just over a week- since I met the Doctor. A week in Earth-time equated to… nearly four days for me. In that time… so much had happened. I’d broken character to follow a weird girl into a back alley, seen a blue police box appear out of nowhere, met a man who wasn’t human, been attacked by and then defeated an army of robot men from Earth’s future, gone travelling with the alien man, met a pickled Charles Darwin, snogged his pickled younger brother in the year 1829, came into contact with kidnapping ice-men, been kidnapped and psychically assaulted, rescued by the Doctor, found out my own mother wasn’t human and therefore neither was I, fought with the Doctor…

Laying it out like that in one run-on sentence that my English teacher would’ve thrown a fit over made the last few days seem so much longer than they actually were. I felt years older, decades more mature; and, if I had to admit it, just a little superior. Aliens existed and I had met one- technically, I was one. Half Time-Lord, whatever that was. I leaned against the kitchen counter, hands hip-width apart as I bowed my head and closed my eyes. My head was pounding, my heart was hurting, my stomach could barely handle smelling the freshly made cup of tea and the thought of actually drinking it made me want to run to the bathroom.

The emotional rollercoaster of the last four days had finally come to a stop and the relief and safety of home I felt was bewildering. It started as a weight in my stomach before crawling its way up my throat and fogging over my brain. The pressure in my throat was unbearable and I choked, feeling my poor empty stomach twist as bile raced its way up. Spinning away from the counter, I raced, hand-over-mouth, to the bathroom and collapsed beside the porcelain throne.

Minutes later, exhausted and weak, I leaned against the wall and tilted my head back, trying to breathe through my nose and settle my stomach down. Something dripped down my shirt and quick investigation revealed that I was crying. The realisation sparked more tears and soon I was sobbing unrestrained, not caring how loud or how much the sobs hurt because I was alone in the flat and nobody would come anyway.

Mum was all I had in the world and she’d been gone for years. Losing her had shattered me and I’d never really taken the time to cry. I kept busy. I threw myself into looking after other people. I studied my backside off to get through high school. I worked two jobs, upping it to three after graduation. I went to university. I got my own flat and made it up from the hell-hole it had been six years ago. I spent so long trying to forget that I hadn’t put the time, nor effort, into making any lasting friendships. Or relationships. Or anything. I barely knew my co-workers, my classmates were virtual strangers.

Then the Doctor came and everything changed. Suddenly, life was more than just school, work and sleep. Life was exciting. Life was invigorating. It was something I wanted to be part of- and the Doctor… the Doctor made all of that possible. He was someone I related to, someone who made the occasional loneliness seem at least bearable. I barely knew him, either, but for the first time in so long I wanted to let someone in. Shutting myself off after Mum was my defence. The Doctor- or rather, the possibility of the Doctor- had shaken them up.

Eventually, I crawled my way into the shower and turned on the water, letting it wash me clean and nearly scald my skin in an effort to wake up properly. The towels afterward were soft and the luxury of clean clothes lifted my spirits minimally. I drank my now-cold tea and realised that all of this, my normal morning routine, felt so mundane and monotonous now. It had taken four days for that change to occur.

It made me wonder what four years would do, and the tears welled again before I swallowed them back down and took three, calming breaths. I needed to get out of the flat. Heading into a public place would stifle the tears- I hated people watching me cry- and distract me. Distractions worked last time and I would do everything to make sure they worked this time. I’d go see how Cardiff was dealing with the Cybermen- Lord, how long ago did that feel?- and how well the city was recovering. I’d go to the library- maybe the front desk had the bag I left behind. I’d go to school, then to work, then to wherever-the-hell I wanted. Maybe I should book a holiday, go to Spain or something, just for a few days to clear my head. But a foreign country would mean I had plenty of me-time. So no. I’d stay in Cardiff where I was safe and where everything was so bori- familiar and there was nothing excit- dangerous in sight.

Just as I locked the front door and spun around to head out, I caught sight of a guy watching me from across the road, from where the TARDIS had last been parked. He wore a long grey coat- something I found completely off, since it looked very World War Two- and was really, really good-looking. I wanted to march over there and tell him to shove off so the TARDIS didn’t squash him when the Doctor came back… before I realised that he wouldn’t know what a TARDIS is and the Doctor coming back was more a matter of ‘if’ rather than ‘when’.

Besides, he seemed harmless enough. The way he looked at me wasn’t giving me the creeps, but it felt like he was trying to tell me something. Like he knew something I didn’t, or like he was waiting specifically for me, or like he was asking me to come over and say hi. In a way, he reminded me of the girl from the library… and that didn’t endear him to me. So I smiled, twirled my keys around my finger, and set off marching towards the nearest main road.

After a few minutes, I looked back and saw he was gone, completely disappeared. I felt a little shiver run up my spine but didn’t focus on it too much, shrugging it off as an aftereffect of being dropped off by the Doctor. Four days. It was ridiculous how much those four days meant to me, how much I felt I’d changed. How much that stupid man had wormed his way into my head. Damn him. Since I met him, everything in my life was completely derailed!

So I went to the library, just as I planned, but I saw nothing of Cardiff on the way. I asked at the front desk for my bag, and retrieved it. Nothing had been touched. The ladies knew me well enough to have kept it safe- Gayle asked how I’d survived… I made up some excuse about being far enough out of town to be unaffected. Petting my hands, Gayle said the new shipment of Darwin books had come in and I nearly lost my mind as I wandered over to have a look.

Flicking through a biography of the naturalist and his family, I paused at a chapter detailing the events of his twenty-eighth birthday; namely, the fact that the largest storm all year occurred at the same time, and there had been sightings of men made out of ice walking through the blizzard. Apparently, Darwin spent the rest of his life regretting how drunk he’d been, and searched for years for any sign of the ice-men… there was a photograph of his birthday celebration, of Charles Darwin’s sister holding a glass of sherry out to greet a guest… with a gasp, I realised that guest was me.

Oh, Lord. I was in a book. There was a blurred picture of dancing couples on the next page and the Doctor was standing in the background, staring towards the camera with a hard, unreadable expression. I traced a finger over his face and slammed the book shut, startling someone in the next aisle to shush me viciously. I stuck out my tongue in retaliation and slid the book back on the shelf, having indulged my narcissism enough for one day.

Sighing, I trailed my fingertips over the spines of the books and let my hand drop. I had it in my mind to head back home and made it halfway to the door before they sprung open of their own accord and the guy I’d seen outside my house walked in, took one look at me, and grinned so broadly I feared his face would break. I blinked in surprise, wondering with a flash of anxiety whether he’d followed me or this was just coincidence- something said not- and spotted the person who had entered directly behind the guy.

She was older than the last time I’d seen her, cleaner too. She looked very… warrior-ish, if that’s a word. Well, it is now. She looked like the female cops from shows like CSI- all tough and sexy. Despite how different she looked when we weren’t shivering and locked in a cage, Louie was still easily recognisable. And apparently, she recognised me too by the grin breaking out on her face.

“Kia! It’s so good to see you again!” she cried, hurrying over and flinging her arms around me. I hugged her back a little awkwardly, trying to recall what year she said she’d been snatched from and- since I assumed she’d been dropped back as soon as possible- how old she’d be now, in 2009. “Tell me, how’d you go with the trip to Raxacorico-” The guy cleared his throat and Louie stopped instantly, her cheeks tinging a little pink. “Sorry. You’re Old Kia, right, I should’ve realised-“

“I’m sorry,” I interrupted, holding up my hand in confusion. “’Old Kia’?”

Louie flushed even darker and looked to her companion for help. He bestowed upon me what I’m sure was his most dashing smile- and believe me, I noticed- and held out his hand. “I’m Captain Jack Harkness,” he declared, shaking my hand warmly with a little quirky half-smile. “You’ll have to forgive Lou, she’s a little new when it comes to the Doctor.”

“You know the Doctor?” I asked immediately, my curiosity inflamed as well as my trust. The ice was instantly broken; it helped that Jack just had one of those trust-me faces. Jack nodded and Louie beamed, clearly overjoyed at being part of this conversation. Realising that she was another gap in my memory, I pushed the Doctor out of my head and focussed on her. “You know me in the future,” I guessed, smiling nervously when they both nodded, Jack seeming a little disappointed in something I couldn’t place. “Well, this is a spinner.”

“You’re telling me,” Louie muttered, still beaming. “After meeting you with the ice-men-“

“The Skith,” I corrected out of habit more than anything.

Louie- or Lou as she was now called- didn’t seem to hear me. “The Doctor dropped me back home, but nothing was really the same, you know? Then I met this guy who said he knew the Doctor, and there was this group of people called LINDA, and we met another alien and then, out of nowhere, you, Rose and the Doctor saved the day… oh, shit,” Lou swore, looking at Jack’s panicked face as I followed their silent conversation as best I could.

“None of that rings a bell,” I announced, absolutely overjoyed at the fact. Jack picked up on my happiness and sighed, shaking his head as a warning to Lou to stop telling me things I shouldn’t know. I didn’t care; likelihood was, I’d forget half the things that happened here anyway.

Offering me his arm, Jack nodded to the door. “Shall we go somewhere safer?” he asked, more of Lou than of me, as I had no clue what he was talking about. But he seemed trustworthy and I kind of knew Lou, so I pushed any apprehension I might have had away. “So, how long have you been with the Doctor?” he asked as I let him lead me out. Lou flanked me, hovering just slightly, but they both seemed a little on edge and that put me on edge. The idea that dangerous alien activity might surround more people than the Doctor flickered across my mind and I pushed it back down.

“I don’t think I am, right now,” I replied sullenly, sulking just a little. Jack shot me a sideways look and I sighed, shrugging my shoulders. “I think he kicked me off, but I did ask for it.”

Chuckling, Jack steered us towards an inconspicuous little tourist-information building next to a pizza shop. Lou’s face lit up and she skipped a little, while Jack looked very eager to get inside. “You were right,” he said to me, his tone quiet and bordering on affection. Clearly, he knew me much better than I knew him. His eyes swept over me once and softened immeasurably; I didn’t want to know what happened in my future to make him look so sad. I also didn’t want to know what I’d been- or would be- right about.

We entered the lobby of an otherwise unassuming and empty tourism-themed business. I didn’t see how this would be any safer than a library, and if the London-born Lou or the American Jack wanted a tour guide of Cardiff, well, they had practically kidnapped a local. A young, shy-ish sort of guy in a pink shirt stood up behind the desk and Jack sighed at Lou’s enthusiasm.

“She’s with the Doctor, Yan,” Lou nodded, and the guy- Yan, it had to be short for something- broke into a smile.

“Of course. I’d know Kia anywhere- your file is so detailed,” he said to me, and I baulked slightly, feeling just a little overwhelmed. Jack chuckled, squeezed my arm, and we all turned to follow Yan- seriously, what was that short for?- into the elevator. “It’s great to see your first time here, Kia. You’ll like it I’m sure.”

“Ianto,” Jack said a little warningly, and I giggled triumphantly.

At the three puzzled looks, I just shrugged. “Yan is short for Ianto. It was bugging me.”

Ianto smiled shyly as Jack chuckled under his breath, again, apparently enjoying my resorting to collecting trivia as a way of not blurting out a million questions and freaking out at the fact that we were heading down, which translated directly into ‘underground’, a place I was not too fond of.

As the elevator doors slid open, I was greeted with the sight of an incredibly expensive, incredibly white, laboratory-looking setting with the proper Star Wars doors and everything. My mouth fell open and I had to rub my eyes a little, making sure I wasn’t hallucinating or dreaming. Had my four days with the Doctor somehow entitled me to becoming part of a secret agency? Or was this prison? Had I been arrested and not known it? Would they experiment on me? They seemed nice enough but there were so many things that could go wrong now that I wasn’t in public anymore. The thought only just occurred to me as the elevator slid shut and I saw the pin-pad ensuring that not just anyone could get out.

Lou bounced by my side, energetic and youthful and way too excited to have me feeling entirely comfortable, despite Jack mentioning the Doctor by name. Was I stupid to have followed them so blindly? “Welcome to Torchwood Three, Kia!” she announced, her grand arm gesture inviting me inside.

Quietly, I had a figurative heart attack.

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