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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6. She Called It Home

Six: She Called It Home

Collapsing seemed like the only attractive reaction to the realisation that it was over, and so I did, slumping down to sit cross-legged on the roof of the Satellite GPS building, my head in my hands. It hadn’t stopped pounding for what seemed like hours, and tears leaked out the corners of my eyes as my body ached and my heart settled into a somewhat healthy rhythm. I could see the Doctor’s shoes in my peripheral, not that I was overly concentrating on him at that point.

“You alright?” he asked finally, quietly, voice laced with uncertainty. I snorted with laughter; shouldn’t I be asking him, the man who had saved me and nearly died doing so, if he was alright? Somehow, the question didn’t seem to do justice to all I owed him, and a niggling doubt in the back of my mind told me that even if I asked, it was unlikely I’d get the truth out of him.

“It’s over,” I whispered, possibly louder than I intended. I wasn’t sure at that point, my eyes and head still spinning- albeit, much slower now. “They’re gone.” The Doctor sat beside me and rubbed my back, clearly misinterpreting my relief for devastation. Yeah, there was a bit of regret and lingering fear there, but nothing huge and relief definitely held the majority vote in the emotion department. I sniffled and wiped my eyes on the back of my hand, suddenly aware of how little I was wearing and how cold it was on the roof, the pre-dawn air chilling me to the bone. I hadn’t thought to wear a coat- left it in the library with the rest of my stuff, having always intended to go back and collect it.

“C’mon,” the Doctor whispered finally, as sirens started blaring and the human race re-emerged into their devastated streets, taking stock of the destruction and how much they’d lost. Probably re-evaluating their entire perceived quality of life, too, figuring that their problems were minimal and trivial now that they’d seen true hardship and horror. I was certainly taking a long hard look at myself, at how sheltered I’d been just thirteen hours earlier. “Kia, I’ll take you home.” The Doctor held his hand out for mine, and I took it without a word.

We walked through the near-empty streets, listening to people calling and shouting to one another, the sounds of prayers of thanks and the cries of grief at lost loved ones weaving through the streets. The Doctor and I were silent, listening to the city of Cardiff coming to terms with the last few hours and deciding where we’d go from here. Tears pricked the backs of my eyes as we walked by a pile of dead Cybermen; I couldn’t help but wonder who they were before. Were we hearing their families crying? Was that somebody’s mother, now dead and lifeless, partly thanks to me?

The thought made me feel sick and I stumbled over a crack in the road, hardly able to upset myself before the Doctor caught me and steadied my balance, his usually bright blue eyes deadened with an unreadable emotion. I didn’t dare ask what he was thinking nor if I could help; whatever he was battling with, I didn’t want any part of it. Rather, I almost figured we were battling with the same thing; guilt. Guilt for having no choice in what we did, in ending the attack so violently. Guilt for not being able to do it sooner, or with less casualties.

Before I knew it, we were back on the same street leading by the mouth of the alley in which I’d first met the Doctor. It seemed so long ago and looking back on it, I remembered how excited I’d been just following that Mysterious Girl. That had seemed like the adventure of a generation, just a lifetime ago, and now I couldn’t help but snicker at myself. If that had been an adventure, then the hours that followed... well, they were so much more.

“I don’t see what’s funny,” the Doctor said flatly, his hand removed from mine quite quickly.

Realising he thought I was laughing at the horror, I hurried to cover myself. “It’s just... a few hours ago, I thought your impossible blue box was the scariest thing I’d ever seen... now, though...”

He stared at me incredulously for a moment or two, before his lips twitched and he smiled gently, taking my hand again. He didn’t say a word but his eyes seemed lighter, his step more springy, like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. We turned into the alley and he released me again to run to the doors, checking around the outside very quickly, cataloguing any damage. “Look at that,” he said to me, full of the manly pride one gets around his vehicle of choice. If that’s even what the box was... “Full-scale Cyber-invasion, and not a scratch. Oh, you clever girl...”

I shook my head, smiling to myself. No matter how strange or impossible a man might be, he still had that sense of fondness for his box as most men had for their cars. Because although he’d said girl, his eyes were on the blue wood, and he hardly seemed to notice I was still there. “I guess you’ll be disappearing again, then?” I asked, leaning against the brick wall. He whirled around to stare at me, for a moment looking confused as to why I was still there, before his expression cleared.

“No, not quite,” he muttered, approaching me quickly. “Kia... can I see your necklace?” he asked, and my hand flew to cover the slight bump it caused under my shirt. Instantly defensive, I took a step back and regarded him cautiously.

“Why?”

Simple enough question, I thought, but his eyes hardened at the sound of it and he stepped towards me as I stepped back, quite suddenly nervous. I’d seen this expression before- it was the same one he’d worn just an hour ago, when he stopped the Cybermen. Now he was directing that fury towards me and it was... unnerving. “Please,” he bit the word out, realising that I wasn’t about to give it up if he was menacing me. His eyes cleared suddenly and he stepped back, holding out his hands in a silent apology.

Breathing out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding, I bit the inside of my cheek and slipped the chain from around my neck. I felt naked without it, the old fob watch that was stuck shut and decorated with swirls and what looked like the gears of an old clock, and it looked pathetically vulnerable swinging in the empty air between me and the Doctor. Something in the back of my mind started to scream, a soft yet piercing wail like the sound of a mosquito buzzing near my ear. As he approached and gently turned the watch over, I had to clench my fist to stop myself yanking it back and running very, very far away, the buzz growing louder now and decidedly more panicked.

“Is this yours?” he asked me, avoiding my eyes. I shook my head, watching his every move very carefully, just waiting for him to tell me it was okay to hide the watch once again. “Where did you get it?”

“It was my mother’s,” I almost growled, my hand shaking now with the effort of keeping the watch away from my protection. The Doctor met my eyes swiftly and his mouth fell open into a little ‘o’ of shock, an expression I would have found comical had my control not snapped. With a speed I didn’t know I had, I looped the chain back around my neck and stuffed the watch down my shirt, where it came to rest just above my heart. Instantly, the wail and the panic stopped, and the Doctor’s expression turned sympathetic.

“Do you have any idea what that is?” he asked.

I nodded stiffly. “The last memento I have of my mother’s life,” I replied curtly. “And I’d very much like to go home now, if that’s okay.” I turned on my heel, anxious to get as far away as possible, even though a part of me very much wanted to stay.

“Wait,” the Doctor called, and I unconsciously obeyed. Just that one little word, softly called in an even tone, and I jumped like an eager puppy. I wondered briefly if there was something he’d done to me to cause that instantaneous reaction, but dismissed the notion as stupid. I wanted to wait, I’d wanted him to call me back. “I don’t... I need to see your mother.”

“You can’t,” I muttered, my heart clenching and thudding painfully. Thirteen years since the accident, and I still felt the pain like it was yesterday. “Unless you can talk to the dead, you can’t.” I hated the callous tone of my voice, and how I couldn’t bring myself to turn around to face the Doctor, but the moment someone brought up my mother I fell to pieces. She’d been everything to me and losing her had... unsettled me somewhat.

The Doctor’s hand landed on my shoulder and squeezed lightly. I shrugged him off and turned around, heaving a sigh and holding out my hands, silently giving him permission to question away. I could see the curiosity burning in his eyes and wanted this out of the way as quickly as possible. “The watch was hers,” he stated, to my brief nod; “And after... you wear it to remember her. Did she ever tell you how she came to possess it?”

I shook my head. “She could never remember. She must’ve gone through something traumatic... she’d completely blocked all her memories from before she showed up at the Pullman Women’s Shelter.” The Doctor’s eyebrows flew into his receding hairline and he muttered furiously to himself, pacing the ground as he puzzled something out. I shivered as a breeze struck up and remembered just why I’d wanted to go home. “Look, d’you mind if we hurry home? It’s bloody freezing out here and there’s a cup of tea waiting with my name on it,” I interrupted his frantic pacing, gesturing to the empty road.

“Yeah, yeah of course,” the Doctor nodded quickly, leading the way as though he knew where to go. I followed him with a slight grin, just waiting for him to turn around and ask for directions. “You’re probably tired, too,” he added, throwing the comment over his shoulder, sounding slightly smug. Most likely because he still managed to look as fresh as ever while I probably resembled Cousin It.

“Well,” I smiled weakly, trying to inject a little life into myself. “I’m usually fast asleep at seven past five in the morning.” He froze as I recited the time, a flyaway guess that I didn’t think too deeply about. I took the lead then, as he stared at me like I’d gone and insulted his favourite band. If he had one. My overtired and therefore overactive brain didn’t remain concentrating on that particular line of thought too long before it just hibernated, I guess, turning me into autopilot.

Since I wasn’t being asked any more questions- or I might’ve been, I wasn’t exactly aware- I figured myself safe to just walk, navigating my way home along the familiar route. This part of Cardiff seemed mostly unharmed, amazingly, and the closer I got to home the less carnage I saw. And my blessed front door, the most welcome sight in the universe, still intact and without a scratch. I let myself- and the Doctor- in, and went straight for the kettle and a cup of tea.

God, how weird that felt, just thinking about it and actually going through with it. Flicking the button on, I waited, only to find that the power was out. That, I think, was the final straw and I threw my hands up in the air before storming into the lounge room and flopping on the couch. The Doctor claimed an armchair nearby, neither of us speaking for the longest time. It felt like hours, but relentlessly the clock on the mantle ticked away and I counted thirty seconds before he broke the silence.

“Kia, I’m sorry, but I need to-“ he cut himself off, taking a deep breath. I nodded my consent, much more comfortable now that I was inside and slightly warmer and on something soft and not inches away from death. Yeah, that last one definitely put a huge improvement in my mood. “Your mother... what was her name? Did she...” he trailed off, his tone thick as though he were struggling with tears. I could feel the arm across my eyes becoming damp with my own, and didn’t look to see. “What was she like?”

“Alexandra,” I said softly, answering his first question first, as it should be. I could never understand this business of reversing-order for answering a list of questions, and so always answered in the order they’d been asked. Frustrated my professor to no end, but I refused to change. “She was... wonderful. She raised me on her own, worked hard all her life- all the time I’d known her. I could tell her anything, she was my best friend... my mentor, my protector, my teacher... she told the most wonderful stories every night before I fell asleep- even when I didn’t need her presence to fall asleep. She was smart, so brilliantly smart... she knew things others didn’t, noticed the beauty in things others took for granted...” I waved my hand towards a painting on the mantle, a small landscape that Mum had painted when I was a kid. Red grass, burnt orange skies, silver leaves, golden mountains, and a city encased in a bubble. She had worn the most puzzled expression when it was done, and laughed at herself uncertainly... Those stories must’ve worked into my painting...

The Doctor’s breathing became ragged at the sight of it and I heard him get up, to examine the picture more closely. “She drew this place,” he stated, and I nodded without moving. “Did she name it?”

“Yeah,” I replied quietly, hesitant to reveal something to him I’d never told anyone else. “Mum... she... she called it home.”

 

 

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