Previous Chapter: Eighteen (or here)
Summary: A cold and beautiful world, a market, a bolt of silk, and three people walking through the doors of their memories.
Edited by: the undeniably magnificent buckaroobob
Author's Notes: In which a soldier contemplates her conscience, while Rose finds home again. Home, however, knows where it needs to be. I have almost despaired of providing regular updates to this story, but it does not mean the tale is not progressing. For those of you who wish to wait until it is done, I understand. And to everyone, my apologies.
Disclaimer: As much as I wish it were otherwise, no Whoniverse characters are mine. They are the sole properties of the BBC and their respective creators. I intend no copyright infringement and take no coin. I do, however, love them all, and thank the BBC for letting me play in its sandbox.
Isobel Farrar had taken the last of her pills.
“Message these reports up to GC, then check incoming notifications. I want to know when the plumbing repairs have started. And don’t forget to copy Sous-Tenante Obrigad on that if it comes in; he might benefit from seeing someone do his job. I’ll be back in two … no, make that three hours. Any emergency — and you know what I mean by emergency, handle inventory foul-ups on your own — and you know where I am.”
She moved briskly through the halls to the lift, schooling her face to granite as she passed other staff, enduring the knives at her temples and the raw agony at the back of her skull, the grey veil of pain across her sight. She punched in the top floor, deciding abruptly that she would head to her official living quarters rather than the cupboard she’d appropriated for quick catnaps. It was hers for as long as she was in command of this hole; she might as well take advantage of the bed.
After she’d pulled off her boots and stripped down to her vest, she rummaged about her night bag … ah. She grunted in satisfaction as she found one more capsule, then swallowed it without water before collapsing on the bed.
Damn the man.
Fahrar began to shake the thought out of her head, then winced at the action. She dutifully started the deep breathing exercises the doctor had insisted on her learning, but kept at them for only a few minutes before he intruded into her thoughts again.
Man, indeed. She allowed herself a soft snort, one that didn’t start her head pounding. She didn’t think so. He was some sort of xeno. That was amazing all by itself, of course, but until only a few hours ago, she would have considered his status as an anti-government agent even more important. She’d certainly thought so when she started speaking to him, right here in this room. She looked over at the chair he’d lounged in, glaring at it before shutting her eyes against the resurgent pain.
Isobel Fahrar disliked a great many things in life, including many of her early decisions, but she had always been able to pride herself on her own personal honesty. Something in the alien’s eyes, though, had unnerved her today, and that angered her far beyond any understandable irritation at his stubborn opacity. Seeing herself as he so obviously saw her shouldn’t have affected her. Countless people had made it clear what they thought of her — usually as she’d unearthed their mistakes, forced answers out of them, defeated them. She’d cared not in the least. But this morning … she felt herself flush with shame-tinged anger.
Just when had that honesty she’d prided herself on, that precious remaining virtue, slipped away from her?
The phone shrilled. She jerked, swore in pain, and rolled toward the side table, grabbing for the receiver.
“Tenante? Sorry, but you just got a call from Central. Alvhares.”
“Patch him through.” She managed to keep from snarling it. “Alvhares, what the hell are you calling me for?
Where the hell is Mireilles? She’s — "
“She’s … uh … she …”
“What?” She hated repeating herself.
“We got a report in on her. From her commander.”
“I’m her staff officer.”
“Sorry, Tenante. I mean the ranking officer here.”
“Sangre.” Inverno? Because that’s who Alvhares meant; the bastard delighted in subverting military command structures. What could possibly have turned his eye to her aide? Whatever it was could not be good.
Not for the first time she wished she’d been able ferret out who’d ordered the tough little corporal away from her side and back to GC. She’d been worried. More than worried, if push came to shove. She liked the girl. Mireilles came out of Undertown, no doubt about it, but she was smart as a whip; efficient, creative with limited resources, and dedicated to the service. It was why she’d caught Fahrar’s eye in the first place, why she’d started using Mireilles as a de facto aide and why she’d eventually started grooming her to take that spot officially. Just before Mireilles packed her kit and headed back up the hill, Fahrar had gotten that itch in the back of her head that made her antsy unless she did something about it. So she’d told her subordinate to report regularly. Mireilles had at first, but Fahrar had heard nothing from her for the past two days.
“What’s the report?” She did not like the feel of that itch returning.
“She’s —” Alvhares stumbled momentarily, then continued. “The report says she was arrested. For murder.”
Oh this was much, much worse than she’d thought it would be, even with the odd tone in the man’s voice, and the itch in her skull. “Murder.”
“The report says she attacked a fellow soldier while on duty,” Alvhares said. “The report says he was … aggressive and she overcompensated. The, uh, the resulting fight caused his death. And a great deal of damage to valuable scientific equipment. That’s what the report said, Tenante.”
The report said it, Fahrar noted distantly. He couldn’t bring himself to say it directly. He didn’t believe it, no more than she did.
“Where is she being held?”
“She’s … Cabo-lança Meirelles is being held at the pleasure of Assistente Inverno. For investigation and—” He coughed. “—research.”
Isobel Fahrar fought her stomach and almost lost. “A case number?”
“No case number.”
“No. No, there wouldn’t be.”
She remembered the alien’s eyes on her. She’d sent him to Inverno, too.
“Uh, and Tenante? The first shift squad just reported back. Someone saw that informant of yours, that Sampaio weasel, take off from his place like a scalded cat. He headed for the warrens. The woman’s at work. You want them to check his place?”
For a moment what he said didn’t register. For a very short moment after that it didn’t matter, not when someone under her command, someone good, had just been — She shook her head, hard, just to feel nails pounding into her eyes. She remembered Sampaio’s daughter, looking out from a report she’d checked, before putting him on the payroll.
But she was Tenante Isobel Fahrar, daughter of Barolomeu Fahrar, Engenheiro-chefe, 1st A.B. Artilharia (retired), and she knew her duty.
“No. It’s more important to keep him under surveillance. if they didn’t send someone after him, I’ll know the reason why and take it out of your hide.”
She hung up without saying anything else, and sat for a very a long time on the edge of her bed, looking at the buttons on her smart military jacket as it hung, empty, over the chair.
When Rose awoke this time, she was lying on a tiny cot, and light from the late afternoon sun was shining through the round window at the other end of the room. She had only meant to close her eyes for a minute … had Filomena tucked the blanket around her? She rested one precious minute longer, relishing the fact that she was clean, her stomach was full, and her bladder was empty. It had been some time since Luisa’s last seizure, and the concomitant return of Filomena. Rose realized she must have succumbed to exhaustion after the bread and soup the other girl insisted on making for them both while she was still Luisa.
And who was she now?
“Lui — Phil? Filomena?”
“Over here. Resting. And it’s Phil, for now at least.”
The little blonde looked … not healthier, not with the fever flush, the exhaustion, and her still-noticeable shakes, but she was certainly cleaner.
Rose had had to help Luisa into the tub, and she’d needed help with the wash-up, but it had been worth it. Luisa — or Filomena, she wasn’t sure — had insisted to Rose that they were safe in the house. Or at least they were until sundown, which was apparently when Aunt Laowhra came home from work. So they’d washed up, and dumped their clothing in a machine that acted suspiciously like any 21st Century Earth washer might.
She had begun to relax infinitesimally, only to catch Luisa as she collapsed while pulling things from the dryer. After that, Filomena reemerged, which resulted in them bolting the front and back doors, or rather, Rose doing it, while Phil lay on the front sofa to regain some strength. Rose didn’t mind her military caution under the circumstances.
Filomena was still Filomena when she remembered something that Luisa knew. Sampaio had a little garret, she told Rose. He normally rented it out for extra money. It was empty now, because people didn’t want to rent from, depending on their view, a rebel or an informant. If they were quiet up there, they could probably stay longer than sundown, she had whispered to Rose. So up they’d gone to the attic space; by the time they climbed the rickety stairs to the top and locked the door from inside, Rose wasn’t certain who she was talking to in the other woman’s body.
She wondered if the two personalities might not begin cooperating now that both of them understood about each other, but worried that both might just break down under the physical stresses their shared body was undergoing. Oh, Doctor, you’ve shown me awful things before, but this is right up there for pure creepiness.
She sat up and ran her hands through her hair. It was lost cause, but at least it wasn’t filthy anymore. As for makeup — she resisted the urge to laugh. She had far more important things to worry about. “How are you feeling?”
“I think … I think I can last,” Filomena said. “Last for a while, anyhow.”
Rose didn’t even bother to question what the other woman meant, because she was all too sure she knew the answer. “How long? Can you last til we get to the TARDIS — to where I’m taking us?”
Filomena coughed slightly. “Where’s that?”
“I don’t think it’s too far,” Rose said, blessing her apparently inborn GPS system. She thought she could make her way from here to the Memory Market, and once there she could navigate back home. She had to, she thought, because she felt as if she had been away from the TARDIS’ comforting presence for years, rather than a matter of — what, days? She thought about how long it had been since Laowhra had ambushed them in the foyer downstairs and realized she hadn’t the slightest idea how much time had passed. How long had Jack been left alone? Was he already out looking for them?
She fought a stab of panic. She had been so concentrated on getting back to the TARDIS that she’d completely ignored what Jack might do. Of course he would have headed to the market, expecting to meet them, and they wouldn’t have been there. What would he have done then? Would he have headed back to the TARDIS or would he have gone searching for them? She had only known Jack a short time (hasn’t he been with us forever?) but she knew he’d be incapable of simply standing and waiting.
Unbidden, she thought of rivers and wind, thought of Jack’s face. Not the smiles and the winks, not even the laughter, but the constant motion of his eyes. He was always searching for something, Rose thought, and her throat got thick with an understanding she hadn’t expected or even wanted.
“Focus, Tyler, focus,” she muttered to herself. “If he’s not there …”
“What did you say?” Filomena looked blearily up from where she’d been staring at the floor.
“Nothing. Just thinking aloud,” Rose said, trying to think of anything but Jack locked up, helpless as the Doctor. Please god, keep him safe, keep him free. She pushed herself up off the cot and walked over to the grimy little window, She didn’t see anyone on the narrow street below her and wondered how much Sampaio’s reputation had to do with that. “Can you walk? We need to get to the Memory Market.”
“The what — what did you call it? The central — oh, that’s right … that’s what her father called it.” Filomena shook her head; she wasn’t going to clear it of Luisa, Rose thought, waiting. “Yes. I can walk there, but … they’ll be looking for us.”
“Then we’ll have to be careful, yeah?”
“Where do we go from there?”
“Back to where my friend is,” Rose said, “He’ll help us.”
“All of us? All three of us?” Filomena gave a humorless huff at her own bleak wit, then struggled to her feet and shuffled over to the window. Despite the bath, she reeked of exhaustion. She looked out the window and then back at Rose and said more seriously, “Can he help get her out of my head? Can he do that?”
“I don’t know,” Rose answered honestly. “But it’s safer where he is, and we’ve got a medical bay, and … and once he and I can figure out how to get my other friend out of the, the — “
“Out of the pit?”
“Yeah. Because that friend, he’s … he’s a doctor. An’ maybe he can help you, even if Jack an’ I can’t.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever hurt so much in my life,” Filomena said conversationally. Rose waited. “And I don’t really think anyone can help me. But I’ll go. We’ve got to get out of here, and I have no place to go now. I don’t dare go home, I can’t contact my people. I’m … ahhhh, sangre, it hurts … I’m ….” She trailed off.
“Come on, Filomena, stay with me,” Rose said quickly.
The other woman grimaced in pain, and panted hard. Rose held her breath; panting seemed to presage either the other personality coming out or another convulsion. This time, it did neither. Phil leaned against the wall next to the window, shutting her eyes. Gradually her breathing slowed. She opened one eye and looked at Rose. “You’re the first person in ages to call me Filomena.”
“Oh. “ Rose wasn’t sure what to say. “I can call you Phil, if that’s better.”
“No. Might as well go santificado … I need everything I can think of to remember who I am,” her companion said. “Filomena’s fine.”
“I think it’s pretty,” Rose ventured. “Your name, I mean.”
This time, Filomena’s laugh was almost real. “Yeah, well … pretty doesn’t count for shit in the army. But thank you.”
Another moment, and Rose said. “So, you’ll come with me?”
Filomena nodded. “Yes. We need different clothes, though. I’m still wearing part of my uniform, and that’ll attract attention. And if you were arrested, they’ve probably got holos of you out to the patrols. So. Downstairs. Not Luisa’s room. None of her things would fit either of us. We need to go to Aunt La — to the other bedroom. That woman’s closet. There are clothes that could fit.”
“I’ll go,” Rose said. “You rest.”
There really wasn’t much to choose from; a carelessly hung collection of faded shifts and tunics, one or two blouses, one outfit obviously for special occasions. Rose chose two of the smallest tunics, then rummaged through the dresser to find a couple of belts and kerchiefs to hide their blonde hair. She’d keep her jeans and trainers on; as long as a tunic covered her own brightly colored tee-shirt, which definitely screamed ‘off-world’, she’d be less noticeable. Keeping her own clothes on would also help keep her warm. After considering Lizhbau’s windy chill, she grabbed a shawl hanging on the back of the door for Filomena, and thought longingly of her abandoned jacket. Once back upstairs, she helped Filomena change then pulled the other tunic on. She belted it tightly.
“I guess that will do,” Filomena said, eyeing her critically. “If we keep our heads down and slouch like regular proles, we’ll look like cleaning women heading home from work.”
Well, she’d been willing to look like a brain-wiped zombie, Rose thought; looking like a tired char was nothing, by comparison. “Alright, then, let’s go.”
It was almost as difficult getting her companion downstairs as it had been getting her up, since Filomena was now having trouble balancing.
“Sorry,” she said weakly, after Rose had steadied her for the third time. “I think I’ll be better on flat ground.”
“I’m sure you will,” Rose replied. “But you hang on to my arm anyhow, just in case.”
Outside, the wind was marginally less biting than it had been when they first arrived, but since the sun was slipping lower the temperature was probably going to plummet too; just one more reason to find the TARDIS.
They made it back to the market, but it took what seemed like hours of shuffling, occasional stumbles, ducking into doorways when the inevitable Maldad patrols hove into sight, and always, always going far slower than Rose wanted to. But she was grateful for the good luck they had; much of their walk was through the seemingly-deserted and worn-down industrial neighborhoods that looked even sadder and uglier in daylight than they had when she and the Doctor had followed Sampaio to his house. The fewer people they had to deal with, the better.
Still, the numbers of passers by gradually increased as the neighborhoods they passed through improved. Rose kept her eyes trained on the ground, following Filomena’s example. By the time they got to the market, they were walking against a tide of apparently homeward bound market goers and tourists. While they had attracted a few curious looks earlier on, the current crowd was big, loud, carnival-like, and oblivious to two small and colorless women.
“I think I’m going to be sick again.”
Rose looked sideways at her companion, and immediately moved closer, to hold her up. Filomena was thin-lipped with the effort of not emptying her stomach. Rose risked a look up and, to her relief, spotted a gateway to the Market. Just inside the gate and next to it were the jumble of smaller stalls where the less prosperous merchants and hucksters had plied their trade. Those stalls appeared to be deserted, Rose saw, long since emptied of whatever goods had been for sale, the shopkeepers either gone or involved in tearing down their tents.
She started sidling the two of them towards the tents, not an easy task since she also was trying to avoid eye contact with the outward flowing crowd — and most definitely with the uniformed men that were becoming far more visible as the tourists vacated the square. Rose cursed to herself, and resisted the urge to turn around and walk in the other direction, camouflaged by other moving bodies. She had to get into the market area, or she wouldn’t be able to get her bearings —
“Hey, you. You two.”
Oh god no, don't be talking to us, Rose thought, her heart suddenly in her throat. She walked on, willing herself to be even smaller and more colorless, if that was possible. We're not the 'droids you're looking for —
“I’m talking to you, girl.”
Oh shit. “Yes sir?” Rose stopped and turned around, trying to look as humble and forgettable as she could. When she saw the man who had hailed her, the heart so recently in her throat dropped to the pit of her stomach. He was beefy, well over six feet in height, with a soft wet mouth the weakness of which was totally and unpleasantly belied by his sharp gaze. And he was in uniform.
“Your friend drunk?” he asked, eyeing Filomena far more closely than Rose liked.
“No sir, she’s just sick. I … I’m just taking her home. She got sick at work.”
“You’re taking her home. To the market.” Those cold eyes narrowed.
She hated the quaver that she couldn’t keep from her voice. “Sorry, sir. I just needed to … to get something for her here and then we’re going right home. I promise.“
“I think you’d better come along with me,” he said. He smiled, and Rose thought of a shark.
“Capitão … don’t mind her.” Rose stifled a squeak at Filomena’s unexpected croak. “ I’m drunk, save your pardon. My sister’s just feeble.”
“So the sot speaks, too.” The man’s chuckle wasn’t nice. “Knee-walking before the sun goes down … impressive.”
“I told her I need something more t’drink, t’take me back t’the bar, but she’s got all turned round, like the fool she is. I’d leave her if I could get home on my own, but our ma’d probably kill me. I mean worse than she’ll kill me already.” Filomena’s gasping laughter did sound pretty soused, Rose thought. She herself tried to look as dim as possible, and prayed the Maldad would get bored with toying with them.
Their questioner snorted in contempt. “Sera Sangao, save me from drunkards. Get out of here before I haul you both in for public disorder.”
“Yes sir,” Rose whispered, silently thanking the universe for small mercies.
“Get lost, and don’t let me see her puke in front of the tourists, or I’ll change my mind,” he said. It sounded almost genial, but Rose kept her eyes on the ground. She didn’t want to look him in the eye again.
She manhandled Filomena into the cluster of remaining stalls. Almost before she could check to see if the Maldad was looking their way, Filomena fell to her knees, retching uncontrollably. Rose hated the fact that her first thought was alarm at how loud her companion sounded, and not worry about her condition. She did care about the girl; she was still simmering with anger at what had been done to Filomena, poor lost Luisa and all the prisoners she’d seen. It’s just that I’m so sick of sick.
Eventually Filomena coughed and wiped her mouth. “I’m not going to make it to where you want to go,” she whispered. “I’m fading.”, To Rose’s consternation, she could feel heat radiating from Filomena again, almost as if a switch had been hit. The other woman was shaking so hard that Rose feared another convulsion.
“Shhh,” she whispered back. “Save your breath. Let me think.” Frantically, she looked about them and tried to sharpen her sense of direction. It hadn’t taken the Doctor and her all that long to get to the market when they first left the TARDIS; they’d made that their first stop before heading out into the countryside. So the TARDIS had to be close by.
She closed her eyes and tried to push everything else out of her head for the few precious seconds it would take her to get her bearings.
Rose had always been good at that. Long before the Doctor grabbed her hand and told her to run, she’d grown up in one of the world’s great cities; she never felt lost there. She might not feel at home in some neighborhoods, but she always know how to get home. Her mum used to joke about it, especially when Rose was younger. “I’ve got my own little brown-eyed compass,” she’d tell her friends when she headed off to shop, Rose in tow.
It wasn’t that she couldn’t get confused and make wrong turns; it was simply that she could, given enough time, right herself and head back to the place she wanted to be. She never thought about it much. When she was very young, she thought everyone knew their way home. When she got older, she learned that wasn’t always the case. Still, she figured it wasn’t anything special. But since joining the Doctor, Rose had learned just how valuable it was to have a good sense of direction; how very important it was to find your way home.
It hadn’t started out that way. At first it was just a marvelous ship travelling in space and time. Home was still the frowsty little flat she shared with her mum; a place she thought of when she was scared, or lonely. And there had been times with the Doctor, at first, when she’d longed to return to the Powell Estates.
Somewhere along the line, though, the TARDIS became something more. Still magical, still frightening, and always impossible, it gradually became the place where her heart turned for comfort. And sometimes during their adventures — the bad ones, the ones where a wrong move meant someone could die — she swore she felt the TARDIS. When they were in danger, she would yearn for the little blue box and she could feel something tug at her. She couldn’t place just what was being tugged, or how, but everything in her turned toward wherever the TARDIS was.
She sometimes wondered why the place called to her, although she’d rather eat ground glass than mention that to the Doctor. He’d tease her unmercifully, she thought. She could even imagine what he’d say, some snide remark about superstitious apes. And he was probably right. He was the alien with the big brain. She was just Rose Tyler, with the overactive imagination and a good sense of a direction.
It didn’t matter. Nowadays there was only one direction home for her and it wasn’t Earth. So she crouched next to Filomena and tried to figure out where it (She) was.
She felt it.
Rose hissed softly in surprise and sat back on her heels.The world shifted slightly around her. For a second she remembered the rush of silent voices in the noisome holding room where she’d found Filomena, although this felt good, warm behind her eyes, pleasantly tight, like a hand holding hers, or arms around her shoulders — then it was gone, and she decided that she was simply finally getting her bearings. She opened her eyes and craned her neck, looking past her shivering charge and the stalls that sheltered them to the central fountain, and a large gate beyond that. There! That was where she and the Doctor had first entered the market. It had taken them only 10 minutes to get there from the TARDIS. She resisted the urge to laugh with joy. Jack, you hold tight, I’m almost there!
“If you can just get up and make it a little longer, we’re almost there. I promise. I remember the way now. ”
Filomena said nothing and the silence unnerved Rose. “Come on, please?”
“I’m — I … she’s not here..”
Rose would have heard the difference in the voice even without the words. She looked closer, gently turning Filomena’s face. Sure enough, Luisa peered out from those eyes. She seemed as surprised as Rose to be back in control of the body that both now knew had never been hers. “I’m — she’s very sick, isn’t she?”
That was an understatement, Rose thought. “Yeah.” She repeated what she’d said to Filomena. “We’re almost back to my — my ship. I have a friend there who can help us. Do you think you can stand up, Luisa?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Sure you can,” Rose insisted, desperate to be out of the market. The sun was past the horizon; the shadows were cold and the wind had kicked up even more. She hauled Luisa upright and almost dragged her in the direction of the far gate. By the time they finally got through and into the broader streets on that side of the gate, Rose was sweating despite the cold. But she gritted her teeth and continued, with an occasional glance behind her to see if any Maldads were following.
When she saw the entrance to the tiny side street only a few more yards away, the laugh she’d repressed back at the market bubbled up and out. “Luisa … Filomena … we’re here! We’re back at the TARDIS!”
She summoned one more burst of energy, and pulled the other woman with her, rounding the corner in time to see home fade from sight, as, unknown to her, Jack headed for “Cheap Eats Here.”
She feels her little one, knew the child had/will come/is there. She will regret/regretted /regrets not staying but feels the nexus pulling Her toward the more important task. Her Thief will/is/may/must not give up, and is doing so/will do so/cannot stop/should be stopped. The dark child inside Her, who could/will/did/may/will not become immortal/die/live as a human must go to the place he wants to in order to stop the destruction. She allows him to move her, She sees/knows/is aware/will know/knew that the little one outside is finding her way/will find/may be lost/will come home … this is all forgotten/remembered/imprinted as She slides through the Vortex with purpose/panic/love. Things must happen/must not happen … he must not/could/did/won’t/may/can’t change so soon before/after the great fire or She has died/is dying/will die.
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