Previous Chapter: Twenty-one
Characters: Rose Tyler/Jack Harkness/The Ninth Doctor
Summary: A cold and beautiful world, a market, a bolt of silk, and three people walking through the doors of their memories into their future.
Edited by: the flexibly perfectionist and always awesome buckaroobob /dr_whuh; read by the irreplaceable
Author's Note: In which Rose begins to say goodbye to one person and finally says hello to another. A third chapter in one year? Is it the apocalypse? Not at all; it's me trying to be a responsible author. Wish me luck as I forge ahead.
Disclaimer: As much as I wish it were otherwise, no Whoniverse characters are mine. They belong solely to the BBC and their respective creators. I intend no copyright infringement and take no coin. I do, however, love them and thank the BBC for letting me play in its sandbox.
“If you can believe in the TARDIS, you can believe what I’m telling you now.” Jack kept his voice level. Nico and Hilda were doing him the courtesy of listening, and they were the ones he had to convince. “Telepathy’s nothing new—”
Nico’s face screwed up, as if he’d tasted something unpleasant. “But you never told us you dealt in it. You never suggested to us that you and your friends could so easily communicate.”
“We can’t. I mean, we couldn’t,” Jack agreed. “But something — someone — contacted me while I was asleep.” He stopped and shook his head. “Not something. Someone. I know it was Rose.” He fell silent.
“You understand our wariness?” Hilda asked.
“It’s not silk,” Jack said, shaking his head for what seemed like the hundredth time. “I told you what the Doctor thinks about the stuff.”
“And your Doctor? This burning man?” Nico was sitting on the jump seat, his feet bare of the work boots he normally wore, his threadbare jacket thrown across a console room rail. His shirt was rumpled, the tail out, and yet he displayed more than a bit of the magnetism and command that made him a leader. If Jack had met him before ...
“I—” Jack stopped.
He was less sure that he’d seen the Doctor. The flame and incandescent heat … it could mean anything. But Jack knew it didn’t matter. Rose was talking directly to him, and she had told him (Or did you tell her, Captain?) that he had to get back to where Salvha and the old man were. Somehow, he was certain that Rose would find him there. And that would be (wonderful, life-saving) crucial to getting the Doctor and fulfilling Jack’s part of the bargain.
Fulfilling bargains hasn’t been important to you in a long time, smart boy. Jack ignored his own doubt. It was important now.
“That’s the weirdest part of this,” he answered, being as honest as he could. “I know the Doctor’s in danger, and I know that Rose and I communicated. But what I saw of the Doctor … I don’t know if I was seeing what actually was happening to him, or not.” He desperately wished he’d had more sleep, because he needed all his wits about him, but at least he’d been energized by what he’d seen. If he used the energy to think, to convince his tenuous allies—
“Nico, he’s telling the truth.”
Jack jerked slightly, then looked to Hilda. She was still exhausted, and she leaned over the rail as if she were a piece of discarded clothing. But she sounded certain, and a tad impatient with her commander. “And you know as well as I do that we have to get back. Salvha shouldn’t be left with the old man too long; he shouldn’t be left alone, period. He’s beginning to fall apart, and we need his skills. When we’re around, he’s fine. Do you want to go back to find the place empty, or worse, find the old man’s body on the sofa?
“I think we return, and fill the holes in our—” she eyed Jack, then Nico, with disbelief barely held in abeyance, “— our incredibly unplanned current strategy. Let’s get Salvha working on the tactics that will fill those holes in. When he’s working on something specific, he’s steady, and we’ll get things done more quickly.”
Nico glowered at her, then groaned and let his head fall back. “Why are you always right?”
She managed a tired smile, then turned and fixed her gaze on Jack. “Can the TARDIS move us there?”
He thought, marginally aware that he was trying to communicate with the TARDIS. But he knew the answer when he got nothing back.
“No. I’m pretty sure I can’t, not right now.”
Nico nodded, unsurprised. “Then let’s wake Jao, and get going. If, as you seem certain, your friend will find her way there—”
“She will.” Jack couldn’t quite get his head around the idea that Rose had somehow run into Salvha. Abela Fort'leza had, what, something over 900,000 souls in it; not a metropolis, but the likelihood of such a coincidence still seemed vanishingly small. Then again, what were the odds of him running into the son of Lizhbau’s governor, leader of the resistance no less, when walking in to the first nondescript dive he picks out of a tour guide he found in the TARDIS?
What indeed, smart boy? Jack’s eye’s widened momentarily as he examined the possibility of outside or inside influences. Then he blinked and deliberately put the thought away. He had more than enough to deal with right now. Rose somehow knew of Salvha, and she promised him she’d get to where he was. He was going to trust his (heart) instinct that she would do so. After all, with the exception of those heart-stopping moments at the safe-house, trusting his instincts had been the right way to play it.
“— then we’ll head out,” Nico finished.
“I’ll get my coat,” Jack said.
Rose was halfway back down the hall when Filomena shouted.
“What?” She knew she had snarled that, and felt guilty, but she begrudged every second she couldn’t search this place and find something, anything, that would get her to Jack.
Filomena followed her, holding on to the wall for balance. “If you’re looking for something in this place, you should—” she stopped, then grimaced and began again. “You should … should t-ta — sangre — talk to her. She l-lives here.”
Rose stopped, thunderstruck. Of course, Luisa! Then what Filomena had said registered. She turned slowly. “Filomena?”
“I m-mean it. Y-you talked about th-th-the— about her m-man.” Even in the murk of the dark hall, Rose could see the sweat on the other woman’s face. She tried not to think about what the new stutter meant, what part of her brain the silk was attacking now, and whether anything would remain long enough to be purged and healed of the poison. She thought instead about what Filomena had said. She was floored by the woman’s implied offer. “Are you alright with that?”
When Filomena made it to Rose’s side, the little woman looked grimly determined. “She’s f-fading. She’s still in there, b-but she won’t come out for me. I can f-feel her, but th-that’s all.”
She surprised Rose even more, then, putting both hands out to grasp Rose’s own. “Rose, I don’t want this. But I’m fading too, she’s t-ta-taking me with her. Th-this—”
One hand pulled loose; she brought it to her lips, then grabbed Rose’s fingers again. “This is t-telling me that I’m going to go wh-when she does. If she can get us to her ‘Vella, that gets us to your friend. And that gets us to y-y-your— ah quemosangre!”
Rose knew why Filomena was swearing; she’d be swearing too. She gripped the woman’s hands hard, partly to make her stop talking. “I understand. Y’don’t have to say anything more. Let’s go sit down. I don’t know if I can get her to come out, but I’ll try. And Filomena?” She swallowed hard against her own sorrow, against the desperation in her companion’s eyes. “Thank you.”
Filomena shook her head, irritably. “In a fight, y-you do what you have to.”
When can we stop, though? When do you get to rest, or will you die if you do? Rose dismissed the thought, telling herself that there’d be time later. Later, there was always time for it later, when she’d found Jack, when they’d rescued the Doctor, when they’d — she grimaced, not willing to finish that thought, either. “Alright then, let’s get you comfortable, yeah?”
They went out to the disheveled parlour again, and Rose helped Filomena into one of the chairs. After folding in on herself for a moment, the other woman straightened up a little and fixed her eyes on Rose. “Can you b-bring her out quickly? It’s getting even harder t-to feel her inside.” The panic wasn’t buried any more.
“Look, why don’t you just close your eyes for a bit, and … ehrm … just concentrate on breathing regularly,” Rose said. “The calmer you are, the easier it’ll be to do this.”
“I’m as calm as I can be at the moment.” Filomena rolled her eyes, which might have been funny under other circumstances. “Do this right, Rose. I’m t-tr-trusting you.” Her lids drooped closed, and she began to take slow breaths, deep and even. Rose waited.
Eventually her companion spoke again.
It wasn’t Filomena, and Rose breathed out shakily. She’d had no idea what it would take to get the fading dead girl to reappear. “I’m here, sweetheart.”
Her face changes so much when Luisa comes out. You can tell she’s not a soldier.
In point of fact, for most of the time she had been with Rose, Luisa had barely seemed an adult woman, not in the way she spoke or acted. Rose had examined the holo of Sampaio and his daughter after Luisa dropped it, but she had found little to tell her what or who Luisa might have been when she actually lived. Despite the paucity of clues, however, it was clear that she had been more than what remained by Rose’s side. Her face, while gentle, had seemed bright and responsive, laughing at the unseen holographer and smiling at her father; a woman obviously far more mature than the childlike and easy frightened personality that remained.
Whether that was a because of the mental and physical trauma the original Luisa had suffered (don’t think about it) or a function of the drug eroding Filomena’s brain was far beyond Rose’s ability to figure out. But what was left … Rose felt her protective instincts surge, and fought down the anger she felt on Luisa’s and Filomena’s behalf ….
“Are you alright?”
Luisa’s question brought her around again. “Sorry, yeah, drifted off —”
Rose wanted to bite her tongue the moment she said it, but to her surprise, the other girl laughed; faint and wheezing, but real. “It’s the p-popular thing these days.” The laugh transmuted into a cough, but when Luisa conquered it, she smiled again.
"I know why you need me awake. I could hear what you were talking about. You don’t need any maps. I c-can take you to where I think ‘Vella will be.” She stopped smiling. “He won’t k-know who I am, though. And I’m glad.”
“Oh, no!” Rose protested automatically, but Luisa shook her head as firmly as she could.
"I … I’m not here.” Her eyes filled with tears, but she wiped them away and persisted, with a very unchildlike grimness. "I f-f-feel real, but I- I-I —” She ground to a halt, then started again. “You heard what Filomena s-said. Y-you heard her story.” She confronted Rose with what she didn’t seem able to say. But with every passing moment, she seemed less the terrified waif Rose had found in the jail cell and more the woman Rose had glimpsed fleetingly in the holo. “My … my body is g-g-gone. And I’m not here.”
She stopped again, blinking rapidly. “I feel like myself now, Rose. Like I did b-before they took me to — to where you f-found me. Found Filomena.
“Before someone dies, someone who has been close to death, they sometimes come back. They feel like they used to. They have a chance to do things, say goodbye before they go. And I think that’s what the gracious Senhra’da Luz is giving me.”
“You don’t have to think about that now, swee— Luisa.” She wanted hold her, to tell her everything was going to be alright. But it wasn’t going to be alright.
"I k-know. But I c-can take you t-to the house I think ‘Vella may be in. He won’t k-know who I am, b-but you can tell him what hap-happened to me,” Luisa said. She struggled up from the chair, wheezing again with the effort. “He’ll need to know. And you c-can t-tell him I’m s-so-sorry for doubting him, for siding with Papa.” She turned heavily and made for the hall. “We have to go. Now.”
The other woman turned back; Rose held up one hand in apology, and pointed with the other. “You need your shoes.”
Luisa looked at her. “So do you.”
In the breathless moment before they started to laugh, Rose saw Luisa utterly alive and present. They giggled, then guffawed, leaning on each other for support, chests heaving. It felt clean and wonderful, and just a hair’s breadth from insanity. Luisa’s grip was strong, and Rose embraced her with just as much ferocity. The laughter subsided as they shuffled back up the hall to get their shoes, but only just.
It wasn’t until they were putting the shoes on that Luisa dissolved into real tears. It was the sorrow of a grown woman, though, not the lost weeping of before. It was soft, deep and quiet, and she didn’t let it stop her from getting ready to move.
“I don’t want to go,” she managed through the tears. “I’m trying to be brave, and I’m t-tr-trying not to think about it, that I’m already d-dead—” She stopped to cough, wiping the blood away with her fingers, then wiping her fingers on her shift. “D-do you have any idea of what’s real and what isn’t, Rose? I d-don’t.
“I feel real, I k-know I’m Luisa Adao-Sampaio, but I’m not. And I want to stay s-so desperately, but I c-can’t remember what my favorite food was … I s-started losing it when I woke up this m-morning — c-can’t remember w-what I used to like to sing, or how I met ‘Vella, just that I l-love him, and I’m going away—”
She bit off her rush of words, and swallowed again. “Will this part of me join up w-with the rest of me, d-do you suppose?”
Rose didn’t hesitate. “Yes. You don’t have to worry, yeah? There’s — there’s something beyond this life. I know it. And you’re — you’re out there somewhere, and you … you’ll be bringing better memories when you … when you get there.”
Now she was incapable of holding back. “You’re having a better end now, right? This is you, y’know, just as much as you ever were. You’re the you who escaped from that hole. You beat him. You beat that bastard, and you walked out of his lab. And you’re go—” She stumbled. “—You’re going to see ‘Vella before you, before you go. You don’t have to say anything, but hang on until I tell him what you told me to tell him. Please?” She rubbed away the tears with the edge of her thumb, but she couldn’t say any more. Heaven? Where the hell is heaven? Don’t care; there has to be a heaven, if only for Luisa’s sake. Mum, I wish you’d told me more about heaven.
They walked to the front door, their arms around the other’s waist. Luisa laid her head on Rose’s shoulder for a moment, then straightened. She pulled her hands free, dragged them through her hair.
“Open the door, Rose.”
They opened the door, and the sun shone in.
In the end, it didn’t take all that long for Luisa to find the pinched clapboard house, unremarkable amongst its flat-roofed and weary brethren. That was good, because she was almost gone; her eyes slid constantly between feverish awareness and the glazed look Rose had first glimpsed behind the cage bars.
In some small mercy, it didn’t seem to matter to the other woman. She didn’t speak much, beyond giving Rose directions. It took perhaps 20 minutes to reach their goal and all during that time, she seemed to be at peace, a serenity that was reflected in their surroundings. Poor this area might be, but it was surprisingly clean; no detritus blowing along the pavement, no rubbish tips, and the windows in the old houses were uncracked and mostly clean. The sun was bright, and the wind was almost bearable. No one paid them any mind, and in another small mercy, there were no Maldads in sight. Rose didn’t question the signs of undoubtedly fleeting grace.
“This is it,” Luisa finally whispered. “Up the stairs behind that door.”
Just as Rose started to groan, with the idea of yet another set of stairs — every place in this city seemed to be built tall and narrow, as if in bad imitation of the mountains surrounding it — the door at the top of the steps banged open. A thickset older man held it wide, while peering up and down the street. A rangy woman with broad shoulders and a shock of thickly kinked roan hair dashed down the stairs followed by —
“Jack!” She didn’t care who heard her.
And then he was there and she was in his arms and he in hers, and she was warm for the first time in what seemed like forever, and the smell of him, the smell of him, sweat and almonds and him, and he was laughing brokenly in her ear, chanting her name, and she was crying and not caring, selfishly not caring, about anything or anyone else in the world, not for one precious endless moment, as she returned his chant with her own, telling him that she loved him, laughing and crying and making sense only to him, she knew he understood, as she understood his endearments—.
“Captain, bring her in. Jao, help me with this one.” Over Jack’s shoulder, Rose saw the older woman struggle with Luisa, and turned her face to Jack’s.
“Jack, she’s dyin’; it’s the silk. The Doctor —” She gasped, his name finally snapping her completely from her happy fugue state. “Oh my god, Jack, he’s dying. He’s—”
“— burning. He’s burning. I know, love. I saw.”
They stood there for a moment, the twisting, gut-deep fear warring with the wonder of knowing that they were together, that they had been together somewhere else.
“Did we see him? Did he know we were there?”
Jack sighed out a shaky breath. “I’m not sure. I … don’t think so.”
Rose was disappointed when she realized that she agreed with him.
“Who … who brought us together?” She thought she knew, but she wanted to hear what he had to say.
“You’ll think I’m crazy, but I think it —”
“Harkness!" It was the bald man, sounding both angry and nervous. “Inside!”
“Yeah, coming.” He didn’t loosen his grip on Rose, just moved so that they could walk together up the steps to the door. “Sweetheart, who’s the girl?”
To her horror, Rose started to laugh. “Girls.”
And then she started to cry, but forced herself to stop. “Women. There are … she’s … never mind. In a minute. Give me a minute. I have a lot to tell you … but first, is there a man named Salvha here?”
He nodded, wordlessly aware that he’d been expecting the question.
“Good. I have a message for him.”
Post-script: For those who care: in First Empire neo-Portuguese, "Senhra’da Luz" is roughly translated as Lady of the Light, a more respectful version of Sera Lumina. "Quemosangre" can be very roughly translated as "whose blood", another idiomatic non-obscene near-oath, substituted for "God's blood" (sort of like "heck" for "hell")
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