In the moments after Filomena dies
You stupid cow … you stupid little girl ….
Rose sat in her bedroom, berating herself for her outburst and pondering the puzzle of why in the world — this one or any other — she thought a centuries old alien should even have to listen to her. Barely two decades old — what kind of idiot was she?
She’d stalked down the corridor toward her bedroom, disregarding the tug in the back of her mind, knowing it was the TARDIS trying to route her back to the medlab.
“I can’t,” she’d said aloud. “Not now.” She’d broken into a run, suddenly nauseated with the anger and sorrow and desperate to make it to her room before it overtook her in the hall.
Now you’re here. Now what? Idiot ….
In the quiet of her room, she tried to get herself under control. She thought she’d managed it, only to remember the boneless way Filomena’s body had slapped back down into the medi-pod, and she fell onto her bed and cried again, wondering where the tears had come from. She thought she’d cried herself dry. Again. And again she was wrong.
She wiped her eyes and her nose, and rolled over to look at the ceiling. “Ever since we came here, I’ve done nothing but cry or throw up, or both ….”
The self-doubt that she’d more or less successfully kept at bay for the last day or so bubbled up like swamp gas. She thought about what she’d said — yelled, really — at everyone back in the medlab, and felt her face go hot. Yelling at the head of a planet’s revolution? At Jack, who’d gotten them out of the jail complex, who’d never given up on her? At the Doctor?
Foolish, stupid, selfish … always making scenes, always being a drama queen. You think it’s about you? It should never be about you. ….
Rose jerked her head up off her pillow. She knew she hadn’t actually heard the word; her brain had interpreted something more direct than words as a word.
She blinked away the last of her tears. Of course it was Her, Rose thought, not even surprised at how accustomed she’d become to communication with the TARDIS. She wasn’t going to give up just because Rose had pushed Her away in the corridor. “I really can’t go back —”
Remember what? Rose didn’t move, wondering if she could pick up some clue from the air around her.
(Remember you. Your heart.)
She almost forgot the words as they came to her, probably because they’d never been words in the first place, but she hung on to them.
Her own heart?
Then the memories came.
She remembered Mum scolding her after she’d smashed a picture book down on Alun McQuorter’s head in primary school. She’d been furious at him; not only had he told her she wasn’t his girlfriend anymore after she told him he was a bully, he’d proved she was right by pushing Eleanor down the stairs for being in his way. She remembered telling Mum why she’d done it, and Mum laying into the head teacher: “My Rose did the right thing and you — you ought to be ashamed of yourself, letting that big boy hurt a little girl!”
She remembered taking care of Shireen when her friend had knocked on Mum’s door, eye blacked from what Shireen insisted was a door she’d walked into. She remembered going down to the station to report Shireen’s dad. She’d been 15 and almost blind with rage.
She remembered screaming at Jimmy after he’d laid a hand on Mum, when Jackie came to get her, to bring her home. She hadn’t intended to leave with her mother. She’d been too embarrassed, too ashamed to admit her mother had been right. And she’d become a little too afraid of what Jimmy might do if she tried to leave. Until Jimmy, almost knee-walking drunk, called Mum a proper slag, tried to grab one of her breasts, and Rose had lost it, slapping him so hard that he’d fallen on his arse.
She remembered other times when her anger had spilled over; times when she’d been furious over what someone had done to someone else.
Yeah, like I’m some heroine. I’m not, you hear? Just someone who can’t control her temper. ‘M selfish and jealous and —
(Love you love you love. You love.)
Before Rose could begin to think of how to respond to the wash of emotion that flowed over her, it was gone, as if a faucet somewhere had shut off.
She sat up completely now, fighting a sense of loss. A sentence from some book she’d read as a little girl — “not a tame lion” — silently echoed in the absence.
How had the TARDIS coaxed those recollections out of her unconscious, she wondered, trying not to dwell on being alone again in her own head. If it came to that, why didn’t she mind what was surely an intrusion into her mind?
“‘Cause it’s Her,” Rose whispered to herself. She tried for a moment to reach out to Her, then looked down at her hands and grinned, just a little bit. She wasn’t going to get Her back, not now at least. And she didn’t really need to, she thought. Just because there was a cool, empty spot where those almost-words had so recently been didn’t mean they hadn’t been warm and loving when they were there.
“Got it,” she said softly. “No more calling myself a cow.”
Beating herself up was stupid, she admitted. She’d said the right things — maybe not in the best way — and she could, if she’d only stopped to think of it, count on Jack and the Doctor to understand what she’d said. Besides it wasn’t as if the Doctor had the greatest social skills, she thought. Jack, sure, but ….
Rose finally allowed herself to relax into thoughts that weren’t about anything related to death, and drifted to sleep.
She awoke when someone knocked on her door.
“Rose?” The voice on the other side of the door was Hilda’s. “Are you alright? Can I come in?”
“Yeah, sure,” she responded, knuckling at her eyes and swinging her bare feet — when had she taken off her trainers? — to the floor.
Hilda walked into the bedroom hesitantly, as if she expected to be kicked out. But Rose patted the bed beside her and the older woman crossed the floor without hesitation. She looked around herself at the bedroom and back at Rose. “You’ve made a home here, haven’t you.” It wasn’t a question.
“And a family,” Hilda said, cautious but certain.
Rose took a breath, then nodded again. “Yeah. Yeah, we’re a family.”
“You have a lot of love to give,” Hilda said. “You should be glad you were able to give it to Filomena, and to Luisa. They didn’t die alone. You’re the reason they didn’t. Thank you.”
A bit of the warmth Rose had felt with the TARDIS in her mind returned as she heard that. It wasn’t enough to heal the wound, but it did staunch the bleeding. She swallowed, then said, “I guess. Thanks for saying it.”
The two women sat together, silent, until Rose reached for Hilda’s hands, and said, “There’s still work to do, yeah? What can I do to help?”
*** **** **** ***
After Inverno’s arrival
“Rope, line, handcuffs — anything we can use to immobilize seven men … no, eight. Anything She can provide or that you can find on your own.”
“Gotcha.” Rose took off down the hall, sending out a mental call for help as she headed toward the one storeroom she knew she was most apt to run into. Sure enough, there it was, door already open. Thank you.
She managed to find two sets of metal handcuffs and some rope, but that was it. “Damn!”
Rose yelped in surprise, then turned and saw Isobel Fahrar, holding out a tangle of plastic handcuffs.
“I had some,” Fahrar said. She looked at Rose and raised an eyebrow.
“Just in case?” Rose successfully fought the urge to smile.
“Just in case.” Fahrar was deadpan.
Rose snatched the proffered cuffs and headed back to the control room. Why do people I want to hate always end up helping me out?
It was ridiculously easy to get the unconscious Maldads secured, even with one ear tuned to the tense and surreal conversation going on between the Doctor and Renhald Inverno. The man had shown up with the unconscious governor, and was pretty obviously using him as a hostage in order to get the Doctor to take him off-world.
“Don’t. Push me.”
Rose looked up when she heard Jack speak. She saw him trembling and knew he was on the verge of violence. Not that I blame him.
“Hold on, Jack. Just a little longer.”
He turned his head just enough to catch her eyes, then jerked his chin in agreement.
Minutes later, it was Jack who had to put a restraining hand on her arm, when she heard Inverno calmly tell the Doctor that he’d essentially booby-trapped the governor. The little man was probably hardly better than his second in command, she knew that, but he was sick and helpless.
She turned to the Doctor. “Can he do that?”
The Doctor’s answer made her seethe, but she kept her cool, keeping her cheer silent when he dragged Inverno bodily into the TARDIS.
The man’s gaping wonder at Her interior was an abrupt departure from his previous unflappable attitude. “Sangre …”
The Doctor normally looked delighted when someone new entered the TARDIS. He glowered at Inverno. “It’s bigger on the inside, yes, you already know I’m a xeno so there’s that done, no, you’ll never get your hands on Her, yes She’ll take you off-planet, and yes, I’ll keep my word to do that. Have I answered every question? Can we get your patient to my medlab without wastin’ valuable time?”
“What about my men?”
“What about ‘em? They’ll live.”
Nico had followed the gurney into the TARDIS. Now he joined the Doctor. Rose was somehow not surprised to see similarities between the two. Guess you don’t have to be a 900-year-old Time Lord to hold the room. “No more talking. Do what the Doctor tells you.”
“Doctor … you truly have no other name?” Inverno wasn’t really stalling, although Rose didn’t think he was talking for any reason than bloody-mindedness.
Jao unholstered his stunner and aimed it at Inverno. “Move.” The gun jolted the man out of his bloody-mindedness in a very satisfactory fashion.
They made a strange little parade, Rose thought; Nico pushing the gurney behind the Doctor, Inverno following with Jao and Jack bracketing him, guns drawn. She noted that the Doctor didn’t object to all the hardware on display. Hilda walked with her and Salvha, one hand lightly touching the little man’s shoulder. Just as she had touched Jack’s shoulder, Rose thought. She wasn’t sure that Salvha could control himself as well as the Captain, though.
Rose risked a sideways glance past Hilda to Salvha. She didn’t like what she saw, but as long as he didn’t actually explode, she wasn’t going to say anything about it. Best not to kick an unexploded bomb, she thought, the field outside St. Albion’s large in her memory.
“Here we are,” the Doctor said. The medlab hummed quietly to itself, lights in the wall displays cycling in time with the hum.
Rose couldn’t help herself; she looked at the pod where Filomena lay.
“Don’t worry,” the Doctor said, catching her eye briefly, with the tiniest of nods. “That’s locked. No one can get at her. She’s safe until you decide how to say goodbye.”
It wouldn’t be her decision, she knew. It would be Luisa’s father’s, and Salvha’s. And maybe Fahrar’s, she thought. The Maldad officer had cared for Filomena. And aren’t we lucky she did. The woman had brought up to the rear of the gurney train. When she looked at her former superior, her eyes were as hard as Rose had ever seen them. Inverno’s were equally cold when he noticed her staring at him.
“Move the governor over here,” the Doctor said, gesturing to his right. “Nico, I want you here with me and Inverno. The rest of you can go.”
“But —” Rose started to object.
“And by ‘you can go,’ I mean I want all of you out of here. This gentleman and I need peace and quiet,” the Doctor said, his voice making clear just how little he thought of the gentleman in question. “Nico stays because it’s his father we’re dealing with.”
“How long?” Jack kept the question brief.
“My guess? No more than an Earth-standard half hour. Probably less.” Inverno, who had walked over to one of the wall displays, eyed the Doctor dubiously, before turning back to the displays. He didn’t touch anything. He clearly knew he was out of his depth.
“Right,” Jack said, brisk and efficient. “Come on, folks. We have a bit more hurry up and wait before we get to move again.”
“No one outside can get in the ship now. So no one can come in after those two?” Jao was still skeptical.
“Nothing can get past those doors if She doesn’t want them to,” Jack said. “Don’t worry, Jao. She’ll keep us safe.”
Rose noted the approving look he got from the Doctor for saying that. Inside her head, she felt a warm buzz; from the quickly concealed but very happy surprise in Jack’s eyes, she thought he’d felt the same thing. The TARDIS was as happy to be complimented as the Doctor was to hear a compliment on her behalf.
The lights in the halls leading to the library shone warm and golden. Rose was comforted by them. She thought it would help the others if they could feel even a little of the warmth themselves, but she wasn’t hopeful. Inverno’s presence had upset the small amount of calm she, Jack and the TARDIS had labored to instill in their guests.
You forget, after running with the Doctor, how much chaos he generates, she thought. You forget, because you get used to it. And you crave it, and that’s the honest truth. She thought about how fearful her mother was of the Doctor. She wasn’t wrong, Rose thought. But there was no way she was ever going to extricate her daughter from the chaos, not when it got into her blood —
“Does he really mean to let that godless filth get away?” Salvha wasn’t speaking to his resistance companions, Rose realized with a start. It had been 15 or 20 minutes of silence, so his voice had startled her.
“I don’t think so,” Rose replied. She wanted to be honest, but she didn’t know what she could honestly say; certainly nothing of what she’d been thinking when Salvha broke her concentration. “He … he fights for what’s right. But he does it his way. I wish I could tell you more.”
“But he said he’d take the bastard off planet.”
“True,” said Jack from where he lounged, both legs crooked over one arm of a settee. “But I’m not sure Inverno is going to like what happens after that. The Doctor doesn’t like being coerced and he has a way of letting people know it. Trust me on this.”
“Huh.” Salvha still looked unconvinced. So did Hilda, Rose thought.
Then she looked closer, and realized she was seeing something else. Hilda had her eyes firmly fixed on Salvha. Oh my god. She still thinks he’s going to do something bad. Rose had thought that Salvha was calming under Hilda’s friendly hand, but that didn’t appear to be Hilda’s own judgement.
Perhaps Jack saw the same thing. He swung his legs back around and stood up, walking over to where Salvha sat. He squatted down in front of the man. “Inverno will pay,” he said calmly, but firmly. “They all will.”
“If your man can’t do it, I will,” Salvha responded, just as calmly, and Rose felt the same chill she’d felt while they’d been in the corridor back at Central Command.
“Adao —” Jao began.
“What?” The switch from calm to near-animal snarl plainly knocked Jack back on his metaphysical heels. He stood up without another word, and came over to stand beside Rose. She was grateful for his presence, and grabbed his hand. He squeezed hers, hard.
Salvha’s outburst also appeared to dismay Jao, although that quickly resolved into a military bristle. “Control yourself.”
“How can I?” So much heartbreak in those three words.
Jao retreated into silence. When Hilda reached for Salvha’s shoulder, he brushed her hand away. She, too, retreated, to another seat near the door.
Rose could think of nothing more to say; she looked up at Jack. He smiled at her and she felt better, even though she saw the worry in his eyes.
“I’ll keep an eye on him,” Jack murmured into her ear.
“Don’t know what you can do if he blows up,” she replied in a whisper.
“I’m bigger than he is.”
“Yeah, but … he kills,” she said bleakly. “You don’t.”
Jack didn’t say anything, and Rose felt her stomach go even more hollow.
Before she had time to say anything, she heard familiar boot steps in the hall. She turned toward the door just as the Doctor marched into the library. Nico followed, with Inverno in tow. The Lizhbauan strongman looked a little glassy-eyed; Rose wasn’t surprised, since the Doctor often had that effect on people who watched him in alien scientist mode.
The Doctor swept the library, and its inhabitants, with a black gaze. “We’re ready,” he said. “Nico’s dad is sorted, and we’ve determined a destination for this one.” He jerked a chin at Inverno, not granting him the respect of a direct look.
“Where?” Hilda divided her attention between Salvha and Nico.
I don’t blame you, Rose thought. It’s hard to know who to pay attention to when they’re both primed to explode. Why do women always end up worrying about men who explode?
“Virginis Prime,” the Doctor said. He was grim.
“I have contacts there,” Inverno said. He looked as if he was about to continue speaking, but the Time Lord’s glare shut him up.
“Everyone back to the console room,” the Doctor said, his comment brooking no dissent. No one offered any.
The rotor wasn’t moving when the party came through the hall door into the green and coral branched center point of the TARDIS. As Rose and Jack entered, it began to rise and glow. The Doctor stared at it quizzically, then at the two of them. Rose thought he might have felt the same warmth at the base of his brain as she — and Jack, she saw — felt as they approached the console.
We’re here, she thought at the TARDIS. We know you’ll do the right thing.
More warmth, and the most gentle of shocks. Rose thought it was Her way of asking for quiet. Even the TARDIS needed room to concentrate, and if that meant She could continue to navigate as accurately as Jack said She’d been doing over the past two days, Rose was glad to give her the room.
She perched on the jumpseat, watching as the Doctor moved around the console, throwing switches and pressing buttons. Inverno stayed right behind him. He was frowning, which surprised Rose. Yes, the Doctor had made it clear he didn’t want to hear a word from him, but why was the man not looking at least a little more at ease? He was on his way to freedom —
— unless he suspected that he wasn’t.
Rose fought the twin urges to break out in a grin, and to try to contact the TARDIS to confirm her suspicion. But she felt hope fill that spot in her stomach that Salvha had emptied. Maybe the little man would get to see some real justice. She didn’t know what the Doctor had in store, but she now had the hope she hadn’t quite been able to transmit to Luisa’s husband only minutes ago.
Perhaps she’d made a little noise; both the Doctor and Inverno turned in her direction. Inverno’s frown became even darker, but the Doctor … oh, the Doctor’s beautiful, crazy grin … there it was, all over his face.
She felt a hand touch the back of her neck. It was Jack, who’d made his way around the room to be closer to her and to the Doctor. “How you doing, sweetheart?” The banked excitement in his eyes told her that he’d reached the same conclusion she had.
“How long?” Inverno asked, his suspicious gaze on Rose and Jack as they stood across the console boards from him. The rotor rose and fell between them, green and golden, its piano-string rhythm both comforting and exhilarating to Rose.
“Oh, not long at all, Renhald,” the Doctor said. His grin turned nasty. “Get yourself ready.”
Inverno didn’t immediately respond. He looked around the console room, then swung his head around to the Time Lord. “Why did you have everyone accompany us here?”
“Maybe it’s because I like to keep an eye on the humans in my care,” the Doctor said. “Or maybe it’s some strange alien reason that I have no intention of telling you.”
“You gave your word.” There was more than a hint of dismay in Inverno’s voice.
“I said I’d get you off-planet, and I have no intention of going back on that,” the Doctor said. “And, no, I’m not going to kill you, much as a few folks standin’ very close to you probably would like that. They might even cheer me on.”
Now the man looked alarmed.
“He probably just realized that leaving his bargaining chip in the medlab was a bad idea,” Jack said to Rose, sotto voce. “Good to know that evil genius villains can make stupid mistakes.” Rose thought her answering smile probably looked as mad as the Doctor’s.
No one else in the console room spoke, although Nico looked as if he wanted to say something. Instead, they watched the rotor as it pushed and pulled time and space to get to their destination. Rose saw the unabated wonder on their faces, and knew a little bit of that wonder still showed on her own. You never completely got over it, no matter how many times you saw it happen, she thought.
She felt the TARDIS slow.
For a moment, Rose’s limbic system wanted her to throw up, before treating her to an almost sexual physical euphoria. It was the first time she’d felt that particular thalassic surge and release in her head, and it was unlike any other communication she’d yet had from Her. It was like a gift, but it was a most unusual offering, differing in intensity from the communication Rose was becoming used to.
Is this what he feels when She moves? It can’t be, can it? Rose fought her imagination, and her forebrain was able to wrest control back from her brain stem and amygdala in time to hear the Doctor say “We’re here.”
“Virginis Prime?” Inverno asked suspiciously.
“If you don’t trust me, see for yourself,” the Doctor said, contriving to look just a little hurt that the man didn’t believe him.
Rose and Jack traded glances before Rose eyed everyone else. She saw that Nico and Jao had edged closer to the Doctor, Inverno and the door; in doing so, they appeared to have blocked Salvha from any position where he could easily reach Inverno. That didn’t mean that Salvha wasn’t trying. The little man was ignoring Hilda’s attempts, trying to shoulder his way past her.
The Doctor walked to the door. “Ready?”
Inverno followed his lead. “Open the door,” he said, trying for some of his earlier bravado, and failing.
She opened the door Herself, and Rose felt something dangerous begin to spark and ripple in the air around them. She was angry, Rose realized, and no longer felt like keeping it from Her humans, or anyone else in Her grasp.
Perhaps Inverno felt Her merciless focus. He fell back.
The Doctor scowled. “Well, are you gonna go? Can’t dilly-dally here all day,” he said. He grinned nastily again, but the nastiness was transforming into something else.
“I —” Inverno’s cheek was sheened with sweat.
Rose saw the storm in the Doctor’s eyes almost before it boiled up, so attuned had she become to both him and the TARDIS. He wasn’t nasty now, nor even angry. He was — Rose’s breath caught in her throat — rage itself breaking through a formerly ironclad control, fury he must have felt as he fell into the awful truth of this place, fed by his own experience of it, and his fury in turn feeding Hers.
A week earlier, Rose might have whimpered at the lowering tension, the feeling of lightning barely held in check. She didn’t whimper now.
“You have no choice, Renhald Inverno.” His voice rolled out, dark as night and unforgiving as ocean ice. “Get out of my TARDIS.”
Beyond the doors, shouts of alarm. Rose wasn’t close enough to make out all the orders being barked, but she did hear two phrases repeated by several voices — Sua Serenidade and Proteja Majestada.
“No.” Inverno didn’t shout. He … moaned. “No.”
“Yes.” The Doctor, inevitable as death. He grabbed the other man by his shoulder, forced him forward, then backed up and put his booted foot into the small of Inverno’s back, and shoved.
Inverno stumbled out of the TARDIS and into a blaze of ivory light.
“Come on, everyone.” The darkness was still in the Doctor’s voice. “We have someone to meet. We’ve brought him a present.”
“What —” from Nico, from whose face the blood had drained.
“You know,” the Doctor said, not even looking at him. “Come on.”
Rose and Jack were the first ones out the door after Inverno, who they saw had fallen face first onto the floor. She raised her head to look around.
This is … beautiful.
Rose couldn’t help her awe. The pink-tinged ivory light emanated in a steady glow from the high ceiling and the walls. It should have been overwhelming, but it wasn’t. Topping the walls, a cornice of what looked like gold-veined black marble that helped define all those softly-shining walls, turning the space into a vast room, long and narrow, its white and gold-veined floor leading to a set of shallow steps at the far end. The stairs ended in a low dais.
She couldn’t take in much more; soldiers whose very dangerous weapons were all trained on them, unwavering despite their visible shock, surrounded her, Jack, the Doctor and the others.
Inverno stayed frozen where he sprawled. Rose didn’t know if that was because of the weapons, or shock at where he had ended up.
“Put down your weapons, lads,” the Doctor said. “He’ll want to see us.”
The light tenor carried clearly from the dais and when they heard it, the soldiers very reluctantly holstered their weapons.
The middle-aged man sitting atop the dais on a spartan high-backed chair stood up, pushing aside one of two small banks of computer screens on either side of the chair on wheeled frames. As he stood, the soldiers fell to one knee facing him, their heads bowed.
The Doctor inclined his head almost imperceptibly, then turned to speak to those behind him.
“Friends, enemies, I give you David, Lord of Armies, Judge of Civilization, Image of the Imperium, O Graça, O Majestade of the Great and Bountiful Empire of Humankind Among the Stars.”