Chapter 1, Part 2
“He didn't!” Donna exclaimed. Rose was sitting in the armchair in Donna's room on the TARDIS, watching her fold her laundry. Donna wore period clothes, but she preferred modern underwear; also, she preferred doing laundry herself, preferring a washing machine and tumble drier and iron to the full service the TARDIS happily provided for the Doctor. Donna claimed that doing something as mundane as laundry was time-consuming, but it also helped her retain a modicum of normalcy in the mad life she led with the Doctor.
“I've been so careful,” Rose sighed, collapsing once she was done. “I guess this means no more outings for me.”
“Don't be silly!” Donna scoffed. “You've been confined to the TARDIS long enough — no offence,” she added for the benefit if the ship. “And now that he's aware of you, it's better you are present in the village. Not overly, but... otherwise I think you'd arouse his curiosity.”
“You're probably right,” Rose sighed. “Still, I don't like it.”
Donna kept folding her laundry in silence for a while. Rose had gotten to know her well enough by that point to know that she was pondering something. She was proven right when Donna said, “He has changed a little. I don't see him as much as I'd like to, but I think he's withdrawn a bit from Matron. Don't get me wrong, I like her, and honestly I'd love for the Doctor to experience true love for once, without all that Time-Lord hullabaloo interfering. He should be able just to love and be loved in return.”
Rose peeled a bit of skin off the cuticle of her thumb.
“But I think she's not quite right for him. And she'll only have her heart broken in the end.”
“Yeah,” Rose mused. “Don't we all?”
Joan was sitting for her portrait again. They had been interrupted when he'd first started to draw her, and it was only now, four days later, that they had a chance to finish it. It didn't feel right, though. The light wasn't as gorgeous as when he'd started, and her hair was slightly different too. He found himself using the eraser more often than he was used to. His pencil seemed to have a mind of its own, sneaking in lines that belonged on another woman's face.
“You're very quiet today, John,” she said softly, sneaking a glance at him without actually moving her head.
John sighed. “It's... I... I'm sorry, Joan. I'm sorry, but I don't feel much like drawing today. I'm sorry.” He dropped his notebook and pencil on the seat and ran his hand over his face.
Joan turned towards him, covering his hand with hers where it rested on the seat between them. “You've been dreaming again, haven't you? Of Rose?” she asked, not daring to meet his eyes.
“No, I... not last night, no,” he replied, his heart thumping in his chest. How, he wondered, had she found him out so quickly?
Joan raised her head and met his eyes. He hardly knew her, yet he was falling in love with her. Or was he just wishing he were falling for her, to be free of the woman who kept haunting his dreams? Joan most certainly didn't deserve that. She was such a lovely person, and she had lost someone before. He couldn't go and raise her hopes when he didn't feel free to love her. She even listened to his mad stories about that Doctor persona he'd come up with as his alter ego. She listened without laughing at him; she took him seriously and kept asking questions, very clever questions. Joan deserved nothing less than his being honest. No matter how mad or pathetic he sounded. “I think I saw Rose earlier today.”
Joan didn't reply at once. “You saw someone who looks a lot like her?”
John wanted to say no, that it had definitely been Rose, but then he remembered the young woman's name, Marianne Prentice, and he closed his mouth, lowering his head. Joan's hand was still covering his, and he liberated his thumb to brush it over hers as best he could. “That must be it,” he mumbled. Then he looked up at her. “She looked exactly like Rose, though.”
“Well, maybe you've seen her before, and she has somehow found her way into your dreams,” Joan said.
“Maybe,” he sighed, although he was fairly sure that that wasn't the case. He would have remembered if he'd seen her before; besides, the memory of her felt old, older than the journal. He had dreamed of her for as long as he could remember. Was he going mad, preferring the love he felt for a vision to the love of a real woman?
“Well, it's late, and I'll have to get back to work,” Joan said. “I'll see you at dinner.” She stood, cupping his chin gently to brush her lips against his temple.
“Yes, see you there,” he replied dejectedly. How could Joan be so kind to him, when he was like this?
He saw her to the door, but on the way back to his desk he picked up the broken fob watch. He knew that it was a silly thing to do — it wouldn't repair itself and open just because he ignored it. Annoyed, he withdrew his hand before he touched the silver metal with the strange pattern engraved on it and turned to check the clock on the wall. If he hurried, he might just make it to the Village Bookshop and back before dinner. Marianne Prentice had left the shop without buying the volume she had clearly been interested in. And maybe, just maybe, Mr Davies would oblige him and answer a couple of his questions about the young lady.
Mr Davies was a tall man, taller than him, and quite stout, with a friendly, open face, a pair of glasses always precariously perched on his nose, and a mischievous, sometimes smug smile. “Miss Prentice? She's been in here a couple of times in the past two weeks, but I've never seen her before that. She doesn't talk much, but she's friendly enough. Sometimes I think she's waiting for something to happen — or someone to come.” He looked at him, his eyes going wide. “It's not you, though, is it, Professor?”
“Me? Goodness me, no. Why would she? I mean, we've never met before,” he said, laughing, thumbing through the pages of the book she'd left behind. He felt a blush creeping up to his face, and as much as he liked Mr Davies, there was no need for him to witness this embarrassing moment.
“I think she and Miss Noble are acquainted,” the bookseller said. “They often take walks together. I can see them.” He gestured through the spotless shop windows.
“Oh,” John tried to mutter as nonchalantly as he could, but he knew he failed miserably at it. “Miss Noble, the school secretary?”
“The very same. You might want to ask her about Miss Prentice.”
“Yes, yes,” John mumbled, closing the book. “How much is this?” He had been examining the slim volume for a while, but he still didn't have any idea what it was.
Just as Mr Davies was about to tell him, the door opened, upsetting the bells above it, and in came Miss Prentice. She stopped dead in her tracks as she met John's eyes. Her reaction was one of pleasure at seeing him again, but she was also upset about their encounter. But why? Had he done anything to offend her earlier that afternoon? But then there also was that feeling of familiarity, the memory of her hand in his. He'd felt, for a split second, as if he'd held it countless times. It was a wonderful, wondrous feeling.
Miss Prentice was very beautiful, and she radiated a self-confidence that he found charming as well as unusual in a woman her age. Her honey-coloured hair was coiffed in a way that it softened the line of her cheeks, and her brown eyes were fascinating. There was something about them he couldn't put his finger on. Sadly, her smile died as soon as she saw him, and she paled.
“Miss Prentice, are you all right?” Mr Davies said, hurrying out from behind the counter to guide her towards a stool which had until then escaped John's notice.
“I'm quite all right, thank you, Mr Davies,” she said, looking still a bit flustered but smiling now. She had recovered quickly, and John found himself smiling tentatively in return. “I'm sorry I gave you gentlemen a scare. It's just, I didn't expect to see the Professor again so soon.”
“Am I such an awful sight to behold, Miss Prentice?” John asked, feeling the corners of his eyes crinkle. He wasn't sure if he liked that. He had a notion that the crinkles made him look old.
“Not at all, D... Professor,” she replied.
John laughed. “Oh, that's a relief. I think I know what brought you here, Miss Prentice.”
He must have said something wrong, for her eyes were a bit more guarded. Mr Davies observed their exchange with quiet amusement. “What would that be?”
“This book. You were in quite a hurry when you left earlier this afternoon,” he said, holding the volume in question out for her. She accepted it, and the moment she took it from him, although they didn't so much as touch, he could feel the sparks flying between them. He'd read about them often and perceived them to be nothing but a cliché, but there was no other way of describing what was passing between them.
He swallowed as he watched her run her fingers over the volume's spine. “Yes, that's it.” Then she returned it to him, and he dumbly took it. “But clearly, you arrived to claim it before me, Professor.”
“Oh,” he stammered, “Oh, no, no, I wasn't... I mean I was... I was just looking at it.” He laughed nervously. “But it's... I'd forgotten to pick up something else, and I happened to see it on the counter.”
Her eyes sparkled. “You aren't stalking me, are you?”
“Stalking? I beg your pardon, Miss Prentice,” he spluttered nervously. “You make it sound as if you were a... a... my prey.”
John felt himself turn crimson. She was smiling at him coquettishly, with the tip of her tongue peeking from between her white teeth. Mr Davies coughed and excused himself. In a panic, John's head whipped around just in time to see him retreat to the back room. “Most certainly not!” he scoffed.
“Oh, that's good,” she said. “Well, as I said, it's yours. I'll find something else to read.”
“Are you sure, Miss Prentice?” he hurried to say. He couldn't let her go, not before he had found out why his memory of her seemed to be one of his oldest, and, he had to admit, fondest. And her eyes. He needed to find out what it was about her eyes.
“Yeah,” she said.
“May I... in exchange for your generosity, at least walk you home? Darkness is falling fast, and I'd hate for you to be out by yourself,” he said. Again, his heart was hammering against his ribs, and he doubted that a second one would have made the feeling more bearable.
Her smile faltered. “That's really kind of you, Professor, but it's not that far, and I don't want to be a bother.”
“Maybe we could walk part of it together?” he asked, fearing, as he heard himself, that he was sounding desperate.
She thought about it for a while. “It's not a good idea.”
“Oh,” he said. Of course. He had made a fool of himself, no wonder she wasn't interested in walking with him, or even being seen with him. “I understand.”
“No, it's—” she began, but stopped herself. Then she bade him adieu and left.
John looked at the book for a while. He was never going to find out about Miss Prentice, not now. He had felt quite out of his depth with her. She was so different from Joan, sweet, gentle Joan. And yet talking to her had felt right. Miss Prentice was very much like Rose. Self-confident, clever, and not afraid of teasing him. The familiarity between them was so deep-routed that it encouraged her to tease him. It was most certainly not born of the few minutes they'd talked in the bookshop. This was older.
“I'm hopeless, aren't I, Davies?” he asked as the bookseller returned from his hiding place. Mr Davies merely sighed, adjusting his glasses, and wrapped the book for him as he paid. Then he left in no hurry. He was late for dinner already. He'd ask Cook to have a light meal sent to his room.
Miss Prentice, when he scanned the village common for her, was nowhere to be seen.
“Miss Noble, may I have a word?”
Donna looked up from her notes. Matron was stepping into her small office, carefully closing the door behind her. She didn't look like she was here on official business. “Of course,” Donna said, gesturing for her to have a seat on the uncomfortable high-backed bench occupying one corner of the room. It was for visitors, never boys, though, who came to see the Headmaster but were early.
Matron looked nervously at the Headmaster's door. “Oh, he isn't in,” Donna said, and, in sitting down herself, encouraging Matron to follow suit. “What can I do for you, Nurse Redfern?”
“It's Professor Smith,” she said. She took a deep breath before she continued as if to give herself strength to even start the conversation. “I'm worried about him.”
Donna's chin puckered as she pursed her lips and nodded for her to go on. Matron told him about Rose and how he believed he had met her. “I think, Miss Noble, I... please tell me to stop if I am being too familiar with this. You are the only one here who knows him, and... I wouldn't want to talk to anyone else about this. It sounds a bit fantastic,” she stammered.
“Don't worry. I'll listen, no matter how strange this gets,” Donna reassured her.
“I think that his dreams aren't just a product of his enviable imagination. Well, maybe not the space-travelling bit. You see, we often have tea together in the afternoons and talk. He's been telling me of his dreams, but I've found that some of his memories are a bit vague,” she explained. “And I was wondering if maybe he has had an accident of some kind and lost his memory. He told me he has seen the woman from his dreams in the village today. Unfortunately, it's not me.” She laughed dejectedly.
“Oh,” Donna said.
“He is absolutely sure that the young lady he met is Rose, the woman from his dreams,” Nurse Redfern concluded.
Donna took a deep breath. She was more than surprised by the woman's leap of faith, and how she had found such plausible explanations for the inconsistencies in John Smith's behaviour. What was she going to tell her? That she was right, that Rose was, indeed, the woman from the Professor's dreams?
Nurse Redfern laughed nervously and stood, clasping her hands in front of her body. “I am seeing things, aren't I?”
“I don't know Mr Smith very well either, I'm afraid,” Donna said eventually. “He is very fond of you, Matron.”
“Not fond enough, I fear,” she said. “He...”
She was interrupted when the door was flung open and in strode the Headmaster. Donna jumped to her feet, smoothing her skirt. Mr Roscastle turned around, surprised to find Donna's desk empty, searching the small office. He looked a bit annoyed to find her and Matron so obviously deep in conversation. “Ah, Miss Noble. Get me the file of the student Jeremy Baines.”
“Yes, Sir,” Donna said, touching Matron's arm in sympathy as Roscastle walked into his office. It was all she felt she could do for the poor woman. Rose was right, the Doctor kept breaking all their hearts, even as a human male.
Doctor Who and its accoutrements are the property of the BBC, and we obviously don't have any right to them. Any and all crossover characters belong to their respective creators. Alas no one makes any money from this site, and it's all done out of love for a cheap-looking sci-fi show. All fics are property of their individual authors. Archival at this site should not be taken to constitute automatic archive rights elsewhere, and authors should be contacted individually to arrange further archiving. Despite occasional claims otherwise, The Blessed St Lalla Ward is not officially recognised by the Catholic Church. Yet. |
Script for this archive provided by eFiction. Contact our archivists at email@example.com. Please read our Terms of Service and Submission Guidelines.