To Dream a Life
John lay awake for a long time that night. It wasn't only because of the post-coital nap that afternoon, it was also because he had woken to find Marianne gone. He really shouldn’t be surprised, nor hurt, that she had left him. But he couldn’t help feeling dejected. She had made it quite clear to him that their relationship didn't have a future. She was going to leave for New Zealand in a couple of weeks. He would stay here, teaching and writing and dreaming of a life amid the stars.
At the core of it all, however, was that he was ashamed of himself. Had he made love to Marianne or Rose? Had he only talked to Marianne because she looked like the woman from his dreams? And where did that leave poor Joan? She was such a kind woman, and there was no doubt that her feelings for him were genuine — whatever they might be.
He sat up, rubbing his face. He could still feel Marianne's touch on his skin, despite the bath he had taken. By the time he had woken the rain had eased off and he'd slipped on his damp clothes, hurrying back to the school. He had been late for supper, and Jenny had brought him some sandwiches to his room. Making love to Marianne had left him hungry. Hungry for food, and hungry for more. She seemed to have been with men before him, but she had been a kind lover, guiding him instead of mocking him for his lack of experience. So would Joan, he thought, if... Well, Marianne had made it quite clear that she didn't want to see him again, either because of her eventual departure or because of his shortcomings in bed.
He flushed, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. How foolish he had been. He had better forget about her and turn to Joan instead. He was very fond of her, and with time, he hoped, he would overcome Rose and Marianne and his foolish dreams. Maybe he should write a book about the Doctor to banish him and Rose from his thoughts and dreams, to be free of them.
Still, his treacherous mind argued after he'd lain down again, the similarities between Rose and Marianne were uncanny, and lately even the secretary, Miss Noble, had appeared in his dreams, as another of the Doctor's companions. Why, he wondered, wasn't Joan among them? She should be. She was so much like Rose Tyler and Donna Noble. Maybe his mind was playing tricks on him and populating his dreams with people from real life.
This Doctor thing was fast becoming ridiculous. It had to stop, and he wouldn't indulge his over-active imagination by writing about it.
With a sigh he got up and padded towards his desk in the semi-darkness of his room. He had left the diary open, at the picture of Rose no less. He was about to slam the diary shut when something occurred to him. His theory was flawed. He had he dreamed of Rose before he'd met Marianne Prentice.
He switched on the desk lamp and sat in his chair without bothering with his robe. He leafed through the book, studying the sketches and the words he'd scrawled hastily in his half-asleep state on many mornings in an attempt to capture the images and ideas before they eluded him. When he came to Joan's half-finished portrait, he picked up his pencil and corrected the lines of her face, and before he knew it, he had finished her portrait. He sat back in his chair, rubbing his hands over his eyes. The clock on the wall read quarter past three in the morning. Just what he had guessed it must be. He smiled to himself at his sense of timing.
He crawled back into bed and fell asleep quickly. He rolled over and draped his arm over Rose's naked body, drawing closer to her as he did so. His hand cupped the heavy softness of one of her breasts, and he moved his fingers over her skin gently, gently, so as not to wake her. He nuzzled her shoulder, enjoying the scent of her hair. It smelled warm and of spices, unlike anything he'd ever smelled before.
She could feel him growing hard behind her and pushed back into him in her sleep, a soft sigh escaping her lips. But other than that she didn't do anything to encourage him, and he was quite at a loss of what to do. Could he... could he sink into her like this, from behind? He groaned at the idea of it, it seemed so... naughty, but also promising so much pleasure. If he reached down, if he drifted his hand to her private parts, maybe he could give her some pleasure in return. His fingers wound their way into the dampness gathering between her folds, and even managed to find that little bundle of flesh and nerves that had sent her over the edge earlier.
He groaned as she sighed and pushed back at him, trapping his erection between them.
“Doctor,” she murmured.
“What do you want, Rose?” he asked, nipping at her shoulder.
“I want you,” she said, turning around. “I want you back. I miss you so.”
“I'm here, Rose. I'm all yours,” he replied, letting go of her, his fingers glistening in the ambient light as he brought them away from between her legs. Rose shifted in his arms, rubbing against his erection. He squeezed his eyes shut at the exquisite friction the movement provided. He gasped and his eyes blinked open.
It took him a while to come around and to realise what had just happened. As he reached beneath the covers, he found that he had made quite a mess of himself as he'd orgasmed in his sleep. That hadn't happened since his teen years, and he flushed. Checking his alarm clock he saw that it was almost time to get up.
His treacherous mind had come up with a wonderful but odd scenario, and his strong reaction to it puzzled as well as... pleased him, he had to admit. But why did Rose miss hi... the Doctor? She was the one who kept leaving him, over and over and over again. Why?
He padded to his small bathroom to clean himself up a little and to get ready for the day. The dream had almost managed to break him, to cause him to ignore the decision he had made during the night. Marianne had left him, just like Rose left the Doctor. There was no denying it, and he should just get on with his life.
As he gathered his papers for the morning lessons he tore Joan's portrait out of his diary and dropped the book into the waste paper basket. Then he found an envelope and put the sketch inside for safekeeping, and tucked it between his books and folders.
Just before his first lesson started he nipped to Joan's little office to deposit the envelope on her desk. He'd hoped she wouldn't be in, and at first he thought he was lucky, but then she greeted him from where she was standing just inside the door behind him. “Good morning, John.” She added his name softly, as if afraid of breaking it if she spoke too loud.
“Joan,” he said, flustered. “Good morning.”
She looked at him expectantly, cocking her head a little.
“I... well, I just... I've finished the portrait and... and I wanted you to have it.” He touched the envelope where it sat on her neat desk with his fingertips.
Joan stiffened a little, wringing her hands. “That's very kind of you. Thank you.”
“I'd... I should go. Lessons start in a minute,” he stammered.
She came into the office, and as she did so he brushed past her. Again, he thought he was lucky when her voice stopped him in his tracks. “Didn't you sketch it in your diary?” she asked.
He turned around slowly. “I did, I did.” He attempted a smile. “I finished it last night and... I wanted you to have it.”
“But won't it be missing from your dairy?” she asked.
“No. No,” he ducked his head. “I... I don't want you to be among those... people. In that silly dream world of mine. You don't... You deserve better than being trapped in there.”
When he looked up he saw that her eyes had gone wide. “What happened to the diary?”
“I threw it away,” he said, drawing himself up to his full height. “Can't have any more of that nonsense.”
“Nonsense?” she asked. “John, that was your dream. How can you...?”
“It was a dream, Joan. Just that,” he said, sounding firm and not a little distant, treating her as he would any of the boys. He looked down at his books and papers, clutching them a little tighter to his chest. “I have to go. Lessons.”
“John!” she called after him, but he didn't turn around. Well, that was that. In an attempt to get his act together, he had managed to push Joan away.
His lessons went well enough that morning. They were a welcome distraction from Rose and Marianne and Joan. He needed to focus, and teaching demanded his undivided attention more than anything. It had worked and by lunch time his mood had improved a great deal, but just as he was preparing to leave his room to find Joan so he could apologise to her, there was a knock on his door.
“Sir?” It was Timothy Latimer, one of the quiet, bright ones. “I have come to collect the book you recommended to me.”
His face lit up. “Yes! Of course. Good lad.” He stepped aside to let the boy enter. Where had he put that book? He picked up several books from his desk, but the volume he was looking for was not among them. “I wanted to have a word with you anyway. Your marks could be better.”
“I'm among the first ten of my class, Sir,” Latimer protested.
“Yes, I know,” he muttered. He was certain he'd taken the book off the shelf so he wouldn't have to look for it when the boy came to pick it up. “What I mean is, you could be even better. Use that wonderful brain of yours.” He hurried to the small library that separated his private room from his classroom. There it was.
When he returned to his study he saw that Latimer had picked up his watch, but instead of protectiveness he felt relief. The boy's thumb brushed reverently over the beautiful engraving on the lid of the fob watch, and he seemed to be listening to something.
“It's broken, I'm afraid,” John said. “You won't hear a thing.”
The boy jumped, startled. He dropped it back onto the mantelpiece where he'd picked it up. “I... I'm sorry, Sir.”
“Why don't you take it to the watchmaker? I hear you have permission to go to town tomorrow,” he suggested.
Latimer turned towards him, his brown eyes wide with surprise. “I didn't intend to steal it, Sir. It's just... the design, it's intriguing, Sir.”
“Oh no no no. I didn't think you'd steal it, Timothy. And it does look interesting, doesn't it? Sadly, I have no idea who made it, or where it is from. Now, will you do me a favour and take it to the watchmaker for me?” John said, picking the watch up and holding it out for Latimer to take, along with the book.
“A favour, Sir?” Latimer asked, clearly surprised. Teachers didn't ask favours of their students. They told them what they had to do, and the students obeyed.
“If... that's all right? It is a personal favour, so... you don't have to...” John began.
“No, I'd be honoured, Sir.” Latimer accepted both the book and slid the watch carefully into the pocket of his trousers. Somehow, John was reassured by that simple gesture.
“Thank you,” he said softly, opening the door for the boy.
That afternoon, he was supposed to cover for Thompson during his free period, but when he discovered that it was target practice, he bristled. There was teaching the boys about discipline, and there was teaching them to kill. Still, he had no choice but to oversee target practice in Thompson's absence. He stood, arms behind his back, his fingers tightly laced, as he watched the boys, the children, fire at dummies, the bullets ripping apart the straw bodies and ricocheting off the upturned buckets that were the dummies' heads. He couldn't help imagining those were real bodies, and he could even hear their cries.
“Are you unwell?”
Thompson's voice roused him from his thoughts. “I... I'm not sure.”
“Well, I'll relieve you now, Mr Smith. Turns out my appointment in town was cancelled.”
“Thank you,” John said, glad to be able to flee the scene without making a fool of himself. He could feel the bile rising in his throat, and when he hurried towards the court in front of the main entrance, he spotted Joan standing at the low wall that separated the grounds from the court, but joined them with a couple of stone steps.
“Good afternoon, Joan,” he said, attempting a smile. Joan looked somewhat unhappy, and her hands were curled into fists by her sides.
“I like the sketch, thank you. I don't think it's me, though,” she said.
His heart was hammering in his chest, and he could feel it skip a beat. “Oh.”
“I think you've made me look far too beautiful,” she continued. Her eyes were on him as he climbed the stone steps.
“It's how I see you.”
Joan ducked her head. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you. I... there's something I have to do. If you'll excuse me.”
“What is it, Joan?” he asked, desperate to understand her mixed signals.
“I was thinking of my dead husband,” she said. “He was shot. And target practice brought it all up.” She turned and hurried away as if on urgent business. She looked like she was fleeing. Fleeing from him, because he had been part of that lesson. Another wave of disgust rose within him, and he turned to follow her.
Two sets of feet hurrying and stumbling across the gravel behind him stopped him, though. It was Hutchinson and Latimer, the latter being held by the neck by the former.
“What's going on?”
“I'm about to give Latimer here a beating. He was deliberately shoddy, Sir,” Hutchinson said, sounding just a little too smug. Latimer looked resigned to his fate, but his lips were pressed into a thin white line.
“I'll take care of him,” John decided. From what he'd seen of the boy that lesson, he seemed just as disgusted by the whole exercise as he was. He didn't deserve a beating. “Come on, off you go!” he told Hutchinson, who reluctantly let go of the smaller boy, anger flashing up in his cold blue eyes as he realised that a chance to beat Latimer with impunity was gone.
“Sir.” He let go of Latimer in a way that made the boy stumble, then he turned on his heel and rejoined the class.
Latimer looked at him wide-eyed, and for a moment John wondered what the boy was seeing. He looked awed as well as terrified. John drew himself up to his full height. “Come on, let's at least give them a little show. Then you go to Matron and you don't return to class until your next lesson. Understood?”
The boy's expression changed to genuine surprise. “Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir.”
Usually, Rose looked forward to the evenings she spent with Donna. While Donna was in the shower, or the tub, she would prepare them a light meal and they'd settle down on the sofa in either of their rooms to chat or watch a film. There'd be wine too. Sometimes a little too much, so Donna would sleep in the TARDIS instead of going back to the village where she'd rented a room for the duration of her stay.
That night, Rose was nervous when she heard Donna's footsteps echoing in the corridor. The older woman knew her very well, and it was hard to keep a secret from her. She'd know about John and her just by looking her in the eye. Best to tell her straight away and be done with it. She'd heard worse from her mother. Still, it would be very unpleasant; even more unpleasant because Donna was her friend. Which, curiously enough, also made it a little bit better.
Rose managed not to tell Donna over dinner, but as soon as they were seated on the sofa in Donna's room, Donna said, “Out with it.”
Rose opened her mouth to say something, but Donna shook her head. She would have none of it. So Rose began anew, and she was actually relieved when she'd said it. “I've slept with John Smith.”
Donna drank deeply from her wine, then she switched off the telly. “What do you want me to say?”
“I slept with him. I slept with John Smith,” Rose repeated. “All those years I've waited for the Doctor... and now that I see him as a changed man, as a human and he doesn't even know who he really is, I go and shag him!” Tears were welling up in her eyes as the words rushed out of her.
“You mean... you never... the Doctor and you, you weren't lovers?” Donna asked, clearly very surprised.
“No,” Rose cried, giving in to her tears. A sob escaped her but she pressed her hand over her mouth too late to trap it. “What have I done?”
“Oh Rose,” Donna sighed. She set her wine glass aside, put her arms around Rose and held her until her tears had dried up. She offered her a tissue from the box they kept handy for the sadder moments of the films. “It wasn't the cleverest thing to do. But... you've been strong for so long.”
“You're not mad?”
Donna scoffed. “I'm not thrilled either, but you're both grown-ups. Well, I'm not so sure about him, but you know what I mean. It takes two to tango.”
“He should be with Joan,” Rose said, surprising herself as well as Donna. “Be happy for as long as it lasts. Instead he's got... me.”
“Joan is very worried about him,” Donna mused. “And I think she suspects something about his dreams, that they're not really dreams but memories. She might want to be more of a friend to him.”
This did nothing to calm Rose. “I feel as if I've betrayed both John and the Doctor. I broke John's heart and then I... shagged him.”
“How did you break his heart?” Donna asked, sounding a little suspicious.
“I told him I have to go to New Zealand.”
Donna exhaled. “But he still made love to you?”
Rose nodded, blowing her nose.
“He must have fallen hard for you,” Donna said. “What do you want to do?”
Rose wadded up the sodden tissues and dropped them in the bin next to the sofa. “I think Marianne will have to leave early. I could just hide away in the TARDIS or travel around a little. I'll be back in time for the Doctor's return.”
Although Donna nodded at first, she fell silent, sipping her wine thoughtfully. “I'm not sure I like the idea of you travelling around by yourself. You've said yourself you might have attracted the Family's attention.”
“But everything's been quiet so far.”
“On the other hand, you could distract them a little. Keep them away. We've only got five weeks to go,” Donna mused.
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.