Genius in a Back Beat

by Amberwind [Reviews - 5]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • Angst, General

Author's Notes:
I've been working on this songfic on and off since about Chapter 6 of 18 Seconds. Well, it's not a song, really... it's more like poetry that happens to be recited to music. It sort of built on itself and blossomed into a character study of Rose from childhood through Doomsday and beyond, and I'm still undecided as to whether I like where I went with it.

Lyrics are from "My I.Q." by Ani DiFranco. The children's song that Rose sings in the last section is "Boom, Boom, Ain't It Great to be Crazy?". I dare someone to do a fic to that song. ;P

Genius In A Back Beat

When I was 4 years old
They tried to test my I.Q.
They showed me a picture of 3 oranges and a pear
They said,
Which one is different?
It does not belong
They taught me different is wrong

Rose Tyler found out that she was different for the first time at the tender age of 5, a month into her first year at primary school, the night that all the parents were invited down to meet the teachers and see the classrooms. Her mum had brought her along; all the other mothers in the estate were here for the same parent’s night and old Mrs. Needhander two floors down was visiting her sister in Surrey, so Rose was relegated to the back corner table with the other children whose parents couldn’t find sitters.

“Hey Rose, where’s your da?” Rose blinked at the girl, trying to remember her name. She didn’t get to play out in the yard much, since her mum was usually too busy with clients and couldn’t find anyone to watch her, and so she was still trying to learn the names of the other children, even though they all lived near each other. She was pretty sure the girl’s name was Sherry… no, Shireen.

“Mum says he lives with the angels now,” Rose said, smiling shyly at Shireen. “She says he loved us so much he went to heaven so he could make sure God took care of us proper.”

“Yeah, right!” A ginger haired boy scoffed, sneering at Rose. “My mum says your mum is just a stupid slag, that you don’t have no dad because she can’t figure out which bloke it is!” Rose didn’t know what a slag was, but she knew no one said nice things in that tone of voice, and her mum certainly wasn’t stupid.

“You take that back!” Rose spat angrily, standing as tall as her 5 year old frame would allow. “You take that back right now!”

“Or you’ll do what?” the boy (Scotty Jenkins, she remembered now) sneered. He stood up in her face, and started chanting, “Rose’s mum’s a slag! Rose’s mum’s a slag!”

Rose screwed up her features and tucked her thumb inside of her fist before swinging her tiny fist towards his face. Her hand stung, and it made her thumb hurt, but she knocked Scotty Jenkins back onto the table. The boy started crying as blood gushed out of his nose, and the teacher rushed over, alternately scolding her and trying to staunch the bleeding from Scotty’s face.

“Rose, what were you thinking?!?” her mum exclaimed, taking Rose by the shoulders and shaking her slightly. Rose tearfully explained to her mum what the boy had said, rubbing her hand in whimpering pain against her skirt. Her mum's lips thinned, but she said nothing else about Rose's behavior.

Later that night, after they had gotten back to the flat, Jackie showed Rose how to make a proper fist, so she wouldn't hurt her hand again.

But when I was 13 years old
I woke up one morning
thighs covered in blood
like a war
like a warning
that I live in a breakable takeable body
an ever-increasingly valuable body
that a woman had come in the night to replace me
deface me

Rose would recall the evening that her mum gave her “the talk” quite vividly for years.

It wasn't the talk about the birds and the bees; Rose had already gotten the official version of that from a class at school, with the boys and girls in different rooms. The other girls were giggling madly and making semi-disgusted faces at the video while Rose herself just sat there and wondered what all the fuss was about. And it wasn't the unofficial version, either; that lesson had been driven home by simple observation, thin walls and a semi-constant stream of men in and out of her mother's bedroom and life.

No, this talk had come two weeks after her first menstrual cycle had started. Jackie had just been dumped by her latest boyfriend, a bloke named Stanley who hauled pipe for one of the local construction outfits, and was deep in her cups over the whole affair. Rose didn't see what the big deal was; Stanley had been nice enough, she supposed, but it had been easy to see he wouldn't be sticking around for long. Few of them ever did.

“Rose, darling, don't ever, ever trust a bloke,” her mother had slurred. “Especially the ones who seem nice. They just take and take, and if you're not careful, there'll be nothing left of ya. Even if they do nothing but warm the bed at night, a bloke'll still rip your heart out given half a chance.” Jackie cupped her hands around Rose's face, and studied her in the way that only a philosophical drunk can. “Don't you ever let them take your heart, Rose. My precious, precious girl...” Jackie's hands dropped as she leaned back against the couch cushions, snoring as she succumbed to slumber and alcohol a few minutes later.

Rose looked at the empty bottle of wine on the floor, and the one two-thirds gone on the table, and tried to mentally gauge how bad her mum's hangover would be come morning.

my body is borrowed
yeah, I got it on loan
for the time in between my mom and some maggots
I don't need anyone to hold me
I can hold my own
I got highways for stretchmarks
see where I've grown

Rose couldn’t help but think that for once, she really should have listened to her mum. Jimmy Stone was a Disaster, with a capital D, and her rash decisions were coming back to bite her in the arse. She had honestly believed she could make it all work, run off with him and play roadie to the drunken group of musicians he had loosely referred to as a band, and it wouldn’t matter that all she had was her GCSEs and nerve.

She hadn’t counted on the long nights, the constant scramble for money, food, and lodgings. She certainly hadn’t counted on the alcohol, the other women, or the drugs. It was that last one that had finally made her leave him for good, after three hours of talking to the officers and explaining that she had thought he was just an addict, that she didn’t know about the dealing, and no, he never gave her any of the money.

Her mum didn’t say anything at all when she showed up at the door to the flat with nothing but a sack full of filthy laundry and £800 in debt. She just stepped aside and allowed Rose to walk in before going to put on the kettle. Rose reflected that in her whole life, her mum’s policy that a cuppa could fix anything had proven to be remarkably accurate.

They sat together on the couch, sipping tea and not saying anything. Unforgivable things had passed between them on the night Rose had left, and now it felt like an unscalable wall had been erected between them. Rose wasn’t sure they could go back to being mother and daughter, not the way they had been. But then, Jackie Tyler had never exactly been the mum type.

They could make this work.

I sing sometimes
like my life is at stake
'cause you're only as loud
as the noises you make
I'm learning to laugh as hard
as I can listen
'cause silence
is violence
in women and poor people

Rose wondered, sometimes, when exactly the Doctor had managed to change her, because she couldn't have possibly been this person when she was growing up. She thought that maybe, it had been when she had seen him on the edge of death above the Nestene Consciousness–it couldn't have been when he had first said, “Run.” She may have had a weakness for romance novels, but she wasn't that thick.

Rose had thought her mother had understood, that she couldn't just leave him to face the monsters alone. “The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life. You know, he showed you too,” she had said once, and her mum had gone and borrowed a yellow truck so she could go back and save him. Rose had been willing to die for him then, and time and regeneration hadn't changed that; if anything, it was stronger now than before.

But standing here, with Cybermen and Daleks fighting just outside, she found herself having to explain to Jackie again, and Rose would have found it frustrating if she hadn't had so much else on her mind.

“I've had a life with you for nineteen years. But then I met the Doctor and... all the things I've seen him do for me. For you. For all of us. For the whole... stupid planet and every planet out there. He does it alone, mum.” Rose is backing towards him, stepping away, trying to keep her mother from grabbing her and forcing her to go.

“But not anymore. 'Cos now he's got me,” she says, her voice trembling. She feels the chain slipping about her neck, the heavy weight of the button settling against her chest.

She looks up at the Doctor, startled by his action. “What're you--?” She doesn't get to finish the question, as she feels herself pulled away and the room changes. She glances about quickly, her confusion rapidly becoming barely restrained fury.

She mutters under her breath as she reactivates her button. “Oh no you don't. He's not doing that to me again!”

if more people were screaming then I could relax
but a good brain ain't diddley
if you don't have the facts
we live in a breakable takeable world
an ever available possible world
and we can make music
like we can make do
genius is in a back beat
backseat to nothing if you're dancing
especially something stupid
like I.Q.

Rose was having a fantastic life now. Because he had asked her to, once, and she wouldn't let him down over something like that.

She watched Annie spinning in circles in the garden, humming some childish tune that didn't correspond to any song that Rose remembered, but then, the fairy tales and lullabies were different here. Annie was 5 years old, and obsessed with all things pink and frilly, her insistence on prancing about in a lacy Sunday frock testament to that fact. But she had a stubborn and proud streak, just like her big sister.

Rose wondered idly if there was a Scotty Jenkins here for her sister to punch in the nose.

“Rosie! Come dance with me!” Rose laughed as she stood to comply with her sister's demands, taking Annie's hands and spinning madly through the garden. She began singing her own songs as Annie became breathless, and they jumped and twirled around each other.

“Way down South where bananas grow, a flea stepped on an elephant's toe! The elephant cried, with tears in his eyes, 'Why don't you pick on someone your own size?' Boom, boom, ain't it great to be crazy?” Rose sang, her sister giggling and attempting to sing along in spite of not knowing the words.

Rose stopped dancing when she heard a throat clear near where she had been sitting. Mickey stood there, a soft smile on his face but sadness in his eyes. Jake and Pete were not far behind him. They exchanged a look, and it was Pete who stepped forward and spoke.

“Rose, we've found a way back.”

For every lie I unlearn
I learn something new
I sing sometimes for the war that I fight
'cause every tool is a weapon -
if you hold it right.