Act II - Finding purpose
In which no one is certain of themselves anymore and might need a helping hand in finding their way__________________________________________
They started to observe Amy. All of them.
The Doctor was worried about her and still felt sorry because he hadn't been able to preserve her memory of Rory. The Master and Roka both were curious as to how someone might act when they had been stripped of such an important memory.
It seemed as if Amy were as she had always been. Sassy, adventurous and somehow always in a good mood. But sometimes... there were short moments where she was absent and her eyes wandered to someplace else entirely. When she came back there was a look on her face Roka knew too well. That of having suddenly forgotten something that had been clear in her head just seconds ago, and she wondered if Amy might have short bursts of remembrance here and there.
After two days of this and not many or noteworthy adventures Amy finally had enough.
"You all act totally weird, just so you know," she stated with her fists in her hips. "I'm fine, really. Those lizards haven't harmed me at all."
"I... yeah... I know," the Doctor stammered, rubbing his neck. "It's not that though. Err..."
His gaze shot to the others, but Roka, sitting with a book in the jump seat, only shrugged and the Master, who was busy playing Tetris on the console monitor, gave him his darkest stare, so the Doctor decided not to mention Rory and just came up with the first thing that might make sense to Amy.
"You're... not mad at me, right?" he decided to ask. "I mean... because I let go of your hand and couldn't get you out sooner and all that..."
Amy sighed and smiled at him. "Nooo, silly Doctor. Why would I be mad? Sure, it wasn't the greatest experience, but it's the danger I chose and now I have to live with things going wrong here and there, don't I?"
"Yeeeaaah.... Still. I'm sorry about that, Amy. I really am."
"Ah, forget it." She waved his apology away. "But Doctor... I thought for a while and... I might need a small break."
"Oh... of course."
"Just for a day," she smiled reassuringly. "I kinda miss my aunty and want to give her a hug, sleep in my own bed for a night and stuff, you know? And tomorrow you can get me back and we can have something amazing happening. How's that?"
"Tomorrow..." The Doctor shifted uncomfortably, remembering that tomorrow had been supposed to be the marriage, and now it would never happen. But nonetheless, he couldn't deny her plea. "Yeah, sure. Let's do that."
"And don't be some years late this time." Amy waved a warning finger at him.
"No! The TARDIS works fine again. And to make sure I'll park her in your yard and stay put. No adventures while you have your break."
"As if you would survive that," she mocked giggling and rushed to the doors. "Come on then! Bring me home, alien boy. Ohhh, by the way, you wanna come with me, Roka?"
The other woman looked up from her reading matter and blinked dumbfounded at Amy. Part of her already was about to refuse, but some other part somehow had a weird urge to experience such a perfectly ordinary, human day. And it would be a great opportunity to get away from the Master.
"Yeah... why not." Roka shut the book and hopped from the jump seat. "Might not be a bad idea to get out for a bit."
"Exactly my thought!" Amy seconded and grinned widely.
The Doctor resigned, seeing that he had no say in this matter any longer. Everyone held tight onto whatever they could reach when he activated the console to get the TARDIS back to where he had picked up Amy the last time. Only seconds later, though, the Master casually reached a hand out and knocked over the blue stabilizers, not even bothering with giving the Doctor an eye roll. The other Time Lord only grumbled something that clearly had the word boring in it.
"If everything's so dull, Doctor... I still have a formidable stack of ideas in my head to kill you." The Master grinned wide and wickedly.
"I'm not sure it's wise to leave those two alone," Amy murmured towards Roka.
She shrugged and watched as they threw venomous glances at each other. "Well... they could have murdered another so many times already. I don't think they would risk ruining their silly game."
"Let's hope so. Not that the Doctor would harm him... or... well... at least not murder him. Eh... they'll be fine...ish." Amy chuckled and tore open the doors after the TARDIS had finally, and boringly smoothly, landed. "On then! A normal girls-day awaits us!"
They stepped out into the backyard and marched towards the house, when Amy suddenly stopped and let out an, "Oh, right."
"What is it?"
"My aunty isn't even here. She booked a trip to Lanzarote." She glanced around and looked somewhat confused. "How weird. I could swear she was supposed to be here for... tomorrow. No... makes no sense."
Roka said nothing to that. Rory's disappearance must have altered a bunch of things in and around Amy's life. The only strange thing about it was that she seemingly had fractions of memories of that old timeline. Something must have stuck with her due to the Doctor's endeavours.
First, Amy showed Roka around the house, excitedly hopping around and being her usual fidgety self, while telling the story of how the raggedy Doctor had been so picky about food the night they had met. She also showed her the room where prisoner zero had hidden in all these years. They had scrubbed it clean and were now using it as an additional storage room. Amy also showed her the spot where the crack in her wall had once been. Of course, nothing was visible anymore, but Roka stroked a finger over it anyway, wondering why some of these cracks just worked like portals and others sucked in reality.
She also observed all the dolls and painting Amy had done of the Doctor and the TARDIS. There were so many, it was no wonder she had been told to be mad. How must it feel to her to have her dreams come true and to be finally on adventures with her imaginary friend? Maybe Roka should ask.
"It's only ever me talking," Amy eventually threw in, as if she had read her thoughts. "We had some cool adventures together already, but I still know almost nothing about you."
"Uh... I'm a lot less interesting than you make me seem." Roka shrugged and sat on Amy's bed. "Oh wow. That's fluffy!" She let herself fall backwards and stretched out her arms. "Mhm... well... How about the fact that I haven't slept in beds much the last years."
"Why not?" Amy sat next to her and glanced down. "Couldn't you just jump in and out of... I don't know... a hotel or something else? I'd totally do that!"
"Sometimes I did." She put her hands behind her head, reminiscing about those days. "The first years or so, actually. But then... hm... It just became less and less important somehow. It's awesome to see the stars above your head, to hear the wind in the trees or the waves of the sea." Her voice became a little dreamy. "It's... freedom."
"Huh... I see." Amy laid back too and stared up to the ceiling. "One day we have to travel a bit together. Just the two of us, okay? I want to see some of the places you've been. Did you fight aliens? I saw how fast you are! That was amaaaazing! And a bit scary. I probably shouldn't make you angry." She chuckled.
"Necessity." Roka shrugged. "I don't enjoy it, but if you want to stay alive... there often is only one choice. I'm no Time Lord or other superior species. Humans are... extremely fragile, compared to other things out there."
"Yeah... I guess it's easier said than done not to use weapons. The Doctor can do that... but he's so much faster and stronger than we are. And smarter. Gosh, smart guys are just sexy." Amy giggled and glanced sideways. "That Master bloke also isn't too dumb when he's not busy pranking everyone."
Roka only grunted and rolled her eyes.
"Really," Amy continued nonchalantly, "I don't get what the deal between the two of you is. Yeah, yeah, you told me... but come oooo-"
"Stop it." Roka sat up and glanced out the window. "No idea what you're interpreting into whatever, but I really don't want him anywhere near me anymore."
"Because you don't like him? Or because you're afraid to let anyone at all into your bubble?" Her voice hadn't been accusatory, only understanding and warm. And softly she added, "You should come out of there."
A sting went through Roka at those words. Regardless of Amy's understanding of the situation, the thing about the bubble was very true. With a sigh she looked over and flopped down on her back again, then rolled to her side to face Amy. "I don't know how," she mumbled. "People are so complicated. I never know what to do with them."
A warm smile widened on Amy's face. "I could teach you. Just listen to your big sis and all will go well."
It really was hard not to like Amy. The longer Roka was around her, the more she wished they could be real friends. And this offer and the way she treated her was like an invitation now, making Roka smile back a little. "Okay... I'll try."
Amy chuckled and hopped from the bed. "Then come! Let's err... mhm... Good question. First of all, we should leave the house. Sitting around here all day will do nothing good. Maybe we meet Mels somewhere... if not, we could... Oh! Let's do some shopping!"
"Uh... what do you need?" Roka stood and stretched her limbs.
"Nothing. It's just for fun."
"Oh... you mean that whole - spend money on stuff you actually don't need - thing. I see."
Amy burst out laughing and wrapped her arms around Roka. "Oh, my poor little thing. You have to learn a lot."
Roka threw an impish glance upwards. "I was joking."
"Oi!" She let go and nudged her playfully. "For that, you'll pay everything!"
"Weeell.... I actually happen to have quite the filled bank account."
"Yeah, sure." Amy snorted and lead them downstairs.
"No, really. It's not that hard, when you jump around a little and find out when money isn't worth much and when it is. I mean... it's technically cheating, but who cares?"
While snatching some keys and a purse from a small cabinet, Amy turned slightly around and her look told clearly what she thought about the truth of that statement, making Roka sigh. "Alright... let's head to the bank first," she suggested. "It's not as if I'd need that money anyway."
They finally reached the front door and stepped outside to a friendly and almost sunny day. Only a few spare clouds hung in the blue sky and the temperature was pleasant. Amy lead them down a road that was framed by vegetation and sleepy houses, until they reached the bank. Roka though hesitated at the door and instead took a long look at the surrounding street.
It was weird, but somehow this place felt... familiar. Sure, small places like these looked very alike oftentimes, but still. Could it be?
"Say... this places doesn't happen to be called Leadworth?" she finally asked.
"Yep. Did the Doctor tell you?"
Roka shook her head and blinked a few times to get her mind back in order. This definitely was a surprise. Almost an impossibility! But a glance back at Amy made her decide not to mention anything for now. She wasn't eager to answer all the questions that would inevitably follow. Instead she entered the bank building and produced a card from her wallet, letting it slip into one of the machines, where she entered her pin and then waved Amy over.
"Well, let's see," she mocked friendly and leaned to the display. Her face dropped in an instant and her mouth suddenly hung wide open. "Holy space whale!" Amy let out. "You weren't lying!"
"Why should I?" Roka retorted amused. "Mhm... knowing this place... I mean... places like this... they probably don't have many stores that let you pay with a card..." After a short consideration she let the machine produce the maximum amount of money that it could give out on a single day. "Should be enough for some nick-knacks," she remarked smug and pocketed the money. "Guess I could treat you to some ice cream."
"You're rich!" Amy let out, when they had left the building. "God damn rich! Why didn't you... I don't know... buy a house! A mansion! And a swimming pool! Gosh, I want a pool!"
"I do have a small flat in London, now that you mention it," Roka reminisced. "But there's only a bed, a table and some gaming consoles in it."
"Why not? It's cool to have a place to play some old games from time to time."
Amy groaned and giggled. "You're a nerd! All that money! And all you do with it is buy gaming equipment."
"Be glad. Everything's on me today."
A happy yelp from Amy later they strolled to the nearest bus stop and drove to the city. It was a short ride, and soon after they stood in a crowd of people, bustlingly walking around. Suddenly Roka stopped dead in her tracks and faced Amy.
"Which year is it?" she wanted to know.
"It's 2010... in case the Doctor hasn't dropped us in the wrong time." Amy bowed down to some newspaper on a stand nearby. "Yup, right date. 26th June 2010. Why're you asking?"
"Eh, no reason at all... was just curious," Roka mumbled and then dragged Amy away and towards the centre of the town. "Let's do some shopping, right? Having fun and stuff."
Sooner or later she would have to give answers, that was obvious when she looked at her companion. Luckily they both were more eager for some fun than for anything else right now, and for the rest of the time Roka made sure not to give off any hints.
For a while they strolled through different stores, trying on all sorts of clothes, preferably some that didn't match at all. Amy tried to get Roka to wear something more female than usual, completely in vain, but she still never got tired of it. In the end Roka had enough and snatched a wide straw head with a flower from a pedestal, flopped it on her head and called for Amy, who promptly got a laughing fit.
"You'd have to grow a little more for that one," she teased and grabbed another wide hat, standing next to Roka and watched them both in the mirror. "We're absolutely fabulous!"
They both grinned from ear to ear at the sight, and Roka decided it had been a great idea to follow Amy. If this was how people usually had fun, she could totally get used to it.
Outside the same store, in the same city and the same time stood someone else, peeking inside with a scowl, hands buried deep inside his pant pockets.
"I don't get it. Doctor, explain."
"Explain what? They're having fun. Normal, hilarious human fun. Should be obvious, even to you, Master."
The other one grunted. "Look at her! Laughing like an idiot."
"Isn't that good?"
"No! Yes..." the Master fell silent for a few seconds, before adding, "Why can this red head make her so happy, and I can't?"
"Because she doesn't treat her like a prisoner maybe?" The Doctor fidgeted around, barely able to stand still for the few minutes they had been here now. "Come now. Leave them alone."
Grumbling something inaudible the Master turned away from the window, and if his pockets would have allowed it, he would have thrust his hands even deeper inside them. Instead he only threw a death-promising look at the other Time Lord. "Neither do I," he eventually deigned to respond. "Mostly."
"See?" the Doctor cheered. "That's the subtle, but important difference."
He scoffed and turned to take a look at the city around. "And why haven't you told me, that your little pet lives here of all places?"
The Doctor stopped tip-toeing ahead while avoiding the joints of the cobblestone, and turned back. "Why? You know this town?"
"Not really." The Master stood still, glanced around and was suddenly lost inside a memory for a good minute, before he slowly shook his head, banishing the memory of a night next to a bonfire. A night where the drums had rendered him mad for a few hours, only to find out that Roka had stayed with him the whole time, unwilling to leave him alone in that state. "Only saw it in a dream once," was all he offered.
Dawn was already spreading its orange glow over the sky when the two women made their way back, casually sitting in the bus, surrounded by countless colourful shopping bags and licking delicious ice cream. For probably the first time in over a century Roka felt completely content, her head pleasantly dizzy from the overload of sensual input from the city and all the innocent fun they just had.
"So..." Amy's voice cut through her thoughts, a bit calmer, now that she had powered herself out. "You've been here before, haven't you?"
Roka nodded, glaring at the cone in her hand. "I actually grew up here," she admitted.
"Whoa! What? Nooo way!" Amy exclaimed. "When? I mean... when were you born?"
"Second February of 1990."
The other woman's mouth dropped open. "Hey! Then you're a year younger than I! I mean... if you weren't older, but... whoa... that's confusing." Hastily she took another mouthful of ice cream, mulling over this newly gained fact. "Wait... then we practically were neighbours of some sort!"
"Not quite." Roka shook her head. "I've never been to your street, I think. But my parent's house is only one bus-stop from yours. I... ran away from there when I hit eighteen."
"Oh, that's why you were asking for the date before. You didn't want to run into yourself, right?" Suddenly she grinned widely. "Let's go there."
Roka's stomach dropped and she hastily shook her head. "No! That... I can't. They don't even remember me. And it's probably better that way."
"Why would it?" Amy asked back flabbergasted. "And shouldn't they remember, now that this glitch is gone?"
That actually was a good question. And both possible answers were daunting in their own way. But no... they probably would only remember if she would pop up there now and...
"What would I even tell them?" she asked breathy. "I left, because I couldn't stand thinking of explanations as to where I had been, over and over again. Each time my mom remembered, there was a fight."
"Okay, I think it really would be weird. But at least we could... peek inside a window? Don't you want to see them? Maybe just say goodbye, and if it's only in your mind."
In a way Roka had gained a whole new life. Perhaps it really wasn't a bad idea to bury some parts of her past together with the person she had been before her death. From now on she was free to become whomever she wanted to be, freed from everything that had ever bound her.
"Yeah. Let's do that," she agreed.
First they brought all of their purchases back to Amy, then walked the few streets to Roka's childhood home. By now it had gotten dark outside and a strange silence had spread between the two. Amy seemed to sense that Roka was nervous and left her alone with her thoughts. And those thoughts were racing like mad. She hadn't seen her mom and brother for... well... a rough 180 years. That surely wasn't a short time.
To make sure they wouldn't get noticed, Roka had given Amy one of her perception filters. She had built them a few days ago, because sometimes it still felt soothing to be invisible. Like that it was easier to adjust to the new situation. And now they proved to be useful.
In the darkness of the evening it was easy to peek inside the window, and Amy had happily volunteered when Roka hadn't quite been daring enough to take the first look.
"They are sitting on the sofa, watching TV," she reported in a husky tone.
Roka took a deep breath and nodded. It was weird standing in the front yard, spying on her own family. But all she wanted was to see that they were alright and happy, so she took together all her bravery and turned her head to...
Several seconds passed, Roka's mouth hanging open in disbelieve.
"Wh... what?" she breathed out eventually.
"Are you alright?" Amy asked, perfectly unaware of the situation. But she couldn't know.
There in the living room, on the old brown sofa, sat her mother, half asleep from the probably boring TV program. An arm was draped over her shoulders, a hand playing with her long, blond hair. It belonged to a man with tousled brown hair and eyes, a calm friendly face and a head full of stories for every occasion.
A man who had died years ago.
"D... do you see that man?" Roka asked, her voice way too high pitched.
"Uh, yeah. Is that your Dad?"
Roka nodded, then shook her head and nodded again, taking a confused step back. "That's not possible. He... died when I was ten."
Amy visibly paled, rushing back to the window to take another glance. "He's not a ghost. Are you sure your memory is correct?" And suddenly her face paled even more. "Wait... I think I heard the name of this street already."
Unsure what was so special about that - this place was small enough to easily know every corner - Roka watched numbly as Amy strode to the front door. Luckily not to ring the bell, but to bow down and take a glance at the name plate. If her face could have been any paler, it surely would have been when she returned and grabbed Roka's arm to drag her to the other side of the street to a set of bushes.
She swallowed hard and then flung her arms around Roka. "Oh gosh, I didn't know he was your brother!" she let out. "I'm so sorry."
"Huh? Wh... what are you talking about?" Roka pushed her away, now a little scared of what else might have changed.
"What I mean? It was such a big story back then. The Blink and the dead people, and the missing boy of the Arkerson family."
"Tha... that's my last name. Amy... what the hell are you talking about?!" Roka demanded, almost screaming. "Josh never went missing!"
"You... how can you not know?"
Roka stepped back, shaking her head in disbelieve."Because it never happened!"
"Now now, that really is peculiar," came the Doctor's voice from behind, making both women whirl around. "Supremely fascinating, I might even say."
His face was filled with the usual childish determination that always gripped him, when a mystery was around. A bit behind the Doctor stood the Master, clearly sulking about something, or simply because he had been dragged here.
"What's that bit about The Blink?" the Doctor asked towards Amy.
"That was..." She shot a side glance at the still shocked Roka. "I think in 2006 or so. One summer evening all power went out. Completely. Not even emergency power worked. It only lasted for a couple of seconds though and no one was too suspicious about it. But the next day they found a handful of elderly people to be dead, all around the city, and with no determinable cause of death, beside their faces looking as if... they had seen something horrible. And the Arkerson boy.... sorry. Roka's brother... he was gone and never seen again."
"Impossible," Roka muttered. "In a few seconds? But... I should remember! I was there! He was there!" She had left when he had been ten years old, but this disappearance had occurred when he had been eight. She shook her head and shot the Doctor a pleading look. "This never happened!"
"That screams alien, if you ask me," the Master grumbled. "Not that anyone would do that."
"My thought exactly," the other Time Lord seconded as he put a reassuring hand on Roka's shoulder. "It seems like some event rewrote a bit of history here. And you're too out of synch with your own time. It didn't affect your memory."
"B... but why..." she breathed shakily, "Then why is my dad still alive. He was ill. No time rewrite could have stopped that."
"Mhm, yeah. That is indeed peculiar. I don't know yet."
That moment everyone froze and they hastily vanished behind some bushes, when the front door opened. Mister Arkerson stepped out, hands thrust inside his pant pockets, only to get out a pack of smokes, of which he lit one, glaring with sad eyes into the night sky.
"You could... say hello," Amy almost whispered, but fell silent when she saw the tears in Roka's eyes.
It was so hard not to run over the street and jump into his arms. To tell him every little detail of her story, tell him, she was alive and well, remind him, that she was real, that he had a daughter, that they used to enjoy snow and hot chocolate and stories together, that he looked so similar to the Doctor's last incarnation, to tell him, that she loved him, that she had never forgotten him and the faint smell of cigarettes his clothes had when she had fallen asleep in his arms.
But she did nothing of those and only tried to swallow the hot tears that were trickling down her face. Because she wasn't allowed to remind him. Because it would mean to have lost two children, instead of one. Because it would remind them both of all the things the glitch had taken from them. And which they would never get back.
Eventually Amy wrapped her arms around Roka and cradled her soothingly. She threw a glance at the two Time Lords, but the Doctor only looked as helpless as ever and the Master clearly was overchallenged as well, only reaching a hand out, just to hastily take it back, when Amy slightly shook her head. But at least they all seemed to understand why it would be unwise to make themselves noticeable right now, and stayed silent, until Mister Arkerson went back inside the house.
Ignoring Amy's look, the Master stepped forward and flopped his hand down on Roka's head, ruffling her hair a bit.
"Whoever did this will pay. I swear," he growled.
Roka swallowed and blinked upwards, perplex and unsure what to make of this. But the reassuringly grim look on his face somehow calmed her.
"What... do you mean?" she brought out, rubbing a sleeve over her eyes.
"Yeah, that I want to know too," the Doctor seconded, fidgeting around.
It was clear that the Master's patience was close to run out, but he left it with an eye-roll and an annoyed grunt. "What do you think? We'll investigate of course. Would be quite laughable if we wouldn't find out anything. Something altered time here. In a big scheme at that."
"But why would you help, finding out about it?" Amy raised a sceptic eyebrow.
The Master folded his arms and glanced down at Roka, ignoring the other woman and the now blabbering Time Lord behind him. A small smirk quirked the corner of his mouth. "Just being a little selfish. That's all."