Coming Home

by Scarlet_Moon [Reviews - 1]

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  • Teen
  • None
  • Angst, Hurt/Comfort

One of the facts that Fitz had carried into this iteration of himself was that memories faded. Even if you travelled in time, things happened to you chronologically and the more distance separated you from various events in your life, the more difficult it was to recall the exact details and the less pain or happiness they brought.

He also knew that it wasn’t remotely what was happening.

Last night he’d wept for his father, the father that wasn’t even really his, as if he’d only been gone for a day. There had been moments when suddenly, out of the blue, Maddie’s face framed by long auburn hair would flash before him and his chest would feel too small for the love he felt.

At other times his breath hitched in panic, mind flooded by the claustrophobic memory of being crammed into a box that was smaller than itself.

He’d look at the Doctor and see a grinning weirdo holding a wilting begonia.

And then it would all come crashing down on him.

The room in Geneva. Vermillion’s terrified face in the painting. Holding dark-haired Sam in his arms, so soft, vulnerable, and beautiful. The Doctor planting a kiss right on his lips. Shooting Ed.

His mother’s eyes as the thing that possessed her tried to strangle him. Being on his knees, hands tied behind his back, alone in the darkness, shadows dancing around him, a voice speaking inside his head, drowning in overwhelming, primal fear.

Transmissions, transmissions, transmissions, transmissions.

Fitz bent over the toilet bowl and vomited violently, his empty stomach folding in on itself. He pressed his back against the wall of the bathroom and hugged his knees, desperately searching his brain for a happy memory, but all that came up was heavy boots kicking him in the stomach and angry voices shouting that Kraut filth like himself had no place in good ol’ England.

It had barely been three days since they’d left Anathema and Fitz thought he was going to lose what remained of his mind if he had to bear it any longer. It did run in the family, although he wasn’t sure what he was made of anymore.

He left his room on the TARDIS—some other Fitz’s room, a dead Fitz’s room—and walked down to the console. The Doctor had been gone during their stay in… wherever, Fitz hadn’t really been listening when he’d explained, but they’d teleported away last night and were now floating somewhere in space.

The Doctor was reading in his wingback armchair, but set the book aside and grinned at Fitz when he saw him come into the control room.

“Ah, Fitz! How are you doing? Settling back in?”

“Umm, yeah,” said Fitz, suddenly realising he didn’t have the courage to tell the Doctor what was going on. “Just going for a ciggy.”

It was a lie, but there was a pack of cigarettes and a lighter in his jeans pocket, so he proceeded to the TARDIS door, swung it open, and sat down, his feet dangling over the vast emptiness of space.

He took a drag on a cigarette with slightly shaky fingers and almost immediately felt a bit better. Two nights earlier, while the Doctor had been away, he’d drunk himself to oblivion and got a short respite from the memories inundating his brain. Since the Doctor’s return, he’d felt too embarrassed to do it again.

Fitz had finished his second cigarette when a tray with two mugs of steaming tea was thrust in front of him. He looked up to see the Doctor and briefly wondered why he hadn’t just carried the mugs in his hands like any other person would have done.

“Thanks,” Fitz murmured.

The Doctor sat down next to him, cradling his right arm, and peered into space. There was a massive globe of a star blazing a long distance away and a planet surrounded by smudges of yellow and purple gas closer to them. An asteroid belt spun slowly around it.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” said the Doctor. “Sometimes I forget how peaceful space can be.”

“Yeah,” Fitz breathed and took a sip of his tea.

“How are you, Fitz? We haven’t really spoken since you returned.”

“Yeah, fine. Nothing much to say, really.”

“It’s a lot to process,” the Doctor said, probably realising he’d have to pry it out of him. Fitz didn’t mind, really. He was just too chicken to volunteer.

“Yeah.”

“Fitz… If there is anything I can do…”

He could grunt in frustration. It had started so well, with the Doctor so close to asking just the right question, and now he’d gone and handed the baton over to Fitz.

“Nah, it’s all good,” he said, reaching for a third cigarette. “How are you, Doctor?”

“Good now that it’s over. I have to admit that it was a rather taxing trip.”

Fitz barely remembered anything about the last Kode, or indeed any of his predecessors, so he only had the vaguest idea of what had happened on Earth. They’d met this journalist woman with a very bland name that he couldn’t recall. That was pretty much as far as his memory stretched.

“Yeah, well. Been in worse scrapes, haven’t we?” Fitz said, but he wasn’t sure it was quite true.

The longer he thought about it, the more obvious it became that it was a blatant lie.

“I’m sorry, Fitz. I was… I couldn’t check on you in Geneva. Something held me up.”

Fitz shrugged and looked at the Doctor.

“Not your fault. What happened to your arm, then?”

“Oh…” he said, as if he’d thought he’d been discreet about it. “I accidentally broke it on Earth. Nothing serious, just a snapped ulna. It’s mostly healed now.”

“Sorry ‘bout that,” Fitz said, knowing full well how hollow it sounded, but he didn’t know what else to say.

“Not a big deal. I have a certain biological advantage when it comes to healing.”

Fitz chuckled.

“That’s good in your line of work, eh?”

“Indeed,” smiled the Doctor.

And just like that, Fitz ended up not telling him anything about his memories that night.



***

He had nightmares about Anathema. His dream self knew it was Anathema, but Fitz could only guess, because he’d barely seen any of it with his own eyes.

There were transmissions, transmissions everywhere, grabbing him, sucking him in, twisting him into something unrecognisable until he didn’t know anymore if he was a real person or a fictional character. Blank, empty faces surrounded him. Transmissions, transmissions, transmissions.

Fitz hadn’t touched the TV in his room or the radio in the library since his return.

At one point he sat down with a pen and paper and tried to write down everything that had happened in reverse chronological order, starting from waking up in the remembrance tank and working his way back to meeting the Doctor, with a two-(eight?) century gap in between.

Fitz stared at the sheet of paper. He’d hoped it would help him arrange his memories in a way that made sense, but it was like a very detailed account of a disturbingly immersive film he’d just watched. Fitz grabbed the sheet and flipped it over so that he didn’t have to look at it.

His life was no film, he told himself, only to remember that his life had started four days ago after he’d been shaped out of the lump of biomass that had once been Kode and infused with the memories and personality of a dead man.

That didn’t make things any better and he wondered if there was a way to sneak a bottle of something very strong out of the galley without the Doctor noticing.

He ended up doing just that and found a quiet corner in one of the less used rooms of the TARDIS that had an imitation of the night sky on the ceiling, except that there were various annotations and it moved quickly, simulating the rotation of whatever planet the view was supposed to be from, which was felt trippy before he even took the first sip.

It was some sort of alien bourbon that tasted quite nasty, but after a few big gulps Fitz started feeling pleasantly lightheaded. He realised he should have brought a book or his guitar—a dead Fitz’s guitar—to keep him distracted, because alcohol and nothing to look at apart from the simulated sky that was doing weird things to his head was a bad combination.

He’d got through a quarter of the bottle and reeled his mind in from straying into various dangerous territories half a dozen times when the door opened. The Doctor quietly walked through the semi-darkness of the room and sat beside him, knees drawn to his chest.

Then the bastard remained silent until Fitz couldn’t take it any longer and was forced to start a conversation himself.

“How did you find me?”

“The TARDIS let me know where you were.”

“And why would she do that?”

“There is a certain duty of care for your passengers.”

So maybe the TARDIS knew exactly what had been happening to him and could somehow communicate it to the Doctor without him having to use words, Fitz thought. He didn’t know why it was so difficult. It wasn’t even that embarrassing.

“What’s going on, Fitz?” the Doctor asked softly and Fitz hoped that maybe he’d give him a hug. He was very good at hugging.

Fitz tilted his head back and rested it on the wall behind him. Hercules, the sky above said and he fixed his gaze on the stick figure that looked like it had been drawn by someone even drunker than himself.

“Dunno. Maybe something went wrong when you remembered me.”

“Wrong in what way?”

He sighed and realised he had no idea how to continue.

“It’s just… I don’t know how to explain. I remember everything like all of it happened yesterday. My whole life.”

The Doctor breathed a quiet oh and hesitated for a moment before speaking.

“Well… All those memories were returned to you pretty much simultaneously just a few days ago. They probably need some time to settle properly.”

Fitz chuckled and took another swig from the bottle. Truth be told, he wanted to laugh hysterically.

“Returned to me… Come on, Doctor. Who are we kidding?”

“What do you mean?”

“They were not returned to me. I never had them in the first place. I didn’t even exist until you put me together four days ago.”

“Fitz… That is not true. You have always been you. Slightly misremembered over time, but the truth is that you have always been there, deep down. I wouldn’t have been able to recognise you otherwise.”

He couldn’t tell if the Doctor was lying or just sugarcoating what had really happened. That was something he wanted to believe in—that he, the real Fitz, had been dormant somewhere in the depths of the minds of all the other Fitzes and Kodes and the Doctor had simply woken him up.

Like fucking Sleeping Beauty, except he hadn’t got any kisses this time.

“I already told you this, but a man is the sum of his memories,” the Doctor said. “They are yours, Fitz, for better or for worse. They have always been yours. I just gave them back to you.”

“It was just so stupid!” Fitz cried out, surprising himself.

He poured some more bourbon into his quavering mouth as hot, angry tears streamed down his face and coughed, doubling over his knees.

“I wasn’t even really in the way, Doctor. They, the Geneva people, locked me up in a room that didn’t even have windows in it. I couldn’t do anything! It’s not like I was this dangerous enemy or anything. They didn’t have to stick me in the Cold and then forget about me for six hundred years.”

“Fitz…”

“No, don’t you get it? They thought that I could maybe cause some trouble and what did they do? They took my whole life away just because of that. How old am I now, even? Twenty-eight? Two hundred-something? Eight hundred? Four days? I can’t even—” Fitz tried to continue, but couldn’t because of the tears suffocating him.

The Doctor’s arm curled around him and the bottle was pried out of his hand. Then Fitz found himself pressed into the Doctor’s chest.

“I know, Fitz, I know. You’re right, it was unfair. I’m sorry it happened to you. But you’re back now and it’s going to be all right.”

That didn’t sound particularly convincing. It’s going to be all right was a stock response that he’d heard a thousand times before and then nothing was ever all right.

Except he hadn’t heard it a thousand times. It was the first time he’d heard it in his short but impressively miserable life.

“You’ve come all this way, Fitz,” the Doctor said gently. “You found your way back against all the odds. Isn’t it something to be proud of?”

Fitz sniffed and wrapped his arms tighter around the Doctor’s neck. Suddenly, he was on his knees again, in a room built out of skulls, a dark one-armed figure looming over him, and he was more scared than at any other time in his life. He wanted to beg the Doctor to please make it stop, but couldn’t say a word for his sobs.

“Kind sir! You’re the very person we need! Can you tell me the shortest way to Piccadilly Circus?”

And just like that, Fitz burst out laughing, all the conflicting emotions of his past and present selves mixing together until he didn’t know what he was feeling anymore.

He pulled back, leaned on the wall again, and wiped his face against his shoulders—still chuckling, much to the Doctor’s confusion.

“What is it, Fitz? What’s so funny?”

“Nothing. Told you, I just suddenly remember shit.”

“Ah.”

“Yeah, I hate it. I’ll be minding my own business and then I’ll remember something from years ago and it’s like it’s just happened. Been driving me mad.”

“Why have you only just said?”

Fitz shrugged, feeling for his bottle until he realised it sat behind the Doctor.

“Dunno. It’s kind of difficult to explain.”

“I’m sorry, Fitz. I had to modify the remembrance tank. I didn’t anticipate that it might be a problem.”

“Will it ever stop?”

“It has to. Memories always fade.”

“I just wish I didn’t have to remember so much.”

“I know, Fitz. But it will get easier.”

“Is it like regeneration?” he asked. “Is that what you feel when you regenerate?”

The Doctor shook his head.

“No. My physical body changes, but my mind remains mostly intact. Or at least that’s the idea. I couldn’t remember anything at all when I last regenerated.”

“What, seriously?”

“Yes. I woke up and had no idea who I was. Took a while for my memories to come back.”

“Blimey.”

“It’s a bit of an unpredictable process.”

“At least your head is in the right place.”

“Yes, you have to be grateful for small mercies,” the Doctor smiled.

“How’s your arm?” asked Fitz. The Doctor wasn’t holding it to himself anymore and seemed to be able to use it properly.

“Much better, thank you, Fitz.”

Fitz glanced at the bottle, contemplating retrieving it, which probably didn’t escape the Doctor’s attention, and in the end just sighed and went slack against the wall.

“So… What happened to you on Earth?” he asked.

The Doctor gave him a crooked smile.

“Well, I’m afraid I was rather careless and managed to get myself imprisoned shortly after we arrived.”

“The usual, then?” Fitz chuckled.

“Yes. The usual.”



***

Fitz tossed and turned in his bed, cursing either the alien booze for wearing off so quickly or the tea the Doctor had made him for assisting it. He’d been rather looking forward to falling into oblivion.

He’d barely seen Compassion at all these days. She mostly loitered somewhere around the library and occasionally joined him and the Doctor for a meal. Fitz didn’t mind, really. Talking to Compassion felt weird.

Technically, they’d spent two hundred years around one another, but instead of invoking some sort of warmth you’d expect to feel for a person you’d hung out with for so long, it gave him the creeps. Besides, Compassion probably still saw him as Kode, if she even cared.

What was worse, she’d been the driving force behind him becoming Kode in the first place and in Fitz’s book, that was nothing to thank her for. He wondered how much he’d changed her over the years, too, probably contributing to each of her iterations becoming increasingly distant and obstinate. Fitz sighed. At least the Doctor always managed to see the best in people. Who knew what he, this Fitz, would have become had that not been the case.

Fitz drew his knees to his chest and draped the duvet over his nose. With Sam gone now, he’d been unexpectedly promoted to number one companion and friend, for lack of a better option. He wondered what would have happened if she’d stayed and whether the Doctor would have even bothered to offer Kode to be changed back. Maybe it was just too much to lose two people at the same time and it wasn’t really about him at all.

He remembered dark-haired Sam and how hard she’d fought to stay who she was, despite the fact that her life frankly sucked—unlike Kode, who hadn’t needed much convincing to get into the remembrance tank. Fitz wasn’t sure why he’d done it and, more frighteningly, that he himself wouldn’t jump at the chance to become someone better. Was he better? He didn’t know. Somehow it seemed like he had to be, since it was the Doctor who’d made him.

The problem with remembering dark-haired Sam was that he was left sobbing into the pillow, the memory of her disappearing to give way to her counterpart as fresh in his mind as if he’d just watched her go. He’d really liked her and felt like an arsehole for wanting her to stay. Maybe they would have travelled with the Doctor for a bit and then settled down somewhere nice. Even London of her time would have worked. But that Sam was dead now, just like Kode was, and there wasn’t even a gravestone or a memorial to honour either of them.

Exhausted from remembering everything that had gone wrong, Fitz eventually began to calm down, the splitting headache brought about by his crying easing just enough to let him sleep, the ghosts of the past finally having mercy on him. He was starting to drift off when a different kind of images flooded his mind. It was the Doctor, broken-armed, bloody and bruised, cuts on his hands and face, thin and barely alive.

Fitz sat up, his heart racing, the last traces of sleep seeping away. He wasn’t sure if it was the beginning of a nightmare or something that had really happened, but he couldn’t trace it back to a specific memory. His nightmares were usually the only kind of dream he could remember, despite all his efforts, but that seemed too vivid even for them.

He thought back to the Doctor cradling his arm and then to the image of him staggering to the TARDIS through what Fitz knew to be a prison cell and pressed his hands to his face.

“Oh shit,” he groaned, falling back onto the bed.

He made his way to the console room, thinking that maybe the Doctor would be there, and eventually found him in the library.

“You are up late. Can’t sleep?” the Doctor smiled sympathetically from his armchair.

Fitz stopped a few steps away, arms wrapped around himself, and shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

“I’ve just remembered something,” he said.

“Oh. Is it bothering you?”

“It’s not like that. I think it’s something Kode saw.”

“What did you remember?”

“That prison you were in. Why didn’t you say?”

The Doctor’s face did something it always did when he was taken by surprise. That seldom happened, so he didn’t really have a prepared expression for it. His mouth opened and closed and he stared at Fitz for a moment before finally saying, “I didn’t think it was particularly important.”

Fitz let his arms hang limply down his sides.

“You could have died there.”

“I didn’t, did I? I think I’m very much alive now,” the Doctor said with one of his infuriating exaggerated grins.

“Was it the Faction?”

“Oh no, I don’t think the Faction’s methods are quite as crude.”

“Humans, then?”

“Yes.”

“Shit, I’m sorry. What did they want from you?”

“Nothing in particular. I think it was just a bit of a habit of theirs.”

Fitz shivered at the thought. He was bad at dealing with pain. Travelling with the Doctor, it was sort of unavoidable and the prospect of it sometimes terrified him to the point he was ready to get off the TARDIS and stay wherever they were at any given time. The Doctor was supposed to handle it better than humans, but he really did look dreadful in Kode’s memory.

“That’s awful,” Fitz said, mentally kicking himself for failing to come up with something better.

The Doctor sent him a reassuring smile, like it was Fitz who needed to be comforted.

“Well, it’s over now, isn’t it? You and Sarah found me just in time.”

“Just in time for what?” Fitz asked flatly, suddenly angry at that flippancy.

The Doctor’s smile slipped off his face.

“Probably to make sure I didn’t inadvertently demonstrate the regeneration process to humans.”

“Bloody hell. I’m sorry, Doctor.”

Fitz wanted to give him a hug, but there were a good few paces between them and the Doctor was sitting down, so it would have been weird and awkward and he wasn’t eager to be weird and awkward around the Doctor.

“It’s all right, Fitz. I really am fine now.”

“At least it healed quickly,” he murmured.

“Yes,” the Doctor agreed and Fitz had no idea what else to say. Somehow it was difficult to accept that the Doctor might really die. He seemed like one of those universal constants.

“We should go somewhere nice tomorrow,” the Doctor said. “I think we have all deserved a break.”

“Yeah. That’d be great,” Fitz said, but he knew that with their luck, wherever they landed, trouble was just around the corner.