IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou. The words were stumbling from his lips before he could stop them – but it was already too late. Rose had disappeared once again and the Doctor had to pause to slow his breathing and scrub his hands over his face before he could begin analysing the data he had just collected. The human Doctor and Rose investigate the disappearance of the husband of the Tyler’s housekeeper and get a lot more than they bargained for. 3,479 words
A/N: um, can I put a warning here for serious creep factor people? Also for teh sad because my angst bunny is definitely back again :P apologies in advance to professor_spork. Also? Please don’t read this if bugs freak you out. No really. REALLY. Please consider yourselves warned. I don't much fancy psychologically scarring anybody today even if it IS Halloween :P
The Doctor spun, following the line of Tony’s trembling finger to the other end of the corridor where a pale, slender figure stood.
Hollow eyed, desperately sad, but he would have recognised her anywhere.
“No.” He gritted out, striding down the corridor. “That’s impossible! I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it! You can’t possibly...”
He grasped for an arm and drew back in horror when his hand passed cleanly through.
“No.” He tried again, weakly. He stared at his hand, patted vainly at the spectre with it. “Nonono...”
She was watching him with her chin on her shoulder, sagging on her feet, exhausted. And yet she managed somehow to raise one trembling hand towards him...
And then she was gone.
The Doctor stared at the emptiness where the spectre had stood only moments before and abruptly found himself collapsing onto the floor into a boneless, stupefied heap.
Tony joined him a moment later, eyes popping and tiny body trembling violently inside his Wiggles pyjamas as he fell to his knees with all the grace a small boy can possess.
“Is Rose a ghost?” he whispered, fingers bunching reflexively into the sleeve of the Doctor’s suit jacket.
He didn’t answer, still too stupefied to do anything but gape and try to stop himself from going out into helpless, hopeless, endless tears. But then the small hands curled even more insistently around the fabric, tugging at it, and the boy’s voice was tiny and high when he voiced his next question.
“Is Rose dead?”
The Doctor turned his head towards the terrified child and saw, for an instant, so much of his sister in the hazel eyes and turned up nose that he couldn’t help the way his mouth twisted with grief, or the way he instinctively reached out to comfort the owner of the aforementioned features.
Tony crumbled into his embrace, sniffling wildly and the Doctor pressed his cheek against the shock of ginger curls and fought back his own grief with little success.
At the other end of the corridor, Jackie and Pete came barrelling in. Too late – far too late.
“Is it...? Was it...?” Jackie was breathless. “Rose?”
Tony surfaced long enough to wail, “She’s dead!” before burrowing back into the Doctor who tightened his arms around the child and closed his eyes, only now allowing his own sobs to bubble up and overflow into the chaos of the Tyler family’s combined mourning.
“Do you believe in ghosts Miss Rose?”
Rose sat back in her chair and re-crossed her legs contemplatively. “I believe in lots of things,” she admitted. “Doesn’t make them real.”
Anais Patel’s forehead folded into a myriad of lines and her lips took a definite downturn. “But, my husband...”
“Look,” Rose uncrossed her legs and leant forward, reaching instinctively for the other woman’s hand. “I know you’re upset. But until we actually see this ghost of yours there’s nothing else I can do. We can’t just set up a team in your house and wait for it to pop in.”
Anais sat there miserably, wringing her hands in agitation. Rose sighed and glanced over at where the Doctor was busily soniccing everything he could find.
“Look, if you can get me some proof...” she conceded and Anais’ eyes flickered up, brightening. “A photo or a video or something...maybe they’ll let me take it on as a case. Alright?”
Anais’ beamed and clutched Rose’s hand with both of her own. “Thank you Miss Rose! I will try to get a photograph for you – how you say? Post haste!”
“So what d’you think?” Rose asked once she’d managed to drag the Doctor out of the house. “Tehjan disappears and six days later Anais is getting haunted by his ghost?”
“Looks like a ghost,” the Doctor shrugged. “Sounds like a ghost. Doesn’t mean it is a ghost. I mean how many fake ghosts did we run across together?”
“Yeah,” Rose gave a short laugh before beginning to tick them off on her fingers. “I mean what – the Gelth...those people made out of dew...the Cybermen...”
“Footprints that don’t look like a boot.” The Doctor mused, frowning at his sonic. “Weird readings on this though...”
Rose grinned at him indulgently. “Sure you haven’t calibrated it wrong again?”
“Oi!” the Doctor petted his sonic fondly. “It’s a work in progress! You try building a sonic screwdriver out of Torchwoods scraps!”
Still grinning, Rose slipped a hand into his. “Well. If anyone could do it...”
The Doctor grinned back, mollified and pressed his fingers against hers.
The case went on hold for another week and a half before any new evidence came up. In that time, the two of them had almost forgotten about it in all of the excitement. There was to be a summit at Torchwood held between them and the race of tiny, sentient squirrel like aliens who had accidentally crash landed in New York some five years previously.
The Jrit’ná were eager to swap technology for Oak saplings – their home planet equivalent having died out just two generations ago. The whole summit was resting on the Doctor’s ability to create a translation program that could aid communication between the two races. After surprising himself by discovering how fluent he still was in their language and the program (although time consuming) was coming along nicely.
And then Rose disappeared.
At first the Doctor thought little of it. He had grown used to her occasionally dropping off the radar when she was working a case. In any case, he had been far too busy with his translation program to really pay any proper amount of attention to her whereabouts. When she didn’t come home for dinner he ordered in enough food for them both and kept his mobile next to him as he worked.
She never called and she never came.
Before he went to bed he tried once more to call her and as before, it went to voicemail.
The next day he rang Pete.
“Have you heard from Rose?” he blurted without even a pre-emptive hello, phone wedged between his shoulder and his ear as he fixed himself a bowl of cereal and sliced banana. “Is she working a case?”
There was a baffled pause from the other end.
“She’s not working anything big for us as far as I’m aware. She did mention something about that case you two were working the other week though – with our housekeeper?”
The Doctor’s hand slipped and the knife narrowly missed out on slicing his finger open. “She heard from Anais? When? What did she say?”
It was a comparatively short intellectual jump but the Doctor still felt foolish as he approached Anais’ modest home with a rather large team of Torchwood agents. Pete had asked if he wanted backup and he had reluctantly agreed. He hadn’t thought that backup meant a bomb squad, more than a dozen soldiers and a helicopter.
But once he was inside, the Doctor’s fears were all realised at once. Anais was gone and Rose’s mobile was sitting almost casually on the coffee table, the Bluetooth application still open and pinging softly away, waiting for a file it would never receive.
There was no sign of a struggle – there was no sign of anything at all in fact until almost a week had passed and the Doctor went to the Tyler mansion to talk to Pete about their next move.
“There’s just no evidence!” he complained. “No telling what might have taken them. It could have been just about anything.”
Jackie, flushed magnificently in her anger, sat a little higher in her chair. “So what, you’re just gonna give up on them then?”
The Doctor pressed his fingertips against his eyelids until stars burst behind his vision. “Oh of course not – don’t be stupid Jackie. You know that...”
“Don’t you go calling me stupid!” Jackie glared. “And don’t you dare blame that Donna woman for your bad manners – you were rude before you got cloned with her.”
The Doctor fell into a sulk and Pete offered him a small, conciliatory smile.
“Now you listen to me,” Jackie continued. “First they terrorise the best housekeeper I’ve had in years. Then they make off with her and my daughter. No thing is going to get away with that while I’m around.”
All three adults swung around at the sleepy voice and Jackie was instantly on her feet.
“What you doing up for Tony?” the question sounded innocent enough but there was a dangerous undertone to her voice that none of the men present missed. Little Tony looked momentarily worried but mostly just defiant.
“Can’t sleep.” He complained. “Rose always reads me a story on Sundays.”
There was an awkward pause and then the Doctor cleared his throat and offered, “How about I tell you one hmmn?”
Tony was pleased enough with that arrangement and after very little coaxing, he headed upstairs to await his story.
The Doctor collapsed back into his chair only once the boy had gone. Jackie cast a critical eye over his exhausted countenance.
“Haven’t been eating properly have you?” she noted and the Doctor rubbed a hand across his eyes self consciously.
“Or sleeping.” He admitted and Jackie let out a long sigh.
“God but you’re useless without her.” She said, rising. The Doctor tried to muster the energy to look up and glare but when she put a soft hand on his shoulder and then began puttering about to make him some beans on toast he couldn’t help but be grateful for Jackie Tyler.
The truth was that he was falling apart without Rose. And quite aside from the ache of being forcibly separated from her, he was still depended on her so much for his day-to-day human stuff. Reminding him to eat and sleep barely even scratched the surface. She made sure the flat stayed clean and tidy and live-in-able. She vetoed his more adventurous projects and helped him with others. She quieted him after nightmares and delighted in his dreams – a concept so alien to him that they still hadn’t lost their novelty for him yet.
And he’d been so busy with his own projects that he hadn’t even realised she was missing for a whole day. Ignorance, he thought with disdain. That’s all it was. And pig-headedness. And it was inexcusable. He wasn’t half human now for nothing – he was meant to be better at all of this and he wasn’t.
He was so weighted down with his own sense of self-disgust that he wasn’t paying any attention to his surroundings as he slogged up the stairs to Tony’s bedroom. The child met him at the door, bounding into the corridor excitedly only to stop short.
“What?” the Doctor asked, bending to get a better look at the ashen face before him. “Tony what’s wrong?”
Tony raised a shaking hand, barely managing a horror-struck whisper of, “Look!” before the Doctor spun, following the line of Tony’s trembling finger to the other end of the corridor where a pale, slender figure stood.
Jackie was crying loudly, sobbing against her husband’s chest if the muffled quality of the sound was anything to go by. Tony was likewise still trembling in the Doctor’s arms, his sobs quieting with the gentle rocking motion the former was employing in a desperate attempt to calm himself down.
“No.” The Doctor said abruptly, peeling Tony out of his arms and dragging himself to his feet. Sonic in hand, he began to buzz the area with something akin to desperation. “No. If I can just get a fix on the energy signatures while they’re still fresh...”
“Tony – to bed.” Pete ordered, then, “NOW” when the inevitable protests began. Jackie bundled the boy back down to his door whilst Pete watched the Doctor’s frantic soniccing. “Doctor...”
The sonic was yielding nothing. None of the settings he had created so far on it were doing anything to tell him what it was. “Not a hologram. No man made projection I’ve ever seen. So what does that leave? Astral projection? Psychic connection? Telepathic connection? But how? A telepathic connection...going through Rose or whoever has her? Why would they reach out like that? To trap me? But why use Anais and Tehjan first? As a test run? What?”
A hand pushed anxiously through his hair and the Doctor turned back to Pete who had been rejoined by Jackie.
“Tony says he saw Rose’s ghost.” She stated flatly. “Like Anais saw Tehjan. Doctor...”
“No, no, no,” he began, gripping her shoulder with as much energy as he could muster which admittedly was not much after the draining emotional outburst he’d just been subjected to. “Jackie, you remember the Cybermen? You thought they were ghosts too only they weren’t. We can’t look for the easiest answer here – there’s got to be something more to it.”
“What then?” Jackie asked, swiping her tears away. “You can’t find anything. If you can’t find anything what chance have we got? She’s as good as dead if she isn’t already.”
“Rose is not a ghost.” He said firmly but Jackie just shook her head at him.
“You thought she was.” she said scathingly. “Least for a second. Wouldn’t’ve reacted like you did otherwise.”
He didn’t dare admit that she was right.
Rose’s ghost reappeared in the Tyler mansion several times over the next days – always when the Doctor was there. Jackie was put out that the spectre didn’t appear for her alone but the Doctor was secretly rather glad. She paid visit to him at their flat too – almost constantly. He had abandoned his translation program in lieu of finding her and the place was scattered with reams of paper covered in notes and calculations and theories.
It broke his heart to see her frowning at it all, unspeaking but clearly upset. At times it almost seemed like she was trying to clear away the mess but she was so completely insubstantial that she couldn’t even muster the residual energy needed to move things around. He was growing more and more convinced now that it was a telepathic link, he just needed to pinpoint the source and then he was confident he would find Rose.
The set up he was working on to triangulate the signal was taking altogether too much time to put together. And it wasn’t like he had a TARDIS full of a millennia’s worth of space junk that he could filch parts from either. He could have whipped up the stupid thing in five minutes flat usually, but finding supplementary parts for things that he had once had was turning out to be time consuming, frustrating, and expensive.
As Rose’s visitations to him became shorter and further apart, the Doctor began to despair. If the telepathic link was directly connected to her wellbeing (and he was certain it was) then it was beyond certain that she was losing the battle with whatever creature had stolen her away.
A whole week had passed before he managed to capture her inside his finished project. And even then he almost lost her a half dozen times. She kept fading in and out, like an old silent film, flickering and dull. It was obviously an effort for her to come through but he just couldn’t get a fix and he was desperate.
“Rose,” he pleaded as she began to fade out for the fifth or sixth time. “Rose please, I need you to stay. Just stay a little longer so I can find you!”
To his shock she gritted her teeth, squeezed her eyes shut and clenched her fists. A moment later, she solidified so much that he reached out to make sure she hadn’t willed herself all the way back to him.
“You’re still just an image.” He realised bleakly and she opened her eyes, exhaustion colouring her entire countenance as she began to slowly fade away again. The Doctor began to babble, panicking that this might be the last contact he had with her and wanting to prolong his telepathic wavelength triangulation dooby to get as much of a chance of finding her as possible. “Rose, you’re doing so well – so amazingly well. Don’t you give up on me now, y’hear? I’m coming for you – I am – Rose...”
IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou. The words were stumbling from his lips before he could stop them – but it was already too late. Rose had disappeared once again and the Doctor had to pause to slow his breathing and scrub his hands over his face before he could begin analysing the data he had just collected.
“It is a parasite from our home world,” the Grand Captain of the Jrit’ná explained through the translation program. “Jh¬éa feed on blood and lure victim’s fellows too, using telepathy. Group telepathy. Primitive but works. They are very hard to kill. Even harder to find when they hide so cunning. The swarm will separate to disappear itself and then rejoin to hide body they suckle.
“These must have been carried on board my ship by a saboteur. If we had not landed here Jhéa would have killed the entire my crew in very short time. You see how much damage they do to your human species? You are larger much in stature than Jrit’ná.
“We hope this incident will not damage the relations between Humans and Jrit’ná. Jrit’ná apologise for loss any you sustain.
The Doctor stepped down into the room and fought back a very human reaction to gag. It was like something out of a horror movie – Rose swarming with hundreds of tiny creatures, each of them with a curling proboscis that was dipping in and out of the half-scabbed sores that littered her skin.
They were licking up her blood, one tiny drop at a time.
The Doctor immediately raised his Sonic and began flipping through it, his hands shaking with rage and his teeth gritting painfully as he set frequencies and boundaries. As he held it out and prepared to set off a small range seismic blast that he prayed would be enough to dispel the monsters, he noticed with disgust that some of them had already made their way onto his own skin and were now beginning to probe about for the best places to break through.
He didn’t even hesitate before pressing the button on his Sonic. The blast raised his hair on end but the frequency was such that it affected little else. The creatures were not so lucky. Each and every one of them had dropped dead on the spot and he brushed them aside disgustedly as he examined Rose’s emaciated body with tender hands.
She was ashen and cold but at his sure touch her eyelids flickered open the tiniest amount and her lips cracked into a smile.
“Knew...you’d find me.” She teased weakly and the Doctor choked on a dry sob of relief.
“Can’t get rid of me.” He promised with a weak grin, taking her hand and holding it to his cheek for a long moment before kissing the poor, broken skin and then feeling carefully along her body for any other injuries. “Anything broken?” he asked, keen to keep her awake and responsive. He wasn’t about to lose her now from loss of blood of all things, but he couldn’t very well move her until he knew he wasn’t going to hurt her any further. She looked awful...
“Dunno.” Rose mumbled, her glassy eyes betraying just how much work it was to force out each syllable. “There’s...Anais too. Here. Tehjan was ’lready...d’they move her?”
The Doctor’s heart sank as he looked around and found nothing to suggest that another human being had ever been in this room. Except...
He abruptly returned his attention to Rose, fighting down once more the instinct to let his nausea overtake him at what he had just seen. Rose’s brow puckered by a fraction at his reaction and she pressed him again, “She...?”
“She’s gone.” He said softly, checking Rose over for the second time to avoid meeting her gaze. “Are you alright for me to carry you?”
Rose was silent a moment before turning her head to the side, searching for the shattered remains of her mother’s favourite housekeeper and finding herself unable to decipher them from underneath the dog pile of dead insects that had devoured her from the inside out. The Doctor followed her gaze and didn’t bother fighting the wave of sadness and grief that washed over him.
Rose opened her mouth, choking on her words and he hushed her but she shook her head, tears beginning to collect against the bridge of her nose and spilling down her temple to fall to the bug-littered floor.
“Sh-she held my hand...” she broke off into silent tears, sobs that made her chest jump erratically and her battered skin pull painfully at the sores.