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Behold, the first story in a new series! This was inspired by [livejournal.com profile] then_theres_uss Challenge #91: AU., and this photo promptPhoto prompt ) This will not be the last. This story has eaten my brain, and I have many, many ideas for it, so I hope you read it and enjoy.
Title: As The World Falls Down
Genre: Romance, Adventure, Mystery
Pairing: 9/Rose, other special guests
Rating: Teen
Summary: Rose Tyler rarely speaks. She is invisible. One day, she decides to take a walk down a tree-lined road to meet the madman that lives at the other end.
Author's notes: Yes, this messes with canon a bit. It is an AU. If you don't want canon tinkering, don't read AU.
This story would never have come to be without the help of the greatest betas in the world: [livejournal.com profile] kelkat9[livejournal.com profile] onabearskinrug and [livejournal.com profile] who_in_whoville
K-9’s eyes blazed bright blue in the darkness as he lit the way from the main house to a fourth outbuilding Rose had not seen at first. It was long, red and rectangular, and the large sliding door at the front had the words “Have a break, have a… Nestle’ KitKat” written on it in faded white letters. John gripped the door handle and pulled upwards, revealing a long single room with equipment hanging from every inch of available wall space. There was a strange contraption in the middle of the floor.
It was a gleaming blue cart with four wheels, a seat for two, and another wheel sticking out in front of one of the seats. There were plenty of rusted shells of this type of thing all over London that she knew what it was immediately, but was no less astounded by the sight of it. There was an elaborate system of twisted copper pipes and valves running along the outside and a crank at the front, set in the middle of a copper filigree grill. The cart gleamed in the glow from K-9’s eyes.
“Behold, the Conveyance!” John cried, bounding over to the cart to run his hand along the outside.
Rose pointed, her mouth hanging open. “That’s a cart.”
“Car,” John corrected, grinning.
“Car,” she repeated. She smirked at him and shook her head. “That never works.”
He nodded rapidly, crossing his arms over his chest. “Yeah, it does.”
“It can’t! The Iyempi made it so nothing from the old world works any more.”
She didn’t know how a grin that consumed John’s entire face could get bigger, but it always managed to do it. “This is not from the old world,” he said, slapping the side of the car. “I built this. Runs on steam; no electricals. Brilliant, steam is. Wonder why the old world never bothered much with it.”
“Everybody knows that story,” Rose said as she approached the car. She had never seen one so sleek and shining. “They had something called ‘pet-roll,’ and the overlords convinced everybody that nothing but the pet-roll could make their carts go. Then the Iyempi came and destroyed all the electricals and none of the pet-roll things worked any more. Then the overlords summoned the Doctor, and he made the Cataclysm.” Rose’s face took on a faraway look. “And then the Master came, and saved us all. Praise to the Master.”
John bowed his head in obeisance. “Praise to the Master.”
After they paused for a reverent moment, the Doctor opened the passenger door and helped Rose into the seat. He dashed to the front of the Conveyance and turned the crank for several feverish seconds before pulling a lever that started something chugging under the bonnet. Rose started slightly at the sudden, jerking vibration. He uncapped a few more stops, flipped another lever, twisted a dial with a flourish, peered at two gauges and jumped into the seat next to Rose. He lowered the goggles that were still perched on his head down in front of his eyes, pulled open the choke and with a bang that made Rose cry out in surprise, the chugging turned to purring and the Conveyance began to move, the vibrations jostling Rose’s bum in a new and not entirely unpleasant way.
“I can’t believe it!” she squealed, peering over the side. “It’s moving!”
“Course it is!” John laughed as they made their way across the patchy grass towards the bridge. “You think I’d go through all that in front of you just to have the old girl fail on me? Never. You’re impressed, yeah? Tell me you’re impressed.”
Rose’s eyes were wide when she looked back at her new friend. “I am very impressed. Wait until my mum sees us!”
“Look after the place, will you, K-9?” John asked as they passed the copper dog, whose tail was wagging faster than ever.
“Affirmative, master,” K-9 called back. “I will engage the security perimeter.”
John turned back to Rose, leaning his head close to hers. “I don’t even know what that means,” he muttered with a giggle. Rose laughed and slid her hand around his arm, spinster manners be damned.
They crossed the bridge and drove back down the lane into the bank of fog. John pulled out a stop and a pair of headlamps popped out of the front of the car, shining light through the dense gray wall.
“Fog’s part of the ‘security perimeter,’ I think,” John said over the sound of the engine. “K-9 came up with it. He’s got a name for it: ‘s like ‘perception filter’ or something like that. Who knows? I invented him, and half the time I don’t have the faintest idea what he’s talking about!”
“People in the village say you’re mad,” Rose answered, squeezing his arm. “I don’t wonder if they’re half right!”
“More than half,” he chuckled. “You think I’m mad now, I’ll have to show you my journal. That’s the stuff of madness, that book. I have the most incredible dreams, Rose Tyler. Sometimes they seem as real as if they’d actually happened and I’m just remembering.”
“I used to dream,” Rose said, leaning her head back to appreciate a particularly gorgeous pink and yellow aurora as they chugged out of the fog and down the tree-lined road. “Think I’m too tired to these days. It’s a safe bet I’ll dream tonight, though.”
“Of me?” John asked, his eyebrows reaching up from behind his goggles.
“Of the whole mad day!” Rose cried, squeezing his arm and looking back at the sky. “Mostly of you, though. Is that all right, Mr. Gatesmith? May I dream of you tonight?” She should have been ashamed of the teasing tone in her voice, at the silly way she nibbled the end of her tongue as she smiled over at him, but she was enjoying it. In fact, since she’d made the decision to walk out the front door of her mother’s cottage and find out what was at the end of the road, she had done nothing but enjoy herself.
“Absolutely,” he grinned. “I’ll be doing the same.” He reached for a lever, drawing his arm away from her hands. When he’d shifted the lever, he took her hand in his, resting them both on his thigh with his on the bottom so she wouldn’t touch his leg and be scandalized. They turned off the road and headed past the edge Forest of Time with the enormous clock growing at its center to drive along the muddy shore of the River Temms. When they passed the London statue of the Master, both of them bowed their heads, kissed their fingertips and touched them to their foreheads.
Thinking of the Master always put Rose in a thoughtful mood, and for a while she sat in the seat next to John, quietly holding his hand and watching London trail by in the darkness. The ruins, lit by the sentinel fires, looked almost beautiful draped in shadows. Everything felt steeped in beauty to her after such a wonderful night. It wasn’t as if anything of particular significance had happened beyond meeting John, but that appeared to be quite enough to paint even the ruins of London in an unexpected light.
She kept stealing glances at him as they drove along. Mercifully, he appeared so intent on making the Conveyance run properly that he didn’t notice. He cut quite a dashing profile, despite the ears, and his eyes were huge, blue, and sparkling with enthusiasm and life. The people she knew in London were so dull-eyed and lifeless; she had always thought so, but when contrasted with John and his giddy grins and incessantly joyful energy, her fellow Londoners barely seemed alive at all. He even smelled nice, which was a silly thing for her to notice. He smelled like he’d just bathed that day, with a mix of soap, books (who would have known they’d smell so good!) and smoke from the laboratory explosion clinging to him. It made her think things she’d never thought before, like what it might feel like to press her cheek against his skin and smell him up close. To do more than that.
“Dreaming of me?” she asked at last, as much to knock herself out of her impure reverie as to find out the answer. How had this night become what it was becoming? Her heart felt as if it were coming alive after a long and horrible slumber, as if she were becoming the person she had forgotten she was supposed to be.
“No, dreaming of meself!” he jibed, giving her a nudge. She laughed with false shock and playfully smacked his arm. He gave her hand a squeeze and turned as she instructed to bring the Conveyance through the dirt streets of London back to the Tyler cottage. It was difficult for Rose to get all the turns right, as she’d never gone through the streets so quickly. As they got closer, Rose noticed the sentinel fires were brighter than usual, and there were a lot of people out on the street for so late at night. Every single one of them stared, most with their mouths hanging open, as they chugged past. John regarded them with mild interest, waved at some, and after about the sixth turn, gave Rose a look.
“You worry about the opinions of these people why?” he asked, waving as they passed yet another slack-jawed gaper.
Rose shrugged. “They were my whole world until a few hours ago.”
“Nah,” John said, taking the last turn onto Rose’s street. “They were never your world.”
Rose’s street was so crowded with people that it was impossible for the Conveyance to move until John sounded the klaxon horn and inadvertently caused a minor panic as several of the people in the street ran screaming back to their cottages at the sound. The rest jumped out of the way, flattening against the walls of cottages or running to the other side of the road to get out of their way. She understood at once that she was the reason the sentinel fires were so brightly lit. She wondered how long her mother had waited before sounding the alarm. Rose knew she should be ashamed at causing such a commotion, but she couldn’t stop grinning. She held her hand to her forehead more to shield her smile from the gawking crowd than to hide her identity.
“That’s it there,” She said at last, pointing with her free hand while she kept her other hand up to her face. Despite the impending scandal and what she knew was not going to be a good reception from her mother, Rose couldn’t stop smiling. She may be virtually invisible every other day, but by the Master everyone was looking at her now. Jackie was standing outside the front door, her complexion ashen, her eyes red and swollen, and a look of murderous rage on her face. Rose closed her eyes and breathed slowly out. John went on smiling.
“Where the stink have you been?” Jackie snapped as the Conveyance chugged to a sputtering, jiggling, shuddering stop, punctuated by a loud bang that sent another portion of the people in the street running for cover. “What’s this? Who’s that?”
“Hello,” John called, hopping out of the driver’s seat. He ran around, opened Rose’s door and helped her out, and then led her to stand in front of Jackie. “You must be Rose’s mum. Pleasure to meet you. I’m—“
The rest of his greeting was cut off when Jackie sent him spinning back towards the car with a blistering smack, hard enough to knock the goggles off the top of his head. Rose picked them up and turned on her mother in a fury.
“Mum, don’t!” she cried. She noticed several of the people still standing outside raise their eyebrows at the sound of her voice. She picked one and shot them a dirty look. “Yeah, I can talk. Big news – tell your friends!”
“What have you been doin’ with my daughter?” Jackie snarled, pushing past Rose to stick her finger in John’s face. “Think you can pick this peach just because it’s gettin’ overripe?”
“Please!” Rose shouted, her face flaring heat. “Stop it!”
“I know your kind,” Jackie spat, her eyes flashing.
“No, you don’t,” John answered, holding his jaw with one hand. “Miss Tyler was taking a walk and got lost in the fog. I found her and invited her to stay for tea.”
Jackie wheeled on Rose, eyes narrowed. “That so?”
“Yeah, mum,” Rose answered, ducking her head.
“Cos if you’ve been tartin’ about with this whoever he is, he’d better pay you something for your trouble! Compensation, that’s what it’s about in this world!” Jackie shouted, jerking a thumb at her chest. “Nobody gets nothing from me without compensation.”
Rose’s shoulders dropped and her eyes went to the ground. She could actually feel the familiar cowl of silence wrapping itself around her again. Out of the corner of her eye she saw John stand up a little straighter. He would never be back, not after this. She wasn’t worth all this trouble.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Gatesmith,” she said. “Thank you for the ride.”
“Oh, I don’t like that,” John said, insinuating himself between mother and daughter. He bent down, turning his face so he could look Rose in the eye. “Hello. Still ‘ere? It’s me, your friend John. We just met, had a jolly evening. Exploding outbuildings? Please don’t close down; I’d miss you, and I just met you.”
Rose managed to smile, if only a little. She wouldn’t let herself hope that he truly meant what he was saying, but his tone was comforting.
“Who do you think you are?” Jackie hissed. John turned to her, rising to his full height. Rose couldn’t be certain, but she thought she saw her mother flinch, just for a second.
“I’ll tell you who I’m not, for starters. I’m not some thickheaded Londoner like yourself who can’t figure out that two people might simply enjoy spending time together without money changing hands. I’m also the man who is going to start squiring your daughter around town, if she’ll allow me, so you’d better get used to this daft old face. You’re going to be seeing a lot of it!”
He held out his hand to Rose while still keeping his eyes on Jackie and for a moment she didn’t know what he wanted, until she remembered she was holding his goggles. She put them in his hand and he nodded his thanks, put them back on and slid them down over his eyes. They made him look a bit ridiculous, given the circumstances, but Rose kept any semblance of a smile firmly suppressed. He stared Jackie down for a long, hard moment before he spoke again. Jackie stood firm, chin jutted upward towards him, scowling in a way that made her look much older than Rose had realized she was. In times like this she couldn’t help wondering what sort of woman her mother might have been had the Doctor not destroyed the old world.
“Good evening to you, Miss Tyler. And to your mum.” He turned on his heel and marched back to the Conveyance, turned the crank a few more times and, after jumping over the door into the driver’s seat, started the car chugging and banging its way home. Rose stood in the crowd that watched until the car turned a corner and disappeared. She could hear the engine for several more minutes, as well as the occasional gurgling screech of the horn, before the sound faded to nothing and people began going back inside.
“Bold as brass, that one,” Jackie said, putting her arm around Rose’s shoulders to lead her into the cottage. “He won’t be back, though. Don’t you worry none about that.”
Rose didn’t speak again the rest of the night. She didn’t let herself cry until she was in her bed and her mother was occupied with someone who was willing to pay the proper compensation.
“Late-night snack, master?” K-9 came into the living room with a glass of milk and a plate of chocolate biscuits balanced on his back. John was stretched out on the sofa in his vest, braces hanging limply from his jeans, basking in the feel of fresh air on his bare feet. He was looking through the skylight, watching the aurorae. A streak of bright fuchsia was butting up against a slender trail of green, the two lights periodically entangling with one another, only to swirl apart a second later. He set the plate on his stomach and the glass on the floor within easy reach and stuffed three biscuits into his mouth.
“Your current mood carries an Emo Quotient of fifty-three percent, master.”
John sighed. “I think I might be losing my mind.”
“You are talking to a metal dog.”
He chuckled. “That should’ve been my first clue. Calculate the statistical probability of love at first sight.”
K-9 paused. “With what parameters?”
“Nonspecific,” John answered, cramming another biscuit in with the others, so that his words began to stick together when he spoke. “Just in general. How likely is it?”
K-9’s ears twirled, his eyes flashed and a squeaking jet of steam shot out of the vent by his tail. “Highly unlikely, master. Performing secondary set of calculations now.”
“With what variables?”
“It is unnecessary to put the entire serving of biscuits into your mouth at once. Please swallow before inserting another biscuit and speaking again. Variables include the personality of control subject John Absalom Gatesmith, contrasted against the known personality of one Rose Tyler, factoring in cultural circumstances, intelligence levels, the light on your face at dusk and the excitement of the laboratory explosion.” K-9’s ears spun feverishly, his tail wagging back and forth with metronomic rhythm.
John sat up and took a long drink of his milk. “What’s the result?”
“Inconclusive,” K-9 answered with a sighing expulsion of steam. “Subject one appears to be slightly besotted and confused. Not enough data on subject two to predict accurate results.”
“Fantastic,” John groaned, flopping back down onto the sofa.
He watched the aurorae for a while longer before his eyes gave up the fight to stay open and he drifted off to sleep. K-9 cleared the plate and glass away with his probe arms and pulled a quilted throw over his master, then sat back at a distance to monitor his master’s sleep. He descended through the first stage with only one instance of hypnic myclonia, which was quite peaceful for John. He flipped onto his side, face towards the sofa, as the second stage slowed his brain activity and he began to snore. This was his master’s most peaceful stage, and the one K-9 wished with all his tin heart that his master would linger in longer than he typically did. Half an hour later the third and forth stages came on with barely a twitch from the sofa. It seemed the arrival of Miss Tyler to their home had brought his master some much-needed psychic relief.
But then, as they did every night, the nightmares found him again.
He was in a white room, and his blood was leaving stains on the floor. He was beaten, and the whole world was going to suffer as a result. As if it could suffer any more than it already had. He had failed the planet, just as he had failed his home. Now he was strapped to a chair with a cold metal clamp on his head, squeezing against his skull. A man was pacing around him, saying things John couldn’t quite hear.
“Are you listening?” The man roared in his ear. John nodded, as much as he could with the thing crushing his head. “Good, because I want you to remember every word of what I’m saying. I want it to come to you at night, when you’re sleeping. I could have burned through your regenerations and killed you a hundred times, but I didn’t. I let you live. You love these apes so much, you’re going to become one of them. And you’ll stand with them when they sing my praises and worship me, because you’ll be as stupid and tractable as the rest of them, Doctor.”
John’s mind didn’t have time to comprehend the last word before all thought was blotted out in a white storm of agony.
He was on the floor on his side an instant later, the echo of a scream dying in his throat and the taste of metal in his mouth. He pushed himself up to his hands and knees, gasping, and tried to remember where he was. Who he was. Nonsensical words seeped from his dream-state into his waking thoughts. Tardis. Sonic screw-driver. Gallifrey.
“Master?” K-9 was beside him, as he always was after the dreams, his head tilted to one side. He always marveled at the way his metal friend could express so much without an actual face.
“Glass of water?” John asked, flicking his tongue against the tang of metal in his mouth. His jaw ached. “Why do I taste metal?”
“You were experiencing a somnolent seizure, master. I improvised a tongue blade.”
“Thank you,” John sighed, sitting on the floor next to the sofa. He dragged the throw over himself and leaned his head back on the cushions. K-9 went into the kitchen and John could hear the squeal of the pump handle going up and down.
Doctor. He’d dreamt he was the Doctor. But the Doctor was a monster – a destroyer of worlds. The thoughts he’d had during that dream were thick with despair at the loss of life his failure, whatever it had been, would cause. The man that had tortured him had said the Doctor loved the apes. John could deduce that the word ‘ape’ was standing in for ‘human,’ but the whole dream didn’t ring true to what he knew about the Doctor. The Doctor hated humanity and had tried to destroy Earth; only the Master had been able to save what was left of the planet. His head was pounding and John couldn’t shake the feeling that the world wasn’t turning on quite the right axis. Most of the time it left him mildly nauseated. After the more intense dreams, the ones that inspired the seizures, he thought being slowly eaten alive by bees would be an improvement to the way he felt.
K-9 came out of the kitchen with a glass of water on his back. “Will you require a sleeping draught, master?”
“Not tonight,” John answered, downing the glass in one swallow. “I need my journal.”
“If you allow yourself to experience repeated somnolent seizures, you will not be well-rested when you go to visit Miss Tyler in the morning.” K-9 admonished.
“I’ll take the draught close to morning. Let me write this down.” He got up, still wrapped in the throw, and made his way down the hallway to the stairs leading to his lofted bedroom. He snatched the battered brown leather journal at his bedside. The words on the first page had been written and traced over many times, while the rest of the page that served as an ersatz frontispiece was covered in doodles of everything from the blue box sitting out in the yard to the heads of horrifying monsters and a bunch of odd, circular designs. The words read Theories and Phantasmagory. He pulled the ribbon that marked his last entry and, digging the pencil out of the journal’s pocket, began writing down the details of the dream.
At first he tried to avoid the use of the word “Doctor,” but there was no way to convey the total impact of the dream without writing it. I was the Doctor, he wrote at last, and I was the hero. Just writing the words down, even in a book no one would ever see but himself, felt like a scorching blasphemy against all the Master had done for the people of Earth. When he finished his notes he tucked the pencil back into the journal, kissed his fingers and touched his forehead, offering prayers of apology to the Master, and went back to the living room to stretch out on the sofa again, taking the journal with him.
“Taking the draught too close to morning will leave you sleeping well after your intended departure time,” K-9 said as soon as John set foot in the living room again.
“You mother me too much,” John replied. K-9 ejected what might have been construed as an irritated expulsion of steam and followed him back to the sofa.
“It is my function,” the dog replied, twirling his ears. “Your admonishment indicates I am functioning at peak efficiency, master.”
John patted K-9 on the head. “Always looking out for me, you. Good doggie.”
“Affirmative,” K-9 chirped, wagging his tail so rapidly it squeaked.
“I’ll take the draught,” John said, flinging himself back onto the couch. “Want to be fresh and smart when I pick up Miss Tyler in the morning.”
John took the draught with another drink of water and plunged into a dreamless, restorative sleep, free from seizures and devoid of any sort of dreaming. The draught not only served to allow him a good night’s sleep, but also wiped a second blasphemous thought out of his mind before it could take root. What if the Doctor was the hero, and everything in the world was a lie?

Date: 2011-12-19 03:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] who-in-whoville.livejournal.com
EMO QUOTIENT!!!!! Oh my goodness, if that is a quotient of 50 or so, what in the word would Ten's be?!

Such great substitutionary words: iyempi (yeah, I know exactly what you are saying there, but I won't give it away for anyone who hasn't figured that one), the Temms river... Love!

Date: 2011-12-19 03:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] timelord1.livejournal.com
I was wondering if you'd get that!! Yay!!! I've told two people who've asked me what the Iyempi is and I'm like "say it slooowly" and then they kind of grin at me like I might be a bit cracked.

Yes, I think 10's EQ would be about a 76!! :)

Date: 2011-12-21 04:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kelkat9.livejournal.com
Another chapter filled with awesome! Giggles at "Emo Quotient of fifty-three percent, master.”

I love how you are weaving all the great little hints into this story. You can definately feel it building toward the big reveal.

Date: 2011-12-21 05:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] timelord1.livejournal.com
Hee hee so glad you're enjoying it!!! :) I'm working on more as we speak....right this very second, as I type this....3200 words of new angsty goodness for this 'verse... :)

Date: 2011-12-19 04:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bloose09.livejournal.com
This story rocks! I love all the references to "our" world such as, perception filter, security perimeter, pet-roll, conveyance, the River Temms.

Argh! The Master is up to his old tricks. I can hardly stomach the Doctor worshipping him. I love John and Rose's conversation on the way back to her house.

Jackie sure is harder in this world, as is everyone else. A rough life will do that to you. You have done a great job of drawing what we know about K-9, Rose, Nine!John, and Jackie into your AU. They ring true, even in their altered states.

Good for John here:
“Oh, I don’t like that,” John said, insinuating himself between mother and daughter. He bent down, turning his face so he could look Rose in the eye. “Hello. Still ‘ere? It’s me, your friend John. We just met, had a jolly evening. Exploding outbuildings? Please don’t close down; I’d miss you, and I just met you.”

Yeah, there's more!

Date: 2011-12-19 05:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] timelord1.livejournal.com
Your comments are lovely - I friended you because you're just being so nice and reading my whole little ditty here... :) Thanks for the fantastic comments, and I'm glad you're enjoying!!

Date: 2011-12-19 05:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bloose09.livejournal.com
I am honored to be your friend and have returned the favor!

I comment because your story is so much fun and I love it! Thank you so very much :)

Date: 2011-12-19 03:04 pm (UTC)
annissamazing: Ten's red Chucks (Default)
From: [personal profile] annissamazing
I love this so much! Like, all I can think is "Cor!" and that's weird because I'm not British.

I don't even know where to start... I love everything about this chapter. I especially like how you've revealed that everyone believes the Master is the hero and that the Doctor destroyed the world. Fantastic!

Date: 2011-12-19 03:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] timelord1.livejournal.com
lol that's okay - neither am I! :) But, I like their expressions so I use them.

Very happy you're enjoying! The Doctor is going to have his work cut out for him one of these days for sure... :)

Date: 2011-12-20 01:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] falkenheart.livejournal.com
I love all your stories! You are awesome!All these people, as far as I've read agree! You keep doing this, the rewards are coming soon. May the wave of good things come to the shore.

Date: 2011-12-20 01:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] timelord1.livejournal.com
Okay yes, I can see how that might have been a bit fortune cookie-esque as you said, but it was very nice of you. Thank you!!! :)


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