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Lethe

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Softness, a quiet thrum, and gentle voices are what stirs him from slumber and back into the waking world. The second he opens his eyes he closes them again, the light is bright enough to cause pain, so he groans instead, which draws the attention of the voices as they quieten down.

Footsteps approach, three pairs he thinks. “Take it easy,” One voice says, feminine. "You've been asleep for a while."

"Too long," A male says. "Had us all worried."

His eyes open, and he stares at her. She has blond hair and kind eyes. He looks to the others now, younger than her and worried. Why? He’s really not sure. “What happened?”

“We’re not sure; we were hoping you could tell us.” The younger woman says, and he frowns at her. There is something familiar about her, well all of them, but he can’t place it. “Are you alright, Graham? You look a bit confused.”

“Graham?” He repeats, testing the name out like he’s never spoken it before.

The younger man raises an eyebrow. “Did you take a knock to the head, gramps, or are you just going daft in your old age?” He says in a teasing tone, something that only confuses him more.

He turns to look at the younger man. “What did you call me?”

The smirk vanishes from the younger man’s face pretty quickly as he flicks his eyes to the older woman. “Doctor?”

“Doctor?” He murmurs, now sitting up and wincing as he looks around the strange room. “Am I in a hospital?”

“Graham, can you look at me?”

He frowns again and follows her order. “You and her-” He gestures to the younger woman. “-you both called me that, that name, why?”

“Because it’s your name, Graham,” The younger woman says. “Graham O’Brien-”

“My name?” He asks, face twisting and eyes shutting when he tries to think. “I don’t-” He starts, eyes opening again when he realises he doesn’t actually remember a name at all. “Why don’t I remember?”

“Graham, focus and it’s important, now,” The woman, Doctor, or something says. “I need you to look at me and answer a question.”

“Doctor, what is happening?”

“Not now, Ryan,” The Doctor woman says quickly, voice coming out slightly panicked. “Graham-”

“What?” He snaps. “You asked me to look at you, and I am doing it now.”

“How old are you?”

He scowls at her. “What sort of stupid question is that?”

“Just answer it for me.”

“I’m- I’m-” He starts, eyes looking away from her and into his lap as he tries to think. “I don’t know-” His voice tumbles out, words mixing together and breath coming in gasps. “How can I not know?” He tries to think of anything, they call him ‘Graham’ but the sound of it has no meaning to him, so he goes back to his age, and there is just nothing, birthday- empty, parents, everyone has parents, and yet, it’s just all blank- “I don’t remember anything.”

“Graham-”

“I don’t remember.” He utters, voice deathly quiet in the thrum of the room. "Why don't I remember?"

“Gramps?”

He looks to the young lad watching him, face concerned and scared and he doesn’t recognise him at all, maybe there’s something, but it’s transient and gone like breath on glass, but the lad, he knows him enough to call him ‘gramps’, and that means- He feels sick. There is a buzzing of something to his left, but he doesn’t turn to look at it. Just stares at the young man calling him grandad with dread.

“Doctor, is it a virus or something?” The younger woman asks. “Or was he drugged?” Her voice turns horrified at the prospect at that. “We did lose track of him before finding him unconscious in the alleyway.”

“No,” The older woman replies. “The TARDIS would’ve picked that up when we brought him in here, and my sonic would find traces of a drug within him if he were, no, it’s something else, something that I can’t pick up from the sonic alone.” She rambles further, and he listens, getting more puzzled by the second.

The lad, Ryan, looks up at the doctor woman. “Can you fix it, Doctor?”

“I don’t know what’s the matter yet,” She answers back. “I need to run tests, need to-”

“But you can fix it?”

“I don’t know!” The woman snaps. “I don’t know, not without-”

He stares at them all, and he feels lost, a stranger in a room filled with them. 

“Graham,” The woman says again, and he’s getting tired of being called like a dog. “Can you recall anything?”

He narrows his eyes at her, head still aching and only increasing. “Like what?”

“Just anything, anything that might be useful,” She suggests. “No matter how small.”

“No,” He answers with honesty. “Nothing apart from what I’ve seen and heard since I woke up here, wherever here is,” His head tilts to the side. “You all call me Graham, but he calls me gramps, but I-”

“But you what?”

He looks at them all, mind trying to place faces and coming up blank. “-I don’t know you, I look at you, and maybe there’s something, just, something, but it's small and out of reach, and that’s it because when I try to think I get nothing. I only know his name is Ryan ‘cause you said it,” He gestures to Ryan. “But you two, I know you’re a doctor of something, but I don’t know your name and you,” He points to the younger woman. “I haven’t the foggiest.”

The moment the words leave his mouth he sees the hurt on their faces, and he didn’t mean to make his words sound so cutting, but she, the doctor woman, she asked him to recall, and he did.

“I’m the Doctor,” The older woman introduces herself. “It’s just the Doctor,” She smiles and he knows it’s fake, something to reassure maybe. “That’s Ryan Sinclair, and that’s Yasmin Khan, Yaz to her friends, and you’re Graham O’Brien.” He looks to the younger people, and he sees the worry and fear again, hands balled into fists, or tapping a pattern against a leg. “We’re a family, your family.”

“Family,” He repeats, thinking that maybe if he says it, it might strike something within him, but it doesn’t. “What happened to me?”

“I’m not sure, Graham,” The Doctor says, hand on his arm. “I need to run some tests on you, is that okay?”

Graham shrugs, now deciding to at least go with the name they’re calling him. “I don’t have much choice, I suppose.” The Doctor pats him once on the arm before turning away and heading over to a cabinet. He watches her for a moment only to pull his eyes away when the young woman, Yaz, speaks to him.

“I can show you some pictures of us together if you want? Show you that we know you and all.”

“Pictures?”

“Yeah, it’s a small-”

“I know what a picture is, Yasmin,” Graham interjects, snappish slightly. “I mean-” He sighs when he notices her expression, that shock mixed together with hurt. “I’m sorry, it was the right assumption, though, considering that I don’t know much about anything else.” He says, maybe trying to relieve some of the stress and missing the mark completely judging by the unchanged look on her face.

“No, it’s fine, I shouldn’t have assumed that you wouldn’t know, and it wasn’t that, not really-” She says, tripping over her words slightly. “You just-”

“What?”

“You called me Yasmin.”

Graham stares at her, swallowing thickly. “She said it was your name, though, I thought-” What did he think? He closes his eyes and exhales, steadying his breathing while his headache builds with the extra stress of everything. “I assume I called you Yaz, cause we're family or something, instead of Yasmin.”

“You did, but it’s fine-”

“It’s not though, is it?” Graham interrupts. “It’s really not fine, because you all know me and,” He trails off, finding it hard to put into words.

“The Doctor will fix this, gramps,” Ryan says with faith. “She always comes through for us, doesn’t she Yaz?”

“Yup,” Yaz agrees with all the enthusiasm of a lamb going to slaughter.

Graham can only nod back, trusting them at their word. “You said you had a picture that I could see-” He looks to the young woman. “Can I see it, it might help, you know?”

Yaz nods and pulls out her phone, unlocking it and opening the gallery before handing it over to Graham. He accepts the phone from her and starts to look through the photos. Ryan is there, smiling, next is the Doctor and Yaz, he carries on flicking through them, and he frowns, pausing on a group photo when it becomes frustrating.

It’s of the Doctor, Yaz, Ryan, and a man. Late fifties, possibly sixties maybe, grey hair and pale skin. He purses his lips and stares at him. He’s not sure what he expected, but it lines up, and he is the only one that was with them through the entire album, but if that’s the case then-

He catches Ryan and Yaz frowning when he exits from the gallery and opens the camera. If they asked him how he knew how to do that, he couldn’t explain, it was just- muscle memory he guesses; still, he switches the camera to front-facing, and his heart sinks like a lead balloon.

The man that stares back at him is the one in the photo, grey hair and blue eyes and smiling. He feels sick and hot like someones wrapped him in one too many blankets, his chest rises and falls with each breath, rapid and short, not enough to relieve the lack of oxygen running through his body.

How could he forget what he looks like? He could buy the name, and everything maybe, but his face? And why didn’t it occur to him before he looked at the pictures?

“Gramps-”

“Don’t call me that!” Graham snaps quickly and with anger before swinging his legs from the bed, trying to stand, only to fall to the floor, knees slamming down against it. “I don’t know why you’re calling me that.”

“Graham!” The Doctor says quickly, and he feels a pair of hands on him that he shrugs off. “What happened?”

“I dunno,” Ryan answers back, too quickly and harsh. “He was fine, and then he looked at himself and-” The lad cuts himself off, voice finally breaking. "He snapped at me."

Graham pushes himself from the fall and sits back against a wall, hands gripping against his head tightly while his eyes search the floor for anything to focus on. He feels pressure on his knees, the ache from the floor surging slightly from it, but it’s enough to take his mind off the raging panic.

“You have to breath, Graham,” The Doctor says. “In and hold it, then release it and repeat.” She soothes, and he looks up and into her green eyes. “Do it with me if you need to, follow what I do, okay?”

Graham watches her, hands balling into fists, but he follows her lead and breathes. His face is wet-

“Ryan, Yaz, can you leave us for a while?”

“Doctor, I want to-”

“Ryan, please,” The Doctor says.

“Come on, Ryan,” Yaz speaks. “He’s in good hands-”

Graham doesn’t look at them when they turn to leave; he doesn’t look at the Doctor either when she settles down next to him. She doesn’t speak, allowing him to work himself back from the edge and into something controllable.

They sit in silence for minutes; the only sound around them is the deep breathing and the backing noises of the room he’s in. He exhales one more time before turning to face the Doctor, face still wet. “I forgot what I looked like.”

The Doctor face twitches slightly, but he can tell she’s controlled most of it, never letting her thoughts show. “I can imagine that that was quite shocking for you.”

Graham shrugs and pulls his knees to his chest, feeling rotten. “Shocking doesn’t cover it, Doctor.” He murmurs. “I- I-” He trails off and brings a hand to his eyes and then frowns. “I think I snapped at the lad, Ryan.”

“You did,”

“I should say sorry then,” Graham murmurs. “I didn’t mean to; it’s just-” He leans his head back against the wall. “-I don’t know any of you, I didn’t even know myself until I looked, and that’s terrifying, and he's there calling me gramps like I'm sposed to know why.”

“You’re scared.”

“Wouldn’t you be?” Graham fires back, wincing at the tone. “I’m-”

“It’s okay, Graham,” The Doctor interjects, pausing and then exhaling. “I have an idea, it’s not a fix, but it might make me understand what happened, and perhaps give me a place to start.”

“Does it have something to do with what you were looking for?”

“No,” The Doctor responds. “The TARDIS redecorated, always a little harder to find what you need when she does that,”

“You know that that goes completely over my head cause I don’t know what a TARDIS is,” Graham points out. “You gotta explain these things to me, Doctor.” The Doctor looks to Graham, eyes saddened by something. “Have I said something again?”

“You use to call me by a nickname,”

“As I did with Yaz,” Graham reveals. “I called her Yasmin, cause you said her name was Yasmin and only her friends called her Yaz, I didn’t think then.” He explains. “The look on her face-” He sighs and runs a hand through his hair. “This is hard.”

The Doctor reaches out and takes his free hand in hers, squeezing it and then letting go. “We’ll figure something out, Graham, I promise you that.”

“Will you get my memories back?” Graham asks. “Be honest with me here, cause that Ryan lad seems to think you can.”

“I don’t know,” The Doctor says. “I’ll try everything I can, but-”

“If you can’t, then that’s it,” Graham finishes for her. “I'll basically start my life from here then, I guess, 'spose I gotta.”

The Doctor looks down and then nods after a moment. “I might be able to give you some memories back, they won’t be yours, they’d be ours-”

“Not mine, though.”

“No.”

Graham nods and then turns his head to face the Doctor. “You wanted to try something, what was it?”

The Doctor focuses on to his face. “I can look into your mind, maybe see if something happened there that is blocking your memories.”

“How?”

“I’m a touch telepath,” The Doctor reveals. “It’s not painful, and it’s quick, I just need to look through the surface your mind.”

Graham shrugs. “It’s worth a go, I guess,” He says. “Go ahead, Doctor.”

The Doctor nods, and he watches as she moves so she’s kneeling in front of him, his eyes follow her hands to the side of his face, and he frowns when he feels her cold hands against his cheeks. Graham watches her face, eyes closed and a look of concentration, brows furrowed slightly, but she was honest because whatever she’s doing doesn’t hurt.

She pulls away quickly, eyes wide with a look of horror in them. Graham frowns at her. “What’s the matter? Did you find anything?”

The Doctor shakes her head, mouth moving briefly and throat swallowing. “I’m so, so, sorry, Graham-

“What for?” Graham asks. “What did you see?”

She averts her eyes from his, before standing quickly and leaning against the frame of the bed he was just previously on. “I saw nothing.”

“Nothing?”

The Doctor breathes, and he watches her chest rising and falling again. “Your memories aren’t blocked or hidden, Graham, they’re non-existent.”

“What does that mean?”

The Doctor finally looks back to him as he pulls himself off the floor, legs shaking with the effort. “It means there is nothing to get back,” She reveals, drawing that dread back to the surface for Graham. “Your memories are gone for good.”