Semper ad meliora
It was absolutely pissing down rain.
Detective Inspector Simon Brown stood by the entrance to the crime scene, miserable and half frozen to the bone, as the cold droplets of water worked their way beneath his coat with a precision that astounded him. He'd drawn the short straw again. Although he suspected he'd been assigned the duty simply so his boss could make the very witty quip regarding "Darwin" and "nature". Swallowing his pride he'd let them all laugh about it before doing as ordered and leaving to stand sentry outside for bloody Torchwood.
Pulling his coat tightly about him, Simon shifted his flimsy umbrella in an attempt to maximise the coverage it offered – or to at least stop that one infernal drip that kept hitting him on the nose – all the while bemoaning the wretched nickname he'd picked up in his junior years with the Water Police. He blamed Prof, but in reality he knew it wasn't his old mentor's fault.
Nobody could have predicted the absolute cock-up he'd make of his life.
It was embarrassing to think that he'd once loved the name "Darwin" more than his own birth name. But that'd been back when he'd been more boy than man, still enamoured with the prospect of serving in the Metropolitan Police Force.
He'd taken those rose-tinted glasses off long ago now.
Here he was, 32 years of age, and he'd done nothing with his life.
He was nothing.
Stuck out on the street waiting for the high and mighty Torchwood agents to grace him with their presence, Simon Brown recalled the day he'd made the biggest mistake of his life.
He'd been pleasantly drunk when he'd summoned up the courage to approach Gillian – or Marilyn, as he'd still called her then – at the Met's New Years Eve party. Three shots of tequila downed consecutively, decimating the nerves that had always held him back before. It'd been close to midnight by then and she'd been very drunk herself, not hesitating to pull him out onto the dance floor with her. They'd fumbled through a single dance, stray hands and gyrating hips hardly out of place amongst the sea of their drunken colleagues.
The band's set had finished then and morphed seamlessly into the countdown, much to his delight, because he'd still been standing next to Marilyn. They'd shared the traditional midnight kiss, of course, and he'd woken up in her bed the next morning.
Oh, how he had come to regret that.
Waking up in her bed, after going three rounds of it in the early hours of the New Year, had been like a dream come true for him. Infatuation blinding him, as it had done for so long.
He only had himself to blame for his naivety though.
He'd asked her out a week later, his confidence buoyed by the fact that they hadn't simply kissed – they'd had sex. It hadn't seemed strange to him at the time that she'd said yes. He'd simply been delighted to be able to refer to her as his girlfriend in public.
Back then he'd still equated sex with love.
If he'd learnt one thing from the mistakes he'd made in his life though, it was to never have a relationship with a colleague. It simply didn't work. Not when you were part of a six person team – not counting Sarge, of course. And no one ever did.
He'd known Prof and Taz had always had their misgivings about him and Marilyn, but early on they'd kept them quiet, not wanting to upset the delicate balance between colleagues and friends. Taz had given him one piece of advice though: don't rush things.
They'd been together for six months when "things" started to go downhill at work.
Marilyn would always pick Hero to be her partner whenever she did up the rosters. Never him. She'd told him he was being "old-fashioned" when he'd brought it up one night, the lingering post-coital bliss making him brave as they'd spooned in his bed. He didn't own her, after all. What was wrong with her having a friend at work?
Eventually he'd stopped bringing it up, reminding himself that it was his privilege to be her boyfriend.
When the talk began that there was going to be a "redistribution of resources" within the Met, he'd thought nothing of it. He'd just passed his sergeant exams – something Prof had pushed him into doing – and with his new stripes had come a pay rise. The Met always needed sergeants though so he'd been reassigned to the Greenwich Borough. As far as the Met was concerned, two sergeants working in the Thames Division was one too many.
He'd been reluctant to go, but Prof had told him to look at the move as an opportunity. Suggesting it would be a chance to see how he and Marilyn functioned as a couple when they weren't working together in the same station.
It turned out the Greenwich Borough was Hero's old stomping ground though.
He'd never seen eye to eye with Hero. They'd always been very different sorts of people, and Hero's friends were no different. They weren't the sort of men he'd normally have interacted with, but being their sergeant – he'd had no choice. It hadn't helped that the sergeant he'd replaced had been well loved by Hero's clique. Nor had they been impressed with the fact that a man, several years their junior, had been made their commanding officer.
He'd done his best to deal with the insubordination, but mostly he'd spent that first month wishing he was back with the Water Police. He'd loved spending the day on the Thames. Outside, surrounded by nature, and accompanied by colleagues he could truly call his friends.
And he missed seeing Marilyn every day.
So he'd asked her to move in with him.
They'd been together for about a year by then, and moving in together had seemed like the next logical step in their relationship. He'd been over the moon when she'd accepted because it'd meant he'd always be coming home to her at the end of the day. It no longer mattered what bullshit Hero's old friends pulled on him at work because his days finished curled up in bed with Marilyn.
He'd waited six months to the day, after she'd moved in with him, to pop the question.
He'd planned it all out. Ensured they'd both had leave for the same weekend, booked a hotel in Paris, and purchased an engagement ring that he'd dearly hoped she'd love because it had cost him a small fortune.
It'd been the most humiliating day of his life though when he'd gotten down on one knee, in the middle of the Champ de Mars, and she'd said nothing. There'd been a crowd, so she'd at least waited until they'd returned to the hotel before turning him down properly.
Except she hadn't said no outright.
She'd simply told him that they were too young to be thinking about marriage, that she didn't want to settle down and have children yet. She liked what they had. Why did that have to change? So he'd agreed to wait, certain that somewhere down the line she'd agree to marry him.
He'd still loved her even then. Despite his depleted bank account, and his wounded pride.
Of course, he'd told Prof and Taz that he'd planned to propose before he'd left on the disaster weekend. Neither of them had been particularly enamoured with the idea. In fact, they'd both tried to warn him that he might be jumping the gun, so to speak, but he hadn't listened. When Marilyn had turned up at the Thames station the following Monday, engagement ring conspicuously absent, they finally decided that enough was enough.
They'd tried to convince him that Marilyn wasn't the woman for him.
In hindsight, he could see how they'd thought they'd been helping. After all, they'd still been working in close quarters with Marilyn and Hero at the time.
But attempting to convince him, days after he'd been spurned, that he wasn't in love with Marilyn had been a mistake.
He'd still been besotted with her. Confused, angry, and hurt – yes. But he'd still been certain then that he loved her. Even though she hadn't said yes the first time, he'd still had his heart set on marrying her.
Once it had become clear that Prof and Taz hadn't taken him out to the pub to commiserate with him over his failed proposal though, he'd become irrational. As far as he'd been concerned, they were actively trying to sabotage his relationship with their stupid advice. Had been all along.
He'd said a lot of horrid things that night, the result of which had been a falling out so colossal that he'd remained estranged from the pair of them for almost a decade.
Unwilling to forgive his two friends, he'd thrown himself into work.
He'd been determined to prove them wrong, to prove that he'd made the right choice in picking Marilyn. But nothing had changed at Greenwich Borough. He'd never been respected there, his colleagues back-chatting and undermining him at every turn. They'd liked Marilyn well enough, always happy to chat her up the nights she'd come by to pick him up from work, but they'd barely tolerated him.
All of it came to a head though when he was seconded out to Scotland.
He'd been living with Marilyn for well over a year by then. He'd been happy enough, content to have her in his life despite all the other crap that seemed to fill his days. He'd always had her to come home to at night, after all. When the relieving job in Scotland had come up, he'd tried to get out of it, knowing they'd only have seconded him out if they'd expected they'd need a sergeant for a while. At least a month, he'd been told, until they could fill the position permanently. He'd had no choice but to do as he was told though, knowing full well he was going to hate every night he'd have to spend alone.
Marilyn had seen him off at the train station, the last thing she'd said: I love you.
He'd been delighted then, when after only three weeks in Scotland, they'd told him his services were no longer required and that he was being sent back to Greenwich immediately. They'd found a sergeant to fill the position, earlier than they'd expected. He hadn't been able to believe his luck. He'd missed Marilyn's comforting warmth every single night of his stay in Scotland. He'd decided then that he wanted to surprise her with the news, so he hadn't told her that he was coming home early.
Instead he'd arrived home unannounced, and found Hero in bed with Marilyn.
He'd snapped then, demanding to know what he'd done to deserve this. Had he not been good to her? Had he done something wrong? Had she ever loved him? The longer they'd argued, the angrier he'd become. He'd had enough of the belittlement and the humiliation. He'd been utterly heartbroken, and so in a moment of stupidity he'd lashed out at Hero.
He'd woken up in hospital the next morning to find that not only was he facing assault charges, but that Marilyn had made a claim on his flat. As his de-facto partner, she'd been entitled to half of all his property. And she'd wanted every bit that belonged to her. For half a year, he'd fought her tooth and nail, but eventually he'd run out of money. The legal fees stacking up until he'd simply had to give in. He'd ended up finding a flat in the Powell Estate, his fellow tenants none too pleased to have a cop in their midst, but it was all he'd been able to afford at the time. In fact it was still all he could afford, even now.
Thankfully, the ludicrous assault charges had been dropped before they'd ever gone anywhere. Prof had somehow gotten wind of them, and despite being recently retired, his old mentor had been able to call in a few favours to ensure the charges disappeared. That had only added to his humiliation though, and with his pride wounded he'd made no attempt to renew his friendship with Prof. He'd made his bed after all.
He'd returned to work at the Greenwich Borough, but it had quickly become unbearable. Snide remarks had followed him everywhere, and he'd constantly been on his guard. He'd been unwilling, and unable, to trust his colleagues. So much so that he'd asked for a transfer out of the station. He'd been denied though, Hero's old Superintendent set on making his life hell.
He'd vowed to himself, then and there, that he would never again give his heart to another person.
He'd given Marilyn everything, and she'd destroyed him. He'd only ever been her bit on the side. The lies she'd spun him, and the threat of being found out, simply adding to the excitement of her own relationship with Hero.
Heartbroken, alone, and penniless, he'd hit rock bottom.
Surprisingly, the day he took the rap for the loss of half a million pounds turned out to be the turning point in his life.
He'd been first on the scene at a robbery, one of Hero's old mates with him. The other man had screwed up, panicking and alerting the thieves to their arrival. They'd been armed, and it had very nearly turned into a bloodbath, but the thieves had escaped before their police back up had arrived. Within moments half a dozen of Hero's clique were on scene, all backing each other up. He'd been hung out to dry – a disgrace to the police service – but there was no evidence to prove he'd actually acted improperly. It'd been his word against the others though, and in the end the Superintendent had simply decided it was easier to simply approve his transfer out from the station rather than have him drag the entire station down with him.
His new unit hadn't been particularly pleased to be receiving Sergeant Simon Brown, but it'd been a fresh start. Something he'd been seeking for almost three years. He'd been determined to prove himself to his new unit, but he'd become bitter over the years. The softly spoken, naive boy who'd patrolled the Thames was gone. He'd started off on the wrong foot, entering his new unit with a sullied name, but he'd worked hard to prove himself. After almost a year of extra shifts and overtime, he'd been certain that he'd at least won the begrudging respect of his colleagues.
But then the Cybermen came.
He'd never purchased a set of ear buds. With rent to pay, and no friends, he hadn't seen the point. It was the decision that saved his life that night.
He'd been working the graveyard shift, patrolling Leicester Square, when his colleague had simply stopped mid-stride and walked away. The poor sod had joined the hordes of possessed Londoners and meekly walked to his death at Battersea Power Station, alongside six thousand, eight hundred and thirty four others.
Not allowing himself to panic, he'd been one of a handful of officers within London who'd still been in control of their own minds that night. Using old fashioned hand-held radios, he'd co-ordinated his remaining peers and had led a reconnaissance mission to Battersea Power Station. Not long after they'd arrived, the hold the Cybermen had had over the population of London had been broken, and he and his makeshift team had been ideally placed to oversee the safe evacuation of the Power Station.
His initiative and fast thinking during the crisis caught the attention of the higher ups – the few who'd survived the horror night – and within hours he'd been made a Detective Inspector, and had been reassigned to CID in New Scotland Yard. He'd shown prowess for thinking outside the box and remaining calm in the face of the impossible. They'd been looking for officers like him, and it was at New Scotland Yard that he'd first heard the name "Torchwood".
Three weeks later, the city still recovering from the attack, he'd read their names on the lists of the dead: Acting Sergeant John Travers; Senior Police Constable Gillian Monroe.
Hero and Marilyn.
A ridiculously oversized, black SUV pulled up behind one of the squad cars, startling Simon back into the present.
Doors slammed as four people exited the vehicle, one disappearing round to the boot of the car, undoubtedly collecting equipment. The other three made their way over to Simon, led by a blonde-haired woman he'd never met before. She smiled as she approached him, so genuinely in fact, that his own answering grin crept out without his permission.
She clearly hadn't been able to make out his features though because the moment she was close enough to see his face properly, her smile disappeared.
All three of them were staring at him actually, with almost identically perplexed expressions. He felt his own grin slide from his face. It was as if they'd recognised him, but he was certain he'd never seen any one of them before tonight. Although the blonde woman looked vaguely familiar, he thought.
The staring was getting tiresome.
'Torchwood, I presume?' he snapped tersely.
That seemed to do the trick, regaining their attention as he'd predicted. It was still pissing down rain after all. No sense in all of them getting wet for no good reason.
'You got that right, mate. Are you Scottish?'
'Mickey,' the woman warned, glaring at her companion.
Simon stared between the pair of them, baffled by the young, dark-skinned man's – Mickey's – question. His temper bristled when it became apparent that Mickey, despite his boss' warning, was clearly still waiting for an answer from him.
'Aye, I am, you Sassenach. What's it to you?'
'Oh, nothing at all,' he replied easily. 'You just remind me of someone, that's all.'
'Don't mind Mickey,' the woman cut in coolly, shooting her companion an irritated look. 'He's an arse.'
Mickey scoffed, but he shut up, rolling his eyes good-naturedly at the woman's back. Simon blinked in surprise. He'd dealt with Torchwood operatives before, it was part of his job with New Scotland Yard, but he'd never met such a laid back group before.
'What's your name, Detective?' the woman continued cheerfully.
'Detective Inspector Simon Brown,' he replied formally, offering his hand for her to shake.
Her grip was surprisingly strong, her gaze searching as she accepted the gesture.
'Pleased to meet you, Detective Inspector Simon Brown,' she replied cheekily, offering him a tongue-touched grin. 'I'm Rose.'
'Just Rose,' she replied steadily.
He raised an eyebrow, but she didn't elaborate.
'And these two clowns are Mickey Smith,' she indicated the young man who'd spoken up first, 'and Jake Simmonds,' she finished, nodding towards the silent, blonde spiky-haired man.
'And I'm Ianto Jones.'
The final operative had joined them. He was dressed in a fine suit, a serious expression gracing his features as he held out a hand to Simon. They shook briefly.
'Now that we're all acquainted,' Rose said briskly, 'how about we get out of this rain? Then you can tell us what's going on, Simon.'
He stiffened at the informal use of his given name. Nobody had called him Simon in years. He'd been "sir" or "DI Brown" for a long while now.
'I can call you Simon, can't I?'
She'd noticed his hesitation.
'I...I suppose,' he stammered lamely.
Rose beamed, and began to make her way up to the abandoned factory that housed the crime scene, leaving him to stare stupidly after her as he wondered why his mouth had suddenly gone dry. He hadn't been this tongue-tied since the early days with Marilyn.
Mickey and Jake's amused sniggers brought him back to the present.
He shot the pair an irritated glare, and stalked off in the direction Rose had taken. He had no idea who these particular Torchwood agents thought they were, but they were nothing like the previous three teams Simon had been required to work with.
After the way he'd acquitted himself during the Cybermen attack he'd been recruited as a liaison officer between the Met and Torchwood. He'd been identified as being "open-minded" enough to consider extra-terrestrial factors in cases. Essentially, his job was to identify police cases that belonged under Torchwood jurisdiction. The last three cases he'd worked for them had all ended up being attributed to Weevil infestations.
This case was different.
'What have we got, Simon?'
Rose's voice startled him from his thoughts, and he realised he'd reached the factory.
'Weren't you briefed?' he asked perplexedly. Normally once Torchwood arrived on scene, the Met were hastily fobbed off – to put it politely.
'I'd like to hear it from you,' Rose answered simply.
'Okay, I guess,' he agreed.
Briefly he described the scene of crime: a brutal triple murder, almost animalistic in nature. No human could have committed this crime. Initially, he'd suspected Weevils. But now that he'd seen the scene himself he wasn't so sure. Weevils were mindless brutes. They didn't plan, and they certainly weren't literate. Whoever had done this had a motive. The attack had been a warning – to the Tyler family.
The name "Rose Tyler" had been spelt out in the victims' blood.
Why an alien would want to threaten Rose Tyler, eldest daughter of the Vitex founder, Simon had no idea. Admittedly he knew next to nothing about her, except that she was a fond topic of conversation amongst idle colleagues whose only source of literary intake was the red tops. The woman was certainly an enigma, from what Simon had heard, but she didn't belong in the world of Torchwood and aliens. Despite the extraordinary number of conspiracy theories she'd generated following her re-emergence in Pete Tyler's life, he couldn't possibly believe that she'd attracted the attention of extra-terrestrials.
He kept that opinion to himself though, idle gossip having no place in a murder investigation.
The Torchwood agents had sobered significantly by the time he'd finished his briefing, finally displaying some of the professionalism he'd come to expect from the Institute. For some reason all three men kept shooting loaded glances towards Rose, Mickey in particular. He wondered at the odd behaviour because Rose herself didn't look particularly worried.
'Is there a problem?' he asked.
He'd directed his question towards Mickey, but it was Rose who answered.
'None at all,' she said, her tone daring Mickey to contradict her. 'Let's get to work.'
Simon hesitated, sensing the tension between the four agents, but when nobody spoke up he had no choice but to lead the way into the abandoned factory. There was something strange going on, he thought uneasily. Rose and her team were holding back on him, hiding something. He was sure of it.
Rose's voice interrupted his musings, instantly putting him on guard because there was something very, very wrong with the way she was talking.
'How many bodies were here before you came outside?'
'Three,' he answered automatically.
Already he could tell there was something incorrect about his answer. She wouldn't have asked if there'd still been three bodies. Side-stepping Mickey, he came to stand beside Rose, looking down at the crime scene that shouldn't have changed in the past half hour.
There were seven bodies.
'That's the Chief Inspector,' he stammered, his heart beginning to race as the enormity of the situation began to sink in and he began to panic. 'He's my boss...they're my colleagues...oh God, they're all dead...and I was outside...all this time, I was outside...and they needed help...'
'Simon, calm down.'
Rose's sharp order brought him back to reality. She was holding his wrists, preventing him from pulling at his hair, as she forced him to look at him.
'You couldn't have known,' she told him. 'You can't blame yourself for this.'
Her hazel eyes bored into his own, begging him to calm down.
'I know your upset, Simon,' she continued calmly, 'but I need you to keep it together for a little while longer. If we start to panic, none of us will make it out of here alive. Do you understand?'
Her words were just the right combination of hard cold fact and sympathetic comfort that Simon felt his panic subside. He was still more scared than he'd ever been before in his life, but somehow he knew that if he did as Rose said, it would be alright.
It helped that she didn't let go of his hand, even as Ianto handed her a military issue handgun.
'It's definitely a Sleeper, Rose,' Jake said grimly as he stood from where he'd been examining one of the mutilated bodies.
In his panic, Simon hadn't realised that the other three agents had immediately kicked into action the moment it had become apparent that the killer was still in the factory. Ianto had unpacked the briefcase he'd brought with him, arming his colleagues. And whilst Jake had moved in to examine the bodies, Mickey had moved to stand guard.
'I knew you coming was a bad idea, Rose,' Mickey grumbled at Jake's words, his brown eyes methodically scanning every inch of the dark factory he could see, ready to shoot at the slightest movement.
'We can argue about that later, preferably when we're all still alive tomorrow,' Ianto cut in sharply, turning expectantly to Rose. 'What's the plan?'
'You need to go for back up,' she said firmly, her tone leaving no room for argument. 'Get to the SUV and call Dad. Once you've done that, set up a 100 yard perimeter around the factory. If this Sleeper is armed like the others we can't risk endangering the public.'
Ianto nodded, leaving immediately to follow her orders. Once she was sure he'd left the building safely, Rose turned back to the others.
'The Sleeper's still here, which means I have to give him a chance – '
'Rose, no,' Mickey interrupted furiously. 'They're not people anymore. They cannot be reasoned with. You know that.'
'What would you have me do, Mickey?' Rose snapped back. 'Shoot him as soon as I see him?'
From the look on Mickey's face, Simon thought that was probably exactly what he wanted her to do.
'I can't do that,' she continued emphatically. 'You know I can't. He wouldn't want me to.'
'He wouldn't want you to throw your life away either, Rose,' Jake said pragmatically, his gaze drifting briefly towards Simon.
'The Sleeper left me a message, Jake,' Rose answered stubbornly. 'They've never done that before. Maybe this time he wants to talk. He's the last –'
'Or maybe,' Mickey cut in sarcastically, 'this time he wants to make sure you stay dead.'
'That's it exactly, Mickey Smith.'
A cold, hard voice came from the shadows and Simon whipped round to find himself face to face with a nightmare. The man was standing several feet away, but it was immediately clear that this man was not human. Perhaps he had been once, but no longer. His right arm was elongated grotesquely, an almost crustacean like protuberance replacing the limb which ended in a vicious, sharp point. Simon felt bile rise in the back of his throat as he realised this was the weapon responsible for the horrific wounds the victims had suffered.
'You don't have to do this,' Rose said calmly, reminding Simon of where they were. 'You can fight it, I know you can. You're still Patrick Walker, you're still human.'
The man laughed before withdrawing something from his pocket, a strange star-shaped object that was flashing ominously.
'We failed, Rose Tyler, but one day my people will conquer this world.'
Simon couldn't say why he did it, but in the split second between the creature pulling out the star-shaped object and finishing his threat, he pulled Rose backwards.
All hell broke loose after that. Somebody – Mickey, he thought – shouted "run" and he pushed Rose ahead of him, urging her faster.
But they were far too slow.
As the world exploded around them, Simon didn't think. He simply leapt towards Rose, pushing her down and attempting to shield her with his own body, as the building collapsed around them. His only thought as he lost consciousness, was that at least one of them might make it out alive this way.
He gasped as he awoke, the pain in his leg hurling him back into consciousness with a vindictiveness that astounded him.
The world was a dark, smoke-filled haze, and he could barely see two foot in front of him. His ears were still ringing from the blast, and he could hear the sound of brick and mortar shifting around him as the rubble settled. He must have passed out for a few minutes he realised.
Rose's voice came from beside him, and suddenly she was looming over him. There was blood trickling down the side of her face from a nasty cut to her eyebrow, but from what he could see of her she looked fine otherwise. As he'd hoped, he'd taken the brunt of the blast.
'Are you alright?' he asked, his breath coming in rapid bursts as he fought to ignore the pain in his leg.
'I'm fine,' she assured him, but she sounded strained and he wondered if she'd been hurt somewhere he couldn't see.
He wanted to sit up then. Whether to check her over or to check his own leg, he couldn't say, but he knew that he didn't want to be lying on his back any longer. He tried to move, but Rose's hand was on his shoulder, gently pressing down.
'Don't try to move, Simon,' she said, pushing down gently on his shoulder so that he wouldn't sit up. 'Part of the ceiling has come down on your leg. I'm going to try and shift some of the rubble, but I need you to lie still.'
She moved out of his line of sight briefly, although he could feel her hand still resting against his shoulder as she assessed the rubble that pinned him in place.
'It's bad, isn't it?' he asked quietly, knowing the answer already.
There had to be at least half a tonne of concrete on top of him. They'd been right under the stairwell that led up to the old factory observation deck when the blast had gone off. In fact, they were lucky they hadn't been crushed outright. Instinctively, he knew though that whatever had happened to his leg was not good. The pain alone was beyond anything he'd ever experienced before, but he was more alarmed by the sensation of wetness that clung to his trouser pants.
Rose reappeared above him.
'You're bleeding,' she answered honestly. 'The rubble is stopping most of it, but I'm going to use your belt to make a tourniquet. Okay?'
He nodded his approval, and a moment later he felt her hands at his waist, carefully pulling his belt out from the loops of his trousers. He could feel her sliding it around the top of his left thigh then, pulling the belt as tight as she possibly could. It probably would have been painful, if the remainder of his leg hadn't already been in agony.
'I'm gonna try and shift some of the rubble off you. At least try and free part of your leg.'
He shook his head forlornly as he listened to her plan.
'Rose, it's too heavy.'
She bit her lip, and he could see the hint of tears glistening in her hazel eyes.
'It's fine,' he told her quietly. 'We'll just wait until they rescue us. Ianto will get us out. It'll be alright.'
'I've got to try, Simon,' she told him desperately. 'You might lose your leg otherwise.'
He knew nothing he said would stop her from trying, so he simply nodded silently. He'd give her three minutes. He knew full well that he wouldn't be leaving the building without outside assistance.
'Rose?' he called quietly once the time was up. 'Leave it now.'
He could feel her shifting the rubble away from his good leg. Blindly he reached out for her, finding her wrist and grasping it tightly.
'There's still time,' she insisted.
'I've been trapped for almost fifteen minutes,' he said gently. 'Free me now, and I'll die. It's a crush injury, Rose. You know that, don't you? You've got to leave it alone now.'
He could tell the moment the fight went out of her. Slowly, she scrambled back towards him and came to sit by his head, where he could see her despite his supine position. The space they were trapped in was tiny, but Simon was simply thankful that they were still alive.
'I'm sorry,' Rose said suddenly. 'I should have sent you away the moment I realised it was a trap. You'd have been safe then.'
She chuckled mirthlessly.
'Mickey's gonna be so annoyed with me...'
She trailed off, realising that the fate of her friend was unknown.
'They were ahead of us, Rose. Chances are, they got out fine.'
He frowned as the reassurance slipped out without conscious thought. He'd only met this woman an hour ago but already he felt compelled to look out for her. To offer her hope, where very little existed. He assumed it was the shared adversity, but he wasn't entirely convinced. There was simply something about Rose that made him want to care.
Something that he hadn't felt for a very long time stirred restlessly in his chest.
'Maybe, Simon,' she murmured.
They lapsed into silence, each lost to their own thoughts.
'Darwin,' he said suddenly, seemingly forgetting that several minutes had passed since she'd spoken.
'Darwin,' he repeated seriously. 'That's what my friends used to call me.'
She looked surprised. He wondered if it was because she found the nickname strange or because she couldn't understand why he'd told her. Either way he could see a question coming, but it wasn't the one he'd expected.
He'd expected her to ask about the origin of the nickname, so it took him a moment to come up with an answer he was willing to give.
'We fell out,' he said simply.
She smiled sadly, sensing the topic was sensitive.
'Why "Darwin"?' she asked after a moment, settling on the question he'd initially expected.
He laughed, although it really sounded more like a pathetic wheeze.
'I was obsessed with nature as a child,' he explained. 'Collected insects and butterflies, and read any book I could on bird species in the UK. It's why I loved working with the water police so much. I was doing the job I wanted, in the place I loved most: the great outdoors,' he finished lamely.
'Why'd you leave then?'
Her question was full of innocent curiosity and he could tell that despite the situation, she was genuinely interested in listening. But she'd asked the wrong question again. She was a stranger after all. He could hardly blurt out his entire history with Marilyn to her, simply because she seemed to care.
'For a woman,' was all he said, grimacing ruefully.
Rose didn't say anything, simply tightening her grip on his shoulder briefly in a show of solidarity.
'What about you, then?' he said eventually, once he was certain he wasn't going to blurt out his deepest, darkest secrets to the poor woman. 'How'd you end up with Torchwood? You must have started out somewhere else.'
'You have no idea,' she joked. 'But yeah. I used to work in a shop before Torchwood.'
He didn't think she was going to elaborate, so he threw her own question back at her, desperate to keep the conversation alive lest he begin to think about the possibility that they might never be rescued.
'Why'd you leave?'
She smiled sadly.
'For a man.'
He met her gaze, and in that moment he wondered if he'd just found the one person on Earth capable of understanding him. He blinked, and the moment was broken.
'I'm scared,' he whispered, the terrible truth creeping up on him as he met her kind gaze.
She shifted beside him and suddenly she was holding his hand. It was bizarre, but he felt as though nothing could possibly go wrong whilst he kept hold of her hand.
'You're not going to die,' she told him, and it was almost a promise he could believe. 'I'm not going to let you. They might even be able to save your leg...' she added softly. 'They're much better at treating crush injuries here.'
'You keep saying things like that,' he said sleepily, his thoughts muddling a bit as he attempted to find the right words.
'"Here",' he repeated. 'As though you're from a different planet or something...'
There was a beat of absolute silence, and then Rose spoke.
'I'm not from a different planet.'
He almost laughed.
'You're not from here though, are you?'
He smiled slightly, pleased that he'd been right.
'You're her, aren't you?' he said instead.
The name rolled off his tongue with ease, and he relished the sound of it.
The hitch in her breathing told him he'd been right. He'd suspected it ever since he'd seen how her colleagues had reacted to his description of the crime scene.
'They talk about you, you know, Rose Tyler,' he told her proudly, his precious grip on reality beginning to slide a little as the pain continued to build to unbearable pressures in the back of his mind.
'The people at the water bubblers,' he said sensibly, wondering why she wasn't keeping up with him. 'The ones who gossip. They have all sorts of theories about you. That your Pete Tyler's illegitimate child with his PA; that you're the first designer baby this world's seen; that you're a clone of Jackie Tyler.'
He paused for effect, 'Or that you're really an alien from outer space.'
Rose laughed aloud at the final one.
'Seriously?' she clarified.
'They're ridiculous theories! For starters, Pete's PA is a man,' she told him amusedly. 'And I'm definitely not an alien. Only human, sorry.'
He smiled faintly, sobering as he stared into the middle distance.
Who was she? This impossible woman with her double life and immense compassion, who was prepared to sit and hold the hand of a stranger simply because she cared about things like that.
He had to know.
'Will you tell me?'
There was a long moment of silence.
She told him then of parallel worlds and shop window dummies. Of saving the world and watching it burn. Werewolves, Cybermen, Daleks, Gas-masked zombies. She told him everything. And at the centre of it all, was a man.
A 900 year old Time Lord – the last of his kind – who'd found a 19 year old shop girl and shown her the universe. A man, who he was told, shared his face.
They'd run through space and time, never stopping, always moving on.
She was here, and he was there.
She told him about fighting to get back to him – the Doctor he'd been called. About building the Dimension Cannon, and how she'd been so certain it would work once the stars had started disappearing. And it had, for a little while. But then the stars had reappeared, and she'd still been here.
The walls were closed again, and this time Rose knew they would not open again.
The man she loved was gone forever.
Rose's worried voice roused him back into consciousness, and he realised he'd slipped away again for the second time in as many minutes.
'You can't go to sleep,' she implored him. 'Don't give up now. Help is coming.'
It was true. The sound of sirens had reached them first, followed by the calls of worried voices, steadily becoming louder and clearer over the past half hour as they battled to free them from the rubble. It wouldn't be long now. Either way, he was sure.
He gripped Rose's hand more tightly.
'Don't let go,' he murmured quietly. 'I don't want to be alone.'
The last thing he registered was Rose calling his name, begging him to stay with her.
He'd been in ICU for two weeks.
They'd finally transferred him out to the non-acute medical ward the previous evening, releasing him from the twenty-four hour care he'd come to find unbearable. It would be another few weeks before he'd be able to leave the hospital though. But he tried not to think about that. He was alive after all.
He was three quarters of the way through his third novel of his hospital stay when he was interrupted.
He dropped his book. Rose Tyler was standing in the doorway to his room, a small hand-picked collection of wildflowers clutched in her hand. She hesitated for a moment, before stepping into the room, quietly closing the door behind her.
He didn't know what to say.
'You look like Harry Potter,' Rose commented, moving to place the small jar containing her flowers on his bedside table before seating herself in the courtesy chair by his bed.
Rose grinned, although it didn't quite reach her eyes. He realised then that she was just as nervous as he was.
'I always forget you don't have "Harry Potter" here,' she explained. 'He's a book character from back home, but you look almost exactly like him with those glasses on.'
Darwin pulled the glasses off self-consciously, examining the round wire frames briefly before giving them a quick polish and replacing them. He couldn't see without them.
'I wear contacts at work,' he offered lamely. 'But I hate wearing them if I don't have to. I prefer the glasses.'
'They suit you.'
Now Rose was the one who didn't seem to know what to say, and he sensed she was going to leave if he didn't say something soon. So he blurted out the first thing he could think of.
'I didn't think I'd see you again.'
The bald statement landed awkwardly between them, and he immediately wished he could retract it. But Rose didn't seem to mind; instead his statement seemed to prompt her into speech.
'I came to see you as soon as the doctors stitched me up,' she told him.
She wasn't lying, he could hear the honesty in her voice, but what she was saying didn't add up because he hadn't seen her since the explosion.
She'd been the first person he'd thought of when he'd woken up from the surgery and she'd haunted his thoughts almost constantly since then. But as the days had stretched into weeks he'd had to accept that like as not, he wouldn't be seeing her again. After all, he'd known her for a grand total of three and a half hours. Even though that made them virtual strangers to each other, he couldn't quite forget what she'd shared with him during that time. He'd been half delirious at the time, but he remembered enough to know that she hadn't simply been talking to keep him awake. She'd told him her story.
Surely that meant something.
'Was I asleep?' he asked finally, settling on the only option that seemed to make any sense.
Rose shook her head.
'The hospital has a strict next-of-kin only policy regarding their ICU.'
'I'm sorry,' she said earnestly, and suddenly she was rambling. 'I wanted to come and see you, but I didn't think I'd be wanted. I mean what if your family were there? What would they think if I'd turned up? I thought about using my name to get me in, but –'
' – that's not who you are,' he finished knowingly.
'No,' Rose agreed. 'I was born on a council estate. Using my name to get me places isn't something I can do. Sorry,' she added, belatedly.
But Darwin was grinning, because she'd come to visit him.
'How's the leg?' she asked hesitantly.
His grin diminished slightly, and he barely suppressed a resigned sigh. Grimacing, he shifted in the bed so that she could see said limb.
'Still attached, at least,' he answered dryly. 'I'm learning to walk again, but they've warned me not to get my hopes up too much. I don't think I'll be running the London marathon any time soon.'
'Oh, I don't know,' Rose said optimistically, 'I've always had a lot of faith in hope.'
He smiled, appreciating the sentiment, but knowing full well he had a long road ahead of him. He fervently hoped it might possibly be one he didn't have to walk alone though. Or hobble alone, he thought sardonically.
'What happens now?' he asked quietly, barely able to hold her gaze as he put his heart on the line.
'You tell me, Darwin.'
The tip of her tongue peaked out as she smiled at him, and he felt his heart begin to pound with hope.
'I...well...,' he began, stammering horribly in his sudden state of nervousness. 'Well, I was hoping you might let me take you to dinner...when I'm out of here, obviously.'
'I'd like that.'
There was a beat of silence, and then she spoke again.
'I don't know if I'll ever stop loving him though, Darwin,' she admitted quietly.
He nodded sagely, not in the least bit surprised by her confession.
'I don't think we ever really stop loving those whom we give our hearts too,' he answered simply.
And even though he hadn't told her about Marilyn yet, he sensed that somehow she understood him.
'No,' she agreed, 'but sometimes we learn to love again.'
~ Fin ~