The Art of Memory (Bold and Lonely Remix). [Susan, Romana, Rose, Jack, Martha]
Summary: The Doctor's a hard man to forget.
Fandom Doctor Who
Spoilers: Mild spoilers for themes through New Who and S2 of Torchwood
Original Story: Untitled ficlet by such_heights
He has never forgotten Susan, naturally enough. He sees a thousand girls on a thousand planets that look like her, and each time the memory scorches
Susie paints pictures, enormous canvases rich with colour and texture; vibrant and bold, like her. They make her an art-world darling for a least a week, so terribly talented and terribly clever. She translates complex algorithms into papier-mâché and uses plywood to tell stories about the importance of the tiniest parts of incomprehensibly vast universes. Her sculptures of fire and ice win her the Turner Prize and the story of her oh-so tragic orphaned adolescence garners offers of increasingly ridiculous sums of money to turn it into a book, a movie, a made-for-TV-drama.
Modest enough to be befuddled by the attention and vain enough to scoff at the notion of anyone else presuming to tell her life story, Susie turns them all down. She tells her own history in acrylics and recycled junk; the car-crash punctuation at the end of her foster-parents' existence, the dreams that her therapist struggles to unravel, and last week's dinner at The Ivy all rendered tangibly three-dimensional.
Susie likes the solidity of her art, prefers it to the mists of memory and the blurred shapes of dreams. It was a therapist who first suggested she take up art, a far more useful suggestion than any that came from the psychoanalyst who told her the man in her dreams - a brilliant, white-haired curmudgeon - reflected some part of her inner-self, or the social worker who informed her she was too young when she was taken into care to remember her family, so she must be misremembering an old teacher, neighbour or a friendly GP.
It's her grandfather she remembers in dreams, Susie's certain of that. She dreams of running away, of adventure, of being lectured about quantum mechanics. When Susie was a little younger she thought the dreams were just dreams, or maybe they were nightmares, and either way it would be best to forget them. But she kept on dreaming, through sixteen, seventeen, twenty-one, and now she thinks they mean something. Not in the way that those dream dictionaries in discount shops claim (oranges symbolise wealth, apples for wisdom), something bigger and infinitely more complex than that. Her dreams are riddles, a treasure map, the scattered clues to the mysterious of the universe.
So Susie paints and sculpts, builds and dreams, and she remembers. She remembers her grandfather, his voice, the twinkle in his eyes, and she wonders who he was. He must have died years ago she tells herself (though she has no idea how often) and yet somehow she knows - instinctively, irrationally - that he can tell her answers to questions she can't quite put into words.
But she doesn't know - not now, not yet - that remembering him is the key to remembering herself. She doesn't remember a blue box in a junkyard, inquisitive teachers and racing through the stars. She doesn't remember falling in love and being left behind, doesn't remember the war, doesn't remember learning that running away means many things.
Susie doesn't quite remember her grandfather. But she can't quite forget him either.
It’s at times like this he absently wishes Romana was here
Professor George Tinsley wishes she were almost anywhere else but at the tedious faculty dinner being held to celebrate the inauguration of something or other at New Harvard Eduplex. It's boring, standing around and making small-talk with a lot of tired old duffers and pompous upstarts, and frankly she has much better things to do with her time. Oh, she can pull it off all right - make polite conversation about nothing and nod in all the right places. Just because she can, though, doesn't mean she should.
A French door carelessly left open and a glimpse of silent darkness is too much temptation to resist, and George slips outside, breathing a sigh of relief into the night air. It's pleasantly cool, and the Eduplex gardens offer a clear view of the night sky. It's beautiful, this New (New, New, New, so very New) Earth, with an unpolluted atmosphere that lets the stars shine through. George knows them all by name, mass, chemical composition, and age; it's her job, after all, and she's good at her job, won prizes for it. And yet, in moments like this, moments when she's away from her observatory and ignores the effects of the atmosphere long enough to imagine the stars really are twinkling, that she thinks that maybe she doesn't know them at all.
There's an Old Earth parable, that the more you know the more you realise you don't know. George thinks it's probably true, because why else would the most distinguished cosmologist at the most respected Eduplex on New Earth stand beneath the heavens with the wonder of a child waiting to wish upon a star? George knows more than most people have forgotten (though modesty forbids her from mentioning this very often) and yet she feels like all her years of education and research have just skimmed the mysteries of the universe, that her genius is infantile ignorance compared to the knowledge that dancing just beyond her grasp.
She has no idea how right she is. She doesn't remember a childhood beneath a crimson sky, adventures in a little blue box, and charging around galaxies hand in hand by a man with crazy hair. She's forgotten the little robot dog, running away and returning at the call of duty. Her memories of the daleks, of the fall of Arcadia and the invasion of the Cruciform, of leading a war for all creation with scant hope of victory are long since gone.
So she doesn't know why she still owns an antique pocket watch, a souvenir of her last-ditch - though none the less brilliant - escape plan; the mass evacuation of Gallifrey by means of the transformation and scattering of a species in the precise second the Eye of Harmony exploded, ripping open the very fabric of reality itself.
One day, though, George will remember. Or rather, Romana will. When the watch stops tick, tick, tick-ing at a volume too quiet for the human ear to hear, when enough of her personal time-line has elapsed, when the Time War is safely enough in the past. When the alarm rings. That's when Romana will remember the Doctor; when she remembers herself.
There’s a mark on the TARDIS now, the only relic of when he burned up a sun, just to say goodbye
Rose remembers the Doctor. Always. She thinks about him first thing in the morning and last thing at night, whenever she sees the Torchwood logo at work, as she watches President Jones on the news, when she catches herself licking marmalade off her fingers. It seems odd, wrong somehow, that he could just waltz into her life one day, turn it upside down, and then disappear forever; a forlorn fading holograph cut off mid-sentence.
She worries too. Where he is, what he's doing, how he'll cope without her. How she'll cope without him. She knows it's silly, really, reminds herself that he managed perfectly well without her for centuries. It doesn't stop her worrying, though, and then she remembers how broken he was when she met him, and who's going to mend him now?
You can't spend your whole life worrying about someone else, that's what her mum says, not that Rose really listens. It's what Jackie does that really matters, not what she says, and Rose sees the way her mother looks at her when she goes out to work, the way her mouth tightens when Dad's late home. (Not her dad, Pete, sort of her dad, not really. Getting to be her dad.) She even fusses over Mickey. Stop worrying, indeed, like it's easy as turning off a tap.
Still, no-one can keep moping forever and Rose has a life to live. She's got a job at Torchwood, new friends and old friends re-made, a baby sister to spoil and a planet to defend. Work keeps her busy and the baby gives her hope; a squalling, gurgling, gorgeous reminder that life goes on.
And so does Rose. She keeps on living, makes her own adventures, builds a future. It's not shooting through time and space, but it's better than hanging about the Powell Estate waiting for her life to start. She still remembers the Doctor - how could she not? - the places they went, the things he showed her. But time is a great healer, and eventually Rose's hurt and loneliness start to fade. She'll never forget the Doctor but slowly, day after day, remembering him hurts a little less.
There is a special delight in hearing first the hostess, then her sister, then the scullery maid, and then the butler all extolling the many virtues of Captain Jack Harkness
Jack doesn't change, not ever, not really. He hasn't changed in that real and fundamental way since he first met the Doctor, those few short weeks that saw him go from fragile human conman to immortal... well, he's not really sure what he is now. Still a conman, after a fashion. But not the same, not like he was back then. He's better than that now, or so he likes to think. He tries, at any rate, and that's got to count for something, right?
He still thinks about the Doctor all the time. It's different now, less desperate, since they found each other again. It's funny, he spent so long looking for the Doctor, so that the Doctor could fix him and after all that, all those patient centuries of waiting, the Doctor said it couldn't be done. It ought to be a disappointment, but somehow it isn't; somehow, it makes Jack feel a little less broken.
So he carries on, defending the Earth and fighting the good fight, still growing that special little coral on his desk and judging his own actions by the yardstick of whether or not the Doctor would approve. There's an awful lot the Doctor wouldn't approve of - the guns and the mind probe, Jack's cavalier assumption of authority over all things alien. Sometimes it bothers Jack, others not so much. Now he knows that the Doctor can't fix him, he's remembered the lessons he learnt long ago, in the first, terrible war he fought as a boy: that it's always better to save yourself than to wait to be rescued.
Captain Jack Harkness is an invention, a dead man's name and a complex web of lies, but he's no less real for it. Jack's his own invention, not quite perfect yet (whatever else he may say, with a toothy smile and a knowing wink) but, hey, he's got plenty time to work on it. So he remembers the Doctor, the things the Doctor taught him, and tries to emulate the best of him without becoming an immortal walking Xerox. It's a good way to live, or at least the best Jack's found so far, and you can believe him when he says he's tried (almost) everything.
He remembers the Doctor with fondness now, a little less idealisation and a little less resentment, but no less hope of finding him again. After all, the Doctor's a Time Lord, and time is the one thing Jack has in spades.
The next in a long line of faces that he will never forget.
Martha left the Doctor to make room, free up her time and her mind, because she had other things, other people to consider, and she couldn't do that properly with him there all the time. She's got a family to care for, a job to do, and a life to get back on track. Not that she hadn't enjoyed her time on the TARDIS because she did, she really did, but it was overwhelming, like that funny flying box had swallowed her whole. And then there was that year on her own, walking through the apocalypse and saving the world. She'd more than earnt a break, time for some normality, and a little R&R.
Not that things have been quiet since she left the Doctor. Martha finds herself more than busy enough with UNIT, and Torchwood, and trying to help her family stitch their lives back together. She's not so busy that she doesn't have time to think about the Doctor, but she doesn't dwell over what might have been when an impromptu visit to paediatrics leads to a date with a man who can't have any idea how brave he is. Tom's charming and attentive, and watching him laughing with her mum and teasing Tish for owning too many shoes makes Martha's heart swell with pride and affection. It's not gone now, the devastation of living through the end of the world or the sting of rejection, but every day makes Martha a little more certain that she made the right choice. The bruises will keep on fading and Martha's got what she wanted; her life back.
So when she calls him, finally, eventually, she doesn't have to stop and question her motives, or wonder if just hearing his voice will make her ache again. It's strictly UNIT business, with the added bonus of a chance to catch up with an old friend as they save the world.
The Doctor answers on the second ring.
'Doctor Jones!' he cries in delight. 'Good of you to call. I was beginning to think you might have forgotten about me.'