For: lotus79 in the Martha Jones and Rose Tyler Ficathon.
Characters: Francine Jones, Jackie Tyler, Mr Saxon
Summary: Francine meets someone who can empathise with her situation.
Disclaimer: Doctor Who is a BBC thing, so it is.
Notes: From Francine's POV, this is somewhere between Lazarus and 42. Contains this year's Spoiler That Everyone Knows. Thanks to kau666 for beta-ing and suggesting the title.
Francine took her mug of coffee and walked over to the seating area. She was dismayed to see that the coffee shop was busier than usual -- she'd been hoping to be able to unwind, get some distance from the stresses of the past few days, maybe even find some perspective on everything that had happened.
A long coffee break didn't seem nearly enough to do all that, but it was all she was going to get.
She spotted an unoccupied table, one with comfy chairs even, and made a beeline for it. It was still littered with mugs and plates from the last people to use it. She pushed them to the other end of the table, in the process revealing a piece of paper that had been left behind. She recognised it instantly, without needing to read it: a pamphlet from the Saxon campaign. She scrunched it up determinedly and shoved it into the bigger of the two empty mugs. Out of sight, out of mind. She pushed away the knowledge that her mobile phone's memory now contained the number of a Saxon representative. It was just insurance. She didn't have to use it.
She reached into her handbag and pulled out her book. Just because this place was busy didn't mean she couldn't lose herself in the land of fiction for a little while. She opened it carefully at her bookmark, avoiding cracking the spine, and began to read.
She'd barely got through half a page before she was interrupted. "'Scuse me, is anyone sitting here?"
Francine looked up from her book. It was some woman with big earrings and dyed blonde hair and who was wearing too much denim. Right this second, Francine could think of nothing less pleasant than sharing a table with her. (That wasn't true: secretive not-quite-government types could be claiming that your daughter had been abducted by an alien psychopath. But that was what she'd come here to try to forget, at least temporarily.) Francine was far too polite to say anything other than, "No, no, go right ahead."
"Thanks." The blonde woman started to make a big fuss of clearing away the debris from the other half of the table to create a space. Francine pointedly returned to her reading. "That's better," said the blonde woman eventually and sat herself down. "I'm Jackie, by the way."
"Francine," responded Francine automatically, even as she cursed her inability to be as brusque as she secretly wanted. She picked up her book again and hoped that would be enough of a signal.
They sat in their own private worlds, in silence.
It lasted about thirty seconds.
"Are you OK?" Jackie asked.
"I'm fine," Francine snapped.
"It's just, you look awful. No offence. I mean, you look lovely, and that lipstick really suits you, but in yourself, I mean. You look stressed. Is it a man? They're all bastards, you know. Have you got man trouble?"
"Not any more," Francine said, and lifted her book to eye level. It wasn't even slightly comfortable as a method of reading, but perhaps this Jackie woman would finally get the hint.
"Is it family then? Have you got kids? 'Cos believe me, I know how much of a headache they can be." Her voice grew wistful. "Heartache too, really. I mean, you want what's best for them, but they still go off and do their own thing. Don't stop to think that maybe you've been there yourself, that maybe you know a little bit more than they do."
Francine put her book down. "Oh, exactly. My youngest, Leo, he's got a baby and he was still a teenager when she got pregnant and it's not as if I hadn't--"
Jackie interrupted again. "You're a grandma? Oh, congratulations, that's brilliant."
Francine smiled involuntarily. "It makes me feel old," she said.
"Oh, no, you don't look a day over fi-- forty." The other woman's eyes settled onto a point in the middle distance as the wistful tone returned. "I doubt I'll ever have grandchildren now," she said.
"My Rose, she ... disappeared. Well, officially, she's dead." Francine gasped involuntarily at the revelation and the offhand way it was delivered. "I don't believe it for a second," Jackie explained quickly. "I'm sure she's off somewhere with that doctor of hers."
Francine put down her mug. "Doctor? Did you say doctor?" She was dimly conscious that her pulse rate had shot up. "Did he ... have a name?" she managed weakly.
"No, he was 'just the Doctor'. Pretentious git. Is everything OK? You look like you've seen a ghost."
"My middle daughter, Martha, she's gone off with a man who calls himself the Doctor ..."
"What did he look like?"
"Well, I only met him briefly. But he was a thin, weaselly sort with floppy hair."
"That's him," Jackie said. "Well, the second him anyway."
"Oh, he can change his body. Here, you do know he's an alien, don't you?"
"I've been told. I wasn't 100% sure I believed it. A few years ago I'd never have even entertained the idea. But with everything that's happened ..."
"Oh, you'd be surprised what I've seen since Rose met the Doctor. Giant green aliens dressed in human suits -- that was that time Downing Street got blown up. You know, I was there when the missile was launched." Jackie looked thoughtful. "Of course, that was just after he'd not brought her back for a whole year."
"A whole year?" Francine's heart sank at the thought of not seeing Martha again for so long.
"Well, a year for me, a year of worrying and not knowing where she was or if she was ever coming back. There were times when I thought she must have died. But it was only a couple of days from Rose's point of view. He travels in time, you see." Francine could feel her instinctive disbelief starting to rise again. "In a blue police box thing."
"How ridiculous!" But hadn't she seen something like that, just around the corner, as she'd been storming away from Leo's party?
"Of course, probably the worst thing about it all for me was the time I got stalked," Jackie continued.
"I'm sorry?" said Francine.
"There are people out there, people obsessed with the Doctor and Rose. They thought they could use me to get to them. There was this lad, Elton, he was quite nice-looking really, and he seemed all nice until I figured out what he was up to. They'll probably be all over your ... what did you say her name was, Martha? ... now. That's a bit of an old-fashioned name, isn't it? Martha?"
"It's a family thing. Well, my ex-husband's family, actually. Her great-grandmother was Martha Jones, too. She was an amazing woman, actually. Did incredible things during the First World War. Pity none of that seemed to get into my ex."
"But some of it got into Martha, didn't it?"
"Oh, she's amazing. So kind, so sparky, so dedicated. Or at least, she was." Francine looked at her watch. "I'm sorry, I'm going to have to get back to work. But it was very nice to meet you." She put her book away and stood.
"Nice to meet you, too. I hope you see your Martha again." Jackie smiled. "I'm sure you will."
Francine started to walk away. "She changed, you know, my Rose," Jackie said suddenly. "Never quite the same after she met him. And as time went on, she just got more and more ... different. You could see it in her eyes. She was getting a little less human all the time."
The words sent chills down Francine's spine as she left the shop.
* * *
Mr Saxon did not smoke. He had done so in the past, when it had suited the moment, been an appropriate prop for the role. But in these clean-living times, the people did not like to see such things from their leaders. For now, he would go along with their foibles.
And yet there was an open cigar box on his desk. Inside, however, was a tiny chamber filled with plastic, fed just enough power from a Perpetuum Battery to keep it molten. Right now, it was in uproar, the plastic pulsing and twisting, little pseudopods stretching out and falling back in again, as the Consciousness it contained protested at being cut off once more from the wider world.
Saxon looked at the hair he held between his fingers. Such a simple thing, and so easily recovered from Torchwood Tower, and yet the tiny follicle at the end contained enough biodata for an entire duplicate to be extrapolated. He put it carefully into a plastic container and slotted it back into his desk drawer.
And in the alley behind the coffee shop, he knew, the imitation Jackie Tyler was beginning to melt into a plastic puddle.
"You've done well," he told the little globule of roiling plastic in the cigar box. "Perhaps I'll reward you with some larger accommodations. A whole briefcase, perhaps." He gave a short laugh.
There was a pleasing symmetry to all this. It was so long since he had first come to this pathetic planet, pitted his wits against that meddlesome, self-important idiot. So long ago -- he'd still been on his first regenerative cycle, even. So much had changed since then.
And yet much had stayed the same, too. That very first time, he'd worked with the Nestenes against the Doctor. And now they were helping him to entrap that meddlesome, self-important idiot. Of course, back then he'd ended up having to work with the idiot to defeat them, but he'd learned the lesson well, deliberately keeping the tiny fragment of the Consciousness he'd managed to rescue from beneath the London Eye weak and utterly dependent on him.
Behind him, he heard the door opening. Quickly, Saxon dropped the lid of the box and wheeled on the lackey who had dared to come in unannounced. He briefly noted that it was the oily-haired one he'd sent to the Lazarus party. He couldn't remember his name. "Haven't I warned you never to interrupt me when I'm working?" His voice was a controlled roar, deliberately hinting at far greater reserves of anger hidden beneath the surface.
"Yes, sir, sorry, sir. It's just ... I thought you'd want to know. Francine Jones has just contacted us. She's willing to cooperate."
"Yes," smiled Saxon, "I rather thought she might."