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[personal profile] last01standing

Title: Unremarkable
Disclaimer: I have never owned a television show in my life.
Ships: John/Joan (mentions of Nine, Martha, Rose and Jack, but oddly, not Ten)
Rating: PG
Summary: John Smith is only human. And a watch is just a watch. [Family of Blood, AU]
Author’s note: First Who fic. Newbie to this fandom. Am mildly to moderately terrified. Many thanks to [info]thenewradical for getting me hooked on Who and then betaing. She's been, you know, Fantastic. And also thanks to [info]smtfhw for pointing out some errors.

 

Unremarkable
 

There is a watch.

It doesn’t look like much, but then again the important things rarely do. It’s just an ordinary watch etched lightly with an intricate design that’s half hidden by the grime. It is a watch owned by a man called John Smith; schoolmaster, amateur novelist, ex-Time Lord. He’s had it for as long as he can recall (which ranges anywhere from two months to thirty-three years depending on who you ask), but to his knowledge, it’s never worked.


To be fair, he’s never actually opened the thing. He’ll glance at it every so often, fumble past it on his way to find his journal of impossible things, but there’s nothing remarkable about the old thing.


A watch is just a watch.

________________________________________________________________________


John Smith has these dreams; wild vivid things about monsters and aliens and travel through time and space. In these dreams, he’s called the Doctor. He has a magic blue box, an ever changing face and an endless array of companions. He wakes up grasping at the threads of the dreams, but they slip away, back to the depths of his mind. He grasps for his pen and scrawls it all down, every thought, every word, every image until he wonders if he’s supremely imaginative or just insane.


When he’s done, the book goes back on his dresser and his hand brushes the cold metal of the watch. He picks it up, looks, drops it.


His servant girl, Martha, is standing in the doorframe staring at him.


He tells her off for failing to knock.


She looks at him in betrayal. She does that almost every time he gets stern with her.


Damned if he knows what it means.

________________________________________________________________________

John Smith is completely human. He’s got a job, a life, a lady he’s falling head over heels for. But there are strange things going on around this school. Two and a half months of quiet and then two weeks of wild rooms, people with changing speech patterns, changing personalities… He catches one student sniffing another and he has to wonder what it means.


He dreams of the Doctor again, clutching the watch in his hand “Take this watch because my life depends on it. This watch, Martha, this watch is me.”


“It’s Monday, November 10th 1913 and you’re completely human.”

________________________________________________________________________


In two weeks four of the villagers die and six more disappear without a trace. Martha’s one of the ones who go missing. It hurts more than he would have expected. She was just a servant, but he always had the creeping notion that she was hiding something, lurking just out of his reach. Despite everything, he misses her.


Rumours swirl. Wild stories, all of them. People who claim to have seen space ships falling from the sky, beings from other worlds and flashes of light that disintegrate anything they touch. He is worried about the mental state of the students, but it passes in a few weeks. Now he is more worried about his own mental health.


He dreams of the Doctor and Martha and explosions and monsters and when he wakes up, he has to bite back a scream.

________________________________________________________________________

At Joan’s encouragement he starts picking through his journal cobbling together all the best bits he has into something coherent. He gets an offer for publication the day after he asks Joan to marry him.


He writes about a mysterious rogue called Captain Jack, time traveller from the 42nd century who gets caught up in a colossal time war. In the first scene he saves a girl called Rose even though she by all rights should have died. Rather than risk causing a paradox, Jack takes her with him. Before long they get caught up in something bigger than themselves. He rounds out the characters. Takes miniscule details from his journal and gives them a life of their own. Jack flirts with everything, human, alien, it doesn’t matter. Rose is excitable, bubbly and endlessly fascinated. Through everything, they’re happy.


There is no mention of a magic blue box, no mention of the Doctor, and Rose doesn’t ever walk away.


Joan, reading over his shoulder, wants to know why.


John tells her it’s better with two.


When the reviews come back, he is alternately hailed as a genius and a mad man. Somehow he finds it rather fitting.

________________________________________________________________________


They get married on a Sunday morning in June, a beautiful ceremony and John is as happy as he can remember. Joan is radiant, he can’t stop smiling. In five years their little family has expanded by two. There are two little boys constantly under foot. If it weren’t for the Great War passing though the village, John would have thought life was perfect.


Fourteen of his students fight in the war. After the Somme, only six come back alive.

________________________________________________________________________

The more he writes, the less he dreams. And despite the excitement of the Doctor’s world, John Smith is all too happy to let him fade. He starts on a sequel to his first novel and writes himself straight into a corner. No matter what he does, he can’t fix the ending. Jack’s stranded on a planet facing down a million by himself, while poor Rose is stuck back in her own century, safe but miserable.


He writes the ending dozens of times, but no matter what he does, he can’t make it sound right. He can’t let the enemy win, but even Captain Jack can’t defeat those sorts of odds and if he decided to run, he wouldn’t be Jack.


Joan reads his attempts over his shoulder, offers gentle encouragement, even points out three or four endings that aren’t bad at all. John is never satisfied. Nothing he does makes it sound right.

________________________________________________________________________


He has these moments sometimes, little things that make him feel like the Doctor. He snatches a little girl before she steps into traffic, coaxes a friend out of a house where lightning strikes only hours later, throws a cricket ball to saves a baby from a falling piano (that one he’ll always remember. Who pulls a piano up by a rope?). He has flashes of brilliance that Joan jokes just can’t be human.


He takes to carrying the old watch around in his pocket. Something about it makes him feel safe.

________________________________________________________________________


He survives a war, a depression. They move back to London looking for work and when the Nazis smash through France, he’s terrified. His older son is off to enlist and he spends his day down in the pub with his notebook, sketching his way through a new idea. Joan’s back home fretting about the boys and the war.


When the song ends a man steps on the stage before anyone else can move. “Excuse me, excuse me.” John glances up from his notes. The man is in his thirties with short cropped hair, a creased forehead, piercing blue eyes and rather large ears. “Could I have everybody’s attention? Just for a mo. I’ll be very quick. Uh, hello. It might seem like a stupid question but has anything fallen from the sky recently?”


There’s a long, awkward pause where John fights the overwhelming feeling that he’s been here before. The room breaks into laughter, but the man looks genuinely bewildered. “Sorry, have I said something funny? It’s just, there’s this thing that I need to find. Would have fallen from the sky a couple of days ago. Would have landed quite near here. With a very loud…”


The sirens start. The low whine that’s all too familiar. On stage, the man’s face cloud as if realization has only just come to him. “…bang,” the man finishes.


It shouldn’t have taken that long for someone to remember the war. It was an integral part of life that couldn’t possibly be forgotten. The other patrons are clearing the room, but John stands to approach the man.


“What’s you name?” he asks. There’s an odd familiarity to the stranger with the big ears and leather jacket like he’s seen him before, like he knows him.


The man gives John a sharp glare. “Depends on who’s asking.”


John holds his gaze. “John Smith.”


He flashes a large, cheery grin. “I’m the Doctor.”


Something in John’s blood goes cold. “Doctor Who?”


“Like I’ve never heard that one before.”


“Right,” John stammers. “Just the Doctor.” Unconsciously, his fingers fly to his pockets and he fumbles with the old watch.


“What have you got there?” the Doctor says, a note of suspicion creeping into his voice.


“Just a watch,” says John, handing it over.


The Doctor turns it over in his hands, once, twice. “And you’re called John Smith?”


He nods.


The Doctor’s face clouds. “Fantastic.”


“Sorry?”


“Nothing, just…” The Doctor hands the watch back. “You take care of that. Got a companion to find, me. Always seems to wander off.”


“Rose?” John blurts without thinking.


The Doctor blinks. "Yeah, she's called Rose."


________________________________________________________________________

 

He finds a sketch of this Doctor in his journal, big nose, bigger ears and a cheeky grin. It’s a picture he drew years ago along with sketches of children in gas masks. He sinks down against his bed. Outside the air raid sirens howl.


“Fantastic,” John says.


The word doesn’t fit the teeth.

________________________________________________________________________

 
When Joan falls asleep, John sits at the edge of his bed, fingering the old watch.


He grasps the watch’s clasp, hands shaking for some reason he can’t fathom. Something washes over him (low-level telepathic fields, we're born with them, just an extra synaptic engram causing…) and the watch is suddenly warm to the touch. His curiosity is burning. He’s had this thing damn near thirty years and he’s never touched it like this, never really taken the time to really look, never listened.


It feels like there’s an entire person hidden in this watch, sleeping, waiting. Of course, that’s preposterous. John Smith knows fantasy from reality but he can’t help but feel that the dreams could end with just this one minute action.


The Doctor’s just a legend.


A watch is just a watch.


And John Smith is only human


Right?


(end)

(no subject)

18/6/07 00:33 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com
Oh, wonderful! I loved the way you expanded John Smith's character and added that touch of weirdness, that extra something that marks him as a part belonging to the Doctor. Him writing about Jack and Rose and saying 'better with two' was lovely, but I especially liked it when he met Nine - it's such a great idea, fresh and new, and it makes so much sense. Awesome, really, and I do hope you'll be writing more in this fandom. :)

(no subject)

19/6/07 00:49 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Hey! (you and me just seem to keep crossing fandoms, don't we?). I loved John Smith for being so very normal, but for me, the scene that made his character was the random thing with the piano and the Doctor peaking out through the edges. And, you know I love nine to bits. =)

Planning to stick around DW for a bit. We'll see if more fic comes out. =)

Thanks for reading

(no subject)

18/6/07 01:30 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] thenewradical.livejournal.com
Hahaha. Damn straight I'm fantastic. As are you and this fic.

(no subject)

19/6/07 00:50 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
'Corse your fantastic, Claire. We already new that.

You and me are just trading fandoms, huh? First you writing SPN, now me in DW. Weird stuff all 'round.

(no subject)

18/6/07 06:20 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] smtfhw.livejournal.com
Thoroughly enjoyed this! Thanks!

There's a few typos/tense changes you might like to fix. I can point 'em out to you if you like. Just let me know...

(no subject)

19/6/07 00:51 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Glad you liked the fic.

(Yikes. Typos? Darnit. I thought I was getting better at the editing bit. I'd love to have you point them out.)

(no subject)

19/6/07 06:46 (UTC)
Posted by (Anonymous)
I'll tackle it tonight... Are you OK with an annotated Word file?

(no subject)

19/6/07 21:15 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Yeah, that's great. My e-mail's pointgoalie@yahoo.com

(no subject)

18/6/07 21:01 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] kb91.livejournal.com
This is fabulous! It's a very realistic "what if" story. It's so plausible that Martha could have been captured by the Family before she'd had a chance to warn the Doctor, and thus he just remains human after they die out. I love the way he channels his dreams into his fiction, while still lamenting that certain endings don't feel right.

But what really got me was him running into Nine during WWII -- never saw it coming, but so creative. (And what a shock to the Doctor, as he starts to put the pieces together.)

Great job! I certainly hope this won't be the last fic we get to read from you. :)

(One minor typo I caught, in case you're interested -- "Always seems to wonder off.” -- You mean "wander".)

(no subject)

19/6/07 00:59 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Thanks so much for reading.

The whole Martha thing is what really hit me about Family of Blood. It would have been so very easy for her to make a wrong move and get zapped. Plus she was twice as likely to investigate this stuff anyway.

And nine, oh nine. The first doctor I saw was actually ten, but nine won me over to this fandom. I couldn't resist pulling in The Lonely Child. =)

More Who fic? I'm leaning towards probably. This fandom grabbed me and won't let go.

(Yikes. Completely missed that one. Thanks.)
(deleted comment)

(no subject)

19/6/07 21:23 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Thank you very much.

(bwahaha! Can you imagine John Smith spontaneously regenerating at the end on his death bed. Oh my, that would have been a complete moodkill if they'd shown that in the flash forward. Can you imagine:

John: Awesome possible life.
Joan: Except for the but at the end where you burst into light and turn into someone else. How dare you go changing faces on me!
John: Er, sorry?)

Sorry, got a bit rambly on you. I would have loved to see the John Smith story line taken farther, but then again, I'd rather have the Doctor back.

(no subject)

28/7/07 19:23 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] girl-wonder.livejournal.com
I love this. This is how it could have gone - Martha disappearing and John Smith so set on being normal that he couldn't open the watch, even if he needed to.

Him meeting Nine is so classic and I love how Nine would know.

(no subject)

5/9/07 22:13 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
That was the thing that bothered me about Human Nature. The plan was so very flawed considering it hinged on one person's ability to stay alive and in DW, the body count's sky high.

And in terms of nine, I just loved nine and meeting yourself is such a staple of time travel, I just couldn't resist.

Sorry I was so late in replying, but THANKS for reading.

(no subject)

6/8/11 19:22 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] garnet-words.livejournal.com
This is so awesome, and totally believable... love it!

(no subject)

29/8/11 19:05 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
[Very behind on the comments but...] THANK YOU SO MUCH.

(no subject)

25/7/12 18:33 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] stars-inthe-sky.livejournal.com
Ooh, I positively got chills at the end there.

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