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eleventymod ([personal profile] eleventymod) wrote in [community profile] eleventyfest2013-09-02 08:23 pm

FIC: Doubt is a pain too lonely, for nancybrown

Title: Doubt is a pain too lonely
By: clocketpatch
Recipient: [personal profile] nancybrown
Rating: Teen and Up
Character(s)/Ship(s): Rita Azfal
Summary: AU where Rita survived and came along after The God Complex.
Content Notes: Brief discussion of suicide.

Doubt is a pain too lonely

Rita waited beside the TARDIS as the Doctor said his goodbyes to Amy and Rory. He'd given her a handful of change and a mobile and told her to call a taxi home. Rita wanted to follow his instructions. She wanted to go home. She wanted to make a cup of tea with just enough milk. She wanted to sit on her bed with her pillows arranged just so and watch old episodes of Planet Earth on her laptop. She wanted to unroll her rug and pray and believe. She wanted to forget that terrible moment when he'd put his fingers against her temples and abruptly yanked away her foundations and left her floating in the dark.

The mobile hung heavy in her scrub's side pocket. She hadn't used it, and not only because the change the Doctor had given her was insufficient for a fare.

He'd only put his fingers against her forehead because she'd asked. She'd wanted to live, but how could she live without belief?

The blue wood of the TARDIS (not wood, how could it be wood? It was a spaceship) felt good against her back, sturdy and real. The world was going on around her; cars and children and the breeze rustling the soft-scented grass of perfectly mowed lawns. Rory was thanking the Doctor profusely for a flashy red sports car. He hugged the Doctor. Amy hugged the Doctor. Rita felt like, any second now, the other shoe would drop.

They were all acting like everything was fine, but it was so clearly an act.

The world felt like a cardboard set.

The goodbyes finished and the Doctor walked back to his ship, turning his back on his friends. He didn't look surprised to see Rita still standing there. He nodded wearily at the TARDIS.

"I'd give you ride, but she's finicky about short hops. We might end up anywhere. Taking a cab is your best option, really."

Rita put her hands on her hips. She had questions she wanted to ask, and accusations she wanted to make, but instead she said:

"You gave me 40 p. Do you have any conception of money? Because 40 p isn't going to get me a taxi. It isn't going to get me on the tube. It isn't even going to get me on the bus."

"I'm sure Rory will give you a ride if you ask nicely," the Doctor said. His head remained bowed as he put his key into the TARDIS door. Rita could see Amy and Rory watching the proceedings. The Doctor didn't look at them or her.

"You know, this is textbook," Rita said, following the Doctor into the TARDIS. "I don't understand why he hasn't picked up on it, if he is a nurse."

"Picked up on what?"

The Doctor leaned over the central console. Rita did her best to keep her eyes on his back. The vast interior of the ship made her uneasy. She could sense it pulling at the edges of her mind, and even though it was friendly, the feeling was too much like the Doctor's pulling when he'd broken her faith. Both came with good intentions.

"The grand gestures, the noble goodbye, even your speech when we met the beast. I've only known you a few hours and I'm plenty concerned. That house, that car, that wasn't a spontaneous response to one misadventure; you were waiting for an opportunity. If you need to talk about something, I'll listen. I won't pretend to understand, and I'll say up front that I've only had the one training course on –"

"You think that I'm going to kill myself," said the Doctor, annunciating the words carefully. Before Rita could get past her shock that he was stating it so bluntly, he continued, "You wouldn't be entirely wrong. I am going to my death. Amy and Rory know this. They've tried to hide it from me, but I've already prepared the letters. You don't need to give me an intervention, Rita."

"I think I do."

The Doctor sighed and turned around. His eyes travelled over Rita, shoes to face. She tried not to flinch as he looked at her. He was old and powerful, and he had it within his capability to get inside her head, to make her turn around and walk outside, to ask Rory for a ride and go home. To forget. He didn't.

He won't, whispered the TARDIS in her mind. He will never do that again.

It was the "again" that made Rita nervous, because she didn't think it was referring to her. She wanted to run, but she stood her ground. The push of the TARDIS in her mind encouraged her, but it wasn't forcing. This was her own free will, her own belief, and she didn't understand it at all.

"The moment of my death is fixed," the Doctor said. "I can no more avoid it, than you can avoid breathing. I've been running from it, I've been running for a very long time, but the time has coming to stop running and face my responsibilities."

"You think that you've only got this one way out, but –"

"You're working under a misapprehension, Rita. I'm not standing on a ledge waiting to be coaxed down. I've already been pushed. I'm free-falling and soon I will land, and then…" he took a deep breath. "I will end."

"And there's no way I can string up a net to catch you?" Rita asked.

"I've made peace with it," the Doctor said. "All of your human stages of grief, I've passed through them one by one and come to acceptance."

The Doctor's hands went to his throat. For a second, Rita thought that he was choking, that he'd bit down on a poison pill and was about to die in front of her, but no, he only wanted to adjusted his ridiculous bowtie.

"Time is… time is like a bowtie," the Doctor said, "On the one side you have the past, and that's infinite –"

"There are two traumatized people outside that door who love you, and you're meeting my intervention attempts with metaphors about time and regrettable fashion choices."

"Bowties are cool," the Doctor said reflexively. "Besides which, I am attempting to give you an explanation, because you are a beautiful, intelligent, frightened young woman, Rita, and you deserve a proper explanation. Not –"

"Not fingers against my forehead?" Rita asked.

"No," the Doctor said. He swallowed. "I would apologize for that, in another life, I would have. But I am not sorry about the results."

"I'm not sorry to be alive either," said Rita. She looked at the Doctor. It wasn't just that he was dying, she realized. He didn't believe anything would come after. Rita felt suddenly deeply sorry for him, for this strange, mysterious alien who'd trounced through her mind like it was nothing, but only because he cared. Just like flicking a switch, the world wasn't cardboard anymore.

"I still believe," Rita said, wonderingly.

"Good," said the Doctor.

He smiled. Rita couldn't tell if it was an act or not. In her mind, he had deconstructed everything. He had turned the cosmological arguments backwards on themselves, choking off her faith with an onslaught of cold, implacable logic. He had shown her scorn and made her ashamed. Now, he smiled and it looked genuine.

She watched his eyes to see what his pupils were doing, but he was an alien and really, she berated herself, she was reading too much into his alien body language. How could she possibly know what was and wasn't the same. When he said that he was fine… maybe he was?

The voice of the ship in Rita's mind said that he truly was pleased for her. But he wasn't fine.

"As I was saying about bowties and time," the Doctor said, "Time can be rewritten, more or less, and even if it can't be, everyone remembers their own version of events. History is personal, and there are as many pasts in the universe as there are people, and that's not even counting the might've beens – and that's only the one side of the bowtie," he stopped, and looked at Rita expectantly.

She played along. "The other side is the future?"

"All of the tomorrows," the Doctor confirmed.

"Infinite as well, I expect?"

"Stretching into eternity."

"And the knot is the present?"

"Tying it all together, yes. But the present is fragile, Rita. Which is why there can be no net for me. Changing a fixed point is like unravelling the knot."

"But you can tie it up again," said Rita. "You take off your tie for the night, but then in the morning you stand in front of the mirror and put it back on again. It's not the end of the world."

"It might be, this time," said the Doctor, "if there is no morning, if the present is cut in two during the unravelling…" he shook his head, "Rita, what do you want from me?"


Rita realized that she was crying. Why was she crying? The Doctor took a step towards her. She didn't take a step back.

"The universe is huge and massive, Rita. It is kind and unkind, beautiful and cruel, and it is always, always changing." The Doctor took Rita's hand and rested it on the knot of his bowtie. "We balance here."

Who are you, Rita? the TARDIS whispered.

I am me, Rita thought back.


Rita thought of her father berating her grades, and the terrible fear of failure that had pursued her all her life. That could be changed, but then she would be changed as well. Alien body language might be different, but it hadn't steered her wrong yet. He was acting calm on the surface, but beneath that he was terrified. He didn't want saving. He only wanted someone to tell him that it would be okay when all of those logical arguments swirling in his mind told him otherwise.

Rita carefully adjusted the Doctor's tie, making the sides as even as she could.

"Faith isn't about facts," Rita said, "It can exist after being disproved, because it is beyond the reach of cynicism. It can be corrupted, and it can cause great harm, but it can also heal. What happened to Howie and Joe wasn't your fault. Amelia and Rory still believe in you, and will continue to believe in you, whatever happens. They're your friends." She took her hands away from the Doctor's neck. She did not touch his skin. "They will remember you."

They stood, facing each other.

"Have a good life, Rita Afzal," the Doctor said.

"I will remember you too," she told him.

Rita went home to her flat. For the first time in her life, she called in sick. She cried. She prayed. She looked out the window at the sky and thought of the sad mad man in his blue box.

A few days later while she was en route to her shift, the forgotten mobile in her pocket vibrated. Rita pulled the phone out and pressed the button to view the new text. She read the eight words and started crying again, right there on the train.

I found a net. Thank you for believing.

Then she pressed reply.
nancybrown: (Alice/Jenny Trouble)

[personal profile] nancybrown 2013-09-02 08:09 pm (UTC)(link)
Okay, I will be back in an hour or so when my thoughts are more coherent, but right now I am bouncing aruond shouting, "Rita! Rita Rita Rita!" so coherency could take a bit.

:D :D :D :D :D
nancybrown: (Alice/Jenny Trouble)

[personal profile] nancybrown 2013-09-02 08:55 pm (UTC)(link)
Okay, coherency isn't great, but here we go!

RITA!!!! YOU WROTE RITA FIC!!!! *dances around the room in more glee*

I love that the way he saved her was to take her faith away, and the echoes brought in with how he saved Donna, and how at the end she decided she believed anyway. That's a perfect encapsulation of how this could have should have would have gone, and I love just the picture of her face as she tries to deal.

I love that she does not take his guff, and that she calls him on what's going on after he drops off the Ponds. I love the misunderstanding about his intentions that isn't really a misunderstanding at all. I love love love "Time is like a bowtie" because Eleven is That Dork and I love him for it.

This was a fantastic thing to read, and I was so happy (as you might be able to tell) to see it pop up. Thanks so much for writing it!
clocketpatch: (dynamo of volition)

[personal profile] clocketpatch 2013-09-22 12:51 am (UTC)(link)
Now the anon shielding is off and I can reply! First, as soon as I saw your prompts I knew that I was going to write the Rita one. I didn't even care if I got assigned it or not. Then I was assigned it and I went WHEEE!

Not the easiest thing to write though, because I was in unfamiliar territory trying to incorporate Rita's faith, because it is a very clear part of her character (though not all of her character), without accidentally offending someone out of ignorance. So. That was an interesting experience, and I want to thank you for taking me out of my comfort zone because I am rather pleased with the results even though I was very nervous about how it would actually be received. I'm so glad that you liked it!

I wish that Rita had got more of a chance to come along. She was fun and interesting and deep, and that made it hurt all the much more when she got killed off.
nancybrown: I got you a dinosaur.  I gave it some chocolate. (Default)

[personal profile] nancybrown 2013-09-22 02:02 am (UTC)(link)

I am SO HAPPY you wrote the Rita one. I was happy with all my prompts (which turned out to be a good thing O_o) but this was the one I was sure no one would even try, so imagine how pleased it made me to see this pop up. Now triple that, and you'll see I was EVEN HAPPIER. :D :D

I adored the gentle hand you took with her faith, because you're absolutely right, it's part of her without defining her (even in an episode about faith) and yet a subject so easy to accidentally offend with. I loved your take on her, and I loved how she upbraided Eleven with utter kindness here. She really is just perfect through this whole fic.

I hold out hope, however misguided, that just because she's currently dead does not mean she can't come back. (I'm in Torchwood fandom. I'm used to refusing to believe people are dead for good. It's a thing.)

Anyway, yay, I loved this so much, and it's cheering to find out you really wanted to write it instead of getting the assignment and going, "Oh no, not that one." :)

[identity profile] eve11.livejournal.com 2013-09-02 10:15 pm (UTC)(link)
"Faith isn't about facts," Rita said, "It can exist after being disproved, because it is beyond the reach of cynicism. It can be corrupted, and it can cause great harm, but it can also heal.

I love this line. And this whole thing, of course. Such a perfect portrayal of Rita and the Doctor. Makes me wish even more that she had lived.
clocketpatch: (wee!Amy)

[personal profile] clocketpatch 2013-09-22 12:53 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you so much for the beta and for reassuring me that it was fit to print!
juniperphoenix: Eleven shouting at the sky (DW: I'm the Doctor)

[personal profile] juniperphoenix 2013-09-02 11:17 pm (UTC)(link)
This is lovely!
astrogirl: (Cosmos without the Doctor)

[personal profile] astrogirl 2013-09-03 12:16 am (UTC)(link)
This is rather lovely. I love your Doctor dialog. It feels just about pitch-perfect.
ladymercury_10: (Default)

[personal profile] ladymercury_10 2013-09-03 12:39 am (UTC)(link)
This is a really lovely story. And yay, Rita!
radiolaires: (Child of the TARDIS)

[personal profile] radiolaires 2013-09-03 10:48 am (UTC)(link)
Absolutely brilliant, every line.
The description of the doctor entering Rita's mind and deconstructing her faith to save her had me transfixed. It was extremely interesting to approach this aspect of the Doctor's actions: it is necessary evil, still evil. The call-back to Donna was chilling.
The characterisation of both Rita and the Doctor is extraordinary, intense and alien for the Doctor, observant and edgy for Rita. This world-weary, time-worn, wrong-thinking old man, much closer to the classic doctors, is so well described in here. I adored your portrayal of Rita and it pains me even more not to have seen her enrolled as a companion. She's clever, blunt, still afraid and clearly shaken by her experience. Her insight on alien body language was just spot-on. The whole paragraphs about faith and logic were perfect, so efficent; Amelia indeed did not lose her faith in him.
And your TARDIS' voice! So powerful and threatening, just like a sentient millenary old alien ship should be perceived by human minds!
The metaphors put down by Rita were wonderful, the bow-tie the free fall, and the net; fascinating and striking.
I also adored the crisp, to the point writing, seamless yet efficent. Great job!

Favourite lines: He didn't want saving. He only wanted someone to tell him that it would be okay when all of those logical arguments swirling in his mind told him otherwise. Really amazing. For all his love of human race and big speeches, the Doctor is faithless and it is terrifying. He needs the faith of others to carry on.
Edited 2013-09-03 10:48 (UTC)
clocketpatch: (Sherlock on a misson)

[personal profile] clocketpatch 2013-09-22 12:55 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for all of your brilliant reviews on everything (I'm sure you've made a lot of authors/artists/vidders very very happy, you've certainly made me happy). That last line you quoted is my personal favourite in the fic. It wasn't planned. It was an out of the blue revelation that ended up shaping the entire fic around itself.
flowsoffire: (Default)

[personal profile] flowsoffire 2013-09-08 12:59 pm (UTC)(link)
Rita! ♥ Oh, you handled her just perfectly. I loved the way you had the Doctor save her, your portrayal of it was very chilling in a way—just putting his fingers to her temples, a simple, gentle gesture, and yet it was all he needed to pull the faith from her—abruptly yanked away her foundations and left her floating in the dark. Oh, this was BEAUTIFUL. I loved the way you depicted her at the beginning, just watching the Doctor with Amy and Rory, seemingly so numb and lost. And yet it was double-edged, because although the whole world rushing around her felt unreal (all the lovely description, plus the detail of the wooden TARDIS, I loved that ♥), the scene because of her felt unreal and fake as well, but for a wholly other reason—the transition between lost!Rita and sharp, perceptive Rita was swift and smooth… Strong girl, still holding on to her sense of control, staying focused in a crisis, still seeing things and asking questions…
The Doctor's weariness was really well depicted, it was just so moving. I just loved Rita's uneasiness inside the TARDIS, and her comparing the gentle mental pull to the Doctor's intervention in her mind. Both came with good intentions.—I love you for that line. But Rita just wouldn't be intimidated, I loved the way she confronted the Doctor about the signs she'd recognized, her strength and concern. You dealt with that just amazingly—showing that she sensed the Doctor's alienness and power, and it made her uneasy, but in the dialogue it didn't show at all, she just kept it together, remained incredibly solid and didn't allow her uncertainty to show through. I loved the TARDIS communicating with her, and your pointing out that the gentle pressure didn't interfere with her free will at all—that once more, it was about belief, and about her. ♥ The Doctor's evoking his death was just wonderful. I especially loved his stating that his fall had already begun, and he would land soon, and also his mentioning the stages of grief and his going through them all. The bowtie vs. life parallel was hilariously fitting, Rita's comeback to that made me giggle—but it really was so much deeper than it first looked, really perfect, the present tying past and future together, and I loved the way Rita played along with the metaphor and kept arguing her point…
"I would apologize for that, in another life, I would have. But I am not sorry about the results." That line was so fitting and simply perfect, so in character. And I simply loved the moment in which Rita realized that she still believed, and felt sorry for the Doctor, because he didn't—and she watched him so hard, trying to put the puzzle together and yet thinking that she just couldn't know, alien as he was, what he truly was thinking… The contrast between his smile and the ruthless way he had choked and destroyed her faith to save her was also chilling and wonderful. Gah, so many great things to pick up on. Oh, like this one: The voice of the ship in Rita's mind said that he truly was pleased for her. But he wasn't fine. My heart is on overload. *flails for a little while*
The ending was just so massively emotional and yet so incredibly crystal-clear, very moment, every part fitting perfectly and falling into place—Rita crying without knowing why, the Doctor making her touch his bowtie, the TARDIS asking who she was, all her thoughts and her words to the Doctor about faith. ♥♥♥♥♥ Their goodbye was so sober and yet so powerful. I just loved the way Rita crumbled a little again as she went home, echoing the beginning of the fic, and yet she wasn't really falling apart, just processing it all, and she had her faith to hold her hand. The text as a closure was just such a freaking AMAZING idea I can't even find words for how good it was oh my god :D Basically your Rita is amazing and whoever you are, you're just really really good.
clocketpatch: A small, innocent-looking red alarm clock, stuck forever at 10 to 7. (Ten CSI Gallifrey)

[personal profile] clocketpatch 2013-09-22 01:00 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for this beautiful and thoughtful review!

The text... I was actually trying to figure out for a long time why Rita hadn't washed her scrubs between the adventure and going to work several days later, but I couldn't figure out a way to show her doing that and keep the flow of the story so I just hoped no one would notice...

Originally, I had ambitious plans to write out several of Rita's further adventures with Eleven and the text was going to be a bridge to that. Never happened due to time/work/plotbunnies etc. But the imagined adventures are probably better anyway.
honeynoir: (Default)

[personal profile] honeynoir 2013-09-15 05:32 pm (UTC)(link)
This is so, so, so perfect! I love your Rita voice, and the details (40 p for the taxi! Rory can give you a ride!) and how her intelligence shines through everything -- and that way she and the Doctor bounces off one another, all clever and fun and I-see-through-you, and how she's nursing and thinking about faith and... I can't even articulate how much I love this, but it is lots.

Total head-canon.
clocketpatch: A small, innocent-looking red alarm clock, stuck forever at 10 to 7. (Default)

[personal profile] clocketpatch 2013-09-22 01:02 am (UTC)(link)
I definitely had a long tangent of researching bus fares and UK currency... Rita is just a fascinating character and it was great to be able to write and tap into that no-nonsense, analytical attitude. Thank you for the review. I'm really glad you enjoyed!
such_heights: amy and rory looking at a pile of post (who: amy [wee amelia])

[personal profile] such_heights 2013-09-16 01:24 pm (UTC)(link)
I've read this a few times now, and it's really wonderful. Such a great voice for Rita, and it breaks my heart a bit then puts it back together.
a_phoenixdragon: (Eleven - Don't Blink)

[personal profile] a_phoenixdragon 2013-09-20 12:37 am (UTC)(link)
OMG...this is utterly perfect!! This is what I wanted so, so badly to happen. And it was perfection and I am crying...thank you.

lovelythings: closeups on the hands of two people holding journals (and I have written this)

[personal profile] lovelythings 2013-09-27 02:32 am (UTC)(link)
This was perfectly lovely and I wish it had happened ♥
tieleen: (Default)

[personal profile] tieleen 2013-12-08 08:45 am (UTC)(link)
This was really lovely. Wonderful look at her character.