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Fic: The Flower Tender 4/6

Title The flower tender 4/6
Fandom Doctor Who (EDA)
Chapters One - two - three - four - five - six
Pairing Doctor/Fitz, some one-sided Sam/Doctor, mentions of Doctor/Turlough and Doctor/Grace.
Beta thought_goddess
Words of chapter 3815
Words of entire fic approx. 30 000.
Rating/warnings R. Sexual situations, mental illness, some mentions of substance abuse, people having Victorian morals.
Spoilers The Blue Angel (simply because of the existence of Obverse), small ones from Unnatural History/the Dark Sam arc and The Taint (but nothing you probably wouldn’t know anyway).
Disclaimer I don’t own anything but the clothes on my back.
Summary A beautiful madman, who talks of begonias and mermaids. A girl who is not
a tenant or a maid or a companion, perhaps not even the pious rescue worker she seems to be. Fitz Kreiner, who leaves his rooms in the semislum of Hoxton to join the eccentric household, entering into a world which challenge the very values of the time.


It had been a process in the making, he realised, one which had started the very first time they had met. He spent the following days trying to figure it out. He had not known that it was possible to be in love with another man. There were sodomites who wanted to sleep with other men, of course, but he had never considered that they might fall in love. He tried to instill some form of shame in himself, but he could not convince himself of it. However he thought about it he could not equate what he felt for the Doctor with some sordid transaction in a back-alley. He did not claim (to himself, for he naturally did not mention it to anyone) that this was some purer form of love than that; he could not deny that he desired his body, but at present, all he cared about was to have the Doctor back safely from the place where he was being kept. All his imaginings of things he wanted to do or have done to him were abstracted, shrouded in the shadows which the Doctor’s madness cast. I’ll use this love, Fitz decided. I’ll help him get better through it. So when he left Hoxton market for the asylum a few days later, it was with a spring in his step.

No one stopped him as he walked towards the ward, and when he passed a nurse, she bobbed a courtesy and smiled. For a moment he thought there was something pitying in her gaze, but he brushed it aside. He started looking around for the Doctor’s bed, but could not see it at first, Then he realised that one bed was almost entirely hidden by screens. Stopping to look around, he saw no nurses or doctors, and being certain that none of the inmates would object, he approached to where two of the screens had been separated to form a doorway.

Inside, a swarm of white coats over dark suits surrounded the bed. He could see the outline of the patient, but the view of his upper body was blocked by a man leaning over it. A dozen young men stood by the bedside, attentively listening to their teacher. The silver-white hair made him instantly recognisable.

Fitz cleared his throat, and Doctor Smith looked up at him. The students also turned, alarmed at the intrusion. The visitor paid no heed to them, but only looked at their patient. His head was slumped to one side, his face relaxed in sleep or unconsciousness. They had unbuttoned his night-shirt to expose his chest, which shone white even against the sheets. Fitz’s stomach contracted when he realised that the physician was showing him to these medical students because of his two hearts. The Doctor was still being exhibited, not as a mysterious baby angel without a navel, but as a freakish madman who had no choice. It sickened him to see his beautiful friend laid bare like this, as if awaiting an untimely dissection.

The Doctor’s doctor had left his place by the bedside and crossed to him.

‘Gentlemen, this is Mister Kreiner - Mister Smith’s tenant,’ he announced, and the medics nodded, seemingly embarrassed. He then turned to him and said sotto voce: ‘Would you be so good as to explain your presence, Mister Kreiner?’

‘I wanted to see the Doctor,’ he explained. ‘What’s going on?’ Doctor Smith did not answer, and Fitz looked from him to the medics to the Doctor. ‘You’re using him as your prime showpiece,’ he concluded. Doctor Smith’s jaw tightened.

‘Mister Kreiner, this is an unprecedented case...’

‘He’s a human being!’ Fitz shouted, and the ward echoed his words. The ringing silence which followed was only broken by the sound of breathing. ‘You’re using him as a specimen,’ he said at last.

‘Mister Kreiner,’ the Doctor’s doctor said, his face tightening yet more ‘To me, any living or dead human being is a specimen. The medical eye does not allow a difference.’ They stared at each other, and Fitz felt almost sick with hatred. At last he looked away and watched the Doctor instead, still limp and pale.

‘Tell me how he is,’ he said quietly. ‘Will he be alright?’

‘Time will tell,’ the man answered.

‘Time...’ Fitz looked around, bewildered, and was surprised to realise that it was the Doctor who had spoken. Now he opened his eyes and, even if he stayed still, the corners of his mouth twitched, as if he was attempting to smile. ‘Fitz,’ he whispered. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘Why?’ he asked, ignoring the physician’s angry glance as he went to the bedside to take his hand. The eyes which met his were cloudy, and did not seem to focus on him.

‘For leaving you. For doing what I did - for remaking you like that. I should never have let them take you... You mustn’t know... what happened...’ He seemed to lose consciousness again. The medical students watched the patient and the tenant, seemingly bewildered.

‘This is one of Mister Smith’s delusions,’ the Doctor’s doctor announced. He was back in the role of a lecturer. ‘He often speaks of different dangerous scenarios involving himself as a kind of hero, where people around him either help him or need saving. It is not an uncommon trait in particularly helpless lunatics, that they style themselves in their minds as the antithesis of their actual forms. While Mister Smith himself is a typical idler, having no proper education, no employment and no achievements, the man he imagines himself to be - whom he calls “the Doctor”, a name he insists on using for himself - is an adventurer, a Childe Harold. Or perhaps rather a Don Quixote.’ The medical students laughed. ‘Of course, giving into the wishes of a lunatic will simply encourage such delusions. It might even drive one mad oneself.’ The Doctor’s doctor glanced at Fitz, and he glared back.

‘I’ll see myself out,’ Fitz muttered and turned. He could not bear so many men who thought they were superior speaking like that of the Doctor and of himself. He understood that staying would do little good; they would tell him nothing more of the Doctor’s state, and he thought that there was the risk that he would simply strike the man if he did not leave.

When he came back to the house, he heard the sound of someone playing the untuned piano, a key at a time without a melody. When he entered the living room, Samantha stood and turned to him.

‘How was he?’ Fitz sighed, sat down on the stool and started to hammer out a song his mother had once used to sing. The sound of the music was harsh and grating, without any of the tenderness which she had sung it with.

'That doctor of his is an idiot,’ he said finally, starting from the beginning. He was hitting the keys so hard that he thought that there was a risk that he hurt the strings inside. ‘He was showing him up like some pickled animal in a jar - kept talking about what a shirker he was.’ He missed a key and instead of continuing, slammed down both his hands so that high and low notes joined in a mighty cacophony of sound. Then slowly he lightened his grip and let it dwindle, leaning his head against the body of the piano. The Doctor’s sickly appearance had come back to him, and he closed his eyes shut, hoping it would quench the picture. It did not.

‘Fitz?’ Samantha approached again. Fitz did not move; he thought that he would start crying if he tried to speak. At last the feeling passed and he straightened up to face her.

‘He hates us both, you know,’ he said. ‘Doctor Smith, I mean. He seems to think that I’m going to go mad as well, and I don’t know what he implied about you.’

‘I think I can guess,’ Samantha said and hung her head. ‘How was he?’

‘Worse, I think.’

‘Have they put him back in the cell?’ she asked tearfully. He shook his head.

‘No - it’s his heart condition or something. He didn’t tell me anything, but... he seemed worse.’ She sunk down onto a nearby chair, and he turned to face her. ‘I’ve never seen him so pale...’

‘Will he be alright?’ she asked, desperation straining her voice. ‘Fitz... Will he live?’

‘I hope so,’ Fitz said, because that was all he could say. They had not told him enough to let him know if there was a risk that he would not. All he wanted was to get the Doctor away from that place, because now he realised that Samantha was right that it probably did him no good. ‘We’ll get him out of there,’ he promised. Samantha looked away and admitted:

‘I don’t know what I’d do,’ she said, not daring to give a protasis. Me neither, Fitz thought, but simply pressed her hand in consolation.

***

The following week they did not hear anything from the asylum until Sunday, when there was a knock on the door. When Fitz opened it, he found a boy, his cap at an angle, outside.

‘Telegram for ya, guvner,’ he said and waved a little envelope. Fitz thrust his hands in his pocket and found sixpence, which he exchanged for the telegram. The boy gave him a lazy kind of salute, but Fitz was already ripping open the envelope and shouting:

‘Samantha! Samantha!’ He fell silent as he eyed through the telegram and felt his heart-rate speed up.

‘What is it?’ Samantha answered from upstairs and then appeared at the landing, her best dress on. ‘I’m late for church.’

‘There’s a telegram,’ he explained and brandished it. Her disapproving face fell and she rushed down the stairs.

‘What does it say?’

‘Listen,’ he urged and started reading it. ‘“Come as soon as convenient”...’

‘What’s happened?’ she said, suddenly shock-white.

‘Wait and listen,’ Fitz told her. ‘“Come as soon as convenient - stop - patient to be discharged today - end.”’ He watched how the words sunk in and delight overtook her face.

‘He’s coming home?’ she asked, eyes growing.

‘Yes!’ Fitz exclaimed and they both laughed. He picked her up and swung her around, and she laughed, neither of them bothered by the familiarity of the action. When he let her down, he said: ‘Come on, let’s go and get him now at once.’

‘After church,’ she said and took her bonnet from the table.

‘Samantha...’ he said, but she turned and gave him a meaningful look.

‘My prayers have been answered,’ she said solemnly. ‘I must give thanks.’ She smiled at him. ‘Don’t go without me. The doctors do let me come there when they’re discharging him, after all, and I want to be there.’

‘Of course,’ he said and watched her leave. He had to stop himself from running out of the door and break his promise as soon as the door closed behind her. It felt like his heart leapt so violently that it made him move. Finally, the Doctor (because that was his name - he would not call him by a sobriquet forced upon him by some physician) was coming home. Life was returning to the house.

***

Fitz was glad that Samantha had not forced him into attending church with her today, but waiting at home was probably equally daunting. He wandered around the house and attempted to keep himself occupied. He tried finding something to tidy, but Samantha had meticulously gone over every window-sill and book-shelf, every mantlepiece and table. In the end he ascended and went into the Doctor’s room. He had hoped to be able to make the bed, but once again Samantha had been before him; now he remembered that she had bustled around with sheets and pillows the same day the Doctor had been committed, as if expecting him to come back that very evening. The bed was carefully made, but the flowers on the bedside table were dead and dry. Fitz threw them out and decided not to replace them. The Doctor’s simile of him as a flower came back to him, and he thought that perhaps cut flowers would upset him. He folded and refolded the blanket at the foot of the bed and then sat down in the armchair which he had slept in almost a month ago when the Doctor had fallen ill. A sudden fear grasped him. What if the people at the asylum were simply sick of the Doctor - perhaps even of Fitz - and in order to get rid of him were discharging him? Perhaps he was not well at all. Much as he disliked the Doctor’s doctor, Fitz knew that he was the only person willing to treat his friend. He hoped that he had not made enemies with him, because perhaps (and saying “perhaps” felt a little too optimistic) they would need his help again. Still, he could not imagine that he would release a patient who was in any danger. He closed his eyes and willed himself to have a little faith, if not in God then in the medical profession, and if that did not work, perhaps he could have faith in the Doctor.

He heard the door open from downstairs and went down to meet Samantha. He had hoped simply to grab his coat and best hat and leave, but she shook her head.

‘We need to bring clothes for him,’ she exclaimed. ‘And shoes, for that matter, although he might not want to wear them.’ So he waited while she went upstairs and packed clothes for their homecoming landlord. When they left she had a bag in her hand and carried the Doctor’s bottle-green coat over the arm which she did not have around Fitz’s. They took the omnibus and walked the last bit. Unlike what Fitz had done the time before, they approached the nurse in the reception, who recognised Samantha and smiled reservedly at her.

‘He’s in the garden, with Doctor Smith,’ she explained. ‘I’ll take you.’ As if on cue, another nurse stepped forward and took her place as she left it and showed them out of the large house again. They passed onto the grass close to where the Doctor and Samantha had been sitting the first time he had met them together and continued around the building. There were many nurses out walking with patients who were well enough to be outside. Some even played a game of croquet, and it was close to this congregation the Doctor sat in a whicker-chair, dressed in the unbecoming light regulation clothes of the asylum. The sun fell on his head and made his locks glow, and suddenly his laugh rung over the lawn. Fitz’s stomach gave a half-pleasant, half-terrifying jolt, but before he had time to do anything, Samantha had let go of his arm and with a shout - ‘Doctor!’ - she ran over the lawn. As she ran right through the croquet pitch and towards him, the Doctor rose, so astonished that he knocked his chair over, and caught her in his arms. Fitz and the nurse followed after at a slower pace.

‘She is a rather excitable girl,’ the nurse commented ruefully.

‘She hasn’t seen him for a month,’ Fitz answered, wondering why everyone in the asylum were so ready to pass judgement over Samantha, even this nurse, who was not many years older. Then when he looked towards her and the Doctor, he understood why it was thought odd. Where they stood with their hands clutching and their eyes shining, they looked more like a courting couple rather than master and maid. Then the Doctor looked up and caught sight of him. He dropped Samantha’s hands and walked towards him; it looked like he wanted to run, but did not have the strength.

‘Fitz!’ he exclaimed as he drew nearer and quickened his step a little. ‘Then it’s really true!’ He laughed and flung himself on him, wrapping his arms around his neck. Fitz felt a brief sense of completeness as the Doctor clung to him and he wrapped his arms around his painfully thin body. When the Doctor drew back, he felt a pang of disappointment, only stilled by how his eyes, which seemed overly bright, met his. ‘You’re taking me home.’

‘Yes,’ Fitz said and laughed, realising it properly for the first time. ‘Yes, we really are.’ The Doctor smiled back.

‘I knew that this exile wouldn’t last,’ he said. There were footsteps, and Fitz noticed Samantha at the Doctor’s side. He was acutely aware of how the Doctor’s gaze did not leave him, as if he did not notice her. Guiltily, Fitz flicked his eyes her way, just long enough to notice the vague look of disappointment in her face.

Doctor Smith approached and greeted them both. Fitz had expected him to be quite curt with him, but he was quite pleasant, perhaps pretending that their last encounter had not happened.

‘We’re so glad he’s coming back to us, sir,’ Samantha said to him.

‘I’m sure you are, Miss Jones,’ the Doctor’s doctor answered and inclined his head. ‘I understand that you have brought him clothes? Nurse Grant will help you. Mister Kreiner, if I might have a word...’ The nurse prompted the Doctor with a light hand on his arm, and she and Samantha lead him towards the house again. Doctor Smith turned the other way, followed by Fitz. They walked in silence for a while, then Fitz asked:

‘Is he well enough to go home?’

‘Yes, I think he is,’ the Doctor’s doctor answered. ‘For the time being, at least, but that is all we can strive for in cases such as this one. He will need to be taken care of when he comes home - it can be agitating to be suddenly thrown into something so different from this environment.’ Different in all the right ways, Fitz thought. ‘If he grows too agitated, give him a few drops of laudanum. Mix it in some tea - he tends not to want to take it.’

‘So we trick him?’ Fitz asked.

‘It is not a question of morality, Mister Kreiner,’ the Doctor’s doctor reminded him. ‘It is a charitable act. Now, if he seems unwell in any way or if there seems to be an episode on its way, do not hesitate to send a telegram or bring him here. It is, of course, for his own good.’ He turned and looked at him. ‘Was there anything else?’

‘No. Thank you,’ he added. The Doctor’s doctor looked at him with a knowing smile.

‘I tend not to be particularly popular with the relatives of my patients, Mister Kreiner,’ he said, ‘or their friends, for that matter. But as you see, the treatment we give helps.’

‘Yes,’ Fitz conceded and could not help but sigh.

‘It will not be the last we see of each other, or the last the Doctor will see of this asylum,’ the man continued. ‘There is no cure for his condition. All I hope is that the people around him are good and decent, because that will ease his suffering.’

‘Of course,’ Fitz said emphatically, secretly happy that he understood. Then a sudden thought struck him, and he smiled at it. The physician arched a questioning eyebrow. ‘Have you ever thought of that the Doctor’s given surname is Smith, and you’re Doctor Smith?’

‘It had crossed my mind,’ the Doctor’s doctor said, his tone reserved. ‘Now, shall we see if we can find your friend?’ There was something odd with the way he stressed that last word, and Fitz wondered if his attachment to the Doctor was that obvious. Or was it something the Doctor had said? As they returned to the building, he wondered what the Doctor might have said in his delirium, and if what he had said was affectionate at all. He suddenly remembered in terrifying vividness how the Doctor had kissed his cheek in Hyde Park when he had said he would come live with them. Don’t dwell on it, he told himself. Better not contemplate it. He needed to be pragmatic and protective now. Samantha was impulsive and emotional for both of them.

But still, when the Doctor stepped out into the sunlight, he felt his heart swell with joy. The disease had marked him, hollowing out his cheeks and deepening the lines by his mouth, but he was once again dressed in velvet and satin, which made his hair not look like the unkempt mane of a madman but the neat curls of a dandy. They added something youthful, almost effeminate to his face, which became only more accented by his thin hands which he moved as part of a conscious mannerism. The first time Fitz had met the Doctor, what had struck him most of all was the odd way he transcended male and female. Now he thought it might be a trait which was particularly obvious when he was recovering for an episode, because he thought he saw the same now. Once someone - a neighbour, he thought, trying to vainly comfort him about his ill mother - had told him that in olden days, people had imagined that the mad were actually divinely inspired, and had a special link with God. Fitz did not think that the Doctor had any particular standing with any divinity, but he did straddle what was male and what was female, what was man and what was animal, what was human and what was a strange otherness. When he stood there on the asylum steps and took hold of Fitz’s arm, giving him a look of silent thanks, he seemed unbound by both the world which had banished him from its midst and the world he had been sent into. He was an exile into reality, cast out of a dreamworld where he belonged, which perhaps had never existed. Even if his wrists still bore angry bruises from the restraints, the bruises were evidence that he had been let lose. They were standing close (far too close), and even if Samantha was standing right beside them, impatient to go or at least to be noticed, he very nearly kissed the Doctor. It felt like he stopped himself in the very last moment possible, and simply covered the Doctor’s hand with his own. The Doctor sat next to Samantha in the cab home, his head leaning against hers and their hands clasped, but his eyes did not leave Fitz. The ride home was excruciating, because he wanted but could not reach out and touch him. At least there was some comfort in that he felt that if he tried to draw near, the Doctor would not push him back.

Next chapter

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
funtimevash
Jun. 21st, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
As always, I find this fic absolutely lovely and fascinating. You've done such a great job with this, and the poor Doctor and Fitz are so tragic together! I want to give them both super big hugs. And then make them kiss, hee hee hee...

I've actually just started a Victorian London fic myself called The Curious Case of the Monster of the Thames, with Eleven, River, Fitz, Jack, and Vastra and Jenny. It's part of my Fitzverse series but written as a standalone. If you like historicals, you might want to check it out.
apolesen
Jun. 21st, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
Glad you're enjoying it!

I'm going to read through every single of your fics when I get hope from uni, cross my heart. I'm thrilled at all that Fitz fic! So fear not, it will be read.
funtimevash
Jun. 21st, 2011 06:25 pm (UTC)
I'm rather thrilled at your lovely fic myself. The interwebs need more Fitz! (^_~)
ctquill
Jun. 24th, 2011 05:33 am (UTC)
I'm really enjoying this. I think it can be difficult to transpose characters into a different time period and keep them in character, so well done on that. I'm looking forward to the rest of the story, and also quite sad that there are only two more chapters!
apolesen
Jun. 24th, 2011 08:29 am (UTC)
Thank you! :D
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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