Moving Forward by LN29
Summary: The Doctor and Rose are thrown into the midst of a planetary conflict. But they soon discover the personal stakes are much higher, as a nightmare from the past rears its head again. Sequel to "Step by Step."
Categories: Tenth Doctor
Characters: Other Character(s), Rose Tyler, The Doctor (10th), The TARDIS
Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Character Study, Drama, Fluff, Het, Humor, Hurt/Comfort, Introspection, Mystery, Romance
Series: Step by Step
Chapter 1: Prologue
Chapter 2: Chapter 1: Underground
Chapter 3: Chapter 2: Frax
Chapter 4: Chapter 3: Lies
Chapter 5: Chapter 4: Scavenging
Chapter 6: Chapter 5: Dennel
Chapter 7: Chapter 6: Captive
Chapter 8: Chapter 7: Pursuit
Chapter 9: Chapter 8: Questions
Chapter 10: Chapter 9: Reflection
Chapter 11: Chapter 10: Perception
Chapter 12: Chapter 11: Enemy
Chapter 13: Chapter 12: Nightfall
Chapter 14: Chapter 13: Never
Chapter 15: Chapter 14: Ambush
Chapter 16: Chapter 15: Trap
Chapter 17: Chapter 16: Broadcast
Chapter 18: Chapter 17: Declaration
Chapter 19: Chapter 18: Knowing
Chapter 20: Chapter 19: Sacrifice
Chapter 21: Chapter 20: Surrender
Chapter 22: Chapter 21: Immolation
Chapter 23: Epilogue
Chapter 1: Prologue
Author's Notes: Ok, so yes, I decided to make a sequel to "Step by Step," which required some rethinking of the plot on my part. Also, it might be a few days before there are a lot of updates, depending on how much I can get written. (Risky business, posting these stories before I'm finished...)
So, this story is a bit more plot driven than "Step by Step," which was all about the aftermath, but there will still be plenty of angst, suffering, and introspection...just the way we like it!
OPEN BROADCAST TO ALL PARTIES:
It is my deepest regret to inform you that the Time Lord has once again escaped and is loose among the cosmos.
However, despite the disastrous nature of the most recent attempt, several key facts have been obtained which will aid in his capture. We have now confirmed what others have only suspected: the Doctor is as vulnerable as any other humanoid. Despite his superior strength, stamina, and regenerative abilities, he is as easily injured as any other living thing. His regenerative abilities can be circumvented with the application of certain chemicals, which inhibit full body regeneration, and there are limits to the severity of injuries that he can heal. It IS possible to physically restrain him, and he is particularly vulnerable to his emotional attachment to his companions.
For those of you requiring a refresher, or who are receiving this message for the first time, here is a summation of the situation as it currently stands:
The legends are true. The rumors are based in fact. One Time Lord remains alive, and it is not through any innocence on his part. Quite the contrary.
This Time Lord is known as “the Doctor.” His true name is unknown, but he has also been known to go by aliases such as “Theta Sigma” and “John Smith.” He has also been known as “Ka Faraq Gatri,” or “The Bringer of Darkness,” “The Destroyer of Worlds.” For any who have felt his influence, they will know the accuracy of these epithets.
He is a killer, unashamedly so. He has repeatedly demonstrated full knowledge of the actions he has taken, yet shows no signs of remorse or changing his ways. He travels through time and space on a whim, interfering as he sees fit, leaving chaos and murder in his wake before proceeding onward, heedless of the destruction he leaves behind.
The exact number of lives he has taken is impossible to measure, but is estimated in the hundreds of billions. He is single-handedly responsible for the genocide of numerous species, and billions of casualties in the Great War. My own people were just one of his conquests. Collateral damage, they were considered, in a war we never asked to fight. Three billion lives…merely collateral damage to the Doctor.
He must be stopped.
He is dangerous, this much is clear. He is cunning, and nearly impossible to catch, for he never remains in one place long enough to be detected. However, he is not a phantom, and we have already demonstrated that it is possible to locate, catch, and contain him. Unfortunately, so far, he has managed to escape every time.
As a Time Lord, he is capable of full-body regeneration, but his current appearance is that of a humanoid adult male. Thin, brown hair, ancient eyes. He travels in a TARDIS. The last living TARDIS, which is fused in the guise of a blue police telephone box from Earth. He is usually in the company of a human female, currently a young woman called “Rose Tyler.” Not much of a description to go on, admittedly, but the Doctor possesses a binary cardiovascular system, and respiratory bypass, which distinguishes him from the humans he so loves to emulate. Additionally, simple scans will reveal temporal energy present in the body of either individual, indicative of time travel.
Do NOT underestimate the human girl. Those who last made that error are now awaiting certain death at the hands of the Shadow Proclamation. Despite the limited intellect and frail physiology of human beings, exposure to the Doctor’s influence has evidently led to the development of unexpected skills, and she wholeheartedly believes in the Doctor’s innocence. We believe that she is an unwitting accomplice, and if possible, she should not be harmed. However, she has proven dangerous in her own way, and could prove an obstacle in capturing the Doctor. Also, it has been shown that the Doctor has an unnatural attachment to her, and this can prove very useful against him.
And on the subject of underestimation: DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THIS TIME LORD. By all appearances, he appears harmless, even kind, but never forget that this is the slaughterer of more species than you can count. He is fast, cunning, and beyond brilliant. He can be restrained easily enough, but do not engage him in conversation. He can twist any words around, and he can talk his way out of almost any situation. He must be confined, with no opportunity for negotiation or escape, until such time as I can arrive to deal with him.
It is unknown where he will appear next. He comes and goes when he pleases, but the farther we spread our nets, the more likely he is to fall into them.
He must be stopped. He must be captured at all costs. His last escape has proven extremely vexing for me, and I am not in a mood to be vexed. Capture him, the girl, or his ship, and you will be rewarded. Provide me with any information leading to his capture, and you will be rewarded. Harbor him in any way, conceal information from me in any way, and I can assure you, you will regret it. You know I do not jest.
Contact me with any news. Any news at all. Use utmost caution, but find him.
Find the Doctor.
Over and out.
Back to index
Chapter 2: Chapter 1: Underground
Author's Notes: I've firmed up the timelines for this series. "Step by Step" takes place after The Idiot's Lantern, but before The Impossible Planet. This adds a little extra meaning behind the Doctor's declaration that if he believes in one thing, he believes in Rose. Because during the ordeal in "Step by Step," she became his tether to reality, the one thing that could convince him that this, now, was real.
This story takes place a few weeks after The Satan Pit.
The baby squirmed in his arms, and the Doctor shifted his grip, hoping against hope that he wouldn’t drop it. He’d moved off to the side, seating himself against a wall, the better to maintain a grip on the baby, and also to lessen the distance between said infant and the ground, should he fail to hold onto it.
He sighed, settling himself more comfortably against the wall, and tried to figure out how in the world they’d ended up here, on babysitting duty, somewhere underground, with no clear idea what was going on or where they were.
All right, to be fair, setting the controls to random probably hadn’t been the wisest choice, but it wasn’t as if he and Rose had never done it before. Granted, they usually wound up neck deep in some sort of trouble, but still…how was he to have known?
He glanced across the bunker, spotting Rose right away, helping to pass out supplies. A toddler was resting comfortably on her hip, and another child was clinging to her leg, making it very difficult for her to move. But she only smiled and patted the boy’s head, catching the Doctor’s eye as she did so, and smiling even wider. He couldn’t help but smile in response.
She looked right at home among these people, in this situation they’d been thrust into, and despite her continual claims that she did not really like children, she seemed a natural with them. In any case, she got along with the adults better than he did, and as such, he deemed it prudent to keep back for the time being, until things calmed down and he could figure out what was going on.
“So,” he said, glancing down at the wriggling bundle of humanity currently nestled in his arms. It’d been a long time since he’d held a baby, and he hoped he didn’t look as awkward as he felt. He probably did. “Don’t think we’ve been properly introduced. I’m the Doctor. Nice to meet you.”
The baby blinked up at him and whimpered, and he tried to settle it more comfortably.
“You look about as comfortable as I feel,” he remarked.
The baby wrinkled up its face, and the Doctor recognized that look well enough. That was a look you never forgot, nor did you ever forget what inevitably followed after that look. He was hoping to avoid that part.
“Hey, hey,” he soothed, holding it closer to him, trying to remember if rocking was supposed to help or annoy the baby. It depended on the species. “Shhhh…it’s okay.”
He wished someone else had been able to take the baby. Someone who was better with infants, someone who knew this child. But the few adults in the bunker all had their hands full with the children, and the Doctor knew that if he wanted to be helpful, this was the way to do it. These people were being kind enough to allow them shelter tonight, and the least he could do was to try and ease their obvious burden as best he could.
He wished he knew the baby’s name. Just referring to it as an ‘it’ didn’t feel very amicable, but he wasn’t exactly presented with any other options.
“It’s okay,” he whispered.
The baby whimpered, catching hold of his tie it its surprisingly strong grip, and maneuvering it up to its mouth.
“Hey!” he protested, extracting the tie, and its face crumpled again. “I'm sorry. But you’re not supposed to eat ties,” he informed it. The baby reached out and caught hold of his finger instead.
The Doctor glanced down at the tiny fingers wrapped around his own, and couldn’t help but marvel at it. This tiny bundle was a person…a small, helpless, perfect person. With the potential to be anybody. Those tiny hands, already perfectly formed, would one day be as big as the ones that held it. Would one day be the hands that held children of its own…it was a miracle, and no matter how many times the Doctor was confronted with it, he couldn’t help but be amazed.
The child’s timelines were as tangled as anybody’s, and the Doctor couldn’t know its future if he wanted to, but there was still something thrilling about the sight of so many potentials. At this moment, this child could be anyone, and thousands of potential futures stretched before it, more than the Doctor could count.
He couldn’t help but wonder where this child’s parents were. Where any of these children’s parents were. There were fourteen people in the bunker, counting himself and Rose. Of those people, only four others were adults. The rest were children, ranging from teenagers all the way to the baby he’d been handed when they’d been brought in here. All thin, and pale, clearly spending most of their time here, underground. All of them dressed in threadbare clothes, and sleeping on blankets spread out on the stone floor. The bunker was comfortable enough, but it was no place for children.
Still…given what he’d seen aboveground, it was safer than out in the open.
He and Rose hadn’t been out of the TARDIS for more than five minutes before they’d been yanked off the street.
“Are you insane?” a voice had hissed. In the dim light (they’d materialized at night), he’d been able to make out the form of a young woman. “Get off the streets!”
At that moment, gunfire had erupted in the distance, and the Doctor had pulled Rose to the ground, shielding her with his own body. The girl dropped instinctively, drawing a weapon of her own, and the Doctor had been distressed to see how comfortable she seemed with it, considering how young she appeared. She couldn’t be older than Rose.
The gunfire didn’t get any closer, but the girl had looked from the Doctor to Rose.
“You can’t stay out here,” she’d said. “Follow me.”
The Doctor quickly decided it would be prudent to do so, and the two of them followed the girl through the dark alleyways. Once more, gunfire had erupted, but it was far away, and the girl hadn’t even flinched.
The Doctor had soon lost track of the twists and turns they took, which could prove problematic in reaching the TARDIS again, though he knew that in the end, he’d always find her. Eventually, they arrived at an abandoned house. In the basement of this house was a tunnel, and the tunnel had led to this bunker.
The Doctor sighed, looking around, wondering what in the world he’d gotten them into this time. Rose was rolling with the punches, as always, but even she had to be wondering what was happening. Still, there was nothing to be done about it at the moment. Right now, he had a job to do.
“You really should be sleeping,” he informed the baby, who stared back at him with startlingly big eyes. It was beginning to get that glazed look infants got when they were about to fall asleep, but it was fighting valiantly to stay awake. “Really,” he whispered. Looking around the room, he could see that many of the younger children were beginning to drop off as well. “Otherwise you’re going to be cranky in the morning, and everyone will blame me.”
The people in the bunker had greeted them with understandable suspicion, considering the world that they appeared to inhabit, but the girl who’d brought them had spoken up in their defense, though she seemed as inconvenienced by the whole thing as the others.
“What was I going to do?” she demanded. “Leave them out there where the patrols could find them?”
“But can we take two more people?” one of the men had demanded.
“We don’t need anything,” the Doctor had put in. “You don’t even have to feed us.” He’d noticed the bag that their rescuer was carrying, and suspected that it contained supplies, though it didn’t look like nearly enough to feed this many people. They didn't need two more mouths to feed.
With this revelation, the people had accepted their presence. They weren’t the enemy, that much was clear. Who the enemy was, the Doctor wasn’t sure, but he suspected it had something to do with the ‘patrols’ their rescuer had mentioned.
He settled the baby into a more comfortable position, and began to sing a Gallifreyan lullaby he remembered from his childhood. He hadn’t thought of it in centuries, but the words came back to him as easily as if he’d just heard them yesterday, and he softly sang the words of his home planet. He kept his voice low, not wanting to attract any unwanted attention with the foreign language, but the baby could hear him clearly, and soon reacted to the soothing melody, and dropped off to sleep.
“Nice song,” a voice next to him said, and if he hadn’t been holding the baby, he would have jumped. As it was, he turned quickly to see the girl who’d brought them here had seated herself on the floor next to him. She scrutinized him. “Really. It was nice.”
“Thanks,” he said, a little sheepishly. If he’d known someone was listening, he wouldn’t have sung it.
“What language was that?” she asked, and he detected the slightest hint of suspicion in her tone. This was a girl who had learned the hard way not to trust anyone. “I’ve never heard it before.
“No, you wouldn’t have,” he agreed. “It’s my native language.”
“Oh,” she said, and continued to study him.
He studied her in return. She was young, he could clearly see that. Definitely not older than Rose, but her eyes held hard-earned wisdom beyond her years. She’d been forced to grow up quickly, for some reason. Like all of the people he’d seen so far, she was thin and wiry, and she never fully let her guard down. She was used to defending herself.
“What’s your name?” he asked. In all the chaos, they’d never actually been introduced.
“Mishell,” she said. “You?”
“The Doctor,” he said.
“Don’t have much need for a Doctor right now.”
“Not…not that sort of Doctor. It’s just my name.”
There was an awkward silence.
“Thank you,” the Doctor said. “For bringing us here.”
“Couldn’t leave you out with the patrols,” she shrugged. “You’d have been dead before sunrise.”
“Patrols?” She stared at him.
“You really don’t have any idea what’s going on, do you?”
“I told you, we’re not from around here. We’re travelers.”
“Travelers?” She appeared to think about this. “Why in the world would you travel here, of all places?”
“It was…” he wasn’t sure how to phrase this. “Sort of a mistake.”
“Where are we?” he inquired.
“It’s a long story, and I don’t have time to tell it right now. We’ve got some things to take care of.” She made a move as though to get to her feet. “We’ll talk later.”
“Wait!” the Doctor stopped her. He looked down at the sleeping baby. “What’s its name?”
“Bran,” Mishell told him.
The Doctor decided not to mention that this was also a breakfast cereal.
“His parents are dead,” Mishell said shortly. “Or might as well be.” He’d suspected as much, but it still hurt to hear it. This child wasn’t even a year old, and already he was facing such hardship. It wasn’t fair. “Most of their parents are,” she added, gesturing around the room.
“What about yours?” he asked, before thinking.
She glared at him, and he saw her defenses immediately fly up. He recognized it, because he had the exact same reaction whenever someone asked him about his past.
“We’ll talk later,” she reiterated, and walked back over to the others.
Back to index
Chapter 3: Chapter 2: Frax
Author's Notes: So...um...about the Doctor being able to speak baby, we're either going to assume that he was just messing with people when he claimed that, or that it's a skill he acquired some time before becoming Eleven. In other words: SHOOT! I forgot about that! Oh well...can't be helped now...
Finally, the children dropped off to sleep, and Rose managed to disentangle herself from them.
“Thank you,” the older woman, who’d introduced herself as “Kaye,” said, smiling at Rose.
“No trouble,” Rose replied, though her aching arms protested otherwise. She’d forgotten how much children weighed.
Careful not to step on anyone, Rose made her way over to the corner where the Doctor had seated himself with his infant charge. She couldn’t hold back a grin as she took in the sight before her. The Doctor was, in all honesty, a fairly attractive man on a normal day, but any man holding a baby became about ten times as attractive.
He’d seated himself against the wall, cradling the baby against his chest. The child had snuggled down into his coat, one fist wrapped around the Doctor’s finger, and it looked as content as ever a baby did.
The Doctor looked up as Rose approached, and raised an eyebrow.
“What are you smirking at?” he demanded.
“You look very dad-like,” she complimented him. He rolled his eyes, looking down at the baby.
“You could have come and helped,” he complained, trying and completely failing to look annoyed.
“In case you didn’t notice, I had my hands full. And in any case, you appear to be doing fine on your own.”
She sat down next to him, and he turned so that he could better see her.
“So,” she said, keeping her voice low so as not to disturb the baby, “I think this might be a record.”
The Doctor contemplated this statement for a second before he realized what she was saying.
“Nah,” he shook his head. “Remember Scotland? Queen Victoria? Stepped right out of the TARDIS, and into the barrel of a gun. Now that’s a record.”
“True,” she agreed. All right, so maybe this wasn’t the fastest they’d ever gotten in trouble, but it certainly ranked in the top ten.
She wasn’t exactly sure what to say. She had no idea what was going on, except that these children were being hidden down here for a reason. She knew that there was some sort of curfew up on the surface, which explained why they’d been pulled off the streets. But beyond that, she was completely in the dark, and judging from the look in the Doctor’s eyes, he was too.
“So,” he said after a minute. “How are you liking the place so far?” She tried to stifle her laughter, and he grinned at her.
“The welcoming committee leaves a little to be desired,” she told him. “But can’t complain about the hospitality.”
“No,” he agreed, managing to keep a straight face. “Five star accomadations.”
“Absolutely,” she agreed.
She pulled her knees up to her chest, and looked over at the Doctor.
“But seriously, Doctor, do you have any idea what’s going on?”
She’d seen him talking to Mishell a little while ago. Maybe he’d found out a little more about where they were, or what was going on. That’ll teach us to set the controls to random, Rose thought, though in her heart she knew they never would stop adventuring like this. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to at least check what planet they were on…
“Not much,” he admitted. “Mishell said we’d talk later.”
“All right,” she agreed.
“Everything will be fine,” he told her, his eyes turning serious in a nanosecond, the way only the Doctor’s could.
“Whenever you say that, things go mad.”
“And yet we’re always fine,” the Doctor pointed out.
Rose contemplated arguing this point. Yes, they always came through in relatively one piece, but she knew for a fact that the Doctor wasn’t fine, and hadn’t been fine for a long time. Probably not since the War. Since his regeneration, he’d gotten better at hiding the pain, and she honestly believed that he did genuinely enjoy her company and their adventures together, but she wasn’t stupid. He’d lost more than she could ever dream of, and had been hurt more than she could ever hope to assuage. Still, she could only do her best, and try to be there for the Doctor, for whatever he needed. And he had seemed happier lately…
“Fair point,” was all she said.
She was thinking too much. It happened a lot lately. Ever since the incident several months ago, when Doctor had been captured and tortured for ten days. She still shuddered to think about it, and neither of them brought it up much. But something had changed in their relationship, and Rose was still trying to figure out what it was. She got the impression that he was doing the same.
She sighed, and the Doctor glanced at her.
“Penny for your thoughts?” he inquired. “Or any other galactic currency of equal value?”
“Just thinking,” she shrugged. “Nothing important.” He shot her a look that made her feel like he could see straight through her, but let it drop. She tried not to feel disappointed, and rested her head on his shoulder.
The other adults were sitting in a huddle at the other end of the bunker, and finally, the older man, whose name, Rose had been informed, was Paz, got to his feet and walked over to them. Rose sat up, and the Doctor shifted his weight, but didn’t move.
“I think it’s time we talked,” he said.
“Yeah,” the Doctor agreed. “But I’m a bit stuck at the moment.” He glanced down at the baby.
“I can take him,” Paz said, reaching out.
The Doctor actually hesitated a second before relinquishing the baby, which made Rose smile all over again.
Rose helped him to his feet, and he stretched his arms over his head.
“I’d forgotten how cramped you get after a while,” he said.
Rose contemplated asking him what experience he had with babies, but she was distracted a second later by the Doctor crossing to join the others. She followed close behind.
“Mishell says that you don’t know what’s happening?” Kaye asked. “Don’t know what’s going on up there?”
“How is that possible?” the younger man, who looked a little younger than the Doctor appeared to be, demanded. Of all of them, Rose got the impression, he trusted them the least.
“They’re offworlders,” Mishell said. “Came here by mistake.”
“Some mistake,” the young man, whose name, Rose had learned, was Dennel, snorted.
“What reason would they have to lie?” Kaye demanded.
“Maybe they work for them,” Dennel said.
“It is possible, I suppose…” Mishell said quietly.
“Excuse me,” the Doctor put in politely. “If I might speak up…work for who, exactly?”
Everyone fell silent and stared at them.
“Either they are some of the best actors I’ve ever seen,” Pax, who had returned from putting the baby down to sleep, said finally, “or they truly don’t know what’s going on.”
“We don’t,” Rose said. “Honest.”
“And,” the Doctor added, “if you honestly believed we worked for your enemies, would you really have let us in with the children?”
All four of them looked at each other, and Rose knew the Doctor had called their bluff. These people obviously cared about these children, and Rose knew that if there had been any true suspicion that she and the Doctor were dangerous, they never would have let them near the children, much less left the Doctor unsupervised with the baby.
“Can’t be too careful,” Dennel finally said, sounding slightly sullen, and Rose once again got the impression that he still wasn’t entirely convinced.
The others, however, relaxed a bit, now that they had dropped the suspicious act.
“Sorry,” Kaye apologized. “But we’ve got to be sure, you know…for the children’s sake.”
“I understand completely,” the Doctor nodded. “But now that we’ve established that Rose and I are not the enemy, maybe you could enlighten us as to who is, and what you all are doing down here.”
It was a long, convoluted story, made slightly more complicated by four different points of view, but eventually, Rose figured out the situation.
The planet they were currently occupying, Frax, was in the grips of a hostile takeover, courtesy of a neighboring planet. The two planets had had a tentative truce for centuries, but evidently, something had happened to tip the balance, and Frax’s small military was no match for the might of their neighbors.
“We did try,” Kaye said sadly. “Many of our men went to fight.”
“Blind in one eye,” Paz added, “else I’d have been right there with them.”
Dennel said nothing, and no one commented.
But the army was soon struck down, and the takeover had commenced. The invaders had swept across the tiny planet, leaving devastation and terror in their wake. Many of the residents were killed resisting, and thousands more had been carted off to work in the mines on Calyx, the neighboring planet.
“They took the children,” Kaye explained.
“Why?” the Doctor asked.
Rose glanced at him, and saw something dangerous flash in his eyes. His entire posture had changed ever-so-slightly. Children were being hurt…the Doctor wasn’t just going to stand by and let that happen. Neither was she.
“We don’t know,” Dennel said. “Maybe to raise them as their own…maybe to use as cheap labor…we just don’t know.”
“But people heard about what was happening,” Mishell put in. “And we had a little warning, before we were attacked.”
Kaye and Paz were a married couple who were known for their generosity and open hearts. Also, they had a bunker underneath their house, which had been discovered several years before. No one knew why it was originally built, but a new use soon became obvious. Soon, parents started bringing their children to them, for safety. Dennel and Mishell joined them, to help in caring for the children.
When the attack commenced, they closed up the bunker, sealing themselves and the children inside. For five days, no one dared to venture to the surface, but finally, they could wait no longer, and Mishell volunteered to go to the surface.
“I’m the smallest,” she shrugged. “Easiest to overlook.”
What they discovered was a changed world. More than half the town was dead or missing, and those who remained were terrorized by the conquering army, who had asserted complete control over the town. Every aspect of their lives was regulated, from the allotted food, all the way to the curfew, which was enforced with threats of death for anyone who violated it.
Some of the parents had returned for their children, but some hadn’t. No one knew whether they were dead, captured, or just didn’t dare return for their children. But they couldn’t risk letting the children aboveground, not with the soldiers everywhere. So they did the only thing they could: remained hidden, emerging only at night, to gather supplies.
“But you can’t go on like this forever!” the Doctor protested.
“What choice do we have?” Paz demanded. “Sending them to the surface would be a death sentence.”
“But what happens when you can’t get supplies?” he asked. “Or if one of them gets sick?”
“We do what we can,” Kaye shrugged.
“If you’ve got a better idea, I’d love to hear it,” Mishell added, and the Doctor fell silent.
Rose wasn’t sure what they could do. They could try to bring them to the TARDIS, or bring the TARDIS down here, but Rose wasn’t sure what good that would do. Where could they go? This was their home. And besides, while the Doctor wasn’t above interfering in the order of things, using the TARDIS was usually out of the question. Once they landed, they became a part of events, and however much they might want to use the TARDIS to fix all of their problems, they were usually bound to one time and place until the events had played out. Rose didn’t really understand that particular part of TARDIS travel, but she trusted the Doctor. If he could use the TARDIS, she knew he would.
“We’re going to wait until things die down,” Paz said. “Hopefully once some time passes, things will relax enough that we can risk getting them out of here.”
Rose could see from the Doctor’s face that he wasn’t sure if this would ever be the case, but he merely nodded.
“You’re very brave,” he said, looking at all of them.
“What else could we do?” Mishell inquired.
“What else could you do?” the Doctor echoed sadly.
Back to index
Chapter 4: Chapter 3: Lies
Author's Notes: Since I set this story fairly recently after the Satan Pit, I kept coming back to that prophesy that the beast made. Obviously, we know what it is really a reference to, but they don't know that. The Doctor said it lied, but he was clearly trying to convince himself as much as Rose. So setting this story in a war, in a battle, those words kept haunting me, and I realized they'd be foremost in the Doctor's mind too. Hence, this chapter.
Rose stared up at the ceiling. She knew she should be getting some sleep, but she couldn’t seem to get comfortable. And this wasn’t just due to the fact that the floor was hard and cold. No, she couldn’t get the story they’d just been told out of her head.
The thought of those people, snatched from their homes and either killed or taken far away. Children taken from their families, parents forced to hide their children away to protect them…children forced into hiding, not knowing if their parents were dead or alive. It was horrible…and so senseless. From what she’d gathered, the attackers from Calyx hadn’t been provoked in any way. They were motivated purely by greed, and a desire for more power. It was a situation she’d seen more times than she could count, with the Doctor, but it never ceased to infuriate and sadden her.
Why? Why was there so much senseless violence in the universe? Why was it that no matter how far from home she travelled, the same petty motivations cropped up: power, money, revenge…it was the same, wherever she went. Travelling with the Doctor, she had seen the worst of people.
Yet also the best. Everywhere they went, they encountered good, kind, brave people, among all the bad. Looking around now, realizing what these brave people had done, risking their lives and giving up any freedoms they might have had for these children. Such selfless courage…it was humbling, at best. And to not only hide out down here, but venture to the surface, knowing that discovery meant capture or death? She shook her head, marveling once again.
Movement next to her startled her, and she rolled over to see the Doctor lowering himself to the floor next to her.
“Mind if I join you?”
“No,” she said, a little surprised. “But you don’t usually sleep.”
“True,” he nodded, stretching out. “But you looked comfortable, and stone floors are so invigorating that I wanted to give it a try. Good for the spine, you know.”
“Optimist,” she mumbled.
He merely smiled and moved closer.
“Blanket,” he said, holding out a hand. “Share.”
Rolling her eyes, Rose unwrapped herself from the blanket and threw it over both of them.
Rose honestly wasn’t sure what he meant by this, but she wasn’t complaining.
For a long time, neither of them spoke. Most of the lanterns had been extinguished, and Rose studied the Doctor’s face in the dim light remaining. She knew he must have some sort of reason for joining her. However close they were, he didn't usually lie down or sleep next to her unless there was a reason, be it nightmares, loneliness, or whether he just had something on his mind that he wasn't sure how to say. She had a suspicion that this time, it was the latter. He looked lost in thought, his eyes fixed on a point somewhere past her head, and she knew his mind was a million light years away.
“What are we going to do?” she finally asked, keeping her voice low, so as not to disturb the others.
“Not sure,” the Doctor admitted quietly. He tucked his arm underneath his head, propping it up off the floor. “I’m really not sure.”
It wasn’t often that the Doctor admitted that he didn’t know what to do.
“We can’t just leave them,” Rose said.
“No,” he agreed absently. “Definitely not. But…” he died off, and she could see him shutting himself away.
“Hey,” she said, reaching out and taking his hand.
She couldn’t help but remember when they’d lain in similar positions, a few months ago, and how he’d clung to her hand like a lifeline. He’d built his shields back up, but she hadn’t forgotten that vulnerability, nor how it felt to know that he needed her.
“Don’t shut me out. You’ve got something on your mind.”
“I always have something on my mind,” he tried to laugh it off, but that only fueled her worry.
“Talk to me, Doctor,” she pleaded.
He sighed, and closed his eyes, refusing to look at her.
“Are too!” And now they sounded like squabbling five year olds. “Doctor, please.”
He sighed, opening his eyes again.
“I just…I don’t know if we should get involved in this.”
If she hadn’t been so cold, and thus unwilling to come out from under the blanket, she would have sat upright.
This wasn’t like the Doctor. True, he’d been a bit more cautious when it came to plunging into adventures for a while after their ordeal, but she’d thought he was past that.
“Doctor, what are you talking about?”
“I just don’t know if we can do anything to help.”
“We can help them! We can help care for the kids, we can look into who is attacking and why, we can find a way to stop them. That’s what we do, that’s what we always do!”
“Not always,” he said, raising himself up on his elbow. Rose matched the movement.
“So, what, you just want to leave? Just walk away?”
“No!” he protested. “But…”
“What’s gotten into you?”
“I’m just trying to keep you safe!” he said, and there was an edge to his voice that meant he was getting angry.
“What?” Rose demanded. “Doctor, we’ve been over this! I don’t want you protecting me like that!”
If he wasn’t willing to trust her at his side, then they shouldn’t be together at all. While the idea of leaving the Doctor was as abhorrent as cutting off one of her limbs, Rose also wasn’t going to stand for him sheltering her like a child.
“I know…” he said reluctantly.
“What is going on? What is it about this place in particular that makes you feel like I’m in danger?”
For a second, his eyes flashed, but then he pulled away, rolling over so that his back was to her. Rose stared at him, completely baffled. What was going on? He was always protective, but not usually like this.
Tentatively, she touched his shoulder.
“Leave it, Rose,” he said. He didn’t sound angry anymore. Just sad.
Lowering herself back down, Rose thought hard, trying to figure out what was causing him to react this way. There had to be a reason, he wasn’t the sort to go all needlessly protective without provocation. But what was troubling him? What had caught his attention, and was provoking a reaction like this?
Sometimes the Doctor was as easy to read as a book, but other times, he was a complete mystery, and Rose honestly couldn’t tell what was going through his mind right now. She closed her eyes, trying to think of what might be troubling him. Yes, they’d very nearly walked into danger, but that was nothing new. Her life hasn’t been actively threatened, she hadn’t had any terribly close calls, or…
A memory stirred at the back of her mind, and she caught her breath. Words spoken, terrifying words which the Doctor had dismissed as an obvious lie. Words that had only recently ceased to haunt her dreams. He’d dismissed them without a second thought, but what if…
He must have sensed something different in her voice, for he rolled back over, facing her again. Rose took a deep breath.
“Is this about what the Beast said? On Krop Tor?”
His eyes widened, and for an instant, his shields were down. She saw every emotion in his face, and she knew she’d nailed it. But he tried to hide his reaction.
“Of course not.”
“It said I would die in battle.”
“You say that, but…”
“It lied, Rose!” Now it was clear he was trying to convince himself, not her.
“This is a war,” she continued. “This is a battle.”
“That’s why you want us to leave.”
They hadn’t encountered a war since Krop Tor, so they hadn’t had occasion to run into this issue before.
He was silent for a long time, and Rose held her breath, waiting for him to speak. Then he let out a long, shuddery sigh, and all the tension went out of him. Abruptly, he pulled her into a hug, his strong arms encircling her and pulling her close. Rose could feel his hearts pounding.
“I can’t...can't lose you like that,” he whispered, and Rose’s heart nearly stopped at this rare honesty.
“You won’t,” she promised. Instantly taking up the reassurance he had been giving her only moments ago. “It was lying, Doctor, you said it yourself.”
But had it been lying? It hadn’t lied about the others, she’d seen it in their faces. It had spoken the truth to all of them…so why not to her?
“Wasn’t it?” she forced herself to ask.
“I...” he faltered, pulling back so that he could see her face. “I can’t…it must have been…”
“Must have been,” she agreed faintly.
Seeing clear glimpses his uncertainty brought back all of her own fears of those words. She didn’t want to die. She had so much life left ahead of her…there were so many things she hadn’t seen. Things she hadn’t said.
“But we can’t be sure it meant this battle,” she reminded him. “If it was telling the truth...”
“Which it wasn’t.” He’d mostly gotten his emotions back under control.
“Which it wasn’t,” she agreed. “But if it was, it might not have been this battle. We can’t even be sure we’ll be in a battle while we’re here.”
“So very soon…” the Doctor whispered, echoing the final part of the predication.
“That thing had been imprisoned for millenniums,” Rose said, trying to convince herself as much as him. “Soon to it could be years to us. Decades…”
“Yeah,” the Doctor admitted.
“And I don’t want to live my life in fear of a future that probably won’t happen. I want to help people, Doctor, the way we always do. To have adventures, with you. And I don’t want to let the words of some freaky devil-beast in a black hole ruin that.”
He nodded slowly.
“I know,” he said.
“So don’t think about them,” she told him. “Don’t think about what it said.”
“Then don’t you think about them either,” he said seriously. “I meant it when I said it was lying.”
Then why are you still worried?
“You’re very smart, Rose Tyler,” the Doctor said after a minute. “You know that?”
“I’ve been told,” she said, pleased to hear the lightness creeping back into his tone. “Though some of the sources are a bit biased.”
“Well, take it from this unbiased source. You are quite brilliant.”
She couldn’t help but smile at his words, even if she was fairly certain he wasn’t actually unbiased.
“For a stupid ape?” she inquired. He actually laughed softly.
“For an ape, maybe” he replied. Then he got serious. “But don’t let anyone ever call you stupid. Not even my former self.”
They didn’t talk about his previous incarnation that much. Oh, they discussed adventures they’d experienced, and conversations they’d had. But generally they referred to him as the same person, regardless of which incarnation he was at the time. Rose still thought of them as somewhat separate in her mind, but it was a rare occasion when the Doctor would refer to his former self as a kind of separate person.
“Will do,” she promised, and he smiled.
Rose couldn’t suppress a yawn, and his smile widened.
“You need to get some sleep, Rose,” he said. “Something tells me we’re going to have a busy day tomorrow.”
She looked at him.
“So we are staying? We’re going to help?”
In the darkness, she could see him nod. With only the barest trace of his earlier trepidation.
“Of course we are.”
Back to index
Chapter 5: Chapter 4: Scavenging
Author's Notes: Brief Twilight jab. Apologies to any fans of the books, it's just a personal opinion.
Dennel decided he wanted a bigger role. Wasn't expecting that, but I think it works.
They spent the next day down in the bunker, helping to keep the children occupied, and to keep things clean and sanitary. Despite his earlier reluctance, the Doctor threw himself into the tasks with all his usual enthusiasm, and soon had the sad-eyed children laughing with stories of Slitheen and Werewolves.
“Though actually,” he told the children, “it’s really called a Lupine Wavelength Haeomvariform.” He smiled as the children attempted to pronounce this mouthful of a term. “Werewolf is too ‘Twilight.’”
“What’s 'Twilight'?” one girl asked.
“Trust me. You don’t want to know.”
Rose wasn’t sure whether the adults in the room thought the Doctor was just making up stories, or whether they suspected he was a bit more than an average man. Mishell suspected something, Rose could see. She watched him constantly, as though appraising him. Rose couldn’t be sure what she was thinking. And Dennel still wasn’t overly comfortable around either of them. But if Paz and Kaye suspected he was doing anything more than spinning entertaining stories, they gave no indication.
There wasn’t much to do during the daylight hours, except keep the children quiet and happy. A young girl had attached herself to Rose, following her around constantly. She couldn’t have been more than three years old.
“You look similar to her mother,” Kaye whispered to her.
Rose felt a lump in her throat, and scooped up the little girl, holding her close. The girl snuggled into her shoulder, shoving her thumb into her mouth.
Rose felt useless. There wasn’t much they could actually do for these people. They couldn’t risk bringing the children to the surface, not when there were so many soldiers around. The adults might be able to chance venturing to the surface without being apprehended, during daylight hours, but no one dared to take the risk of being spotted leaving the house. They didn’t want to tip anyone off that the house was anything other than abandoned. They only dared to leave under cover of darkness, but then they ran the risk of being spotted by the curfew patrols. It was such a simple problem, and such an infuriating one.
The Doctor would think of something, Rose was confident. He always did. They’d fixed far more dire situations than this…they’d remedy this one too. She just wasn’t sure how.
Then Dennel mentioned that he could use Rose’s help in scavenging food tonight.
“No!” the Doctor protested.
Rose was torn. She wanted to help these people in any way she could. She wanted so badly to actually do something. But at the same time, she couldn’t forget the sounds of those gunshots.
“Why?” the Doctor demanded.
Dennel glanced at the children, and pulled the two of them off to the side, out of earshot. Out of the corner of her eye, Rose saw Mishell move closer to them, keeping her distance, but clearly listening to every word.
“There isn’t enough food,” Dennel said quietly. His eyes flashed, and he didn’t flinch under the Doctor’s intense gaze. “Paz and Kaye will never admit it, but there isn’t enough. We barely scavenge enough as it is, and however much you may be helpful with the kids, you’re two extra mouths to feed.”
“We’ll leave, then,” he said. “We don’t want to inconvenience anyone.”
“No,” Dennel shook his head. “You can stay. Kaye wouldn’t hear of you leaving anyway. But we need more food, and with two people scavenging, we’ll be able to cover twice as much ground, and carry twice as much.”
He met Rose’s eyes, and there was the faintest trace of a plea there, mostly overshadowed by stubbornness and defiance, but nevertheless present.
“Then why don’t you and Mishell go?” the Doctor inquired.
Dennel actually hesitated, and Rose risked a glance at Mishell. Mishell looked away.
“She went last night,” Dennel said after a second. “It’s my turn to go. But I could really use the help.”
“Then I’ll go,” the Doctor offered. Dennel actually smiled a little.
“You need to be small and fast, Doctor. You’ve got the fast part down, but you’re not exactly ‘small.’” He shot a significant glance at the Doctor’s tall, lanky frame.
Then he turned to Rose.
“You want to do something? You want to help?”
“Of course,” Rose replied.
“Well, then?” He crossed his arms. There was something in his gaze that made Rose’s blood boil just a little. Like a challenge. Almost like he was daring her to do it. She decided in that moment that she did not like Dennel that much.
But at the same time, he had a point about the food, and about her desire to help.
“I’ll do it.”
The Doctor wasn’t happy about it, but he didn’t try to argue with her.
“If you’re not back by morning,” was all he said, as he watched her prepare, “you do realize I’m going to storm the city?”
“I’m counting on it,” she replied. “But seriously, Doctor, it’ll be fine.” Despite Dennel’s less than stellar personality, she didn’t doubt that he would take care of her.
“We’ll see,” the Doctor said ominously. “You’re a magnet for trouble, Rose Tyler.”
“Look who’s talking!” Rose exclaimed, and he couldn’t help but laugh as he conceded the point.
Dennel tossed her a bundle of dark clothing, and Rose moved into the tunnel to change. The clothes were of an unfamiliar style and fabric, but they were comfortable enough, and would help her to blend in in the darkness. When she rejoined the others, the Doctor studied her. She turned in a circle.
“What do you think?”
The little girl who had been shadowing her all day ran up.
“Where you goin’?” she demanded.
“I’m going to look for food, sweetie,” Rose told her.
“I wanna come!”
“No,” Rose shook her head. “Dennel and I are going out, and you’re going to stay here with the Doctor.” The girl risked a glance at the Doctor, who smiled and waved. “Okay?”
“Okay,” she agreed unhappily.
Paz and Kaye weren’t happy about Rose going either, but neither of them protested, and Rose knew that they also realized the necessity of sending two people. They wished them luck, and then Rose, Dennel, and the Doctor made their way down the tunnel.
“Do you know how to use a gun?” Dennel asked over his shoulder.
Rose nearly stumbled in surprise, though she should have expected this question. The Doctor caught her eye, and Rose knew what he was thinking.
“If I have to,” Rose replied. “But I don’t carry weapons.”
Dennel eyed her, but she stood her ground. He shrugged.
The Doctor squeezed her hand.
They stopped at the entrance to the basement. Dennel cast a significant look at the Doctor, who looked from him to Rose with a frown.
“She’ll be fine,” Dennel said. “I’ll take care of her.”
“You’d better,” the Doctor said. His tone was light enough, but there was something in his voice that made even Dennel back up a pace. He nodded once.
Rose stepped between them, giving the Doctor a quick hug.
“It’ll be fine,” she assured him. “You worry too much.”
“Probably,” he agreed. He smiled at her, and she grinned in response.
Dennel led the way out of the tunnel, and Rose cast one last glance over her shoulder, to where the Doctor was standing. His hands were jammed into his pockets, and he looked like he was half-debating running after them. But evidently, he chose not to, and only gave her a cheerful wave. Then he was out of sight.
“This is it,” Dennel whispered. “Once we get out there, keep moving, and do whatever I tell you.”
“Fine,” Rose agreed.
He glanced at her, and nodded to himself. Then he pushed open the door, and stepped out into the night. Rose followed close on his heels.
The night was cool and fresh, and under normal circumstances, she might have thought it a lovely night. The stars sparkled overhead, unfamilliar constellations glimmering like jewels. But she couldn't take the time to glance at them for more than a moment.
Her heart was pounding in her ears, and the night was so still and silent that she was certain Dennel could hear it. Every step she took seemed to echo, and she tried to walk as silently as she could. If she hadn’t known better, she’d have thought she and Dennel were the only two people on the planet.
Her mind was torn right down the middle. Half of her mind was chanting “stupid idea stupid idea stupid idea stupid idea” with every step she took.
But the other half, the half that kept her travelling with the Doctor, kept her going despite the dangers and the chaos, was filled with excitement. The rush of adrenaline, the thrill of doing something she shouldn’t be…
Maybe Mum is right, Rose thought. Maybe we’re both mad.
But if travelling with the Doctor was madness, then maybe madness wasn’t so bad after all.
Dennel moved with the grace and silence of a cat, and Rose felt awkward and clumsy in his wake. However, he never reprimanded her, merely led the way through alleyways and into abandoned buildings.
“We’re just making our way through the town,” he murmured, as they rifled through cabinets and ice boxes. Rose tried desperately not to think about what might have happened to the former occupants of this house. The door had been kicked in, and was half-hanging off its hinges, a small testimony to the violence that had taken place here. She shivered, concentrating in filling her pack. “We have to go farther every night, to find places we haven’t already been.”
Gunfire echoed in the distance, but after a moment’s pause, Dennel shook his head.
“Other side of town,” he said. “We’re safe.”
But someone else wasn’t, Rose thought.
She couldn’t help wishing the Doctor was here with them, though she did understand that the fewer people who went out, the safer they’d be. Still, she thought, as they wrestled with a locked cupboard, the sonic screwdriver would have come in handy.
“The Doctor would be able to do this a lot quicker,” she observed, only half-aware that she was even saying it out loud.
Dennel glanced at her, and seemed to be weighing whether to speak.
“So…” he said after a minute. “You and the Doctor?”
Rose blushed, despite the fact that he could barely see her face.
“We’re just friends.”
“Right,” Dennel said, and she could hear the eye roll in his tone.
“We are!” Rose protested. However much she might want more than that, she still wasn't certain of the nature of their relationship. And she really wasn’t going to delve into her relationship with the Doctor with Dennel, of all people.
Dennel glanced at her for a moment.
“Then he’s a bigger fool than he looks.”
Those were the last words Rose would have expected to hear from Dennel, and she realized that she didn’t really know this man at all.
They emptied the house of everything useful, and moved on down the street.
The sounds of gunshots erupted once again, closer this time, and Dennel pulled Rose down behind a large bush. She saw his hand go to his gun, and with his other hand, he put a finger to his lips, signaling for her to stay quiet. Rose nodded to show she understood.
After a minute of silence, Dennel got to his feet, and signaled for Rose to do the same.
“Certainly keeps you on your toes,” Rose murmured, and Dennel nodded grimly.
“Welcome to Frax,” he said.
They tried two more houses, both of which were locked. They passed those up, because Dennel said that if the door was locked, it could mean someone was inside, hiding from the curfew. And the last thing anyone needed was to have someone break into their house.
After a few minutes, they found another abandoned house that didn’t appear to have been looted, and they began to search. Then Dennel stopped, and looked at Rose.
“I think I should be honest with you, Rose,” he said. The words came reluctantly, as though he was forcing himself to speak. She looked up from what she was doing, puzzled.
“What do you mean?”
“Why I wanted you to come.” He wasn’t looking at her, busying himself with rifling through the ice box, checking for anything that hadn’t spoiled. Rose was having slightly better luck in the pantry.
“Why you wanted me instead of Mishell, you mean?” Rose asked. He glanced up, startled.
“How did you…” he died off. “Yes.” He stared into his pack as though he found something fascinating there. “What we’re doing…it’s very dangerous. It’s bad enough, having her go out every other night. But an extra night, with two people, with twice as much chance of being spotted?” He shrugged.
“So you wanted me along instead of her, because that way she’d be safe?” Dennel didn’t reply for a moment.
“I did need the help,” he said finally. “But…”
"Better someone you don't really know, than her?"
"Not..." Dennel began to object. Then he fell silent. "I meant it when I said I'd protect you. But..."
“I get it,” Rose nodded. And she did.
They fell silent. Then Rose glanced over at him.
“So…” she said, consciously echoing his words from earlier. “You and Mishell?”
For the first time, Dennel actually gave a genuine smile, though he tried to hide it.
“I don’t…” he died off. “She thinks of me like a brother.”
“But you don’t?”
Rose couldn’t believe she was sitting in the middle of a war zone, in the dead of night, in a stranger’s house, stealing a stranger’s food, with a man she’d only met the night before, discussing relationships. You never knew where life might lead you. Especially life with the Doctor…
“I don’t know…” Dennel shrugged. Rose turned so she was facing him.
“I’m going to give you a piece of advice that my mother gave me,” she said.
Dennel raised an eyebrow, but merely nodded to her to continue.
“Tell her.” He started at her, startled. Rose remembered her mum’s words, could remember the conversation as if it were yesterday. “You never know how much time you have, and you need to make the most of the time you have. You don’t want any regrets.”
Dennel was silent for a long minute.
“How’s that going for you?” he asked, and Rose had to laugh.
“Still working on it.”
Back to index
Chapter 6: Chapter 5: Dennel
Author's Notes: And the real action begins...
Also, I'm sorry updates haven't been quite as frequent as Step by Step. I'm trying to write, but Real Life has been metaphorically kicking my backside, so things have been tougher lately. However, I'll keep going, cuz I love this story, and all you people.
And for those of you who seem to have an obsessive devotion to the Doctor's coat (really, you guys should start a club), you should know that the jacket he uses late in this chapter is his suit jacket, not his overcoat. So do not worry...the coat is unscathed. :)
The Doctor paced back and forth at the entrance to the tunnel leading to the bunker. They’d been gone for hours, and while he knew that this was perfectly normal, he couldn’t help but worry.
Mishell emerged in the opening, holding Bran in her arms. He stopped and faced her.
“Here,” she said, holding the baby out to him. “If you’re going to be pacing all over the place, at least do something productive with it.”
With a sigh, the Doctor reached out and took the baby, who immediately settled into his shoulder, quietly sucking on his jacket. The Doctor debated stopping him, but finally decided that the baby didn’t actually have any teeth yet, so he couldn’t do much damage.
Mishell watched him for a minute.
“She’ll be all right,” she said.
“I know,” he admitted. “But I don’t like her being out there alone.”
“She’s not alone,” Mishell said firmly. “Dennel’s with her.”
The Doctor honestly wasn’t sure what he thought of Dennel. Of all of them, the young man was the one the Doctor trusted the least. The children were all lovely, and Paz and Kaye were some of the most kindhearted people he’d met. Mishell was a bit of an enigma, but she seemed likeable enough. Dennel, however…the Doctor wasn’t sure about him.
“I wish you’d been the one to go with her, though,” he admitted.
Mishell inclined her head in gratitude.
“He’s a good guy,” she said. “He’s just learned the hard way not to get too attached.” Her eyes grew dark and distant again. “We’ve all had to learn to cope, in our own way.” That much, the Doctor could understand. “He’ll protect her, though. He’d protect any of us, with his life. Including Rose.”
“Rose can take care of herself,” the Doctor said automatically. Still, it did help to know that Dennel would protect her.
The sound of gunfire echoed in the distance, and the Doctor’s hearts stopped.
“It’s a common sound,” Mishell reminded him. “Calm down.”
“Easy for you to say,” he retorted without thinking.
Her face hardened, and he immediately regretted the words, but it was too late.
“That’s my best friend out there,” she said. “These people are the closest thing I have to family. We're all each other has! You really think it’s easy for us to sit here while he’s out there?”
Her eyes blazed, and the Doctor bit his lip, knowing he’d spoken out of turn, and fiercely regretting it. Even in the short time they’d been among these people, he’d witnessed the close bonds between them all. They were like a family. And just because this was a way of life for them didn’t make it any less terrifying.
“I’m sorry,” he said, but Mishell turned away.
“Try not to wear a hole in the floor,” she said, and disappeared back the way she came.
“Idiot,” the Doctor muttered to himself. He looked down at the baby. “Once again, I put my foot in my mouth.”
Bran didn’t comment, merely replaced the Doctor’s jacket with his own little fist shoved into his mouth.
The Doctor let out a frustrated sigh. The situation was an infuriating one. These people were well and truly trapped down here. They couldn’t risk taking the children to the surface in daylight, for if they were spotted, they’d be taken immediately, and whoever was with them would probably be killed for harboring them. But taking them to the surface at night was out of the question. They were too young to be able to move quietly, and besides, where could they go? Even if he could get them all safely to the TARDIS, which he doubted he could, where could he bring them? They had nowhere to go, and it frustrated him more than he could ever express.
He was trying not to take his frustration out on anyone, but obviously, he wasn’t doing a very good job of it. Being trapped underground was claustrophobic, at best, and the Doctor needed to be moving. He needed to be doing something. But what?
“It isn’t fair,” he whispered. “It just isn’t fair, Bran.”
No matter how many centuries he lived, no matter how many wars he survived, no matter how many people he lost, the sheer unfairness of life still struck him every time. The strong took everything, leaving the weak helpless. The good were beaten down by the wicked. Those who most deserved happiness so rarely received it. It just wasn’t fair.
It was why he travelled. Why he did what he did. In the hopes that he could upset that balance, make a change. To tip the scales in favor of those who deserved it. To stand up to tyrants such as these, to try and help whenever he could. Even if his own life was in shambles, maybe he could make other peoples’ lives just a little better.
He glanced down at Bran, and noticed that he’d fallen asleep.
“Smart kid,” he commented. He wished he could escape all his troubles as easily.
He walked Bran for a while longer, until he was certain that he was deeply asleep. Then he headed back to the bunker to lay him down in the makeshift bed they’d made for him. Most of the children were asleep, and the Doctor moved quietly, so as not to wake any of them. He laid Bran down, and was relieved when he didn’t wake.
As he straightened up, he caught Mishell’s eye. She quickly looked away, resolutely refusing to meet his gaze.
The Doctor debated going over to speak to her, but hadn’t the slightest idea what he was supposed to say. So instead, he made his way back to the tunnel, to resume his place waiting for Rose and Dennel. Paz fell into step beside him.
“They should be back soon,” he said. The Doctor nodded.
Paz didn’t try to reassure him, didn’t tell him that he shouldn’t worry, that everything would be all right. Instead, he merely looked at the Doctor.
“It kills me every time they go out there,” he said.
They reached the entrance, and Paz sat down. After a moment’s hesitation, the Doctor did as well.
“I’d do it myself, but I’m too old. Too slow.” He let out a dry chuckle. “I’d be caught in a minute.”
“It’s not that I don’t trust Dennel,” the Doctor started to say, but Paz only nodded.
He was silent for a minute.
"And she’s blessed to have someone like you.”
The Doctor didn’t reply to this. Sometimes he wondered if he really was a blessing for Rose, or a curse. But he quickly suppressed these maudlin thoughts. It was her choice, and she’d made it clear to him time and time again that she’d chosen him. For some reason…
“We had a daughter,” Paz said after a long while, his voice breaking the silence. “Just about Rose and Mishell’s age.” The Doctor saw infinite sorrow and weariness in the other man’s gaze, and he knew immediately what he was going to say next. “She had a family of her own.” He nodded to the tunnel leading to the bunker. “Two of those children are hers. Ours.” The Doctor didn’t speak. He knew he didn’t have to. “We begged them to stay with us. To stay with the children. But he wanted to fight, to defend the people, and she wouldn’t leave his side.”
There were tears in the old man’s eyes, but he quickly dashed them away. Then he looked sharply at the Doctor, and the Doctor got the sudden uncomfortable feeling that this man could read his mind.
“That kind of loyalty is rare, Doctor. Treasure it.”
The Doctor couldn't reply, and Paz got back to his feet.
“They should be back within the hour,” he said. Then he vanished back the way they’d come.
Time went by, punctuated only by the occasional distant sound of gunfire. An hour passed. Then another.
With every passing minute, the Doctor’s agitation grew. They were almost two hours late, and he was past trying to make excuses as to why they might be. They should have been back! Something was wrong!
Movement behind him startled him, and he whirled to see Mishell.
“They’re late,” he said. She nodded. “Too late.” She nodded again. “They should definitely have been back by now.”
“Yes,” she whispered. She was trying desperately to hide her alarm. “It’s going to be dawn soon. We never, ever stay out till dawn.”
“Something’s wrong.” The Doctor didn’t phrase it as a question, and Mishell didn’t treat it as one. “We should go look for them,” the Doctor said. Mishell hesitated.
“We…” she chewed her lip, thinking hard. “We really shouldn’t…”
“They could be in trouble!” And if they were, he thought, they were probably past help, but he couldn’t allow himself to think that way. "I'm going after them." He wasn’t just going to sit in here…he’d already wasted too much time. He should have gone after them the second he’d felt that they were late…
Mishell suddenly nodded.
“Me too. Let’s go,” she said.
Her hand went to her gun, and for once, the Doctor didn’t even protest. He followed her out of the house, and onto the streets.
They were as deserted as when Mishell had brought them here the night before, and just as silent. The darkness was just beginning to wane, the very first signs of impending dawn beginning to show, and the Doctor knew they couldn’t stay out long. They had to be back inside before the sun came up, or they’d risk being spotted and tracked back to the bunker.
“Split up,” Mishell said. “But don’t go far. And don’t call out, if you find anything.”
The Doctor felt like this was stating the obvious, but he didn’t comment. Instead, he headed off down the street in one direction. Mishell took the other.
“Come on, Rose,” the Doctor murmured. “Where are you?” He kept to the shadows, trying to stay off the main roads. There was no sign of life from anywhere. Where was she? What had happened? Had they been discovered? Had they been captured? Or worse…no, he couldn’t allow himself to think like that. He just couldn’t. It was unthinkable. Not here, not now…
“Please,” he whispered, not even sure who he was pleading with.
As he rounded a corner, a very soft, almost inaudible noise caught his keen senses. The Doctor immediately turned, seeking out the source of the sound, and his hearts nearly stopped.
“Dennel!” he gasped, almost forgetting not to cry out.
Halfway down an alley, lying in the shadows, lay the crumpled form of Dennel. He moaned softly, and the sound was a terrible one. The Doctor dropped to his knees next to the man, and immediately noticed the blood pooling around him.
“Dennel!” he hissed, turning him over, trying to find the source of the bleeding. Dennel moaned and weakly caught hold of the Doctor’s hand. His hand was slippery with blood, but the Doctor grasped it anyway.
“Didn’t…” his voice was faint and hoarse. “Didn’t think…find me.”
The Doctor ripped open the man’s blood-drenched shirt, and it actually took him a moment to even locate the source of all the blood. But when he did, he knew immediately that nothing could be done for him. He’d been shot multiple times, and he’d already lost too much blood. The sheer volume that soaked his clothing and the ground around him was horrifying.
“Couldn’t…couldn’t go…back,” Dennel choked out. “Leave…a trail…right to them…”
The Doctor could see a trail of blood coming from the alley, and it was clear that Dennel had been dragging himself for as long as he possibly could. It must have been beyond agonizing. The very fact that Dennel had been thinking clearly enough to know he couldn’t leave a blood trail back to the bunker was an incredible one, but the Doctor couldn’t take the time to marvel at an act of selflessness right now.
He looked around frantically, searching for Rose. Was she hiding nearby? Was she hurt as well? Or...
But there was no sign of her.
“Dennel?” he asked, almost afraid to hear the answer. Despite the fact that he knew it was hopeless, he stripped off his jacket to try and stop the bleeding. “Where is Rose?” Dennel moaned, protesting the Doctor’s ministrations, and struggling to speak. “Where is she?” he asked, a little louder.
Please don’t let her be dead…please, please, please…
“Took her…” he whispered. His eyes were beginning to look glazed, and his and his voice was weakening even as he spoke. “Tried…found us…ran…shot me…took her…”
“Did they kill her?” he asked, fighting to stay calm.
“No…took her. T…transmat...” Dennel looked like he was about to cry. He looked so, so young. “So…sorry…”
“Hey,” the Doctor said, pushing aside his terror for Rose for the moment. She wasn’t dead, which meant that he could save her. “It’s okay. It’s all right. You made it to us…told us what we needed to know.”
The man was dying, and the Doctor knew it. He wanted to call out for Mishell, but didn’t dare to. Keeping one hand on the compress, though he knew it was pointless, he took Dennel's hand in his other, letting him have someone to hold on to. No one should have to do this alone.
“You did it.”
"Tell them...I'm sorry..."
"You have nothing to apologize for."
“You can rest now,” the Doctor said quietly, pushing past the leaden weight of sorrow in his chest. He’d seen so many deaths…but it still hurt every time. “It’s all right. You can rest.”
“Not for much longer,” he whispered.
“Don’t be afraid. You’re not alone.”
His hand felt cold in the Doctor’s, sticky with blood, and his grip was weakening. He closed his eyes, but suddenly opened them again, frantically seeking the Doctor out.
“M…Mishell…” he murmured.
The Doctor could barely make out the words, and he leaned closer, knowing how important this was.
“Tell her what?”
“T…tell her…tell her I…”
But he never finished his sentence. His hand went slack in the Doctor’s, and he was still.
The Doctor closed his eyes, allowing a tear to fall.
Dennel was dead.
Back to index
Chapter 7: Chapter 6: Captive
Author's Notes: The plot thickens...and the connections to "Step by Step" begin to make an appearance...
Rose slowly came to her senses, and immediately wished that she hadn’t. Her stomach was churning, and her head spun terribly. She didn’t know where she was, or what had happened, but what she did know that she was about to throw up.
She managed to sit up, and was sick all over the floor.
Once that was over, she felt a little better, and her head cleared enough for her to take in her surroundings. She was in a small cell, with a barred door leading to the outside world, and no windows. The walls were metal, as was the floor. She still didn’t know where she was, or how she’d gotten there.
“Hello?” she called out, surprised at how shaky her voice was. She took a deep breath to steady herself. “Doctor?” She didn’t really expect him to reply, but she still felt a stab of disappointment when he didn’t respond.
“Okay,” she whispered to herself. “Think, Rose.”
She was on some sort of wooden bed, and as she swung her feet around, her stomach lurched again.
“Oh gosh,” she moaned.
She closed her eyes, trying to combat her nausea, and finally, she felt confident enough to try and stand. She nearly fell, her legs were so wobbly, but she got her balance, with the help of a nearby wall.
“Hello?” she called out again. She couldn’t see much out of the door, but obviously someone was around. Someone had put her here.
What had happened? Think logically, she chided herself. What’s the last thing you remember?
She’d been scavenging for food…with Dennel!
“Dennel?” she called out. “Dennel, are you there?”
No reply. Supporting herself on the wall, she made her way to the door, and looked outside. All she could see was an empty hallway, with several other barred doors similar to hers. None of the cells she could see appeared to be occupied. Where was Dennel?
She forced herself to think, and painfully slowly, images began to surface.
She and Dennel had been working their way back to the bunker…and then there had been gunfire! Close…too close! She gasped as the memories began to flood back. There had been nowhere to hide.
“Run!” Dennel had shouted, grabbing her hand and pulling her forward. They’d dashed through the streets, and pounding footsteps echoed behind them. Rose felt herself beginning to shake as she relived the memories, still hazy in places, and still distant, almost as though they were happening to someone else. But she could see them now.
They’d been running. She didn’t know where…they couldn’t risk going back to the bunker, not with their pursuers that close…but she trusted Dennel knew where he was going. Then there had been another round of gunfire, and all in a moment, Dennel’s hand had been yanked out of hers as he fell to the ground. She’d screamed, unable to help herself, but before she could even think, someone had grabbed her from behind. Something sharp had pierced her neck…and then everything went black.
Rose put her hand to the place where she remembered being pierced. It was sore, and though she couldn’t see it, she had a feeling that she’d been injected with something. Probably a sedative, which would account for the nausea and weakness.
“Oh no,” she groaned. She couldn’t panic. Panicking solved nothing, and would only make her vulnerable and less open to reason. Dennel had been shot…was he dead? She didn’t know…had no way of knowing. She stifled her emotions, telling herself there would be time to grieve later.
“You know what the Doctor’s going to say?” she remarked to the wall, trying to use humor to strengthen her resolve. “I told you so.”
She shook her head.
“Idiot,” she grumbled to herself. “Nice going, Rose. Really cementing your reputation as jeopardy friendly.”
What must the Doctor be thinking? Rose closed her eyes, imaging his worry. She hated to do this to him, but it was a fairly regular occurrence. Still, with his worries last night, she knew he’d be more anxious than ever, and she sincerely hoped he’d realize she hadn’t been shot too. He would, she was certain of it. He’d make sure, and she also knew that he’d stop at nothing to come get her. However, she couldn’t just sit back and count on him to rescue her. That wasn’t fair to either of them.
Reaching into the pocket of her trousers, she realized that both her mobile and her TARDIS key were gone. The loss of the mobile was unfortunate, but it was the loss of the key that hit her hardest. Her one piece of the TARDIS, her most prized possession, taken from her while she was unconscious.
She shuddered at the idea of anyone searching her while she was sedated.
“Right,” she said. First things first, figure out if there was any way to get out of the cell. That option was dismissed pretty quickly. No windows, only one door, which was securely locked. She wasn’t getting out of that door unless someone let her out.
What would the Doctor do? He’d try to talk his way out of this, she knew. He’d try to strike up a dialogue with his captors. If she could get them talking, maybe she could figure out what was going on. Maybe even find a way to get the upper hand.
“Hello?!” she shouted. “Hello?!”
After a minute of shouting, she heard footsteps. A man approached the cell and appraised her.
“You’re awake,” he observed. Rose thought he was sort of stating the obvious, but decided not to comment. “Can you walk?”
“Think so,” Rose nodded.
The man looked past her, eyeing the place where she’d been sick.
“Sedatives will do that to you,” he said, with a slight smirk. “Couple that with a transmat, and you must be feeling pretty lousy.” A transmat! Well, that explained her temporary amnesia.
“I’ve been better,” Rose agreed, but he didn’t seem to actually be looking for a response. He unlocked the door and grabbed her arm, yanking her out into the hall.
“Hey!” Rose protested.
He ignored her, cuffing her arms behind her back. Rose winced as he wrenched her arm painfully, but she kept her mouth shut, not wanting to give him the satisfaction.
“Walk,” he ordered, pushing her forward. Rose decided it’d be best to do what he wanted, for now.
“You don’t have to push,” she informed him.
Rose couldn’t help but feel nervous as she was led through the unfamiliar corridors. She didn’t know exactly what was going to happen to her, but considering what she’d heard, she expected that if she hadn’t been killed, she was going to be taken to that other planet, Calyx, for labor. Mines, Paz had said. Rose shivered. The prospect wasn’t too appealing, but she’d faced worse.
Then it occurred to her that she could already be on Calyx. If she’d been transmatted, she could be anywhere now. She could be galaxies away, though it didn’t seem likely. No, if she wasn’t on Frax, she was likely on Calyx. Nothing else made sense. But still, she could have been brought anywhere.
How was the Doctor going to find her? Could he use the TARDIS to track her? She wasn’t sure, but if there was a way, he’d find it. Her job was to keep herself alive and in one piece, and escape, if possible.
They passed several other people, who studied Rose with detached interest. Rose felt awkward underneath their gazes, but kept her head high, as though she had every right to be there. She wasn’t going to give anyone the satisfaction of knowing she was frightened.
She was pushed into a large room, occupied by several men in uniform. They turned as Rose and her captor entered.
“She’s awake,” her captor said.
“Honestly,” one of the men, who appeared to be the leader, sighed. “I thought we’d agreed that we had enough of them.”
“I don’t know, sir,” the man who’d brought her here replied. “I just know what I was told. To bring her to you once she was awake.”
Rose didn’t like them discussing her as though she wasn’t there, but she couldn’t find an opportunity to speak.
The leader sighed again.
“Probably spared her because she’s pretty,” he shook his head. “Probably reminded some bleeding heart of his daughter, or something. Orders are orders. We can’t just be making exceptions for a pretty face.”
“Yes, sir,” the other agreed. “Do you want me to dispose of her?”
Rose felt her heart stop for a second, and she looked at the faces of the men, frightened of what she might see there.
The leader shook his head.
“Now that we’ve got her, we might as well get some use out of her.”
“Excuse me!” Rose finally spoke up. “What exactly…”
Her words were cut off by a slap to the face, so hard it snapped her head backwards.
“Speak only when spoken to, girl,” the one who’d slapped her ordered.
The leader merely smirked and approached her, studying her. Rose, her cheek burning where she’d been struck, kept her mouth shut, and only glared at him.
“Strong enough,” the leader decided. “We can get a few months out of her, at least. How old are you?” he demanded, stopping in front of Rose.
Rose didn’t reply.
“I’d really suggest you do as you’re told,” he said, leaning closer to her, and there was something dangerous in his eyes.
“Twenty,” she managed to say.
“Might even get a year,” the leader said approvingly.
He turned his back on her, walking back over to the others. Rose wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do now, but she knew she couldn’t just stand there and let them deliver her into slavery. She had to do something…but what?
One of the men approached her, and pulled out a small device, running a quick, cursory scan. Then he froze. He looked from his device to Rose, and back again.
“Sir?” he said, and there was something in his voice that caught Rose’s attention. It caught the others’ attention as well, and everyone turned to look at him. The man walked over to the others, and handed the device over. She saw the leader’s eyes widen.
“Are you sure?” he asked quietly.
“What’s going on?” Rose demanded. Another blow struck her. She tasted blood in her mouth, and didn't dare speak again.
“Look at it,” the one who’d done the scanning said.
The leader slowly approached Rose, and the entire atmosphere of the room had changed. Several of the men had their hands on their weapons, and the leader was regarding her with new suspicion, and just the slightest trace of trepidation.
“What’s your name?” he demanded.
Why did he want to know that? Still, she didn’t see the harm in telling him.
“Rose,” she said. “Rose Tyler.”
It was as if the whole room froze for a second. Then the leader snapped back to attention.
“Take her back to the cells,” he said fiercely. “The most secure cell we have. Don’t let her talk to anyone.”
“Yes sir!” the one who’d brought her here acknowledged.
“Go with him,” he ordered one of the others. “Do not let her out of your sight for a moment.”
Rose wanted to ask what had happened, what had changed, but no one gave her a chance to speak. She was pushed out of the room, and as she did, she heard the leader speaking to someone.
“Notify her at once,” he said.
His voice grew fainter as she moved further away, but she still heard his next words.
“We have the girl.”
Back to index
Chapter 8: Chapter 7: Pursuit
Author's Notes: The Oncoming Storm is on the move. And his new friend has a gun (even if the Doctor doesn't approve of such things). Look out, world...
Also, in case anyone was interested, the "Step by Step" series is going to be a trilogy. Yay! I've got my work cut out for me, but I can't wait!
“I’m going after her.”
“Doctor, just think for a moment!” Kaye pleaded. Her face was still stained with the tears shed over Dennel’s death, her eyes red, but she caught hold of his hands imploringly. Her kind, motherly face was filled with pleading and desperation.
The Doctor merely slid his hands out of hers and resumed his preparations.
There was no doubt in his mind, no hesitation. He was going after Rose, and he was going to find her. End of story.
“Doctor, you don’t even know where she was taken!” Kaye tried to reason with him.
“I’ll find her,” he said. He grabbed a change of clothes, rapidly changing out of his bloodstained suit. He’d attract far too much attention if he stayed in his ruined clothing. Then he snatched up his overcoat, checking the pockets out of habit to make sure the sonic was still there.
A hand rested on his shoulder, and he turned to see Paz looking at him, his eyes filled with pain and sadness.
“She’s gone, lad,” he said. “I’m so, so sorry, but she’s gone.”
The Doctor shrugged his hand off.
“This isn’t open for debate,” he said. “I’m going to find her.”
“It’s suicide!” Kaye cried.
The children were huddled together in a corner of the bunker, watching the proceedings with wide eyes. They were clearly getting agitated, and one or two of them were beginning to cry. The Doctor winced, hating to upset them, but he didn't back down.
Kaye immediately crossed to them, comforting them. She threw a look at Paz over her shoulder.
“Make him see, Paz!”
“Doctor…” Paz started to say. The Doctor shook his head.
"Don't even try. Please."
“Paz, I will not leave her.”
“I understand, but Doctor, you have to be reasonable about this! You don’t have the first idea where she was taken to! You don’t even know if she’s still alive.”
He didn’t doubt this, not for a second. Rose was strong, she could take care of herself.
“She is alive. And I’m going to get her back.”
“I’ll think of something.”
He honestly wasn’t sure what he was going to do, how he was going to find her, but he knew that he had to try. He had to. He wasn’t just going to languish underground while Rose was in danger somewhere. He wasn’t leaving her at the mercy of those killers for one second longer than he had to.
“Doctor, please stay. Stay with us, here. We'd give you a home...”
“No.” He looked Paz right in the eyes. “I’m going. And nothing you say or do is going to stop me.”
“If I thought there was any way you could…”
“What if it was Kaye?” the Doctor asked.
Paz recoiled, his one good eye flitting over to his wife.
“What if it was your wife? What if it was your daughter? Paz, if you weren’t obligated to care for everyone else, wouldn’t you be right out there going after them?” Paz swallowed hard, and he heard Kaye stifle a sob behind him. “What wouldn’t you do for them?”
“I’d do anything for them,” Paz whispered hoarsely.
“Then you know why I have to go.”
He turned to look at Kaye.
“You lost a member of your family tonight,” he said. “I’m not going to lose one of mine.”
“But how? How can you stop them?” Kaye asked.
“I can, and I will,” he said, and something in his voice seemed to convince her, at least a little. “I made a promise. I swore that I would do whatever it took to protect her. That I’d fight for her until the death. She’s…" he hesitated for a second, choosing his words, "…my best friend. I’m not going to abandon her.”
There was a very long silence.
“But…” Paz ventured timidly. “You’re a stranger to Frax. You don’t know your way around at all. How can you hope to accomplish anything when you don’t even know where you’re going?”
“I’ll figure something out,” the Doctor said. “I always do.”
“It’s a death sentence, going out there alone.”
“He won’t be alone,” a voice came from the far end of the bunker.
Everyone turned and stared at Mishell, who hadn’t said a word since they’d brought back the news of Dennel’s death.
“I’m going with him.”
There was a general uproar, as all three of the other adults were instantly united in protest.
“Mishell, absolutely not!”
“Don’t be ridiculous!”
Even some of the older children, who had varying grasps of what was going on, spoke up in vocal objections.
She crossed her arms, eyes blazing.
“I’m going with him. Then he’ll have someone who knows the area, and the planet. He’ll have a chance.”
“Mishell…” Kaye whimpered. “Please don’t.”
Paz stepped towards her.
“I know you’re upset about what happened to Dennel,” he said, his voice hoarse with emotion. Mishell's eyes filled with pain at the mention of Dennel's name, but she forced it back, facing Paz. “We all are. And I know that you want to do something. But please think!”
“I have thought about it. And I’m going with him.”
The Doctor approached her, and she stared at him with a curious expression of mingled defiance and desperation.
“Mishell,” he said, trying to make her see reason, “I appreciate the offer, but you’re needed here. Especially now.” With Dennel gone, they’d need Mishell to scavenge for food.
Mishell swallowed hard, and looked past him to Paz and Kaye.
“You can do it. You don’t need me.”
“We do!” Kaye pleaded.
“Paz, you’ll be able to scavenge. I know you think you’re not fast enough, but you are.” Paz shook his head desperately, but Mishell continued on. “And so can Tomas,” she added, locking eyes with the oldest of the children. A boy who couldn’t be older than thirteen. He was so quiet that the Doctor had barely noticed him, in the chaos of the younger children. “Right, Tom? We’ve been talking about this. You think you can do it?”
The boy nodded silently, his face suddenly looking much older than his actual age. The Doctor’s hearts constricted at the idea of this boy taking those risks…suffering the same fate as Dennel.
“Please don’t leave us!” Kaye begged.
Mishell closed her eyes for a moment.
“Dennel died, Kaye, Paz. He died! And your daughter, and our families, and…and so many people! And we’re just sitting here, and we can’t do anything!” She looked hard at the Doctor. “He says he can get her back. And he honestly believes it.”
She took a deep breath, and met the Doctor’s eyes squarely. There was something like a challenge there. She was daring him to prove her right.
“And I believe him.”
“Without me, he doesn’t have a chance. Together, we stand a chance to do something!”
It was going to be dangerous. Too dangerous…
“I can’t let you do this,” the Doctor told her. Mishell glared at him.
“That’s not your choice to make. It’s my life, and I get to decide what to do with it.”
“What if I refuse to let you come?”
Mishell’s hand moved to rest casually on her gun.
“The only way you’re leaving this room is if I’m with you.”
Everyone else had fallen silent, and it was as though the Doctor and Mishell were the only two people in the world. She didn’t look away, didn’t flinch. He wasn’t going to be able to talk her out of this.
“You know I’m right,” she added quietly. “You want to save Rose? You’re going to need me.”
The Doctor wasn’t so emotional that he’d abandoned logic, and he knew that Mishell had a point. She knew this area, and this planet. He didn’t have the first idea where anything was located. If he stood a chance of finding Rose, he was going to need Mishell.
Could they get by without her? The Doctor honestly wasn’t sure. But he had to believe that Mishell wouldn’t leave them if they wouldn’t survive without her. And he also realized that this was very similar to when he got protective of Rose. This was their life, and however much he might believe he was acting in their best interests, he couldn’t make their decisions for them. They had to make their own choices.
“Fine,” he said quietly.
It wasn’t long after that that they found themselves at the entrance to the outside world. Mishell had had a difficult and emotional goodbye with the children, and the Doctor was fairly certain many of them didn’t truly understand that she was leaving. Kaye and Paz walked them to the entrance.
“Stay safe,” Kaye sniffled, hugging Mishell tightly. Mishell returned the embrace.
“I will. You keep everyone else safe too, all right?”
Paz was trying not to break down. He was holding baby Bran, since they couldn’t leave him unattended for long, but the Doctor took him, allowing Paz to hug Mishell goodbye. And the Doctor didn't object to holding the child one last time.
The Doctor looked down at the baby, surprised to find that he was honestly going to miss him, even after so short a time.
“Take care of everyone, all right?” he whispered.
Bran blinked up at him, and the Doctor pulled his necktie out of his coat pocket. It had escaped any bloodstains, but it didn’t work with his new Fraxian clothing. Thus, he presented it to the baby, who squealed as he grabbed hold of it.
“There you go. You win. You finally get it. Try not to get into the habit of chewing on them, though, all right?”
Paz took the baby back, and the Doctor was startled to find himself wrapped in Kaye’s embrace. He swallowed the lump of emotion in his own throat. He’d only known her a little more than a day, but she was treating him as though he was a member of her family.
“You take care of yourself,” she said. “And take care of her.”
“I will,” he promised. Kaye stepped back and looked from one to the other.
“Find her,” she said. Her gaze rested on him. “Find your Rose.”
“We will,” the Doctor nodded. “Absolutely.”
No one moved for a second. The Doctor was itching to get moving, but he wasn’t going to push Mishell out the door. Paz did that for him.
“Well, go on. You’re wasting time.” He gestured to the door, and Mishell glanced at the Doctor.
“Ready?” she asked.
“Ready,” he replied, and they stepped out into the sunlight.
Back to index
Chapter 9: Chapter 8: Questions
Author's Notes: Because the Doctor's day just wasn't tough enough. I really feel heartless, putting him through all this. Both of them, him and Rose. Especially when I think of what's to come...hehehe, spoilers!
It felt strange to be walking down the street in broad daylight, after two nights of creeping around, desperate to avoid detection. But the Doctor and Mishell were both adults, and thus in no appreciable danger, as long as they didn’t cause trouble. The streets were quiet, but unlike the nights, there was activity. People hurried about their business, not looking at each other, trying to avoid detection. The Doctor saw several soldiers, and tried to stifle his anger at the sight of them, strolling around like they owned the place, while the people lived in terror. There were no children to be seen.
Now that her initial emotion was spent, Mishell seemed a little embarrassed around the Doctor. However, she showed no inclination of turning back.
“I assume you have some sort of plan?” she asked him. “Or at least a vague idea?”
“A bit of one, yeah,” he nodded. “Which involves me getting back to my ship. Mishell, do you remember where you found us?”
Mishell thought for a moment.
“Can you get us there?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “Follow me.”
They made their way through the streets. It felt odd to be using the actual streets, instead of darkened alleyways like the ones they’d used to get here. But it made the trip much shorter, and it wasn’t long before he started to recognize landmarks.
“So, you have a spaceship?” Mishell asked.
“I didn’t see a spaceship,” Mishell said skeptically.
“You wouldn’t have. She’s small, and she’s disguised. She doesn’t look like a spaceship.”
“Then what does…she…look like?”
“A blue box,” the Doctor said, unable to completely keep the pride out of his voice. Mishell raised an eyebrow.
“A blue box?” she repeated. Then she shrugged. “Well, I’ve heard stranger things. And you can use your ship to find Rose?”
“Hopefully,” he nodded.
Hopefully, the TARDIS could scan for her mobile, and pick up the signal. That signal would lead them to the general location where Rose was being held. They’d still have to get her out, which could prove difficult, but it was a serious start.
“Here,” Mishell said, as they emerged onto a street. “It was right here.”
“Okay,” the Doctor said, looking around. He and Rose had walked down the street a bit before Mishell had found them, so the TARDIS should be just up ahead.
They came to the top of a rise in the road, both trying to avoid eye contact with anyone. The Doctor immediately recognized the spot where they’d landed. And his hearts stopped.
The TARDIS was gone.
“Oh no,” he whispered, feeling his heartbeats quickening. He couldn’t believe his eyes. “Oh no, oh no…this is bad.” That was an understatement.
“What?” Mishell asked, staring at him. “What is it?”
“She’s gone. The TARDIS…my ship…is gone.”
“What?” she exclaimed. “Are you sure?”
The Doctor shot her a look, and Mishell seemed to realize that this was a foolish question.
“Why would they take your ship?”
“I don’t know…” he said, his mind whirling as he tried to puzzle out what was going on. The TARDIS didn’t look like a time machine, or anything other than a strange wooden box. And what reason would anyone have to take a wooden box?
He closed his eyes, reaching out for the TARDIS with his mind. To his distress, he couldn’t significantly feel her, beyond their constant core bond. That meant she was days away, at least. Sometimes the TARDIS could lead him to her, like a compass, Rose had once put it. But the old girl was unpredictable, to say the least, and he couldn’t get a feel for where she was, beyond a vague indication to the north. That wasn’t really helpful.
Mishell took hold of his arm and pulled him out of the street.
“You’ll attract attention, standing there like that,” she said, and he realized she was right.
“This is ridiculous,” he groaned, shaking his head in disbelief. This day just kept getting worse and worse. Now, not only did he have to find Rose, but the TARDIS as well.
“I thought you said your ship didn’t look like a ship,” Mishell pointed out.
The Doctor couldn’t help but be impressed that she’d remembered that.
“Then why would they take it?”
“I don’t know!” he said.
And it wasn’t as if he could ask anyone. These soldiers were only too willing to take action, at the slightest provocation. They had to keep their heads low.
He thought for a minute.
“It’s probably safe to assume that the soldiers who took the TARDIS are the same ones who took Rose.”
“Maybe not the exact same ones,” Mishell pointed out. “But soldiers from Calyx, yes, I think it’s a safe bet.”
Without even discussing it, they both began to walk down the street again. Remaining in one place for too long risked attracting attention.
“So they might be in the same place?”
Mishell looked skeptical, but didn’t say anything.
The Doctor took a deep breath. He had to hope that they were. And in any case, he had to prioritize. The TARDIS could take care of herself. Once locked, almost nothing could get inside. He burned to think of her in the possession of anyone else, especially these soldiers, but he knew that she was in no immediate danger.
Rose, on the other hand, might be. She was smart, strong, and capable, but these men were armed and dangerous, and he had no way of knowing what they had planned for her. He’d promised her that he would storm the city if she didn’t come back, and he intended to do just that. Though maybe a bit more subtly than “storming,” at least, for the moment. No, he had to go after Rose, and hope that she and the TARDIS were near each other. If not, he reasoned, the two of them could find the TARDIS together, once she was safe.
He was thinking more rationally and calmly, now that the initial emotions stirred up by Dennel’s murder and Rose’s capture had had a little time to cool, though he had to admit that the disappearance of the TARDIS rattled him once again. But reason quickly reasserted itself. Things would be all right. Rose was still alive, she had to be. If they were going to kill her, they’d have done it out in the street, like they had to Dennel. He wasn’t quite sure why they had spared her, but killed Dennel, but he had a feeling Dennel had died doing what he’d promised to do: protecting Rose. The Doctor felt a stab of guilt at misjudging the man. But unfortunately, there was nothing he could do about it now. All he could do was ensure that Dennel’s sacrifice had not been in vain.
In any case, if they’d wanted Rose dead, they wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of wasting their time with transmatting her. Which meant that she was alive.
Which meant that he would save her.
“Mishell, where would they have taken her?” he asked anxiously. Mishell glanced at him. “Rose, I mean.”
“She could be anywhere…”
“But they must have a place…some place they take them. A base, of some sort.” He saw doubt and skepticism in her eyes. “Come on, Mishell, you know this planet. You must have heard something! You must have some idea of where they might be based.”
“I’m not exactly an expert on the layout of my entire planet!” Mishell said, crossing her arms, though she didn’t stop walking.
“You’re the one who wanted to come along, because you know this place better than I do,” he reminded her.
“I came along,” she said fiercely, “because you’d get yourself killed if you tried to do this alone.”
“It’s true, and you know it.”
He let out a sigh of exasperation, but at the same time, couldn’t suppress a bit of admiration for her. She wasn’t the type to let herself be pushed around, even by him. She had courage, and could think on her feet. Despite his frustration at the entire situation, and his fear of leading anyone else into a dangerous situation, he knew in his hearts that having her along would be an asset.
“Please,” he asked, softening his tone. “Please, Mishell, give me something.”
Her eyes grew distant as she stared off into the distance, clearly lost in thought. He waited anxiously, but also not wanting to push her.
“There’s an old base,” she said slowly, a light dawning in her eyes. “About three days’ walk from here. It was one of Frax’s few military bases, but,” her face darkened, but she only shrugged, “not anymore.”
“You think the soldiers might have made their base there?” He’d lowered his voice now, not wanting to risk being overheard. She followed suit.
“There were rumors,” she said. “Only whispers, and everyone had a different story, different wild tales to tell. And I didn’t have the opportunity to hear much, before we went underground, but I remember hearing something about prisoners being taken to the base.”
It wasn’t as much as the Doctor would have hoped for, but he was nothing if not optimistic. He’d grasped at thinner straws before, and come out on top. It was a chance, and at the moment, it was the best lead they had.
“Do you know how to get there?” he asked. She stopped and stared at him.
“I…know the general direction,” she said. “It’s isolated. In a forest.”
Strategically, not the best place for a military base, the Doctor thought, but then again, Frax’s military evidently hadn’t been very strong at all.
“To be honest, walking through the forest will be safer than going through cities,” she added.
The Doctor studied her.
“It’s going to be dangerous.”
“Don’t start that again,” she rolled her eyes.
“No, I really mean it, Mishell.”
He took her arm and pulled her off into a side street, where there was less chance of them being seen or overheard.
“This is the unknown. This is…beyond dangerous. We're chasing shadows, at best. This base will be swarming with soldiers, we don’t even know if she’s actually there, and I have no plan for how to get her out.”
Mishell broke eye contact, staring at the ground by their feet.
“And…” he almost didn’t say it, but the words slipped out. “People tend to get hurt around me.”
She looked up again, meeting his gaze.
“Me too,” she whispered, almost inaudibly.
Again, that pain that no one her age should ever have to know. He put a hand on her shoulder.
“I can’t ask you to take that risk for me.”
“You need me,” she said. There was something in her face that pleaded for the truth, and he couldn’t deny it to her.
“I won’t lie to you. You’d help. A lot. But this isn’t your fight, and I can, and will, do this alone.”
For a long time, she didn’t speak. Then she nodded resolutely.
“I’m in if you are,” she said. There was a note of finality in her voice that he knew meant this was the end of the discussion.
“I’m in,” he said, and she actually smiled at him.
Then she got serious again.
“But before we go,” she said, “I have a question for you.” She seemed to think about this. “Actually, I’ve got a lot of questions for you.” The Doctor didn’t doubt it, and he had some questions of his own, for her. “But those can wait until we’re on the move. However, this one can’t.”
In an instant, she looked far older than her years, and her thin face was set in determination. Her eyes once more held a challenge.
“You show up, out of nowhere, and we haven’t the first idea who you are. You’re a complete stranger. Both of you are. Travelers from offworld. You turn up, and our lives get turned upside down again. Now I’m not saying that this is your fault,” she added hastily, before he could speak. “Any of it. But you seem to bring chaos with you, whether you mean to or not.” She crossed her arms. “Everything’s gone wrong, and there you are, standing there, beyond certain that you can save her. That you can do the impossible, what all of us have failed to do. You speak with authority beyond your appearance. You look like a civilian, but you have the eyes of a soldier. And you told us you could save her. And you made us believe you.”
She shook her head, actually laughing a little.
“I believe you! Don’t know why. I haven’t the first reason to trust you, other than the fact that you haven’t killed me. But I’ve seen you with her, and I’ve heard you speak, and I trust you. She trusted you, and so do I. For some reason.”
She took a step forward, so they were eye to eye.
“I’m risking my life for you. For both of you. You and Rose. Because I believe you. So I am going to ask you a question, Doctor, and I want an honest answer. A completely honest answer.”
“All right,” the Doctor said quietly.
“Can you do it? Can you save her?”
He didn’t hesitate, didn’t falter for a moment.
Back to index
Chapter 10: Chapter 9: Reflection
Author's Notes: Rose reflects, a lot. And I try my hand at serious romantic introspection.
Rose was worried. Something had happened, and she honestly wasn’t sure what. But she knew something had changed…
Everything was silent, and there was no sign of life. Rose had been rapidly escorted to this cell, deep in what had to be the very center of wherever she was. This cell was even smaller than her last one, devoid of any furniture, and the door was solid metal, as opposed to bars.
“Cozy,” she sighed.
They’d left her arms cuffed behind her back, but after several minutes of maneuvering, she managed to manipulate her limbs so that her arms were in front of her. It wasn’t ideal, but it was far more comfortable than leaving them where they were.
What had happened? One minute, they barely looked at her, and then that man had scanned her. He obviously hadn’t been expecting to find anything, judging from his reaction when he did. What had he seen? Rose wasn’t sure, but whatever it was, it’d instantly changed the attitude of everyone present. Suddenly they started acting as though she was very dangerous, and the soldiers who’d escorted her here had watched her constantly, as though she were a bomb about to explode.
She sat down against the wall, drawing her knees up to her chest and resting her chin on them. Her face still burned from where she’d been struck, and she could already tell that they were going to leave marks. The Doctor was not going to be happy when he saw that.
Her situation struck her like a ton of bricks. She was a prisoner of the very people who’d slaughtered so many of these people. The people who’d killed Dennel. For he must have been killed, she knew that now. The leader had said they had orders to kill anyone, and she could remember him being shot now. Multiple times…his hand yanking out of hers as he collapsed with a scream…
“Oh, Dennel…” she whispered, feeling tears in her eyes. She’d only known him for two days, and hadn’t liked him for most of that time, but he’d just started to reveal himself as an actual person, and Rose felt like she’d only just begun to really see him. He’d protected her to the best of his abilities, and had died in the attempt.
Was it her fault? Had she slowed him down, or made too much noise? Would he have been discovered if he’d been alone? Would he have been able to escape? She didn’t know, but she tried to stifle her blaming herself. It wouldn’t help anything.
What would they think? They’d been attacked a ways from the bunker. The Doctor and the others would have no way of knowing what had happened, only that they hadn’t returned. Rose was furious at herself for letting this happen, though to be honest, she wasn’t sure how she could have prevented it, other than not going with Dennel at all.
“Probably not the brightest idea,” she admitted unhappily.
But still, how could she have known? Every other night, they’d made it back safely. Dennel had been confident, and she’d believed that he wouldn’t have brought her if she was going to be a severe detriment.
Rose sighed, stretching out her legs, wishing they’d bothered to uncuff her arms. The silence was oppressive, and for lack of anything else to do, she turned her mind back to the situation as it currently stood.
What had happened, at that moment in the room? Something had changed, the entire atmosphere had shifted. What could have caused such a reaction? What had that man seen on the scan? Had he seen that she was human? But what difference would that have made? These people appeared to be human, though she couldn’t be one hundred percent certain. It wasn’t the sort of question you could exactly ask someone, without attracting suspicion. However, if she’d had to guess, she’d say they were. And even if they weren’t, the mere fact that she was a human shouldn’t have had such an impact. Humans were fairly unremarkable in the grand scheme of the universe, at least, with regards to physical and mental capabilities. No, being a human shouldn’t have alarmed them so.
And what had they said, as she’d been dragged away?
“We have the girl.”
“The girl,” as if there was something significant about her. And the leader had asked her name. He’d needed to know her name, and he’d reacted to it. Somehow, her name was known to him.
“How?” Rose wondered out loud. “How could they possibly know?”
They’d never been to this planet before, and there was no reason for anyone to know her name. The only people they’d encountered on this planet before now were the people in the bunker, and obviously, none of them had given her name to these people. And why would her identity alarm anyone anyway?
The Doctor. It had to be. She didn’t know what, but it must be something to do with the Doctor. What else was significant about her? Nothing. Her one notable feature, the one thing that could be considered important about her, was that she travelled with the Doctor. But what did these people want with him? And how had they known about her?
Rose didn’t know, but she had a feeling that eventually, she’d find out. They were notifying someone about her capture. “Notify her at once,” they’d said. Who was her? And what was her interest in Rose, or the Doctor?
Rose knew the Doctor had enemies, lots of them. And they sometimes encountered those enemies in unexpected locations. But what she didn’t understand is how they could have known about her. Known her name. In the Doctor's long life, she hadn't travelled with him that long. She couldn’t remember ever having an encounter with these people.
And who was this mysterious woman, who apparently had some connection to all this? What was going on?
And what had made them suspicious, even before they knew her name? It couldn’t have been a physical description, Rose reasoned. They hadn’t reacted at all until the scan. If they’d recognized her or something, it made sense that they’d have reacted when she was brought in. But they’d been ready to dispose of her (she shuddered at how casually they’d mentioned it), or send her to the mines, until she was scanned. But you couldn’t tell someone’s identity through a scan…so what had caught their attention?
“What is going on here?” Rose asked out loud.
She didn’t know, but she was beginning to get the feeling at this was bigger than Calyx’s attack on Frax. And that had her nervous.
Time passed, and no one came for her, not that she was terribly surprised. She did hope they planned to feed her at some point, or else this was going to be far more unpleasant than it already was.
Not that she was unused to long confinements. Being put in jail was almost a weekly event with the Doctor, and they’d long perfected the art of being prisoners. Being imprisoned without the Doctor was always more troublesome, but she’d learned how to live with that too. Spending eight days in near-solitary confinement had nearly driven her mad with boredom, but at the same time, it had taught her patience. Sort of…
“All right,” she admitted. “Maybe not.”
She couldn’t help but remember that entire ordeal. The horror had finally faded enough that it didn’t haunt her much anymore, and she could go days without thinking about it. The Doctor hardly ever spoke of it anymore. But solitary confinement brought the memories back, and she closed her eyes, trying desperately not to think about them. It was in the past, and the Doctor seemed to have made a sort of peace with the events, and the fact that they still didn’t know who had ordered the torture. They probably never would, the Doctor said.
“Sometimes, you just never know,” he’d told her.
She hoped this wasn’t going to be one of those times. She wanted to know what was going on, and who was behind this. But unfortunately, there was absolutely nothing to do about it except to wait.
Left alone with nothing but her thoughts, her mind turned, as it inevitably did, to the Doctor. She couldn’t help but wish he was here with her, though of course that would mean he was a prisoner too. It was better that he was out there, where he would be in more of a position to do something to help. And besides, if these people were enemies of the Doctor, somehow, she didn’t want him at their mercy.
Still, the selfish part of her couldn’t help but wish that he was by her side, making her smile with his lighthearted comments and calm reassurances. Holding her hand, just being near her.
Rose sighed. She still didn’t know exactly where they stood, and that frustrated her more than she could ever express. She felt foolish, like a lovesick teenager obsessing over some boy, but at the same time, she didn’t exactly have anything else to do. So, for the millionth time, she puzzled over their relationship.
He was her best friend, and he’d said multiple times that she was his. But Rose wasn’t lying to herself. Hadn’t been for quite a while now.
She loved him, there was no denying it, and she didn’t want to. She loved him more than she’d ever loved anybody. So much that it scared her. Her mother knew, Mickey had known, Jack had known, Dennel had known…even Reinette had seemed to know. Everybody knew, it seemed, except the one person that really mattered.
Rose knew that was her own fault, partly. Her mother’s advice rang in her ears, made all the more poignant because Rose had given the exact same advice to Dennel, and now it was too late for him. Mishell would never know…oh, she might suspect it. Might think he loved her, might hope that he did, but she’d never know for certain, never hear the words from him. Rose didn’t want that to be her or the Doctor.
On Krop Tor, when he’d fallen, she’d thought she’d lost her chance. Thought he was dead. She remembered the horror, the numbness that overtook her. The realization that she had no life without him anymore. She couldn’t imagine a world without him in it, and for one terrifying hour, or so, she’d been faced with one.
And that, even more than the planet below, had been Hell.
Then he was on the intercom, saving their lives, the way he always did. Cheerful and triumphant as ever, and so very alive. Rose had nearly screamed in happiness and relief. Her world was right-side up again, and she’d resolved in that moment that she wouldn’t waste another second. She’d tell him.
And then they were reunited, in each others’ arms, and he’d lifted her right off the ground, clearly as overjoyed to see her as she was to see him. And they were together again, and all was right in the universe, and he’d called them the stuff of legend, and she was going to tell him.
But she didn’t.
Hadn’t been able to find the words. Couldn’t make herself say it. Her resolve failed.
Because she was scared.
Scared to admit it, to say the words out loud, and scared that she would ruin the precious friendship and bond that they had. Scared that he would pull away, that she’d misunderstood everything. Scared that he didn’t feel the same.
She thought he did…hoped he did. He’d risked his life for her, on so many occasions. He’d clung to her in sheer desperation and panic after his torture, unwilling to let her out of his sight. She’d been his anchor, his reality. He’d held her at night when the words of the Beast haunted her nightmares, when she woke sobbing from the memories of seeing her father die in the street or of the Doctor broken on the floor of the cell, or when the cries of “Exterminate” and “Delete” echoed through her dreams. He’d been her rock, soothing her with gentle words and touches, promising to keep her safe. And she’d done the same for him, on rare occasions that he too struggled with nightmares.
They’d kissed, more than once. After he’d healed from the torture, he’d kissed her, not in a matter of life or death, not because of possession (Rose still blushed to think of that…because, yes, she remembered what Cassandra had done.), but purely out of gratitude, relief, and, she’d hoped, love.
She’d hoped that was their turning point. At that moment, it had felt like one. But it never went much further than that. They were close, closer than ever, but it hadn’t taken that final step.
He was her best friend in the universe, and she didn’t want to lose him. Didn’t want to hurt him, if he didn’t reciprocate. She was scared to take the risk. A look, a hug, even a kiss…they were just actions. They were important, but they were just actions, and could be explained away or ignored.
Saying the words, those three words that had the power to change absolutely everything…that made it real. Once she spoke those words, there was no going back. And while it was so easy for her to admit her feelings for him to other people, and to herself, she just couldn’t find the courage to tell him.
She was a coward.
She let out a long sigh, shaking herself. All right, enough wallowing in self-pity and hormones. She had to be ready for whatever was to come. She was in an unfamiliar situation, and she didn’t like the sound of this “her” that was being contacted. She had no idea what she would be facing, but she knew that she would need to be strong.
The Doctor would come for her, she had no doubt about that. But she wasn’t just going to sit back like a damsel in distress, like the princess in the tower waiting for her prince to rescue her. If Rose had been in that tower, she’d have tried every way she knew to get out of it. Only when she’d exhausted every option would she rely on the prince, and even then, she’d stay alert, ready and willing to assist in any way possible.
Metaphors aside, Rose wasn’t just going to sit back and do nothing, assuming the Doctor would rescue her. She’d be on the lookout for every opportunity to turn the situation in her favor, and she’d be ready and waiting for when he came.
And maybe this time, she’d find the courage to tell him the truth.
Back to index
Chapter 11: Chapter 10: Perception
Author's Notes: Meanwhile, in the deep dark forest...
Two chapters today! I finally finished my essay for school, so now I have more free time! Give thanks for Thanksgiving Break!!!
Getting out of the town was easier than he’d expected. Well, maybe easy wasn’t exactly the right word, but considering what the Doctor had seen of their opposition so far, he’d been bracing himself to fight through much worse. As it was, they made it nearly five streets before they attracted any attention, and the Doctor had been able to deflect it by claiming that Mishell was his sister, and that they were just going to the store to buy food for their parents.
Mishell had gamely played along, but once they were out of earshot, she eyed him.
“Would you rather I have said you were my wife?” he hissed. That silenced her. “Yeah, me neither.”
But eventually, they slipped out of the town limits, and before long, they’d entered the forest that would become their refuge for the next few days. The Doctor couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief, now that they were away from the constant scrutiny of the soldiers. Despite the fact that the forest was dangerous as well, and would only grow increasingly so as they drew nearer, it still felt safer than the town.
The Doctor couldn’t help but feel better, now that they were on the move, and doing something. Between Mishell’s knowledge, and the TARDIS’s vague indications of direction (like a really spotty compass), he was fairly certain that they were heading in the right direction, at least, to the place where the TARDIS was. He now suspected that the TARDIS, at least, was being kept at the base they were heading for, considering that her and Mishell’s instructions seemed to indicate the same direction, and he could only hope that Rose was there too. He had a gut feeling that she was. It was only a feeling, but the Doctor had over 900 years of instinct to go on.
What was happening to her? Was she all right? Why had she been taken, while Dennel had been shot? And most importantly, were his instincts right? Would he find her there? And if he did, how would he get her out?
He sighed, forcing himself not to think about Rose. It would do him no good to agonize over what might be happening to her. He needed to keep a clear head, though that was growing increasingly more difficult to keep a clear head where Rose was concerned. Eventually, of course, he’d need a plan of how to get both her and the TARDIS back, but first things first. First he had to concentrate on getting them safely to this base.
The forest was currently still and peaceful, a soft wind rustling the trees and cooling their faces, the kind of environment that he would have found beautiful, under other circumstances. But he couldn’t help but wonder at what might be lurking in the shadows of the trees, what dangers lay ahead. He’d lived to long to assume that the journey would be without difficulty.
He shook himself, turning his attention away from his distracting thoughts, and instead fixing it on his new companion. Mishell was keeping pace beside him, occasionally pointing him in one direction or the other. For a long time, they walked in silence.
The Doctor scrutinized her. She was small, smaller than Rose even. Her hair was almost black, and plaited in such a way that she could wrap it around her head and keep it out of her way, which gave her an almost boyish appearance. She was thin, as all of those in the bunker had been, but as opposed to Kaye and Paz, who were just starting to look worn and gaunt with the constant lack of decent food, she was slender and wiry, and her scavenging had clearly kept her in better shape than the others.
Also, he suspected, as he studied her, this ordeal wasn’t her first experience with hardship. The timeline of events he’d heard didn’t fit with her mannerisms, which came across as though she were all too accustomed to pain and loss.
He tried to figure out what he knew about this girl. She was brave, he knew that. She was fast and clever, and could think on her feet. She was headstrong, which could prove to be an issue, but he hoped that she could also be reasonable as well. Her parents were…well, he didn’t know for sure, but judging from her reaction to his question on that first night, he’d guess they were dead. Her agreement with his statement that people around him got hurt spoke volumes, but he wasn’t sure what about, exactly.
“You’re not human.” Mishell’s voice broke through his reverie, shattering the silence.
The Doctor came back to himself and found her staring at him frankly. She wasn’t accusing him, exactly. Wasn’t condemning him, though he detected an undercurrent of mistrust. She was stating a fact, or at least asking a question disguised as a fact.
“And you are?” the Doctor countered, unable to keep from smiling a little as it was her turn to be startled. But she recovered quickly.
“Of course I am.”
“Hard to be sure,” the Doctor shrugged. He’d suspected they were on a human colony, but there were other races that looked so analogous to humans, with only subtle differences. “There are a lot of races which look similar to humans.”
“Apparently,” Mishell agreed drily, with a significant glance at him.
There was an awkward pause. Mishell seemed to be waiting for him to speak.
“I probably should have told you…” he started to try to explain.
“Maybe,” she said. “But I guess that’s not something you just go around announcing, is it?”
“Not really,” he admitted. “Not unless I want to be locked up and carted away as some sort of science experiment or lab rat.” It’d happened before, and he was in no hurry to do so again.
“I’ll bet,” she said, and he detected sincere agreement in this statement.
He was impressed, he had to admit. She wasn’t getting emotional or panicking, but neither was she retreating. She didn’t look at him any differently, or speak to him any differently. She took it in stride.
“How did you know?” he asked, after a minute.
Not many people guessed that quickly. Usually it was only after they’d heard him rattle off some spiel about extraterrestrial technology, or done something impossible by human or Earth standards. Granted, Mishell had heard him singing in Gallifreyan, but while that might have aroused her suspicions, a foreign language wasn’t automatically indicative of extraterrestrial origins.
“Little things,” Mishell said, holding aside a branch so it didn’t snap back and strike the Doctor. “I heard you singing to Bran, of course. And I knew you were offworlders. But still, at first, you didn’t look alien. I just figured you were from some nearby planet.”
“So what tipped you off?” he asked, honestly curious.
“It’s the way you look at us,” she said thoughtfully.
The Doctor was startled.
“You look at us, down in the bunker, and from what I can gather, humans in general, as though you are so unbelievably proud. Like you are honestly impressed by us, but at the same instant, you have this protective look about you, like you are so amazed by who we are and what we are capable of, and you can and will do anything to protect that.”
He was startled again. People didn’t usually read him that quickly. Rose did, but that was because she’d known him for so long. Mishell had picked up on these things from only a few days’ acquaintance. Suddenly, he felt inadequate with how little he knew about her.
“It’s the same with how you speak. Proud, impressed, but at the same time, fiercely protective.” She shrugged, her eyes fixed on the leaves and dirt at their feet. “And how authoritative you can be, how confident. How you carry yourself. It’s not…” she shrugged, laughing a little at herself. “It’s funny, saying it all out loud makes me sound like I was reading way too much into personality traits.”
“Well, you weren’t,” the Doctor said.
“And your eyes,” she added, meeting his with her own, suddenly more serious.
“What about them?”
The Doctor knew his eyes were the biggest giveaway as to his Time Lord nature, aside from the two hearts, respiratory bypass, and regeneration. But his eyes were the trait that could be observed by the causal viewer. He couldn’t hide the pain or the power or the memories, and he knew they were reflected in his eyes. He just hoped he didn’t disconcert people too often. He usually didn’t try to.
Still, despite knowing this, he couldn’t deny that he was curious about what Mishell had seen in him.
“They’re too old for your face,” she said firmly. “Too intelligent, too intense. You’ve seen a lot, and it shows. I’m amazed more people don’t notice.”
“Sometimes they do,” the Doctor admitted, almost slipping on a mossy stone and catching himself on a tree trunk. Mishell followed more carefully. “But they usually just pass it off as me just being very expressive.”
“And I would have too. Any one of those traits alone wouldn’t have been enough. But all together, I don’t know, it just all seemed to point to it.”
The Doctor stared at her in admiration, feeling that he was learning more about this girl all the time.
“You are extremely perceptive, Mishell.”
“I’ve learned to read people,” she said. “I’ve had to.”
“You’re very good at it.”
She waved away the praise, and they fell silent again.
“Rose is human,” she said after a minute.
“Yes,” the Doctor agreed. He smiled at her. “You could tell that too?”
“Guess so. She engages with us more. Not that you didn’t engage, but she was more natural. Also, you look at her the way you look at us.”
Then she paused, and he saw a faint smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
“Well, not exactly how you look at us.”
The Doctor suddenly became very interested with the tops of his trainers.
“Watch your step here,” Mishell indicated to a large damp looking patch up ahead of them. The Doctor eyed it, trying to gauge the danger. “Mud.”
“Anything special about this mud?”
“No,” Mishell rolled her eyes. “Just normal mud. But I know that I, personally, don’t want to spend the next few days in mud-soaked shoes, so if I were you, I’d watch your step.”
With that, she skipped nimbly across the few protruding rocks, and the Doctor followed suit.
“So, if you’re not human,” Mishell inquired. “What are you?”
The Doctor debated only a moment. If they were to work together, they needed to trust each other. And trust was earned, not given. Also, if he answered her questions honestly, it might help him obtain a few answers of his own later.
“I’m a Time Lord.” Mishell actually stopped in her tracks, eyeing him, as though waiting for him to say he was joking. When he didn’t, she shook her head.
The Doctor actually laughed out loud.
“That’s one word for it. And it suits them rather well.”
“But not you?” Mishell asked, immediately jumping on his word usage. The girl didn’t miss a trick. He got the impression that this was a hard-earned skill.
“I’m sort of a renegade,” he said. That was the understatement of the millennium, but it spared him the trouble of explaining the whole “Last of the Time Lords” bit, which he didn't want to go into right now. “Running about, travelling with humans, it wasn’t really their style.”
“Oh,” she nodded. “What’d they have against humans?”
“It was nothing personal. They just had a superiority complex like you wouldn’t believe.”
He suddenly fell silent, realizing once more that the people he was so casually joking about were dead and gone. Just because they’d nearly driven him mad didn’t mean that they weren’t still his people, and the now-familiar ache of loss tugged at the part of his hearts which would be forever scarred.
Mishell seemed to sense she’d hit a sore point, perhaps picking up on his usage of the past tense, and neither of them spoke again for a long while.
Now that they’d lapsed back into silence, his thoughts turned once again to Rose. He wished she was here. Not that Mishell wasn’t good company, but he hardly knew her. They’d been thrown together out of necessity, not companionship. He wished Rose were by his side, though of course, if she was, this entire trip would be unnecessary.
But mostly, he just wished he could be certain that she was all right. Oh, he could speak with certainty to Mishell, and he truly did believe Rose was most likely alive, but there was still an element of uncertainty, and the Doctor hated it. Ever since he’d come so close to losing her on Krop Tor, ever since the words of the Beast had rang out, he’d been more concerned than ever in ensuring her safety. He didn’t know what he’d do if…how he’d manage if…
“We’re going to need to stop and get food eventually,” the Doctor said, forcing himself not to think about the "if". They hadn’t taken any supplies with them, knowing they couldn’t deprive the others. He’d hoped to get food in the TARDIS, but obviously, that wasn’t going to work. Despite the fact that he desperately wanted to keep going, logically, he knew that they would need food and rest if they were to be at their best when they reached their destination.
“Yeah,” Mishell agreed.
She could hunt, she said. She’d be able to find them food.
“Just so long as you’re not a vegetarian.”
“Tried that once,” he said, remembering the event with a certain fondness that comes from many, many years of distance. “Resolve didn’t last.”
“So…” she paused, but forged ahead with a stubborn look, “you can eat normal food? Like, what humans eat?”
He grinned at the statement, though he had to admit it was a reasonable question.
“Yup,” he nodded. “Just don’t give me pears.”
“Why?” She was probably expecting him to say he was deathly allergic.
“I hate them.”
Mishell paused, staring at him with an inscrutable expression. Then she slowly smiled.
And despite thoughts and worries about Rose crowding his head, he couldn’t help but smile back.
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Chapter 12: Chapter 11: Enemy
Author's Notes: When plots collide. The link to Step by Step finally fully steps out into the open, and Rose realizes that they are in SERIOUS trouble.
A nice looong chapter. Enjoy, and once again, thank you so much for your reviews, favorites, and reads. Things have been sort of rough recently, and you guys's reviews have been one of the brightest spots of my days.
She had no way of knowing how much time had passed, but she did know that she had long since progressed from bored and annoyed, to bored out of her mind and seriously ticked off. This didn’t make sitting alone in an empty, silent cell any more appealing, and only served to heighten her stir-craziness.
However, despite her boredom, frustration, and fear, she must have finally dropped off to sleep, for the next thing she knew, she was jerked awake as loud footsteps echoed outside her cell. She had just enough time to jump defiantly to her feet before the door swung open, revealing a figure Rose hadn’t expected.
Flanked by two soldiers, but barely looking at them, her large, piercing eyes boring straight into Rose’s, stood a woman.
She wasn’t human, that much was immediately obvious. She was over two meters tall, dwarfing the soldiers who stood by her side. Her skin was a delicate cross between white and blue, but her facial features appeared human, her hair black and falling freely down her back. She was dressed in flowing green robes, embroidered with gold, which gave her the appearance of an empress or some other authority figure.
But what caught Rose’s attention most of all was her attitude. This woman had an air of authority about her which was like nothing she’d ever seen. Only the Doctor had ever come close, but even his innate authority somehow paled in comparison to this. There was no question that this woman was in charge of the situation, despite the fact that Rose had no idea what the situation was.
The intensity in her gaze was enough to make Rose want to back away, and it took all her willpower not to do so. With no effort at all, this woman made the soldiers beside her look as though they were just children playing at war. Rose’s heartbeat quickened as every single instinct she’d ever cultivated screamed at her that this was bad. That this woman was dangerous. So, so dangerous.
Rose had no doubt that this was the “her” that the leader had given orders to contact.
For a long moment, the woman regarded Rose with icy grey eyes, and the look in those eyes chilled her. The woman looked as though she were coldly admiring a new plaything. A new addition to a collection.
“Rose Tyler?” the woman asked. Her voice was low and soft, yet somehow carried an undercurrent of danger with it.
“Yes,” Rose nodded, refusing to show fear.
The woman’s lips twitched in the slightest of satisfied smiles, but the next second, she’d strode into Rose’s cell, followed closely by the two soldiers.
Her eyes widened.
“Why is she still restrained?” she demanded, rounding on the soldiers. “What possible reason could you have for it?”
“Our orders…ma’am,” one of them said, trying his best to sound professional and not frightened out of his wits.
Rose wondered how she ever could have thought of them as the enemy. Then she reminded herself that, regardless of how ridiculous this woman was making them look, these men still had guns, and would use them.
“We were told to take every precaution to ensure she was secured until your arrival,” the other added, doing a slightly better job at not looking terrified than his counterpart.
“That’s no cause to unnecessarily bind her,” the woman snapped.
She reached out and caught hold of Rose’s cuffed wrists in a surprisingly strong grip. Her fingers were long and tapered, and she appeared, Rose noted detachedly, to have six fingers, not five. She pulled Rose forward a step, nearly causing her to stumble as she fought to keep her balance, and yanked Rose's arms out straight, displaying her wrists to the soldiers.
“Look at this!”
The cuffs had caused some bruising, though Rose hadn’t really noticed until that moment. The soldiers looked at each other, clearly wondering what was the proper thing to do.
“And this,” the woman added. Rose flinched, unable to help it, as the woman forcefully tilted her head back, displaying the bruises caused by the soldiers' blows. Her voice was indignant, but her tone rang false to Rose, and she didn’t let down her guard for an instant. “Honestly! How have you people managed to live with yourselves all this time, if you get your entertainment from needlessly harming a young girl?”
She released Rose’s face, and Rose backed away.
“Get those off of her at once,” the woman ordered, gesturing to the cuffs. “And if anyone else lays a hand on her without my permission, there will be consequences.”
One of the soldiers moved forward and uncuffed her, quickly backing away again.
Rose looked from the soldiers to the woman, unable to shake the terrifying feeling that she’d moved out of the frying pan, and into a very, very hot fire.
“Now leave us,” the woman ordered, with the type of authority that did not request to be obeyed, but fully expected it.
Casting half-fearful, half-resentful looks over their shoulders, the soldiers did as they were told, closing the door behind them with a resounding thud.
Rose took a deep breath, steeling herself for whatever was coming next.
The woman moved away from the door a bit, so that she was regarding Rose from across the cell.
“Rose Tyler,” she said, sounding each syllable out with triumphant precision. “I am very sorry that we’ve had to meet under these circumstances, but I’m very pleased to meet you.”
Despite her fear, Rose’s temper had not yet recovered from hours and hours of boredom and isolation.
“I can’t quite say that the feeling is mutual,” she replied, barely keeping from snapping the words.
“Understandable,” the woman nodded. She stared at Rose for a solid minute, and Rose shifted uncomfortably. “You have no idea how long we’ve waited to find you.”
“Who’s we?” Rose demanded. “And who are you? And how do you know who I am?”
“Who I am isn’t important, nor is the matter of who my lackeys are. And you’re quite well known in some circles, Rose.” She smiled, but there was very little warmth in it.
Rose contemplated pressing for further information on the woman’s identity, but decided it wouldn’t be wise. She’d just noticed the long, wickedly-curved knife the woman was wearing at her side.
“What am I doing here?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea what you did to make enemies out of those boys out there,” the woman said, with an idle wave of her hand. “And to be perfectly honest, I really don’t care. All that matters is that you are here, and that I have found you.”
“Why were you looking for me?” Rose asked, trying to keep calm, though she was getting frustrated by the lack of information, not to mention frightened by how much this woman seemed to know about her.
“Well, not you, specifically,” the woman admitted. “No offense, Rose, but you’re not exactly worth my time, are you?”
“Thanks,” Rose grumbled. “I think I’ll take offense.”
The woman leaned against the wall, clasping her hands together.
“Right then, enough pleasantries. We know who you are, Rose Tyler, and we know who you travel with.”
Though Rose had suspected it, her heart still stopped at these words. However, she kept her outward composure.
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t play games with me!” In an instant, the woman's entire demeanor had shifted, and the dangerous undercurrent Rose had detected was fully visible on the surface.
The woman advanced.
“We know that you travel with the Time Lord known as the Doctor.” She nearly spat the last word.
“What?” Rose demanded. “The Doctor? Doctor who?”
The woman advanced another step, and Rose realized she was backed against the wall.
“Rose,” she said, her voice surprisingly gentle, “please don’t lie to me. I already know that you travel with him, and it’s in insult to both of our intelligences to claim otherwise. You carry twenty-first century Earth technology, and you bear a unique energy signature present in those only who have been exposed to the time vortex. And there’s only one way you can travel in the vortex like that…”
The woman paused for effect.
“…and that way is sitting in our vaults.”
Rose felt like she’d been kicked in the chest. They had the TARDIS too? How? And what did they want with her? With either her or Rose?
“There it is,” the woman said in satisfaction, evidently seeing the expression on Rose’s face. “A TARDIS. The last living TARDIS, to be precise. And her pilot…the last of the Time Lords…the Doctor.” Again speaking his name with revulsion, though she was trying to temper it for Rose’s sake.
Rose swallowed hard. Playing dumb was definitely not going to work in this case. This woman already knew too much.
At least now Rose had her answer as to what they’d seen on the scan. Now that she thought about it, she remembered the Doctor mentioning something about temporal energy altering a little of her body chemistry. He’d assured her it was harmless, and eventually, she believed him and forgot about it.
“Look,” she said, thinking fast. “I’m sorry I lied.”
“I understand why you did, Rose, I really do. But please don’t ever lie to me again.” There was no mistaking the warning this time.
“Why do you care about the Doctor?” Rose demanded. “What did he do to you?”
The woman’s eyes blazed like fire, and she struck Rose hard enough to knock her to the floor. Rose tried not to cry out in pain as she hit the hard metallic floor. For a second, the woman looked as though she were going to murder her right then and there, and Rose scrambled backwards.
Then she calmed down.
“I am sorry about that,” she said. “But my temper sometimes gets the better of me.”
“Stay away from me,” Rose warned, moving backwards along the wall, ignoring the pain as she got to her feet.
“I don’t want to hurt you, Rose.”
“Somehow, I’m not convinced.”
“You just need to learn respect. I know that this isn’t your fault, and I don’t want you to end up in further trouble.”
She held out her hands placatingly.
“Rose, I’m going to be honest with you.” Rose sincerely doubted it. “You’re in trouble. You’ve wound up in a situation far larger than you could ever comprehend, and far more dangerous. There’s a storm coming, and the Doctor is right at the center of it. And you’re caught up alongside him.”
“That’s where I want to be,” Rose retorted.
“I know you think he’s a good man, Rose, but you don’t understand. This is far bigger than you, and if you don’t help me, you’re going to be swept up in this, and I won’t be able to stop it.”
“Help you?” Rose demanded.
“I don’t want to hurt you. You’re innocent, and I know that.”
“If you’ve got a problem with the Doctor, you’ve got a problem with me!”
The woman closed her eyes, shaking her head.
“He’s really done a good job on you, hasn’t he?” she sighed. “This is going to be harder than I thought.”
Rose was furious and frightened all at once. She was immediately aware of how volatile this situation was, and this woman in particular. If she had a hope of getting out of this cell in one piece, she had to keep this woman, whoever she was, calm. And gather as much information as possible. Which meant she might have to play along, just a little.
“Not that I’m going to,” she said slowly. “But if I were going to help you, what would that mean?”
The woman eyed her, and gave a slight, satisfied nod.
“You see, Rose, the body count that the Doctor leaves behind has not escaped notice. And for many years now, I have made it my mission that he is apprehended.”
“Apprehended? You make it sound like he’s a criminal.”
“You think he’s not? Even you must know some of the things he’s done! Some of the lives he has destroyed.” Again, the raw rage, and Rose knew that this woman must have some personal connection to something that had happened involving the Doctor. “Can you honestly look me in the eye and tell me that those deeds were right?”
“It’s not that simple…” Rose tried to protest.
“I have many contacts,” the woman continued as if Rose hadn't spoken. “As you may have surmised, I am not from this planet, nor am I in any way affiliated with these toy soldiers and their foolish war.”
“That ‘foolish war’ is killing hundreds of thousands!” Rose retorted.
“And the Doctor has killed billions! How can you condemn one without the other?”
Because he never wanted to hurt anybody. Because he's forced to make the decisions no one else ever would. Because he's forced to take the entire weight of the universe on his shoulders. Because his hearts break at every death. Because he hates himself every day for what he’d done. Because the faces of the dead will never leave his mind.
All these thoughts swam through Rose’s head, yet she knew she couldn’t express any of them in a way that could make this woman understand.
“In any case,” the woman continued, not giving Rose time to formulate a reply, “I am not from here at all. In fact, my base of operations is far, far from here, hence the time it took for me to reach you after word was sent of your arrival.”
My capture, Rose thought, though she chose not to speak.
“And, not to sound proud or anything, but I’ve acquired quite a bit of authority in my little neck of the universe, so to speak. Enough to spread the nets thin, to alert all those over whom I hold any sway, to catch him before he kills again.”
Rose couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“He’s nearly impossible to catch,” the woman said. Her hands clasped behind her back, pacing back and forth.
Rose clenched her fists, trying to keep calm. And trying to fight back fear, as she realized just how big this had the potential to be.
“Although we did have one success a while back.”
“What?” Rose asked, startled. These people had gotten hold of the Doctor? How? When?
“It nearly succeeded too,” the woman added darkly, switching moods once again. “Ten days, we had him…”
Ten days…Ten days?! Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh please no…not that, please not that...
“And they were extremely productive days. But then…you came along and managed to slip him past us!”
She raised an eyebrow.
“Which I’ve got to admit, looking at you, is rather impressive.”
“It was you!” Rose shouted, waves of terror and fury overwhelming her, memories surging back…a dark cell…surrounded by blood…screams of pain…the heat of his burning hand in hers…the feel of his heart struggling to beat…a gun in her hands…oh, please, no! “YOU were the client! The anonymous client!”
“Oh, so they did keep it a secret until the end,” the woman said, looking pleasantly surprised. “How loyal of them.”
“You…you…YOU DID THAT TO HIM?”
“Calm down, Rose!”
“I WILL NOT CALM DOWN!”
She was blinded by rage. All those nights of dreaming of the faceless, nameless monster who’d so nearly destroyed the man she loved…all those hours of wondering, agonizing over who it could have been…and never, never would she have suspected it was someone like this. But here she was, the subject of more hate than Rose had ever vented on any faceless person…here, real, and actually smiling as she referred to the Hell she’d put the Doctor through.
“HOW COULD YOU?” she screamed, shaking so violently that she nearly fell over.
“You have to understand…”
“Rose!” The woman seized her by the shoulders, forcing her to look her in the eye. Rose struggled to get away, but couldn’t. “You have to calm down and be reasonable.”
“I WILL NEVER HELP YOU!”
“All right,” the woman said, letting out a long breath. “Clearly, you need some time to calm down, and start thinking clearly again. I’ll be back tomorrow, and I expect you to be more reasonable.”
Rose choked back a furious sob as the woman let go of her.
She began to walk away, and then turned back around.
“Oh, and before I forget,” she said, drawing the knife.
Rose scrambled back, but there was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. The woman advanced until she’d cornered Rose, and she yanked her arm out straight. Rose fought to escape, but the woman’s grip was like iron.
“This is nothing personal, Rose, honest. It’s just research.”
The knife pierced her skin, opening up a long shallow cut. Rose bit back a cry of pain, refusing to give her the satisfaction.
With a satisfied nod, the woman let go of her, letting Rose move backwards again.
“Had to test the force needed to penetrate your skin,” she said breezily. “It’s different for humans than Time Lords.”
She walked to the door and banged three times. It slid open, and the woman stepped out, looking back over her shoulder as she did so.
“I truly am sorry about this, Rose.”
Then the door shut, and Rose was alone again.
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Chapter 13: Chapter 12: Nightfall
Author's Notes: The poor Doctor has to balance not wearing them out with getting to Rose quickly. If Mishell is wiped out when they get there, she's not going to be able to be as alert as he needs her to be. In case you were wondering why I had them stop for the night when we know Rose is so clearly in trouble. Not heartless, just logical.
Night had fallen, and it was time to make camp. The Doctor could have walked through the night, desperately wanted to, and Mishell was willing, but the Doctor knew she needed her rest. Despite her nighttime excursions and relatively good health, she’d still spent a significant portion of her recent life in an underground bunker, receiving less than adequate nutrition. He had a feeling Mishell would rather collapse than complain to him, but since collapsing in the middle of the woods didn’t seem ideal to the Doctor, he was the one who suggested they stop for the night. The fact that she didn’t object told him he’d made the right call.
Mishell went off to hunt for food, and the Doctor gathered firewood, piling it up in the center of the clearing they’d adopted as their makeshift campsite. They couldn’t risk having a fire for long, because of the risk of being discovered, but they did have to cook whatever meat Mishell managed to catch.
The Doctor flinched at the sound of the gunshot. If any soldiers were nearby, that’d get their attention. Once they were within a day’s walk of this base, they weren’t going to be able to hunt anymore, for risk of being discovered. In fact, they should really keep the hunting to an absolute minimum, if possible.
He’d just finished lighting the fire with the sonic when Mishell reappeared.
“You know,” she observed, “some people might call that cheating.”
“Some people?” he echoed. “What do you call it, then?”
Between the two of them, they managed to get the rabbit-like creature Mishell had brought down cooked. The Doctor tried to surreptitiously ensure Mishell got the greater portion, given the fact that she obviously hadn’t had a decent meal like this in a long time. They ate in silence, and finally the Doctor looked across the fire at her.
“Not that I object to what you catch,” he said, “but we should probably keep the hunting down to a minimum.”
“Yeah,” Mishell agreed. “It seems so much louder when you’re trying not to be caught. I used to hunt a lot, especially when I was younger, but it never felt as loud as that one.”
The Doctor raised an eyebrow at this. Mishell couldn't be older than Rose. For her to have been hunting when she was younger meant that she had been hunting as a child. Hunting wasn't usually a job that fell to children. That should be the parents' job...
He didn't comment, though, merely pulling an extra handkerchief out of his pocket and tossing it to her, so she could clean her hands after eating. She eyed his pockets.
“Exactly what else do you have in there?”
“Even I’m not entirely sure,” he admitted.
He knew he was a bit of a pack rat, but even he’d been surprised when he'd once reached into the pocket of the coat and pulled out a bag of jelly babies which he hadn’t seen since his fourth life. Which was odd, in retrospect, because he’d never worn that coat in his fourth life. He'd yet to puzzle that one out, and had sort of given up trying.
The first time in a very long time that his pockets had been fully emptied was when he’d been taken by those hired killers, a few months ago. Rose had found it extremely amusing, and they spent several of the inevitable sleepless nights following the ordeal cataloguing various items. So he’d cut down on the junk a bit since then, but he still wasn’t sure what he might pull out, if he wasn’t careful.
The two of them sat in silence, watching the fire die down to glowing coals.
“Do you actually have a plan for getting her out?” Mishell asked.
The Doctor sighed. They still didn’t even know if Rose was there, much less how to get her out.
“Not really,” he admitted. “But I’ll think of something. I always do.”
“You’re very confident,” Mishell said, rolling onto her side and propping her head on her hand, gazing at him across the dying embers.
“Just very stubborn,” the Doctor shrugged. “Because the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.”
Mishell was silent for a minute.
“So you really think she’s still alive?”
He had to believe it. He had to believe that he’d know if she wasn’t alive. He’d feel it, somehow. A jerk in the ever shifting timelines around him, a ripple, something. She couldn’t be so very important and not have some sort of an impact on the world. Her passing would be felt…it had to be. She was too important to go out unnoticed.
Or maybe what he really meant was that she was too important to him...
He couldn’t let himself think that way, no matter how much he might want to. To acknowledge the words, even to himself, would start a chain of events that could only lead to tragedy. A human lifespan…such a short life…any future would be marred by inevitable broken hearts. Feeling it was one thing, but to bring it into the open, to actually allow his hearts to belong to another, only to let them be ripped apart by her inevitable death? It didn’t bear thinking about.
But who was he kidding? Denying the words might prevent any action, but they couldn’t change the truth. How he felt. He knew his hearts already belonged to her, and the idea of losing her made him want to crawl into a hole and never come out.
It was impossible. However much he might want it, he knew it could never be, and it was foolish to even allow himself to dream. He didn't deserve her. And Rose deserved so much better than him. Someone who could give her a stable home, a safe life, a family…someone who could grow old with her. At the moment, she enjoyed almost every minute of their chaotic TARDIS life, but what happened when she inevitably realized everything she was missing?
“Seems like this is kind of a regular occurrence with you,” Mishell observed, breaking through his thoughts. “At least, you don’t seem fazed.”
“Being put in jail is not an uncommon event for us,” he admitted. “And one of us usually winds up rescuing the other. This isn’t a unique event, but at the same time…” The valiant child, who will die in battle, so very soon. “This is a bad situation, and I need to get her away from them.”
“We,” Mishell corrected quietly.
“We,” he agreed.
Then he took a deep breath, finally asking a question of his own.
“Mishell, why are you helping me? I mean, why are you really helping me? Not as a guide, not as some noble quest. You don’t even know me. Why are you doing this?”
She rolled over onto her back, staring up at the tree branches overhead.
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I just wanted to do something, instead of just sitting underground, waiting for the patrols to find us.”
“How did you end up with Paz and Kaye in the first place?” They’d been vague on the details in the bunker.
“It was an accident,” Mishell admitted quietly. “Just a complete coincidence. Dennel and I quite literally stumbled into the basement, during an attack. Paz found us, brought us in, and we never left.”
“So you and Dennel knew each other before…”
“Yeah,” Mishell said softly.
The Doctor didn’t know what to say. He wanted to tell Mishell about Dennel’s last words, the sentence he’d tried to complete before he died. The words that would now never be said. He had a suspicion as to what they were, but he didn’t know for sure, and it wasn’t fair to Mishell, or to Dennel’s memory, to put words in the man’s mouth.
He was uncomfortably reminded of his own failed attempt at a last message, hanging down an abyss in the very depths of Krop Tor. The one time the words had almost come out, but at the last second, he couldn’t do it. He’d wanted to tell her. If he was going to die, he didn’t want to die without her ever knowing. Even if she didn’t return the feelings, at least she’d know.
But the same fears that held him back every time had surged forward. A fear that saying the words would make them real, to himself, as well as to her. And facing that reality, when he could have been moments away from death, was something the Doctor just couldn’t do.
The fire died out, and soon, all was quiet.
The Doctor couldn’t sleep, as usual. So he lay on the ground, feeling the rough sticks and stones underneath him, and gazed up through the treetops. He could just catch a glimpse of a few stars sparkling overhead, and he felt the familiar itch to run, as he always did when he saw the stars. So much to explore, so much to see…how could he ever remain still?
But in the 900 (give or take, the Doctor adopted the principal of plausible deniability when it came to his age) years since the Schism, he’d also learned to temper that. Rose might have laughed to hear him say that, and it was true, he still spent most of his life running. But he’d also learned to appreciate the beauty of a still moment. A hand in his. The roll of a tide coming in. The sight of a garden after a spring rain. A starry sky sparkling through the trees.
The chaos and noise of his life just made the little moments of stillness all the more precious.
He found himself reaching out for the TARDIS again, trying to feel her. Their bond was intact, of course, and he felt her nudge his mind gently, trying to calm him, while also communicating her own distress. But it was still so faint and far away. Still, it was better than nothing, and he held onto the contact as long as he could, trying to reassure his ship that everything would be okay. He couldn’t talk to Rose, but he could at least try to help the TARDIS.
A noise snapped his frail hold on concentration, and he sat up instinctively.
The sound came from the other side of the fire, and after a moment, the Doctor’s hearts broke as he realize what the sound was. It was the sound of soft crying. Soft, but also heart wrenching, the kind of sobs that were going to happen whether you wanted them to or not.
She was desperately trying to muffle it, probably afraid to wake him.
Afraid that he’d know.
His initial instinct screamed at him to go to her, the way he would if it was Rose, but reason quickly reasserted itself. They may have struck up a camaraderie in the face of the current situation, but he’d met her less than three days ago, and she was mourning the loss of someone she’d known for a lot longer than that. Because he knew who she was weeping for.
The Doctor softly lay back down, hoping she hadn’t heard him. She needed her privacy. Grief needed to be shared, but there was a component that was entirely personal. This was Mishell’s loss, and the Doctor could never hope to understand it. So he did the only thing he could do, under the circumstances. He pretended to be asleep, and promised himself that he would never mention this to anyone.
It was a long time before she fell silent again.
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Chapter 14: Chapter 13: Never
Author's Notes: A happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends out there! And if any of the rest of you celebrate it too, well, happy Thanksgiving to you too!!!
Rose vs. creepy woman, round 2. And Rose does more reflecting, not having much else to occupy herself with in the meantime.
Rose had managed to get herself under control, forcing herself to at least momentarily push aside the shocking revelations of the meeting she’d just had, and focus on her injury. It wasn’t very deep, but it was bleeding, and Rose had ended up constructing a makeshift bandage out of her socks.
“The Doctor is going to hit the roof when he sees that,” she whispered shakily.
The Doctor! Rose closed her eyes, realizing anew the enormity of the situation she’d been thrust into.
This person was the one who had ordered the torture and attempted murder of the Doctor. The one who had given the instructions that still chilled Rose’s heart, that it ‘take as long as possible’ to kill him. She hadn’t just wanted the Doctor dead…she wanted him to suffer, as long and cruelly as possible. She wanted him destroyed, and she’d very nearly succeeded.
Someone who was capable of ordering something like that was capable of anything. And now Rose was this woman’s prisoner, and the Doctor was coming to get her, not having any idea that this had anything to do with what had happened before. How could he?
And according to them, they had the TARDIS too. Rose didn’t know how these people had managed to find the TARDIS, but if this woman knew about Rose, then it was fairly likely she also knew about the TARDIS, and probably her police box disguise.
Rose covered her face with her hands, breathing deeply, trying to steady her nerves. The pain in her face and arm made it difficult, but she imagined the Doctor sitting next to her, gently urging her not to panic, using humor to put her at ease, and slowly, her trembling ceased.
She was still furious, still beyond furious about what she’d just discovered. All those nights of dreaming about the monster who’d ordered that done to the Doctor, and now that person was right here and now. Rose wanted to kill her, a feeling that she was not proud of, and tried to stifle. She knew the Doctor wouldn’t want that, not if he could at all help it. Cold-blooded murder was never the answer.
“What do I do?” she whispered out loud. “Doctor, what do I do?”
She had to keep her temper. If she lost control again, she could cause the woman to snap, and that could result in serious injury. Rose wasn’t above enduring pain to achieve a goal, if no other option was available, but she wasn’t stupid. She wasn’t going to let herself get hurt if there was no beneficial result from it.
She lifted the bloodstained sock to get a look at the cut. It had stopped actively bleeding, but Rose left the makeshift bandage in place anyway.
She had to try and get answers from this woman, but also not let her faze her. It was clear that the woman considered Rose to be an innocent victim caught up in the Doctor’s thrall. What had she said? “He’s really done a good job on you, hasn’t he? This is going to be harder than I thought.” This woman honestly and completely believed that the Doctor was evil, and she was going to try to convince Rose of that too.
It was frightening, and also disconcerting, to hear people talk about the Doctor as though he was a villain. As though he was on par with some of the worst mass murderers in history.
Rose wasn’t naÔve. She knew that the Doctor had done things, terrible things. He hadn’t told her everything about the Time War, but she knew enough to know that it wasn’t just the Time Lords and Daleks who had suffered. The Doctor had been forced to fight, and he’d hated every minute of it. Even beyond the War, she knew that he couldn’t always make the morally correct choice, had seen it with her own eyes.
And from a completely outside standpoint, she figured, it wouldn’t make sense, that she would stay with a man who she knew to have done those things, and likely many more.
But it wasn’t like that, and Rose didn’t know how she could ever make that woman understand. The Doctor wasn’t a murderer, however much he might consider himself one on one of his bad days. He was a good man who had been forced to commit murder on various occasions. There was so much more to him than just the lives he’d taken, and for every life lost, there were hundreds that had been saved.
Rose didn’t think of the death and the suffering when she thought of him.
She thought of chips, of leather jackets, and “everybody lives.”
Of a red bicycle when she was twelve, of dancing in the TARDIS, and bananas.
Of a smile that transformed a face, Bad Wolf, and “have a fantastic life.”
She thought of Barcelona, of satsumas, and great big threatening buttons that must never, ever, ever be pressed.
Of apple grass, robot dogs, and horses named Arthur.
Of dark eyes that shone like the sun, a hand that fit in hers perfectly, and “the stuff of legend.”
The little things, the important things. What made him who he was, and the things that made her love him.
But how could she explain that? How could she make anyone understand, when they hated him so much? Even in the few times that woman had mentioned the Doctor’s name, she could see the hate in her face. This wasn’t just a grudge. This was an obsession. And Rose wasn’t going to be able to talk her out of it.
What could she do? There had to be something! The Doctor would tell her to just keep herself safe until he could come for her. But if he came for her, he’d be walking right into the grasp of this woman who had already put him through the worst ordeal he’d endured in a very long time.
For Rose had a feeling she knew why she was here. The same reason the TARDIS was here.
They were bait.
Rose didn’t know how much time passed. When she was with the Doctor, he could tell her exactly how much time had passed, down to the second. Sometimes, he complained, he suspected she only kept him around to be a living stopwatch. But on her own, with no light from any windows or doors to go by, Rose could only guess. It felt like lifetimes, but more realistically, she decided it’d been several hours, at least, since the woman had left her. It was probably night by now. That meant she’d been a prisoner for almost a full 24 hours. And she hadn’t been fed at all during that time, which was beginning to be more and more of a problem.
Of course, she wasn’t exactly looking forward to the woman’s promised return either. It would shatter the monotony, but at the same time, Rose couldn’t suppress her fear of the woman either. It was instinctive.
Footsteps sounded outside, and Rose jumped to her feet, wishing with all her heart that she had something to put between her and the woman (for she was certain that this was who was coming), just to have some sort of barrier between them. She forced herself to calm down, suppressing the anger that pushed to the surface once again.
Stay calm, she ordered herself. Don’t do anything stupid. Get her talking.
The door opened, and sure enough, the tall, slender form of the woman stepped into the cell. She’d changed her clothes, confirming Rose’s theory that she’d now spent the night in this cell. And she was carrying a tray in front of her.
“Hello, Rose,” she said, and her voice was much gentler than the last time they’d spoken. Rose didn’t reply, and the door was shut behind the woman, sealing the two of them inside together.
For a long moment, they sized each other up. Then the woman stepped forward, holding out the tray.
“You haven’t eaten since you were brought here, have you?” she inquired.
Rose eyed the tray suspiciously, instinct keeping her wary of any act of kindness. The woman uncovered the tray, revealing a surprisingly decent meal, which made Rose’s stomach growl just to see it. But Rose was still skeptical.
“I’m not hungry,” she lied.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” the woman said. “But I understand your suspicion.”
She set the tray down on the ground in front of her and sat down on the floor. She gestured to Rose.
“Come, join me. Look, I don’t have the knife this time.” It was true, Rose realized. The woman wore nothing but an empty sheath at her waist.
Slowly, cautiously, Rose approached, sitting down on the floor across from the woman. The woman reached out and took Rose’s hand, pulling her arm out straight, not roughly, but insistently. Rose fought the urge to pull back as the woman gazed at her makeshift bandage.
“Here,” the woman said, reaching into the pocket of her robes. She pulled out a wad of bandages, and a small bottle of something. “This will work a little better as a bandage, and there's disinfectant in here.”
Rose took the items hesitantly, setting them aside for later.
“Eat,” the woman ordered. “You must be starving. I’m sorry it took so long for me to come, but I figured you would rather have some time to yourself.”
Still, Rose didn’t move. What if the woman had done something to the food? She’d encountered similar situations before, and she’d learned the hard way to be suspicious of anything offered her by a captor, especially one who had already proven themselves to be violent.
The woman sighed.
“Rose, if I was going to poison you, I could have done it long ago. If I wanted you unconscious or drugged, I could have done it when I was last here. It’s just food. Eat it.” She picked up the loaf of bread, tore off a piece, and ate it. “See? No poison.”
Reluctantly, unable to deny her hunger any longer, Rose began to eat. The woman obligingly tasted every portion before Rose touched it, proving it was not poisoned. The food was surprisingly good, and Rose ate in silence, trying not to feel uncomfortable under the penetrating gaze of the woman across from her.
“Rose, I am sorry about what happened earlier. I hadn’t realized what a shock the information would be to you.”
Rose gritted her teeth, but forced herself to speak.
“I shouldn’t have overreacted. Shouting solves nothing.”
“Exactly!” the woman looked pleased.
Once Rose finished eating, the woman pushed aside the tray and faced Rose squarely.
“Now,” she said. “I think we’ve been going about this the wrong way. I don’t want to hurt you, Rose.”
Rose couldn’t help but glance down at her arm, which still stung terribly.
“That was an unfortunate necessity,” the woman sighed. “I needed information. Hopefully such measures will not need to be taken again.”
“What did you need the information for?” Rose asked.
The woman pursed her lips.
“Let’s hope it won’t come to that.”
Rose swallowed hard, but maintained her composure.
“What do you want with us? Who are you?”
“My name is not important,” the woman said again. “It has been lost in time, along with everything else.” Everything else? What did that mean?
“Then what am I supposed to call you?”
“You don’t have to call me anything. Just continue as you have done.”
She got to her feet and began pacing around the cell slowly. Rose followed suit, not wanting to remain seated on the floor like a child while the woman towered over her. She was already dwarfed by the woman’s tall stature.
“What are you going to do to me?” Rose demanded. “What do you want with me?”
“I want you to be reasonable,” the woman said, turning to face her.
“You’re just a human. You have a family, you have a home. You’re not a killer, Rose, I know that.”
“Neither is he,” Rose retorted automatically.
“Even you know that’s not true,” the woman said coolly.
“Calling him a killer implies that he enjoys it,” Rose replied. “That he’s never done anything else, that you’re defining him by only one action, instead of his whole character.”
“He is a killer, Rose, and there is no denying it. Not only has he taken lives, he’s commited genocide, numerous times over. I know it, only too well.”
“A story for another time, I think.”
The woman approached her, and Rose didn’t back away, even when the woman put her hands on Rose’s shoulders, like a parent speaking to a child.
“You’re a good person, Rose, and I can see it. You don’t deserve what’s coming, and I don’t want you to suffer for someone else’s actions, that you had no control over.”
“So, what, you want me to deny him?” Rose demanded. “Because that will never happen.”
“Loyalty is admirable,” the woman said, her eyes not blinking as they drew Rose’s gaze like a magnet. Trying to see straight to Rose’s soul. “And I know you think of him as a friend, but you don’t really want to suffer for his actions.”
“If he’s guilty of genocide,” Rose said, forcing her voice not to shake. “Then so am I.”
The woman blinked for a second, then realization flooded her face.
“The Daleks,” she nodded slowly.
“Yes,” Rose said, not even bothering to wonder how the woman knew about this. “I killed them. All of them. With just a thought.”
“You were not acting in your right mind.”
“I remember doing it.”
And she did. She remembered exactly what it felt like. Some of the other memories from that time were hazy and unclear, but she remembered with blinding clarity the destruction of the Daleks. They had hurt the Doctor, were going to hurt him again, and they were going to destroy her planet. She would not allow that!
“I chose to do it.”
“You weren’t under your own control.”
“I was! How can you condemn the Doctor for what he’s done, and yet claim that I’m innocent?”
For a moment, Rose wondered whether she’d just signed her own death sentence.
Then the woman shook her head sadly.
“You’re not making this easy for me, Rose,” she sighed.
“You obviously know about me,” Rose countered. “Did you really think I would?”
“I’d hoped you’d be reasonable. You don’t have to suffer for his crimes. All you have to do is help us.”
“Help you with what?” Rose demanded. “I’ll never help you capture the Doctor.”
“You’re already doing that,” the woman said, with a small smile.
Rose’s heart felt chilled, and she clenched her fists.
“He’s not going to just walk into your trap.”
“Are you certain of that?”
“He’s outsmarted you before.”
“But now we have you. And his precious ship.”
“So if you don’t want me to help you catch him...” Rose forced herself to stay calm, though the truth in the woman’s words struck her. The Doctor would always come for her. He promised. And even if she were not a prisoner, he’d come for the TARDIS. Of course he was coming. And he had no idea this was anything more than a capture by Calyx’s soldiers. “...then what do you want me to do?”
“We need information.”
“Who hid you?” the woman asked.
“Never,” Rose said, almost before the words were out of the woman’s mouth. “I’ll never tell you that.” She would never betray Paz, Kaye, Mishell, and the children.
“You were found, I hear, with a resident of this planet. Obviously you two came from somewhere. And the fact that the Doctor wasn’t with you means he was with someone else. Someone else who was hiding you. Who were they?”
“I won’t tell you.”
The woman caught hold of Rose’s chin, forcing her head up and back so that Rose had to look her right in the eyes.
“We already know the town where you were found. Pantila. But we need a name. A location.”
Well, so much for not making this woman angry.
She stared right into those murderous grey eyes, and the woman must have seen her certainty.
The woman sighed, releasing Rose.
“I had hoped to avoid this,” she said. “But you leave me no choice.”
“You can kill me,” Rose said, proud to hear that her voice didn’t shake, even as her body did. “But I won’t give them up.”
“Oh, Rose,” the woman shook her head. “We’re not going to kill you.”
With those chilling words, she rapped on the door three times. Then she turned to Rose.
“I am very sorry about what’s going to happen, Rose. You have to know that I didn’t want to do this.”
“Do what?” Rose asked, a sinking feeling in her chest. “What are you going to do?!”
The woman ignored this, merely shaking her head as if she might actually be a bit sympathetic.
“I truly am sorry,” she repeated, stepping out and slamming the door behind her.
Footsteps faded into the distance, and then silence reigned once again.
Back to index
Chapter 15: Chapter 14: Ambush
Author's Notes: Can't let the Doctor have an easy journey to rescue Rose, now can we? Also, does the sonic have a timed-release function? Who knows, but it seems to do EVERYTHING else (except wood), so I'm going to assume yes.
They’d resumed walking almost as soon as the sun had risen, knowing they couldn’t afford to waste any more time. Mishell was calm and composed, directing him as best she could, and gave no indication of the emotion that must have finally burst forth that night. The Doctor didn’t mention it.
“So,” Mishell finally shattered the silence. “What are you doing here anyway?”
“On Frax. Why’d you come, you and Rose? It doesn’t make sense.”
“We travel,” the Doctor said, trying to think of how best to say it. “Sort of anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes we go places on purpose, and sometimes we just...end up places.”
“And this was one of the latter?” she asked.
She eyed him, clearly suspecting that he was holding out on her, but not willing to pry any further. Instead, she indicated to their left, checking with a small compass she was carrying as she did so. The Doctor automatically reached out to the TARDIS, confirming the direction. Just to be on the safe side. Then he followed after Mishell.
The TARDIS being taken was one of the most troubling parts. Rose had been taken by the patrols, the same patrols who’d shot Dennel. But what would patrols want with a big blue box that couldn’t even be opened by normal means? They wouldn’t recognize her for what she was…but then, if they hadn't, why would they take her?
He couldn’t even be sure that the same people had taken the TARDIS as had taken Rose. He had to assume it, and he knew that they were headed in the direction of the TARDIS, but what if Rose wasn’t there? If that was the case, he supposed, they’d be able to use the TARDIS to possibly locate Rose, but still…he needed to find Rose. The TARDIS could protect herself, so long as she was locked and there were no Daleks around. And the Doctor hadn’t seen any signs of those monstrosities since the Game Station.
He sighed, and Mishell glanced at him over her shoulder.
“We’ll find her,” she said.
He couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow.
“Thought I was the one who’d have to be convincing you of that,” he observed.
“Excuse me for trying to be reassuring. Watch your step,” she added, as she nearly lost her footing on some slippery wet leaves. The Doctor maneuvered around them.
“Thanks for the warning.”
“Don’t mention it.”
They continued in silence, until the Doctor signaled for a break. Again, he wasn’t really in need of one, but he wasn’t going to let Mishell exhaust herself, and he could see that she was out of breath. He handed her a bottle of water, and she took it gratefully, before eyeing him suspiciously.
“Okay, how did that fit in your pocket?”
The Doctor merely smiled and shoved his hands into his pockets innocently. Mishell shook her head.
“I’m learning new things about you all the time, Doctor. And each one just paints a stranger picture.”
“And I know almost nothing about you,” the Doctor added.
Mishell crossed her arms, suddenly looking as defensive as when he’d first met her.
“Is there a question in there?”
“Depends,” the Doctor said. “I’m not one to give out much personal background, and something tells me that you’re the same. But I do think it’s only fair for me to know a little bit about who I’m relying on.”
Mishell eyed him for a minute, and then something like a challenge flared up in her face.
“All right, then,” she said. “Most of what I know about you, I guessed. So now it’s your turn. What can you tell about me?” Her tone was light and teasing, but there was a definite edge. This was a dare.
“I…don’t think that’d be a good idea,” the Doctor said. He’d made the mistake of pointing out observations about people before, and the result usually got him an elbow in the ribs from Rose if he was lucky, and thrown in jail if he wasn’t. He immediately reconsidered the personal question line of inquiry. “Forget I said anything. Come on. We need to keep moving.”
He took the bottle back from her and began to walk again. Mishell easily caught up with him, matching his pace stride for stride.
“Why not? You think you’re going to tell me something about myself that I can’t handle?”
“No, Mishell,” he said as gently as he could. “But sometimes there are things in the past that we’d rather not think about. And a surprising amount of those memories are closer to the surface than we think.”
“You sound like you speak from experience.”
She didn’t speak again for a bit.
“Tell me. I’m not afraid.”
“Never said you were.”
“Doctor, tell me!”
He sighed, but acquiesced. He studied her for a minute, drawing on what he knew of her.
“You’re smart,” he said finally. “Not just book smart, but street smart too. You’re incredibly brave, and stubborn.”
“I asked you to describe me, not compliment me.”
“Stubbornness is a compliment?”
He sighed. She wasn’t going to relent until he deduced something substantial.
“You’ve lost a lot of people,” he said quietly. “Not just during this war…before that. You had to survive by your wits, and you had a hard childhood. And that’s all I’m going to say.”
Mishell looked like she was debating whether to push him further or not, but the next second, something caught his attention. The softest of sounds, barely audible even in the relative silence of the forest. But it was enough to stop him in his tracks.
Mishell froze too, and he glanced at her.
“Wasn’t planning on it.”
He looked all around, trying to seek out the source of the noise. Then, all in a rush, several things happened at once.
A near-deafening explosion of a gunshot rang out in the trees, and Mishell tackled him to the ground. A bullet whizzed past where he had been standing only a moment earlier.
Neither of them spoke, but he met her eyes gratefully. Then, without even needing to communicate it, they leapt to their feet and dove for cover, splitting up so as to make two smaller targets, instead of one big one.
Another shot ripped through the air. The Doctor saw Mishell draw her weapon, and wanted to protest, but didn’t dare speak. He crouched behind a tree, straining to hear where the shooter was. He could hear something in the trees, and he peered around his shelter, just enough to catch a glimpse of a shadowy figure darting from tree to tree.
Careful not to make any noise, and to keep out of sight of the armed figure, the Doctor slipped out from behind his tree. Hearts pounding in his ears, he made his way to another one, closer to what he now knew to be a soldier.
He’d known that they would eventually encounter soldiers, though he’d hoped they would cover more ground before they did so. He knew that there was no way that these forests were devoid of the soldiers that were so pervasive in the towns, and he reminded himself that they’d been fortunate to make it this far. Now he could only hope that this man was actually alone, as opposed to part of a troop.
The soldier advanced carefully, but didn’t seem to realize that the Doctor had moved from his original location, for he drew nearer to him without so much as looking in his direction.
The man held his weapon at the ready, aiming it at the last place he’d seen the Doctor and Mishell. Where was Mishell? He didn’t know, but he had to hope that she could take care of herself.
Suddenly, the soldier stopped, startlingly close to the Doctor, and raised his weapon. The Doctor followed his line of sight, and caught the smallest glimpse of Mishell’s shirt.
“NO!” he shouted, leaping out from behind his tree. It was his turn to tackle someone, and he and the soldier fell heavily to the ground, the gun firing harmlessly into the trees.
Mishell burst out of her hiding place, weapon at the ready.
The soldier had stopped struggling, and the Doctor was surprised to find that the man had struck his head as he fell, knocking him unconscious. Terrified that he’d accidentally killed the man, he was relieved when he found a pulse. The soldier would have a nasty headache when he awoke, but it didn’t look as though he’d have any permanent damage.
The Doctor got to his feet, and went to Mishell’s side.
“Did you kill him?” Mishell demanded.
“No. He’s just unconscious.”
Mishell stared at the soldier, utter loathing in her face. She took a step forward, aiming the gun at the man’s head.
“No,” the Doctor said firmly, stepping in between them. “Don’t. He’s not going to hurt us now.”
“He tried to kill us.”
“And didn’t succeed.”
“Doctor, get out of the way!”
There was something akin to desperation in Mishell’s face, along with her fury.
“He doesn’t deserve to live!” she insisted.
“He doesn’t deserve to die,” the Doctor countered.
“DENNEL DIDN'T DESERVE TO DIE!” Mishell shouted, her eyes wide and full of unspeakable pain.
“I know,” he said softly. “I know he didn’t. And it’s not fair. But killing this man won’t make it hurt any less. Trust me.”
“What if it were Rose?” Mishell demanded. “What if Rose had been the one who was killed?”
The Doctor refused to let her distract him, even though her words sent a chill down his spine.
“This isn’t justice. This is cold-blooded murder. You’re better than that, Mishell, and you know it!”
Something changed in her face, ever so slightly, and the Doctor wondered when the last time anyone had told her something like that.
“You’re better than that,” he repeated.
Slowly, he held out his hand for the gun.
Mishell stared at him for a long moment, and silently handed it over.
The Doctor breathed a sigh of relief as he set it aside on the ground, and squeezed Mishell’s shoulder.
“Thank you,” he said.
She only shrugged, and crouched down by the unconscious soldier’s head.
“How long will he be out?” she asked.
“No way of knowing,” the Doctor said. “He hit his head as we fell. He could wake up any time.”
“We can’t have him follow us,” Mishell said, looking up at him. “If we don’t kill him, how can we make sure he won’t?”
The Doctor remembered something that he’d stashed in his pockets several weeks ago, after he and Rose had escaped from police custody on a small planet. (A completely unjustified arrest. How were they supposed to know that stepping on the grass was a crime?) He’d stowed them in there, not even really thinking about it, and as he reached inside, he realized that they were still there.
He pulled them out, and Mishell eyed him.
“Why do you have handcuffs in your pocket?”
“Long story, involving a lack of keep-off-the-grass signs.”
She shook her head.
“Like I said…the picture just keeps getting stranger.”
They cuffed the man’s hands behind him, around the trunk of a tree. He was still unconscious, to the Doctor’s relief.
“But…” Mishell actually looked hesitant to ask, but she finally voiced her thought. “If we’re just chaining him up out here, isn’t that just condemning him to a slow, painful death all alone? How is that any more merciful?”
“He won’t be trapped forever,” the Doctor answered, sonicing the locks on the handcuffs with one of the lesser-used settings. “This will make them unlock in thirty six hours.”
“Your stick-thing can do that?”
“Sonic screwdriver. And yes. So it gives us a 36 hour head start. If it was any longer, he’d start seriously physically suffering, but it’s not overly hot or dry, and he’s young, so he’ll be all right. We’ll leave him some water for when he gets free.”
It was far from ideal, but Mishell was right, they couldn’t risk him following them or tipping off anyone to their presence. If he wasn’t going to allow Mishell to kill him, this was the next safest option.
“What if he calls for help before then? Or alerts someone? Surprise is our only advantage.”
“He’d need this,” the Doctor held up a small wrist-computer, or “wristcomp” as they were more commonly known, which he’d removed from the soldier. “And we’re taking it with us. It might be useful. However, first…” he aimed the sonic at it. “Disable the tracking.”
Mishell shook her head.
“Okay, I admit it, I’m impressed.”
“Thanks,” the Doctor smiled at her, setting the soldier’s canteen down next to him. He got to his feet, and turned to her. “And while we’re saying thank you, thanks for saving me back there. That bullet would’ve hit me if you hadn’t acted when you did.”
“Well, you saved my life too,” Mishell shrugged. She picked up her gun again, holstering it. The Doctor frowned, but didn’t comment. “He was going to shoot me when you jumped him. So we’re even.”
“Guess so,” the Doctor agreed, removing the clip from the soldier’s weapon and leaving the gun itself on the ground.
They both looked down at the soldier, who was just beginning to groan.
“I’m going to suggest that we get away before he wakes up,” the Doctor said.
“Agreed!” Mishell replied, and they both began to run.
Back to index
Chapter 16: Chapter 15: Trap
Author's Notes: The Doctor is NOT going to be happy when he finds out about this...
Rose thumped her head against the wall for what felt like the thousandth time. And for the thousandth time, she reminded herself that this probably wasn’t the wisest course of action, considering the injuries she’d already sustained to her face and head. But her frustration and fear were beginning to reach a critical level, and Rose was furious.
The woman was going to do something, that much had been clear. Something bad. Rose had been around enough enemies to recognize their mannerisms, and while this woman was a lot more unpredictable and extreme than many of them, she still had some recognizable traits. And Rose knew that look. Something very bad was going to happen, and someone was going to suffer.
And what had she said, as she’d left the cell this most recent time?
“We’re not going to kill you.”
She’d placed the emphasis on the word ‘you.’ Obviously implying that someone else was going to die. But who? Did she mean the Doctor? Or others? She’d been so furious when Rose had refused to betray Paz, Kaye, and Mishell. Were others going to suffer because of Rose’s refusal? But how could she have done anything else? She wasn’t going to betray the brave people who had shown so much kindness to her and the Doctor.
The Doctor! Rose covered her face with her hands, groaning in her frustration. He was coming for her, that much she knew. He’d sworn he always would, he’d promised her that he’d storm the town to get her back if he had to. And she couldn’t deny that she wanted to see him again more than anything. She couldn’t deny that she wanted to get out of here, before the woman snapped and hurt her more permanently than she already had.
But Rose desperately didn’t want the Doctor coming, because it was a trap. She was the bait, and this was the trap, and she knew well enough that he was walking right into it. He had no way of knowing that she was being held by anyone more than the soldiers from Calyx. What reason would he have to think otherwise? There was no actual relationship between what had been done to him those months ago, and this planet.
As far as Rose could tell, these soldiers didn’t have anything to do with the men who’d tortured the Doctor. That had been on a different planet, she knew that much, and they didn’t act the same way. The men who’d tortured the Doctor had been mercenaries, dressed in plain clothes, with brutal but casual efficiency. These soldiers from what she’d seen of them, were just that…soldiers. Military. They may take delight in attacking and killing innocent people, but they weren’t the type to spend ten days torturing someone physically and psychologically. She hoped…
“This isn’t fair!” Rose cried, kicking the wall, not that it did any good. They were coming after the Doctor…they were going to hurt people…and there was absolutely nothing Rose could do about it. She couldn’t protect herself, much less anyone else.
Rose hated it, with all her heart. Once again she was being forced to sit by while others suffered. While the Doctor was in danger. These people had forced her to sit in captivity for eight days while the Doctor was tortured nearly to death, and she hadn’t even known it was happening, much less been able to stop it. And now, once again, she was being shunted aside, kept only for her purpose as bait, serving the purpose they desired for her, with no opportunity for escape or to fight back.
This wasn’t who Rose was. Rose wanted to be doing something, needed to be doing something. The whole reason that she and the Doctor travelled was to stand up to injustice. Because they weren’t just going to sit by and let things happen. What had she told her mum and Mickey, what felt like lifetimes ago? The words came back to her as though she’d just spoken them yesterday.
“The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life…you don't just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand. You say "no." You have the guts to do what's right when everyone else just runs away…”
Those were the very principles on which the Doctor had founded his life, and he’d taught her the same. And now, here she was, trapped, forced to sit by and just wait for something to happen, and she hated it so much.
She wished she had some way to at least warn the Doctor that this was more than just the conflict between Frax and Calyx. If there was just some way to let him know, so he wouldn’t be caught off guard…
He’d reached a good place with what had happened, she was fairly certain. He hardly ever spoke about it, and when he did, it was with a kind of genuine peace. Oh, there were rare times when he’d come into her room for no reason, waking her up in the middle of the night, shyly asking if he could stay with her for a while. Rose knew why he came, why he was frightened to be alone in the dark, but she never pushed, merely allowing him to stay with her in the dark.
So she knew that he was still haunted, even if he’d made about as much peace as they could hope for with it. But being confronted with it again might be a shock. Not to mention that he needed to be prepared. This woman was brilliant, mad, and brutal, all rolled into one. The Doctor wouldn’t be expecting someone who hated him so personally. He needed to be prepared, to know what he was walking into. But there was no way to let him know.
The Doctor wasn’t stupid, and she knew he wouldn’t just blunder into a trap. But at the same time, she knew that if he thought her life was in danger, he would put himself at any risk to save her. In his own mind, his life didn’t matter, so long as others were safe.
“But I don’t want you to!” Rose cried out, even though he couldn’t hear her.
She didn’t want him putting himself at risk for her, and she certainly didn’t want him suffering or dying for her. The very idea made her want to be sick.
If he were here, he’d be telling her to stay calm. To stay alive. He’d reassure her that he was coming for her, and that she shouldn’t be scared. But that was easy for him to say when he wasn’t the one languishing for hours on end in a barren cell, punctuated only by visits from the most terrifying woman Rose had ever encountered.
But there was nothing she could do except wait and hope. Rose wasn’t very good at waiting patiently, but she forced herself to keep calm, and wait for the woman’s inevitable return.
As always, Rose had no real sense of how much time had passed, but finally, after what must have been hours, footsteps sounded outside. In what felt like it was already starting to become routine, Rose got to her feet, pulling her sleeve down over her bandaged arm so that it was hidden. She had used the bandages the woman had provided, but that didn’t mean she was going to give her the satisfaction of knowing that, if she could help it.
The woman entered, and the fact that she was still in the same clothes told Rose that it was still the same day.
“Hello, Rose,” she said. Rose glimpsed several soldiers standing in the corridor outside, but to her surprise, they didn’t close the door. Instead, they stood in a row, blocking the way out of the cell.
Rose forced herself to look away and focus on the woman, who advanced across the cell.
“Hi,” Rose said shortly.
“How are you feeling?”
“I’ve had better days.”
Rose wished the woman would drop the congenial act. It was obvious that Rose was nothing more than an object to her. A means to an end. At best, Rose knew, she was thought of as a small child caught up in a parent’s crimes. At worst, she was utterly disposable. Either way, the woman had already proven how violent she was, and Rose just wanted her to stop pretending.
“Look,” Rose said. “What’s the point of all this? Why do you keep coming in here?”
“Because I want you to be reasonable.”
“If you truly think I’m as innocent a victim as you say,” Rose pointed out, “why are you keeping me here? Why are you doing this to me?”
“Because we need you, Rose. You’re the key.”
“I’m not going to help you.”
“I know,” the woman nodded. “We’re past that. We don’t need that information anymore. It’s too late.”
Rose’s heart pounded, and she clenched her fists. What did she mean by ‘too late?’
“What did you do?”
“Only what you forced me to, Rose Tyler.” The woman’s gaze was cold. Rose noted that she once again had her knife in its sheath. “And I deeply regret it.”
“What?! What did you do?”
“You’ll find out, in time,” she shrugged. “But meanwhile, we’ve got work to do.”
At a gesture from the woman, the soldiers stepped into the cell, still carefully blocking the exit. There was no way for Rose to get past them.
“Her hands,” the woman ordered. One of the soldiers quickly stepped forward, yanking her arms behind her back and cuffing them.
“What are you doing?” Rose demanded.
“Silence,” she said.
She scrutinized Rose, taking hold of her face and turning it from side to side. Rose wished she could back away, but the soldier who’d cuffed her was still standing behind her. So she stood her ground, furiously submitting to the woman’s scrutiny.
“Surface damage,” she concluded. “Visible enough, but not that bad, right Rose?” Rose refused to reply. “Still…it needs a little more.”
Even if Rose had anticipated it, she would have been unable to avoid the blow from the woman’s clenched fist. Her head snapped back as she gasped in pain and shock. She could feel her nose begin to bleed from where she’d been struck, but with her hands cuffed behind her, there wasn’t anything she could do about it.
“What was that for?” she demanded, determined not to show weakness, even as her heart pounded in her ears.
“Like I said,” the woman said. “Surface damage. You’ll survive, so stop fussing.”
“I’m not fussing,” Rose snapped. “I’m just not happy about being beaten up.”
The woman smiled as though Rose were a particularly amusing plaything, or a young child who’d just said something foolish and adorable. Rose squirmed, hating to be looked at like that.
“One more thing,” the woman added. She pushed up Rose’s sleeve, exposing the bandage on her arm. She didn’t comment on Rose’s use of the materials she’d provided, which Rose was grateful for. “There we go.”
“Come on,” the woman gestured to the soldiers. “Bring her.”
“Where?” Rose demanded.
No one bothered to answer, and the soldier behind her pushed her forward. Rose couldn’t deny she was desperate to get out of this cell, and considering the abundance of guns and other weapons surrounding her, she knew she should do as she was told.
So she allowed herself to be propelled out of the cell, and down a corridor. The woman led the way, and the other soldiers followed behind. Rose took a deep breath, relieved to find that her nose had stopped bleeding. She tried to calm her pounding heart. She needed to keep a clear head, and needed to stay in control.
She just wished she knew where they were going…
Back to index
Chapter 17: Chapter 16: Broadcast
Author's Notes: Time for the Doctor to clue in, and the Oncoming Storm nearly explodes.
They kept running for a long time, finally slowing just enough to preserve energy. Though neither of them said anything, meeting up with the soldier had rattled them, and reminded them of how precarious their situation was. However, they did finally slow to a more reasonable pace, though neither wanted to stop for a break.
“Here,” the Doctor passed the water bottle over to Mishell without stopping. She took a drink gratefully.
“We can stop for a rest, if you need it?”
She shot him a look, but it was more of a private joke than an actual challenge. Like she was gently teasing him. Like they were friends.
“What, you think I can’t keep up?”
“I think your frail human physiology is no match for my superior Time Lord stamina,” the Doctor replied, earning a wider smile from her.
“Frail? I’ll show you frail.”
She began to run, and laughing, he matched her pace. She slowed after a minute, looking over at him, suddenly serious.
“I wanted to say,” she said slowly. “Thank you. For stopping me.”
The Doctor glanced at her in surprise.
“I’m not saying I’m not going to kill anyone else,” she added. “Something tells me we’re not going to get through this misadventure without some shots fired.” The Doctor winced at the thought, but at the same time, he couldn’t deny it. These soldiers had demonstrated that they would not hesitate to shoot to kill, and however much he might abhor it, he knew that having Mishell as backup might be a valuable asset. “But shooting an unarmed man…” she faltered, shrugging. “Thank you,” she repeated.
They reached a stream, and it took a minute to locate a way across that didn’t involve wet shoes. Finally, the Doctor located some rocks, and they managed to edge their way across, emerging dry and victorious.
“How far away are we?” the Doctor asked, once they were back on solid ground. It was getting later in the afternoon, and the Doctor knew that they’d be spending another night out here. However, if Mishell had been correct about the trip taking three days, then they’d reach the base tomorrow.
“Less than a day,” Mishell said. “Best guess, anyway.” From what the Doctor could tell from his strengthening connection with the TARDIS, this was about correct.
“If we’re going to hunt,” the Doctor told her, “we should do it now.”
Mishell contemplated this.
“Are you hungry?” she asked. He wasn’t, but he didn’t want her to go without, for his sake.
“I could go either way,” he said, noncommittally.
“Because I’m fine. Really,” she added, off his skeptical look. “I got used to getting by on a lot less food than we ate last night, and we shouldn’t risk hunting again. Save our gun for when we need it.” The Doctor debated objecting against her calling it “our gun,” but decided it wasn’t worth pushing the issue right now. Instead, he pulled a banana out of his pocket, handing it over to her.
“Here,” he said. “Eat that.” Mishell eyed it, but evidently they had bananas on Frax, because she only laughed and began to peel it. The speed with which she consumed it only confirmed his suspicion that she had been hungry. Or maybe she had just learned never to let food go to waste.
“Why am I not surprised that you have a banana in your pocket?”
“Bananas are good,” he said, unable to keep from smiling as he remembered saying those very words to Rose and Jack.
He froze as his ears caught the sound of a high pitched beeping noise. Mishell stopped in her tracks.
“I’m not…” the Doctor cut himself off, realizing that the beeping was coming from his pocket. He reached in, and pulled out the soldier’s wristcomp.
“Why is it doing that?” Mishell demanded.
The Doctor didn’t answer, as he turned it over in his hands. The small screen was alight.
“It’s a message,” the Doctor said.
“To the soldier?” Mishell asked, moving to look over his shoulder.
As the Doctor watched, words flashed across the screen.
“It’s a message to everyone,” the Doctor said, feeling a sense of relief. He’d been worried someone had already missed the soldier they’d left behind, and was calling for him on his wristcomp. While they probably could have gotten away with not replying, he didn’t want to do anything to attract any suspicion.
Then the next words flashed on the screen, and his hearts stopped.
THIS IS A MESSAGE FOR THE DOCTOR.
“What?” he breathed, completely unable to believe what he was seeing. Mishell gasped, looking from him to the wristcomp. The words repeated themselves.
OPEN BROADCAST. THIS IS A MESSAGE FOR THE DOCTOR.
“How…” Mishell started to say, but before the Doctor could even register what she was saying, far from register what was happening on the wristcomp, the screen flickered, turning to static. The beeping sound ceased. The Doctor recognized what was about to happen. A video message was about to be broadcast.
The image swam into view, and the Doctor gasped as though he’d been struck, feeling as though someone had just kicked him in the chest.
The image was of Rose.
She was standing against a blank wall, revealing nothing about her surroundings. A soldier stood next to her, a gun to her head. No one else was visible in the shot.
“Rose,” the Doctor whispered, feeling physically ill at the sight. One arm was bandaged. Her face was bruised, as though she’d been struck multiple times. There was blood on her face and shirt, from what looked to be a nosebleed. The sight of her blood made him want to hit something, made him want to shout in his rage. He could feel himself shaking, his free hand clenching into a fist, murderous thoughts tugging fiercely and enticingly at his mind.
Mishell caught hold of his shoulder, squeezing it in a tight, steadying grip.
“She’s alive,” Mishell murmured. “Focus on that.”
The Doctor knew she was right. Most of the damage looked to be superficial. Surface injuries, painful, but not dangerous. It was mostly for show. Proving that they could, and would, physically harm her. Rose was standing under her own power. Her arms looked to be bound behind her, but she looked relatively unharmed. She was alive…he’d hoped it, tried to convince himself of it, but now he had proof.
She looked up, and he swallowed hard as she looked right at the screen. But she didn’t say a word.
A second later, someone began to speak.
It wasn’t Rose, or the soldier onscreen. It was someone out of sight of the camera. And if he’d heard correctly, it was a woman speaking. What was going on?!
“If we have judged your abilities correctly, chances are you have gotten your hands on one of our wristcomps by now. If you haven’t, no doubt you soon will.”
“How do they know who you are?” Mishell murmured.
“I don’t know. Shh…” he hissed, as the voice continued. He could barely breathe.
“As you can see, we have your friend Rose.”
The voice placed heavy emphasis on the word “friend.” The Doctor gritted his teeth as the soldier holding Rose pushed the gun a little closer to her. His hearts ached as he saw her breath catch, and she tried to pull away slightly. But the soldier was using his other hand to hold her in place. The Doctor couldn’t help but smile grimly as she glared at the soldier. Her spirit definitely wasn’t broken.
“For the moment, she is unharmed.” Unharmed? They called that unharmed?! “Whether she remains that way depends entirely on you.”
The woman’s voice was very stiff, lacking in emotion, but more because the speaker was forcing herself not to show emotion, rather than not feeling it.
“We have no wish to harm Rose,” the voice continued. Could have fooled me. “And we know that you feel the same. So we propose a trade. Yourself for her.”
What? The Doctor was honestly taken aback. Why would these soldiers have any interest in him? What did he have to do with the conflict between these planets? He wasn’t involved. How could capturing him aid them in any way? He knew that many species longed to get their hands on a Time Lord for one reason for another, but he honestly didn’t know what these people stood to gain from him.
Rose clearly hadn’t known what the woman was about to say either, for the Doctor saw her eyes widen. She looked like she wanted to say something, but the soldier gave her arm a wrench, and Rose gasped in pain. That sound nearly undid the Doctor, black rage so powerful that it blinded him surging forward, but Mishell’s hand tightened on his shoulder, to the point of being painful. He clamped down on his raging thoughts, forcing himself to think.
“As you have probably guessed, we are at the military base in the forest to the north of Pantila.” That was the name of the town they’d been hiding in. The town Rose had been taken from.
Why were they telling him this? If they knew anything about him, which somehow they appeared to, they must know the danger in revealing their location. They must know what he could do. They were letting him see her injured and in pain…they were purposefully antagonizing him. They must know what was coming for them. He didn’t understand…didn’t know what was happening. Or why…
But at the same time, now he knew Rose was alive. And now he had verified that she was being held at that base. They were already only a day away, so they would be there soon. And if they were interested in him, well, maybe he could use that to his advantage.
“If you have not surrendered by sundown tomorrow,” the woman said. “She will die.”
Rose didn’t flinch at the words, and the Doctor was so proud of her, even as the words chilled him. If they hurt her any more…
“For her sake, I hope you are already on your way.”
That was quite a gamble, the Doctor thought. What if he’d still been in Pantila? Three days away. He’d have had no chance of getting there in time. Either they were taking a big risk…or they knew him well enough to know that he would absolutely be on his way.
“We will play this message on repeat every ten minutes,” the woman said. “To ensure that you see it. Turn yourself over to us, or Rose Tyler dies. It’s that simple.”
The Doctor swallowed hard as Rose looked right into the screen, and it felt as though she were looking right at him. She looked frightened, but also desperate to communicate something. What was she trying to tell him? He knew her so well, but he couldn’t read her mind like this. She glanced off to the side, where the woman speaking on the broadcast seemed to be standing, and then back to the screen. The Doctor clenched his teeth in frustration. He knew she was trying to tell him something important, but what was it?!
“See you soon, Doctor,” the woman’s voice came, and from her tone, he knew this was the end of the message. Rose seemed to know it too, for her eyes suddenly widened.
“ONE WORD! JUST ONE WORD! RUN!” she screamed, all in one breath.
The next instant, the soldier had struck her over the head with the butt of his gun, and the screen went black.
The Doctor stepped back, a feeling of absolute shock sweeping over him, momentarily overwhelming every other emotion, even his horror at what he’d just witnessed, even his fury at what had been done to Rose. The wristcomp slipped out of his hand, and Mishell caught it.
“What did she mean?” Mishell demanded. “Doctor? Doctor, what’s wrong?”
He couldn’t breathe. One word, just one word…run.
Memories assaulted him, triggering a chain reaction in his mind, the words carrying a significance that she must have known they would. Of their first ever meeting, of taking her hand after his regeneration…and his message to her when his tormenters had released her. He’d used them as a reassurance that he wanted her to leave, and also to tell her to run. Those words, forever linked with pain and terror and misery and darkness, and that place…those people.
“Why did she tell you to run?” Mishell asked. She grabbed his hands, trying to get him to focus, and he couldn't help but grip them back. “Doctor?”
“She didn’t…” he whispered.
The word ‘run’ was one thing. But those six words…she knew their significance. She knew that he would remember his torture at the hands of those hired men. That those words would inevitably conjure up images that made him tremble even now. She knew he would think of it…she was counting on it.
“She was warning me.”
It was a message.
She was telling him that this had to do with that ordeal. Somehow, some way…it had something to do with what was done to him. He couldn’t understand how this could be the case, how Frax and Calyx could be linked to that. The planet that the hired torturers were from wasn’t even in this solar system. As far as he knew, the planets had no relations with each other.
But he knew Rose, and he knew that she knew him. This was what she wanted to tell him. She’d known he would think of the torture as soon as he heard those words. And there was only one reason why she’d risk her life to send that message…because this had something to do with that. Were the same torturers here…was it the person who’d hired them…were these people hired too? He didn’t know, but he did know that somehow, this had something to do with those terrible ten days.
For a split second, sheer terror overwhelmed him at the thought of facing anything to do with that situation. No, no, no, no!
“Doctor, what’s wrong?” Mishell’s voice was full of concern and fear, but his body reacted automatically, yanking his hands out of the confinement of hers. His mind instinctively panicked as memories surged forward, one triggering another in a relentless chain reaction that caught him off guard, leaving him defenseless. Cruel laughter, mocking, hatred, blood, terror, harsh hands on him, no way to escape, no hope…and pain, blinding, crushing, terrifying pain…
Then he suddenly came to himself as a horrible thought struck him, filling him with blinding clarity.
Those people had Rose.
They had Rose, they had hurt her, and they were going to hurt her worse. The only thing that terrified him more than facing that ordeal again was the thought of Rose being forced to endure it. They had Rose…and he could NOT allow that. He had to stop them. If this was in any way related to those events, then these people were far more dangerous than he’d originally thought. And not only did they have Rose, but they had the TARDIS too.
He took a deep breath, this knowledge steadying him and filling him with purpose, and focused once again on Mishell’s worried face.
“She was warning me, Mishell.”
“Warning you about what?”
“That this is bigger than just Calyx’s war with Frax.”
“What do you mean?”
“We have to go, Mishell. We have to go now!”
But they’ll know we’re coming.”
“It doesn’t matter,” the Doctor shook his head. “We’ve got to get to that base.”
“Wait…you’re not actually going to surrender to them, are you? To trade yourself?”
“I hope not. But either way, we’ve got to get to that base. And we’ve got to do it fast.”
“All right,” Mishell said, something in her voice showing him that she’d detected how serious and worried he now was. “We’ll run. Just like she said.”
“Run…” the Doctor echoed, forcing his emotions back into check. Despite this turn of events, he needed to keep his head, now more than ever.
“But while we’re running,” Mishell added sternly, “you’re going to explain to me exactly what’s going on.”
The Doctor didn’t even bother arguing. He merely nodded, and with new urgency fueling their journey, they began to run again.
Back to index
Chapter 18: Chapter 17: Declaration
Author's Notes: Come to think of it, I think this is the first time Rose has replied to "the question" (you'll know it when you see it) with a direct affirmative. In thinking back, she confirmed it with Jackie in Step by Step, and Dennel earlier in this story, but both times, it was sort of an implied affirmation, rather than a frank "yes."
And just so people know, this series will eventually become a little AU with regards to the Doctor and Rose's relationship. (I've received numerous requests to do so, and I've decided to go for it.) But we've got a ways to go before that.
Rose had awakened back in her cell, with a splitting headache. Groaning, she reached up, and could feel a hard knot on her head, extremely painful to the touch. She shook her head to clear it, and immediately wished she hadn’t. Pain shot through it.
Her memories resurfaced, and she remembered being struck with the butt of the gun. She supposed she should count herself grateful that she hadn’t been the recipient of an injury from the other end of the gun. They must still need her alive for something.
As she sat up, she became aware of new aches and pains. Upon examining herself, she discovered several bruises over her ribs, as though she’d been kicked a few times. However, nothing seemed to be broken, and she moved so that she was sitting against the wall, trying to catch her breath.
She’d taken the risk. The woman had ordered her multiple times not to speak when they were broadcasting the message. That she’d pay for it if she did…and that others would pay too. Rose could only hope that last part was a bluff, because she’d managed to shout out just one phrase. She’d had to warn the Doctor, give him some inkling of what he was walking into. He needed to know, and that had been the only way she could think to tell him that might just escape the woman’s notice.
Oh, she’d know Rose spoke when she shouldn’t have, that she’d told the Doctor something, but if Rose was fortunate, she wouldn’t guess the significance. Because Rose knew that if she had actually warned the Doctor that this trap was in relation to his torture, the woman would have killed her. Or at least nearly so.
As it was, she hoped that they wouldn’t figure it out. And that the Doctor would. But she wasn’t too worried about that. She knew that those words, those exact six words, would immediately bring to mind the ten day ordeal. And the Doctor knew her well enough, and was smart enough, that he’d make the connection. He’d figure it out. She wasn’t exactly sure what good the information would do him, but it meant that he wouldn’t be stumbling blindly into this situation. Now he was warned, and could adjust whatever plan he had accordingly.
Rose should have suspected they wanted him to trade himself for her. She’d known that she was bait, so really, she’d known all along that this was their plan. But hearing the words spoken aloud were chilling. This woman wasn’t just going to try to capture the Doctor when he tried to rescue Rose. No, she was asking him to hand himself over to her. Without even letting him know who he was handing himself over to.
The very idea of that woman getting her hands on the Doctor made Rose want to be sick. Knowing what she’d already ordered done to him…knowing what she’d done to Rose…and knowing that was only a fraction of what she’d do to the Doctor if she had him. Not just physically, but psychologically too. Rose had already seen how much this woman hated him, how much she was convinced he was a murderer. The Doctor’s self-esteem was already pretty low…Rose shuddered to think of what this woman could do to his mind if she got hold of him.
But while Rose knew that the Doctor would sacrifice himself for her any day, she had to believe that he try every other option first. Even the Doctor must realize what handing himself over to these people would mean. How catastrophic it would be for him. No, Rose couldn’t even allow herself to think about that.
She heard pounding footsteps outside, and barely had time to get to her feet, wincing in pain as she did, before the door slid open with a bang. The woman stormed in, slamming the door behind her. Her eyes were blazing, and she looked absolutely furious. She caught hold of Rose’s shoulders, pinning her to the wall of the cell.
“What did I tell you?” she shouted.
“Lots of things,” Rose managed to say.
She winced as the woman’s grip tightened, digging into her shoulders painfully.
“Don’t play games with me!” Rose couldn’t help but flinch, trying to twist out of the viselike grip. “I told you not to speak! What did you tell him?”
“I j…just told him to run,” Rose stammered, her head and ribs aching too much for her to try and suppress her fear.
“I should kill you right now,” the woman snarled.
“If you were going to do that,” Rose said softly, “you would’ve done it already.”
The woman closed her eyes, taking a deep breath as though trying to calm herself. Her grip didn’t slacken, though.
“Why did you tell him to run?”
“Because I don’t want him coming here,” Rose said truthfully.
The woman opened her eyes, her face full of suspicion.
“But you used very specific words. You didn’t just tell him to run. You said ‘one word. Just one word. Run.”
“What’s the significance of that phrase?”
“I don’t know what you mean!” Rose yelped, unable to help it, as the woman pushed her back further into the wall, practically crushing her. She could hardly breathe. “Stop it!”
“Why did you use those words?”
“It’s a code!” Rose shouted desperately, and some of the awful pressure lessened.
“What code?” the woman asked, suddenly much more calm.
Rose thought quickly. If you have to lie, mix your lies with as much truth as possible, the Doctor had once told her. That made it more convincing, and harder to pick out the lie.
“It’s…it’s a code we made up. Based on the first word he spoke to me, and the words he said to get me to trust him after his regeneration. ‘One word. Just one word. Run.’ He…” she pretended to hesitate, then forged ahead, “he wanted us to have it so that when something went wrong, we’d have a way of getting a message to the other without actually having to say it.”
“And what was the message?” the woman asked. She’d relaxed her grip a little, and Rose couldn’t help but be relieved.
“It means that there’s danger. And that he should leave me behind and get away from here.”
“Why would you ask him to do that?” the woman inquired.
“Because I don’t want you to get your hands on him. I saw what those men did to him. I was the one who got him out. I know what you ordered those men to do. I don’t want you anywhere near him.”
The woman seemed to relax slightly, though she tried not to show it. She released Rose’s shoulders and stepped away. Rose couldn’t help but reach up to rub them, wincing at the pain. She had a feeling she’d just gained a few more bruises.
“But we both know he’d never leave you behind, Rose,” the woman said, with a smirk.
“I had to try…” Rose whispered. “Had to do something…”
“And you risked your life to do it.” Her tone had once again softened, and Rose shivered at how fast her moods changed. A mark of her instability, no doubt, but it was absolutely terrifying. Rose wasn’t sure which was worse, the angry woman whose eyes blazed when she talked about the Doctor, as though she wanted to kill him, or the gentle-voiced woman who spoke as though Rose were a young child, and spoke of hating the Doctor with terrifying calmness. “You risked your life to warn him.”
“I had to.”
“Why, Rose?” It was as though she truly, honestly didn’t understand. “Why are you so loyal to him? Why are you willing to risk your life for him?”
“He’s my best friend,” Rose said firmly.
“But why?” the woman demanded. “You know what he’s done. Who he is.”
“I do know who he is. And that’s why I will never betray him.”
“But what has he done to deserve such loyalty?” Rose opened her mouth, but the woman cut her off. “This is very important, Rose, and this is your last chance. I don’t want you to be punished for his crimes. So I need you to really, really think about whether he is worth it.”
“He’s a good man?” the woman said, crossing her arms. Rose nodded firmly.
“Then I want you to answer me some questions, Rose.” Her voice was suddenly very calm, as she changed into a new mode. A new tactic. “And I don’t want long answers, no explanations or qualifications or conditions. Just answer each of my questions with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”
“Because I want to make you think.”
Rose swallowed hard, but nodded.
The woman took a deep breath.
“Has the Doctor ever physically hurt you?” Rose stared at her in shock.
“Yes or no, Rose. And I’d warn you not to lie to me. I will know. Has he ever physically harmed you?
“No,” she said firmly.
“Has the Doctor killed in front of you?”
Light bursting out of something in the Doctor’s hand…Cybermen dissolving right in front of her eyes. A bomb striking Downing Street…killing every Slitheen inside. A blaze of moonlight turned to full power…the werewolf vanishing into the light.
Something like pleasure flickered in the woman’s eyes.
“Has he ever threatened you?”
A gun aimed right at her…she was in the line of fire, but he wasn’t backing down…
“Has he ever lied to you?”
“Now, I've just got to go and power up the Game Station. Hold on…”
“Has he knowingly put your life at risk?”
“I could save the world but lose you…”
“Yes.” Rose gritted her teeth, wishing she could say more. Wishing she could elaborate on each and every one. But the woman wouldn’t let her, pressing on relentlessly.
“Have you ever been frightened of him?”
Facing the Skasis Paradigm…seeing the hesitation on his face. With the Dalek…seeing the murder in his eyes. Unearthly power, unearthly authority.
“Has he insulted you? Demeaned you?”
“I picked another stupid ape.”
“Has he ever abandoned you?”
A white horse leaping through a time window...
The woman stared at her.
“That doesn’t sound like a good man to me, Rose.”
Maybe the woman had expected to sow some sort of doubt with that little question and answer session. But Rose crossed her arms, facing the woman furiously.
“Your questions are unfair. Absolutely unfair. You ask about all of the bad things he’s done, and none of the good!”
“So just because a murderer has done good deeds, his crimes should be pardoned?”
“You’re not looking at the whole picture. You think you know him, but you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.”
Rose stepped forward, for once being the one who advanced.
“He is the best man I have ever known.”
“He is a murderer!” the woman snapped, her voice full of loathing.
“Why do you hate him so much?!” Rose cried, desperate to know.
“Because I know what he can do.”
The woman’s tone was almost beseeching, and it startled Rose. She held out her hands in a gesture that almost looked imploring.
“He killed my people, Rose.”
Rose had suspected something like this, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt to hear it.
“All of them. Every single one. My entire planet…three billion people…an entire species, just wiped out.” Her voice was tight with emotion. “Just like that. And he did that to them.”
“How do you know it was him?” Rose demanded.
“Trust me, Rose, I know. Indisputably.”
“Was this during the Time War?” she asked.
“Some war,” the woman shrugged bitterly. “I don’t know…my people weren’t involved.”
“The entire universe was at stake in that War,” Rose told her. “I’m not…not saying that what happened to your people was right, but if the Daleks had won that War, the entire universe would have been lost. Time itself was at stake!”
“Three billion people!” the woman shouted, shaking with emotion. “And they were just collateral damage! Just one skirmish. They were nothing to him. Just a means to an end.”
If circumstances had been different, if it had been a different person, Rose might have felt more sorry for her. But every time she tried to, all she could see was the Doctor, beaten and broken on a cold stone floor. Nothing gave a person the right to do that. Nothing.
“That doesn’t give you the right to torture him to death!”
“It gives me every right!” the woman shouted. “Every right in the world.”
“No,” Rose shook her head. “It doesn’t. Repaying violence with violence is never the answer.”
“Don’t even try, Rose,” the woman sneered, instantly condescending. “He’s a murderer, a monster, and he will suffer for his crimes. And if you don’t acknowledge that, if you don’t accept that, you’re going to suffer too.”
She stepped towards Rose.
“Think about what he’s done. What he’s done to you. He is not a good man, Rose. Not a safe man. Don’t let him take you down with him.”
Rose took a deep breath. She knew that she might be condemning herself to death or torture with what she was about to say. Might be condemning herself to a life imprisoned like this. But given the alternative…there was no other option.
“You listen to me,” Rose said, her voice firm and strong. Even the woman seemed to sense the finality of these words, and she watched Rose carefully, waiting for her to speak. “I know that the Doctor is not an innocent man. I know that there are things that he’s done that will haunt him for the rest of his life. I know that you were terribly hurt, and I’m sorry about that. And I know the Doctor is too. I know that he’s not perfect, and that maybe my life would be safer if he wasn’t around. And I know that you think I’m some foolish kid. That he’s tricked me, or brainwashed me, or something. But I also know this.”
One more step forward, closing the gap between them.
“He is my best friend. The greatest man I have ever known. The bravest, the kindest, and the strongest man I’ve ever known. And I will stand by his side no matter what the cost. I will never turn my back on him, and I will never leave him.”
The woman went suddenly still, something subtle changing in her face.
“You love him,” she said quietly.
“Yes,” Rose said, without hesitation. Startling herself with her frank admission, especially to the woman, but unwilling to change it for the world.
“You really love him.”
The woman slowly nodded.
“All right, then,” she said. She turned her back on Rose, heading for the door. “We’re done here.”
Rose, trembling all over from adrenaline and emotion, didn’t know what to say.
“I tried,” the woman sighed. “I did try.”
She banged on the door, and it slid open. The woman turned to look at Rose. Any pity or kindness was gone from her face and eyes, and Rose got the impression that they were gone for good. Rose had proven herself beyond “redemption,” and thus, was now merely an object. A means by which to get to the Doctor.
“Better get some sleep, Rose,” the woman said coolly. “We’ve got a big day tomorrow.”
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Chapter 19: Chapter 18: Knowing
Author's Notes: When I started this story, Dennel was just a name. It wasn't until I started developing Mishell's character that he began to insert himself more into the story. So here it is: Mishell and Dennel's story.
Despite the fact that the very thought of what might be happening nearly broke him, he forced himself to get a grip. He couldn’t afford to break down right now, and he needed to be thinking clearly and rationally. He had to compartmentalize, shutting away his tempestuous emotions and allowing his rage to hone his intellect and abilities. He was of no use to anyone if he allowed his emotions to get the better of him, and so he forced himself to stay calm.
It was difficult. So, so difficult. He kept seeing Rose’s face, bloodied and bruised. The pain in her face as the soldier had wrenched her arm, the desperation in her eyes as she’d cried out to him. And the last glimpse he’d seen of her, the soldier striking her over the head.
Had they killed her, for what she’d said to him? He had to believe that they hadn’t, that she was of no use to them dead, but the thought of how frightened and in pain she must be nearly undid him. But he forced his emotions into submission, calming down to the point where he was back in control.
They kept going all through the night. The Doctor couldn’t stop, had to keep moving, now more than ever, and Mishell didn’t object. Stopping only occasionally to recover their breath, they kept moving, using the light of the sonic as a torch when it grew too dark to see.
And as they made their way through the woods, the Doctor told Mishell everything. Who he was, what he did, what the TARDIS was, all the background necessary to make her grasp the gravity of the situation. Usually more than he would ever tell an acquaintance of only a few days, but she needed to understand, and quickly. To her credit, she took it all in stride, listening wide-eyed to his descriptions of time travel, only asking the occasional question. She didn’t doubt him, which he was grateful for. It saved time.
And he explained what Rose’s message had meant. What she was referring to. He didn’t reveal all the details, for those were events that even he wasn’t willing to relive right now. Thinking too much about it would undo what control he had on his emotions…thinking about what might be happening to Rose…no, he couldn’t think about the specifics. But he explained enough so that she could comprehend the severity of what had happened, and the new urgency which filled him. Once again, she caught on quickly.
“But what do the soldiers from Calyx have to do with that?” she asked, as they paused. She leaned against a tree, breathing heavily, and the Doctor winced, realizing they should have stopped sooner.
“I don’t know,” he admitted.
It didn’t make sense. Calyx and Frax had nothing to do with the planet he’d been captured on. They were in different solar systems. The time period was about the same, but other than that, he could see no connection. As far as he knew, the planets had no contact with each other.
“And how did they find you?”
“I don’t know,” he admitted helplessly. He truly hated knowing so little.
The wristcomp beeped again, and the Doctor gritted his teeth, resisting the temptation to smash or otherwise disable the thing. But they might need it later. Instead, he silenced it, turning off the sound as the message began to once again reply, as it had done every ten minutes ever since the broadcast. But with one key difference: Rose’s last warning was edited out. If he hadn’t caught the original broadcast, he’d have never known what they were walking towards.
“Are they going to kill you?” Mishell asked grimly, as he shoved the wristcomp back in his pocket, unwilling to look once again at the images of Rose injured and at gunpoint.
“I doubt it will be that quick,” the Doctor kept his voice even. It hadn’t been last time, and if these people had anything to do with those events, it wouldn’t be this time. “Which is why we’re going to try and avoid handing me over to them.”
They started moving again. The Doctor had taken over directing them. Now that Mishell knew about the TARDIS, and his connection with her, he was more comfortable relying on the TARDIS’s directions to get them the rest of the way to the base, though he still conferred with Mishell frequently. As they got closer, he explained, the directions grew a little clearer, and since it was harder for Mishell to navigate in the darkness, he took the lead.
Rationally, their current goal was no different than it had been before that broadcast. Get to the base as quickly and silently as possible. Logically, that broadcast didn’t change anything about what they were doing right now. Get to the base…that was what he had to concentrate on. Get to the base, and find a way to get Rose and the TARDIS out. That was going to be the tricky part…and he honestly wasn’t sure what to do. He was even less sure about it now that he knew this was bigger than just a group of invading soldiers.
He was struggling to keep calm. Every minute that passed was one minute longer that Rose was at the mercy of those people. Those people who had some connection with his torture. He didn’t know what that connection was, exactly. They couldn’t be the actual torturers. Those men had been taken into custody by the Shadow Proclamation, and the Doctor had been assured that they would receive the just penalty for their numerous crimes. Not just their crimes against him, but about the scores of others that had come before him. What had been done to the Doctor had been those men’s business…and the Doctor still shuddered when he remembered what he saw in their records, once he’d obtained them. Don’t think about that now!
So they couldn’t be the actual torturers. But were these soldiers the one who’d hired the torturers? Or had these soldiers been hired by the same people who’d hired the torturers? And who was the woman? She hadn’t sounded like a soldier. The Doctor just didn’t know, and that frightened and infuriated him.
“Woah!” Mishell cried, grabbing his arm. “Look out!”
The Doctor glanced down, and, by the light of the sonic, saw that he was about to trip over a large boulder. He’d been so wrapped up in his thoughts that he hadn’t even noticed it.
“Oh.” He shook himself, stepping over it. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Mishell said, moving to his side.
But then she caught hold of his shoulder, turning him so that he was facing her.
“But you’ve got to look out.”
“I know,” he said.
“I don’t just mean now,” she added fiercely. “They wanted you to get emotional. That’s why they showed her. Because when people get emotional, they make mistakes.” She shot a significant glance at the gun holstered at her side. “You can’t think about what’s happening. Just concentrate on what you need to do.”
He knew that. He really did. It wasn’t like Mishell was presenting any great philosophical revelation to him or anything. She wasn’t telling him anything that he hadn’t told himself a hundred times. But he couldn’t deny that hearing it out loud jolted him back to himself a little, and brought him a little more clarity.
“Yeah,” he nodded. “I know.”
She wasn’t trying to convince him that everything was all right. She wasn’t trying to baby him, or to treat him as though he was made of glass, and he was honestly grateful for it. She knew how serious things were, and wasn’t going to pretend otherwise just to make him feel better. Mishell wasn’t that kind of person, he decided.
They walked in silence for a while, and the Doctor tried to force himself to keep his focus on the task at hand, like she’d said. But he couldn’t help worrying about Rose…and about the people they were going to encounter at the base…and how he was going to get her out…
“Tell me about the TARDIS,” Mishell’s voice suddenly broke through the silence. Her voice was calm, but also compassionate, and he knew that she had once again read him correctly.
Words were his shield, his protection. When he’d been explaining everything to her, about himself, Rose, the TARDIS, and the situation, he’d been able to keep his mind just occupied enough to take the edge off the worst of his emotions. But now they were back in silence, and Mishell seemed to sense that he needed to keep talking.
“Tell me about travelling in time and space.”
So he did. He told her about the wonders of time travel. More than just the facts, like he’d told her earlier. He told her how it felt to step into days long gone by, or onto the surface of the unknown. About the thrill of exploring a new time or place, about seeing the stars up close. He spoke of supernovas, of galaxies, of history unfolding before your eyes. He allowed himself to lose himself in his words, allowing the words to act as a shield, keeping him going.
He described his bond with his ship, and her temperamental nature. How they rarely ended up exactly where they planned to go, and yet somehow always ended up where they were needed. He recounted several old adventures, and despite his ever-present worry, found himself actually smiling as he remembered events he hadn’t thought of in years. Mishell listened silently, allowing him to carry on his monologue without interruption, though she hung onto every word.
And as he talked, he found himself talking about Rose. Memories of her, adventures, mixed in with all of his tales of time and space. He couldn’t help it, she was such a part of his life. And focusing on the past kept him from drowning in the present, the words enabling him to hold himself together. He didn’t reveal everything, of course. Some things were far too personal and private. He didn’t talk about the details of the War, or what he’d endured in his ten days of captivity. He didn’t tell about the words of the Beast, or his stubborn declaration that if there was one thing in the universe he believed in, it was Rose. But her presence still seemed to be felt in so many of his stories about his life.
They’d come through so much, he thought. They would make it through this too. Rose was strong and brave, and so was he. They’d endured so much together. They’d survived Daleks, Cybermen, parallel universes, and Captain Jack’s propositions. They could survive this as well.
Finally, he ran out of words, trailing off awkwardly.
No one spoke for a while.
“My mother died when I was nine,” Mishell blurted out.
He was startled, staring at her.
“You were right about me. About my losing someone before the war. It was my mum.”
“Mishell…” he didn’t know why she was saying this. “You don’t have to…”
“I want to,” she replied fiercely.
“Because it’s my turn to tell my story. You trusted me enough to tell me yours. I think I owe you the same.”
“You don’t owe me anything,” he told her firmly.
“Someone else should know it,” Mishell said.
Was she still trying to keep him distracted? Give him something else to think about? Or had all his talk of the past brought her own memories to the surface? Had hearing his story made her realize that her own story should be told too? Did she really feel that she owed him some honesty in return? He would never have dreamed of asking it of her, but he wasn’t about to stop her. He had no right to.
“All right,” he said quietly.
It was beginning to get light out, and according to Mishell, they were about two hours away from the base. Travelling through the night had cut hours off their journey. Once they drew near to the base, they would have to keep quiet, but Mishell seemed determined to speak before they reached that point.
“It was a fever,” Mishell said. “We all got it, Dad, Mum, and me. But Mum had it worst. And she didn’t make it. I was with her when she died.”
Her tone was emotionless, but the Doctor got the impression that that was the only way she could get the words out.
“Dad never got over her death. He started to drink. A lot.” The Doctor’s hearts sank, and instinctively, he reached for Mishell’s hand. She looked startled, but finally grasped it, squeezing his hand in return. “And things got bad.”
“He hit me,” Mishell said bluntly. “Not all the time, but enough. And it got worse as I got older. Obviously, he couldn’t be relied on for money or food, so I had to get it. That’s how I learned to hunt at such a young age.” She kicked a small rock out of her way, still not looking at him. She was talking very fast. “I had to learn to take care of myself. Obviously, we didn’t exactly move in the most affluent circles, and I was just a kid. You learn to read people quickly when it’s a matter of life and death.”
She glanced at him, as though gauging his reaction.
“That’s how I met Dennel.”
He should have known.
“I’d seen him around, but we’d never spoken. But one day he found me. Just stumbled across me. It’d been…a particularly bad day. He saw the bruises, and demanded to know who’d done it.” She shook her head. “He was only a few years older than me, but when he heard about my dad, he didn’t even hesitate. Brought me home, and before Dad could even begin to react to my being late, Dennel knocked him to the floor.” She actually smiled a little at the memory. “Said ‘if you touch her again, I’ll kill you.’ Then he took my hand, and took me out of there.”
The Doctor was stunned, but her story wasn’t over.
“He got me out,” she repeated, her tone almost wondering. “He brought me to his home. His family life wasn’t the greatest, but no one hit anyone there, and they took me in. Dennel didn’t have any siblings close in age, so I think he sort of adopted me as a sister.”
“Your father never came looking for you?”
“He did, eventually. But that was many years later. I stayed with their family for years, helping hunt to catch food, to earn my keep, though they said it wasn’t necessary. Dennel…well, he wasn’t the most huggable person in the world, as you saw,” she smiled sadly, “but he was Dennel. We were a team. Eventually, he and I moved to our own place, so we wouldn’t be a drain on the resources anymore. Just as friends,” she added quickly, and the Doctor didn’t comment. “But that way, we could look after ourselves.”
She took a deep breath.
“One day, there was a knock. It was Dad. I thought Dennel was going to throw him out of the house, but finally, we let him talk. He’d gotten sober, put himself back together, and had come to find me. Not to ask me to come home, but just to be sure if I was all right.”
“What did you do?”
“It took a long time for me to trust him again. Longer for Dennel. I don’t know if Dennel ever fully trusted him again. Dennel didn’t trust many people. But eventually, Dad and I got on speaking terms again. And then the soldiers from Calyx came. Dad signed up to fight, like so many others did.”
“But not Dennel?” the Doctor couldn’t help but ask.
“No. Because before he left…the last time we saw him…Dad asked Dennel to take care of me. ‘Be the man I could never be for her,’ were his exact words. Dennel knew I could take care of myself, but he still took that promise seriously. So he didn’t fight. We stayed together, and then the attacks came…and you know the rest.” She smiled sadly.
“Oh Mishell…” the Doctor whispered. He’d known Mishell and Dennel had been close, had heard Dennel struggle to say those last words…but he hadn’t known they’d been this close. “I am so sorry.” The words sounded as inadequate as ever, but Mishell nodded gratefully.
The Doctor made his decision.
“Before he…before he died,” he said, “he said your name.” Mishell glanced at him. “He wanted me to tell you something. He didn’t finish, but I think…”
Mishell cut him off, nodding sadly.
“I know,” she said softly.
She sighed, her gaze turning to the sky just visible through the trees above. As though seeking something invisible to all others. Some solace she couldn't find anywhere else.
“I knew for a long time.”
Neither of them spoke again until they neared the base.
Back to index
Chapter 20: Chapter 19: Sacrifice
Author's Notes: For all you coat enthusiasts, I hope you take note of the fact that the coat has been put in a safe place. Because now that you've all got me thinking about it, now I realize that that darn coat is hard to keep track of sometimes.
Longest chapter so far. They're really varying in length in this story.
The trees began to thin out ahead, and his hearts began to pound. Mishell gripped his arm, giving him a clear signal with her eyes. They’d reached the base.
The Doctor nodded to show he understood, and quickly stashed the sonic away, not wanting anyone to see the light. He took a deep breath to calm himself, and crept forward. Mishell followed, making no more noise than a cat. In fact, she made him feel downright clumsy, and the Doctor was a fairly agile person himself. Together, they crept from tree to tree, trying to keep out of sight. They also tried to keep to spots where the trees and brush were thickest, to give them some cover.
He caught a glimpse of something shining through the trees, something metallic. From what Mishell had been able to tell him about the base, he knew that it was constructed of mostly metal, so he knew that that was what he was seeing.
He’d been expecting soldiers in the woods surrounding the base. After all, this place was clearly important to them. He’d have expected it to be well protected. But the only soldier they’d encountered so far was the one they’d left behind in the woods, and his cuffs wouldn’t unlock for a few hours yet. No, there was no sign of anyone, and that had the Doctor worried. What was their game?
Where was everyone?
Wordlessly, he signaled to Mishell that he needed to get closer. He had to see the base. She nodded, with a signal that clearly indicated that she would be right behind him. Softly, he made his way forward, finally reaching the edge of the forest, and peering around the trees.
It wasn’t the most impressive base he’d ever seen, and once again, he found himself sympathetic towards Frax’s military. If this was the best that they’d been given, no wonder they’d been unable to put up much of a fight. Still, the walls looked sturdy and strong, with very few windows. Several small vessels were parked near the base, along with a few wheeled vehicles. Evidently, Calyx’s soldiers didn’t just use transmats for their transportation, which made sense. Transmats were a crude and unsophisticated form of transportation, especially for large groups. However, these sights weren’t what caused his hearts to sink.
The dozens of soldiers positioned around and on top of the base did that.
Clearly, the soldiers had pulled back, out of the woods, concentrating all of their manpower on preventing an approach of the base.
Wordlessly, he moved back into the shelter of the trees, followed by Mishell.
“Okay,” he whispered, letting out a breath. “Guess we were kidding ourselves if we thought it’d be as easy as just breaking in.”
“There’s no way to get by them,” Mishell agreed grimly.
“What do you think the odds are that those guys are watching every side?” the Doctor inquired. Mishell frowned, and he knew she was thinking the same thing he was.
He pulled out the wristcomp, which he’d finally permanently silenced, not wanting to risk it going off when they were near the base. Despite the fact that these people had requested his surrender, he had a feeling they wouldn’t object to outright capturing him either. With a little sonic manipulation, he managed to pull up a map of the layout of the base. It wasn’t promising.
“Three entrances,” he said, indicating them. “One main, two smaller.”
“Those will be guarded,” Mishell remarked, and he nodded.
“Without a doubt.”
“Are there any back ways?” Mishell asked. “Cellars, or maybe service hatches? Something they might not be guarding so closely?”
There was nothing. The base was solidly fortified. As he’d half-suspected it would be.
It occurred to him that he really didn’t know what he was going to do. But they had to do something.
“Let’s go around the perimeter,” he suggested. “Maybe there’s a break in the security.” She nodded, and together, they began to make their way around the forest surrounding the base. The Doctor couldn’t help but stare at the building in revulsion. Rose was trapped inside there…and he had no way of getting to her. Stepping out in the open would result in his getting shot or captured…in fact, one wrong move would result in the same thing. The forest was concealing their presence, for now, but how long before they were spotted?
As they moved to another side of the building, the Doctor was once again taken aback as he glimpsed something unexpected through the trees. Moving a little closer, he managed to sneak a closer look.
A large spaceship was docked just outside the base. It looked much more complex and advanced than the vessels out front.
“Mishell?” he murmured. “Is that vessel from Calyx?”
She shook her head.
The Doctor’s hearts sank. At least one other offworlder was here. People not affiliated with Calyx or Frax. And, he suspected, those were the people who were connected in some way to his torture. And judging from the vessel, they were far more advanced and powerful than these soldiers. If these people were in any way involved in this situation, it would be harder than ever to get in.
He felt the leaden weight of dread in his hearts, but that feeling was rapidly replaced by determination. Rose was in there, with those people, and she was hurt. He would do what he must to get her out.
They finished their round of the base, and moved a ways off, safely out of earshot of the base.
“Doctor, what are we going to do?” Mishell asked.
The Doctor studied her. She was looking to him with that same confidence that almost everyone looked at him with. A confidence that he would have a plan. That he knew what to do. That he was on top of the situation. It was a bit more tempered in Mishell than it was in most people, but it was still there. She was waiting for his idea. For the inevitable brilliance that she believed would come.
He looked down at the layout on the wristcomp again. There was no way in that didn’t bring them right into the path of soldiers. He should have known that it would come to this.
And deep in his hearts, he realized that a part of him had known, since the broadcast.
“We can’t get in,” the Doctor told Mishell.
“So what’s the plan?”
“There’s no way past those soldiers.” Mentally, he was running through every option available to him, and dismissing each one. “The base is fortified against any sort of underground approach, like a basement or something. They’ve anticipated a sneak attack. They know I have my sonic, and could get through their doors, so they’ve got soldiers everywhere. They’ll be ordered to capture or shoot on sight. They’ll have been warned.”
He’d hoped that this would be easier, but in all honesty, when had anything ever been easy for him? If it had merely been Calyx, if Rose was merely a hostage of the invading army, he might have stood a chance of getting in. But even if Rose hadn’t managed to warn him, he’d have realized something more was going on here than just one hostage. You didn’t expend this many resources to protect one human prisoner.
No, this situation had been carefully arranged to leave him only one option, if he wanted to get to Rose before the deadline.
He closed his eyes, swallowing the fear that rose up in him at the thought of what could happen. Memories tugged at his consciousness, but he forced them back, thinking of Rose instead. Picturing her face. And when he did, his doubts vanished. He had to get her out, had to keep her safe. He’d promised. And when he made a genuine promise, he didn’t break it.
“Doctor?” there was something strange in Mishell’s voice.
He opened his eyes to see her staring at him. He took a deep breath.
Realization crashed over her face in an instant, and her eyes blazed with a startling fire.
“Don’t you dare!” she said fiercely. “Don’t you dare give yourself to them!”
“What else can I do?”
“There has to be something else! There’s always something else.”
They wanted him. Rose was expendable. If he turned himself over, there was a very good chance that they would let her go.
“Doctor!” Mishell looked furious. “You don’t even know if they actually plan to let her go if you do turn yourself over!”
“I’ve got to believe it.”
And more importantly, he had to believe that they meant what they said when they said they would kill her by sundown unless he turned himself over. There was no way to get into that base. The Doctor excelled at beating the odds, at doing the impossible, but sometimes, the impossible was just that. Impossible. And the simple truth was that there was no way to get inside that base before sundown, unless he surrendered himself.
It was true, they might not release Rose even when they had him. But he’d heard the woman’s voice, and he knew that they would definitely kill her if they didn’t get him. Weighing the odds, he knew that by turning himself in, she’d have a chance, which was more than she’d have if he didn’t. He had to take that chance. There was nothing else.
“Mishell, there is no other way.”
“They’ll kill you!” Mishell protested.
The Doctor took a deep breath.
“Maybe. But if they’re anything like last time, then they’ll take a while. I’ll have a chance to escape.”
“Because that worked really well last time!” Mishell snapped.
“And maybe once I’m inside, I can find a way to make this work for me.”
“You don’t believe that,” Mishell accused.
He swallowed hard.
“There’s always a chance.”
“I’ve got to. Rose is in there. The TARDIS is in there. I’ve got no way of helping them from the outside.”
Mishell’s fists were clenched, and she looked like she was torn between shouting and crying.
“Doctor…I’ve lost everyone else…”
The Doctor forced back the surge of sorrow at those words. Instead, he looked her right in the eyes.
“If it were Dennel in there,” he said slowly. “If Paz or Kaye were in there, and you knew that the only chance that they had was to turn yourself in, wouldn’t you do it?”
“They wouldn’t want me to,” Mishell whispered. “Rose wouldn’t want you to.”
“But would you do it?” he asked.
She didn’t reply, and he saw the resignation in her gaze.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “But I’ve got to.”
She nodded slowly.
“Okay,” she whispered.
He knelt down on the ground, pulling off his overcoat and leaving all his belongings in the pockets. There were a lot of things he didn’t want these people to get their hands on, like the psychic paper or the TARDIS key. He knew that they already had Rose’s TARDIS key, but he was fairly certain they hadn’t made the connection between the ordinary looking key, and the time machine secured somewhere in their base. If they had, the TARDIS would have warned him. That was one of the benefits of having the key look so commonplace, no one immediately assumed it was connected to something so important. However, if they saw that he had an identical key, they would immediately get more suspicious.
Mishell knelt beside him, taking her gun out of its holster and laying it down on top of his coat.
“What are you doing?” the Doctor demanded.
“If I walk in there with a weapon, it’s not going to go over very well,” she said calmly.
“No,” the Doctor said firmly. “Absolutely not.”
“I’m coming with you.”
“No!” the Doctor shook his head. She couldn’t do this. He couldn’t let her do this. “Mishell, you are not turning yourself over to them with me!”
“I’m not letting you do this alone!” she said, getting to her feet and crossing her arms stubbornly.
“Yes you are,” the Doctor replied, getting to his own feet. “You’ve done enough.”
“I’m not going to just bring you here and then abandon you when things get dangerous!” Mishell cried. “That’s not who I am.”
“I’m not asking you to abandon me,” the Doctor said. “You brought me here, you saved my life. But you can’t go with me.”
“And how exactly to do you plan to stop me?” she demanded. “Do you have more handcuffs?”
The Doctor tried to calm himself down. He knew that she was stubborn, but at the same time, he couldn’t let her walk into this. He knew the odds, and he was not putting anyone else in danger. He knew better than anyone what these people were capable enough. It was going to be hard enough to negotiate Rose’s release. Two hostages would only complicate matters.
“I need you out here,” he said.
“I have just as much right to be in there as you do!” she said, glaring.
“It’s not about rights!” the Doctor told her. “Mishell, listen to me. I know what you’re thinking, and I know how you react. But I also know that you can be logical. And you have to listen to me now.”
Reluctantly, she met his gaze.
“I’m not trying to push you aside, or saying that you don’t have a right to be in there. But I am about to walk into an extremely volatile situation, with one of my friends being held hostage. If you go in there with me, you’ll be giving them a second hostage, which will make it doubly hard for me to secure a release. They want me, so for the moment, my life is fairly safe. But they place no value on your life. I know what these people are capable of, Mishell. For all we know, they might shoot you on sight. I will not risk that. I promised Paz that I would take care of you. If anything happened to you, I would never forgive myself.”
There was a flicker of hesitation in her eyes, and he pressed his advantage.
“I appreciate what you’re offering. I know that sounds clichťd, but I honestly do. Knowing that you are willing to sacrifice yourself for me is…” he shook his head, unable to think of a good word for it. He didn’t deserve this kind of loyalty, especially after knowing her for so short a time. “Incredible. But I need you out here.”
“I can’t just sit out here wringing my hands, hoping that you walk out again!” Mishell said furiously. “This is just as much my fight as yours now!”
“I know,” he said gently. He put his hands on her shoulders. “But I need you to do this for me. I need you to stay out here. Rose could be injured. And she doesn’t know these woods. When they release her, she’s going to need your help getting back.”
“But what about you?!” Mishell demanded.
“I’ll be better able to find an advantage if I’m not keeping track of two people,” he said frankly. “If you honestly want to help me, staying out here is the best thing you can do.”
He didn’t look away, tried desperately to communicate his emotion through his eyes, as Rose told him he was so good at doing.
“Please, Mishell, I’m begging you. Let me do this alone.”
Her eyes were wide and upset, but he saw his reasoning slowly penetrating her emotional reaction. After what felt like a lifetime, she nodded slowly.
“Okay,” she whispered.
The Doctor rolled his coat up into a bundle and stuck it under a nearby rock.
“I’ll hide this here,” he told Mishell. “You and Rose can come back for it.”
“We’ll come back for it,” Mishell corrected him. But even she didn’t sound as convinced as usual.
The Doctor merely nodded and held up the sonic, the only possession he hadn’t stashed with his coat yet. Raising it above his head, he met Mishell’s determined but frightened gaze.
“Ready for this?” he asked. She closed her eyes, and the Doctor felt terrible for her. He knew that it took courage to walk into a dangerous situation, but it took even more to be the one left behind. She was going to need that courage now. But she nodded firmly.
“Let’s do it.”
The Doctor took one deep breath of his own, trying to calm his pounding hearts, and held down the button, activating the sonic. The tip flared blue, and the familiar buzz rang out.
The setting he had it on would broadcast a clear signal visible to anyone with a scanner. And if these people knew anything about the Doctor, they would know what a signal from a sonic device meant.
The Doctor was announcing his presence.
He kept the signal going for a long time, long enough, he hoped, for it to be detected, and for any orders to be relayed to the soldiers. Then he placed the sonic with the rest of his belongings and got to his feet.
“I’m coming with you as far as I can,” Mishell told him.
“Okay,” the Doctor agreed, not bothering to protest.
Together, they walked back through the trees.
Mishell took a shaky breath and looked at him seriously.
“Doctor, tell me something honestly.”
“All right,” he agreed.
“What are the chances of both you and Rose walking out of there today, alive and free?”
He closed his eyes for a moment, thinking of Rose and drawing strength from that. He had to do this, if there was even a chance of saving her.
“Almost zero,” he admitted, surprised to find he could barely get the words out. “But,” he added, for both of their benefits, “I’ve faced worse odds.”
Mishell bit her lip and nodded.
Then, all in a rush, she flung her arms around him, hugging him tightly. He returned the embrace, and then pulled away.
“It’s time,” he said.
“Yep,” Mishell agreed, resolve overcoming any emotion. “Go on, Doctor. Go get your girl.”
“She’s not ‘my girl,’” he protested automatically.
Mishell rolled her eyes.
“Spare me,” she said. “You’re not fooling anyone. Except maybe her. And yourself.”
She let go of him and moved back, disappearing among the brush, leaving him alone.
The Doctor took one deep breath, and felt the TARDIS lending him strength and courage. With that, he straightened, held out both hands to show he wasn’t armed, and stepped out into the open.
No turning back now.
He just hoped he wasn’t making the biggest mistake of his life.
Back to index
Chapter 21: Chapter 20: Surrender
Author's Notes: We all knew it was inevitable. But things go from bad to worse...
I am diabolical. I have no other excuse.
Also, the "day nine" thing is a reference to Step by Step. When the torturers kept asking him over and over about who he was and what he'd done, and then punishing him for telling the truth, saying those were the wrong answers. They were trying to get him to deny reality, and for nine days, he refused. But then he gave in and denied it. He was then punished for lying.
The door to her cell flew open, and Rose was rather surprised to see no sign of the woman. Instead, four soldiers stood in the opening, weapons at the ready.
“Four?” Rose demanded. “Really? You don’t think that’s a bit excessive?”
No one paid her any attention. The one who looked to be the highest ranking of the group stepped into the cell, wrenching her arms behind her back and snapping restraints in place.
“What’s going on?” Rose demanded.
“Move it,” was all the one who’d cuffed her would say, and he shoved her towards the door. Rose thought it prudent to do as she was told.
What was going on? As she was hurried through the corridors, she felt as though the entire atmosphere of the place had changed. All the soldiers around her seemed on high alert, moving quickly, and Rose struggled painfully to keep up. Her head and ribs still ached horribly from the beating she’d received after the broadcast, and her shoulders were bruised from the woman’s attack afterwards. However, she managed to keep her footing, forcing herself to stay on guard. Something was happening, and she had to be ready for it.
They arrived in a large room, with a chair at one end that put Rose in mind of a throne. Seated on it, but rising as Rose was pulled inside, was the woman. Judging from the fact that she’d changed her clothing yet again, Rose assumed that it was the next day.
“Ah, Rose,” she said, with a malicious smile that showed no sign of any of the warmth she might have demonstrated at earlier times. “So glad you could join us.”
“You didn’t give me much of a choice,” Rose couldn’t help but retort.
“You’re not going to want to miss this,” the woman promised.
Something in her eyes made Rose’s heart sink. There was cruel triumph, and gleeful anticipation, the likes of which Rose had not yet seen in the woman’s cold gaze.
“What?” Rose demanded, trying to keep any trepidation out of her voice.
She indicated to a pole off to one side. It looked to be some sort of support, like a narrow column, but it was made of metal, like the rest of the room. Rose wasn’t exactly sure what its original purpose was, but she immediately knew why the woman was pointing to it.
“Secure her,” the woman ordered.
Rose was led over to the pole. Her cuffs were undone, but only for a moment. The soldier pulled her arms back, around the pole, and fastened the cuffs on again, trapping her against the pole. At a nod from the woman, the soldier stepped back, joining his comrades on each side of the woman. Rose tugged experimentally on her restraints, but the pole held fast. She wasn’t going anywhere until someone let her out. She was trapped.
Everything fell silent, and even Rose felt her heartbeat quickening. What was happening?
Deep in her heart, she thought she might know, but she absolutely refused to believe it.
Then footsteps sounded from outside the room, and every eye was drawn to the door, including Rose’s. The woman seemed to tense in anticipation, like a cat poised to spring. The soldiers all had their hands on their weapons. There could only be one reason everyone was on such high alert….
The door flew open, and a familiar figure was thrust inside, surrounded by soldiers, hands cuffed behind his back. He was dressed in unfamiliar, rough clothing that made him look like a stranger, but there was absolutely no mistaking him.
“NO!” Rose cried out, unable to stop herself.
The Doctor caught her eye for the briefest moment. She saw his eyes darken as they took in her injuries, his face set in determination, his whole posture stiffening slightly. But he gave her the briefest shake of the head, signaling her to be quiet.
“Doctor,” the woman’s voice shattered the silence, her presence instantly filling the room and drawing every eye, including the Doctor’s. In that one word, Rose could hear the woman’s loathing, her hate, her triumph, her authority, everything.
The Doctor kept his voice even as he spoke.
“Hello,” he said. “Sorry I’m late, but they,” he nodded to the soldiers flanking him, “insisted on doing a very thorough search.”
Though his tone was casual enough, his eyes spoke a different story. They were fixed on the woman, taking in every detail, and Rose saw a gathering storm in those eyes.
The woman had drawn herself up to her fullest height, and the look on her face reminded Rose of a predator studying its prey.
“Bring him here,” the woman said, gesturing to the center of the room.
The Doctor was pulled across the room until he was in front of where the woman was.
“Not that I don’t appreciate the escort,” the Doctor commented, “but I am capable of walking on my own.”
He glanced over at her again.
“Hello, Rose,” he said, his smile conflicting with the tumult of emotion in his eyes. “Fancy meeting you here.”
“Quite the coincidence,” she replied, mustering a smile. His own smile widened fractionally at her response, and he gave her a nod, turning his attention back to the woman.
He was trying to keep the situation under control, trying to give the appearance of being calm and on top of things, but Rose knew him well enough to know that he was hiding fear, and struggling to hold back rage. And she knew that he had understood her message. He knew who he was facing. And why she wanted him now.
The woman approached him, and the soldiers backed away, leaving the Doctor standing alone before the woman. He studied her, and only his eyes betrayed any emotion. She stood almost a head taller than him, and Rose swallowed hard at the sight of the Doctor looking so small. He was usually one of the tallest in any given location. But here, he had to angle his head up to look into the woman’s eyes.
The absolute hate that radiated from the woman was palpable even from across the room, and for a moment, Rose was terrified that the woman might murder the Doctor right then and there. She certainly looked tempted. Her fists clenched and unclenched, as though she were struggling to hold them still.
The Doctor didn’t back away or drop his gaze, and the intensity in his eyes dialed up a few degrees.
“So,” she said. “At long last, here you are.”
“Here I am,” the Doctor agreed, all jesting gone from his voice in an instant. “Now let Rose go.”
The woman’s eyes flashed, and she struck the Doctor across the face with sickening force. He barely flinched.
“Get down on your knees, Time Lord,” she spat.
The Doctor looked a bit taken aback, though he struggled not to show it.
“Show the respect that befits one such as you,” she ordered. “You do not deserve to stand before me.”
Her hand went to the hilt of her knife, and the Doctor eyed it for a moment, and Rose could see the wheels turning in his head as he weighed his options.
Slowly, he lowered himself to his knees.
The woman smiled triumphantly, and Rose burned to see the Doctor in such a submissive position before her. It gave her the appearance of a queen, lording over her subject, and Rose hated the sight. But the Doctor acted as though nothing had happened, merely tilting his head until he was once more meeting her gaze.
“You,” the woman forced the word out, as though she couldn’t find the words to express her loathing. “Do you know how long I have dreamed of this moment? How long I’ve planned what I would say to you when I had you at my mercy?”
“No,” the Doctor said calmly. “Sorry.”
“Do you have any idea who I am?”
“I’m going to take a guess and say that you’d be the anonymous client who was responsible for a rather interesting ten days, a while back.”
The woman didn’t blink.
“I had a feeling there was more in Rose’s message than just a warning to leave her behind. She tipped you off, didn’t she?”
“Yup,” the Doctor said proudly. He glanced over at Rose, and was nearly knocked backward by another blow.
“LOOK AT ME!” the woman shouted.
Rose caught her breath at the blazing rage in the woman’s eyes, but it quickly cooled to malicious amusement as the Doctor’s eyes snapped back to focus on her.
“So,” she said, beginning to circle him. “You appear to have come through that remarkably unscathed.”
“If you were trying to kill me,” the Doctor said, “you did a rather poor job of it.”
The woman completed her circle and crouched down in front of the Doctor. She caught hold of his face, forcing him to look directly into her eyes, holding him in place so that he could not look away. The Doctor didn’t blink, but Rose saw his fists clench, where they were cuffed behind his back.
For a long moment, the two of them held each other’s gaze. Then satisfaction spread over the woman’s face.
“There it is,” she said softly, releasing him and standing up again.
“What?” the Doctor asked.
The woman only smiled grimly.
“It's there in your eyes. I can see it. You didn’t come through as unscathed as you physically appear.”
She drew her knife, and Rose caught her breath, but didn’t dare to speak. Rose desperately hoped that the Doctor had a plan, but she was beginning to suspect that he didn’t actually have any plan beyond trading himself for her. And the thought of this woman having access to the Doctor…Rose couldn’t bear to think about it. The woman was violent enough with Rose, and Rose wasn’t the actual focus of her rage. She was merely a means to an end, an accessory, in the woman’s mind. What would she do to the Doctor, if she had him as a prisoner?
The woman hated the Doctor so much, and even on his good days, he didn’t have the highest of self-esteem, if you looked deep enough. What would it do to him, to be the prisoner of someone who hated him that much? To be constantly referred to as a murderer, to be constantly reminded of his past actions? The physical abuse would be bad enough, Rose knew. But it was the potential for psychological abuse that terrified her most of all. And the Doctor must have known it too..
Why had the Doctor willingly given himself over to her?
But to be honest, Rose knew the answer to that. He'd done it for her. He’d promised he’d get her out, and clearly, he’d found no other way than this.
“Go ahead,” the Doctor said, his voice tight with suppressed emotion. Rose clenched her teeth to keep from screaming in protest. She could only hope the Doctor was calling the woman’s bluff. “Finish the job. But if you do, I’d warn you to stand back.”
“Ah yes,” the woman sneered. “Regeneration. The supposed gift of the Time Lords.” She touched the blade of the knife to the Doctor’s neck, and Rose saw him flinch away, unable to help it. “Preventable by certain chemicals, or premature death. But you’d regenerate from a knife wound, wouldn’t you?”
The Doctor didn’t answer, and she pressed the knife a little deeper.
“Tell me, Doctor, what new face will you have this time? Will it be a younger man, the better to disguise what you really are? Or an older one, finally bending under the weight of so many broken lives?”
“Can’t be sure,” the Doctor replied, studiously ignoring the knife. “Let’s find out.”
“Oh, Doctor, it’s not going to be that easy,” she said, once again crouching so she was on eye level with him, and raising the knife so that it traced lightly along his jawline. “You see, that would be too simple. Too quick. And I’ve waited a long time for this.”
She rose, and crossed around behind the Doctor again.
Before anyone could anticipate it or react, she’d raised the knife, and expertly sliced down the back of his shirt in one fluid stroke. The fabric parted, exposing his skin. Triumph sparkled in the woman’s eyes.
“What do you know?” the woman said quietly. “Time Lords do scar, if you go deep enough.”
Rose bit back a scream of rage. Of all the injuries that the Doctor had sustained in that terrible ordeal, the only ones to leave any trace on his body were some of the deepest whip weals on his back. The dermal regenerator hadn’t been able to completely heal those, and even his own natural healing process hadn’t eradicated those few final scars. They’d faded to thin, white lines which barely showed, but they were there, and the woman knew where to look.
“Do you remember how it felt?” the woman inquired, touching the very tip of her knife to one of the scars, and tracing it. The Doctor couldn’t suppress a shiver, his face struggling to remain composed. Rose could see the memories surging forward, though he fought to keep them at bay. “How it felt to be so completely helpless? How it felt to finally be the one receiving the pain, as opposed to dealing it out?”
Rose could keep silent no longer.
“STOP IT!” she shouted.
The woman froze, raising the knife and looking over at her. The Doctor glanced over at Rose, but said nothing.
“What’s wrong?” the woman asked. “Honestly, I’m not hurting him, Rose. Remember the research I did? About how much pressure it takes to penetrate human skin, as opposed to Time Lords’?”
Rose’s arm stung at the memory, but terror rose up in her at the words.
“Don’t…” she whispered, but a kind of mad glee had arisen in the woman’s face.
“If I wanted to hurt him,” she said, “I would need to do this.”
With that, the knife flashed down again, expertly slicing right along one of the scars, opening up a long cut that traced it exactly. The Doctor closed his eyes and sucked in a breath, but otherwise, kept still. Rose fought back furious tears, and he seemed to sense it, though he kept his eyes closed.
“It’s all right, Rose,” he said quietly.
The woman walked back around to face the Doctor, sheathing her knife.
“She’s very loyal, your Rose,” she told the Doctor, who’d opened his eyes to once again meet her gaze. Rose could see blood trickling down his back, and the sight of his blood made her want to cry. “Refuses to admit what you and I both know, Doctor.”
“Why do you hate me so much?” the Doctor inquired.
“Is it so hard to believe that you’ve attracted enemies?”
“No,” the Doctor said honestly. “But you’ve proven yourself a bit more persistent than most. You’ve tracked me across a galaxy, to two planets that have nothing to do with each other. You’re either extremely lucky, or extremely dedicated. And I don’t really believe in that sort of luck.”
“You really don’t remember me?” the woman inquired. “Even after what you did?”
The Doctor studied her with a bit more intensity.
“I suppose I should have expected it. How could you be expected to remember every race you annihilated? They must all just blend together after a while, right?”
She was spitting the words out now, her mood once again having whiplashed. It was her unpredictability that made her so terrifying, Rose thought. You never knew when she was going to pull out that knife and slice you, and when she was going to speak almost kindly.
“Tell me, Doctor, do you actually keep count of how many murders you’ve committed, or has the number exceeded your ability to count?”
There was a moment's silence.
“I lost track a long time ago,” the Doctor whispered, for the first time showing true emotion in his words.
“So you do admit it?”
“I never denied anything,” he replied fiercely.
“Not true,” the woman said. “Day nine. Remember?” The Doctor froze, and the memory was written all over his face before he could stop it. She rook advantage of his momentary lapse, and leaned forward. “I was watching every minute. Not in person, of course, but I had my ways. I saw everything.”
The Doctor quickly composed himself.
“Enough games,” he said. “I did what you wanted. I’m here. Now let Rose go.”
Before the woman could reply, a soldier came sprinting into the room, dashing up to the woman and breathlessly whispering something. Rose couldn’t hear it, but the Doctor’s inhuman ears obviously could, and for the first time, his mask of composure completely slipped, and utter dismay was written all over his face.
The woman murmured something in reply to the soldier, who immediately dashed out of the room again. The woman turned back to the Doctor, who was struggling to control his visible emotions.
“Well, well,” she said. “Looks like things just got more interesting.”
She looked over at Rose.
“Looks like he found a replacement for you, Rose.”
Rose didn’t understand, but the clear horror in the Doctor’s eyes told her that something was very wrong.
“It looks like the Doctor here brought a friend, and tried to keep her out of harm’s way.” She looked down at the Doctor scornfully. “Did you really think we wouldn’t find her out there in the woods?”
“Who?” Rose exclaimed, horrified at this turn of events. Especially because she had a suspicion of who it was who’d accompanied the Doctor.
“The young woman who is currently on her way in here. Says her name is ‘Mishell.’”
Back to index
Chapter 22: Chapter 21: Immolation
Author's Notes: Wherein we realize just what the woman meant when she told Rose that she wasn't going to kill her...
Sometimes the Doctor can come up with a brillian plan out of nowhere. But there are other times when he's forced to just do what is necessary, leap in headfirst, make it up as he goes along, and hope for the best. The question is: which time is this?
The door opened, and Rose caught her breath in dismay as Mishell was pushed inside. She was discheveled and looked as though she'd put up a fight, but she appeared to be uninjured.
The Doctor got to his feet, only to be immediately set upon by a soldier, who viciously forced the Doctor back down. His knees struck the floor with a sickening crack, and Rose winced.
“Doctor!” Mishell cried out.
“I’m okay,” he replied, as the soldier moved away. This time, the Doctor stayed down.
Mishell’s eyes took in the scene before her. The woman. Rose chained to the post. The Doctor on his knees, blood still trickling down his back, staining his clothes.
“I’m sorry,” Mishell said miserably. “I stayed where you told me to. But they came after me.”
“We knew you couldn’t come alone,” the woman said with a smile. “We knew you would insist on dragging another innocent into your world. So when you came in alone, we knew she couldn’t be far.”
Mishell glared at the soldiers, but the Doctor didn’t take his eyes off the woman.
“Put her over there with Rose,” the woman indicated.
Mishell was dragged across the room and her arms were cuffed around the same pole as Rose’s, so that they were standing side by side.
Rose stared at her, and couldn’t help but think of Dennel, and the last time she’d seen him. Mishell must know that Dennel was dead. Did she blame Rose? She didn’t seem to, but Mishell was difficult to read. And why had she helped the Doctor?
“Hello again,” Mishell muttered grimly.
“Long time, no see,” Rose replied.
“She’s innocent!” the Doctor insisted. “I asked her to guide me through the woods. I needed to know how to get to the base.”
Mishell opened her mouth, but Rose nudged her. The Doctor must have a reason for saying what he did, and Rose had learned the hard way that speaking up would probably result in the Doctor being hurt.
“So you willingly put another girl at risk? One wasn’t enough for you?”
The woman actually looked indignant on their behalf, and Rose hated it. She was still acting as though they were the Doctor’s victims. The Doctor’s jaw clenched.
“I didn’t mean to,” he replied.
“You didn’t mean to,” the woman echoed scornfully.
Then she turned to the two of them, studying them.
“Well, I know who Rose is, of course. Your human “companion.” But who is this Mishell?”
“Nobody,” Mishell replied through clenched teeth.
“I sincerely doubt that.” The woman eyed her, and Rose saw something dangerous in her eyes. “You’re from Pantila, aren’t you?”
“What of it?” Mishell demanded.
The woman’s gaze moved to Rose, and Rose wondered if the woman suspected Mishell was one of the people who’d sheltered them. One of the people Rose had refused to give up.
Then the woman smiled at all three of them. Rose knew that smile didn't mean well for any of them.
“Well then, this just gets better and better. I was going to show you this anyway, Doctor, but now the gang is all here, and we actually have someone from Pantila.”
“Show me what?” the Doctor forced the words out.
“I’m so glad you asked,” the woman said, sounding almost cheerful.
She walked back to her seat and signaled to one of the soldiers, who looked a bit annoyed at being signaled in such an offhand manner, but also looked too terrified to try and say anything about it. He darted over to a large control panel, and pressed a few buttons.
“If I could direct your attention to the computer screen,” the woman indicated, and Rose turned to see a large monitor on the wall opposite the woman lighting up.
“Doctor,” she added, with the air of one giving instructions to a small child, “you can look at it, but don’t get up.”
The Doctor glared at her, but turned enough so that he could see the screen. As he did, Rose caught a better glimpse of his back, which had mostly stopped bleeding. She swallowed her pain and forced herself to look away.
“What’s she doing?” Mishell hissed.
“I don’t know,” Rose replied, keeping her voice as low as possible, though the woman’s attention seemed entirely focused on the Doctor and the monitor. “Please tell me you being here is part of some sort of plan.”
“I wish,” Mishell replied, and Rose’s heart sank as they both fell silent.
Then the monitor fully powered up, and an image appeared on the screen. Rose studied it, trying to figure out what she was supposed to be seeing. It looked like an aerial shot of something…of a town, maybe. But something was very wrong…
“NO!” Mishell gasped, sounding as though all the air had just been kicked out of her. At the same instant, the Doctor inhaled sharply, and Rose realized what she must be seeing.
An aerial view of Pantila. And it was burning.
“No…” she breathed, feeling physically sick, unable to believe what she was seeing.
Rose couldn’t take her eyes off the screen. The video appeared to be live footage, and it panned in closer. The town wasn’t just burning…it had been decimated. Everything had been destroyed.
Rose had never seen the village in daylight, but as she gazed at the smoldering, flaming ruins, she knew that some of those buildings were ones that she and Dennel had walked past. She remembered how some of them seemed to have occupants. What had happened to them? All those people…
The Doctor’s eyes were blazing, and he whipped his head around to face the woman.
“What did you do?!” he shouted.
“Only what I was forced to,” the woman said, actually sounding sad about it.
Mishell was shaking violently next to Rose, and Rose wished that she could comfort her. But Rose herself was trembling. Paz…Kaye…the children…all those people…
“Why?” Mishell shouted.
The woman’s eyes settled on Rose, and Rose felt the realization slamming into her like a freight train.
“No…” she gasped. “No, no, no…”
“I did warn you, Rose.”
“NO!” Rose screamed, feeling her knees go weak. She half-collapsed against the pole. This couldn’t have been her fault. This couldn’t have been a result of her refusing to give up those names. It couldn’t have been…please, please, no!
“What are you talking about?” the Doctor demanded, but the woman didn’t take her eyes off Rose.
“I warned you, Rose. All I wanted was who had sheltered you. I knew the town…I just needed the names.” There was no pity in the woman’s eyes. No mercy. Only triumphant madness. “This is your fault.”
“No!” the Doctor shouted, scrambling to his feet.
Instantly, the woman’s attention was back on him, as the soldiers forced him back to the ground. But drawing her attention appeared to be his primary goal.
“You did this!" he declared furiously. "It wasn’t her fault!”
He looked over at Rose, locking eyes with her.
“It wasn’t your fault, Rose.”
Rose swallowed hard, wishing that she could believe it.
“We’re not going to kill you…” the woman had said. Instead, she’d killed the whole town. She’d known the name of the town they’d stayed in, but not the names of the people. So she’d destroyed everyone. Rose wanted to cry, unable to comprehend what she was seeing.
“I didn’t know,” she whispered.
“It wasn’t your fault, Rose,” the Doctor repeated firmly, still not looking away from her.
“It wasn’t,” Mishell added, so low that Rose barely heard her.
“Eyes on me, Doctor,” the woman commanded, getting to her feet again and signaling to turn the monitor off. Rose still felt numb, and Mishell was still shaking.
The Doctor reluctantly forced his gaze back to the woman. There was sheer hatred in his eyes now, so strong that Rose could feel it from where she stood. She rarely saw him that angry, and it never ended well. But the woman didn’t blink.
“Why would you do that?” he demanded through clenched teeth. “You wanted me. They weren’t involved.”
“They sheltered you,” the woman shrugged, matching his hate with her own. “Crime has punishments. Besides, these boys were dying at a chance to do some serious damage, weren’t you?” she directed this towards the surrounding soldiers. “I probably couldn’t have stopped them if I wanted to.”
There was a stunned silence as everyone absorbed this. The Doctor was clearly struggling to keep from leaping to his feet once again. Rose could see him trembling with rage, on all of their behalves.
“How did you even find me?” the Doctor finally managed to bite the words out. “You’re not from around here.”
“No,” she agreed. “But I’ve got quite a few contacts in the galaxy. Built up a reputation. I’m sure you know what that’s like. And all I had to do was put the word out, that there was a dangerous murderer on the loose, and it was only a matter of time.”
She studied him hatefully.
“You’re not as hard to track as you think, Doctor. All one has to do is follow the trail of bodies and devastation you leave behind.”
“Enough!” the Doctor snapped. “Enough of this. You’ve got what you want. You’ve got me. Now let them go!”
“Both of them?” the woman inquired.
“Yes. They’re innocent. They’re not a part of this. Neither of them had anything to do with what I did during the Time War.” The mention of that word nearly sent the woman off again, but she mastered her rage, instead advancing slowly on the Doctor. “I’m who you want. And you’ve got me. They’re not important.”
“Not important?” the woman raised an eyebrow. “You would say that, after they’ve done so much for you. Do you really care so little for them? Are they just tools to you? Playthings?”
Rose gritted her teeth, hating how the woman twisted everything the Doctor said. Words were the Doctor’s defense, and she was using them against him. She knew him too well.
“Just let them go,” the Doctor said, ignoring her words. “They’re innocent.”
“Really?” the woman inquired. “Because Rose made a pretty good case as to why she isn’t. Absolutely refused to deny you. Something about her being guilty of genocide too.”
“No,” the Doctor shook his head. “Absolutely not.”
“No!” the Doctor insisted. Rose felt tears in her eyes at his desperate insistence. “She wasn’t in her right mind.”
“Is that so?”
“She’d absorbed time itself.”
“And whose fault was that?”
“Mine!” the Doctor said firmly. “Not hers. It was all my fault, all of it! She’s done nothing wrong. Neither of them have. They’re nothing to you, and they’re not going to hurt anyone. I’m who you want, and I’m here. So let them go.”
Rose was fighting back desperate tears. She couldn’t just leave the Doctor behind. Not with her, not with how much she hated him. This woman would kill him if she could, and she’d take her time about it. Rose didn’t want the Doctor sacrificing himself for her, but here he was, not only offering himself in their place, but also taking full responsibility for her actions. He was always so willing to put himself on the line for her. He’d already died once, doing it. She didn’t want to lose him again. But she was absolutely helpless, even moreso than when she’d been in the cell, and she hated it more than she could express.
She wished that she could talk to him. Wished that they could just have a minute alone. Wished that there was some way out of this situation. She still wasn’t sure if he’d actually had a plan, or whether he had always planned on them being released, but him staying behind. If she knew him at all, she suspected it was the latter.
But she’d already left him behind once when he was in trouble. Back when he was being tortured, she’d followed his instructions. She’d run away, leaving him behind, and she hadn’t even known what he was going through. How could she ever live with herself if she walked away from him now, knowing what the woman was capable of? This woman had murdered an entire town just to make a point. Had obsessively pursued and nearly killed the Doctor already. There was no telling what she would do. But if her current actions and state of mind were any indication, it was going to be a nightmare.
“You know,” the woman said, studying the Doctor, “if I didn’t know better, I’d say you cared about them.”
The Doctor met her gaze defiantly.
“I don’t want any more innocent people to die,” he said firmly. “You must want that too.”
The woman stared at the Doctor for a long time.
“You said that if I turned myself in, you’d let her go,” the Doctor reminded her.
“Actually,” the woman said, “if you recall my exact wording, I never said anything about letting Rose go.”
Rose’s heart sank, and even though the Doctor’s expression didn’t change, she knew that things had spiraled far beyond his control. If they’d ever been in his control in the first place.
“All I said was that she would die by sundown if you didn’t turn yourself in. And I can assure you, she’ll be alive at sundown, at least.”
“They’re innocent!” the Doctor protested.
“So you say,” the woman agreed. “And I think it’s time that we had a private conversation, don’t you, Doctor?”
She turned to the soldiers.
“Take the girls back to Rose’s cell for now,” the woman ordered. “We don’t want them causing any trouble. Rose, at least, has proven herself quite resourceful in breaking you out, hasn’t she, Doctor?”
The Doctor didn’t reply.
Several soldiers unfastened the handcuffs, freeing them from the pipe.
The Doctor caught Rose’s eye and held her gaze, as though trying to memorize her face. Rose fought back tears at the expression on his face. She wanted to go to him, hug him, hold his hand, just touch him…to do something…but the soldiers were pulling them across the room and out the door.
Looking over her shoulder, Rose caught one last glimpse of the Doctor. He gave her a reassuring smile, as though everything was going to be all right. As though everything was under control.
And then he was gone.
Rose couldn’t keep from shaking as they were shepherded down the hall. She trusted the Doctor completely. She wanted to believe that the Doctor had some sort of plan, or would be able to maneuver his way out of this situation. She knew he’d gotten out of worse spots than this. He’d faced down worse enemies than that woman.
But even so, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she’d just seen the Doctor for the last time.
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Chapter 23: Epilogue
Author's Notes: YAY FOR CLIFFHANGERS!
I know, I know, this is a diabolical place to end it, and I apologize. Youíve all been so wonderful, and I hate to leave you all hanging like this, though this is how I always planned to end this story. I PROMISE that the third story, which will pick up where this leaves off, will be coming really soon.
Iím going to start it as soon as Christmas Break begins (less than two weeks from now). I promised my parents I wouldnít start it until then, because I have final exams next week, and I have a habit of seriously neglecting schoolwork in favor of writing these stories, and I donít really regret it. It is KILLING me to have to put this on hold, even for a short time, because I love these characters and this story, and all of you. But I do have to pass these exams. As soon as Iím done, Iíll start on the third, which Iíve tentatively titled ďThe Finish Line.Ē
But on the plus side, did you really think Iíd go through this whole story without one kiss between them?
You all are wonderful, and sometimes your reads, favorites, and reviews are what have kept me going through some rough days. Thank you so much, and I'm so glad you're enjoying these!!!
SEVERAL HOURS LATER:
The Doctor allowed the soldiers to propel him down the corridors, resisting the urge to antagonize them anymore. He didn’t have much time, and he didn’t want to give them any excuse to change their minds. Though at the same time, he admittedly doubted that they would refuse a direct order from the woman. They didn't seem to like her very much, but they obeyed her every command, and clearly feared her.
He wracked his brains for a way out of this, any way out of this, but frighteningly, he came up with nothing. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected to have happen with turning himself over. But in the past few hours, it’d become alarmingly clear to him that this situation was not one that would be resolved with a few clever words and an idea or two.
They arrived in front of a solid metal door, and one of the soldiers took off his handcuffs. The Doctor couldn’t help but stretch his arms appreciatively, though he winced as the movement tugged at the injury on his back.
“Ten minutes,” the soldier said, and the door slid open.
Taking a deep breath, the Doctor walked inside, hearing the door slam behind him.
Both girls were seated on the floor, but jumped up as he entered. He was relieved to see that both were all right, but admittedly, he only had eyes for one at this moment…
“Doctor!” Rose cried out, fear of their situation and joy at being reunited warring on her face. He reached out, and she sprang into his arms, hugging him tightly.
He couldn’t help but rejoice at the reunion, after being separated for so long.
He held her close, trying to commit every little detail to memory: her arms around him, the beat of her single human heart against his two, her scent, the sound of her voice, everything. He never wanted to let go.
“I thought…” she faltered, clinging to him even tighter. “I thought she…”
“Nope,” he said, keeping his voice as casual as he could. “Can’t get rid of me that easily, Rose Tyler.”
“I am so glad to see you,” she said.
He couldn’t even reply.
She pulled back just enough to see his face, and once again, he tried to memorize everything about her. He felt a stab of fury at the bruises on her face.
“Are you all right?” he asked, quickly beginning to check her over to make sure the injuries were as minor as they appeared.
“I’m fine,” she replied. “It’s just surface stuff.”
She did have a large lump on her head, where she’d been struck with the gun during the broadcast, but it didn’t appear to have damaged her skull, to his relief. The rest of the injuries appeared to just be bruises, though she did have a long cut on one arm, which was healing as well as could be expected. He fought back rage at what had been done, knowing it was pointless at this juncture.
He looked over at Mishell, who was standing back, letting them have their reunion. She was watching them closely, but her face was expressionless, her posture rigid. He couldn’t tell what she was thinking.
“Mishell, are you okay?”
“Fine,” she replied simply.
He could see pain in her eyes, and guilt overwhelmed him. Of course she wasn’t. She’d only recently lost the man she loved, and now she'd just seen her home destroyed, with the rest of her makeshift family in it, and was now a prisoner of someone she had nothing to do with.
The woman had a point, he reflected grimly. Everywhere and everyone he touched got hurt.
“You’re hurt too,” Rose added, fearful and concerned.
“What, this?” he asked, gesturing to his own face, which he knew was already bruised from the woman's blows. “I’ve gotten worse from a bad landing in the TARDIS.”
Rose wasn’t fooled for a moment.
“Turn around,” she demanded. “Let me see your back.”
He decided it would be best to do as he was told. They didn’t have much time.
“It’s not that deep,” Rose said after a moment, and he could hear her relief, even as her voice tightened with fury at the sight. “There’s a lot of blood, but it’s not bleeding anymore.”
“Told you,” he said, turning back around.
They all looked at each other.
“What are you doing here?” It was Mishell who asked the question, but Rose’s expression showed that she was wondering the same thing.
“I…” he thought for a moment. “I’m just stopping by to see how you two are. I can’t stay long.”
“How did you get her to let you come?” Rose asked. “I didn’t think she’d do anything for you.”
He didn’t reply.
“It’s fine,” he told her.
Seven minutes left.
“I am so sorry about all this,” he said, looking from one to the other.
“It’s not your fault,” Rose insisted fiercely. “I’m the idiot who got myself captured in the first place.”
“You couldn’t have avoided it,” the Doctor said firmly, squeezing her hand. “She was bound to track us down one way or another. And Mishell, I am so, so very sorry about Pantila.”
Mishell nodded mutely, her expression shuttered, and his hearts ached for her. Words were inadequate, and they both knew it. But at the same time, Rose’s eyes were immediately filled with unfathomable pain. The Doctor froze, then turned his attention to her fully. He had to make her understand. He had to ease this one burden, even if he could fix nothing else.
“Rose, it was not your fault,” he repeated.
Her eyes filled with tears as she gazed back at him desperately.
“How can it not be?” she whispered. “If it weren’t for me…”
“You were not responsible for what she did.”
“Rose, you chose not to betray those who showed you kindness. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from you. How could you have done anything else?”
She still looked unconvinced, and he took her face in his hands, looking straight into her eyes.
“It wasn’t your fault. You couldn’t have known. You are not to blame.” Still, a flicker of uncertainty. “Rose, please trust me. It wasn’t your fault.”
Slowly, she nodded, and he let go, immediately taking her hand again. He needed to keep her close.
“Who is she?” Mishell demanded. “Why does she hate you so much?”
The Doctor couldn’t look at her, couldn’t bear to see the look on her face as she found out what he’d done. Who he really was…
“She’s the last surviving member of a species whose planet was wiped out in the Time War.” He recognized her now, recognized her species, remembered the planet. Remembered what had happened there….
“Doctor,” Rose asked slowly. “Just, please tell me…was it really you? Who killed them?”
“Yes,” he said, forcing himself to meet her eyes. There was no condemnation there, he noticed with a start. Merely sorrow and compassion.
He looked over at Mishell, who was studying him intently. But the blame and revulsion that he both dreaded and expected were nowhere to be seen.
“It was during the Time War…and their planet was being overrun by Daleks.” Despite the fact that neither girl was vocally blaming him, he was still desperate to explain himself. “If they’d gained a foothold on that planet, it would have been an enormous detriment to us. To everyone. And they were going to exterminate the entire population, one by one.” He closed his eyes. “I didn’t want to…but it was more merciful for the people…and…”
“Doctor, stop it!” Rose said firmly, and he opened his eyes again. “You don’t have to explain yourself to me.”
“Nor me,” Mishell added, to his surprise.
“I know you,” Rose continued, giving Mishell a quick smile. “You wouldn’t have done it unless you had to.”
He swallowed his emotion, not knowing what to say.
“But it seems so personal,” Mishell said. “Like you personally wronged her.”
“Killing her entire species isn’t enough?” he asked quietly.
Mishell closed her mouth, but Rose knew him too well to be deterred by that kind of statement.
“Have you met before?” she asked, her gaze intense. Probing, searching for answers.
“Don’t,” he said, the word coming out harsher than he intended. He immediately softened his tone. “Rose…just don’t.”
She nodded slowly.
Less than five minutes.
“So what do we do now?” Rose finally asked.
“Well…” the Doctor said slowly, desperately trying to keep things as lighthearted as he could, which wasn’t easy, considering the circumstances. “On the plus side, she finally let me know what’s going to happen. And there’s good news and bad news.”
“Oh great,” Mishell groaned.
Rose didn’t take her eyes off him.
“What?” she asked quietly, taking both his hands, giving him something to hold on to. How had she known that was exactly what he needed?
“You’re not going to be killed,” he reassured them. The woman’s jeers and taunts rang in his ears, hours of implied or direct threats against the people he cared about, but he forced himself not to think about them. All that mattered was the end result. “I’ve made sure of that.”
Rose and Mishell exchanged a look.
“If that’s the good news,” Rose sighed, “I hate to hear the bad news.”
He looked from one to the other, and could barely get the words out.
“She’s not going to let you go.”
Mishell let out a breath, and Rose’s grip tightened on his hands. She took a deep breath, looking determined.
“Then what is going to happen to us?”
“You’re going to be taken somewhere,” he informed them. “A prison, I think.”
He felt ill at the thought of either of them in prison, felt like screaming at the mere mention of it. But at least they’d be alive.
“To keep you away from me. But you won’t be harmed, I swear.”
Rose seemed to sense that there wasn’t much time, for despite the fact that she must have a thousand questions, she pressed on.
“And the TARDIS?” she asked. “She has her too, you know.”
He couldn’t help but feel pleased that Rose had remembered that his ship was also a captive.
“I know. But she can’t get in,” he said. He wasn’t going to risk mentioning the key out loud. If he knew that woman at all, she would be listening in on this conversation. “And she doesn’t really value the TARDIS. But she also doesn’t want me anywhere near her. So I think she’s just going to abandon her somewhere.”
He felt rage on behalf of his ship, fury at the thought of her being discarded like garbage. But at least the TARDIS would be out of the woman’s hands. He could always go back for his ship if…when...he got away.
Rose swallowed hard, and he knew she’d been intentionally avoiding the most obvious question, clearly afraid of the answer.
“What about you?” she whispered.
His hearts pounded in his ears, and he forced himself to be as calm as he could.
“Rose, I’m sorry,” he said.
“Doctor, what about you?!” she demanded.
“What is she going to do with you?” Mishell asked, stepping to Rose's side.
“She’s taking me with her,” he finally admitted.
“NO!” Rose gasped in horror.
“It’s the only way she’ll let you live,” he told her quietly.
“Oh, Doctor,” she cried, moving to hug him again.
He could feel her trembling as he held her, and then realized he was as well.
“I’ll be fine,” he reassured her. “Really. Don’t worry about me.” He hadn’t even wanted to mention it, but there hadn’t really been any way of avoiding the topic.
He pulled away from Rose, taking her hand, and reaching out to take Mishell’s hand in his other. He looked from one to the other, knowing in his hearts that it might be a long time before he saw either of them again.
“We’re almost out of time,” he said. Rose looked like she was struggling to hold back tears. “I don’t want you to worry about me. I’ll be fine, and I will come and get you out.”
Mishell looked skeptical, and one look at Rose told him that she knew as well as he did what was awaiting him in the future. And that he might not be able to escape. But for all of their sakes, she pretended he was stating an absolute fact.
“I need both of you to take care of yourselves. You’re going to have to be strong, and I am so, so sorry. I didn’t want this to happen.”
“It’s not your fault!” Rose said firmly, and Mishell nodded agreement.
“Promise me that you’ll take care of yourselves,” he said, his voice going fierce with emotion.
“This is going to be hard, and I wish more than anything in the world that you didn’t have to do this. If I can find any way to get you out, I swear that I will do it. I will never stop fighting for you. But you two are going to have to keep yourselves safe. Keep strong. Keep fighting. Promise me you will.”
“Promise,” Mishell said.
He looked at Rose, who was still struggling to hold back emotion.
“Promise,” she whispered.
He hated to leave them like this, hated it more than anything in the world.
“Isn’t there anything we can do?” Mishell demanded.
“No,” the Doctor shook his head. “Not here. I’ve tried everything.”
He turned to fully face Mishell.
“Mishell, I am so sorry I got you into this.”
“You didn’t get me into this,” Mishell replied. “I got me into this. And don’t worry, we’ll be fine.”
He hugged her tightly.
Then he turned to Rose. Wordlessly, Mishell moved to the other side of the cell, to give them what privacy she could.
“Don’t cry,” he urged Rose, reaching up to wipe away a tear that had escaped. “Don’t let them see you cry, okay?”
She mustered a smile.
She gripped his hands.
“Doctor, when are we going to see each other again?”
“I don’t know, Rose,” he admitted. “And I am so sorry. I really messed this one up.”
“I’ve got to admit,” she said, her voice shaking a little. “I’ve seen better rescue operations.”
“Oh really?” he inquired, trying to coax a smile out of her.
“Well, once you’ve been plucked out of the event horizon of a black hole by a knight in shining spacegear,” she said, “everything else sort of pales in comparison.”
They both laughed, though neither of their hearts were in it.
They looked at each other.
“Don’t let her break you,” Rose whispered. “Please. It's your turn to promise. You have to promise me.”
He didn’t make promises lightly, and she knew it.
“I promise,” he replied.
There was so much he wanted to say to her, but he didn’t have the time or the words. She looked like she was struggling to say something too, but she couldn’t quite manage it.
Acting completely on impulse, but at the same time knowing that it was so, so right, he leaned forward and kissed her. He felt her surprise, but then she responded, reaching up to put her arms around him as he held her close.
"Real?" she breathed, pulling back just enough to speak. He immediately understood.
"Real," he whispered, closing the distance between them again. Trying to say everything he couldn’t find the words for with that one action. Everything he felt, everything he wanted. To give her something to hold onto in the days to come. To give himself something to hold onto.
He finally forced himself to pull away, and met her eyes. They were swimming with dozens of emotions, and he couldn’t detect any one specific one.
“This isn’t the end, Rose,” he said. He could hear movement outside the door, and knew that time was up. “I swear it. This isn’t goodbye, and it isn’t the end.”
She nodded, and he saw new resolve dawning in her eyes.
“See you soon,” she said.
“You bet,” he replied.
The door opened, and the Doctor turned to face the soldiers.
“Hi,” he greeted them as cheerfully as he could, for both girls’ sakes. “If it isn’t my private escort.”
One of the soldiers stepped into the cell, and used his weapon to separate Rose and Mishell from the Doctor. The Doctor didn’t protest, merely allowed them to cuff his hands behind his back again, though he couldn't resist pulling on his arms, momentarily keeping them just too far apart to handcuff. It wouldn't do any good, the soldier overpowered him the next second, but it was a small sign of rebellion.
“Take care of yourselves,” he called over his shoulder, trying to get a last look at the two of them as he was escorted out of the cell. “And don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”
This earned him a smile from Rose, and it was this last image that he vowed to keep in his mind.
The door slid shut behind him, shutting him off from Rose and Mishell.
Walking away from that cell was the hardest thing he’d ever done. He desperately tried to think of a way out that didn’t involve Rose or Mishell being killed, but he couldn’t think of anything. It was so infuriating. He’d escaped from some of the most complex prisons and labyrinths and whatnot in the universe, and here he was, trapped by a pair of handcuffs and a couple of soldiers with guns. He might be able to overpower his guards, it was true. He was stronger than most people gave him credit for, though he knew that the woman had warned these men about him. But even if he managed to break their grip on him, if he tried to run now, he’d only get himself shot. Probably not fatally, but a shot to the leg or arm didn’t sound appealing right now either. And it would probably result in Rose or Mishell being killed.
And besides…he’d made a deal.
He had to focus on the fact that wherever Rose and Mishell were being taken, they were going to be alive. Where there was life, there was hope.
And he was going to live as well. Granted, he knew his quality of life was not exactly going to be optimal. The Doctor could be optimistic when he wanted to be, but he wasn't going to deceive himself. His life was about to become very difficult. But at the same time, it was better than death. He was going to have to remember that, he knew, in days to come. If the past was any indication, there would soon come a day when he would welcome death. Pray for it. But he buried the knowledge deep in his mind, trying to keep it as protected as he could...the knowledge that life was always preferable. Always. While he was alive, he stood a chance of gaining the upper hand.
He knew his only chance stood in keeping himself alive and sane enough, for long enough, to fight back. She was going to do her best to break him, and while the Doctor had a strong mind, and 900 (give or take. He would stick to his plausible deniability to the end) years of experience, he also knew that this woman had a lifetime of hatred to vent, an inordinate amount of power to weild, vast resources and contacts, and a mind that was warped beyond reason. A deadly combination.
But he'd promised Rose he wouldn't let her break him. And he had to hold onto that promise.
He was half led, half dragged through the entire base. They passed the large room where he’d first been brought, and continued the rest of the way through the place, finally arriving at a door which led to the outside. Several more soldiers stood at various strategic positions around the door, to ensure he had no opportunity to take action.
He stepped outside, breathing in the fresh air, and tried to calm his pounding hearts. He couldn’t deny that he was frightened. Rose and Mishell were alive, and that was what mattered most. But he also knew that this was going to be bad.
He was dragged across the clearing, to the large ship he and Mishell had spotted earlier. The woman’s ship.
She was standing at the base of it, arms folded, looking extraordinarily and infuriatingly triumphant.
The soldiers flung him to the ground and stepped away, thought not before one of them delivered a cursory kick to his ribs. Grimacing in pain, he pulled himself up to his knees.
“Well?” she asked, looking down at him. “Was it worth it?”
“Every minute,” he replied, any and all lightheartedness gone from his voice. No pretenses here. She was his enemy, and he wasn’t going to banter with her anymore. Not after what she’d done to Pantila. Not after what she’d threatened to do to his friends.
“And what about your end of the deal?” she inquired.
“I’m not struggling, am I?” he asked. And he wasn’t.
She crouched down so that she was on eye level with him.
“How did they react?” she inquired. He closed his mouth, refusing to answer, even when her hand went to the hilt of her knife. “I’ll bet Rose was heartbroken to hear it. She’s obsessively loyal to you, you know. It’s pathetic, what you’ve turned her into. You should thank me for letting her live.”
Something snapped inside him.
“If you hurt her,” he snarled, unable to keep the words back. The hours of enduring her threats, plus the anguish of being forcibly seperated from Rose like this, finally manifesting themselves in a rage and words that startled him, but that he utterly meant. “I will kill you.”
The woman merely smiled at him.
“We've been over this, Doctor. All you’re doing right now is proving me right.”
She reached into a pocket and pulled out a large syringe. He caught his breath, forcing himself not to flinch at the sight, remembering previous injections, previous chemicals, which had stripped him of his final defense.
“Don’t panic,” she said. “I’m not disabling your regeneration. Yet.”
She uncapped the syringe and carefully pulled out a small bottle of liquid. She showed it to him.
“You see, we’ve got a long journey ahead of us. And while your agreement to go quietly is appreciated, the word of a killer and coward means nothing. You lie and manipulate like other creatures breathe air. And I don’t want any incidents on the way.”
Now he recognized the liquid as a powerful sedative.
“And before you comment, you should know that my boys gained a lot of information about you during your stay with them, so yes, we are aware of the difference in your metabolism.” She inserted the needle into the bottle, and carefully filled the syringe with a dose that he knew would be large enough to knock him out for a significant portion of time. “And we have compensated accordingly.”
“How proactive of you,” he forced himself to reply.
Forcing himself not to show fear.
She smirked and moved closer to him. One of the soldiers stepped forward to hold him in place, and another pushed up his sleeve, exposing his arm. She reached towards him, and he had no way of avoiding the needle. Thus, he didn’t even try to.
He felt the prick of the needle piercing his skin, and he inhaled sharply as a rush of warmth and pain shot through his arm, indicating the sedative had been injected into his bloodstream, his double hearts carrying it through his system twice as fast.
It was powerful and fast acting. Almost immediately, he could feel his body shutting down: heartbeats slowing, terrifying numbness sweeping over him, his limbs turning to leaden weights. The soldier let go, and he slumped forward helplessly, hating his weakness but unable to prevent it. But he refused to take his eyes off the woman. He would stare her down until the last possible moment.
She leaned over him, and his darkening vision could just make out the triumphant and malicious expression on her face. He tried to fight the sedative, but he could feel himself slipping. He was so tired, and while he knew that sleep was bad, he couldn't resist it.
Her voice sounded as though it came from far away, but her words penetrated his rapidly clouding mind like a white-hot blade.
“Oh, Doctor,” she whispered. “We’re going to have fun…”
And then the world went black.
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