If Polly, blonde, fashionable and organised London secretary that she was, had ever thought long and hard about places she never expected to find herself, then trapped in a military base at the North Pole twenty years into her future would have come high up on the list.
If you added to that the horrifyingly pitiable yet lethal creatures that had now possessed the base, the odds against it would have been higher still.
Maybe none of that was the strangest thing after all, she thought as she gently pressed a cloth to Ben’s wounded head. Maybe the oddest thing was that, despite all of it, nothing truly mattered besides her worry for a stubborn sailor who’d wasted his shore posting pining for the sea. The Doctor had come breezing into their lives with his improbable enemies and even more impossible time machine and now they were bound up in each other in a way she didn’t yet want to acknowledge.
Better not to dwell on it, she decided, and so, she didn’t.
He found her waiting in the TARDIS console room as he came through the doors and coloured hastily, like a caught-out schoolboy. He had his hand up to his face, but blood was still dripping down from his nose.
“Oh, Ben,” she said, taking his arm. “What happened? What did they do to you?”
He let her lead him back into the ship and waited as she fetched water and a cloth. “Nothing.”
“What do you mean, nothing?” she demanded. “Look at you!”
He said, “Wasn’t them.”
“Well, who then?” Polly put her hands on her hips.
At that moment, a shame-faced Jamie sidled in through the main doors. His dark hair was a mess and he had dirt and a red mark on his face that looked likely to become a bruise. Polly looked from one to the other with a gasp of anger. “Jamie hit you? You hit Jamie?”
Jamie muttered something incoherent and disappeared further into the ship with haste.
“Oh, really,” said Polly in disgust. She slapped the cold, wet cloth into Ben’s hand. “Men!” Then she decided that was too much of compliment, given their behaviour. “Boys!”
She marched out of the ship in time to meet the Doctor coming back and pulled him to one side. “Doctor, what is this all about? Ben and Jamie, I mean.”
“Oh, nothing, nothing,” he told her with a sigh. “You’ve seen Ben, have you?”
She nodded. “But why, Doctor?”
“Cultural differences, I think.”
Polly frowned and thought if they’d been having some silly Scottish-English argument, she’d slap both of them herself. Well, Ben, at any rate. He wasn’t from the Eighteenth Century and hadn’t lived through a brutal battle between the two and he should know better. “I don’t understand.”
“To be fair,” said the Doctor with a wicked twinkle in his eye, “Jamie’s not used to women dressing the way you do and I think his suggestion that you wrap up a bit more was kindly meant, but -.” He coughed. “Anyhow, let’s just say that Ben made his point rather forcefully in return.”
“I do wish you’d stopped them.”
He said, “Ben had Jamie’s face in the dirt before I had a chance to so much as say anything. I suggested they both apologise, which they did, but then I think Jamie -.”
“Oh, I don’t want to know,” said Polly, throwing up her hands. “They’re both as bad as each other.”
Nevertheless, once they got back, she went to make sure that Ben had dealt with his nose bleed properly, because she couldn’t trust him with taking care of himself.
“I’m all right,” he protested, embarrassed now. “It was nothing. I mean, it was only Jamie.”
She eyed him sternly. “Oh, you’re not going to start arguing again, are you?”
“Look, it was nothing,” he said stubbornly. “My fault. Nothing to do with you, thanks.”
Polly snatched the cloth from him and attended to a spot of blood he’d missed. “Of course it isn’t. Only don’t do it again!”
“Don’t think I’d get the chance now,” reflected Ben. “I mean, no, Pol. Trust me. The Doctor’s enough to drive you up the wall, but I don’t go round taking a swipe at him every time I feel like it, do I?”
“I should hope not!” Then she paused, still clutching the cloth. “Ben, you know it’s still him, don’t you? You said so.”
He gave her a surprised look. “Yeah, ‘course I do. Just sometimes the way he acts — makes you wonder what he might do now he’s changed. It was different when he was the old codger.”
“He’s the Doctor,” insisted Polly. “He’s special. He isn’t like anyone else.”
Ben stared ahead. “Wonder what he’d do if I did punch him?”
He grinned at her. “I bet it’d be something much worse than punch me back.”
“He wouldn’t do anything so childish,” she informed him, making her exit.
“Exactly,” said Ben. “Maybe I should try it and see?”
Polly slammed the door behind her.
Three: Great Hairy Beastie
Polly shouted and screamed for help and threw stones at the creature. It wasn’t all that useful, but it was the best she could do at the moment. Ben had their only weapon, and he was currently pinned down underneath the vicious alien that had leapt out of the cave mouth at them. He had pushed her back and then the shaggy-haired monster with overly large teeth had gone for him.
She lobbed another rock at it, the heaviest she could manage with any accuracy and ran forwards, in an attempt to grasp its tail, when it abruptly gave a howl, arched itself and sagged to the ground, still twitching.
Polly hung back for a moment, before charging forward, for an instant not wanting to see what might have happened, but she had glimpsed Ben still trying to move. She reached him. “Ben!”
“Well, don’t stand there gawping, Duchess. Give me a hand and get this thing off me,” he said, as he tried to wriggle free unsuccessfully.
She knelt down and with a wrinkle of her nose at the mess and the stench of the alien blood, set about helping. Together, they extracted him from under the creature’s corpse, and then she turned to help him up, blanching at the sight of him covered in blood.
“It’s not mine, it’s the thing’s,” he said, catching her look. “I only got a few scratches.”
Polly swallowed back her reaction and said, lightly, “It’s a good thing that Jarnell insisted on you keeping his knife.”
“Yeah, he said we’d need a weapon,” agreed Ben, leaning on her as he got to his feet. “Might have been more helpful, mind, if he’d warned us there were ruddy great things like that lurking about the place.” Then his face creased as he looked back at it, registering now what he’d done.
She hugged his arm tightly. “You didn’t have any choice. Oh, Ben, you do look a complete sight!”
“I’ll be okay,” he said, as they made their way along the path. “The TARDIS ain’t so far and they’ve got a very fetching nurse there. Real wonder with the first aid kit, she is.”
She shook her head at his nonsense. “Oh, have they?”
“Yeah,” he said, managing a grin. “Might even give me the kiss of life one of these days, if I’m lucky.”
She couldn’t give him a playful punch in response. Despite his words, he had gone distinctly pale and she thought he might fall over if she tried. So she laughed and, heedless of the blood on his face and its unappealing smell, she kissed him on the cheek. “There you go. I think you earned it.”
“Not all bad then,” he said, as they turned the corner and could see the reassuring if improbable sight of a blue police box sitting in the middle of the moor.
Polly eyed him sternly. “Oh, save your breath and come along before you pass out on me.”
“Honestly,” said Polly, flicking back her long hair, “how anyone could injure themselves using the food machine I don’t know. What did you ask it for?”
Jamie watched her administering first aid to their fellow companion. “It attacked him without warning.”
“I probably shouldn’t have thumped the thing,” admitted Ben. “Look, it was stuck, and that’s what the Doctor always does, ain’t it?”
That much Jamie followed and he nodded eagerly. “Aye. Always. Then all those little packets flew out, into his face.” He grinned widely. “You should have seen it -.”
“Yeah, bloomin’ hilarious,” said Ben. “Look, Pol, will you get on and stick a plaster on it?”
She wiped the long cut clean and ignored his complaints. “I’m only wondering if it needs stitches,” she said, to make him pay. “I’m sure I’ve got a needle and thread somewhere.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” he shot back. “It’s not that bad.”
Polly bit back a smile. “Oh, I don’t know. If it leaves a scar, you’ll look very piratical. You’re lucky you didn’t get hit in the eye.”
Before he could respond, they all paused on hearing an anguished cry from elsewhere within the ship.
“The Doctor!” said Jamie, leading the way out.
Ben and Polly looked at each other.
“Whoops,” said Ben. “I suppose we should have warned him I’d broken the thing.”
“Really,” Polly said a few minutes later, once they’d rescued the Doctor from the food machine and finally managed to stop it shooting out unwanted meals. “I thought one injury by dinner was silly enough. Now sit still, Doctor, and let me get you cleaned up.”
Jamie sat down to watch with a grin on his face and munched his way through another of the food machine’s errant missiles.
“I wouldn’t eat all those if I were you, mate,” said Ben.
The young Highlander paused in alarm. “Why not?”
“Well, each one’s supposed to be a whole meal, ain’t it?” he returned. “Eat that many and you might explode. And if you add to the casualty list, Polly’ll have your guts for garters. Nobody wants to have to clean up that sort of mess.”
Polly put a plaster on the Doctor’s nose and treated them both to a glare.
“See?” said Ben.
The Doctor had spent the past half hour patiently constructing an elaborate booby trap, intent on catching the next Drawn that foolishly came hunting them down.
“There,” he said finally, standing back to admire his handiwork. “That should do it.”
Polly looked at the ropes, wheels and random other pieces of hardware that were now hanging together over the door, a heavy square box at the end of it all. “It’s very nice, Doctor. Do you think it will actually work?”
He was about to reproach her for her lack of faith, when they both heard a sound outside and the door opened. The Doctor rubbed his hand in anticipation, but, moments too late, Polly caught at his arm. “Stop,” she shrieked. “Doctor, stop it!”
“Oh, dear,” was all he could say as the weight he’d so carefully balanced came crashing down on Ben. Polly gasped out a cry and buried her head on his shoulder, unable to watch.
“You have to be more careful,” Polly told Ben when he eventually regained consciousness. She’d recovered herself as soon as the Doctor had told her he was still breathing and would probably be fine — and then scurried off to try and mend his damaged masterpiece. “You should have looked where you were going.”
“Thanks,” muttered Ben, still sounding dazed. He put a hand to his no doubt splitting head and tried to sit. She put an arm around him hastily as he sank back down. “Think maybe I’ll just lie here for a bit. What was that, anyway?”
Polly smiled at him, happy now that he was awake again. “Oh, well, I’m afraid you seem to have ruined the Doctor’s Drawn trap.”
“The Doctor?” he said, forgetting his head enough to prop himself up by his elbows. “You mean whatever that ton weight was that came smashing down on my noddle and had me seeing stars — that was his doing? Fine sort of friend he is.”
She smoothed back his fair hair. “You know what he’s like.”
“Yeah,” he said. “You could have stopped him.”
Polly sighed. “I did try. We thought you and Jamie were miles away with the Captain and there were more of those things wandering around here.”
“That’s the last time I come looking for you,” he said.
She only smiled again as she supported him, because she knew it wouldn’t be. “Don’t say anything to him,” she whispered. “Not if your head’s aching, because he’s rather cross about you messing up his plan.”
“Is he? He’s got a nerve,” said Ben. Then he laughed, wincing at the wave of pain that followed. “I suppose in that case he won’t want to know that Jamie and me and Captain Holloway got the last of those Drawn things an hour ago.”
Polly watched the Doctor, playing with his ramshackle new toy and looked back down at Ben, lying with his head in her lap, and who certainly shouldn’t be going anywhere yet. Amusement danced in her dark eyes. “Yes, I don’t think we should spoil his fun, do you?”
And The One Time: Polly
Polly opened her eyes to find Ben crouching over her in concern. She blinked. It was painful, she found and her head ached terribly.
“You okay, Duchess?” he asked. He looked as pale as she felt.
“My head hurts.”
“I ain’t surprised. You’re going to have a real shiner there.”
She stared at him and then pushed herself up in horror. “Ben, you don’t mean I’m going to have a black eye? Oh no — I must look hideous.”
“Don’t be daft,” he told her. “As if that’s anything to worry over. ‘Sides, you couldn’t look hideous if you tried.”
She blinked back tears, not herself at all yet. “That’s silly, Ben. A black eye, my hair all anyhow and wearing this terrible boiler-suit thing they gave me?”
“Trust me,” he said. “Shame I haven’t got a steak handy to put on it for you, though. What did you want to go and do it for in the first place?”
She wondered how he could ask. “He was going to kill you!”
“I’d have sorted him out,” he said. “Didn’t need you to throw yourself in the middle and nearly get yourself killed instead. As if that’s any better.”
Polly frowned. “It didn’t look as if you had a plan.”
“Well, no, maybe not a plan,” he said, “but whatever it was, it couldn’t have been worse than you doing something barmy like that. Thought he’d killed you for a minute.”
She looked about them. “Did they lock us up again?”
“Yeah,” he said. “You got to hand it to the Doctor. He doesn’t half know how to make enemies.”
“That’s not fair, Ben.” She looked at him as he sat down beside her, both of them leaning back against the metal wall. “I feel terrible. And I’m sure I do look a sight.”
“’Course not.” He gripped her hand and turned towards her. “We’ll be all right; you’ll see.”
“Oh, I know that,” she told him, managing a smile.
Ben gave her a puzzled look. “Eh?”
“I’m always all right when I’m with you,” she said, in complete seriousness.
He coloured. “There’s no need to make fun, Pol -.”
“Oh, Ben,” she said, “I’m not and if you don’t get on and kiss me, I shall think you didn’t mean any of those things you said.”
He looked back at her, equally serious for a minute and Polly turned her gaze downward, hiding her sudden alarm. She’d never had much doubt about Ben and his feelings for her, not really. Now he was making her wonder and she didn’t like it.
“That knock on the head must have been worse than it looked,” he said.
“Oh, you!” retorted Polly crossly.
Ben broke into a sudden grin and moved in closer. Polly closed her eyes (since one of them wouldn’t open properly anyway). Even as she felt the warmth of his breath on her face, the door slammed open beside them, causing the whole cell to shake and the Doctor bounded in.
“Splendid!” he cried, on catching sight of them. “You’re both all right! We were worried about you two. Now come along — the Borrith has been blown up and everything’s fine. In fact, everyone seems to be having a party.”
“Yeah, great, Doctor,” said Ben. “Thanks.”
He glanced over at them more closely. “Dear me, Polly, what have you been doing? You look dreadful!”
They looked at each other as he disappeared outside again.
“Shall I go slap him or do you want to do it?” asked Ben. “His sense of timing’s horrible.”
Polly kissed him on the mouth, quickly, before the Doctor came back to see why they were taking so long. “I told you I looked awful,” she said as he pulled her to her feet.
“Yeah, right,” he said. “I can hardly stand it.”
She smiled to herself as she took his arm and they went in search of the Doctor.
“Know what, though?” said Ben. “If we asked him, I bet he’d get you a steak from somewhere.”
Polly sighed and wished for the day when there could be romance instead of black eyes, aliens and capture and all those other inconvenient things. “I’m not wandering around clutching a raw steak to my face, thank you very much. It’s bad enough as it is.”
“Only thinking of you, Duchess,” he told her and she smiled back at him, despite everything, because it seemed to be true, even if he hadn’t meant it that way.
She squeezed his arm. “I know.”
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