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.
Doctor Who and its accoutrements are the property of the BBC, and we obviously don't have any right to them. Any and all crossover characters belong to their respective creators. Alas no one makes any money from this site, and it's all done out of love for a cheap-looking sci-fi show. All fics are property of their individual authors. Archival at this site should not be taken to constitute automatic archive rights elsewhere, and authors should be contacted individually to arrange further archiving. Despite occasional claims otherwise, The Blessed St Lalla Ward is not officially recognised by the Catholic Church. Yet. |
Script for this archive provided by eFiction. Contact our archivists at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read our Terms of Service and Submission Guidelines.