Moving Forward by LN29 [Reviews - 106] Chapter or Story |
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.’”