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