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