The Hidden Well

by Kalleah [Reviews - 208]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Action/Adventure

Author's Notes:
The saboteurs strike, the Doctor goes barefoot, and Connor learns about the TARDIS.

Rose had nodded off while reading and woke with a moment of real fear and disorientation. She didn't recognize the room around her and it took her a couple of seconds to realize why — it was rapidly filling with an acrid, thick smoke.

"Doctor!" she cried, thumping the sleeping form beside her. He immediately sat up and took control.

"Out the window," he ordered, tearing the covers back and scooping up his jacket and coat. Rose was already up and tugging frantically at the window, but she couldn't budge it. He pressed the clothing into her hands and jerked at the bottom, which finally gave way and slid up with a hissing sound. "Out, out," he urged, giving her a lift. She clambered out the window and tumbled, coughing, onto the dirt below, producing a red cloud of dust around her.

The Doctor, already out the window behind her, took her hands and pulled her back onto her feet. They scrambled a safe distance from the building and turned to see the damage. Dark smoke was billowing out the window from which they had just emerged, and Rose could now see the orange lick of flames behind it. Around them, the sky had turned a deeper blue as the evening approached.

Suddenly, she panicked. "Oh my God," she gasped, clutching the bundled coat and jacket close to her chest. "The TARDIS is in there. We've got to —"

She had already taken several steps back toward the building when the Doctor's hand closed around her upper arm and he pulled her to a stop. "No, Rose," he said, urgently. "It's too dangerous. She'll be fine. It would take a lot worse than a fire to harm her. Trust me." He put both arms around her and hugged her close.

They could now hear the sounding of alarms and the clamour of people on the street. They ran around to the front of the building, where a crowd had begun to gather. A wheeled vehicle pulled up just as they arrived, and several men unrolled long hoses and ran toward the burning building. Instead of water, a dry powder shot out of the hoses when they aimed them at the flames.

"Is there anyone left in the building?" the Doctor shouted at some of the bystanders.

"We came out of Habitation C," chattered a nervous woman with a small child.

He put his hands on Rose's shoulders. "Stay here," he told her, eyes flashing. "I'm going to go and make sure no one's still in there."

He ran toward Habitation B alongside two men carrying the hoses, and after a moment, Rose lost sight of him in the smoke and chaos and spewing powder. She stood rooted to the spot, feeling unaccountably helpless. Next to her, the woman with the child began to cry softly, and Rose turned her attention to someone she could help.

"I need a count of everyone who lives in that building, now." Rose recognized Emelia's commanding voice immediately and spotted her soon after. She stood on tiptoe and counted off several others who stood, shaken, in the crowd. Others patted their shoulders or offered quiet sympathies. Rose led the woman and child toward the group of other evacuees, allowing others to wrap them in tight hugs and shower them with expressions of gratitude at their safety.

"Who's still unaccounted for?" called a man to Emelia's right.

She rattled off three or four names in quick succession. "Go and check the work rosters," she commanded. He nodded and disappeared into the crowd. Emelia strode over to Rose and gave her a brief once-over. "Are you all right?" she asked.

"Yeah," said Rose. "We got out just in time. The Doctor —"

"Here," he said, appearing at her elbow, and she sagged with relief at his appearance. His face and shirt were smeared with soot and his hair stood out in all directions, but he was unharmed. "Everyone's out."

"There are a few people unaccounted for," said Emelia, "but they all work evening shifts. We're verifying everyone's whereabouts right now."

"The alarms didn't go off," observed the Doctor quietly enough for only Emelia and Rose to hear. "A message, then?"

Emelia shook her head. "Too early to say, but it can't be a coincidence."

Rose looked over at the building. The fire seemed to be under control, but part of the roof on one side had collapsed. She began to shake. What if she hadn't woken up in time? What if —

The Doctor put his arm around her. "We're all right, Rose," he said in a reassuring tone.

In the end, the worst injury had been one of the men who responded to the fire, whose arm had been broken by a falling beam. Howard and another medic assessed and treated everyone as needed.

When Howard came to Rose, he shook his head. "When I said I would be glad to look in on you today," he observed dryly, listening to her chest, "this wasn't what I had in mind."

Rose laughed, which turned into a rasping cough. Howard put a mask over her face and told her to breathe in deeply. A fine spray shot into the mask and tickled as she inhaled, but it felt cool in her lungs and she could breathe much easier afterward. "What was that?" she asked curiously as he removed the mask.

"Absorbs toxins from the smoke you've inhaled and promotes dilation of the airway," he told her, folding up the mask and putting it into his bag. "You're next, Dr. Tyler."

The Doctor waved him off. "I'm fine. Go and check the others."

"I've seen everyone else," said Howard. "Come on, just a quick check. Won't hurt a bit." In the setting of a true emergency, he seemed much more confident and relaxed than he had been yesterday, Rose thought. Then again, he wasn't caught between the Doctor and Emelia today.

That is, until Emelia stepped over to see what the disagreement was about, and she and the Doctor began to argue all over again. Rose gave Howard a sympathetic look, and he shrugged as if to say "they do this all the time." And perhaps they did.

"You just came out of a burning building," Emelia thundered. "You are too damn valuable to decline treatment. I'm thinking about Jonah, not about you." She pointed at his chest. "If you suddenly stop breathing, I'll kill you myself."

Rose tugged on the Doctor's sleeve. "Come on, don't be so stubborn. Just let him take a look."

"I do not need —" he began, but she let her lower lip stick out just a fraction and saw him hesitate.

She immediately struck. "It would make me feel better, too." She widened her eyes and looked up at him through her lashes, blinking once or twice for emphasis.

He gave in with a long-suffering sigh and sat down in the folding chair that Howard was using for his exams. "Do your worst, Howard. And by the way, I have two hearts, so don't bother with blood pressure and pulse and that nonsense. Won't do you a bit of good."

"Two hearts?" asked Howard with interest. Rose giggled involuntarily at the look of surprised delight on his face, and the Doctor let out a second, even longer and more suffering, sigh. Emelia, for her part, looked triumphant.

"You're barefoot," Rose observed later.

The Doctor glanced down at his feet and wiggled his toes in the red dirt. "I didn't exactly have time to put shoes on," he noted dryly. "All that lacing and tying seemed a bit unimportant, what with the building being on fire."

"You had time to get your coat and jacket," she said, passing over the items in question and helping him into them.

"Well, of course I did," he said, a little insulted. "This coat and I have been through a lot together, and I have a lot of rather useful things in all the pockets." He put his hand up to his throat. "My tie," he whined. "I liked that tie." He sniffed. "It was blue."

"Jacob's book," said Rose sadly. She hated to think of the pages curling and blackening in the fire.

"We'll get another copy," he said, brushing her hair back from her face. "He won't mind a bit."

"When can we get back to the TARDIS?" she asked.

He eyed the charred building and shook his head. "I could get in there right now except for Her Highness on patrol over there," he commented disparagingly.

"You're too valuable," said Rose with a smile.

"It's the curse of being useful. See, this is why I like to keep a low profile most of the time."

"Low profile," said Rose, snickering. "Mmm hmm."

"It's all your fault, anyway," he said cheerfully, taking her arm and walking back toward the Trabanes' flat, where Connor had stayed with Jonah during the chaos of the fire.

"My fault?" she asked in amazement.

"I suggested that we go back into the TARDIS when we realized we weren't on Lycoras, but oh no, you wanted to go sightseeing. And look at the mess now."

"No ulterior motives for that at all," she said with a grin, remembering his intense kiss and her hands gripping his lapels.

"I was being very sensible," he said, with a prim sniff and a sidelong look at her.

"You promise that the TARDIS is fine?" she asked, feeling worry run through her once again.

"Promise." His face went serious for a moment. "She's been through much, much worse, Rose. She's a tough old girl."

"Don't let her hear you call her old," she cautioned, seeing something in his expression that warned her he was thinking back to something deeply unpleasant. "She'll hide all your trainers. Or put salt in your toothpaste. Or —" she began to giggle —" she'll shave off one of your sideburns."

He brightened at her tease, as she had hoped he would. "Or cut off all the hot water while I'm in the shower." He leered. "Of course, that would probably affect you more than it would me."

"You think you're so funny." She knocked on the door and Connor opened it, gesturing for them to come in and looking enormously relieved to see them.

"You smell terrible," he said, wrinkling up his nose.

"Yes, we're fine, thanks for asking," said the Doctor with a grin. "Has it finished yet?" He walked over to the still-humming device and frowned at it.

"Not yet." Connor turned to Rose. "If you want to change, I can get you some of Emelia's clothes. I think they should fit."

"If we ever can get back into the building," called the Doctor from across the room, "we can get all the clothes we need. Talk to your wife."

Connor gave him a confused look, and Rose held up a hand. "He's not good at explaining," she said by way of apology. "Our ship is still in Section 4."

"Your ship? In your flat?" Connor was more confused.

"It's smaller than you'd think," she tried to explain.

"Dimensionally transcendental," the Doctor chimed in helpfully.

Rose gritted her teeth and smiled at Connor. "I'd love some fresh clothes, thanks." He disappeared down a hallway and she sat down next to Jonah on the floor. Immediately, she felt a buzzing, curious sensation at the base of her skull. She blinked to clear her vision, which went a little fuzzy around the periphery.

"He wants you to pass him another red block," said the Doctor from where he was fiddling with his machine.

"You can feel him too?" she asked.

"Yes. He's using what you might call his 'inside voice,' but it's quite clear."

She passed over a block and Jonah placed it carefully on the top of a tall stack. "I like the red ones best, too," she told him, and her mind suddenly reverberated with contentment. The sensation startled her, but wasn't at all unpleasant.

When she was again able to focus on the world around her again, the Doctor was watching her. "I think that means 'thank you,'" he said. "He likes you a great deal, you know."

Rose smiled. "I know." She passed Jonah another block. "I like you too," she told him, and her mind buzzed faintly again.