Dr. John Smith was annoyed. “Bloody bureaucrats,” he muttered as he slammed his folder, phone and wallet on the cabinet next to his bed and made Rosie cry. “Oh sweetheart, I’m sorry. I’m not mad at you.” He picked her up out of her crib and cuddled her tight. Since she was recovering from her illness the Doctor had had her moved out of the nursery and into his room.
He’d just been to see about adopting her officially but the governors of the land had insisted that until a thorough search had been done for her family he couldn’t adopt her. He felt as if he was banging his head against a brick wall; she’d been here for months now, no one had claimed her yet. She had no identity and no one was looking for her. He shrugged. The parallel between them was frightening. He lowered his face to kiss her hair as she quietened. He wasn’t about to give up without a fight. He’d think of something. Rosie lifted up a chubby arm and pulled on his beard, smiling at him when he looked down at her. No, he wasn’t giving up without a fight.
After playing with Rosie for a while the Doctor put her to bed for the night. He sat on his bed staring at the screen of his mobile phone. He’d sent the last message over a week ago now and there’d been no reply. He willed the screen to show him a message, to give him some hope, but there was nothing. Eventually he gave up staring and threw the phone onto his cabinet with his other belongings. He laughed sarcastically when he realised that all his worldly goods were in that cabinet, not much to show for his life. He lay down on his bed and curled himself into the foetal position; giving Rosie one last look he closed his eyes to sleep.
He’d been sleeping for a few hours when he awoke to the sound of a klaxon. It was the call to attend an emergency. There had been another bomb attack on the nearby village and there were multiple fatalities. After asking one of the younger volunteers to take care of Rosie he dashed out of his tent into the dark night, completely forgetting his phone on the bedside cabinet. As he left the tent the message alert buzzed.
It was another twenty hours before the Doctor arrived back in his tent. He noticed with relief that Rosie had been taken to the nursery for the night. He knew he couldn’t deal with her tonight if she cried out in her sleep. It had been horrendous. The bomb attack had been vicious, men, women and children cut to pieces and families ruined.
His hands shook as he stripped his blood-stained clothes off and threw them in the bin. Standing at the basin in the corner, he tried to wash the blood off his hands. As the stains washed away with the water the Doctor cried. So many lives wasted. He hadn’t been able to save anyone today and that thought devastated him. Maybe it was time for him to move on. Maybe he could try and start again. His Rose didn’t want to know him anymore, he’d tried for the last month to contact her but nothing had come back. His heart ached at the hurt he had inflicted upon her and hoped that she was living a good life. He’d always love her, he knew that now, but he was beginning to think again that he didn’t deserve her after all. This last time he had hurt her too badly. The Time Lord Doctor would most probably kill him himself if he could see him now, screwing up the chance that he gave them with his sacrifice.
The Doctor snorted as he realised his self-pitying streak had reared its ugly head, and he shook himself awake. He resolved to think about his next move in the morning when he’d had a decent sleep and a cuppa. Sleep deprivation didn’t help his addled mind to make sensible decisions, he’d realised that a long time ago. He dried his hands and put on a fresh pair of scrubs before crawling into bed and falling into an uneasy sleep.
“Knock. Knock. Morning sleepy head,” the cheery voice of Dr. Donald boomed through the tent, waking the Doctor from his slumber. “Come on, up and at ‘em. We’ve some visitors arriving later. Apparently she's some rich philanthropist willing to donate oodles of money to us so long as she can observe our work. Bet she brought a bloody film crew with her, you know, all look at me, I care.”
”Oh Don, don’t be so cynical,” the Doctor groaned as he got up to wash his face. “She could be someone nice, someone who genuinely wants to help.” The Doctor studied his face in the mirror idly wondering if he should shave soon.
“Ha! I doubt it. You mark my words. Anyway you’ll soon see. I’ve arranged for you to show her around.” He laughed as he delivered that piece of news and left the tent. “She’s arriving soon.”
“Great,” said the Doctor to himself. “That’s all I need. Babysitting.” The Doctor’s mood had not improved with sleep. He envied the way that Donald could shrug off a bad day and carry on as if everything were normal. He’d asked him once how he did it, only to be told by Donald that he was old and had had many years to learn how to compartmentalise his feelings. The Doctor wondered how long he’d have to be here to be able to do that and would he ever learn.
He walked over to the nursery tent to collect Rosie for her breakfast and was cheered to see her smiling face peering over the edges of the crib. Lately she had grown strong enough to pull herself up and stand at the bars of the crib, cooing and smiling to whoever was passing. The other volunteers insisted she had only lived because of the love and care that he had bestowed upon her, while the Doctor just insisted she was a fighter.
He felt his heart fill with joy as she lifted her arms to be picked up. No matter how hard his life got, he realised, Rose would always make it better. It used to be Rose Tyler that would make him better, but now he thought, he’s just got the one Rose. He hoped it would be enough.
Carrying her over to the breakfast tent, he heard a shout that the visitor had arrived. Remembering it was his role to meet and greet her, he ambled over to the car, Rosie huddled into his hip. Reaching the side of the car, he opened the door wide and his heart stopped.