Chris filled the Doctor’s mind as she ate in the staff canteen. She wanted to listen, whether she was paid to or not, but her thoughts blotted out the hearing from her mind. It was important to push through it, though– Mary was pouring her heart out in front of her, and that was more important than worrying should be.
“I don't know how we’ll do it, Jean,” Mary was saying. “Two full-time jobs and I'm skipping more meals than I’d like, but even then it’s not going to be enough. We don't ask for much, not really. It's not like we’re a family of scroungers. I just want to know I can feed my children, you know? But they always need more, and the costs’re always going up. I've told myself they’ll never have to go to a food bank, but sometimes I don't know–” she trailed off.
“I saw a quote on one of those sites once,” she finally said. “On the internet. It said that children didn't need fairy tales to tell them dragons existed, ‘cause they already knew they were real. And I think about it a lot, you know? Because adults forget. That our children know things, know when they aren't okay. I tell myself I'm putting a brave face on for them, but sometimes I think that it’s really the other way round, that it’s us who need telling the fairy stories–”
“–Listen to me, though,” she said. “Nattering away. I'm making you do your job out here, and with you on your time off!”
“People have a lot to say wherever I am,” said the Doctor, “Someone like me, she's always on the job.”
“People talk more, don't they? To a female doctor?”
“That’s certainly something I’ve been discovering.” The Doctor frowned to herself, looking past at the wider canteen. Shadows were gathering, and something about them was wrong. The people at lunch still laughed and ate, but a strange expression was humming in their eyes.
“Sorry, Jean,” said Mary, “But I’m feeling a bit funny today. I think there might be something wrong with the weather.”
“They know I'm here,” said the Doctor to herself, drawing her sonic screwdriver from her side. If Chris had been there she would have seen four men with their faces like skulls, wisps stretching towards the centre of the canteen. But the Doctor could see the Nack for what it was, and so what she saw was something more awful entirely.
The humans in the room could not have seen what happened to the Doctor next, any more than the spiders on the ceiling could have known they were in a canteen. Some of them might have felt cold, or sad, or like something was wrong with the air. A few of them might even have sensed a fight was happening, for hope and for joy and the world. None of the humans in that room was a child, so none of them would see the Doctor battering against the wisps, hammering against the skulls. And only one woman herself saw the fight as it really was.
There was a pop, and the Doctor fell from mid-air, panting and covered in sweat.
“Tonight,” she said to Mary. “They're coming for Chris tonight.”
“Sorry, dear,” said Mary. “I don't know who Chris is.”
“It doesn't matter,” said the Doctor. “I mean, it does matter! It matters impossibly much. But it's not what you should be thinking about now.”
“Mary,” she said, “Pride, and strength. We think they're the same thing. But sometimes they're opposites, and we have to know when that is. Sometimes…” she chose her words carefully. “...sometimes the strongest thing to do is come clean, however hard that might be. To tell people how difficult things are, and that they might not ever be okay.”
“I think tonight” — she hesitated — “it might be the last night of the world. And I'm not saying that to scare you, athough it should! I'm saying it ‘cause I think you should live like it's true, because maybe it might be, this time round. And one day it will be, for you and for me.”
“You weren't kidding, Ms Psychiatrist,” said Mary in the end. “You really do think you're always on your job.”
“I always am,” said the Doctor, looking at the twisting shadows.