It was many hours after that before the Doctor came back to the TARDIS too. Along with the Monk she’d tried everything she could think of to study the Dalek on the corpse’s stomach, though hours passed without any progress at all.
In the end, though, she had to leave, to get some sleep while she knew it was safe to do so. Her TARDIS was virtually indestructible– but anything could be destroyed once the Daleks began to arrive.
The Monk didn’t seem like she needed to sleep, somehow: the Doctor had left her working into the night. There’d be no sneaking up on the bomb as she snored away, then. If it was going to be defused, there would have to be another way.
It was as dark in the forest inside the TARDIS as it was in the city without, impossible stars in the sky that wasn’t there. Dark enough that the Doctor didn’t notice Lorna, until she gave a very loud cough to tell the Time Lord she was there.
“Oh!” said the Doctor with a start. “I’m glad you’re around, actually. The Monk’s been doing my head in, we’ve been sat up all night just arguing”–
“Why did you bring me here?” said Lorna very sharply.
“More arguing,” said the Doctor, trying not to groan. “That’s wicked.”
”Not answering the question, then?
The Doctor sighed. “It was needless, Lorna, that’s the truth of it. You could’ve gone out clubbing after all. I’m sorry about that, another happy night wasted”–
“I’m not bothered about that now,” said Lorna curtly. “I just don’t see why you brought me here at all. Christina says you’re going to kill people. Why the hell did you think I’d go along with that?”
The Doctor stared at her, shocked at the implication, then gave a long and very heavy sigh. She flicked a switch on the TARDIS console so gentle light rose up from the floor, so they could see each other properly in the argument yet to come.
“Of course you’d think that’s what it was,” said the Doctor quietly. “I was panicking when I called for you; must have been. Didn’t stop to think it through. You reminded me of someone; that’s the truth of it. A friend who I had long ago.”
“A friend who got you to kill people?” said Lorna flatly.
Her arms were folded not just in anger, but over her stomach as if she was protecting herself. She was angry because she was afraid of her, the Doctor realised. Perhaps that had been true for longer than either of them knew.
“No!” said the Doctor, who then frowned. “Well, a bit. It didn’t feel like it at the time. It was a situation a bit like we’re in now: Ancient Rome, Pompeii about to explode”–
“A volcano isn’t an army,” said Lorna pointedly.
“What I mean is the responsibility went to my head,” said the Doctor, “And she bought me back from the brink. I almost ended up like the Monk– caught up in my own arguments, not giving a damn who I killed. But my friend saw there was another way, a human way”–
“To save them?”
The Doctor looked uncomfortable. “To save some of them. Maybe just one person or a family, but not no one. And I’ve never forgotten what that meant. When I’ve worried I’d go to my worst, I’ve always made myself remember. You’re a reminder to me, Lorna. Of what good is.”
Lorna looked at the Doctor like her friend was confessing a murder.
“Your friend sounds nothing like me,” said Lorna coldly. “She’d’ve thought of herself as one of the ones you saved. But you left thousands to die, didn’t you? And now you’re all grins and jokes. Like what you did means you can forget them, that it means anything saving just one”–
“It means a very great deal, if you’re the person who gets to survive.”
“But if you’re not,” said Lorna. “You’re you. And you let yourself forget.” Her fear had turned to anger now, real, boiling anger that made the Monk seem tame. Despite herself, the Doctor shrank back, her hands gripping the edge of the console, her eyes wary at where this was going to go.
“I don’t forget,” said the Doctor. “They’re all on my mind, truly, everyone I’ve ever failed.”
“I don’t believe you,” said Lorna. “It’s the saving that lets you forget, isn’t it? I’ve been there too. You want so much to be a good person, you’ll do anything to ignore how it isn’t true.”
The Doctor laughed, softly and coldly. She’d tried so hard to be compassionate, to understand. But the Monk was cackling in her head, and something was thrumming hard against a dam.
“You really think you see the big picture, don’t you?” she said with a crack in her voice.
Lorna laughed. “You often don’t seem to yourself.”
“‘Cause that’s what I’ve let you believe. I’m a god from space with a medical degree. You don’t always realise how much I really know.”
The Doctor sighed and waved a hand in an absent way. As she did the stars above them grew sharp white, so bright that they were as dazzling as the sun. She squinted as she looked up with sad eyes, and despite herself Lorna found that she was looking too.
“The TARDIS isn’t only in Carthage,” said the Doctor sadly. “It’s all over; everywhere is here. We only see what’s right in front of our nose, but I walk in time and space; my nose could be anywhere. The Viking hordes off to do invading, a newspaper seller in eighties Istanbul– they’re just as real as the people who’re out there now. I could go and see them at the a flick of a switch, just as quickly as I could step outside.
She shuddered, the blades of her shoulders tense.
“Whatever happens here,” she said, “someone is going to die. It’s all I can do to make sure it isn’t you.”
For a moment Lorna’s brow seemed to ease, and it looked like she might forgive her friend after all. But underneath her sympathy was something else, something angrier– a sense that awakens whenever the powerful plead.
“I’m sorry,” said Lorna. “I can’t do it. However you try to justify it — even if you can — leaving these people to die; it’s still inhuman–”
“But that’s why I brought you here! I’m not human”–
“THEN STOP PRETENDING!” shouted Lorna, all sympathy breaking. “If you have to do terrible things; awful things, then do them, but don’t go bouncing round like you’re something that you’ve never been! You can’t live without guilt, you’re always doing the things that should make you guilty!”
She laughed joylessly to herself and looked at the Doctor with a false smile.
“What if this was us?” she said. “If it was Manchester in danger, and me and my daughter who you’d kill?”
The Doctor looked shocked. “It’s never you,” she said. “Not you, or Chris, not ever. That’s not”–
“No,” laughed Lorna. “It wouldn’t be. Because we’re your friends, so you’ll always protect us. No matter what it means for anyone else. I’ve been on the other side of that; I don’t want to be part of it now.”
“You’re acting like this is something I want to do!” snapped the Doctor. “You don’t know what making these decisions is like”–
For a second Lorna’s whole body tensed and it looked like she might attack the Doctor, but instead she just exploded in a rage, jabbing her finger at her friend like she wanted to puncture the air.“Don’t you dare,” she shouted. “Don’t go saying it’s hard to make a choice like this, because you have NO IDEA what it’s like to be someone it’s made about. After this you’ll feel guilty; but you’ll still feel, you’ll walk away. You won’t be some notch in someone’s ledger; without any kind of a face or a life”–
She stopped and swallowed, taking a deep breath. When she next spoke, she was on the verge of tears.
“Chrissy told me about the lizard people,” she said quietly. “The ones on the Earth before us. How you knew they had no future, but wouldn’t ever say.”
The Doctor snarled. “You going to have a go about that as well?”
“No,” said Lorna without anger. “I meant”–
She broke off and gave a huge sob, a raw, animal cry that was somehow worse than any of the anger or the fear. The Doctor started to come towards her, her own anger forgotten as well, but Lorna was shaking her head and beckoning her to stay away.
“Don’t think I don’t know what it means to be you,” Lorna said as she wept. “To want to tell my daughter that everything’s going to be fine, and to have nothing to say if she asks if that’s really true. Those people out there would die for their future, Doctor, and I... I don’t always know if we even have one”–
She gulped, and steadied herself.
“You brought me here because you wanted my advice,” said Lorna, “and it’s this. Either stop your friend or don’t; I’m not getting into it. But don’t go taking the high ground when you’re done. Not in a place like this. Not when real people’ll die.”
“Things like this,” said the Doctor, “they’re what someone like me has to do.”
“Oh, if you like,” said Lorna. “You’re always talking about how you’re a monster. Maybe it’s time you started to actually believe it.”
Lorna kept talking, looking at the floor.
“I’ve talked to Christina,” she said, “and we both think that when this is over we shouldn’t keep seeing you anymore. You’re… you’re not what we thought you were. Or you are what I worried you might be.”
The Doctor looked crestfallen at that, and Lorna could tell she was trying not to cry as well.
“However it might seem,” said the Doctor softly, “the Monk’s way isn’t better”–
“This isn’t about the Monk,” said Lorna, “not really. She’s just made obvious what I already knew deep how. However hard you try, in the end you’re still”–
— she looked anywhere but the Doctor’s eyes —
–“you’re a Lord,” she said. “And we’re not, Doctor.”
Both of them looked at each other for a while, quiet and defeated.
“Yeah,” said the Doctor in the end. “Yeah, I am. And I wish so much I could stop. To live a different life.”
Lorna laughed. “You only think that because you don’t have to. You wouldn’t last a minute, out in the world.”
The Doctor smiled.
“No,” she said. “I do know that, at least.”
The silence came back again, until it had to stop.
“I’ll miss you,” said the Doctor. “Both of you. It’s been good having you here.”
“Yes,” said Lorna hollowly. “We did have fun.”
The silence didn’t stop after that, although both of them were screaming inside.
Lorna walked off out of the console room without saying goodbye, and the TARDIS flicked off the lights as she went away.
“Great,” said the Doctor blankly to herself. “Everything’s going well.”
She sat for a while in the darkness of the forest, completely and utterly alone.