Chris’s bedroom in the TARDIS was like the attic of a farmhouse, the roof sloping heavily over her while she slept. Sometimes, her whole room would hammer with the sound of rain. There was no way of telling whether or not it was real.
The rain was thundering now as Chris lay awake. She’d pretended she wasn’t sad about leaving the Doctor, but her mother hadn’t been fooled– it was for the best, she’d said, and maybe that was even true. Since Chris had met the Doctor her life had been dangerous and horrifying; she’d been exposed to things no child should ever see. But perhaps that would still be true after they’d parted ways, though then there’d be less colour in the world.
A part of her thought the rain sounded like a whisper, then with a start she realised that wasn’t true. There was a whisper just outside her door, saying something in a frantic northern accent.
“Quietly!” the accent was saying, more loudly than it realised. “We can’t let anyone hear! There’s beds just here, but you can’t go snoring too loudly”–
Chris sighed, got out of bed, then flung her door wide open.
Outside, the Doctor grinned with a horrified smile. Beside her was a small boy, who looked confused.
“Chris!” said the Doctor too enthusiastically. “You’re up late! This is, ah, a part of the TARDIS that likes to disguise itself as a child”–
“No I’m not,” said the boy.
“One lie, Hanno,” said the Doctor through gritted teeth. “That’s all you had to tell.”
She pointed to the door opposite Chris.
“That bedroom should do,” she said. “Nice sheets, springy mattress; all the luxuries of the Earth that’s still to come.”
Hanno stared at her silently. She might as well have been talking to herself.
“You’ll be off to sleep, then,” she said weakly to him when the silence had passed.
He opened the door and went into his room, still making no sound as he went.
“Trauma,” said the Doctor, sounding unconvinced. “It does terrible things to a child.”
She turned to Chris, her face now tight and tense.
“Don’t tell your mother what I’m doing,” she said.
“I don’t know what you’re doing,” said Chris. “Are you kidnapping people?”
“No,” said the Doctor. “Not exactly.”
“Then what? Are there other families you meet while we’re asleep?”
“That’s not what’s happening here,” said the Doctor, avoiding the question. “I’m evacuating the city. As many people as I can get away with, so history’s not to notice. Which isn’t very many, but might be something.”
Chris looked at her oddly. “You don’t want me to tell Mum that you’re saving people?”
“Oh, you know. She’ll say that I’m wrong to do it. And maybe I am.”
Chris frowned. “I don’t think she would. Not if she could see you now.”
Chris was looking at the Doctor’s eyes which were staring at nothing, like the eyes of Houdini if he somehow got finally trapped. Some people did good things because it made them feel good about themselves, but that wasn’t what was happening here. The Doctor hated doing good, Chris saw: she just hated what happened if she didn’t even more.
“I’m sorry about what I said earlier,” said Chris. “You’re a better person than the Monk.”
The look in the Doctor’s eyes didn’t change.
“I’m not,” she said softly. “I’ve never been a good person at all.”
“I don’t know about that,” said Chris. “But I’ll still miss you, after you’ve gone away.”
She looked down the corridor of the TARDIS for more refugees from the city, and saw no living things there at all.
“They can sleep in my room,” said Chris, “now that I know they’re here. I can stay up all night, if it means that more people get saved.”
The Doctor smiled at that, more genuinely than Chris had seen in an age.
“Now you,” said the Doctor, “you’re definitely a good person. We’re not hurting for space in here, though. You could fit a planet in the TARDIS; never mind Carthage. But thank you, all the same. Appreciated.”
Gently, the Doctor pushed Chris’s door slightly closed.
“You’ll need to sleep,” the Doctor said. “Get some rest. You could be home, by the time that morning comes.”
Chris looked away. “Will you say goodbye?” she said.
“Not yet!” said the Doctor. “And never very well. But when the time comes, yes. Of course I will. But now? Now it’s just goodnight.”
“Goodnight, Doctor. Enjoy saving people.”
The Doctor winced, and Chris knew that she never would.