“It’s a two-person tent, but a big one,” Osgood was saying as the group hunched together inside. “I thought it’d get three women and a child in if we squeezed. Of course, now there are five of us.”
Nobody answered. They were all crammed in the tiny space in about the only way they could be, so almost every bit of tent was filled up with some of a person. Chris was hunched awkwardly on one side while her mother lay squeezed up behind her, and John’s limbs were going in every direction at once.
“I’m sorry,” the Doctor said.
No one responded to that either. Rain pummelled against the outside of the tent, seeping in through its seams despite the waterproofing.
“Can’t you do something about the tent?” said Chris to the Doctor. “Or the rain?”
“I don’t control the weather!” said the Doctor. “I’m not that far gone.”
The silence wasn’t broken by the thundering of the rain.
“Were you going to kill someone?” said Chris. “The way Mum and her ran after you, back at the gate with the soldiers. We were all scared”–
“Why don’t we go outside for a bit?” said her mother pointedly to the Doctor. “Have a nice little walk in the rain. It’ll be very British. Give everyone a little space, at least!”
The Doctor nodded. “I can do something about the rain when we’re outside, at least.”
“With a special machine?” said Chris.
“An umbrella,” said the Doctor, fishing one out of a pocket it didn’t fit in. “Maybe that counts, if you squint a bit.”
Mud squelched up over the Doctor and Lorna’s shoes as they made their way out to the darkness, the Doctor’s big plastic torch shining on nothing that resembled firm ground. They’d hidden the tent from the Daleks with something the Doctor had called “Photoshop for the real world,” but her talents clearly didn’t extend to making their hideaway a comfortable place to be in.
“They were still boys,” said the Doctor. “I wasn’t going to kill them. Probably. Almost definitely.”
Lorna looked at her without any anger in her eyes.
“I didn’t take you out here to shout at you,” she said.
“Really?” said the Doctor.
“Well,” said Lorna. “Maybe I usually do. But not right now. I’m…”
She trailed off and shifted uncomfortably.
“You know that I care about you, right?” she said eventually. “Even if I do shout a lot. I wouldn’t want you to think that meant… in the end I hope we’re still”–
“Are you apologising to me?” said the Doctor with a frown. “I did all that and you’re the one saying sorry?”
Lorna laughed loudly and sharply, then clasped her hand to her mouth. Hopefully the Doctor had disguised the sounds they were making as well.
“I know it’s ridiculous,” she said. “I didn’t snap at any soldiers. A good person’d probably be furious with you. But honestly? A part of me was proud of what you did.”
“For going around scaring people?” said the Doctor. “They were boys, Lorna. Children.”
Lorna shook her head.
“I can’t justify it,” she said. “I’m not about to. But the way you’ve been since our house, like you actually give a damn. Like you’re not too scared to fight, however pointless it is in the end. It’s… I don’t know what it is. But it’s something to see.”
The Doctor didn’t respond, and her expression was hard to read. She was being praised for things she hated about herself, Lorna realised. She let it be quiet for a while so they were both grounded by the sound of the rain.
“Tell me honestly,” she said to the Doctor. “Is there any hope for us at all? Not stuff that’s made up or unconvincing. Real hope.”
“I don’t know,” said the Doctor. “I don’t know anything anymore.”
She was like a toddler sometimes, Lorna thought. Very young, for someone extremely old.
“You know more than you think,” Lorna said. “I saw what you did out there. You’re holding back so much, aren’t you? You’d be terrified if anyone saw what you were capable of.”
“Of course,” said the Doctor.
“And I doubt you’ve ever realised,” said Lorna, “how that makes you the same as all the rest of us in the world.”
The Doctor looked gently at her.
“Lorna,” she said. “I’m”–
“I know,” said Lorna. “You’ve told us often enough. You’re someone who’s always been told they were special, who had a destiny. I was too, did you know that? I wasn’t always poor. Things were going to be different for me, ‘till one day they weren’t anymore.”
“Maybe so,” said the Doctor, “but I’m literally a Lord of Time”–
“And maybe that doesn’t matter,” said Lorna. “It doesn’t mean everything has to be on you. You’re not the only one who’s smart or sees what’s real. Maybe all that matters is that you’ve been given permission.”
They’d walked to the far side of the Mini while they were talking. The angle of the downpour meant that they were slightly sheltered from the rain, but not really. Lorna found herself wondering how much water had collected in the upturned TARDIS by now.
“Your daughter was like that,” said the Doctor, startling Lorna out of her thoughts.
“Was she?” said Lorna. “Like what?”
“Astonishing,” said the Doctor. “When I was trapped on the exploding planet, she used my screwdriver to set me free. But that’s impossible. She shouldn’t’ve been able to do it.”
“She’s a smart girl.”
“That’s not the point! A child couldn’t… a human couldn’t”–
Lorna laughed. “But that’s my whole point, isn’t it? Of course a child couldn’t do what she did. That’s why she wouldn’t‘ve done it until now. Everyone would have made such a big fuss. It’s easier to be quiet in the end.
“But if that were really true,” said the Doctor, frowning. “Then. I’ve always said people were capable of so much. But if it was that much, and they weren’t showing it because people said they weren’t supposed to, then… then that’s the worst thing in the world.”
“Of course it is,” said Lorna. “So maybe it’s time someone did something about it.”
“Meaning me?” said the Doctor with a smile and a sigh.
“You’ll always think it means you. But what I’m trying to say… is that you don’t have to do this alone. And maybe you weren’t ever as different as you think.”
The rain was hammering on metal and on wood.
“I didn’t think you’d bought me out here to be nice to me,” said the Doctor.
“Well,” said Lorna. “There was one other thing. Your friend. Osgood. Is she… is she dressing up as you?”
The Doctor gave her a look of total relief.
“I know!” she said. “It’s weird! No one ever says how that’s weird!”