20 February 2007

New Companion, Old Earth - Chapter Four - Part 2

He lay sprawled on the grass and she felt fear clutching at her heart and her guts. She knelt beside him and took both his hands in her own. She reached into his mind.
"Doctor?" Saskia reached out again to the TARDIS and was relieved to feel her respond. Drawing on the strength of the TARDIS, she reached out again for the Doctor. She could dimly sense that someone was there, then she gasped in surprise as she realised that it was all nine of his previous regenerations that she could sense in his mind.

"Doctor," Saskia called. "It's Saskia. Come back to me, Doctor, please come back. I don't want to be stuck here." She sensed that the other nine Doctors were somehow shielding and protecting 'her' Doctor, and that they were waiting for her to do something. She looked at the nearest figure. He was an old, white haired man with a stoop and a walking stick. Somehow she knew, without being told, that this was the Doctor's first incarnation. Next to him was a much younger looking man with dark hair and, incongruously, a recorder sticking out of his coat pocket. The third incarnation was taller with silver hair, but he looked vigorous. He was wearing a velvet jacket and a large bow tie. Saskia blinked a little in surprise, then moved on to the fourth incarnation. He had wildly curly brown hair and wore a long, multi-coloured scarf and a hat. He actually looked quite jovial and when she smiled tentatively at him, his eyes twinkled at her. The fifth incarnation was a surprise as he was by far the youngest of them. He was blond and wore a cricket outfit with, bizarrely, a celery stick in the lapel of his jacket. Saskia made a mental note to ask about the celery, if she ever got the chance. The sixth incarnation's hair wasn't quite as curly as the fourth's and she flinched slightly at the very direct look he gave her. The seventh incarnation wasn't so tall as her and he was wearing a trilby on his dark hair. She noticed he carried an umbrella with a handle shaped like a question mark. The eighth incarnation was young, although not as young as the fifth. He was a dark haired Byronesque figure in a velvet jacket. When she reached the ninth incarnation she stopped, knowing that he was the first Doctor Rose had encountered. He was kneeling beside the prone figure of 'her' Doctor, wearing a battered leather jacket with a jumper and jeans. Despite his casual dress, he had a dark expression and his eyes were full of pain. He looked at her and she wondered if he considered her inadequate for the task facing her.

She knelt beside him and looked down at the face of the Doctor's tenth incarnation. His eyes were screwed tight shut in pain, and his breath hissed through his teeth. Somehow he looked blurred, as if he was fading out of existence. She reached out towards him, wondering if she would be able to touch him. This experience was unlike anything she had ever had before and she was unable to recall ever hearing or reading of such an experience amongst her people. She took a deep breath, then placed her right hand on the Doctor's forehead and took his right hand in her left one.
"Doctor," she called. Then she reached out mentally to the TARDIS again and felt her respond. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on her memories of this Doctor. She recalled his puppy-like exuberance and eagerness for adventure, his beaming grin, the wide-eyed innocent look he occasionally adopted, the clever way his fingers manipulated his tools when he was repairing the TARDIS. She thought of the sound of his laughter, uproarious and infectious, and the lilt in his voice when he spoke in a Scottish accent. She pictured him tugging at his earlobe, and rubbing the back of his head in an absent-minded manner when he was thinking. She recalled his long purposeful stride and the familiar way he sat on a horse. Finally she remembered the grief and sadness he felt whenever he thought of Rose.
She became aware that the ninth incarnation was standing beside her, hands tightly gripping her shoulders, and then she realised that the other eight incarnations were lending her their strength through her link to the TARDIS. She opened her eyes and looked down at the face of the man before her, whom she was beginning to admire more than anyone else she had ever known.

"Doctor," she called, more strongly this time. "Come back, now."
His eyes fluttered, then opened. He looked disorientated and she squeezed his fingers.
"Hello," she said.
He ran his tongue over his dry lips. "Hello," he answered hoarsely.
"Welcome back." Saskia became aware that she was alone with him, that his previous selves had disappeared as he had opened his eyes. She decided that she would have to wait until another time to work out what had just happened. She physically opened her eyes this time and saw that the Doctor was conscious, although he looked dazed.

"What just happened?" he asked, his voice hoarse and dry.
"I honestly don't know," Saskia answered. "Worry about it later. Can you move?"
"I think so." She helped him to sit up, then got up herself, rubbing her sore knees and wondering how long she had been kneeling there.
"Let's get into the TARDIS," she said, and carefully helped the Doctor to his feet, grateful that she was fit and that he was so skinny. She hooked his left arm around her neck, then pushed her right shoulder under his left arm, to support his weight. She guided him over to the TARDIS who hummed as they went through the door. She led him over to the bench and helped him to sit down.
"Stay there," she said, rather unnecessarily. She hurried out and returned a few moments later carrying a bottle of water and a bar of chocolate. She opened the bottle of water and gave it to the Doctor.
"Don't drink it too fast," she warned.
He took the bottle from her, but his hands were shaking so much he couldn't lift it to his mouth. Saskia swallowed an exclamation of concern and sat down beside him. She took the bottle from him and held it to his mouth, carefully pouring only a small amount into his mouth. He swallowed it painfully. After a few more mouthfuls, she put the bottle aside and broke off a chunk of chocolate.
"Eat this," she said. "You need the energy."
He took it from her and ate it obediently. She watched him in worried silence.
"What happened to the Devron," he asked after he had finished the chocolate.
She shuddered and looked away. "I think I killed it," she answered after a few moments. She was deeply ashamed at what she had done. In Empathian society violence was very rare; to a race that felt every creature's pain, to deliberately cause pain to another creature was a taboo, and she had violated that taboo without a moment's hesitation. If she had killed the Devron, she would have to live with her guilt for the rest of her life. She swallowed hard, unshed tears burning her eyes.

The Doctor put his arm around her shoulders and she knew that he understood at least part of her feelings of guilt and shame. Slowly she looked round at him and saw that her feelings were mirrored in his eyes and face.
"Let's go and see, shall we?" he asked quietly.
She bit her lip, then nodded. He gently kissed her forehead, then stood up carefully.
"Are you OK?" she asked quickly, as she stood up too.
"I feel like someone hit me over the head with a brick wall, but I'll live," he answered, then held out his hand, which she took.
Hand in hand they went outside and looked around. Saskia was startled to realise that it was past midday, judging by the position of the sun.
"There," the Doctor said, pointing to where the Devron lay sprawled on the grass.
They approached cautiously, then knelt down on either side of it. The Doctor reached out carefully and felt for a pulse in its neck.
"It's alive," he said, looking up in time to see a look of relief cross Saskia's face.
"Thank goodness!" she exclaimed fervently.
"I don't think we should leave it lying here," the Doctor said, looking down at it thoughtfully. "Let's take it into the TARDIS and we'll see whether we can talk to it sensibly once it wakes up."
"I think you'll have to help me carry it, though," he said, looking cross for a moment.

Saskia bent and picked up its legs, whilst the Doctor took it under the arms. Moving slowly they carried it into the TARDIS.
"Medical bay," the Doctor said tersely once they were inside. They laid it on the bed in the medical bay and the Doctor looked down at it for a few minutes, tugging at his earlobe.
"I think we'd better restrain it," he said finally. "I don't want it to wake up and go berserk when it finds itself here."
"How long do you think it will be unconscious?" Saskia asked anxiously.
"I've no idea," admitted the Doctor. "I don't know anything of its physiology, or anything about what you did to it when you knocked it unconscious." He glanced at her as he finished fastening to the restraining straps and caught the mixture of guilt and shame on her face. He stepped around the end of the bed and put his hands on her shoulders. She looked down at her feet.
"Look at me, Saskia." He waited until she lifted her face. "You mustn't feel guilty at what you did. You were in a no-win situation. If you hadn't stopped it, there's every chance it would have killed us both for the sake of the TARDIS. You did what you had to do."
She bit her bottom lip, and tried to speak, but found herself crying instead.
"It's OK." The Doctor put his arms round her and hugged her whilst she sobbed on his shoulder for several minutes. When she stopped crying, he pulled out his handkerchief and she dried her tears.
"Come on. Let's go and get something to eat. We'll both feel better with some food inside us."
"Shouldn't one of us stay here with the Devron in case it wakes up?" she asked.
"No," he answered firmly. "The TARDIS will let me know as soon as it starts to regain consciousness. Come and eat." He guided her out of the medical bay and led her to the kitchen.

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