They'd come to a grey world. Rose stood in the lee of the TARDIS and shivered, looking out at slate-coloured waves and matte overcast. Beside her, the Doctor folded his arms to disguise pulling his jacket more tightly around him.
"When I said I wanted to go to the sea, I was thinking of something a little more like Hawaii," Rose said, watching a drab little bird hop among the stones. It flipped a pebble with its beak and pecked around underneath. It was the only living thing they'd seen thus far.
"This is a bit like Hawaii," the Doctor protested, but he didn't sound as if his heart were in it.
"Pretty sure Hawaii is warmer than this."
The Doctor made a noise in the back of his throat that seemed to indicate he thought that was debatable. He didn't say anything for a moment, then suddenly pointed out over the water. "Look, there's a boat!"
Rose squinted until she saw a sort of graceful canoe, grey like like everything else, and difficult to make out against the water. "No one in it though. Must have come loose."
"Let's go have a look." He strode off down the beach, jacket flapping open in the wind, and Rose followed more carefully. The rocks shifted under her feet, and she had to spread her arms to keep from falling. By the time she got to the water's edge, the Doctor was already knee deep and reaching for the boat as the waves pushed it ashore. "There's somebody in here. Give us a hand, will you?"
The water was shockingly cold against Rose's legs and she lost feeling in her feet almost immediately. By the time she got to the boat, the Doctor had tugged it around so it came in nose-first to the beach instead of catching each wave against the side. It was already half full of water, and, under the water, the body of a man. Rose didn't have time to get more than an impression of blond hair and armour before a wave pushed her and the boat up the beach, and she had to struggle to stay on her feet. She caught herself on the edge of the boat and held on as best she could. The wave sucked back down the beach in a torrent of small stones, a sound like hail on a tin roof.
"Help me pull him out," the Doctor said. "Hurry, before the next wave." He already had the man by his shoulder, and so Rose half climbed into the boat to push from her side. Her hands had gone numb as well, and the wave had soaked her to the chest.
"I think he's dead, Doctor," she protested, giving the body enough of a shove to get it over the side and into the Doctor's arms. "He's been under water and everything."
"I've got a feeling." He pulled the body up out of the surf, leaving Rose to scramble clear as best she could. The next wave rammed the boat into her back, pushing her face-first into the water. By the time she got out, she didn't think she felt much better than the Doctor's rescued corpse. Which wasn't just a corpse from the way the Doctor was waving his screwdriver over it.
"Told you," he said. "He's not quite dead yet. There's something funny going on here. Let's get him inside the TARDIS and have a look."
Rose wasn't looking forward to hauling a grown man, and his chain mail, up a stone beach, but it would mean going inside where it was warm and dry. Besides that, she found herself as intrigued as the Doctor. "I wonder who he is," she said, "and what he's doing out here by himself."
Rose wrapped a blanket around her shoulders and her hands around a mug of tea. She'd changed into dry clothes and towel-dried her hair, but still felt as though she were entirely made of damp, salty goosepimples. The Doctor had changed his jumper but not his jeans, and but didn't seemed bothered by being half soaked, too caught up with the pale body floating in front of him.
They'd started in the medical bay, but something in the Doctor's scans made him move them to a glowing white room Rose hadn't seen before. The Doctor had called it the "Zero Room," and explained it in a way she was pretty sure he knew she didn't understand. She'd waited for the first ten minutes of absolutely nothing happening, then got changed, made them some tea, and returned to find a continued lack of apparent progress. The Doctor was ignoring his tea and staring at the man as if he were carrying on a conversation.
Rose took a moment to get a better look at their most recent find. He was probably forty, with scruffy blond hair to his shoulders and a trimmed goatee that looked less hipsterish then it should have. He had a strong jaw and blunt cheekbones that made her wonder what colour his eyes were. Rose had seen pictures in school of silk and armour like he had, but couldn't remember if it was supposed to be Norman or something later.
"What planet are we on?" she asked.
"Earth," the Doctor said, not looking up.
"Well that's what they call it. You'd be surprised how many planets call themselves that."
"And who is he?"
"No idea." The Doctor peered more closely at the man. "But I think we're about to find out."
The man's eyes snapped open. No fluttering, or slowly twitching awake, but still as the dead one moment and completely aware the next. His eyes were green.
"Orcs!" he said, then, "Where am I? I thought I was lost." He patted his chest, fingers probing holes in the mail.
The Doctor looked at Rose, then deliberately back at the man, and Rose nodded. "You're okay," she said, pitching her voice low and soft. "You're not dead. You're safe here."
Whatever held him in the air choose that moment to cut out, dropping the man on his ass. He scrambled to his feet, hand going to his hip as through for a gun. Or a sword, she realised.
"You're safe." Rose said again. "We won't hurt you. We found you floating in a boat and brought you here to... to wake you up. My name's Rose, and this is the Doctor."
His hair was hanging over his eyes in damp clumps, and he racked it back with his left hand. The room seemed to intimidate him, and he stared around wildly for a moment before focusing on the Doctor. He straightened then, squaring his shoulders and drawing his back up into the ready lines of a soldier standing at ease. "I would know the nature of this place, stranger," he said.
"That," the Doctor said, "is a bit of a long story."
They stood on the beach again, in the lee of the TARDIS, watching the man poke at the boat. The tide had gone out, leaving it high and dry, though still full of water. It looked sad, Rose thought, abandoned and canted halfway on its side. The man, who had not yet given them his name, stood with his hands braced on the high side, head bowed. But for his breathing, she'd have thought he'd fallen into that strange sleep again.
The Doctor had said that there was some kind of energy bound up in the boat and in the grey cloak that had been folded under the man's head. The man had laughed at that and said it was Elven witchcraft, then asked to see the boat. Rose still didn't understand what had happened, and she wasn't sure anyone else did either.
"Will he be okay?" she asked the Doctor.
He shrugged. "Probably. He's not going to fall over dead again, if that's what you're asking." He paused, then repeated the probably.
The man reached into the boat and retrieved a sword. Rose hadn't even noticed it in the chaos of the waves, but now he held it across his hands, studying it.
She looked at the Doctor, chewing her lip. It didn't seem fair to leave the man alone in the middle of nowhere. However, after the disaster with Adam, she didn't want to just invite someone onto the TARDIS. Before she could ask what the Doctor thought, the man sheathed the sword and started heavily up the beach.
"I am called Boromir of Gondor," he said, but did not meet their eyes. "I know that I am greatly in your debt, but I ask something more of you."
"I suppose you want to go home," the Doctor prompted when he hesitated.
Boromir shook his head, eyes still downcast. "Never that. I would but bring shame and ruin on my city."
Rose reached instinctively, resting her hand on his wrist. "But your family..."
"No! Better they think me dead." His mouth pressed into a thin line, and he swallowed twice before looking up. "Mistress Rose said that your 'ship' can take you anywhere in the world in the blink of an eye, did she not?"
"Any where in the universe," the Doctor said. They hadn't quite gotten to the time travel part.
Boromir nodded to himself. "If it would not put you to great trouble, I wish that you would find the place most distant from Gondor and deliver me there."
Rose looked at the Doctor, eyes wide. "Doctor," she started, then saw the look in his eyes and shut up.
"I'll see what I can do," the Doctor told Boromir, "But I warn you, my ship doesn't always land where I tell her to. If the end of the Universe is where you want to go, it may take us some time to get there."
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