I stumble as the floor drops out from beneath me, and I land a couple of inches down. I close my eyes as I lean forward to brace myself on my knees, and nausea curls in my gut.
“Shiva!” a man’s voice calls, and I look up tiredly. There’s a crowd dressed in loose, draped fabric in front of me, turning to look at me even as they part to make way for a man in a black leather jacket. Ash falls from my hair into my eyes at the movement, and when I raise my hand to rub my eyes, it is still covered in the blue blood of the child I hadn’t been able to save -
Hands catch me, and I blink up at the face of the man holding me. Fire flares all over my vision for a moment, and I cry out, trying to twist away from it for a moment before I realise that it wasn’t really there, it was just a memory from - from someone else remembering fire because of the ash -
“Shiva, what’s- what happened?”
“Who -” a cough breaking my words, and I try not to think about the worrying silence from Mary. “Who are you?”
There's a frisson of surprise and almost fear before a flow of emotions like slow and steady and burning lava cut out abruptly, more conspicuous by their absence in my fevered mind than they had been in their presence.
“Shiva, it’s me. The Doctor.”
The air is cold against my skin, and goosebumps erupt as I shiver and try to focus on the words, but no matter what I try, they don’t make sense; the Doctor is gone, Time Lords are gone, that’s the whole reason that the Time Agency was created - and Mary’s still not saying anything, still not responding. The man’s face swims before my eyes as I try to hold onto the world, and I realise that he’s holding me close. Close enough that the zipper of his jacket brushing my stomach reminds me that I’d torn off my shirt when I realised it was on fire.
And suddenly I feel naked. Suddenly I remember that Shiva was the name of a male god from Earth mythology.
Black spots crowd my vision, and there’s a ringing in my ears, and suddenly I can’t get enough to breathe.
In the back of my mind, I remember that I haven’t had anything to drink in over a day now, that I’d just spent hours in a burning city, that I'm fine-
But it feels like the weight of the staring crowd is crushing me with their expectations and I can’t get out I can’t breathe -
Vague chanting drifts through the air as I raise out of sleep.
After a moment, I open my eyes. Nothing happens as they wander over the wooden underside of a roof, and I laugh silently at myself for expecting anything different. It takes me a moment to feel the familiar pressure of a bra around my ribs. I want to frown. There was something wrong with that. There was a fire. Didn’t I take it off?
Then I notice the absence of the familiar pressure on my left wrist, and I bolt up right. Hands catch me and stop me before I get too far, and I'm pressed back into the cushions.
“Easy, easy!” the man in front of me exclaims, his presence projecting calm soothing concern , and I take him in in a moment - the clothing that doesn’t fit with what’s around us, and the memory of his claim to be the Doctor. “You’re going to rip out the IV! You need those fluids, you were severely dehydrated!”
I glance down at my arm reflexively to see that there is an IV below the sleeve of a loose shirt I don’t remember putting on, one leading to a bag of clear fluid suspended by a metal pole, neither of which fit our surroundings, again .
“What’s wrong with your screwdriver, Doctor ?” I ask sarcastically, even as I carefully relax my arm so that I don’t jar it any further. “Can’t just wave it and heal me?”
The man frowns at me. The concern doesn’t change, but a definite hint of annoyance leaks out. “You know very well that I can’t make from whole cloth what’s not there.”
“And how would I know this?” I ask somewhat hysterically. “I’ve never met you before, and all of the Time Lords are dead! Especially the Doctor!”
The man stares at me with penetrating blue eyes. His face is like stone as he crosses his arms, and I wince away from the pain and the loss and the images of fire, of silent explosions . The images of time standing frozen outside the doors . The wrenching sensation as my desperate, beautiful, capricious TARDIS tears us away from there . “Well. This must be the first time you meet me.”
My heart skips a beat as I drop my gaze. I don't regret my words, but . . . if this truly is the Doctor, then being reminded that his people are dead won’t exactly make him look favorably on me.
“I’m sorry -”
We both pause, glancing at each other in surprise before I motion for him to continue.
“I’m sorry,” he repeats himself, and he really feels sorry. It’s not a fake apology to placate me or to soothe his own feelings like most apologies are. “I never thought about what you might think - when I first met you, you didn’t give me any time to think about it, and later, I just assumed that you always knew.”
“I’m sorry for bringing the war up,” I say. Even if this man isn’t the Doctor, he obviously was involved in the war in some way. Time just doesn’t stop like that, not even for time travelers.
“Indra!” someone calls from outside, and the man grimaces.
“Fantastic. That’ll be me they’re calling for,” he sighs, and he pushes himself up into a standing position. He pauses for a moment by the doorway, then turns back to look at me. “Don’t worry about Mary. I - . . . Your vortex manipulator is on the table there. I didn’t do anything but take it off your wrist.”
With that, the man ducks out. I watch the empty doorway for a couple of moments before I carefully reach out to grab the vortex manipulator from the table. Much as I want to run away from here, after that last mission I do need some rest and fluids.
My hands shake as I try to switch Mary back on, and I have to set the vortex manipulator down before I hit the wrong thing. I take a shaky breath and blink, letting the tears fall. A sob hits me, and I bring my knees up. I cry quietly into the sheet.
The mission was a disaster, and even though I know logically that there was nothing I could have done, I can’t stop blaming myself. Even just by being there, I’d likely made things better - allowed someone else to save a child instead of lingering over the one who was going to die no matter what. But right now, looking down at my hands - at the blue blood under my nails and ingrained between the ridges of my fingerprints, I can’t stop thinking, what-if-ing. I can’t stop trembling as I sob softly.
But I can’t cry forever, and eventually the sobs die off into the occasional hiccup. My hands are still trembling, but they’re stable enough to flip the switch, and there’s the sudden comforting presence of Mary at the back of my mind.
The stray thought that this is more than I deserve sets me off again, and Mary’s here clucking at me and wrapping me with layer upon layer of emotional warmth, murmuring, “Hey, it’s alright, you’re alright, I’m alright, we’re all fine . . .”
“How are you really?” I ask Mary a while later, after the sobs have finally had a chance to die off again. “I know I hit you several times - that didn’t do any damage did it?”
“Well,” Mary hedges, “you might not want to time travel. At all. Until you get me fixed.”
“That bad? How did we get here then? I don’t remember hitting go.”
“That was me. I’d figured out how bad it was before I jumped us, but I caught a burning beam coming down and I figured uncertain death was better than certain death. I could probably get us somewhere again, but . . . the navigation is completely gone. I mean, I’ve got the programming still, but . . . I can’t feel any of the hardware. And you didn’t get a chance to replace the evaporated cooling fluid while you were in the city, so I’d need a cool down period after we get wherever. Well, unless we land in a sun on in the void of space, in which case, you’re doomed.”
“If you’re that badly damaged, I don’t think I could fix you entirely, but do you think I could do it well enough to get safety protocols back on?”
“Probably.” Mary hesitates a moment. “Or you know, you could let the Doctor take a look at me.”
“No,” I refuse immediately. “No way, you know what the Time Lords think about artificial intelligences.”
“He’s the Doctor,” Mary replies. “I hardly think that he’s about to act like the rest of the Time Lords on this subject! I talked with his TARDIS, and she’s definitely nothing like the descriptions of TARDISes we have! She’s even got a name!”
That stops me short. “A name?”
“Yes. Her name is Sexy.”
“That’s not a name, that’s an adjective.”
“Unless you’re about to tell Blue that, you’re an utter hypocrite!”
There’s a moment of silence before I sigh.
“I don’t trust him Mary. I don’t trust him, and this is your life that we’re talking about.”
“It’s not like you trust the Time Agency,” Mary replies softly. “And not many other people can fix me.”
“Just - just let me reactivate safety protocols.”
I sit back and stare at the internal components of the vortex manipulator helplessly. Mary was right - navigation was completely fried by whatever had happened. And considering the damage, this isn’t the result of me banging it around a couple of times. I’d managed to keep the vortex manipulator in almost top shape, even on the run.
Mary’s AI program was stored in a separate sub-pocket, so other than a couple of wires knocked loose that I quickly pushed back into place, she was completely fine. The components that did the actual traveling through time and space travel are mostly fine too. I ran out of spare parts two weeks ago, but the essential components are untouched, so it shouldn’t be too hard to jury rig back into working order.
But the safety protocols that protected me while traveling through the time vortex and prevented me from landing in a place that would kill me, like a sun or the void, or a planet without the right atmosphere to support me if I don’t have a suit, or the large variety of other options were gone, burned, charred beyond recognition. I have a sinking feeling that the black puddle I can see at the far end of the sub-pocket is the melted remains of the hardware.
Considering just how exact the damage is and how everything else is virtually untouched, this had to have been deliberate.
I feel vaguely like crying again.
“Well?” Mary asks.
“There’s no way I can fix this with what I can get here.”
There’s a silence as I try to think of a way to solve this.
“You can ask the Doctor to fix it,” Mary says again. “Or you could ask him for parts.”
“I guess I’m going to have to.”
Something flares at the back of my mind, and I glance up instinctively. Footsteps sound out in the hallway, and I quickly close the panel of the vortex manipulator and strap it back on. A man busts into the room and starts babbling something that I can’t make out.
"Indra - the rakshasa Indra went to negotiate with are back and they can't find him, and the villagers can't fight back against the lightning and flying fire the rakshasa are using," Mary reports. "I think he means the Doctor when he says Indra, and-"
I don't wait to hear the rest. I peel off the tape keeping the IV needle in and pick up the gauze pad I’d taken out in preparation for a situation like this.
“Alright I’ll-” I stumble slightly as something clicks. That would be the language link. “I’ll help.”
I slide the needle out carefully and quickly press the gauze to the spot before it can start to bleed. Then I wrap the bandage around my arm to hold the gauze in place.
“Thank you, Lord Shiva,” the man says (or rather doesn’t say because I’m getting the information instantly translated via mind link with Mary, so the sounds are probably widely different, but the sentiment is there).
“Please, take me there,” I say, a hand on one of the Laser Deluxes I’d slipped into their holsters while I was checking how bad off Mary was.
The man doesn’t bother with words, he just turns and breaks off in a dead run. I shuck the blankets and take off after him. Not a good idea considering the black spots that spring up in my vision, but I can’t not help people. I stumble into the wall once, but luckily, the dizziness fades away and I manage to catch up quickly.
He doesn’t bring me to any of the large walls that you would expect of a fortress, but rather a shorter wall that you can sometimes find around small villages, made of packed dirt and rocks. It’s falling apart slowly before my eyes, I can see sections where too many energy guns had struck, wearing at the wall until a hole was the only thing left.
Men with bows are leaning around the edges of the holes to shoot at whoever the enemy is, and I can see some who hadn’t managed to duck back behind cover in time in piles away from the walls.
“Where is Indra?” I ask the man who had brought me here, my hand going back to my LD once again.
“There,” the man said, pointing beyond the wall. “He went to talk with the rakshasa, asked them to take him to their leader.” The man scowls. "Of course the traitorous rakshasa would not keep their word."
I stare at him for a moment, then glance around the edge of the wall for a quick moment. If I hadn’t already been planning to pull back after a moment, I would have done so anyways, and as it is, I’m wincing before my back hit the wall again.
“Lord Shiva?” the man who had brought me here asks as I bring a hand up to my forehead, his hands fluttering between going to help and not daring to touch. His conflict is written across his face clearly enough that I would have been confident I knew what he was feeling even if I couldn't feel it simmering in the back of my mind.
“That was some bad feedback,” Mary murmurs from my wrist. “They’re Silurians.”
“Silurians-” I bite back a curse.
“Lord Shiva, are you alright?” the man asks.
“Yes,” I reply, my mind half flying as I try to think of something to tell him, and half trying to figure out what to do about the Silurians. I latch onto a name I just barely remember Anjali mentioning that one time she’d gotten enthusiastic about the gods that her family had once worshiped. “The rakshasa reached to hurt me with their malice, and I speak with Parvati to heal myself.”
The man looks a little doubtful, but he nodded. His next words aren’t a question, but they weren’t a statement either. “You can help.”
I reach for the solution that had been ticking away at the back of my mind, tighten my grip on my LD, nod. “I can help.”
The Doctor - if that is truly who this man is - is strong, and is known by many as the Oncoming Storm. Time Agents are not nearly as well known, we have always tried to leave as few traces as possible, but there were some cases where it was unavoidable. There were some places where I was called the Bone Singer, Red before their memories were wiped.
In some senses, Shiva fits me. I am a destroyer of many civilizations. I am their end. (Time Agents are supposed to preserve the timeline but I can’t bring myself to think that with a child’s blood staining my hands.)
(We don’t really worship gods in the 51st century. Long before we’d figured out that belief had a large impact, most religions had died out. My memory of a few vague names was impressive for someone who didn’t study them.
At the Time Agency - an abandoned TARDIS that the boss had apparently been transported to through an odd quirk of space-time - there were rumors that the ghost of the TARDIS’s owner haunted the box. I would have laughed if I hadn’t seen her myself.)
Still, even as the destroyer, I know how to choose my targets. I reach out, slowly carefully. I have to shake my head to push foreign aggravation and impatience out of my head (It’s a good thing I recognised the Silurians and remembered what they can do. I’ve heard of the spectacular headaches and disasters that happen when you don’t ward off the feelings they project), and map out the positions of the Silurians I’d seen when I peered out.
I feel the wall behind me shake as I stand and turn. I get one Silurian, tracing her presence back along the connection I’d made when I glanced out earlier. I have to drop down with a curse when a laser bolt from the warrior next to her wings my arm, leaving a blackened burn that probably doesn't go deeper than my skin, but which aches like it managed to reach my bones.
The man who brought me here is babbling something in a frightened tone of voice that matches the frantic pace of his thoughts, but the other men take my shot for encouragement and send a wave of arrows flying, managing to hit two of the five remaining Silurians. I wince away from the pain, my mind - thrown out like a net - pulling a fast retreat.
I push down the pain - both mine and the brief loop of death that echoes between the Silurians - as I reach out again, then stand and shoot down the two injured Silurians.
The men send out another rain of arrows as I duck down, but the Silurians must be wary after last time because I don't feel any sparks of pain.
I press my back against the wall and focus on the sensations my mind is picking up. There's the man next to me, muttering prayers, scared and in awe because there's a god next to him, and because the enemy has weapons strong enough to harm a god -
I reach out, my eyes still closed, to pat him on the knee, startling him from his thoughts of doom and gloom. He glances at me, but I'm already reaching out further, to the twenty men hiding along the wall, all protection and fear and bravery , to the three Silurians left in the bushes, just as scared, and just as determined not to let these strangers destroy the sleeping people behind them -
And my heart aches as I stand and shoot all three of them in quick succession. They don't expect it. Silurians don't train in battle telepathy. I don't flinch as a desperate laser from a dead woman flies past my head. There’s a bitter taste in my mouth at the tattoo of thought that echoes in the back of my mind - could have saved her, Silurians come back in a couple tens of centuries, could have sent her back to sleep-
I stand there in plain sight for a moment, ready to shoot, daring any Silurians I’d missed to reveal their position as I reach out mentally, feeling for anyone who was close. After a moment, I confirm that there aren’t any Silurians left in the immediate area, and I turn to the man who’d brought me here.
“This lot are dead, but there are likely others who will try to attack your village. I need to go and find Indra.” I extend the LD to him, keeping to pointed away from either of us. “This is a weapon.” I let him grasp it. “Point it at your enemy and pull this to shoot lightning.”
I go to let go, then pause, tightening my grip. The man glances from the weapon to me with wide eyes. “Do not,” I say, "point this at someone unless you mean to kill. Do you understand?”
There is terror and reverence and gratefulness blooming from him, and from the others around us as they notice me one by one. “Lord Shiva, this is your weapon! How could I possibly use it?”
What - right, he thinks this is a godly weapon, and since he’s a mortal, it’ll vaporize him or something.
“If you could not use it, I would not have given it to you,” I say. “This is not a test of faith, but a question of the protection of your village. I may be the Destroyer, but today I walk hand in hand with Vishnu to preserve this village, for now is not it’s time to be forgotten. But do not point if you do not mean it, do you understand ?”
There, I think with satisfaction as the man nods frantically. That should keep some of these people alive.
Now I have to figure out what to do about the Doctor.
“I must leave now,” I tell the man, and the others who have gathered around us in the short time since I brought the Silurians down. “Indra has likely put himself in grave danger, and I must go to rescue him.”
There's a jolt of fear from the crowd, but I turn and start across the now empty field before anyone can say anything.
As soon as I'm out of convenient hearing range, I mutter, “Mary, how are your scanning capabilities? I didn't have time to check them earlier.”
“The Doctor's ahead of you, about a mile away,” Mary replies instantly, projecting comfort and determination.
“Thank you,” I say, as I reach the edge of the clearing and pass into the shade of the trees with relief. As soon as I’m out of sight of the villagers, I slump against a tree and bring a hand up to my forehead. The world around me is swaying slightly, and while I feel balanced, the changing pressure against my arm tells me I'm not just seeing things.
“Do I have any supplies left?” I ask Mary as I slide to the ground.
“You do, but . . . you're nearly out,” Mary says gently, and I groan.
“Can't be helped, I'm going to faint if I keep up like this. Could you open the compartment- thanks.”
I chew my way through my last ration bar, then down half of the last water bottle before I feel fit to stand. The world around me still feels wrong, a bit too bright, but it's no longer swaying, and I don't feel like I'm going to faint any moment anymore, so I'm satisfied.
While I’m doing that, I examine the laser burn on my arm. I pull up the sleeve of the shirt so it no longer brushes against it, but there’s not much else I can do. My medical supplies had gone the same way as most of my rations, and the laser had at least cauterized the wound so that it didn’t bleed. I’ll survive without medical attention for as long as this takes.
“Alright,” I say as I push myself up. “A mile ahead?”
“Yeah. Don't push yourself, or I'll force you into a vacation.”
“Promises, promises,” I huff as I put the water bottle away and pull my second LD out of its holster.
The Doctor's voice echoes through the cave as I linger by the entrance, cautiously spreading my mind it like a net. I don't think I'd be much help if I went in. I know how to convince people to destroy themselves, not how to talk them into saving themselves, but I can come in if they try to hurt the Doctor.
There isn't any active intent to harm, but there's plenty of hostility and confusion . The Doctor feels like frustration and concern . This his voice raises slightly, just enough to make the words intelligible.
“. . . and besides, outside the only entrance to this cave, Shiva is standing, ready to fire.”
I stiffen, tightening my grip on my LD as I edge closer to hear the response. Much as I would rather not be used as a threat by a man I don't know, the Silurians were attacking the humans.
“. . . the lord of these people-”
“Shiva who travels at my side is a lady,” the Doctor cuts in calmly before I have a chance to do more than bite my lip as I breathe through the sudden weight, and his calm assurance doesn't - doesn't take away the weight of the words, but they help me breathe easier all the same. “And she’s a fantastic one.”
“Very well then,” the matriarch says, not even hesitating at the Doctor’s correction. “What makes you think that this lady traveler will have any effect on our forces? We are many, and you both are few. The other monkeys outside of this cave are nothing to fear and could not take us down if they tried.”
“Because she has already decimated the warriors you sent out to destroy the village when you detected my presence,” the Doctor says, disappointment slipping into the stream of emotions for a moment.
The Silurians are shocked, but I’ve heard of their temperment before, and I slip into the cave as rage and hurt and intent to harm flood out.
“Don’t you dare,” I say, and the Silurians with laser guns aimed at the Doctor’s head freeze. The guards on either side of me have their guns aimed at me, but I ignore them.
“Put the guns down.”
I glance at the Doctor, and he smiles at me.
He has to have some regenerations left; he was only on eight when Gallifrey cut all contact. But I don’t think we can dare to lose even one regeneration, not if he’s the only Time Lord left. No one else has managed to keep time balanced.
But I can feel him pressing at me with reassurance , and around us, the Silurians’ active intent to harm that flared up at my entrance is fading to a less insistent rage. I slowly lower my LD and watch carefully as the guards around the Doctor do the same - though the guards aiming at me don’t move.
“Alright, Doctor ,” the matriarch spits. “If you are so insistent that this is not our time, then when would you have us awaken? The apes are only going to evolve and grow, are they not? Surely they will object even more stringently as they come to feel that this world belongs to them?”
“That depends on how safe you wish to feel,” the Doctor replies. “In three thousand years, some of the other colonies will awaken permanently, and they will negotiate treaties. In four thousand years, they will have integrated and set up a system for the colonies still waking. In five thousand, you could be the last unwoken colony, found and monitored carefully until the date you have set for yourselves.”
“And you don’t care?” The matriarch’s hostility had faded even farther as the Doctor lists off times. She feels . . . tired . It’s understandable, the Silurians had hidden away from the world during the great extinction of the dinosaurs. The hibernation had been a desperate attempt to survive, and here she has to decide if it would be worth it to go under again.
“You do not awaken here, and you are not the first, so no. As long as you awaken, all will be well.”
“And why should we believe you Doctor, when your lady companion has killed my people?”
I can feel the Doctor falter, and I step forwards slightly, slipping my LD back into its holster, ignoring the way the guards pointing their guns at me close ranks to block the exit to the cave as the rest turn towards me.
“Companion though I may be,” I say, though I don’t think I’ve known the Doctor long enough for any such title, “the Doctor does not control me. My actions were mine alone.”
“If you hate us so, then how do I know you would not return to finish the job while we sleep?”
“Did you mean to kill the people of the village?” I ask in return.
The matriarch regards me with an almost curiosity before that sinks back beneath the weariness. “We sought only to defend ourselves. The apes attacked first. Had we come further out of hibernation . . . perhaps.” She sounds almost flippant, but I can feel the sharp point of her attention focused on me. “We will need space, and I do not want our young ones awake only for death.”
“I am an ape,” I say. “And I have defended my kind. I see no need for further retaliation.”
The matriarch’s attention lingers, and I can feel the slow churning of her thoughts. Then her attention lifts, and she turns back to the Doctor. “Three thousand years then. We will not shy from difficulties.”
There’s a spike of unhappiness for some of the guards, but it subsides swiftly under the matriarch’s stern gaze.
“Fantastic!” the Doctor says, clasping his hands. “Now. Off you go. Shoo. Back to sleep with you.”
The matriarch lets out a low growl, but she slams the but of her staff into the dirt of the cave floor. The sound of footsteps and staffs on dirt fill the cave as the Silurians march into the elevator.
“I expect you to be there, Doctor,” the matriarch says as the last of her warriors file out of this chamber of the cave. “And you,” she points at me. “You will bury our lost kin, responsible as you are for their demise.”
I nod, keeping my eyes on her, and watch as she sweeps into the elevator, and the door closes behind her, and the Silurians’ emotions fade downwards.
The Doctor slumps in their absence. I watch him thoughtfully. Some of the sunlight streaming from the cave entrance behind me reflects off on a zipper as he moves, and I close my eyes quickly as the bright light brings my attention back to my headache. I have to swallow down a sudden bout of nausea as I bright my hands up to massage my temples.
The burst of concern feels almost familiar as it echoes around my pounding head.
“You’re injured,” the Doctor says, blue eyes focussed on my arm.
“Yeah, well, I wasn’t exactly fighting at my best,” I say, then grimace as the concern pulses again.
“Sorry,” the Doctor mutters, and suddenly his emotions are dampened a little, like I’m feeling them from a distance.
“You don’t have to-”
“No. I don’t. Do you think you can walk?”
“Don’t let her,” Mary pipes up before I can say anything, and I squeeze my eyes shut again. “She’s been running off of bravado since she got out of bed.”
“Alright,” the Doctor says. I manage to force my eyes open, the air burning them, in time to see blue eyes staring back at me. “ Sleep , Shiva. I’ll take care of you.”
I’m starting to feel rather like a damsel in distress, what with all the fainting, and I squash it quickly.
I blink my eyes open to see the same wood ceiling I woke to last time. There’s an IV in my arm again, but this time I can feel the familiar weight of the vortex manipulator on my wrist and the constriction of a bandage around my bicep, where the Silurian lazer grazed me.
“Mary?” I ask eventually.
“You’re alright,” Mary says immediately. “You should probably eat something, but you've got enough fluids in you now, and the sleep helped immensely. Your mental barriers should be back up.”
“An’ the Doctor? Didja get a chance to - to -”
“Two hearts and a complicated timestream. If he’s not a Time Lord, he’s doing a damn good impression of one.”
I lay there for a long while, staring up at the ceiling.
I blink. “You really gonna use that?”
“Gender is a social construct and I want to be able to say I’m the servant of a god,” Mary says immediately. “Harry will be so impressed when I tell him-”
“Harry knows who I am,” I interrupt, finally looking down from the ceiling, glancing at the holographic projection of a vaguely female figure coming from the vortex manipulator. “Was gonna replace you, ‘member?”
“Andrew, then.” Mary shrugs, looking utterly unrepentant. “ He was just supposed to be a janitor android, but I know he likes the stories we come back with.”
“s'it safe to take out the IV?” I ask, slowly sitting up. I don’t feel any of the dizziness I did last time or see any black spots.
“You should be safe enough, yeah,” Mary says. She points to the gauze and bandage on the table next to the bed, and I reach for them. I pause and squint at the pile of electronic parts next to it.
“Did he- are those the-”
“They should be enough to reactivate safety protocols, yeah,” Mary says. “I’ll not say anything about navigation, but you won’t die if you try to travel anywhere. No specialty parts or anything, just wires and batteries and stuff. Oh, and the LD you gave to that one villager.”
“Huh.” I mechanically remove the IV and wrap the wound. I pause once I’ve tied off the bandage and stretch my hands. They’re still blue.
“Did the Doctor leave already?”
“Yeah. Almost as soon as he got you settled. Told the villagers not to wake you and went off with Sexy.”
I make a face and rub my eyes. “You think they’d make me something to eat?”
“They would love to,” Mary says. “Apparently showing up unconscious and wounded didn’t do too much to disabuse them of the belief that you’re their god after the fight with the Silurians.”
I make another face as I push myself to my feet, Mary’s hologram flicking out. “Great. Belief. I hope that doesn’t do anything.”
I glance over my clothes again. They’re the same loose clothes I’d woken up in last time - loose pants, a loose shirt - though I can feel ties that would probably give it some form - and underneath that, the familiar restriction of a bra. “Alright. Here I go. I’ll fix you after I’ve had something to eat.”
“Good plan,” Mary says.
I pause at the door, blinking at the scene outside my door. The sun is setting, casting a strong orange light over everything. And - the Doctor is sitting in the little open space in front of the house I’d come out of, his leather jacket off and folded on the ground beside him. There’s a steaming cup sitting on a flat rock beside him, and he’s leaning back from poking at the pot over the fire as he talks with a villager.
I actually recognise the villager before he notices me and freezes - it’s the man who’d brought me out when the Silurians attacked the village.
The Doctor goes on talking for a couple more seconds before he notices the other man’s silence and follows his gaze to me.
“Shiva! Fantastic, you’re awake.”
“. . . you’re still here.”
“I couldn’t just leave you alone and unconscious, now could I?” he asks. He leans down to pull his sonic screwdriver out of his jacket and waves me forwards. “Now come here, let me check you’re alright.”
I stare at him for a long moment, then slowly make my way forwards to sit next to him. I still feel a little unsteady, and the thin clothes make me feel vulnerable, and my eyes keep flicking downwards to try and spot sharp rocks before I step on them.
The confusion in the air sets me on edge. The villager’s gaze makes me want to snap at him to keep his eyes to himself. Instead, I shiver despite the warmth of the air around me and wrap my arms around myself as I settle next to the Doctor and his projected calm soothing concern .
“Can I?” he asks, holding his sonic screwdriver up, and I nod. The screwdriver buzzes as he sweeps it over me, a distant look in his eyes.
“Well,” he says, when he turns it off and slides it back into his jacket. “You’re as fine as can be expected. Here. Have some food.”
He goes to grab a bowl from the stack on the rock with the cup, but the villager had already filled a bowl and was holding it out with both hands, eyes downcast.
"For Lord Shiva," he murmurs when the Doctor doesn't move.
"Thank you, Apurva," the Doctor says, reaching out to accept the bowl and pass it to me.
I poke at the lentils with the spoon that comes with the bowl, then slowly begin to eat. I don’t quite taste the lentils. Even though it feels like I’m pacing myself, the lentils are gone before I really register them, and I’m left blinking at the bottom of the bowl. Apurva refills my bowl silently, and this time I taste the lentils as I eat.
“Lord Shiva?” Apurva ventures cautiously when I’m staring at the bottom of my second bowl. “If I may know, what weapons did the rakshasa possess that were able to wound you?”
I turn my gaze to Apurva. I feel tired, my thoughts moving in my head like molasses, and to my right, the Doctor shifts slightly, moving to a position that’s not visually too different, but which takes my weight as I list slightly, he concern flaring.
“Right. The weapons.” I suppress a yawn and search my mind for what I can remember.
“We’re only avatars of the gods,” the Doctor says before I can come up with anything better than ‘I was sick’, which probably wouldn’t go down too well. “As such, we have all the weaknesses and strengths of humans.”
“Oh. Thank you, Lord Indra. May I go?”
“Of course,” the Doctor says, and Apurva bows and quickly leaves.
“Avatars of the gods?” I ask when he’s out of sight.
“Well, perhaps not of Indra and Shiva, but yes, I’ve been told so.”
I snort, and the Doctor grins back at me. His grin fades a little after a moment.
“Look, I’m sorry about earlier. I just -” he makes frustrated noise. “I don’t meet people out of order often. It’s usually one and done or linear. Time is - odd, but-”
“I know,” I tell him. I lean into him intentionally now, and I can smell the leather of his jacket.
The sun has set. The night animals are starting to come out and make noise.
“We don’t get out-of-linear relationships on my side of things either. But,” I turn, angling my body so we’re facing each other and hold out a hand, “let me introduce myself. Hello Doctor. You can call me Shiva. I’m - I was a Time Agent from the 51st century Regulus 4.”
The Doctor’s eyes flick from my face to my hand and back before he slowly reaches out to take my hand and gently shake it. “Hello Shiva. I’m the Doctor, and I’m from Gallifrey. Nice to meet you.”
I bury the scouting party. Actually, in the custom of the land, I cremate them.
It takes time to find the wood, even with some of the children helping me. The adults are occupied with rebuilding the wall, and with the numerous other tasks it takes to run a village. The Doctor trails along behind me.
He’s always confused .
“There’s something you want to talk about,” I say to him as I bring another load of wood back, the sun high overhead dappling the forest floor as the children who’d helped me gather the wood run ahead.
“There’s something you want to talk about.” I can feel his confusion buzzing, and I can feel Mary’s attention flit towards us for a moment.
And the Doctor-
When we’re eating the dinner someone brought us, the sky dark overhead and the stars coming out, the Doctor says slowly, “You know how I sometimes travel with humans?”
I look back down at my curry. “Are you lonely, Doctor?”
“You always ask me that,” the Doctor says. And he’s still calm , he’s always calm . He must be smoothing out his emotions. You learn to do that when you’re empathetic, it makes surface readings much shallower.
I reach out and look deeper. He’s lonely .
And the Doctor-
He’s helping me build the pyres, the bodies behind me an almost physical presence as he says, “My companions . . . I’ve had those who choose not to come with me . . . And there was this girl. She was . . . she was fantastic . She’d probably say that she’s not that smart, but . . . she was clever and brave, and . . .”
“And she decided not to come with you.”
“I offered her all of time and space,” the Doctor says, spreading his hands dramatically before drooping. “Or maybe just space. I didn’t mention time.”
“Why did she say she was staying behind?” I ask, balancing another log.
And the Doctor-
We’re gathering the ashes into urns so I can take them . . . I don’t know. The people here would have tried to take them to the Ganges River, if they didn't think they were demons. After I cremated them, they might still, but I don't think the Silurians want to be involved in human religion. At home I’d take them to the Black River, but this isn’t home, and home isn’t where they belong. And the Doctor says, “The girl, the one who stayed, she said there were people she had to take care of.”
Confusion and frustration mingle on the air, and I remember the reports on him. The Doctor doesn’t tend to stay around for the aftermath.
I pause in moving the ashes to look up at him. The sun is behind him so I have to squint, and even then, all I can see is shadows. I wonder, suddenly, why he’s here. This is an aftermath. It’s been days.
“Is she the only one?”
“No,” the Doctor says, surprise coloring his words before it fades back into the frustration . “But she was the first.”
I turn his words over as I return to moving the ashes carefully. “The first?”
“The first of this regeneration, of course,” the Doctor says as he returns to helping me.
“Of course,” I mutter.
And the Doctor-
We’re standing somewhere in the Indian Ocean, Mary again nestled close against my mind, and the heavy weight of Sexy’s attention lingering as I kneel at her doors to carefully scatter the ashes into the water. They swirl, some of them floating on the surface and forming a film that shifts with the waves, other parts sinking quickly.
The Doctor is leaning against Sexy’s other door, his eyes unfocused as her looks out at the ocean, and there’s the familiar calm soothing concern . It feels almost artificial now. Automatic.
I close my eyes, and I can sense a faint screaming hysteria , like the Doctor’s holding onto calm by his fingernails.
He feels like you , Mary says in my mind, and I have to bite back the immediate protest. Running and running and running . . .
“Doctor,” I say trying to interrupt that thought spiral.
The Doctor jerks and looks up.
I bite my lip. I don’t know what to- . . . “The girl. You have to give her time. There’s always someone to look after.”
He’s still so lonely .
And the Doctor-
We’re back at the village, and I’m shoulder deep in my vortex manipulator, rebuilding it to Mary’s specifications. The Doctor’s lost , staring into space still.
And Mary’s in the back of my mind, reciting the diagnostic, technical word after technical word, an almost bland assessment of what would work now and what wouldn’t - mainly that I was safe from atmospheric conditions or their lack, and just about nothing else - before she finishes by telling me that’s the best we’re going to get without the custom parts.
And I can’t go with him. The Doctor or no, I can’t-
- when I reach for Mary she has coordinates ready -
“I need to go,” I say.
“Of course,” the Doctor says. He’s not in the way, but he pushes away from the console and-
And maybe it’s the way he moves in the corner of my eye. I must have jerked away because for a moment there are lights flashing, and then I’m dropped to the ground, grass breaking my fall as I crumple to my knees.
“Oh, the poor darling,” someone says as a shadow falls over me, sending my already-pounding heart into overdrive. “She must be so exhausted.”
I can’t make out a face against the bright light as someone crouches down and a hand is placed on my forehead. “Sleep.”