After the bomb...
The whole world is inky blackness and the smell of smoke and burning flesh. There’s ringing, too, a loud tinny sound in Leela’s ears that she can’t get rid of.
She feels it mainly around her eyes and ears, but her head is pounding too. A feeble groan comes from her mouth. All she remembers is the sudden horror of realising that the bomb would go off, the panic sending a rush of adrenaline through her as she tried to shield Narvin.
She opens her eyes, that same adrenaline from earlier making it easier to think, even with all the pain.
It’s not the shadowy darkness of a dim corridor or even the spotty darkness that normally appears after rubbing her eyes. It’s complete, cold, utter night.
Ignoring the stab of fear in her gut, Leela wills her limbs to move.
They don’t respond.
Has she been blown to pieces? Is she dead?
“Narvin?” she calls, half-hoping he can’t hear her because there’s a note of desperation in her voice that gives her fear away. At least she still has her voice—that’s something.
There’s no answer, at least not one that she can hear past the ringing still plaguing her ears. Leela grits her teeth and tries again to move forward. After a moment, her fingers tingle and she can feel rough, hard ground underneath her palms. Her body begins to wake up and she raises herself onto her hands and knees, hissing as pain seizes every inch of her. And yet, the pain seems like a minor concern as one part of her body still refuses to cooperate.
Leela blinks. The world of night remains.
Panic bunches low in her stomach. Leela pushes it away. There are more important things at stake.
I must find Narvin.
She shuffles forward and calls Narvin’s name again. Before she’s hardly gone anywhere, she just manages to hear a weak, pain-filled wheeze beneath her. Leela shifts her hand forward until she touches fabric.
"Narvin," she whispers. She blinks again, but she can’t even see the shape of him in the darkness. She uses her hands to see instead, carefully finding her way across his chest.
She feels something wet.
Her hands freeze. She presses her ear to the centre of his chest. She can't hear his hearts, but she can feel the rise and fall of his breathing.
Leela instinctively feels that he’s hurt badly. The thought of him regenerating sends a strange pang of loss through her. Narvin isn’t her friend; in fact, she barely even tolerates him. But in this war, he is her ally, and there is no way to know if his allegiances will change in his new body.
“Do not die, Narvin,” she commands. She finds herself chuckling, the action sending waves of pain through her sore chest and stomach. "I never thought I would say that to you, but Romana needs you now.”
Leela doesn’t know until this moment that she can identify blood even without seeing it. She knows that thick, tacky feel on cold skin and the heavy scent that hangs in the air. She follows the trail of blood upwards, across Narvin’s neck and his cheek. Finally, she reaches his hair, which feels stiff under her touch. She breathes a quick inhale, hardly wanting to know the severity of his wound. But she needs to know.
Leela dares to drop her hand to the floor beside Narvin’s head.
It lands in a pool of blood.
She quickly draws her hand away, scraping it on the ground. She’s surprised that Narvin hasn’t regenerated already, but he lets out a weak moan like he’s purposefully telling her that he’s still alive.
Leela sits back on her legs for a moment and thinks. It's no easy distance back to their base. She's fairly sure of the way there, but it’s an entirely different story without her eyesight.
Without my eyesight.
The thought sends a cold prickle of anxiety through her chest. She reminds herself that she momentarily lost her sight before when she travelled with the Doctor. Surely it must be the same thing.
But she can’t help but wonder if her last memory of the world around her will be the bomb exploding in her face.
As fear gnaws at her, she turns her mind back to Narvin. She can go back to base and get someone to come back for Narvin, but what if it’s already too late for him by that point? What if Pandora’s people find him first?
No. She must take him herself. As much as she disagrees with Narvin on a daily basis, she can't leave him here to bleed and die.
Leela takes a deep breath and prepares herself. She rises to her feet, her legs wobbling as aching pain throbs through her limbs. She bends down and finds Narvin’s feet, then his ankles. She’s worried about aggravating his wound, but she knows she can’t pick him up in her current state.
So, she drags him.
It’s agony at first, the muscles in her arms protesting against his dead weight. Leela wills herself to take bigger and bigger steps backwards, knowing that a delay of just one second can mean the difference between life and death for Narvin.
One of her heels strikes back against a wall. She bites her lip as the sharp pain flares up. She reaches out and touches the wall, feeling the way it turns. Her memory fills in what she can’t see, and she thinks she can navigate this bend without running into the wall again.
Leela’s hearing sharpens as she turns the corner and she can hear Narvin groaning. At least he’s not silent; that would concern her far more. But after a moment, she feels movement in his legs.
“L…Leela?” he breathes, his voice raspy and barely a whisper.
“Narvin!” She carefully lowers him to the ground. “I am glad you are awake. I felt so much blood and I did not know—”
Leela remembers the pool of blood. He isn’t “fine.”
“Do you remember the way back to the base?” Leela asks. She hears a rustle and assumes he’s standing, so she adjusts her gaze accordingly to look where she thinks his eyes are.
“I…” He grunts in pain. “I think so, but you’re the one who led us here. Can’t you…” He trails off. Leela wonders if her blindness is visible, if there are wounds around her eyes; or maybe she’s not meeting his eyes at all.
“I cannot see, Narvin,” she states in a low voice. Somehow, saying it out loud makes it real. Sadness aches in her chest. Once again, she tries to tell herself that it’s temporary, but part of her knows that it’s not.
There’s a long moment of silence. Finally, Narvin speaks softly. “All right. This way.”
He takes her hand. Leela almost pulls away, but first of all, she knows that she needs him to guide her, and secondly, she realises that it’s the first time he’s purposefully touched her. His hand is cold in hers and for a moment a memory flashes through her mind. It’s no longer Narvin holding her hand, but Andred, and the thought carves an even deeper hole of melancholy into Leela’s chest.
Since she can’t see, she listens as she follows Narvin’s pull. His breathing is ragged, and as they go along, she can hear muffled grunts of pain that he’s trying to hide. Eventually, he stops.
“Narvin? Have we arrived?”
But then his hand slides from hers and there’s a troubling thud as something hits the ground.
Leela kneels beside him and grabs fistfuls of his robes. “Narvin?” She shakes him a little, but he doesn’t stir. She flattens her palm against his chest and once again feels him breathing.
She knows it’s up to her now.
It seems like it takes hours. Hours of darkness, cold, pain, rough floors, and hard walls. Leela waits for her vision to return, but it doesn’t, so she continues stumbling through the dark, dragging Narvin and bumping into walls. Eventually, just as she’s wondering if she’ll be wandering aimlessly in the dark forever, she smells the difference in the atmosphere, hears the familiar hum of voices close by.
“Help us!” she calls, willing herself to go just a little further. Her body burns like it’s on fire, pain shooting through every muscle.
People come running. She sighs with relief and nearly collapses as Narvin's weight is taken away.
She should be glad that she’s made it, that Narvin is still alive at all. But apparently his head is split open, and by the sound of the raised voices around her, his prospects don’t look good.
And even besides that, she’s still faced with the never-ending darkness.
And she thinks she might be faced with it forever.
Before the Axis...
It's complete chaos.
A thousand thoughts run through Narvin's head. He’s worried about Romana—is she dead? He thinks of Leela, hunting Arkadian in the dark—not that the lack of light matters much to her. And then there’s his place in all of this.
His duty is to his President, Matthias. With a band of zombies barely being contained and the power out, he should stay by the President’s side.
And yet…he’s not quite sure when it happened, but he no longer feels responsible for the President. He feels responsible for Romana. To his chagrin, he even feels the tiniest bit responsible for Leela, too, and he tries to tell himself it’s only because she saved his life once.
But he thinks about Leela alone in the dark with that charlatan Arkadian. As confident as he is in Leela’s abilities, Arkadian has bested them all time and time again, and he knows that not even she is safe.
Matthias is doing nothing but blowing hot air and giving useless orders. If Narvin leaves now, there's no telling what Matthias will do to him; and with the way the President gives and takes titles so freely, Narvin is certain that his job is on the line.
But this isn't the Gallifrey it once was. And with Romana either dead or cut off from all communications, the only thing he can do now is help Leela catch Arkadian.
Narvin leaves wordlessly, though he runs into a table on his way out of the room. Fear constricts his chest as he enters the corridor outside. People are shouting and screaming, rushing by blindly. Narvin presses himself against the wall. He’s walked these halls a thousand times, but they’re menacing in the dark and he doesn't know which way to go. A rising sense of panic makes it more difficult to think.
Is this what Leela feels like?
The thought comes unbidden and makes the world around him dissolve for a moment. He thinks about the times he’s made light of her blindness and suddenly feels ashamed. This terror and uncertainty is what he feels like in one moment of darkness, but for Leela, it’s every waking moment.
“I cannot see, Narvin.” All his memories from immediately after the bomb went off are still hazy, but Narvin remembers that. He remembers seeing her eyes nearly look into his, but not quite. He recalls the heaviness in her voice, the fear and defeat that she was no doubt trying to hide. And still, she singlehandedly took him back to safety.
Narvin straightens up. He owes it to Leela to find her and help her in any way he can.
He orients himself, relying on his memories, and heads towards the lower levels. Though he knows it’s a long shot amid all the hubbub, he calls Leela’s name. There’s no reply, of course there’s not, but a hand grips his arm and a shadow pauses beside him. “I heard her going down towards the Biodata Archive.”
Annos. Narvin tries to thank him, but Annos shifts past him quickly.
Narvin clings to the wall and finds the next doorway, which he’s fairly sure will lead to the Biodata Archive. Somehow, it seems darker here, and he has no hope of seeing a thing. Yet, he hurries his steps as there are no longer any people to push through. It takes a couple of minutes before he hears Arkadian’s voice, and then Leela’s. By this time his vision has adjusted enough to allow him to see Arkadian running into the Archive and Leela not far behind him, her fingers clenched into fists as she waits like a hunter stalking her prey.
"Leela," Narvin says as he reaches her, huffing as he catches his breath.
He smiles but realises she can’t see it. For once, it seems like he’s surprised her; he’s surprised himself, come to think of it. It wasn’t in his best interests to follow her here, and yet here he is.
She walked through darkness for him, once.
It's only fair that he did the same for her.