Tyler Wolf was the runt of the litter. She, alone of the village, was unable to shift, not even when the moon rose, full and beckoning, in the night. But even without knowing that, any observer could quickly discern she was different. She kept the peace; she placated; she had even been known to back down when challenged, if she thought the fight unworthy.
The rest of the village couldn't understand her behavior, so they put it down to her being the runt. It was completely uncharacteristic for any member of the bleithed. And though many recognized the value of someone who could mend bridges, there were those who looked down on her for this weakness.
She didn't know, but it made the Doctor love her more.
She pounded on the blue door with one fist, her other hand wrapped tightly around a young boy's wrist as he struggled in vain to escape.
"Let me go!" he moaned pitiably as only the very small can do. Tyler held fast, continuing to pound on the most remarkable door in town, more expensive, with its blue paint, even than the pack leader's.
The impressive door opened abruptly, causing Tyler to almost hit the Doctor in the chest. He caught her wrist, peering down at her with something akin to hope in his stunningly blue eyes.
"Doctor," Tyler breathed, fighting down the unexplained flush that always accompanied her first sight of him.
"Rose," he murmured, searching her eyes, for what, she didn't know.
"Tyler, Doctor," she chided with a grin, ignoring the disappointment that flashed across his face. "Surely, you know my name by now?"
He nodded tersely. "Tyler, then. What brings you here, complete with squalling child in tow?" he asked. His tone was light, but Tyler knew, somehow, it was a ruse.
"I found Olric, here, after he was dared to climb the big tree on the green, despite knowing they're not allowed." This last was aimed accusatorially at the youngster. "And he had a pretty bad fall. He won't admit it, but he landed on his right wrist." She indicated the hand she wasn't grasping which was held protectively against his stomach. "I think he might have hurt it, and I was hoping you'd take a look at him."
The Doctor dropped to his haunches and inspected the wrist as best he could, despite the child's insistence that he was fine.
"I don't want him to look at it," Olric declared petulantly.
Tyler rolled her eyes. "So, you'd rather I tell your mum that you disobeyed her direct orders, then?" she asked acerbically. "The Doctor will have you patched up in moments."
Olric eyed the Doctor warily, before holding out his arm with all the dignity of the young. "Conchobhar, you may tend to my wound."
The Doctor suppressed a smirk, rising to his feet. "Let me get a few supplies. We'll have him fixed in a mo'." He retreated behind the blue door.
The moment he was gone, Olric renewed his protestations. "Why him, Tyler?" he hissed softly. "He's been here but two moons, but you're treating him like he's the only person you trust. Is it because he doesn't shift, either?"
"Olric," Tyler murmured gently. "I've known you since you were no more than a pup. I would never put you in danger. Believe me, the Doctor can be trusted."
Olric's brow furrowed. "Why do you call him that? Everyone else calls him Conchobhar.
Tyler got a far-away expression on her face as she tried to pin a knowledge that went bone deep to a specific memory. While the rest of the bleithed referred to him by the epithet "wolf lover", Tyler had called him by a different title from the day he arrived at the village. Actually, Tyler wasn't sure why everyone else called him Conchobhar, either. "Because…that's who he is."
The Doctor reappeared a moment later, blinking rapidly and avoiding Tyler's curious gaze. He gave Olric a vile-looking concoction and instructed the boy to drink it all. With the look of distaste not yet passed from the boy's face, the Doctor had firmly splinted Olric's arm, his wrist immobile.
"Now," the Doctor said sternly. "Don't use this arm for a day, and no climbing trees for a week."
"A week." Tyler repeated, in a tone that brooked no argument. She looked up at the Doctor with a small smile. "Thank you. I know he's a pain to deal with."
"He's hardly the worst one you've brought me, Rose," the Doctor said, with a fond smile, willing her to remember Adam, but unsurprised when she merely responded with:
"Tyler, Doctor. I'm not this Rose you speak of." Her voice was gentle. She never wished to cause him pain.
"Oh, but you are," he assured her, his voice nearly breaking.
Tyler just shook her head. "Good day, Doctor."
"Good day, Rose."
With a final backwards glance, Tyler lead Olric, who was already much more exuberant since the pain in his wrist had nearly vanished, away. The blue door clicked closed behind them.
The Doctor watched until she was out of sight, silently begging her to turn around, to come back to him, to remember. He closed the door when she was gone, again, and slumped against it. He stood for a moment with his head resting against the door, before whirling, without warning, to grab his medical pack and throw it angrily at the console.
"I hope you know this is your fault!" he yelled at the empty room. The hum of the room grew harsher, defensive. "It is! If you 'adn'ta let her watch that drivel about Julius Caesar, we never would've come here!"
The lights flickered, and the TARDIS essentially turned her back on him, ignoring his bout of childishness. The Doctor knew he wasn't being fair, and that just made him angrier.
He took a breath and tried to steady his nerves. Rose knew who he was; he'd heard her. Despite what'd been done to her, she knew him. He grasped desperately to this hope with both hands and held fast.
Three months earlier, Rose had picked up a nasty virus on Ferroulk IV, something that had to pass through her system naturally with limited help on his side, not something he could fix by stimulating the repair, and providing an abundance of the needed nutrients as he had with Olric's fractured ulna. While she recovered, the TARDIS had done her best to keep Rose from going stir crazy. And thus, he found Rose late one night, curled up with an empty bowl of soup and plush duvet watching Shakespeare's Julius Caesar on the couch in the Library.
"You should be asleep," he chided gently, taking the bowl from her hands and laying it on the table next to the couch. He picked up her feet and sat down, letting her legs drape across his lap.
"Et tu, Doctor?" she asked with a grin, the one that made him want to capture her tongue and learn how it felt against his own.
"He didn't really say that, you know," the Doctor said, ripping his eyes away from the tantalizing flash of pink. "He was an educated Roman, and educated Romans spoke Greek. According to Plutarch, his last words were "Kai su, teknon?""
"And what's that when it's at home?"
"'And you, my son?' Historians have wondered for eons whether or not Caesar was actually Brutus' da'. He was known to carry on an on-again, off-again affair with Brutus' mum."
"Historians?" she prodded, her tongue peeking back out to tempt him. "You mean you, the great and powerful Doctor, haven't checked?"
"Been busy, me. If I were to visit every person who conquered France, I'd never have a moment's rest."
"Yeah, but he's Julius Caesar, he did more than that."
"Tell you what, if you promise to rest, when you're feeling better, we'll go visit him."
"I've done nothing but rest for the last 5 days," Rose protested. "I can't sleep anymore."
The Doctor smiled indulgently, lifting her feet from his lap and placing them on the ground. "C'mon, then," he ordered her, holding out his hand. "Only one cure for a disrupted sleep pattern." When Rose took his hand, interlacing their fingers as they had so often before, the Doctor stood and pulled Rose to her feet. He led her to the kitchen and set her down in her customary seat, pulling out her favorite mug. Rose watched him intently while he worked. He danced around the kitchen, fishing ingredients out of various cupboards while Rose fiddled with the saltshaker. He heard it thud on the table when he bent over to retrieve the pan. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw Rose's face was flushed and she averted her gaze while she straightened the salt.
It was the matter of only a few minutes before he set a steaming mug down in front of her. An indulgent smile slowly spread across her face.
"Cocoa?" she asked amusedly. "Doesn't chocolate have caffeine in it?"
"Trust me," he replied with a cheeky wink.
Rose shrugged and took a sip, moaning in appreciation as the warm liquid spread over her tongue. The Doctor forced himself to look away from the expression of bliss on her face even as his brain supplied a dozen different ways he could put that look on her face again. His ears burned, and he stood abruptly.
"Let's get you settled in bed, then," he told her, offering his hand. As always, she took it without thinking, and as always, the warmth of her hand in his chased away the cold from his heart.
After she was sitting in bed, her duvet draped over her lap and her cocoa on the nightstand next to her, the Doctor turned to leave.
"Don't go," she urged, her hand snagging the cuff of his leather jacket. "I'm not tired, yet."
"You will be, soon enough," he told her gently.
"But I'm not yet," she said, surely unaware of how adorable she was when belligerent. "Stay with me?"
At her small pout, the Doctor heaved a sigh, knowing he was defeated. Rose patted the bed next to her invitingly. Steeling himself against temptation, the Doctor divested himself of jacket and boots, and then sat down next to her above the duvet, his legs straight out in front of him, not touching her. Rose took a sip of her cocoa and promptly curled into his side, burrowing under his arm, her knee brushing his thigh. The Doctor started reciting statistics from Jackie Robinson's first major league game.
"Tell me about Julius Caesar, about where we're going to meet him," she ordered sweetly, her eyes already starting to drift closed as she nuzzled her head against his jumper.
With a contented smile, to Doctor did as he was bid.
The Doctor took a deep breath and glanced at the console penitently. "Sorry, Old Girl." The lights brightened. "I'm just worried." A claxon sounded in the depths of the ship. "Not worried enough? Well, aren't we cryptic. Why are you so concerned, anyway? You've never gotten this invested in a human." The console sparked. "What do you mean 'what she will become?' She doesn't change like the others, why should she start now?" More sparks "Fine. Don't tell me. I've got work to do." Frustrated and heartsick, the Doctor stalked back towards the medbay, hoping desperately he could ascertain the source of whatever was causing his Rose to forget both him and herself. Once she was safe, he could work out what was afflicting the rest of this village.
Tyler led young Olric back to his house, the largest house in the village. At least on the outside, a nagging voice whispered from a dark corner of her mind, but Tyler brushed it aside. As she led the young boy in, a middle aged woman, tall and broad-shouldered, with the weight of softened strength around her middle but a spine still as straight as steel stood from where she had been bent over the hearth. She brushed a few blonde strands back from where they had fallen into her eyes. When her eyes fell upon her son, they snapped with anger.
"Olric, what did you do to yourself? I have told you not to climb that tree at least a hundred times," she exclaimed in a booming voice. "Well, if you're not up to going outside, you will help me in here. Go and fetch a clean rag. Once the water is warm, you'll have dishes to clean."
Olric turned to glare up at Tyler accusatorially. "You said you wouldn't tell!" he protested.
Tyler tamped down on a grin. "I never said she wouldn't guess. Now, you'd best do as you're told before she gets really angry and decides you need a nip." Olric stalked off into the back room, growling under his breath. Tyler turned back to the woman whose worry was plain to see now that her son had been chastised. "Faoiltiama, your son will be fine. The Doctor has treated his wound, and says that if he keeps his arm still for a day, he will be fully healed in a week." She laid her hand comfortingly on the woman's shoulder. "Don't worry. Olric will be back to causing mischief very soon."
Faoiltiama smiled down at Tyler warmly. "Thank you, Tyler. I don't know what we would have done if you hadn't been here. You have been a great help since my husband took over at the last pack leader's death. May I ask yet another favor? Amou is in the meadow gathering spring onions. Could you remind her that the men will be back from their hunt soon, and I'll need her help butchering? I'd go myself, but if I take my eye off Olric for more than a moment, he'll probably be jumping off the roof to see if wolves can fly."
Tyler laughed cheerfully and headed out in search of the pack leader's daughter.
When Tyler found Amou, she was not gathering spring onions. There was a basket full of them, lying neglected next to the girl with hair the color of the river sand in the sun, her eyes closed, fingers scratching idly in the dirt. Tyler looked down at the Amou, who was several years her junior, and her gaze was arrested by the ground, where the image of a man on fire had been etched by a finger.
"Amou?" Tyler asked softly, almost afraid of rousing her. The pack leader's daughter jumped, her eyes snapping open. She looked down at her hands and spied the image of the burning man.
"Not again," she wailed.
"I keep having these dreams of this. This burning man of woven reeds. It's started coming to me even in the day, and I can't stop it. I don't know what it is, but it's coming for us. It's coming for all of us," she told Rose, panic making her breath come short.
"Why is it coming?"
"I don't know, but it's been plaguing me for nearly three moons, now, and it's getting stronger. Fur sprouted on the girl's arm, and her nails sharpened into claws.
"Amou, calm down," Tyler placated, rubbing soothing circles on the girl's back. "Shifting now won't help. We will need intellect of the man to work this out, not the strength of the wolf."
Amou took several gasping breaths, and the fur receded. A haze of exhaustion took over her eyes for a few moments. Tyler watched in concern; the shift seemed to be taking more and more out of the bleithed, but they didn't notice.
We'll work this out, Amou. Your father returns from the hunt soon. He'll know what to do. Or the Doctor will," Tyler reassured her earnestly. Amou nodded absently. "C'mon. Your mother awaits your return. She requires your help with the butchering, and she'll be wanting those onions.
Wordlessly, the girl gathered her basket and stood. Tyler returned to the village, fully intending to go straight to the Doctor with this new predicament as soon as they returned.
That was when they stumbled upon the body.