What Goes Around
By Nix Nada
Kim Bulmer lay back on her bed and idly watched dust motes dancing in a shaft of sunlight. She smiled at the warmth of the sun, at the soft, comfortable bed beneath her as she lifted an arm lazily and sent the glinting specks of dust swirling.
As she lay there, her eyes starting to close, she thought she heard the sound of an aeroplane, far in the distance. The sound grew louder, impossibly so, until it filled the room, then it died off, before surging noisily once more, a grinding, undulating roar.
She gave a gasp of delight as she realised that she recognised the sound.
She sat up quickly, just in time to see a tall blue box appear in the corner of her room, a light on top flashing on and off. Kim leapt to her feet.
One of the slim doors on the front of the box opened and a tall man with a wide-brimmed felt hat jammed over a mess of brown curls stepped out. Kim rushed to hug him so fast that he was nearly propelled back inside.
"Doctor!" she cried, into his lapel. "I thought I'd never see you again!"
She stepped back, grabbed his long scarf and pulled him into the room.
"What do you think?" she said, gesturing around her. "My new room, I mean. Quite a change from before, right? I've been wanting to show you for months, but I thought I'd never see you again. I just said that, didn't I? Oh, I'm sorry, I'm babbling. It's just such a surprise."
She fell silent, looking up at the Doctor with bright, wide eyes.
The Doctor's face, which had been set into a look of open-mouthed bafflement since he arrived, drew back into an amiable grin.
"It's a lovely room," he said, looking around and nodding encouragingly. "Really nice. Do I know you?"
Kim's smile wavered slightly as she studied the Doctor's face for signs that he was joking.
"Do you - ?" she said. "Doctor, it's me. It's Kim."
"How do you do, Kim?" replied the Doctor, straightening his scarf. "I'm the – well, you know who I am, evidently. I'm pleased to meet you."
She stared at him. "You really don't recognise me at all, do you?"
The Doctor spread his arms in an apologetic shrug and shook his head. "Well, when you've lived as long as I have, it sometimes gets hard to keep track. Memory is the first thing to go, you know. I was just saying the very same thing to what's his name; you know, the chap with the hair..."
Kim looked crushed. "But it was just six months ago," she said, her voice turning meek and quiet. "You showed up in my room in your box – your TARDIS. You helped me."
"Did I?" asked the Doctor. "Well, that certainly sounds like me."
"I think you thought you owed me money or something," she went on. "The state I was in, I was quite willing to take advantage, I'm sorry to say. Doctor, you must remember," she implored. "You were here for days. You helped me get off the… off the stuff, you know. You sorted everything out. Everything in my life that seemed impossible to fix, you made it all right. All of this," she gestured around the room, "is because of you. You have to remember."
The Doctor opened his mouth to speak when there was a knock at the door.
Kim looked torn for a moment, unsure if she should answer it.
"Look, stay here," she said at last. "Please, just don't go. I'll be right back."
The Doctor nodded and turned to the bedroom window as Kim left the room. It looked to him like twentieth century Earth outside. The area, nice as it was, looked unfamiliar. Yet the young woman seemed to know him well. Perhaps…
There was a crash from the hallway and a shaven-headed man in a short dark jacket burst into the bedroom, dragging Kim with him, one hand twisted painfully through her hair, the other jamming a small pistol against her throat.
"Nice little place," the man was saying into her ear, in a mock-friendly tone. "Took me a while to find you." His voice turned cold. "No-one walks out on me. You owe me."
"Gary, no," said Kim through gritted teeth.
The Doctor stepped forward, bold yet cautious, his hands raised. "Now," he said, "I'm sure we can talk about this."
Gary looked up at him, startled that there was someone else present in the room. However, his look of surprise was soon replaced by one of recognition, and he seemed to regain a little of his composure.
"Oh, it's your bug-eyed friend with the spinning watch again, is it?" he said, his voice wavering slightly as he spoke. He pulled sharply on Kim's hair, making her cry out. "You'll not trick me so easily this time." He moved his aim from Kim to the Doctor and sighted along the stubby barrel. His hand shook almost imperceptibly as he took aim.
"Is this your first time killing somebody?" asked the Doctor, softly, his voice low. "It's not easy, is it? Come on, give me the gun. No-one needs to get hurt."
"Shut up!" yelled Gary, sounding panicked, his finger tightening on the trigger. "I'll do it!"
Suddenly, Kim pulled free of Gary's grasp and leapt in front of the Doctor.
"No!" the Doctor cried, helplessly.
There was a loud bang and Kim slammed into the Doctor's shoulder. He stepped backwards, catching her weight, and gently lowered her to the ground. Pulling back, he saw a circle of dark wet blood blossoming quickly across her shirt. She gave a feeble cough. A line of blood escaped from her mouth and down into her hair.
Gary pointed the gun down then, towards the Doctor's head. "Now it's your turn," he said, his voice so strained it was almost a whisper.
"I don't think so," replied the Doctor, quietly, as he looked down at Kim's face, at the way in which her eyelids fluttered, at the vivid line of red across cheek.
"Shooting us both would be an evil act," he went on, his tone level, his eyes not leaving Kim's as she clung to life, struggling to look back him, "and you're not really an evil man, are you, Gary? I know. I've seen evil. I've seen armies of cold, unfeeling monsters spread out across the universe, killing with the same dispassion as a virus. I've seen genocide committed on countless worlds for the sake of a few short years of power. I've seen men mutilate and mutate their own people in the name of science."
The gun trembled more now and all of the colour had drained from Gary's face.
"No," said the Doctor, taking Kim's hand in his own, "you're not in that league. You're not evil. You're just a pathetic, hateful little boy with a gun."
The Doctor looked up then, and fixed Gary with a glare of cold fury. "Now get out!"
Gary dropped the gun and fled.
The Doctor turned his attention back to Kim, the frost in his eyes instantly replaced by grief. She took her hand from his and gripped his scarf, her breathing shallow and ragged.
"Why?" whispered the Doctor, his face tortured. "We would have worked something out. This didn't have to happen."
"I… owe you everything," she replied. "I couldn't… let him… hurt you."
The young girl's chest fell for the last time and she was gone.
The Doctor knelt on the floor for a long time, cradling Kim's dead body in his lap. He considered going after the man, but this was not his sort of battle. There were no monsters here, other than the mundane, human variety, and those were too numerous for even him to fight. He felt utterly craven, but how could he fight the millions of petty evils that have infested humanity for thousands of years?
Instead, he lifted Kim's body gently and placed her on her bed, dialled the emergency services from a phone in the hallway, then stepped back into his TARDIS.
Slowly, he disappeared.
Kim Bulmer lay back on her bed, her head limp, her eyelids fluttering as if straining to remain open. She moved her hand to scratch at a small scab on her other arm. It bled, but felt no better.
She felt the rush then, coming up, impossibly fast, seeming to fill her whole being, then dying off, before surging once more through her veins. She was dimly aware that the sensation, coincidentally, was accompanied by a sound – a grinding, undulating roar.
She lifted her head a fraction of an inch to see a tall blue box standing in the corner of the room, a light on top flashing on and off. One of the slim doors on the front of the box opened and a tall man with a wide-brimmed felt hat jammed over a mess of brown curls stepped out.
The man removed his hat and held it against his chest. His eyes looked torn with sorrow.
Kim pushed her hair out of her face with cold fingers. "Who the hell are you?" she mumbled.
"I'm the Doctor," the man said. "I'm here to pay a very large debt."