I know you're all rubbing your eyes in disbelief, BUT YES YOUR EYES DON'T DECEIVE YOU! THIS IS AN UPDATE! *throws confetti*
All you faithful readers (and the new ones that keep popping up out of nowhere!) are in for a treat, because I don't think it will be as long till the next update, seeing as I have some of it done and am back in the groove now!
Zoe turned off the blow-dryer in satisfaction and ran her fingers through her strawberry blonde locks. She had quickly learned to take every opportunity to clean up while travelling with the Doctor, because you never knew when you might be kidnapped by slave traders or thrown into a medieval dungeon for days without any hygienic facilities. That was why, even though she wasn't particularly dirty after their last adventure (taking a Weedlemax that had been stuck in 19th century Australia home), she'd hopped into her en suite shower.
Now she wrapped an extra-big, extra-fluffy towel, kindly provided by the TARDIS, around her chest and went into her adjoining bedroom. She'd just begun picking out clothes when the Doctor burst in.
"Oh good, you're out of the shower. Hurry up, cause…" he trailed off when he realized she was only in her underwear. He stared at her in silence for only a second, mouth agape and eyes blank. Then he shook his head and backed out, gaze averted.
"Come to the Console Room as soon as you're done!" he blurted, closing the door.
Zoe grinned in amusement and listened to his footsteps as he beat a retreat.
She quickly dressed then made her way to the Console Room. When she got there the Doctor didn't even meet her eyes.
"Good! Come on, we've landed" he said, and then rushed out of the TARDIS. Zoe bit her lip to contain a chuckle and followed him. Closing the doors behind her, she looked around and felt her good mood disappear.
Her body began to shake as she took in Van Statten's museum.
No! I can't do this! I'm not ready! I'm not-
"Are you alright?"
She snapped her head around to the Doctor.
"Fine!" Her voice came out high and squeaky. "Absolutely fine!"
He gave her a funny look and crossed his arms. "Is there anything you wanna tell me?"
"No!" she blurted, too fast and too innocently.
The Doctor narrowed his blue eyes. "Reallllly?" He dragged the word out. "Coz it's been a while since you've known what was goin' on. You wouldn't happen to know what this place is or the source of the distress signal, would you?"
Zoe cringed. He wouldn't believe her if she said no.
"Okay. I… I know about this. And I'm telling you, we don't need to be here. So please, let's just leave."
The Doctor stepped closer to her, brow furrowed. "Zoe, there's a distress signal coming from here. I'm not leaving until it's off." His eyes searched hers carefully. "What's got you so scared?"
"Of course," he said, slipping into sarcasm. "Last month we were separated for days and thrown into different prisons that were controlled by the Blathareen. Two months before that we faced laser shooting cats and deranged ex-dictators. So I must be imagining you quaking in your boots just because of a silly little distress signal."
Zoe flushed at his biting tone. "You don't understand!"
"Then enlighten me."
"I can't," she choked out. "Please. Please just trust me and leave! I'm begging you!"
The Doctor looked at her, uncertainty brewing in his eyes. She held her breath in hope.
Her heart fell to somewhere near her knees.
His eyes were hard now. "You can go wait in the TARDIS if you're so terrified, but you do not decide what I get to know. If you won't tell me I'll just find out myself."
With that he turned heel and began to walk away. Zoe well and truly panicked.
"No! You can't!"
"I think you'll find I can," he shot back harshly, still walking.
Her panic built, and like the simple human she was, it made her do something stupid.
"The distress signal is coming from a Dalek!"
She clapped her hands over her mouth to catch the words, but it was too late.
The effect on the Doctor was immediate. He froze, nearly tripping mid-stride. Even 20 feet away with his back turned, she heard his intake of breath.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," she murmured, eyes wide with fear. It certainly didn't help when he whipped around and stalked back.
"No. That's impossible. They're all dead." His expression was a mercurial mix of fear, shock, and denial.
"You- you said that it… fell. Through time," Zoe stuttered out.
"That's not funny!" he growled, grabbing her shoulders and shaking her once, violently.
She broke away angrily. "That's coz I'm not joking! But it's helpless. It's weak and it's being tortured and it can't do anything. If we leave now it will just die without hurting anyone again. So we can go and everything will work out fine."
He looked past her shoulder for a moment and seemed to loom twelve feet high. When he met her eyes again the hair on the back of her neck rose. His eyes were endlessly dark, chips of black ice. She stepped back involuntarily and found herself shaking, a mouse faced with a lion.
"You think I'm just gonna leave now?" he laughed coldly.
A Dalek. His mind could barely wrap around the idea. The one comforting (hardly) thought since the war was that that part of his life was over. After everything he'd been through with that species, it had been a small measure of relief in a storm of madness. Literally, him being the Oncoming Storm and all.
And now that was gone and he was lost, swept up in a torrent of emotions that had made him so different from his people in the first place.
To think that Zoe, his best friend and companion, had hidden this from him only added to the storm. He wanted to yell at her and mourn simultaneously at the betrayal. But he couldn't, not now.
"Come on," he said, and opened the TARDIS door for her. She stepped inside trustingly and turned back to him.
"What are we gonna do?" she asked.
Still standing on the threshold, he looked at her for a moment. Then he closed the door and locked it from the outside.
"Doctor? Doctor! Don't you dare! You let me out right now!"
But he left her pounding on the doors and walked away, aiming his sonic at the corner where he saw a camera and shorting out all the security systems.
He kept going, now using the sonic to trace the signal. He was so absorbed with it that he didn't notice the guard post till it was too late and half-a-dozen guns were aimed at him.
"Doctor!" Zoe cried one more time, knowing he was probably long gone out of hearing range. She hit the inside of the door with her fist before turning around and leaning against it.
"Think, think, think," she chanted to herself. She wasn't staying in the TARDIS, that was for sure. No way was she gonna let the Doctor do this by himself. He'd probably mess it all up anyways. There had to be another way of opening the door.
Think, think, think…
"Oh! The console!"
Zoe thought frantically about the classic episodes where she'd seen them open the doors with a switch on the console. Which one was it?
She ran to the console and stared long and hard at it. Which ones did he always use for driving? Eliminate those. Maybe he didn't even have that switch on there anymore? She couldn't remember him using it…
Zoe put her fist to her mouth to stifle a sob. She had no idea what to do.
"Please!" she begged the TARDIS, "please help me!" But the TARDIS could do nothing. It had little control over things in the console room. Still, Zoe could feel a keening in its hum, a sympathetic tone.
"Well," she murmured. "I guess I'll just have to experiment."
The Doctor cried out as Van Statten scanned him once again, arching against the restraints, only to bang back into the metal behind him when it stopped.
"Impressive," Van Statten purred, looking over the shoulder of the nervous boy running the machine. "Two hearts and what looks like a respitory bypass. I can make a pretty penny out of you."
Zoe hurriedly flicked a switch back to its previous position as the TARDIS made a pained sound.
"Sorry old girl," she said, patting the center column. "I'll find a way to make this up to you. Maybe get you some chocolate. Do you like chocolate? Of course you do, you're female." She chuffed a small laugh and nervously placed her hand on a little knob. "Here goes try #78."
After having spent almost an hour trying to open the doors, saying she was surprised when the doors opened this time would be an understatement. She just stared at them, hardly able to believe it. Then she straightened up and gathered herself.
"This is the hard part," she said softly, and somehow managed to drag her feet over to the doors and outside. Suddenly she wanted to throw up.
Pull yourself together. You can do this. You know you can, so do it. Just do it!
Zoe couldn't contain a whimper. She'd never been more terrified in her life. With a quick prayer she shut the doors and headed the direction the Doctor had, gripping her own sonic tightly enough to turn her knuckles white.