Until she turned around, that is. The dark, cramped interior of the spaceship she had been expecting was nonexistent. It was an enormous, glowing room, with corridors extending in all directions, a huge, curious looking console making funny noises on a raised platform in the center of the room. If you could call it a room; it was more like a whole world.
"B-but," she tried, her mouth suddenly dry because for once, something had truly shocked her. She glanced down at her uncle but he was as good as unconscious, a glazed smile plastered across his face as the drug took over his mind. The Doctor was flitting about the console, almost dancing as things popped and flashed.
"I do apologize, Snow, you can't go outside and check to see that the box is still small since we're already in flight. But here it is, the old thing. It's huge, bigger on the inside, another dimension, a whole world, a big mad box…. yes, yes, yes. Welcome to the good side of the universe." He announced it gallantly, swinging his arms around the orange-y lights.
"How do you get so many people to get used to this?" She breathed, her eyes wide as she soaked it in, not wanting to miss anything.
"Oh, you know. Only the best survive." He winked at her.
"You must get tired of everyone being all 'wow' after all this time."
He frowned and turned back to the controls. "It's been a while," he muttered to himself.
"What's that?" Snow followed him up to the console, blinking at the colorful lights on the machine.
"Nothing. Well, yes, taking you home now. And where would that be? No, no, no wait I'm missing something…." he wheeled around, scanning the room. "Yes! Turner! Turner, my good man, wake up now! We're going back to Earth and all that!" He ran to the old man, still slumped against the door, and grabbed his shoulders, shaking him. When nothing changed, he let out a frustrated yell and ripped three patches off Turner's neck.
"What's wrong, Doctor?" Snow managed to get out, kneeling at his side. Turner did not look well at all. He was shaking, white as a sheet, and sweating through his shirt. His eyes were open but showed no indication that he could see or comprehend anything.
"Ah, well, he's dying," the Doctor murmured, scanning him quickly, more urgently than he had done with Snow.
"What?" Snow almost didn't hear him. There was no need for this, another death to add to the pile of bodies she had seen since the Doctor showed up. It wasn't fair; after all they had gone through to escape with their lives, Turner couldn't die from the drug that defined him. Tears filled her eyes as she stared in horror at the man she almost didn't recognize, weak and convulsive on the floor, unable to see the terrifying, wonderful world around them. "No," she whispered, letting a tear finally fall, "he can't be." There was no protest, no fight in the words, for Snow did not have enough left in her to contest death for another person and win.
"Sh, sh, shut up. We have to get to hospital quickly." He sprinted back to the console and furiously punched in coordinates. "It's Bliss. The drug mutated, killed just about everybody. That's why New Earth is the way it is. It's a miracle he's survived this long with the amount he's been taking." He flicked a switch and cranked a dial and the machine whirred and wheezed, shaking as it landed.
Snow still didn't want to listen. It was too, too much for one day. Her vision blurred as she held her uncle's hand, straining to see the strong man she once knew who had so eagerly accompanied her to New Earth.
"You think I'm missing out on something like that?" Turner chuckled, ruffling Snow's choppy blonde hair. "Hell no! I'm three times your age, I'm allowed to see a new planet in my lifetime. Besides, what's left for me here? The whole family's going. There'll be no one to cook for me at Christmas." The group laughed fondly, and that was that. Snow's father carefully added Turner onto the ticket list.
"We're not going to be adventuring around, now," Maria said sternly, aiming her folded reading glasses in his direction. "We're getting Snow better, then coming home. It's not a vacation." She was tugging at her hair with her other hand, a nervous habit that had been with her ever since Snow was diagnosed.
"Maria my dear, any trip like this is an adventure, medical motives or not. Snow will get better, I'm not at all worried about that. And she can have a vacation too while she's at it." He leaned back in his chair and gave Snow a little wink that only she saw. She gave a small cough in return, giving him a small thankful smile.
When the family meeting had ended and the other adults dispersed, Snow found herself alone with Turner. They had never been extremely close- most of their communication was nonverbal- but he cared a great deal for her and was always by her side, staying the long nights at the hospital when her parents needed a night to themselves. "You don't have to come for me you know," she told him, her voice still hoarse from something or other she was taking. "You have a life here, I know that."
"No I don't," he breathed, sinking into the chair next to her.
"What do you mean? You've got nice work at the office, all those friends you go out with-"
"That's not a life, Snow. That's a living. I've lost my wife, my daughter… So it's you. It's the family. They are my life now, and I'm staying with them. And I'll be damned if I don't enjoy myself up there in the stars." He stared at the floor as he spoke, his face not betraying a flicker of pain but his voice saying it all. It was a sad truth; his wife had died in a car crash fifteen years ago, taking her unborn child with her. Snow had been so young when it had happened, but knew that a wound like that never really heals, it stays with the person forever, sometimes dormant, waiting for the right moment to hurt like hell.
A minute passed as Snow watched his face remain unchanged. "I'm glad you're coming," she finally said, managing a weak but sincere smile. "It'll be dead boring without you, all those serious doctors and nurses telling me things."
He laughed softly. "If they don't let you out of the hospital… I'll have to break you out."
"Don't worry," she said, "I'll have the floor plan memorized in a day."
Another minute of silence passed as the two stared at the same patch of carpet. There was a small wine stain, a memory of some Christmas passed where Turner had gone a bit too enthusiastic with pouring the drinks.
Turner reached over and took Snow's hand for just a second, before releasing it and standing to leave. "Thank you," he whispered, his voice straining to keep from shaking.
The door was open before Snow could help carry him out, as the Doctor had quickly dragged him outside. They were in the middle of the emergency room which, thankfully, was not as busy as it could have been. Doctors and nurses were running about, trying to do their jobs while staring at the strange blue box. Finally, someone ran up to them, eyes wide.
"I'm not even going to ask," the doctor said as he lifted Turner into the nearest station. "What did he take?" He held a light to Turner's eyes, moving it back and forth, checking pulse, reactions… there was little to no response from him.
"Foreign drug from New Earth called Bliss. It's not really a drug, more of a mood. And it's mutated so it's killing him." The Doctor spoke quickly but calmly, hoping that the man would believe him and try to treat him immediately.
The doctor's eyes lit up. "Luckily for you, I had been in contact with some doctors from there, many years ago. I'll do what I can to stabilize him, but I can't say whether he'll survive. I'm sorry but I need you to leave here, take the box thing with you. I don't care how you got in here but I've got patients to treat here." The man turned away and shouted out a few orders to the people nearby. "Go!" He said, rushing off down the hall. "My name's Ryan May if you need to page me."
Before Snow could say or do anything, the Doctor had pushed her into the TARDIS and landed them quickly in the waiting room.
She turned for the door, about to collapse into a chair and wait, but noticed the Doctor wasn't following. In a small voice, she spoke, for she knew what was going to happen next, what needed to happen. "You're not coming." It wasn't a question, and it didn't need to be.
The Doctor let out a long sigh. "I can't. I'm sorry." He shook his head, his eyes looking everywhere but at Snow. He couldn't do it, not again. He couldn't look into her eyes and tell her it was the end. But he couldn't have another companion; he had sworn to never have any again a long time ago.
"Why?" Snow still had her hand on the door, numbly watching the man to who she owed so much.
He thought about telling her. What he had lost, what had become of those he loved, what he himself had become. But what was the point? Pity, compassion, sympathy… it was all worthless to the Doctor. Being alone was something he had become quite good at these days. "You belong here."
That pushed Snow over the edge, and tears broke through the numb shield. "Here? Doctor, I'm in a hospital waiting for my uncle to die. People I love have died, and everyone else that actually matters is stuck on freaking New Earth wondering where the hell I am and waiting for you to come free them. That is not belonging. You made this mess, Doctor. You can't just leave me now." She furiously wiped her cheek, her skin warm from it all.
"And that's exactly why I have to leave you, let your life take its course. Your family will join you in a year or so, and you can live."
"It won't be a proper life. You know that."
"I will not do to you what I have done to so many others!" He yelled, finally meeting her stare. Snow shrank into the door, suddenly quite aware of how much pain he was in. "You stupid humans all beg me to take your lives but I won't do it anymore, I just won't!"
She flinched at the inflection. "So that's how you see us. Just inferior life-forms wandering about, so constricted to one time, one life, one mindset. Such short lives that don't even matter in the grand scheme of things. Now I really can see what you see," she whispered, tears stinging her eyes as she held back a shout. She shook her head at him. "Nevermind then," she hissed, then promptly stepped out of the TARDIS, clicking the door shut behind her with barely a squeak.
The Doctor stared at the closed doors for a long time before he made and movement. Snow was something different, stranger and simpler than anyone he had ever met. And he let her walk away because he was done being selfish and kind. Sighing, he turned away and began the dematerialization process. He needed to continue his search, couldn't afford to lose his momentum and the few leads he had going.
As important he felt the search was, the adventure with Snow had been refreshing, if anything. He hadn't done anything like it in years, relative time; He had been so busy looking that he hadn't met anyone interesting in a long time. However, it had reminded him just how much devastation he was capable of leaving in his week when he meddled with people's lives.
The list of deaths he was responsible for had grown again…
And it was for this reason, the list of the dead, that the Doctor decided he would not abandon Snow and her family. Turner was going to die, that much he knew. No one survived Bliss, something he had seen firsthand many years ago when he visited New Earth in the same state. So no matter how much he needed to leave her alone and stop interfering, he would stay with her, cure her, bring her family if he could.
Snow would need time, of course. The Doctor knew he had hurt her with his words, as he often did. But she would forgive him because she loved the universe too much. And maybe, when it was all over, she could help him find what he was searching for. So he set the TARDIS coordinates to two days in the future, taking the fast route because he could.
In the cold, white, waiting room, Snow did not agree with that idea. She didn't want the Doctor to go, not really, and she didn't think he could actually leave her at a time like this. So she sat in a plastic chair across from the TARDIS doors and waited for him to come out, a sheepish apologetic look on his ridiculous face.
But he didn't. And Snow closed her eyes as she heard the wheezing begin, not wanting to watch him go.
She didn't cry because he left her. She cried because her friends were dead, and her uncle was dying, and her family was left behind on a dangerous planet all because of the Doctor. Because something good had to happen sometime soon, or she would start screaming.
And two days later she did scream as her uncle's heart failed, holding his hand in a tight grip, and feeling so completely alone.