It was the time of the morning that was really still the middle of the night. The planet was called Rascalli, and they had been unlucky enough to come across the scene of a murder - just before the authorities arrived and deemed them responsible.
The moon was visible through the window of their cell. Unfortunately, moonlight wasn't the only thing that could get in. The cold night air whistled through the bars and made both occupants of the cell shiver from where they were sitting on the stone floor that their ankles were shackled to.
"Oh, I have missed this," Aliya said with sarcasm and an easy half laugh. "Freezing in a jail cell. Brilliant. I bet you show all your girls this particular wonder of the universe."
"You got me," He replied, "Frequent flyer's privilege. Inevitably ending up in jail."
"And you wonder why they don't stick around." There was a brief silence, and she grimaced and wondered if perhaps it had been the wrong thing to say. But then he laughed, hiding his sadness if he felt any.
"Believe me when I say that I am just as confused as you are as to why that is," She replied. It was far from true, but sounded good. Perhaps his delay in answering was his way of processing the overwhelming amount of bullshit her statement had contained.
When he did speak, his voice was quiet and curious. "Why are you always so quick to act like you don't want to be here?"
Because it makes me feel like this is under my control, she thought hopelessly, Like you're optional.
Of course, she would never tell him that, and instead chose not to answer. As a result, they fell into a silence lasting up to half a minute.
Eventually the Doctor spoke again. "You know, I'd forgotten how much more bearable this imprisonment business is when I have company."
Aliya glanced at him and was torn between wanting to laugh again and wanting to shake her head and tut. "The fact that it happens to you often enough to be able to say that is concerning."
"As if you aren't getting used to it," He said, "We got this loads of times before. And look at us now - barely back at it for a month and we're already here." His head turned to face her. In the dim shadows, his angular features were augmented, and Aliya found herself staring just a moment longer than she should have. In the end she just shrugged and gave him a small smile.
"I'd rather be in jail with you than walking free with anyone else," She admitted truthfully. That made him look at her with interested, wide eyes.
"Really?" When she nodded, he leant his head back again the brick wall and chuckled almost to himself. "You know, that might be one of the nicest things anyone's ever said to me. Certainly the nicest thing you've said to me in a while."
"And? I'm not obligated to be nice to you. Quite the opposite."
Another pause, this time followed by a long exhale of breath. "You're still...angry at me, aren't you?"
She didn't reply. Not immediately. She just sighed, and then said, "Yes. Maybe. I - I don't know. I just keep expecting this to be false somehow. A dream. A trick. That this is all in my head or that any second you're going to dump me back on Earth and laugh in my face."
He blinked, and his face softened. "You really think that I would do that?"
"It's not exactly the most unfounded fear," Aliya snapped. Her arms wound around her torso as she frowned. "A pretty apology and a month of adventures can't just erase what happened. Soften it, yes. Maybe even disprove it. But it still happened and it will always have happened."
"Believe me, I am aware," the Doctor said, rather darkly. "Being told that you're going to die alone and cold with no one left to care about you...not the sort of thing one easily forgets."
She fell silent and felt warmth flood her cheeks. Not the nice kind of warmth brought on by embarrassment or affection, but the unwelcome warmth of guilt and shame. "I'm sorry. You know that I didn't mean it."
"Neither of us did. It's not as if you're worth 'so much' less than any of my other companions. And...and I should never have said what I did about River. That you waited for her to die so that you could...you know."
"Good," Aliya said firmly, "Because I think that was the worst thing out of all of it for me. It demeaned my relationship with you, and both of our relationships with her. River Song isn't someone that is suddenly just 'out of the picture'." She paused. "I know that I think about her all the time. I imagine you have it even worse."
He just nodded. "She and I used to end up in prisons a lot, even more than usual. Not including her cell at Stormcage."
"And what did you two do to pass the time?"
His silence was so pointed that she glanced at him, only to see that his cheeks had gone pink. His unspoken answer was clear as day, and within a second, her cheeks flushed too.
It was some time before he spoke again.
"It's nice just talking. Especially when we need to talk about-"
"So many things," She said softly. "But let's not talk about the fight anymore. We forgave. While forgetting isn't really an option, constantly bringing it up again won't help. What we said...is best left."
What she didn't say but thought he probably knew, was that talking about the fight would make it too easy for any of the topics to come up and spark a new fight altogether. Because despite what they said, both sides had said things that were true, things they should never have said under any circumstances. And those harsh truths were better to just be laid to rest. Blanketed behind the vague 'I didn't mean it' and 'I'm sorry'.
"I like the sound of that." His hand reached across the gap between them to take hers from where it sat on her knee. Her gaze followed before deviating to rest on his face. He gave her hand a squeeze. "Really though, Aliya. I like just sitting here and talking. I'd rather be in jail with you than in jail with anyone else. Maybe even River."
She laughed, half with disbelief. "I'm sure. Just sounds like more pretty words. I appreciate the effort, but River was your wife, and I haven't forgotten Rule Number One. That sounded a lot like a prime example. A nice example, an enjoyable example, but an example nonetheless."
"I might not be lying. I might have gotten to the point where your friendship takes precedent."
She just snorted and gently took her hand out of his to put it between her knees. "Unlikely."
The cell in the underwater city was comfortable. At least compared to some of the others that the Doctor had encountered. A nice and mild temperature, walls not made of hard stone, small benches made of a kind of curved plastic that was rather comfy...not much to complain about.
Except for the fact that every minute they were in there was another minute that he couldn't be helping with the impending civil war and potential unknown danger lying outside the city. His mind raced through the endless possibilities that could result in a successful escape, but none of them were sounding particularly good. They'd really gone and done it this time.
That was when movement right next to him snapped him out of his thoughts and brought him back to the cell. Aliya, who had just sat down close enough that their shoulders brushed, offered him a smile.
"What's going through that head of yours?" She asked, her eyes light and playful despite their situation.
He shrugged and smiled easily back at her. "Escape plans unlikely to work, mostly." The second that the last word was out of his mouth, an earthquake shook them. Both of them were so accustomed to it by that point that their only reaction was to flick their eyes to the ceiling for a moment to ensure it wasn't about to fall.
"Fifth earthquake since we were put in. And it's only been 3 hours, 18 minutes and 24 seconds," Aliya noted, understandably not looking happy about it.
"Whatever's happening, it's speeding up. Like contractions, only with earthquakes."
She shot him a confused look. "What are contractions?"
He laughed. "Human thing," He passively gestured in a way that wasn't massively helpful, "To do with babies. Possibly not the best topic for me to explain right now." He frowned. "Unless you want to discuss the human reproductive cycle, in which case I can explain."
"No, that's fine," She said wryly, almost laughing herself. "Definitely not a topic of interest or necessity."
"No, it wouldn't be," He agreed, "I only know so much because I lived with so many of them. Not many reproducing ones, but still. You...pick things up."
She chuckled, apparently enjoying the thought of him having to learn the fundamentals of primitive alien reproduction from talkative companions and trips to Earth that had, rather oddly, gone astray.
"That's quite enough said about that, I think," She said, with a tiny smirk and a shake of her head. "Did any of those escape plans of yours have any integrity whatsoever?"
"On a scale of one to ten..." He made a face. "No."
"No on the scale of one to ten?" She asked, lifting her eyebrow before grinning. "Wow, we really are screwed."
"You know, I don't know why it has to be my job!" He told her. "You're clever, you come up with a plan."
She stared. "Do you think that I'm not trying to?" Her hand ran through her hair, giving away that she was nervous. "It's not my best area to begin with, and like you said, no. Just...nothing that has any chance of working. The cell is solid and the guards don't even talk to us."
"We could try the one where one of us pretends to be ill and then we overpower the guard, but I'm not so sure that it will work now that I'm no longer in my third body."
"Right," She said, nodding, "Dashing hero and expert of Venusian martial arts, that would have been helpful. Neither of us are much good at hand to hand combat. Or any kind of combat for that matter."
"Actually, I'm not bad with a sword," The Doctor said to her, making her blink and frown with disbelief.
"Yeah, who do you think taught Julie D'Aubigny how to fight? River and I did, years back."
"Who was Julie D'Aubigny?"
"17th century bisexual swordswoman who was also an opera singer. Made for very interesting company. Until..."
"She took a bit too much of a liking to River, so we left her to it before she could try anything. For some reason, the fact that River was married didn't deter her very much."
When Aliya laughed that time, it was the loud and hearty laugh that he particularly enjoyed.
"It makes sense," She said, grinning from ear to ear, "River is actually the kind of person who would attract the affections of a bisexual swordswoman and opera singer. Because she was beautiful, glamorous, and dangerous."
"You don't have to tell me," He said, giving her a crooked smile, and she nodded.
Again, they fell into silence, but such was the danger of talking about River Song. Sometimes it made them nostalgic, and other times it made them sad. Either way, they had found that it was best to keep mentions of her short, so as not to dwell on the loss that they still both keenly felt.
Activity at the door of their cell made their heads snap to the left to look there. A loud thump could be heard before the door opened and a short woman with red hair walked in.
"Come on, then," She said, and the Doctor stared, while Aliya just blinked and gaped as the woman lifted her head so that they could see her face.
"Ardi?!" They asked in unison, disbelieving.
Her eyes sparkled as she grinned at them, "Fancy a prison break?"
The Doctor jumped to his feet and laughed with glee. "Oh, I knew you were good, but you are brilliant. Totally brilliant. If you ever want to travel the universe, let me know."
Ardi gave him an uncomprehending look at that, and shook her head. "We don't have time to chat. We've got about five minutes before the guards could start to wake up." They followed her out into the corridor and walked over the unconscious bodies of the aforementioned guards.
"What did you do to them?"
"Drugged food. Far too easy, actually. That's the thing - Aquian children are tiny enough to get anywhere."
"Everyone does what they can when times call for it."
"But you've got hair," Aliya said suddenly, eyeing it, "Red hair, with blue skin, interesting combination."
"It's a wig we managed to get hold of. Even with the guard cap on, baldness is a bit of a giveaway that I'm not human, not even including the blue skin. I just had to keep my head down."
"And the height? You're taller."
"Very high heels underneath." At Ardi's words, he saw Aliya's eyes flick incredulously down to Ardi's feet, no doubt wondering how someone could walk in shoes like the ones she described.
"Prison break though, bit risky," The Doctor commented, "Didn't think you valued us that much."
"You're clever, very clever, and you're on our side," Ardi said, "That's enough to make you necessary. In three and a half hours, the situation has deteriorated at an incredible rate."
"More earthquakes, worse every time."
Ardi grimaced as they came to a fire exit door and slipped out. "That's only the half of it."
"What else has happened?" Aliya asked.
"We tried to take control of the pods to destroy them, but we only got through a couple before they beat us back. We're virtually in a civil war, though luckily there are almost no weapons in the city so there have been very few people actually harmed so far. Unfortunately, those who did have weapons were the human security guards, so we've been at the disadvantage a little."
"It would all make sense without the earthquakes," Aliya speculated, frowning as the three of them walked through the shadowy side streets in the direction of the Aquian side of the city. "I mean, humans disrespecting another culture for the sake of greed, that's unfortunately one of the most understandable situations to exist. But the removal of the gold being dangerous? It works as a story to ward off thieves, but then there's the earthquakes. How could they be linked?"
The Doctor nodded, agreeing with her points completely. "If only we could have examined the Trove more when we were there."
"Sorry, but there's no chance of getting back there, the humans are in control over the pods. The best we were able to do was get a hold of a few pieces of gold," Ardi told him.
He considered that. "You know, it might not be a stupid idea to try and analyse the gold. After all, that's what this is all about."
"Considering that we're clueless, nothing is a stupid idea right now," Aliya pointed out.
"You really think that there could be something unusual about it?" Ardi asked.
The Doctor shrugged. It wasn't as if he knew what he was doing. He never did. "It's the only potential lead we have on the earthquakes. The politics don't matter if the city is in danger."
"Okay, don't take this the wrong way, Ardi, but you're a street performer," Aliya said slowly, frowning, "Why is it that all of a sudden you're highly informed and involved in all of this?"
"Because without the information I gave them, they wouldn't know anything," Ardi said, grinning widely, "And it turns out I've got a knack for all this, so suddenly I'm rather important. I suppose I have you two to thank for that."
An hour later, they were in the lab of an Aquian chemist, who was apparently rather esteemed for being just that. The man, called Quinto, was a genius, and the Doctor found his easy laughter and youthful eyes in a less youthful face to be ideal for the sort of company he wanted.
The two of them were in the middle of analysing small specks of the gold, while Ardi, Aliya and several other Aquians sat off to the side and waited.
"So, are you his assistant, or his girlfriend?" He heard Ardi ask Aliya.
"Neither!" The blonde retorted, sounding almost offended. "I'm definitely not his bloody girlfriend."
"Then what are you?"
"Well, I suppose I do assist him, but I'm not his assistant. I'm his companion. We travel together."
"I see. And naturally, you're not his assistant, or you'd be helping him right now."
"I help when I can," Aliya said, still not sounding happy, "But this isn't one of those times. I'm useless at this sort of stuff."
"Being good at chemistry is hardly a prerequisite to being my companion," The Doctor said loud enough for her to hear.
"I know. It's rather obvious, looking at some of your previous ones."
A reply had only half formed in his mind when the work he was doing suddenly took precedent again as he noticed something rather incredible indeed.
"Aha!" He exclaimed. "There it is. Faint, but there. Life signs."
Aliya was up and at his side in an instant. "Are you trying to tell me that the gold is alive?"
"Possibly. But it depends on your definition of alive. As far as I can tell, it's a bit like moss. Not sentient. And dead, or at least this little bit is."
Her expression was almost comical, it was so baffled. "Religious sites containing moss-like gold, which causes earthquakes when removed? This is ridiculous."
"Ridiculous is a strong word. I've been in fair more ridiculous situations than this, this is just odd and a bit confusing, not ridiculous. But it'll make sense eventually," He told her.
"Eventually being before or after the earthquakes cause enough damage in the city that people start getting hurt?" She retorted, making him frown.
But before he could answer, the most powerful earthquake yet by far shook them, and they all fought to remain standing, only to fail. From the floor, they could hear yells outside, then several screams.
"They can't be screaming over the earthquake," Aliya murmured from a few feet away. The Doctor stood, rubbing his head before offering her a hand up. New screams penetrated the walls of the lab. They exchanged a look before both running out the door of the lab and onto the street. A dozen Aquians were nearby, most of them with their heads tilted up to look far above them.
"What are you lot all-" The Doctor trailed off as he too brought his eyes upward. "Oh."
"Oh shit," Aliya breathed, doing the same.
A colossal dark shadow was being cast over the dome. It was slowly moving around the outside of the dome to their left, and looked to be at least the length and width of a football field. Edges of the shadow hinted at limbs coming off the main shape, which then hinted at it being some form of creature.
"What the hell is that and where did it come from?" His friend asked. Her eyes were wide, and although fear and shock were certainly dominant in them, he couldn't help but notice the smallest spark of awe as well. The shadow began to move upward, as if to swim over the dome and leave them all behind.
"No idea," He said, unable to keep a giddy grin off of his face, "But I love new things."
"Yeah, new things, great," She said mildly, her voice almost squeaking, "Unless the new thing decides that it doesn't like us."
About two seconds later, a thunderous crash from above rang her words home. More yelling and screaming could be heard in the distance. A cracking noise followed, and they watched in horror as a thin but definite line travelled down the glass from the top of the dome. It stopped before it got halfway down, but that was hardly reassuring.
"Did it just-"
"Hit the top of the dome?" The Doctor asked. He gulped. "I think so."
"By the Other," Aliya swore, "This got just a hundred times worse."
From behind them, Ardi's voice made them spin around, only to see that she was speaking into a mobile communicator.
"What just happened?" She asked frantically.
"I think - I think it's some kind of creature," The person on the other end replied, loud enough for the others to hear. "It collided with the top of the dome. There's only the one crack so far, but it's big. Hold on, Ardi, I've got another unit trying to make contact."
They waited patiently around Ardi until the voice returned.
"That was Trelin from maintenance. They've got some bad damage up there, and if they can't fix the air filter then we're going to have problems. As in, not being able to breathe sort of problems."
"Who's available to help?"
"Ardi, practically no one can get anything done because everyone's still against each other. And Trelin's the only Aquian qualified."
"Are you trying to tell me that none of the humans up there are concerned about also suffocating to death?"
"Their superiors have ordered all non essential humans to take to the streets to help contain our lot. Trelin was the only one on staff when it happened - usually it just needs a supervisor, it's an automated system."
"But now it's essential!" Ardi said, looking both confused and outraged.
"They can't get up, the stairway is damaged and none of them want to risk it."
"Oh for sanity's sake," Aliya said, "I'll come and help. I don't care about some stupid stairway, I'm not about to let myself and tens of thousands of others die because of lack of help. Where is maintenance?"
"The top of the dome," Ardi said, grimacing, "That's why they're damaged."
Aliya sighed, but her eyes conveyed slight dismay. "Excellent," She murmured.
"Excuse me, who is that? Who's going to help Trelin?"
"The female offworlder," Ardi told him, "I'll send her with a guide to get her to the base of the stairs up to maintenance." She looked up at Aliya. "From there, you're on your own."
"What's wrong with the stairs, exactly?" The blonde asked her.
"They've partially collapsed. It will be a pain of a climb, and there's a chance of collapse at any point."
"Aliya, this is not a good idea," The Doctor said. As if he was going to let her climb through a dodgy staircase up to the most damaged part of the city.
She just set her lips in a firm line, apparently having expected his protest. "Then what's your alternative? Someone has to go and help."
He hated it when she was right. "Fine. But the moment you've done what you can, you get back down here, unless you don't think the stairs are worth risking."
Thankfully, she nodded at that. "You'll be busy enough down here. You've got the tricky job, you've got to work out why this is all happening. I'm just fixing machines." She grinned, clearly trying to make them both feel less worried.
"Doctor, I can get you a whole piece of gold to examine, if you wish," One of the Aquians said, and he turned around and clapped his hands together.
"Good, sounds like a plan...though why do you call it a whole piece? Isn't it raw gold?"
"Yes, but most of it is in round shapes, sir. Like spheres, almost."
Now that is interesting, the Doctor thought, and followed the man inside.
Aliya shifted from foot to foot while Ardi found a guide to take her to the base of the maintenance stairwell. Five minutes later, a Aquian child who came up to her hip was at her side. He beamed at her.
"This is my guide?" The Time Lady asked Ardi incredulously, but the girl shrugged.
"He's as capable as anyone else," She said.
With a second to think about it, Aliya accepted that it was probably true. She popped her head back into the lab building, where the Doctor and his new Aquian friend were back at work.
"Doctor, I'm going now, but I'll see you soon, okay?" She told him, and he briefly turned away from his gold sample to nod at her.
"Alright! Be careful, River!" He called distractedly. She froze in the doorway as he went back to his work without another word, not even noticing his slip up.
"Aliya," She whispered, trying not to be disheartened. It was difficult. She took a deep breath and forced herself to let it go before she turned and went back to where her tiny guide was waiting.
"Ready to go, miss?" He chirped. She nodded, and within a minute found that she couldn't not be cheerful in his presence. Her current regeneration was too maternal, being around children of any kind always lifted her spirits. The two of them walked through the streets until they came to an elevator that would take them to higher levels of the city. Once they reached the top of that, they came out onto a small deck that overlooked the entire civilisation, making her stop and take it in with wonder.
"It's beautiful," She said, and the boy just stared.
"It's big." He sounded almost frightened. "Never been here before. Knew where it was, but this is for adults. Not kids, and not Baldies."
"That's what humans call us, sometimes. We wouldn't mind if they didn't do it to be mean, but they do."
Aliya frowned. "That's horrid!"
"That's just humans."
"Well…" She wrestled for something to say. "Next time someone calls you that, just call them an ape. They're descended from monkeys, you know."
The boy beamed. "That's a good idea, Miss!" He hugged her legs and middle tightly, and she smiled. "I should probably go back now."
"Yeah, you should. You go and keep safe." She knelt so that she was level with him, and kissed the top of his shiny blue head, making him giggle. "Thank you. I don't even know your name."
"It's Dee, Miss."
"Well, Dee, thank you very much for helping me," She told him, looking him right in the eye. "Now go get somewhere safe, there's a lot going on."
"Can't, Miss," He said, shaking his head, his large eyes wide, "Too much to do. I can help."
"Then…then still try and stay safe, alright?"
"I will, Miss. Goodbye!" He got into the elevator and waved to her until the door slid shut and blocked him from her view. After hoping with all her might that nothing bad would happen to him, Aliya went to the stairwell and looked up. Sure enough, the passage was twisted and damaged. Getting up would be a lot of crawling, wriggling and climbing, but it looked achievable.
Not impossible, or even unlikely, just a bit of a pain, assuming that it didn't collapse and crush her.
She decided not to dwell on that too much, and instead stepped into the space and began to slowly climb up. It was a hell of a job, and there were a few times where she was sure that she was stuck, only to eventually get through.
After twenty minutes, she saw an opening which looked to be the end.
"Hello?" She called, and a few seconds later, a blue, silver-finned head appeared in the gap.
"Hello," He said, sounding surprised, "Are you that offworlder they said was coming to help?"
"That would be me," She said with a nod and a smile, "Help me up?" There was a significant gap between the two of them. When he nodded, she stretched out her arms as far as she could, and he leant down and managed to grab them. With her pushing her legs against the debris for an extra boost and him pulling her up, she was on the platform in half a minute.
Trelin, because that was the only person he could be, leaned against the wall and took a few deep breaths before holding out his hand to her. "Trelin. What can I call you?"
"I'm Aliya," She said cheerily as she shook it, before taking a few moments to take in their surroundings. Several machines were smoking, and there was a control panel that looked battered. Even more instruments in the room she didn't recognise at all. None of it was in good shape.
"So, what do you think?" Trelin asked, scratching the back of his bald head almost sheepishly.
She just shook her head and shrugged, but let herself smile wryly. "I think we have a lot of work to do."
The Doctor sat on his stool, doing his best not to pace around the room. They were waiting for the test results of their analysis of the whole piece of gold. But in the meantime, there wasn't much to do and it was making him incredibly restless. In any circumstance, restlessness for him was common and to be dreaded.
But to make it worse, it also gave him far too much time in these circumstances to conjure up various scenarios of all the bad things that could befall his companion before she was back with him.
And to make it worse, none of them were particularly far fetched…except the one involving a Dalek spontaneously arriving at the top of the Dome via emergency temporal shift. He could admit that it wasn't particularly likely.
Finally, the Doctor got up and instead wandered outside in hopes of spying the creature again and getting a better look. Problem was that because there wasn't any light outside of the dome, the creature was mostly a giant shadow. The only way he was going to get a better look was if the creature came close enough to be illuminated by the city's lights - and that would most likely be too close.
"You know, they tried to keep mining," Quinto said from a few feet away from him. The Doctor had been so lost in his own thoughts that he hadn't noticed the Aquian scientist follow him out. "Apparently it was fine at first, but then they lost contact and the pods that had gone out didn't come back. Do you think that this creature got them?"
"I think that it's very likely," The Doctor said, nodding. "But the real question is why."
Another Aquian, Quinto's assistant, ran up to them from inside. "The results are back, Quinto," The young female said, with wide eyes, "I took a glance and you're not going to believe it."
The two males followed her inside, and she grabbed the printed out written results, complete with graphs. Both of them scanned it, and almost simultaneously turned to stare at each other.
"Not moss," The Doctor breathed, "Not even a little bit like moss. About as far from moss as you can get."
"It's alive. Not like a plant, like a living being," Quinto said. "The whole pieces of gold are all in the fixed shapes. Do you think they're...eggs?"
"Eggs...or children." The Time Lord gulped. "How much do you wanna bet big shadow creature out there is Mum?"
"But...it's still incredibly close to being gold...they're creatures made of living gold," The assistant said, shaking her head, "Is that even possible?"
"Big universe, full of impossible things," The Doctor told her, "I've seen a lot of things that make less sense than this. But it makes it add up. The earthquakes were probably the mother trying to get out after they started taking her kids."
Quinto nodded. "So do you think that those ancestors met with this creature? Could it have lived that long?"
"Gold can last for centuries and centuries, so most likely," The other man agreed, "They spun the legend to protect the creature, make it so that no one bothered her children or her."
"Sarn," Quinto addressed his assistant. "Call Ardi, make sure she gets the word out that the gold is sentient. It has to be treated carefully. Even the humans need to be told, and they can come here if they need proof, or do their own tests."
Sarn nodded and swiftly grabbed a communicator from the bench before leaving the room to talk into it.
"You realise that if we give the gold back, the creature will probably leave the city alone?" The Doctor asked Quinto, who nodded.
"I agree, a creature that lives in the same cavern for centuries wouldn't be prone to aggression unless provoked."
"Do you think the humans will give the gold back?"
The Aquian sighed and gave a tiny, helpless shrug. "They might not have a choice. We're probably going to have to try and convince them." That was when Sarn burst back into the room, looking even paler than usual. She approached the Doctor, holding the communicator out to him.
"Doctor, sir-" She looked at him with visible panic. "It's maintenance. They're hit, again. It's...it's not good. I got them to put you through, but-"
He snatched the communicator from her and strode several paces away. In the space of a second, his hearts had started working double speed. "Aliya, are you there?" He asked urgently.
"I'm here," She answered, her voice sounding strained. "Did you find anything?"
"Yes, we did, but that's not important right now. Are you okay?"
"Right now? Yeah, both of us are fine. But the creature hit us again. The glass is shattered. It's held so far, but-" Her voice faltered. "I think we've got about two minutes." The Doctor slammed his hand on the nearest counter, furious with himself that he had let her go to the most vulnerable place in the city. "But since we would never have made it down the stairs in time, we shut them off. The door's solid, and now we're completely sealed off. The city will be fine."
"I can't get to the TARDIS in time, it's on the other side of the city," He told her, frantic. "I don't...I can't…"
"I know. It's okay. I'll do my best to try and swim up," She sounded so optimistic that he knew she was faking it for his benefit. The fact that there was too much of a distance to cover before her oxygen ran out was glaringly obvious, not even taking into account the fact that she couldn't really swim.
"Good, good," He murmured, rubbing his face, mind fruitlessly racing to come up with a plan.
Another voice from the other end of the line could be heard, a voice that had to belong to the Aquian she had been sent to help.
"But...the pressure down here, we won't have a chance to swim," He said, rather grimly.
"Not true. I'm not human, my species can survive large amounts of pressure. It won't kill me, it'll just hurt like hell," Aliya informed him, "And your sub-branch of the Aquian species was apparently once able to survive underwater, that's how you have your legend about the Trove of Traquan. So there's a chance that you'll be fine, you can just make your way to the surface."
"But if that's true, then I can help you get there, pull you up."
"Do you think you could?" The Doctor asked sharply.
"I'll have to try! Assuming the stories are true."
There was a sudden silence.
"What?" He couldn't keep the urgency from his voice, but he had no reason to.
"It's about to shatter," came Aliya's quiet reply. "...I'm sorry."
"No," He said, helplessly. Then the unmistakeable crash of the glass and water could be heard, as well as several thuds. Then a scream of shock and grief.
"Trelin! Doctor, the glass, he's just-"
With another distorted wave of sound, the communicator went dead.
The Doctor nearly threw it across the room but instead managed to reign in enough self-control to just place it on the nearest surface. After a few seconds of controlled, deep breathing, he pointed at Quinto.
"You get Ardi, you get everyone. You tell them that every speck of gold must be returned, especially the whole pieces. Release them out into the ocean, or else that creature is going to keep attacking and all of you are as good as dead. People have already died, do not let anyone else join them," He said firmly, with the authority that always made people listen. It was the authority of the Oncoming Storm. "I'm going to get my friend. I don't expect you'll see me again." With that, he ran outside.
He commandeered the first vehicle he could, and drive it through town towards where he had parked the TARDIS, not caring about any speed limits, though being sure not to hit anyone. Finally the blue box came into his line of sight and he leapt from the car before sprinting towards it and clicking his fingers so that he could dash inside. He was at the console in seconds, his hands moving like lightning to close the doors, get the atom accelerator going, pump up the helmic regulator, and finally...release the handbrake.
Materialising underwater was tricky, doing so while trying to keep the destination near to where Aliya would have been swept out was even trickier. In the end, he had no choice but to get the TARDIS to extend her oxygen barrier and shield so that he could open the doors and physically look outside, using the light from the console room to try and spot her amongst the dark, murky water.
Just when he had almost given up hope, he spotted the shape he was looking for. It was limp, small, and sinking. He ran back to the console and swerved the ship so that it scooped her up, depositing her and a lot of the water around her into his console room. He immediately shut the doors and made a quick jump to the nearest spot on the surface. He picked Aliya's body up and exited the TARDIS, letting the water flood out behind them.
They were on a rocky bank right next to the water's edge, looking out over the vast ocean. But he paid no attention to the view. Instead, he lay down his friend and began looking her over.
It wasn't good.
She was incredibly cold, her skin pale but also an odd purple. Bruises, he realised, from the water pressure that close to the bottom of the ocean. They covered almost all of her skin, but they had to be ignored for the moment. Because worst of all, she wasn't breathing.
"Aliya," He said, brushing her hair back so that it was out of her face, "Aliya, come on, it's just water, you're not going to be beaten by some hydrogen and oxygen molecules, you're better than that!"
Her hair and clothes were plastered to her skin. He removed her jacket so that it couldn't get in his way, and started compressions on her chest. Quickly and with strength he didn't often use, he did thirty on each heart before tilting her head to clear her airway and dipping his own down to breathe two breaths of air into her mouth. Then he went back to the compressions. Again, thirty on one heart, then thirty on the other, then two breaths.
Still nothing. He went back to compressions.
"Don't you dare die on me, Aliyanadevoralundar, I forbid you to die on me!" He shouted. He finished the thirty compressions on her left heart and was about to move to her right when her body jerked.
Water spurted from her mouth and she spluttered, her chest heaving and her head twisting frantically. Utter nonsense spilled from her lips, most of which sounded as though it could have been very rapid and incoherent Gallifreyan.
"Shhh," He said quietly, sliding an arm under her back so that he could lift her onto his lap and hold her shivering form to his chest as if she were a child, "It's okay. You're safe."
"It was so dark," She croaked, "Like the mountain, and I got scared, and anything I thought I knew about swimming just-"
He just shook his head and bent to kiss her forehead briefly. "I've got you. We're on the surface, we're safe. The TARDIS is just there, we can fly away, right now."
Her eyes flicked to him and she frowned marginally. "But, the city, the creature-"
"Taken care of," He assured her, "I worked it out, just like I said I would. They should all be fine."
"Will be the only one to die, if they do as I told them to."
She unabashedly snuggled against him, still shaking in her sodden white tank top and jeans. He didn't complain - after such a close call, having her in his arms was just as reassuring for him as it was for her. When she made a small noise of pain, she pulled away enough to frown again.
"Why does it feel like I've been run over by a train?"
"The water pressure, remember?" He reminded her. "You think it hurts now, wait until the numbness from the cold fades. You've got some nasty bruises. I won't lie, it's not going to be pleasant."
He tried to wrap his jacket around her as best he could without actually removing it.
"All those times I mentioned it, I was never serious," Aliya whispered, "I never thought that the dome would actually break."
His hand smoothed back her wet strands of hair, slicking it back and out of the way. "Neither did I. But I kept my promise. I saved you from drowning."
"I should hope so," She said with a tiny bit of her usual attitude, before leaning against him again. Then, quietly, he heard her say, "Thank you."
He decided that there was no need to move straight away. After all, she could use all the body heat from him that she could get, but if he moved her, that would involve having to carry her over the threshold or something ridiculous like that.
He pressed a light kiss to the crown of her head, just incredibly relieved to have been able to revive her. She made a funny, contented hum and held onto his shirt just a little bit tighter.
No, they could just stay, like this, just a little while longer.
Sorry for the delay in updating! I ended up being rather busy over New Year's, we had to move house. Which in itself is a nightmare, but add the fact that we had to do a whole bunch of cleaning and painting as well, and it was a bloody nightmare. But all done now, thankfully! I have a goal of trying to write 1000 words a day, or 500 at the very least, and I have been doing well so far. While it might not necessarily be this story, it will be something and that's the main thing. :)
Thanks to everyone who has reviewed so far! You're all magnificent people.
I had a lot of fun writing this chapter, mainly because of all the platonish Daliya fluff which is so thoroughly enjoyable. Note the use of the word platonish as opposed to platonic. To quote How I Met Your Mother, 'people are only platonic when there is absolutely no chance of them hooking up in the next 20 minutes, not even if lives are at stake'. I think it's safe to say that if lives were at stake...well. ;)
But in other news, Peter Capaldi! I'm already very excited, he looks fantastic!
Now, next chapter we will see them finally inform Jenny of their fixed situation. Also, the Doctor will meet the new Torchwood team. So, expect:
Jack - flirting
John Hart - surprise, then flirting
Gwen - "hello again Gwen how do you like my face?"
Rex - "American, nice!"
Esther - "wtf why do you look like Aliya's first body I hit that once this is super awkward" - "what?"
Marion - "hello there!" - "seriously, you're the one they're all making a fuss about?"
I can say that I'm looking forward to it more than I should. :P
Love you all and see you soon,
p.s. my Kate Stewart/The Rani fanfic is up for anyone who might be interested. Understandably, it hasn't gotten a heck of a lot of attention, so any is appreciated. :P