The Doctor had been in his share – weeeellllll, maybe a tad more than his share – of prison cells, but his accommodations in the Tower of London were a definite first.
He’d visited it before, sure, he’d done the tourist thing at times. Once, he was even hauled there when Henry the Eighth threw a parson’s nose at him, and he’d thrown it back, but that was lifetimes ago when he’d wanted to be locked in. And… perhaps it had been due to his “advanced age” at the time, but he hadn’t been trussed up and shipped in through the Traitors’ Gate with a bag on his head, and chains between his legs.
No. All of that had been a first.
Who knew when he’d suggested to Rose Tyler she see a little more of her own country’s history, that a generation later they’d still want him for the kidnapping of the “future Queen of England?”
Never go back with the same face when they want you for treason.
Of course, now they had him for treason and witchcraft.
Time travel, in this period, wasn’t an exactly believable reason for looking like he hadn’t aged a day.
Well, he’d only been curious – and curiosity kills the cat in a nun’s wimple, doesn’t it? – what the fuss was all about after they’d tried to arrest him when he’d met Shakespeare.
It was clear now, wasn’t it?
He was a “traitor to the crown,” and all because the aforementioned bloody Henry (the man was nothing but trouble for the Doctor, every damned time they met) couldn’t keep his grubby, ginger hands off Rose, and, well, that wasn’t his fault! “Hands off the blonde” was as famous a rule as “don’t wander off.” Half the males in the galaxy had heard it at some point by that time. Unfortunately, that particular rule seemed to go down as well as “don’t wander off” did most of the time. And, they were always going to leave, she shouldn’t have meddled!
…Never mind the stupid wager they’d made…
The current Queen of England would never have been born if the Doctor had just let Henry marry Rose—his Rose Tyler, damn it.
Of course, Anne Boleyn would probably still have her head, and Dame Rose might’ve been the (now headless) mother of the current ruler of England – but that wasn’t how it was supposed to happen! And there was just no way he was letting an axe-happy, philandering, ginger monarch have his Rose Tyler.
He’d been seething with jealousy—not that he’d ever have admitted it—and Rose had thought it a very fine joke. She had been resplendent in the gown the TARDIS had provided her, and she knew it.
Unfortunately (for him then and now,) she was also just Henry’s type; golden and luscious—er… luscious?
Yes! He meant luscious. No issues admitting it now, was there? Gorgeous. Gorgeous, and a cheeky, cheeky minx.
No doubt, she’d’ve thought all this was incredibly hilarious as well.
Except the bucket for a toilet… and the rats…
She’d’ve hated them.
Yet, he was the one facing the chopping block, alone, and Rose… wasn’t with him to laugh and make it better; make it worth it – worth the smells, and the soreness he’d never admit to feeling, the impending death sentence and public execution full of the throwing of rotten vegetables—well, maybe not execution. But that didn’t matter, because if she were with him, they’d laugh, and he’d have another pair of hands to grab his sonic screwdriver from his pocket—and he was a dirty, horrible, dirty old man for the guilty pleasure that little act would’ve afforded him, as well as the bad jokes he knew she’d have made. Is tha’ a sonic in your pocket, Doctah, or are you ‘appy to see me? – and then they’d be out, running hand-in-hand back to the TARDIS in a trice.
Instead, he was most definitely alone. No Rose and her obvious, but charming innuendo. No one to help him out of his mess.
He was stuck.
In the White Tower.
…It must’ve been Tuesday.
He’d been grabbed by guards on his way through the city and sentenced by Sir William Cecil upon sight. Apparently, they were to take no risks where he was concerned. They didn’t want him giving them the slip again.
If only he could get an audience with Queen Elizabeth, he was sure he could—erm—charm his way out of this.
What? He was charming in this body!
He’d stopped worrying about whether he should be using it to his advantage long ago, and lately, if there was a line somewhere in there, he’d stopped caring.
He cursed loudly at the heavy ropes binding his hands and arms that prevented him from reaching into his coat pockets for his sonic.
Landing here at all had been for a lark. He knew Ood Sigma awaited him. He knew that his song was ending, and he just wanted a little more time!
Just a little more time, and a little more fun!
Was that so very much to ask for a Time Lord with a finite amount of bloody time left? Time to live?
It wasn’t fair! How many worlds had he saved? How often had he been hurt, and lost people he loved? How many times had he been a hero—a hero! And this was his bloody reward?
This was utter bollocks.
Perhaps this was where his song ended. It wasn’t like he knew how it would happen. He only really knew that he would at some unspecified time. He’d been running from it long enough to know that no one had carved dates in a headstone for him.
Perhaps, he’d die— headless! —for taking Rose away from someone who loved—weeell, maybe that was a stretch; Henry the Eighth was a bit narcissistic and sociopathic to really feel love for Rose Tyler, or anyone, really—but he had always taken her from the people who loved her, and look what he’d done to her as a result.
He’d stranded her in another universe!
He hoped she was happy. He hoped, oh, he really hoped she was alright. At least, he’d given her back in the end. He’d left her, yes, but with her mother, and someone he knew loved her so very much.
He hadn’t been known to always do that. He’d ruined so many permanently. Wasn’t it what he’d done to all the Children of Time? Wasn’t that just his modus operandi?
Tegan. Nyssa. Katarina. Adric. Jack. Peri. Reinette. Turlough. Astrid. Sara and Bret. Ace. Martha. Donna… Adelaide Brook… he could go on and on.
And all without even mentioning what he had taken from his own race… Or countless others.
He selfishly took good people from their homes to keep him company, and made their lives messy, complicated, unrecognisable, and often pure hell.
He made their lives like his own.
Made them all into little soldiers in his personal war.
When he had regenerated into this body, he had been so full of love and hope, it had shaped him into a man who wanted to be good.
It seems like such a simple thing, to be good. Such a simple thing to aspire to.
However, the years strip goodness away with choices, and wrong turns, and squiffy bits as surely as rushing waters carve away at stone, leaving empty canyons where your morality once was as solid as granite.
He’d been the most affectionate and compassionate he’d been since he was so very young, and the society on Gallifrey had yet to break him. He… almost felt he recognised himself as the Doctor once more. He came into this him feeling younger and more full of life and possibility than…
But… everything had gone wrong…
…So wrong. So, so, so, so, so wrong.
And here he was, as bitter and lonely as he could ever remember, hating himself – continuing to give himself reasons to hate himself.
He was in the dark again, and he didn’t think he’d make it back to the light this time. Bowie Base One had been the final nail in his coffin.
He was a maniac, a killer, and a thief of beauty and innocence; a burglar of time and potential.
The hitch in the works.
Was he even the Doctor anymore?
Or just a madman with the Doctor’s face, and death on his heels?
He wasn’t sure.
So, maybe losing his head for stealing his—no, not his any longer—for stealing Rose Tyler was fitting, even if he could think of a thousand better deaths, and perhaps…
…No… he really wasn’t ready to go yet…
Still… peace… it would be over, this torturous existence of his… he could rest… and there’d be little in the way of pain. With one swing of the axe, eternity would take him into its cold embrace.
He only wished he could say one last goodbye to the people who loved him despite all his insanity and chaos. To the people he loved.
He would have liked to have seen their faces just one last time.
He was total rubbish at goodbyes, though. What would he say to them?
I’m sorry I cocked up your life?
Thanks for putting up with me?
Sorry, I can’t make anything better, not really?
Maybe, saying nothing, and slipping quietly into forgotten history was best after all.
He leaned his head against the cold, dank stones behind him. A fat rat came crawling out of the straw and sniffed in his direction.
“Not dead yet, I’m afraid,” he told it, “you’ll have to find someone else to gnaw on, at the moment.”
The rat merely twitched its nose, and ignored him.
The Doctor sighed deeply, and closed his eyes.
He’d just have to sift through his memories to see their faces if he couldn’t go see them. And he’d save the last one he’d ever remember… for her.
He was just starting to picture his beloved Susan’s warm, hazel eyes, when he was hit on the chest.
Thinking the rat had decided he’d kicked it, and not particularly in the mood to be chewed, he opened his eyes and found a red felt fez hat which had rolled right next to his foot.
His head snapped up to see where it had come from, or who had thrown it, but he was still very much alone. Even the rat had gone.
A slight shimmer caught the corner of his eye. About three metres to his right was a time fissure.
Normally, he would be very upset to see something like a time fissure, since tears in the fabric of time and space were, technically, not so wonderful in all practicality. Very bad actually. Non bene, as it were.
But he couldn’t help the stab of hope it gave him.
Someone might be on the other side, and if something could get through, maybe he’d still have a head in a day’s time after all.
He toed off a trainer, grabbed the hat with his toes, then threw it with his manly-hairy foot—wait no, he wasn’t a hobbit, though it was a feat worthy of praise when one was bound at the ankles – back through the fissure.
Just a little indicator that there was someone here on this side.
Could be really, really bad, whatever was over there – or not. He didn’t have a lot to lose anymore.
He grinned to himself.
Definitely not done living yet.
Didn’t matter. Let anything come through. As long as they were thick enough to unbind him, he’d find a way to run.
It’s what he was best at.
“Doctor, Doctor,” Kate nodded at each of him as they entered the laboratory where several other Unit scientists were frantically pouring over seismic scans, comparing notes, “I cannot tell you how thankful I am that you showed up when you did. If you hadn’t been looking for your companion, we’d never have found this. Our sweeps show we’ve been infiltrated.”
“Really? By wha’? Any idea?” said the Doctor in leather, joining Kate at the monitors and studying the readouts.
The Doctor in tweed groaned again inwardly – he was doing that an awful lot lately. “Look, it’s not like they’re planning on taking over the Earth!”
“We can’t be sure, Doctor—”
“Yes, we can,” he insisted, the boys were no threat to anyone! He wished he’d kept his mouth shut and resisted the temptation to follow himself into UNIT at all. He should have withdrawn and gone in covertly. Bloody idiot. “I said so, and I’m sure. They’re not trying to take over the Earth. Just let them go and we’ll get on with it.”
“Doctor, I don’t think you quite understand the enormity of—”
“Oh, come on! It’s just two little—”
“Two? Doctor, the whole of the sub-basement, Under Gallery and Black Archive is surrounded from every direction by thousands of whatever these things are!”
“Oh. Right. Continue.”
Ears held up a hand and frowned. “Wha’ were you about to say?”
He shrugged. “Sentient mildew in the broom cupboard.”
“‘Course, yeah. Wondered when the mildew here would develop consciousness.” Daft Ears smirked slightly but let it drop. He’d push later when whomever his future self was hiding was safely away from whatever danger UNIT posed.
“Sentient mildew?“ Kate asked, looking thoroughly confused.
“Well, sapient. Technically, all mildew is sentient. All you need are senses to be sentient. Sentience is overrated. But it won’t harm a thing! Best leave it.” He tapped his nose once. “Trees will never evolve to have faces and legs without it. And trust me, none of us would be standing here if it weren’t for highly evolved Trees. Shove over, Leather and Ears, and let the grownups have a look.”
“What do you think Doctor? I can’t get physiological readouts unless they’re inside the Tower itself, but from the ultrasonic scans they appear to be…”
“Mole-like, yes. Curious.” He looked at the younger Doctor who frowned and shook his head.
“Their formation is strategic,” the younger Doctor stated firmly like a man used to analysing tactical strikes. “Too evenly spaced to be coincidental or a benign settlement.”
“Absolutely,” agreed the older. He looked up from the monitor to Kate and the other scientists who had gathered around to listen to the Doctors. “How deep can you scan?”
“About sixty kilometres. The tunnels appear to go beyond even that,” Kate answered with a tense frown and deep ruts between her brows.
“Don’t you do these things periodically? The scans, I mean. Why haven’t you caught it before?” He didn’t mean to sound accusatory, but well, yes, he did. This had been going on for some time. One didn’t simply wake up one morning and decide to burrow under the White Tower, he didn’t care what species was doing the deciding. Precautions would need to be taken against flooding – unless the species was aquatic, of course, but that was unlikely, they’d have to be at least amphibious to be breaking into the vault area – and cave-ins would have been a real issue. It was a complex process no matter how you looked at it. Which was helpful and baffling at the same time.
“Yes, we do, but we only scanned this deeply now because we caught alien movement near the Black Archive. It disappeared into a wall within seconds of our discovery.”
“Which means they might know a bit about when you lot run your security checks. This one was unscheduled so it couldn’ta known an’ it scurried away as soon as it knew you were lookin’. Like a mouse in the kitchen at night, don’t ya think? Sounds like you’ve been infiltrated to me.”
The Doctors exchanged concerned looks then turned to Kate.
“What do you keep in the Black Archive—” the Doctor-in-tweed began.
“Tha’ would be so temptin’ for wha’ever these things are?” the Doctor-in-leather finished.
“We keep the classified objects in the vault for safe keeping.” She said as mildly as possible. Kate was a smart woman. She knew letting the Doctors anywhere near the Black Archive was not only stupid, but would never be allowed.
Only, what else were they going to do if it came to it?
“An’ all the bits you lot study so tha’ you can use it. Do things like make the Tower a no-fly zone, even for my TARDIS.” He shook his head with an almost-smile on his lips.
“Doctor, you can’t expect—” Kate began with a ‘do be reasonable’ tone.
“I think you’ll find I can,” he said bluntly, straightening his bow-tie, “and do.”
“You should know better than to keep a dungeon full of stuff you have no chance of understandin’,” Leather shook his head.
“And this is exactly why,” Tweed nodded.
“You never know who else wants it, or has a claim on it. Did you ever think of tha’?”
“Maybe whatever it is you have, doesn’t belong to you. Maybe it belongs to them.”
“Doctor,” Kate emphasised, “we have every right to study the things that fall to our planet. It’s our planet.” She knew her situation was going from bad to worse every moment.
“8.7 million known species of life on Earth an’ you’re actually arguin’ tha’ humans have exclusive rights to anythin’?” Leather and Ears growled.
“Kate,” Bow-tie followed up diplomatically, “don’t get cross! Do you think I don’t want the human race to thrive? To advance and be generally magnificent?”
The younger Doctor rolled his eyes. “‘S why I’m always here to save your sorry arses in the end, innit? But you’re thick if you think you should do it by cheatin’ or tha’ you could hide anythin’ from me for long.”
“Well, I don’t have to tell you that, do I?” the older wheedled.
“But we need to find out wha’ they’re after.”
“And see about getting them to leave peacefully.”
“Or stay an’ sign a treaty. Treaties are good.”
“Love a treaty.”
“To the dungeons then, Doctor?”
“After you, Doctor.”
“Wait!” Kate urged. “I’m sorry, Doctor, but I don’t have access. We have to get clearance first.”
Both Doctors were half to the door and regarded her impatiently.
The older Time Lord smirked and held up his sonic, but Kate looked almost sheepish as she shook her head. “The Black Archives are designed to be impregnable by even you, Doctor. We were… very thorough. We’ll need the Colonel and her key.” She got on her phone and immediately set to work gaining access and apprising her superior of the predicament with the Doctor.
“Don’t worry, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart. We won’t go in unless we have to.” He didn’t need them anxious and breathing down his neck. He hoped Torin and Lios had been able to sneak out successfully and were safely in the TARDIS. The last thing he needed was their involvement at the moment.
The Tylers, as things were, had not yet successfully managed an escape.
Far from it, actually. They were in just a bit of a bind. Bind, meaning they were stuck. In a broom cupboard. A small one. Titchy really. One that had already been quite full when they had been first shoved inside. Then locked in.
After the Doctor had left with… himself and the UNIT soldier, the girl at the desk decided she wanted to chat up the janitor bloke – right outside the door that kept them hidden and—er—squished. It was almost funny for all of thirty-seven seconds, then Lios started having a foot cramp which made him wobble a bit – which, of course, meant that he was wobbling against Torin and forcing his nose into musty mops – which, in turn, meant that Torin had to retaliate – and, as one could expect of any brothers of a certain age, everything devolved from there. Elbows contacted ribs. Fingers poked faces. Knees knocked their neighbours, and the brothers were each two milliseconds from purposely causing the other to regenerate when the door handle jiggled, and they froze mid eye-gouge.
They must have been making a load of noise… well, they were idiots, and they both knew it.
They shot each other less than apologetic glances, then turned back to the handle which had ceased its rattling. The sound of a hard object – like a credit card or butter knife – slid through the door frame. It unlocked and opened with a soft click, then a thin shaft of light fell on Torin’s face.
In the crack was a deep-brown eye framed in glasses with heavy black rims.
Torin grinned in a way he hoped was disarming.
The door opened wide enough to reveal the rest of the oval-shaped face and straight, brown hair that had been pulled back into a high ponytail. The young woman stared at Torin for a moment, seemingly in shock, then her eyes darted back and forth between the brothers.
Footsteps sounded behind her and all three sets of eyes widened, Li’s with alarm since he couldn’t see much from his position, Torin’s with silent entreaty, and the girl’s with indecision.
Suddenly, she shut the door and the brothers could hear muffled voices and more footsteps before the door slowly opened again.
Both screwed up their faces, eyes shut tightly in mounting anticipation of being caught and served with chips. It seemed like ages passed – it was just over five seconds – then they heard a small, mechanical puff and a slight cough.
Torin opened his eyes first to see the girl looking at them expectantly and pocketing an inhaler.
“Hello,” he squeaked and wiggled his fingers at her.
“Hello,” she returned with her own little wave. “I knew there was no sentient mildew. Could you imagine if there was? What would it be like to communicate with bacteria, I wonder. I mean, we’d be giants, wouldn’t we? Or maybe more like whole worlds because they’re microbes, aren’t they? Like a whole galaxy was talking to them. Who are you?”
“Did you say, s-sentient mildew?” Lios stuttered.
“I’m Torin. That’s Li,” he jerked his head in his brother’s direction, knocking into Li’s solid skull and wincing. “What’s your name then?”
“Osgood. I’m an intern.”
“Well, Osgood the Intern—er… it’s a bit tight in here. D’you think—er…” He motioned to Lios and himself then the outside.
“Oh, yeah!” She looked over both shoulders before stepping aside and scratching her head.
They nearly fell out breathing huge sighs of relief.
“Well, pleasure to have met you. Goodbye,” Lios said before hurriedly pushing Torin toward the exit. He’d seen the look in his brother’s eye. It was the look he always had before a major bout of babbling.
“Hey, wait!” she called after, hurrying to catch up. “What were you doing in there? I mean, I know what you were doing in there, ‘cos you don’t just jump in a broom cupboard for no reason, you go in one to hide or get brooms, but why? Why is the Doctor hiding you?”
Torin spun in the girl’s direction with a goofy grin and Lios nearly crashed into him. “You’re clever.”
“Well—er—yes, I guess I am.”
“Look,” Lios interrupted again quickly. The situation was getting out of his control fast. “I wish we had a moment to chat, but we don’t, do we Torin?”
“Erm, no, not really, no. But—”
Lios silenced him with a glare.
“Right. Okay,” she said in a small voice with big, Torin-imploring eyes. “Only, I could get in a load of trouble… There’re cameras everywhere, and I was just hoping – but never mind it isn’t like you went in very far or tried to steal anything… right?”
“Absolutely not!” he cried in response to those beseeching orbs. “Well, a fez. But the Doctor’s got that, hasn’t he? Not us. We’re here with him. Or he’s with us. We’re—blimey, Li, we’ve never really established exactly what our relationship is to the Doctor, have we?”
Lios groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. This was precisely what he’d wanted to avoid. This girl was precisely the type Torin liked. Chatty, clever, quirky humans he could prattle away to and they just did not have the time for this!
“Anyway,” Torin rambled, “guess it doesn’t matter. Don’t want to cause you any trouble, though, Osgood the Intern. Can you just say we got a bit lost and you showed us out?”
“Were you two snogging?”
Lios choked on nothing and Torin laughed loudly enough to wake the dead.
“God, no! He’s my brother!”
“Oh,” Osgood frowned inexplicably, “right. There was just a lot of—er—commotion, and I thought—”
“Nooooo,” Torin assured without a trace of the mortification that was consuming his brother’s face. “No-pe. Well, there was commotion, but that was because he was trying to kill me. I had to fight him off. Tight space though. Didn’t work, he’s still alive.”
“Obviously,” she grinned.
“Oh well, there’s always next time,” Torin beamed.
“Right, back to the TARDIS,” Lios huffed. He began pushing his brother toward the exit when they heard more footsteps – many at that. Marching. It sounded like marching, and where one heard marching, one was almost assured to find soldiers. Soldiers were notoriously less forgiving than curious interns. Altogether, a less than optimal situation for two interloping aliens.
Lios cursed his brother’s gob for what must have been the billionth time.
“Quick, in here!” Osgood whispered and hustled them both into an empty laboratory.
The three of them pressed their ears to the door after Torin locked it with his sonic screwdriver.
They drew away and waited for what sounded like an entire platoon to make their way through the corridor, but they stopped right outside as someone was barking orders.
With a heavy sigh, Lios tugged at his gravity-defying platinum locks and turned around to rest his back against the door. At least he had the room to move about now. Small favours. How much longer he’d be afforded the luxury was another matter.
Torin and Osgood moved farther into the room, the girls eyes trailing after him as he started nosily exploring the room.
“So, what’s it like travelling with the Doctor? Must be exciting!” Osgood whispered.
“Can be, yeah,” Torin answered with cool indifference, like he was the smoothest operator in the galaxy. Lios smacked himself on the forehead and groaned. “There’s a lot to see out there. Getting stuck in cupboards seems to be a thing though. Weren’t we stuck in one for a bit on Olympia, Li? Or was that more of a wardrobe? We were, only it smelled like dust and fur and moulder, not so much like chemicals and mildew. I reckon I’ll have a lot of ’em to compare at some point.”
“That’s a funny thing to collect. The smells in cupboards. Could do a whole—”
“I swear to you both,” Lios hissed, “if I hear one more thing about wardrobes, or cupboards, or mildew, I’m going out there. I’d rather be caught than—”
“Oi! You’re tetchy lately!” Torin bellowed, earning himself a shushing from both his companions.
“Yeah, well, not exactly having the best few days, am I?” Lios grumbled, sounding remarkable like another sibling.
Torin, too, let loose a huff worthy of their sister and turned his back on Lios. Instead, he focused on the young woman in the scarf and glasses and gave her a winning smile. “Do you have siblings, Osgood the—”
“Just call me Osgood. And, yes. A sister.”
“Does she drive you as batty as that git makes me?”
“Sometimes, sure,” Osgood smiled, “but that’s brothers and sisters, isn’t it? No one knows you like your sibling, so no one knows the buttons to push like they do.” She looked sideways at the blonde brother who looked like the universe was conspiring against him. “Still, wouldn’t want anyone else with you in a pinch, would you?”
“No, I reckon not,” Torin agreed grudgingly. “Why UNIT, Osgood? What’s for you here?”
“Oh, this place is exciting! We get to see things that actually came from other planets,” Osgood effused, “and learn about things and places that no human has ever dreamed possible before!” She gave a wheezy cough and went rifling through her pocket for her inhaler. “Like the Doctor! I mean, he’s an alien! An actual alien! And I got to meet him today! Well, for you, that’s old news, isn’t it? But it’s a first for me! Have you met many? Aliens, I mean.”
“A few, yeah.” Torin moved a bit closer to her and leaned against the counter.
“What’s amazing is, you’d never know with someone like the Doctor, cause he looks so human—”
“No, humans look Time Lord. Time Lords came first,” Lios interjected but not unkindly, he thought she might find it interesting. Immediate danger no longer looming, Lios found he liked the girl’s genuine nature and her keenness to learn. He did not relish the prospect of his brother nursing a crush for months after this, but he could admit to himself Torin had like stupider people.
“Really?” she spluttered, delight shining in her eyes. “See? So much we don’t know – that most people will never know! But, really, I’ve been learning all the different known species and which ones UNIT has contact with. There are so many! And most of them don’t look like the Doctor – I mean, at least from what I’ve been learning. I’d love to be one of the liaisons one day.”
“And so you will, I’m sure!” Torin beamed at her and took her hand in his. He wilfully ignored the look of warning his brother shot him.
She beamed back and blushed slightly. “D’you really think? Blimey, it’d be a dream.”
“You bet,” Torin nodded appreciatively. “You have the perfect temperament. Patient, kind, inquisitive. You’ll be brilliant, I know it. Perhaps,” he continued generously, “we even know someone who might be able to put in a good word. You did help us after all.”
Osgood blushed an even deeper shade of red.
“Say,” Torin asked as if coming upon some new revelation, “do you— well, I’ll understand if you don’t want to, but do you think you could, oh, slip out and see what’s going on, then pop back in and tell us? I mean, just because we’re in a bit of a bind being stuck in here— and I’m sure the Doctor really wants us to come back to the TARDIS as soon as possible, or I’d never ask.”
“Oh,” Osgood stuttered, her face going from red to paper white. “Right, yeah! ‘Course! Lemme just…” She slipped past him and indicated the door.
“Right! Nearly forgot! ‘Course.” He smiled encouragingly, nodded, then took her hand and squeezed it gently. “When you come back, knock, and say ‘cupboard’ and I’ll unlock it again, yeah?”
“Yeah!” She nodded in return, still smiling brightly, though it seemed to stop before it reached her eyes. “Back in a tick!”
He unlocked the door and she slipped out with more shyness in her smile, then he closed it quickly and sealed it again before heaving a sigh.
He noticed Lios staring at him with a frown.
“You just manipulated that poor girl.”
Torin shrugged. “Didn’t do it to be cruel.”
“But it was.”
“Look,” Torin sighed, “I genuinely like her. If there were not a regiment of Alien Busters between us and the TARDIS, I’d invite her for a cuppa, but what else was I supposed to do? Knock her out and take her clothes so I could pretend I was her to get away? Even if that’d work there are still two of us, remember?”
“Okay, but why weren’t you just honest?” Lios demanded. “She said she was studying to be an extra-terrestrial liaison. She’s had plenty of chances to turn us in and hasn’t.”
“What are the acceptable risks, Li? I made a choice.”
“It’s not like you!”
“What? Manipulation or making choices?”
Lios was silent.
“I’m not proud,” Torin groaned. “We never had to do this stuff before but it’s about time we stop acting like it’s okay to hide behind the Alpha or Mum. Or the Doctor for that matter, innit?”
“Time to grow up, you mean?” Lios supplied in a small voice.
“I don’t like it.”
“Neither do I,” Torin returned honestly, “but what’s the alternative? Selene blows through all twelve regenerations because we couldn’t be bothered to get our hands dirty? Mum burns herself into nothing again? Nothing about this to like.”
Lios sighed again as Torin clenched and unclenched his jaw and shoved his hands in his pockets.
“Be nice to that girl, though.”
Torin relaxed and smiled, then nodded once.
A small knock sounded at the door along with a muffled whisper of “cupboard.”
Torin opened the door and saw she had her back to him. She backed in discretely to avoid notice and he shut the door behind her.
She puffed on her inhaler with a worried look in her eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said in a small voice, “the whole of the Tower is on lock-down. No one in or out. They’re calling it a bomb threat, but…”
The grin slid of each of man’s face.
“I think it’s more of an attack.”