Title: On Any Other Day
Pairing: Tenth Doctor/Ross Jenkins
Fandom: Doctor Who
Table: 5, sound_of_drums
Prompt: 49, Horror
Disclaimer: This is entirely a product of my own imagination, and I make no profit from it. I do not own the Tenth Doctor or Ross Jenkins, just borrowing them for a while. Please do not sue.
***Ross looked around him as he stepped out of the Tardis, horrified at the devastation that he saw all around him. He hadn't been a soldier for long, and even though he'd seen battles before -- he'd been at Canary Wharf, after all -- the carnage was still shocking.
He took a few hesitant steps out of the Tardis, hardly noticing when the Doctor moved out of the ship behind him. He couldn't take his eyes from the bloodied bodies that seemed to be everywhere; it didn't seem possible that all of these people could be .... dead.
"I wish there had been some way of preventing this," the Doctor said sadly, his voice soft. "If I had known that there was any chance of this happening, I'd have been here sooner -- though I don't know that I could have done anything to prevent this being set in motion."
"Was that message you got on the psychic paper about this?" Ross asked, his voice trembling. He knew that it had been, but he had to say something to keep himself from stumbling away from the Tardis and throwing up. He had the definite feeling that he might do it anyway.
The Doctor nodded, looking over at him with a worried frown. "Ross, you don't need to see this. You can go back into the Tardis if you want to -- I know this can't be easy for you to see." He sighed, a sad, defeated look settling onto his features. "I'm sorry that I had to bring you here."
Ross shook his head, frowning. He was a soldier -- well, he had been, before the Doctor had spirited him away. He'd seen battlefields before. But never one this bloody, this close to him. Even the deaths at Canary Wharf hadn't seemed so .... well, so real.
He wasn't going to be able to keep from throwing up. As ashamed as he was to do something like that, Ross knew that it was better to get it over with than to keep trying to hold it back. He stumbled to a nearby tree, hoping that it would block the Doctor's view.
After what seemed like an eternity of retching, he straightened up, wiping his sleeve across his mouth. Not exactly the most sanitary thing in the world to do, but he could change his shirt when they went back into the ship, and get something to drink.
He didn't want to look at the corpses all around them as he made his way back unsteadily to where the Time Lord was still standing in front of the ship, but he couldn't help it. The horror seemed to hit him afresh, making him feel like throwing up again.
But he wouldn't, he told himself firmly. He might have to get used to seeing things like this -- though he'd thought that the Doctor could prevent this kind of carnage. Maybe he would have been able to, if they'd gotten the message sooner and made it here on time.
The Doctor held out a hand to him as he approached; Ross took it gratefully, taking a deep breath as the other man squeezed his fingers sympathetically. It felt good to be touched, to know that there was a living, breathing being other than himself in this wasteland.
"It's not like the movies, you know," he said softly, not turning to look at the bodies strewn over the grass, the blood staining the ground. "You can't just turn it off and tell yourself that it's not real. It's all too real. I learned that really quickly."
The Time Lord sighed, his voice quiet when he spoke. "I know. I've seen things like this too many times to recall, Ross. I know you may not be used to it yet -- but unfortunately, for me, it brings back memories that I'd rather push away."
"It's not your fault, Doctor." Ross' voice was firm and steady, even though he felt as though his stomach was doing somersaults. "You didn't get that message in time to stop this. And even if you had, you might not have been able to prevent it from happening."
"But I might have been," the Doctor whispered, his gaze moving over the devastation all around them. "I might have been able to do .... something. On any other day, I might have gotten here in time to help. I was too slow. I let them down."
The horror in the Doctor's eyes mirrored the expression in his own; Ross had seen that look before, in soldiers who had witnessed bloody battles that they weren't prepared to see. He hadn't expected to see that horrified expression on the Doctor's face, that stricken look in his eyes.
"You can't let this get to you so badly, Doctor," he said, taking the Time Lord by the shoulders and shaking him slightly. "You've seen things like this before, I know. And you can't blame yourself for it. Not everything is your fault. You can't save everyone."
The Doctor shook his head as though to clear it, then sighed as his gaze met the young man's. "I know that, Ross," he said, sighing. "I've been told that more times than you can possibly know. But somehow, it always feels as though I should have done something more."
"Sometimes you can't," Ross told him, keeping his voice soft and hoping that the Doctor would take heed of his words. "You got here too late this time. But that message was probably sent too late. I don't think you'd have been able to stop any of this."
"You're probably right." The Doctor's shoulders slumped for a moment before he straightened up, casting a glance at his young companion. "You've been with me for less than a day. I didn't expect this to be the first trip you took with me. It's not exactly what I wanted you to see."
"I'd have liked to see something more pleasant, too," Ross agreed, not wanting to look around him again. "But we can't always get what we want, can we? And there are a lot of other places in the galaxy to see. This isn't going to be the only experience I have with you."
"Indeed not." The Doctor tried to smile, taking a deep breath. "I hope this doesn't make you want to leave already, Ross. I can't bear the thought of you being with me for such a short time, and being turned away from staying because of what you've seen here."
"That isn't going to happen." This time, it was easy for Ross to keep his voice firm. "I'm here for the long run, Doctor. Something like this isn't going to keep me from being with you. I didn't decide to come along with you just because I wanted to see other worlds, you know."
"I would have thought that was your main reason," the Doctor murmured, his dark gaze locking with Ross'. "After all, I doubt that I'm attractive enough to entice you away from your home and your friends, just to travel the universe with me."
"You'd be wrong there," Ross said softly, slipping an arm around the Doctor's waist. "I thought I'd made that perfectly clear already." He leaned close to the Time Lord, brushing his lips across the Doctor's cheek. "I came with you because you're irresistible."
"Surely not!" The Doctor actually laughed as he spoke; Ross felt a wave of relief course through him. If the Time Lord could laugh, then the guilt he felt over not getting here in time to save these people wasn't going to weigh him down.
"Oh, yes, you are," he said, turning away from the carnage and heading back towards the ship. "If you remember, I was going to show you just how irresistible you are when you got that message. I don't mean to make light of this -- but we can't do anything here, Doctor."
The Time Lord nodded, sighing softly as he let Ross propel him back into the Tardis. "You're right about that," he murmured, taking one last look around at the horrific sight before he stepped into the ship and closed the door firmly behind them. "We can't dwell on this."
Ross couldn't have agreed more with those words. Even though he was sure that the horror of what he'd seen on this planet would stay with him for a long time, he knew that they both had to put it behind them and move on with their lives.
A few moments later, the blue police box shimmered into nothingness as it entered the timestream, leaving the devastation behind. The two men who'd seen the sight would find it hard to erase the horror of it from their minds -- and one of them would feel guilty for a long time to come.
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