The Doctor’s eyes flickered.
He erupted from the deep depths of unconsciousness accompanied by a thudding pain in his head which met up with the pain in his arm, and decided to have a loud and gut-wrenchingly painful party.
He couldn’t help letting out a small groan before snapping his eyes open and focusing on the branches above him. For a brief moment, he was afraid that the thick, brown and looming tree limb above was going to fall on him. Stuff falling on him had already happened twice today and he really, really hoped that it would not happen again.
The Doctor winced and sat slowly up, trying to shake some of the clinging mud from off his arm. He glanced to his left and saw his broken ship lying on its side in the mud. Like the girl had done a few hours earlier, the Doctor gently ran his hand over the grainy woodwork in an almost sorrowful gesture. Then, using the husk of his ship to help, he pulled himself unsteadily to his feet, glanced at the girl, and turned back to consider the TARDIS.
He blinked, did a small double take, and gave a bewildered look at the girl. Without moving from her frozen position on a fallen tree, she smiled at him in a happy manner. With a quizzical look forming on his face, the Doctor opened his mouth to speak.
‘Why are you only wearing one shoe?’
Slightly taken aback, he paused and glanced down at his feet. One shoe and one mud-stained lump with small wriggly toes gazed solemnly back at him... he hadn’t even realized that he’d lost a shoe... and why, of all things the things he could loose in a ship crash, would he loose a shoe?
He gave a fleeting look at the girl again and she responded with an unblinking stare.
'Why aren't you wearing any shoes?' he asked.
She ignored him. ‘You look daft with one shoe.'
The Doctor frowned and the unexpected image of an x-ray machine floated from the corner of his mind. He shrugged at the girl.
‘And why is that Alkoden hanging about?’
After looking momentarily puzzled, the Doctor spun around and glanced up at the tree above him. On a low hanging branch sat the koala-creature looking, as it always did, mildly bewildered.
‘They’re supposed to be very unlucky,’ said the girl conversationally. ‘Most people kill them if they get the chance. “Before it kills me” they usually say. Well… actually they usually say; “Ah! Quick, get the gun! Kill it! Kill it! Nasty, unlucky little bugger…”’
The koala-creature purred at the Doctor, leaped out the tree and landed on his shoulder. As could almost be expected from such a stupidly bemused looking thing, it promptly fell off and splatted onto its back in the mud. The Doctor scratched his cheek and looked down at the thing as it waved its short legs pitifully in the air. After a pause, he picked it up and carefully placed it back on the tree branch.
‘I like it,’ he decided, and grinned as a thought came to him. ‘It’s got big ears.’
‘And why is that important?’ asked the girl, eyeing the Doctor up and down.
The Doctor frowned again. ‘Well… it isn’t important. I just… it’s familiar…’
‘Big ears?’ she retorted. ‘Who do you know who has big ears?’
The Doctor opened his mouth to reply… then paused, unsure of what to say.
‘Apart from you, I mean,’ said the girl. She looked up at the sky with a curiously calm expression.
‘What?’ said the Doctor.
‘What?’ replied the girl.
‘Are my ears big?’ asked the Doctor, raising his hand to his face subconsciously. The girl gave a light laugh.
‘No,’ she said, smiling, ‘but they were, weren’t they?’
‘What?’ said the Doctor again.
She said no more, but gazed serenely upwards. The Doctor watched her, waiting for a response, and then realized that none was coming. The koala-creature once again leaped from the tree, and this time landed successfully on the Doctor’s back. It clambered up with surprising speed and placed itself on his head. Once there, it purred again, fixed the Doctor with an upside down stare of complete bewilderment, and bit him thoughtfully on the ear.
‘Ah!’ said the Doctor.
The bundle of fluff clicked rapidly at him, emitted several low purring noises, and then jumped back onto the tree. As the Doctor stared at it, he was sure it was giving him a smug look. At least... he thought it was... it was hard to tell when it had such a bewildered face. He turned back to the girl, the strange comment she had offered only moments before, completely forgotten.
‘Sorry, what’s this thing?' He jerked a thumb behind him at the koala-creature. 'An Alkodon?’
'Alkoden,’ she said, ‘native only to this planet. Translated in the common language as “unlucky pest”, although,’ she gave the creature a fleeting glance, ‘they seem to be quite mild.’ The Alkoden clicked its tongue at her.
‘Do you live here?’
Once again, the girl laughed.
‘Don’t you ask a lot of questions!’ She said.
‘Yeah, I like to know things. Starting with where I am and working my way up from here,’ said the Doctor.
‘You know where you are. What’s this planet named?’
‘Pericolo,’ the Doctor said, ‘everyone’s heard of it. Well… every Time Lord had heard of it. We were warned never to come here, my TARDIS…’ he felt a pang of loss but swallowed and ignored it, ‘she was warning me not to come, then we crashed… but I don’t know anything else about this place other than the name and the warning… care to fill me in?’
The girl smiled, ‘oh, I’m not from this planet. I’ve been traveling.’
There was something, either in the way that she said it or the look in her eye, which warned the Doctor not to ask any further into the subject. Swallowing his curiosity, he nodded instead and looked at the ground, his mind returning to the TARDIS. The girl watched him. He seemed suddenly full of age and deep thought, completely unaware of her sitting there. She permitted herself another small smile as he ran his hand distractedly through his hair.
‘I’m the Doctor,’ he said after a while.
‘Hello!’ the girl said cheerfully.
There was an awkward pause as the Doctor waited for some sort of response. When none came, he said; ‘and… what’s your name?’
She tilted her head to the left and appeared to be deeply considering the question. The Doctor watched her and subconsciously gripped his arm where it had been caught. After what seemed an unusually long time, the girl smiled dreamily and tilted her head back towards him.
‘Fyffe,’ she concluded.
The Doctor gave a coy smile.
‘Fyffe?’ he repeated.
‘Yes,’ said Fyffe, ‘it’s a small town in
The Doctor looked her up and down. ‘Human?’ he asked, surprised.
Fyffe gave a soft laugh.
‘No,’ she said.
'Look,' the Doctor's face was desperate. 'I just need to know where I am. I want to know what's going on, why I crashed, why my ship is...' he realized that it may be difficult to explain the complexities of the TARDIS to the young girl, '...broken,' he finished. 'I need help,' she looked at him blankly, 'can you help me?'
Very slowly, the girl shook her head. 'I can't help you,' she said, and almost appeared resentful of the fact. 'I don't know how. I'm not good at thinking in the right way... I think.' She raised her arms and shrugged in an apologetic gesture.
The Doctor looked gloomily at his foot again.
'There is a city nearby,' Fyffe said, 'I can take you to it, if you want.'
He looked up, hopeful.
'I've never been to it,' Fyffe continued, 'and don't know anything about it, or who lives there, or even if its the way that I think it is, or if there is any areas we should avoid while traveling there... but they may know what to do.'
'Great,' came the response.
After considering the Time Lord intensely for some time, she added; ‘I realize that you haven’t had the best of days, and I don’t wish to rush you or cause you any extra discomfort... but inside this forest are giant bears that like to eat things.’
The Doctor blinked at her.
Fyffe smiled. ‘Yes,’ she said pleasantly. ‘Starting with Alkoden and Erreeps - that’s a kind of sheep by the way - and ending up with anything they can get their giant claws upon... or razor sharp teeth in.’
As though the forest had been specifically waiting for a perfect dramatical moment, a loud bear-like bellow echoed from between the trees. Fyffe raised her head as the Doctor spun around, and both gazed into the dense trees behind them.
‘I’m guessing,’ said the Doctor slowly, ‘that “anything they can get their giant claws upon” would include me and you, yes?’
Fyffe nodded calmly. ‘I think the city would be the best idea at this point in time... It will be much safer than out here.’
She stood up.
The Doctor hesitated and glanced back at the shell of the TARDIS. He knew it was gone, but was still loathed to leave it... never again would it be waiting for him when he got back from what ever stupid adventure he found himself on. He felt like he should bury it or something, give it a funeral and respect…
Shaking his head slowly, the Doctor turned away and glanced down at Fyffe. She smiled up at him and pointed behind her to the West.
‘The city is that way... I think... If we leave now, we should get there by tomorrow,’ she said.
‘Ah, wonderful,’ said the Doctor glumly, still gazing at the inanimate ship, ‘unless we get eaten first that is…’
Fyffe shrugged, ‘C’mon, where’s your sense of adventure… where’s your
‘It died with my ship,’ said the Doctor.
He blinked at the familiar words and turned to the girl.
Fyffe smiled at him. ‘The city’s called Tendra, I've heard it’s quite nice… when it’s not at war. Let’s go.’ And without a backwards glance, she walked dreamily off into the trees.
The Doctor stared at her retreating back and tenderly touched his head where it had been hit. He felt resigned at leaving the TARDIS, but under the knowledge that the girl was the only chance he had of making it to the city; he followed her into the forests gloom.