Chapter Twenty Four

All night long, the men rowed. With four of them doing the work, they allowed two men to take a break at one time so they could keep on going. The four strong men were making good time and the boat skimmed through the water at a good clip.

The water was slightly choppy. A fierce wind had blown up and the tarps made a snapping noise as it moved them. The boat was wide enough for two people to lay down and the Doctor moved up to the beginning of the shelter while Donna and Rose lay down on their sides and rested. The Doctor threw an extra blanket over both of them and the plastic on top of that, keeping them warm and insulated while he kept watch. The moon was the only source of illumination but the Doctor had keen eyesight and he watched lovingly over the women as they drifted off to sleep.

At one point, Patrick and Joseph took a break. They laid their oars inside the boat and rested their arms. They noticed the Doctor huddled inside the blanket and Joseph reached down under the plank they were sitting on and pulled up a metal box.

"Are ya hungry, mon?" he said to the Doctor.

The Doctor looked at them and shook his head. He watched while Patrick and Joseph reached in and took out a couple of turkey sandwiches, a thermos of hot tea and two plastic cups.

"How long have you been doing this?" the Doctor said while Patrick poured the tea into the cups.

"About a month. We finally decided to stop sitting around on our arses and help," Patrick said. "There were others before us who helped set up everything. They moved on to Europe to continue setting up our transportation network and we stayed behind and took over.

"Do you have family?" the Doctor said.

"Had a wife, she was killed by the Toclafane the first night," Patrick said. "The rest of my family lives in Londonderry. Have no idea if they're alive or dead."

"Same with me. My family is back in Jamaica. I came here five years ago to look for work. No idea if they're livin' or dead now. Damn that Saxon," Joseph said before taking a sip of tea. "What about you? You have family?"

"Not anymore. My family is long gone. I only have friends like these," the Doctor said, gesturing to Rose and Donna.

"Sometimes your friends are closer than your family is," Patrick said.

"And they are. Never got along with my family. My friends became my surrogate family," the Doctor said.

"Nothin' wrong with that, mon," Joseph said.

They chatted for a bit before Patrick and Joseph finished their meal and joined the rowers again. The wind was blowing harder and the boat was rocking as the waves lapped up against it and the clouds were beginning to obscure the moon. Rose stirred when the rocking became too much to ignore and the Doctor put his hand on her leg.

"It's alright, just some winds," he said to her.

"What time is it?" Rose murmured.

"Um…nearly half past three now," the Doctor said, glancing at his watch.

"Do you know where we are?" Rose murmured.

"English Channel," the Doctor said.

"I know that, smartarse," she said while he snickered. "I mean where are we in the English Channel?"

"No idea. Can't see any land yet though," he said, leaning back and looking around the tarp. "I…oh, bugger," the Doctor said when he felt raindrops on his face. "Looks like rain now."

"Come inside a bit more," Rose said, sitting up and scooting back.

"Lay down, Rose," the Doctor said.

"No, I'm fine. Just come in here so you don't get rained on," Rose said as Donna stirred and lifted her head.

The Doctor got up on his knees and crawled inside so he was out of the elements. The rain hit the tarp and made a dripping sound as the rain fell faster. Donna sat up and looked around, trying to wake her brain up.

"How far along are we?" Donna said, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.

"Not sure but I'm hoping the rain is as bad as it gets," the Doctor said, listening to the pitter patter on the tarp.

They watched while the men stopped rowing briefly to reach under their planks and grab waterproof black raincoats and hats. They put them on and Patrick turned on an electric lantern and passed it back to the Doctor before he turned on another one, put it down between the planks and put a small sheet of plastic over it. The Doctor put the lantern in the midst of him and his friends and they scooted together and kept each other warm while the rain fell hard against the shelter. The Doctor was thankful for the shelter since the wind was blowing fiercely now but he hated that the men who were risking their lives to ferry them across were getting pelted by the rain. He wondered how many colds the men had suffered over the course of doing this and he wished he had something to give them to reward them for selflessly doing this for them.

After a half hour, the wind began to die down and the rain slowed. Another half hour passed and the rain stopped completely, although the moon remained hidden behind the clouds. The waves calmed and now were lapping gently against the sides of the boat while the men paddled.

"Good thing the rains came," George called out to the passengers. "Havin' a moon out like that is dangerous. Bloody Toclafane can fly out here and if they see us, we're as good as dead!"

"At least we'd have a burial at sea then," Donna quipped.

The Doctor noticed Rose was slightly shivering. He reached behind him, grabbed another blanket and she thanked him when he put it around the one she was using.

"What about you, aren't you cold?" she said while Donna put another blanket around her body.

"No, I have a high tolerance for cold. I'm fine with one blanket," the Doctor said. "Actually, I'm fine with no blankets but this blanket is nice and comfy so I'll keep it around me."

"Wish I had your tolerance, the rainstorm made it colder," Rose said, wrapping the blankets tightly around her. "I hope we won't be out here much longer."

She let out a mirthless laugh.

"I'm sorry, I'm whinging when that lot was directly out in the rain and wind," she said. "I sound like an ungrateful hag."

"Nah, you're just trying to keep warm is all," the Doctor said. "I wish I could offer you better body heat but my body temperature is lower than yours. I'm not much good when it comes to warming bodies up."

"Nah, I'm glad you're here," Rose said. "Just you being here is comforting."


The Doctor smiled when Donna snuggled up on the other side of him.

"Didn't you just hear that I'm useless when it comes to body heat," he teased her.

"I don't care. I agree with Rose. You have a comforting presence," she said. "Out here on the ocean with no land in sight and who knows what might be out here. Not to mention surviving once we get to France. You have the ability to put people at their ease, that's for sure."

"I'm just an all-around people person," the Doctor said. "I make people feel comfy, that's my secondary job after Time Lord. Time Lord and Comfy Person. I'm like a big teddy bear, eh?"

"Um…I wouldn't go that far," Donna said. "Especially after I watched Teddy Bear wipe out an entire nest of spiders."

"Yes, well, I was…angry and in pain at the time that happened," the Doctor said uncomfortably, preferring not to think of the genocide he caused that night.

He could feel Rose studying him and he gave her a tender look as he pulled the blanket closer around his body.

You've suffered so much, haven't you? She thought to him. What my husband did to you was just the latest in a long line of torments, yeah?

I'm used to pain and suffering, the Doctor thought back as he watched the tarp in front of him ripple in the wind. That's another thing you get used to when you fight evil.

And I suffered at your side?

The Doctor lowered his eyes and nodded. Rose reached out of her blanket and the Doctor did the same, clasping her hand in his.

I don't know how I felt before, she thought to him. But I know now that I would suffer at your side and be glad to do so because you sacrifice so much for us….all of us.

The Doctor squeezed her hand in reply and Rose rested her head against his shoulder. The Doctor watched lovingly while she let a soft sigh escape from her nose, closed her eyes and went back to sleep.

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