Word Count: 700
Characters: Eleventh Doctor, Ada
Summary: Every lonely monster needs a companion. Oneshot, set during the timeframe of The Crimson Horror.
Spoilers: for 7.11, The Crimson Horror
Warnings, kinks & contents: References to captivity, abusive parents and mental instability.
A/N: The hymn referred to in this ficlet is by William Bright. All other words are mine.
The morning brings her again.
Her progress is slow, hobbled by the weight of the pail in her left hand, but there is eagerness to every step, and the faintest memory of colour in her cheeks.
"The others are at chapel. I told Mama I had a headache. You cannot imagine the din my heart was making, like a caged bird- I think it was my first outright falsehood since I was a girl. I even made away with this." She hefts the bucket, and a little water slaps against the flagging. Her other hand seeks out the doorknob, setting the cane in place there. "And now we are safe- one whole hour all to ourselves, monster. Let me have your arms."
Before long the washcloth is bled through with scarlet, Ada's gloves stained vivid across the palms. She tugs them off with a frightened laugh and drops them into the straw.
"Dripping wet. Foolish of me; we cannot let Mama see those, can we? But this casing of yours- it will not shift. Hard as a washboard. So it seems that we are each marked out for our failings, monster. Never mind, never mind." This last in a singsong cadence, and he can feel anger band tight around his chest, every fibre smarting with the urge to leap up and disabuse her of all her mother's venom.
Somebody in the room is groaning, desolate enough to break. A moment passes before he recognises the voice as his own.
"Hush. There, now." Beside him, Ada fumbles for a second rag and begins to dry his hands, seeking out each finger in turn, like a dutiful parent over their child. Her smile, so taut before, has softened with the pleasure of her task, pale eyes heavy-lidded as though in sleep. "Yours is a marvellous strength, monster. To have survived all this. And yet you were not to be chosen; we must both remember that. The world is full deceitful wonder, and those who lack correction are easily led astray." Her nails trace the calcified joint of his right thumb, as if to reassure herself of its presence. "There was a beggar woman lived on the corner by our alehouse, when I was a girl. If you could spare a few farthings she would read the lines on your palm, pore over them like holy writ, and tell you that your soul was blessed. Terrible, fearful wickedness. Papa struck her with his walking stick once, and she fell so swiftly I-" Something contracts in Ada's throat; she gags, coughing on bile. "We'll have nothing of the dark arts, will we monster? Let our misfortunes be what they may."
Off in the middle distance the organ strikes up, joined after a brief interlude by voices; At Thy feet, O Christ, we lay, thine own gift of this new day…Ada tilts her head towards the music, an instinctive yearning movement entirely devoid of her usual caution. A bar of light from the window slats catches her face as she turns, and for the first time he sees her bravery and her compassion for what they are; remnants of her true self that she has kept safe against all odds, untouched by fear or loss or others' cruelty.
When he tears this place down, as surely he will, he must take care that she does not crumble with it. Some poisons - the ones whose ill-effects linger in the soul as on the skin - are even more deadly for the attempt to cure them.
By tentative degrees Ada's bare hands close over his useless ones, bringing them up to rest against her collarbone. Like the sun's rays through stone he can detect the warmth there, the muted flutter of a pulse beneath. "Should we entreat God for forgiveness, monster? Yes. I think we must."
He knows no prayers. Still he prays. Hidden away from them both, the organ redoubles its efforts for the final verse - Hear us, Lord, and that right soon; hear, and grant the choicest boon …
"Amen", Ada murmurs. Then the hymn dies and they are alone together once more, trapped and expectant, holding and being held in the dawn silence.