Title: Turn My Wooden Heart (Chapter 5/13)
Author: Anogete
Characters/Pairings: Nine/Rose
Genre: Action/Adventure, Romance
Rating: Adult, NC-17
Beta: [livejournal.com profile] tardismate and [livejournal.com profile] amberfocus
Summary: The Doctor and Rose find themselves wrapped up in a war between two tribes of people. As they sort out the conspiracy surrounding this war, they begin to question their feelings for one another.
Disclaimer: I certainly don't own anyone or anything associated with Doctor Who, but I do enjoy playing with Nine and Rose. ::pets them::
A/N: This fic is thirteen chapters with a short epilogue, and it is nearly complete. I'm going to try to post at least two chapters a week. Also, big thank yous to Tardismate and Amberfocus. You gals have been so much help, and I appreciate all you do.

Previous Chapters: Chapter 1 || Chapter 2 || Chapter 3 || Chapter 4

CHAPTER 5

When she and the Doctor arrived at the meeting location, they found Yorba, the leader of the Sarhn, standing on a raised section of earth before a crowd of his tribesmen. Tok, the leader of the Harack, was standing beside the earthen hill, but not on it with Yorba. It was then that Rose realized most of the Harack were here as well. They were standing to the left, and the Sarhn were standing to the right. Both tribes were nervously shifting, casting uneasy glances across the ground that divided them. They were all armed with staffs. Some even had crude stone daggers like the one she had nearly been killed with.

One of their captors pushed the end of his staff into Rose’s back to prod her forward down the aisle between the tribes to stand before Yorba and Tok. “They must have discovered it by now,” the Doctor whispered to himself as they walked through the assembled tribes together.

There had to be at least one hundred men and women on either side, though she suspected not all the Harack and Sarhn were in attendance. There were few women and no children or elderly. Perhaps they had been left behind should the meeting come to a fight.

“Stranger and his ilsingin,” Yorba said, nodding to them both.

“Doctor,” the Doctor corrected. “I’m the Doctor.”

“Doctor,” Yorba repeated, the word obviously awkward in his mouth. “You say Harack do not kill my people.”

The Doctor nodded.

Yorba gestured to Tok. “Tok, leader of Harack agrees. He says we kill his people.”

“But you don’t,” the Doctor agreed. “Someone else is killing both the Sarhn and the Harack.”

“There is no one else. These forests belong to Sarhn.”

“And Harack,” Tok added, hitting the end of his staff on the ground.

Yorba spared a glance at Tok. “And Harack,” he conceded before continuing. “Tok says you will help.”

The Doctor nodded. “Of course.”

“You will find others. You bring them before Sarhn for justice.”

“And Harack,” Tok added again.

Yorba nodded his agreement. “You do this?” he asked the Doctor.

“Rose—my ilsingin—must come with me.”

Yorba and Tok both looked to Rose. “You put her in danger,” Tok said.

The Doctor shook his head. “No, I’ll protect her.” He looked over at Rose. “I can’t do this without her.”

Rose felt her throat close up at the sincerity of his words and knew that his comment extended beyond just this situation.

Yorba stepped down and conferred with Tok, and then the two men walked past Rose and the Doctor to speak with the tribesmen in the front rows of the assembly. The hushed voices were biting and furious and pleading and frightened. Rose knew her fate was being decided. If the men didn’t allow her to leave with the Doctor, then they would be forced to fight their way out. Finally, the discussions concluded and Yorba turned. “This is agreeable. If you do not return, we will hunt. We know of your blue box. Tok says it is trapped. We will hunt you if there are no others.”

The Doctor flashed the tribesmen his usual goofy smile that spoke of triumph and nodded his head. “Agreed.”

“The day is late. Travel at night in forest is dangerous. Stay here, set out in light,” Tok said as he stepped forward to stand beside Yorba.

*****************************

Despite being told they were to be released at dawn to investigate what or who could be killing the members of both tribes, the Doctor and Rose were watched closely the rest of the evening. They dined with Yorba and Tok who were surprisingly civil with one another, though they still appeared to be distrustful. A few fights broke out between the tribesmen who had segregated themselves, but the disagreements never escalated into anything more serious than a few punches. The Harack and Sarhn still seemed to be very much in shock over the revelation that all they had known to be true about the other tribe just might be lies.

Rose didn’t realize how dark it had got after supper until a young man brought a torch over and secured it by the rocks they were sitting on with Tok, Yorba, and several of their advisors. Yorba nodded his thanks and excused himself to find his wife.

Once he was gone, Tok turned to the Doctor. “You will find these others?”

“Yes,” the Doctor answered.

“We need peace with Sarhn. We are one people--Drynn. Many fathers ago, killings began and Drynn fractured to two: Harack and Sarhn. Many do not remember. My father told me before death. We were more great than this.”

The Doctor nodded solemnly. “I understand, and I will do all I can to help the Drynn.”

“Yes,” Tok replied, satisfied that he had got his request across, that the Doctor understood the gravity of the situation. He shifted on the rock and leaned closer, his voice pitched only for the Doctor and Rose. “You know not what ilsingin is.” It was a statement, not a question.

“Oh, we have a general idea, I think,” the Doctor replied. “Just different terms in different places.”

“No,” Tok said, “you do not.”

Rose leaned forward. “What is an ilsingin? A slave? A wife?”

He smiled at her naivety. “Path to gods.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Many have no ilsingin because we take wives now. Ilsingin is more and is rare. Ilsingin is to be worshipped.”

Rose frowned. “But when we met you for the first time, you asked the Doctor if I was his ilsingin. When I argued that I wasn’t, you asked him if I didn’t know my place. I thought—well, I thought you meant that I was his… sex slave or something.”

With a great roar of laughter, Tok shook his head at her. Many eyes from the camp turned toward them, but when nothing happened, they returned to what they had been doing. “No, no,” Tok said, reaching a hand out to Rose and patting her on the knee. “Ilsingin is no slave. If any slave, then yingil is slave.” He motioned to the Doctor. “Yingil—lonely man—is…” Tok stopped, searching for the right word. “…is redeemed by ilsingin. Ilsingin saves, makes better.”

“Which would explain why your people thought Rose was the reason we could walk in the meadow,” the Doctor said, suddenly putting the pieces together in his head. “You thought she was my link to a higher authority.”

“But—but, I’m not,” Rose told Tok. “I’m not his ilsingin.”

“Yes, you are,” the Doctor said before Tok could answer.

Rose rolled her eyes. “Doctor, I don’t think we need to play at it any longer if they’re letting us go in the morning.”

The Doctor’s face was in shadows because his back was to the torch. “I’m not playing at anything, Rose.”

“Oh, right,” she said with a smile. “Then what’s all this rubbish about Rose Tyler being your savior and making you better and… What was it?”

“Redeeming,” Tok answered, watching the two of them intently.

“And redeeming you,” she finished, laughter bubbling up her throat.

The Doctor’s voice was soft, and she wished desperately she could see his face when he said, “I heard what he said, Rose. And you’re still my ilsingin.”

Rose opened her mouth to reply, but nothing issued from her lips. Tok smiled at her and patted her knee again. “You do not choose. He chooses. I say you do not know your place because some ilsingin have shyness. They say they do not desire worship.”

She looked over at the Doctor, sitting only a few feet away, and wondered if he could see her surprise, if he could feel how shocked she was at his admission. But his face was as shrouded in darkness as hers most likely was. “I should—I should probably get some sleep,” Rose whispered, standing up and looking behind her to the small tent-like shelter constructed for her and the Doctor. He didn’t say anything or move to accompany her when she walked away, so she just clenched her fingers into fists and tried to ignore what had just happened as she crawled onto the warm pallet of furs.

Rose lay awake for at least two hours, staring up at the utter darkness of the tent roof. She could barely make out her hand in front of her face, and then only because there was a torch burning not far from the entrance. Her mind ran in all sorts of directions, most of them involving the Doctor and her feelings toward him. Or his feelings toward her.

Just as she was finally drifting off to sleep, the flap over the door of the tent rose and he quietly crawled inside to sit in the corner by the door, watching her.

“I’m awake, you know,” Rose said.

“I know.”

Questions cluttered her mind. Why did he call her his ilsingin? Why did he kiss her and then push her away? What was he thinking at this very moment? Could aliens fall in love with humans? Because she knew very well that humans could definitely fall in love with aliens. She also knew that, if asked, none of her questions would be satisfactorily answered. Sometimes the Doctor could be so evasive.

Instead of asking what she really wanted to know, she settled for inquiring about his plans for tomorrow. “Where are we going? Back to the TARDIS?”

“That’d be the best idea. I’d like to run an analysis on the surface below the TARDIS. See if I come up with anything.”

Rose shifted beneath the furs and turned to face him. “You really think something is beneath the ground?”

“I had the capacitor working enough to take us to Zed Six. We shouldn’t have veered off course. Didn’t think of it before now, but a strong power source could have knocked the capacitor offline enough that we were shifted here instead of the plotted destination.”

“And you think this might have something to do with these people being killed.”

“Might.”

“All right,” Rose said, nodding her head in the dark. It was good to have a plan, a course of action. She was finished with imprisonment and helplessness.

Long minutes of silence stretched between them after Rose’s voice faded into the night. Finally, the Doctor cleared his throat and shifted restlessly. “About what I said…”

Rose held her breath, waiting for him to continue. She wasn’t even certain what he was referring to, but she suspected he was talking about the ilsingin comment earlier that night.

“What I said about you, about you being my ilsingin.”

Rose cringed. She felt like he was having a difficult time telling her that it was a mistake. Instead of letting the awkward moment weigh them down, she swallowed the pain. “Hey, I get it. It was just for show so Tok thinks we have an edge, that I have some kind of line to the gods for you. It’s fine, really.”

“Rose.” The Doctor leaned forward and laid his hand on her bare arm. “You are, literally, my savior. Remember when we met? When I blew up that shop?”

She chuckled softly at the memory of him telling her to run for her life while standing in front of the maintenance door to the shop she worked at. The memory felt like it came from another life, a life before the Doctor. A half-life. “Yeah, I remember being ridiculous and swinging out over a living blob of plastic.”

“I would have died if you hadn’t been there. And you know it.”

“Yeah, maybe,” she replied, smiling shyly.

“And I can honestly say, Rose,” he said, curling his fingers around her arm, “that you have made my life better. I was popping from place to place, not feeling much of anything. And then you were there, and everything was new again. I saw it all through your eyes. Didn’t have anyone to talk to for so long, and then…” He paused, and she could hear the smile in his voice. “And then there was you. And you mean so much to me.”

Rose felt the hot tears rolling down her cheeks and hitting the bedclothes before she even knew she was crying. She rubbed a hand over her nose and sniffed loudly. “You mean a lot to me, too,” she whispered, her voice betraying her.

“You just liked my TARDIS,” he teased. She was glad he was smiling again.

Rose grinned and scooted over so he had room to lie down beside her. “No, it’s you I like the best.”

“Don’t flatter me; it’ll go to my head.” The Doctor settled down onto the pallet with her. Before lying back, he pressed a gentle kiss on her forehead. “Sleep, Rose Tyler. We’ve got a busy morning ahead.”
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