by Rebecca Dowgiert

The Rain Room was first described by Audra McHugh, and the Butterfly Room by Kate Orman and Jon Blum.


Sam Jones was on walkabout.

It had begun a week after they'd gotten back from Tractis, from seeing the results of the Doctor's handiwork, the sop he'd thrown the way of a subjugated people.

It had been the least he could do, after eliminating the much nicer alternative history they'd fashioned for themselves. But it had threatened not only the evolution of humankind, but the stability of all space and time, and that just wouldn't do, would it?

Sam stopped, shifting the small day-pack's shoulder straps, and grimaced. It wasn't as if he'd really had a choice.

Unlike her.

She set grimly off again. It had been a quiet week, with the Doctor taking it easy, puttering around the console room and library as he'd recuperated from the near-starvation he'd suffered. Sam had also had some recovering to do. Fortunately, the cocktail of prions she'd been infected with had been beaten into submission by one of the arcane medicines from the Doctor's medical kit, never to cause her further trouble, he'd assured her.

Too bad he didn't have anything in there for the other wound she'd suffered.

She hadn't told him; couldn't. She'd come close, but the thought of the disappointment that would appear on that young-old face...

The way he'd looked at Jo, who had traveled with him so many years before. And who'd looked defiantly, matter-of-factly back from the controls of the field gun as the smoke had risen from the wreckage around them.

Another of the Doctor's friends, coarsened by experience, had taken the low road. And now he would find yet another one, still nestled in the bosom of his TARDIS--

The peace and quiet had begun to get to her. During her occasional forays into the console room, she'd felt the eyes of her Time Lord friend on her as she'd passed by. They hadn't said much to each other, beyond a few mutual solicitous inquiries as to the other's state of being.

But he was watching her; she knew it. Had he heard her guilty mutterings as she'd looked down upon him while he'd slept?

Finally, she couldn't stand it anymore. She had to get away; had to think. Fortunately, in the TARDIS, that would be easy to do. She'd filled a small backpack with food, a change of clothing and toiletries, then set off.

That had been a day and a half ago.

She'd spent some time in the Butterfly Room, walking about, careful not to crush any of the Lepodoptera; had visited Rowenna's and Julie's graves, before being seized with a sudden concern that the Doctor might well be about to drop by there for the same reason. An intuition, perhaps.

She'd shouldered her pack, then stepped into the corridor outside, looked around, and said:

"Show me what you've got."

The Time Ship hadn't disappointed her. She was fairly certain she hadn't been through any of the corridors twice, or doubled back without knowing it. She'd first traversed the dim, torch-lit Gothic passageways that snaked away from the Console Room the Doctor currently favored.

Coming to a familiar door, she'd stopped and slipped into the Rain Room. She'd stood, listening to the soothing patter of 'rain' against the window onto nowhere, through which the faintest suggestion of a misty English garden, green strung with diamonds, could be seen. But after a minute, she'd crept out again. She didn't deserve the Rain Room.

Sam wandered down stone corridors adorned with carved seals of Rassilon, which merged into more brightly-lit white halls with simple roundels, then morphed back into stone. There was even a stretch of paneled wooden hallways, lit with candles burning in pewter sconces.

The rooms set along the corridors were myriad, and filled with objects from all over the universe. Feeling like Ali Baba, she plunged gratefully into the distraction of exploration, sifting through shelves, drawers and trunks, in at least several cases, of literal treasure.

Not that it really impressed her all *that* much, she thought, as she lifted a hand, her fingers entwined through with strings of dully-gleaming pearls. Nor the Doctor, evidently, or else the chest wouldn't have been left mouldering here in a dim storage room, next to an old 1950s coke machine and a barber shop pole, a stack of burma shave signs propped against the side.

She went on. When she got hungry, she ate some of the food she'd brought, and refused to be surprised at how she kept conveniently encountering a WC whenever she felt the need to use one.

The day wore on, and she grew tired. At what felt like 'night' to her, she curled up in one of the rooms, in a comfortable wing chair she had found.

The next day, it started all over again.

During the afternoon, she thought she heard a sound, a dim echo. She stopped and listened. Was someone calling her? The sound died away, and she went on.

She found a room in which sat an easel and a pallette thick with globs of oil paints, their skins indicating that it had been some time since the artist had been by. She'd shivered a little. In this place, that could be literally centuries. The half-finished canvas had been of a landscape.

It had not been an earth landscape.

A green hill dotted with tiny white dots, an impressionistic strewing of white flowers, it seemed to her, had been rolling away under a burnt orange sky. A half-finished stone building was on the right.

Musing, she pulled the door shut, her head snapping up as a faint but unmistakable call drifted down the corridor.


She froze, then turned away, heart hammering. She wasn't ready to see him yet. What did he want, anyway? He could carry on without her for a while.

Down the corridor, away from the direction the call had come from, around several corners. Sam stopped and listened. Nothing. There; he didn't really want to see her that badly.

She continued briskly down the corridor for some time. The occasional torches set in sconces were flickering, as if in a draft, though she felt no breeze. Pausing, weary and jaded, Sam rubbed her eyes.

There was a door in the wall a few meters down the corridor. Funny; she hadn't noticed that at first glance. Approaching, she noted that it was different than the mostly plain, wooden doors she'd seen for the past couple of days. It had figures carved all over it, people and animals and strange creatures. She leaned forward to look, and stared. There was a carved Dalek! And a Cyberman, and a Telosian, and a Menaed, and there was a flying horse...

She had to see what was in there. She reached for the door handle. What she saw inside when she swung open the door had her gasping in appreciation.

The room was full of toys. They were scattered over several tables, on the comfortably- carpeted floor, were sitting on shelves, leaning against the warmly-paneled walls, a few on the red sette near the fireplace in which a cheerful fire was crackling...

It was the epitome of every description she'd ever read of the typical English Nursery. Sam stepped forward, enchanted.

Many of the playthings were jeweled as ornately as anything she'd seen in the treasure chests; the playthings of royalty. Others, by contrast, were as humble -- and obviously once well-loved -- as the tatty woolen teddy bear sitting propped upon a dresser in the corner. Some were alien, their purpose unidentifiable.

Sam moved further into the room. She was far beyond kid's stuff, but this -- this was something else. She stretched out her hands above a magnificent replica of a merry-go- round, encrusted with precious stones, that sat upon a small table to the side of the settee.

"My God, it's gold," she murmured, impressed. Glancing to the side, she saw a small crank. Reaching over, she carefully wound it up, then stood back as it revolved, playing music. Leaning closer, she stared. The little horses, and yes, birds and other animals too, moved up and down as they revolved.

Sam smiled for the first time in days. She'd loved merry-go-rounds when she'd been very young.

When the toy wound down, she turned her attention to the rest of the room. She had just sat down on the dusty but comfortable sofa, holding a copy of Lewis Carroll's _Alice in Wonderland_, when a sudden noise put all her senses on alert.

A gentle voice drifted from the corridor outside, though the ajar door. "Down here, is she? Thanks, old girl."

Sam tensed, then leaped to her feet, gripped by a sudden panic.. *Thanks old girl...* Her finding this room, and then *him* showing up right after...

Trapped like a rat!

Sam looked around wildly. "Thanks a lot, 'old girl'," she growled. "I'll remember this."

The door creaked open, and the Doctor sauntered in. Sam stood, awkwardly clutching the book. He said nothing immediately, just strolled over to one of the toy-laden tables and began to survey the playthings scattered over its surface.

"Well, my goodness. I didn't know I had one of these."

A response seemed to be called for. Sam opened her mouth, feeling rusty. "What?" she croaked.

"A toy room." He flashed a smile at her, then turned back to the display, reaching out to pick up a cast-iron man on a bicycle. Looking at it, he replaced it, reached for something else. "I've been wondering where you'd gotten to," he said, mildly.

There was a pause. He looked over at her where she stood frozen.

"I've been looking for you for two days."

Sam cleared her throat, resisting the urge to shuffle her feet. "I... wanted to have a look around, see some more of the TARDIS. I didn't think I would be gone this long. Sorry." She put the book down on the table, next to the merry-go-round, picked up her pack, slinging it over one shoulder, and for a strange instant envisioned a dash for the door.

The Doctor looked up sharply, then with a little crow of triumph reached over to pick up a strange wand-like device. "A Dezan rattle! I haven't seen one of these in *ages!* Watch!" He lifted it on high, and twisted the bottom of the slim handle.

A cloud of shimmering colored particles of light blossomed around the top of the wand, shining and dancing like a holographic sparkler. Sam stepped closer in wonder. "*That's* a rattle? It doesn't make any noise."

"None that *your* ears can pick up. Nor mine, for that matter." Smiling, the Doctor held the 'rattle' out to her, and she automatically reached to accept it.

Sam stood, holding the alien toy, staring at the shifting cloud of color. Behind she could dimly see the outline of the Doctor, watching her.


His tone was infinitely patient, infinitely understanding. She lowered the rattle, her heart sinking.

"I want to know why you've been avoiding me."

The image of a severed leg, twitching, flashed through her mind. "I'm sorry," she said. "I thought you could use the rest. From me." She looked away, placed the glittering holo- rattle on a nearby table. "Next time I'll remember to leave a note."

"Sam." She looked back up. His head was moving from side to side. "SamSamSam. No. Don't do this. _Don't_turn_away_."

Sam stood frozen, a sucession of thoughts parading through her mind.

Who does he think he is?

My parents never talked to me this way.

They just assumed that everything was all right.

Why can't he just leave me alone?!

"I used to just let things go; didn't want to pry." The Doctor glanced down, a rueful smile twisting his mouth, his hands clasped behind his back like a schoolboy. "Afraid of what I'd find." He shook his head again, vigorously, brown curls swinging. "When we got back from Tractis, I started to do the same thing, out of habit. Not any more." He looked up, a smile breaking out across his face. "Not any more!"

"Lucky me."

She didn't really mean for it to come out like that. His face froze, expressionless. Then he smiled again, almost slyly. Unclasping his hands, he lifted a hand, shaking an index finger at her. "You're not getting out of this that easily."

"Is that what this is, to you? A game?! Get me to tell you what's on my mind? You sure as hell don't go around telling me everything!"

His face shifted again, turning serious. "No, I don't. But I'm not asking for all your secrets. I'm asking what's been troubling you."

Sam shifted the pack's weight. "I just had to think about... what happened recently."

He looked at her encouragingly.

She stared at him. How could she just stand here and tell him-- tell him--

I killed someone.

I killed someone because I was scared, terrified, because they were attacking, they wanted to wipe out humanity, kill me--

Because I was frightened and I took the easy way out.

In the confusion, no one even seemed to notice. It took just a moment.

Jesus, it was so easy--!

"I've been thinking. And I'm not sure-- I'm not sure, if I can do. This any longer."

He said nothing.

"I mean, I'm not sure-- I've got to think about it. That's what I was doing -- thinking about it."

Even as she said it, she knew she was lying. She'd been running through the TARDIS in an effort to avoid the thoughts crowding after her like a pack of harpies.

"Sam." A simple word, it brought her head up to look him in the eyes. He closed his eyes for a moment and sighed, then said quietly, "It doesn't have to break you."

She stood, empty. "You knew," was all she could think to say, her voice peculiarly flat.

The Doctor opened his mouth to reply, and she said quickly, "What am I thinking? Of course you knew; you always know everything that's going on around you. And I suppose you 'understand', too; after all, I'm only human. We do that sort of thing all the time."


"You were just watching me, weren't you? Waiting for me to confide in you. Looking forward to playing Father Confessor, were you?"

The ugliness coming out of her mouth...

He took a step forward, his face twisting as if in pain. "Sam, don't--"

"What, tell the truth? Spare me your 'understanding'. It only took a moment, you know. I could easily do it again. It certainly took care of the problem."

"Sam, I know you didn't do it on purpose -- it was a mistake!"

"No," she said, her voice husking up as her eyes began to swim with tears at last. "It was a choice. Everything happened so fast, and... I chose that. You know, if the universe hadn't been about to unravel, you really should've let *them* stay."

"Sam!" There was definite frustration in his voice. "Listen to me--"

"Why? So you can convince me everything's all right? So I won't leave? You just don't want to be alone."

He looked at her steadily. His eyes had chosen that moment to be turquoise. "You're right; I don't. And right now, you shouldn't be, either. Regardless of whether you decide to leave or stay on." He held out a hand. "Come on. Let's go back, to the Rain Room. Where we can talk."

Sam stared at his hand in distaste. "What, and that'll make it all right?"

Extremely patiently: "No. But it will help."

And that, she realized, was as good an offer as she was going to get.

Sam stepped forward but refused the proffered hand, feeling incredibly weary. "It'll take a while to get back," she muttered, as she followed him through the doorway. "I've been walking for days--"

She stopped. The Doctor was pushing open a door in the corridor wall opposite and stepping into the Rain Room.

Sam gawped, then turned and looked back. Yes, they'd just left the 'Toy Room'; she could still see the dim shapes of the playthings through the doorway. And right opposite was the Rain Room.

Well, the symbolism certainly fit.

She blinked, shook herself, and then followed the Doctor.


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