The year was 1916. World War I was going on in the world.
Isabelle was in a surgical tent tending to the wounded near Somme, France.
The dead littered the ground around them. The death toll was climbing minute by
minute as the train and horse drawn ambulances kept bringing back more bodies
than wounded soldiers. She was holding a cloth against a bleeding wound as a
doctor retrieved instruments to remove a bullet from the soldier's arm.
Her Doctor, on the other hand, was trying to figure out what alien race was aiding the Germans. The amount of bombardment the British had supplied the Germans with should have had an impact. Yet, the Germans kept coming in droves.
The medical doctor finally returned with the instruments. He was in his mid-thirties, young enough to keep going, but old enough to know what he was doing.
"Let me see the wound," he ordered. Isabelle removed the cloth. The bullet hole bled immediately. "Put pressure here," the doctor said indicating an area under the arm.
Isabelle put pressure on the spot. The blood slowed as she dabbed the wound again. The doctor then had a better view of the damage to the arm. He picked up one of the bloody instruments to extract the bullet. She cringed to see the unsanitary conditions in which these doctors and nurses worked in. She was given strict orders from the Doctor not to alter anything and to do as she was told.
The doctor pulled out the bullet and sutured the impact sight. Once he was finished, he tossed her a roll of cloth and told Isabelle to bandage the arm then meet him at the end of the row. As she wrapped the cloth around the soldier's arm he began to wake up. When he saw her, he smiled.
"If I'm in heaven, you are a beautiful angel," he said to her.
"You're not, but thank you," she replied. "You're going to be fine. The doctor took out the bullet. You were lucky."
"I know I'm lucky, if I have a nurse like you," he said getting cheeky.
"You are a charmer," she said with a sly smile as she finished tying up the bandage, "but I'm sort of spoken for."
"Now, there is a lucky chap," he said.
"He is not as fortunate as I am. I think very highly of him," she said. "Get some rest," she said touching the soldier's cheek. Then, she stood up. When she turned around, the Doctor was standing at the foot of the bed. She swallowed hard.
"How much of that did you hear?" she asked.
"Enough," he answered with a smirk. She avoided his eyes.
"I'm needed at the end of the row," Isabelle said to the Doctor. Before she could move, the soldier grabbed her hand.
"Is that him, miss?" he asked her. Isabelle hesitated knowing the Doctor was still standing there listening.
"Yes, it is," she said trying to hold back the wide smile that threatened to escape.
"Blimey, I had no chance," he said sadly. Isabelle leaned down to kiss the soldier's cheek.
"Let's make him jealous. What's your name?" she whispered into his ear.
"Thomas. Thomas Darling" he whispered back. Her eyes widened.
"Well, Thomas, I'll be back to check on you later," she said. Then, she stood up straight again moving towards the Doctor.
Just as she was walking away, Thomas grabbed her rear-end. She let out a little squeal but kept on walking towards the end of the row. The Doctor followed her.
"I was just goosed by my grandfather," Isabelle whispered to the Doctor.
"Good thing he's not a blood relative," the Doctor said boldly. She nudged the Doctor as he grinned.
The other doctor was waving Isabelle over to another wounded soldier. She rushed over without saying anything to the Doctor. He merely disappeared out of the surgical tent.
"I need your help," the doctor said intensely as she approached. "His leg has to go."
She looked down at the blood soaked clothing and cloth. Everything was red. The doctor proceeded to cut away the soldier's trousers exposing the missing flesh. Isabelle could see right to the bone. She turned away briefly.
"If you cannot handle this, I'll get another nurse, but tell me quickly," the doctor demanded when he saw her turn away.
"No. I'm fine," she said glaring at the doctor. He nodded and handed her a belt. She slid the belt under the soldier's leg. Then she thread it through the buckle and pulled tautly on it.
"Alice! Come help Isabelle hold this man down!" the doctor shouted at another nurse nearby. She came promptly to hold the man's shoulders. "Put this between his teeth." He handed Alice a bite stick.
"Yes, Doctor," she said as she wedged the stick into the unconscious soldier's mouth.
"Come over hear, Isabelle. Hold this leg. He may thrash about," the doctor instructed her. She did as she was told.
The doctor then held a bone saw against the leg and began to cut above the wound.
"Doctor!" Alice said. "Doctor, stop!"
"What is it, Alice?" he demanded but did not stop cutting.
"I think he's dead," she said gravely.
The doctor stopped and looked at the man. He then put his ear to his chest. Slowly, he stood up straight. Taking the saw away, he placed it on the table.
"Take the belt off and cover him up," the doctor said looking at Isabelle who was staring at the dead soldier. He looked at her with concern when she did not move. His sternness melted away. Then he asked, "How long have you been awake?"
"Uh, I'm not sure, doctor. Since 0600 hours yesterday," she speculated as his question snapped her out of her trance. She removed the belt and laid it on an empty table.
"Have you eaten?" he inquired looking concerned.
"Not much, sir," she replied.
"Go, get some rest and for God's sake, eat something. Alice, tell Joan I said Isabelle is off duty until tomorrow."
"Yes, doctor," Alice replied with a curtsy and walked away to inform the woman in charge of the hospital staff.
Isabelle curtsied and said, "Thank you, doctor."
"I'll finish up here. And Isabelle?"
"My name is Peter."
She nodded with a small smile and curtsied again before leaving his presence. Walking away from the surgical tent and looking over her shoulder, she made her way towards a house beyond the hospital. Once she was sure she wasn't being followed or noticed, she sprinted her way towards the TARDIS hidden behind the house.
Using the key the Doctor had given her after his accidental month away, she opened the door. The Doctor stood by the view screen. He looked over at her when she entered.
"Peter told me get some rest. I have all night here," Isabelle said wearily.
"Peter? Now, you are on a first name basis with the doctor?" he inquired.
"At least this doctor has a first name," she chided moving into the TARDIS.
"I have a first name. I just choose not to tell anyone," he said in a high pitched voice.
"Why won't you tell me your name then?" she asked walking towards him.
"The only person whoever knew name was my wife," he replied.
"Oh," Isabelle said with disappointment. She excused herself to get cleaned up.
In the bathroom the Doctor had constructed for her off her bedroom during his visit in Cardiff, she filled the bathtub with hot water and soap bubbles. Then she stripped out of her nurses uniform which was covered in blood. Slowly, she lowered herself into the water. She submerged herself briefly. The soap bubbles covered the entire surface and only her head peeked above the surface. The warm water felt nice against her sticky skin even though it was July. The bubbles slowly turned pink from the blood washing off her arms, hands, and face.
When she emerged from her bathroom in her dressing gown, the Doctor sat slouched in her squashy chair in deep thought. He did not even look up when she came out. She toweled off her hair as she moved towards her wardrobe.
"Are you on the nod?" Isabelle asked as she passed him to get to the wardrobe. She could hear him inhale deeply.
"No," he answered.
"Can I ask what you were thinking about?" she questioned opening the wardrobe. She regretted the question as it came out of her mouth.
"You," he said, which surprised her.
"Me? What have I done?" she asked. She must have done something to upset him. "I'm sorry about Thomas. I had no idea that was my grandfather. I was just playing, I meant no harm."
"That's not it," he said sitting up in the chair and leaning forward onto his knees with his forearms. "I'm just amazed how easily you took to the nursing position. I know you told me your mother taught you first aid, but you have a remarkable bedside manner that modern medicine would be happy to employ. So, why aren't you a nurse?"
She stopped looking through the wardrobe and bowed her head slightly. Then she turned towards him and said, "I don't like death." She turned back around to rummage through her clothes again. "I don't mind seeing the bodies that are already deceased. It's the ones that die in front of me that pain me. I saw one die today."
Again, she paused her search and looked beyond her wardrobe seeing the soldier as his life exhaled out of him. The Doctor had come up behind her and placed his hands on her shoulders. He brought her out of her reverie and she took a deep breath.
"How are your plans going?" she asked trying to change the subject. She pulled out a t-shirt and jeans. The Doctor let go of her as she placed the clothes on the bed.
"I know who is aiding the Germans," he stated turning to face her. "It's a humanoid race called Barits. They multiply very quickly and have short life spans."
"How short?" she asked sitting on the edge of the bed.
"One year," he answered her. "And I thought you lot had it bad."
"What are they doing here?" Isabelle said with concern.
"They find a planet that is at war and join in," the Doctor explained.
"So you've been trying to find another warring planet for them to go to, right?" she surmised.
"Exactly," the Doctor said. As excitedly as he had said that, his demeanor changed instantaneously to one of puzzlement. He took a few steps closer to her and crossed his arms over his chest. "How did you know that?"
"It's what I would do," she said. "Now, will you kindly remove yourself from my room so that I can get dressed?"
"And yet you keep forgetting I've seen you naked," he reminded her letting his arms drop to his sides.
"You've only seen an image in my mind, which could have been warped due to the fact that I don't find myself very attractive," she stated.
"True. Why don't you think you're attractive? May I remind you that just had your derriere squeezed by your own grandfather and you're now allowed to call a doctor by his first name. He doesn't allow any of the other nurses to address him that way, not even the head nurse. I think you're making an impression on the lads," he said matter-of-factly.
"Are you jealous?" she asked as she stood up from the bed and approached the Doctor.
"Well, no," he said avoiding eye contact. She stood directly in front of him.
"I think your jealous," she said sweetly as she gazed at him and ran her finger from his chin to his chest. "Now, get out," she said as she tapped him in the centre of his chest with each word.
"Going," he said with somewhat relief. He turned to walk out.
The next day, it was raining. The hem of Isabelle's shirts were tinged with mud when she entered the surgical tent. She looked around for Thomas but he wasn't there.
"Alice, do you know what happened to the man who was here?" Isabelle asked indicating the empty bed.
"He's with the wounded inside the hospital building," Alice informed Isabelle.
"Do you know how he is fairing?" she asked.
"Very well. Your bandage held last night. Not many new nurses can boast about their bandaging," Alice said with a smile.
"Thank you. Just doing my job," Isabelle said. Alice nodded and continued on her way.
"Isabelle! I hope you slept well," Peter said as he came towards her grinning.
"I did, thank you, sir," she said.
"It's Peter, remember?" he said somewhat softly.
"Yes, of course, Peter," she said after she made sure there were no other nurses around to hear her address him cordially.
"I want you by my side today. I told Joan you are to be my personal nurse to assist me," Peter told her.
"Really?" she questioned with alarm. No one had ever requested her assistance before.
"Yes, really," Peter said with a reserved smile.
"Thank you, sir, er, Peter," she replied with a curtsy. They exchanged coy smiles. A loud groaned sounded from the injured soldier close to them. Their smiles faded.
"Come on, we have to sort through another train load," he said. Isabelle followed him out into the rain towards the drop off location.
The wounded and dead kept coming in by train and ambulance. The train held more dead and severely wounded while the ambulances held less threatening cases.
By the time the morning turned to afternoon, Isabelle had assisted with ten amputations, twenty-four bullet extractions, and forty-two flesh wounds. The flesh wounds were sent back out into the trenches while the bullet extractions and amputees went to the nearby building serving as the hospital. With the rain that kept coming down, everything was a muddy mess. She was covered in mud and blood.
She was about to move on to another bullet extraction when an officer approached Peter.
"Doctor Peter Crenshaw?" the officer said. Isabelle paid him no attention and kept tending to the patient.
"Yes?" Peter said turning to the officer.
"I was told to I could find you here. I'm looking for a nurse named Isabelle Darling?" the officer inquired. Isabelle turned towards the officer with a bewildered look on her face.
"This nurse here is Isabelle Darling," Peter replied approaching the officer while wiping his hands off on a cloth.
She caught the officer's eye and stared.
"May I ask your purpose of inquiry?" Peter asked.
"Her services have been noted to be exemplary and are needed elsewhere," the officer commended. Isabelle's mouth fell open.
"I assure you, her services are very much needed here, sir. As you can see, we are overwhelmed with casualties," Peter argued.
"I have been sent on a classified mission. Miss Darling's involvement is crucial. If I do not return with her, there will be consequences," the officer forcefully articulated. He clenched his jaw.
"Classified mission? Very well," Peter said and turned to Isabelle. "It looks like you are relieved of your duties here, Isabelle. I don't know how I'm going to get on without your assistance, but I guess I'll manage. If you can, later, come back. You'll always have a job here. It was a pleasure working with you. Keep in touch and I hope we meet again."
"The same, Peter," she said quietly.
"I assume she is in good hands?" Peter inquired towards the officer.
"The best," the officer stated as he cracked a dignified smile. "Miss Darling, please, come with me."
Isabelle curtsied to Peter and she left with the officer.
"I'm immensely impressed," Isabelle said as they walked out of the tent.
"I found it in the wardrobe room," the Doctor said straightening his tie.
"You look rather . . . dashing," she said with a smirk.
The Doctor smiled as he offered his arm to her. She threaded her arm through his as he lead her across the sodden field.
"Where are we going?" she asked squinting in the rain.
"An open field outside the town," he informed her.
"Okay. Why?" she queried.
"We need an airplane," he told her.
"There are planes flying in this?" she questioned indicating the weather.
"Only one on our behalf," he said. "I found a planet for the Barits and a way to disperse them."
"And how are we going to do that?"
"Here we are!" he said avoiding her question.
The field was just a farm field. A pilot came towards them from his parked plane.
"Isabelle, I'd like you to meet Lieutenant James Baker," the Doctor introduced.
"Pleased to meet you, Lieutenant Baker," Isabelle said.
"Please, just James," he said with a small smile.
"Okay, James," she said shyly. Maybe the Doctor was right. All the men insisted that she call them by their first name.
"He knows," the Doctor said starting to walk towards the airplane.
"He knows what?" Isabelle tried to say. She and James walked together behind the Doctor.
"I know about the aliens aiding the Germans," James said with a grin like a cat caught with the canary.
"Oh, okay. What else do you know?"
"He knows I'm the Doctor and what needs to happen to stop the Barits," the Doctor said before James could answer. James nodded.
"How do we stop them?" she inquired feeling left out of the loop.
"This needs to be dropped behind the German lines," the Doctor said holding up a chunk of metal and wires that he pulled from the back seat of the two seater.
"What is that?" Isabelle asked.
"This is a transmitter that relays a message to the Barits about the other planet in a frequency only they can hear," the Doctor told Isabelle. "It needs to be dropped out of the airplane in a specified location to maximize the signal to all the Barits."
"I'll do it," she said without hesitation as she snatched the device from his hands. "What do I need to do with this thing?"
He looked at her skeptically but then explained the device to her. "There is a small switch, just here. Switch it on when James descends. Once the plane is low and level, he will give a thumbs up to signal that you are over the target area. Drop it over the side of the plane and that should take care of it. The Barits will get the signal and hopefully be gone by tomorrow morning."
The Doctor addressed both James and Isabelle and said, "The Barits shoot at anything that is moving. Drop the transmitter and get out of there."
"Right. All set?" the Doctor asked Isabelle.
"I think so," she replied.
"I'll see you when you get back," he said. "Be careful." She nodded.
Just before he walked off, she grabbed his arm. He turned towards her just as she planted a small kiss on his cheek. A small smile graced her lips. He showed no emotion and only continued to walk off the runway to stand off to the side.
James helped her into the rear seat and handed her a leather aviator cap with goggles once she was secured. Isabelle fitted the cap onto her head and pulled the goggles over her eyes. It helped a bit against the rain. The rest of her was already drenched. She set the transmitter in her lap, cradling it in her skirts. James sat in the seat in front of her and started the engine. Isabelle took one last look at the Doctor. He was very alluring in the uniform. Red tinged her cheeks.
The plane started moving abruptly. As the plane left the ground, the rain stung her face. They banked to the right and Isabelle felt like she was going to fall out of her seat despite being belted into it. Eventually, James evened out the plane and she felt more secure.
About a half hour later, Isabelle felt the plane descending. James pointed down to indicate the descent. Taking the transmitter in her hands, she found the small switch the Doctor showed her earlier. Switching it on, a small red light shown brightly. There was a sound of something buzzing by her head. She looked up to see the back of James' head, he had lowered himself more into the cockpit as laser like gun fire was being shot in their direction. James was a seasoned flyer and managed to avoid most of it. Some of the gunfire clipped the sides of the plane leaving burned slash marks. Looking over the side of the plane, she noticed they were just skimming the tops of the trees. Realizing she would need to stand up in her seat to lean over to drop the device, Isabelle unhooked her belt. She maneuvered herself into position leaning precariously over the edge of the plane. The laser fire continued and Isabelle felt extremely exposed. James took a sharp bank to the right. She gripped the edge with one hand but nearly lost the transmitter trying to steady herself. Finally, James leveled the plane again, but the lasers were still firing. One of the blasts slashed her upper arm! Isabelle winced and fell back into her seat. The plane was steady and she saw the thumbs up signal. Frantically, she scrambled to her feet ignoring the pain in her arm and, once again, leaned over the side of the plane with the device. Feeling she was clear of hitting the side with the transmitter, she released it. It plummeted down and she quickly took her seat again strapping herself in. She banged on the body of the plane as James had told her to do when they were still on the runway. This signaled that all was clear and to head back. Not a second later he was pulling the plane up into the sky.
She gripped her wound as they flew back to the open field. Blood stained her hand and mingled in with the rest of the blood from soldiers on her nurse's uniform. When they had landed, James helped her out of the plane and onto solid, although soggy, ground. She took the aviator cap and goggles off and looked into the distance.
The Doctor was still standing there with his hands in his pockets and she smiled. Isabelle ran over to him through the mud and the muck. As she stopped in front him she threw her arms around him and shouted over the rain, "I did it!"
"Yes, you did. Look!" he said pointing towards the sky. She turned to peer into the distance but realized she did not have far to look. It appeared to be reverse falling stars shooting up into the sky.
She turned back towards him grinning from ear to ear as he watched the spectacle. He turned his gaze on her, still smiling that big beautiful smile. She looked down at her fidgeting hands. The Doctor wrapped an arm around her shoulders drawing her in closer. She winced but not enough for him to notice. Her arm absentmindedly wrapped around his waist. She pressed herself against him.
James came towards them and said, "I can't stay, but she was brilliant, Doctor. You take care of that lass. She's a keeper. Very brave, indeed." He waved to them and returned to his plane to fly back to England.
He squeezed her tighter with pride. She winced and cried out. He let go immediately.
"You're hurt!" he exclaimed as he looked at her arm and the blood on his hand.
"'Tis a mere flesh wound," she said.
"Come on. Let me get you back to the TARDIS. It's my turn to fix you," the Doctor said to her taking her hand into his.