Summary: Barbara dreams of falling. And someone who will catch her.
Notes: Set after the Big Finish audio The Rocket Men
Barbara jerked awake, breathing heavily. She’d been falling. It was a common dream, one she’d experienced before ever meeting the Doctor. But it wasn’t ordinary any more. Not since it had happened for a real a couple of days ago when she’d been pushed from a spaceship.
Falling through the skies above Jobis was the most scared she’d ever been. It wasn’t the first time she’d been in danger, but there had always been a way out. This time she hadn’t been able to see one. Until Ian caught her. He’d been disguised as one of the rocket men, but she had forgotten that as she was falling.
She rubbed her hands across her face and sat up. After that dream she wanted to see him. Although there was no good way to tell the time on the Ship she knew it was late. She couldn’t wake him up to ask him to repeat what he’d said, that he’d always catch her and never let her fall. At the time it had made her feel safe. But she was safe now.
It felt like Ian had been on the cusp of saying something to her a few times since the incident. Yet he never came out with it. He’d say her name, pause, then move away and become more distant for a time. She hadn’t said anything, hoping that keeping quiet and giving him space would help him to come out with it. Preferably sooner rather than later.
Despite trying to distract herself with thoughts of Ian, she knew she wasn’t going to be able to get back to sleep straight away. Some company might help, so she got up and went searching for it.
The Doctor was likely to be in the console room, but wasn’t. Nor was he, or anyone else, at the food machine or the wardrobe or any of the common areas. She supposed they were all asleep, which was unusual. The Doctor never seemed to understand her, Ian and Vicki’s need for sleep. But of course the one time she hoped he was awake, he wasn’t.
At home, reading a book was good for taking her mind off things, so she headed to the library. At first the Doctor hadn’t mentioned there was one, until Susan let the secret out. He had refused to tell Barbara and Ian where it was, but they’d found it for themselves.
She knew the dangers: this Ship wasn’t from 1963. Even in the history section she’d seen books on the history of the 20th century that included years after her own. Once she’d come across a book with findings different from those she remembered, and when she checked inside the front she found it was written in her future. After that she’d made sure to be careful, despite the temptations all around.
The history section was straight on for two stacks, then a left turn, followed by a right turn. Before the right turn she heard a sound. She stopped, frowning, and it came again. This time she recognised it: someone was snoring. Tiptoeing towards the snores she found Ian in the science section in an armchair by the wall. His legs were stretched out in front of him and his head had fallen back against the chair. In his lap lay an open book.
She didn’t think he was comfortable in that position and she hesitated over whether to wake him up. Perhaps he sensed her presence or she’d made a sound because he moved slightly and the book slipped from his lap to land on the floor with a thump.
He woke with a start, and frowned slightly, until he saw her. She bent to pick the book up and hand it to him. He had a guilty expression as he took it. “Written in our future,” he explained, shutting the book without a care as to bookmarking his place.
She smiled, nodded in understanding. “You should go to bed,” she said, watching him put a hand to the back of his neck and wincing.
“So should you.” He stood and stretched.
She shrugged. “I couldn’t sleep.”
“If you’re looking for something dull I can recommend the history section.”
His grin didn’t stop her from punching him lightly on the arm.
He lowered his voice as he passed her. “Shelf fourteen.”
She watched him go, wondering what that meant. He’d taken the book with him, she noticed, further courting the Doctor’s wrath.
Once he’d gone she retraced her steps to the history section. It had taken her a while to understand the system in this library. Although the stacks were grouped by subject, each shelf within it was ordered by year of publication. Shelf fifteen was where she’d found the book written in the early 21st century. Once she’d discovered the system she’d avoided shelf fourteen above it. Which was easy because it was the highest shelf – as long as she didn’t look up, nothing on there could catch her eye.
Why Ian had been here and looking at that shelf, never mind this section, she didn’t know. He’d never previously showed any interest in books that weren’t science or science fiction. But it only took her a moment to see what he’d found so interesting there: a book on the Aztecs by Barbara Chesterton.
It could be a coincidence. There were plenty of Barbaras around and Chesterton was also as common a name. Still, she slid the book off the shelf and opened it. The author section was three pages from the end. But she didn’t need to read it because there was a photo above the blurb.
It was a photo of herself. She was a little older, her hair was styled differently, but it was unmistakably her.
She snapped the book shut before she could be tempted to read about her future.
Maybe the surname didn’t mean anything. She could have changed her name on a whim. She could have married any man called Chesterton. But in her heart, she couldn’t imagine marrying anyone else. She’d never been sure Ian thought the same. It hardly mattered, in the situation they were in now, so she had been prepared to wait until they got home.
Perhaps that was what he’d been trying to say to her these last two days. That was what he was telling her now. And in a way that allowed him to save face. If she didn’t say anything he could assume it was because she hadn’t gone to shelf fourteen.
She shook her head. “Ian, you are an idiot.” But if he’d found a more straightforward way to say it then he wouldn’t be the same Ian she knew and loved.
In case she did have an answer for him that he’d want to hear, she imagined he’d still be awake, waiting for her. So she put the book back and headed for his room.
He opened the door a second after her knock, confirming her suspicions.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Despite her words her tone was soft and she smiled.
He looked abashed. “I tried but I couldn’t find the words.”
She stepped closer and showed him he didn’t need words.