Author's Note: New fic. This came to me while I was working on an upcoming chapter of Dubhar and is yet another introduction into the wonderful "lost" season of 6B. :) It'll be a relatively short one (only about 4 chapters...and some of them probably shorter than this one) and I hope to wrap it up quickly while working on my other two open fics and my birthday tribute to Colin Baker that I hope to upload later this week.

In the meantime, I hope my readers will enjoy my take on the beginning of 6B: where the Doctor and Jamie face the choice that started it all. :)

I do not own Doctor Who or any of its characters.

Thank you to everyone who reads/follows/favorites/reviews this. It is always appreciated.

Chapter One

Standing in front of the window and watching the sun rise into the scarlet sky, the Doctor noted that the morning seemed to be no different from any other one he had experienced in recent years. Still, a part of him couldn't help but marvel at the sight. Years ago, he had thought that he would never experience dawn on Gallifrey again. He couldn't deny that something pulled at his hearts while he took in the natural beauty of his world. As he touched the glass, he allowed himself a moment to give in to the simple joy of knowing that he was home, even if it was as a prisoner and a practically a slave to the Celestial Intervention Agency.

Soon, the moment passed, and the Doctor turned to glare at his surroundings. He had just finished another assignment and was waiting to see what Sardon, his supervisor at the CIA, would have for him next. He did not expect to hear from him for a long while and was faced with trying to find some way to fill the tedious hours ahead of him. The Doctor yearned to do something invigorating like climb Mount Lung again, but knew that he would have to settle for a far more mundane activity given how he was trapped in his quarters.

He was down to trying to decide between another few hundred rounds of solitaire and building a replica of the Tower of London out of food cubes when a message from Sardon appeared on the computer console.

"Doctor, it is time that we had another discussion regarding the terms of your service."

It was brief, curt and completely devoid of any useful information. In other words, very much like Sardon, in the Doctor's estimation.

The Doctor sighed and pulled his braces up over his shoulders. Ever since he had started working for the CIA, Sardon had gone out of his way to remind the Doctor that, as a convicted criminal, he had very few rights in regards to what happened to him. It was only their "generosity" that enabled him to delay the punishment that was still waiting for him: forced regeneration and exile on Earth.

He pinned a faded blue bowtie to his collar and stuffed his arms into his beloved frock coat. Perhaps today was the day that they were going to tell him that his service was at an end. Perhaps it was time for him face his inevitable fate of being turned into a tall, bright-haired dandy who had an excessive fondness for velvet jackets and frills. He tried to work up a respectable amount of annoyance at this eventuality, but quickly gave up.

After all, there was no point in being annoyed over something that he almost wished would happen.

The Doctor lifted tired eyes up to a mirror and instantly regretted it. His once jet-black hair was threaded with silver. Some of the lines on his face had deepened and new ones had appeared. It had only been about fifty years since he had begun his missions for the CIA, but those years had taken their toll. Most of the assignments had been complex, grueling and, some might even say, suicidal in nature. Despite all of that, the Doctor had managed to successfully complete them all. Much to some parties' great consternation, he was sure.

He rubbed his eyes and blinked several times in an effort to clear away some of the bleariness. The work itself was bad enough, but then there was the fact that there had been some morally questionable aspects to a few of these missions, aspects that he would normally refuse to get involved him. However, those qualms were only important to him and got in the way of his ability to smile and gracefully accept each mission while revealing absolutely no hint of his true feelings about the situation. Feelings could be exploited, and the Doctor did not want to give his supervisors even the smallest scrap of additional leverage. Over time, it had gotten easier to put those thoughts at the back of his mind. Not that they went away completely. The Doctor doubted that that could ever happen.

Still, the Doctor was all too aware of the fact that this work and his assessment of it could not compare to the loneliness he felt. At least the missions gave him an opportunity to encounter other people, even if only for the briefest of moments and in a completely impersonal way. It was during those times when he traveled alone in the TARDIS or was forced to stay locked up in his living quarters that he was engulfed by a grey melancholy. The need for companionship gnawed at him every day, his only respite being a few brief visits to Victoria that he managed to squeeze in between missions.

The Doctor shook his head and walked away from the mirror. No matter how dark his moods became, he never lost sight of what motivated him to persevere. He would not give in, if not for his own sake then for the sake of the people who had understood him and had still loved him just the same.

The Doctor stepped over to the doors of his room and they parted, allowing him to wander into a lengthy hallway. After a few minutes of brisk walking, he arrived at the offices of the CIA and stepped into one of the side corridors that led to his usual meeting room. Sardon was already there waiting for him along with several other Time Lords, one of which the Doctor recognized as Goth, one of his staunchest opponents within the High Council.

"Doctor, you are late," Sardon said blandly. "Again."

"Am I?" the Doctor said, his eyes wide and innocent. "Strange, I don't remember an exact time being mentioned in your communication."

"All meetings are to occur at the usual, specified time and place unless otherwise noted," Sardon replied. "It's part of the standard procedure and is well known to you, Doctor."

"Ah, but that only applies to mission briefings and disciplinary hearings," the Doctor replied with a grin. "Not to meetings unrelated to specific assignments. As you said, Sardon, I am well versed with the articles of procedure."

"Yes," Sardon said tightly. "Just as I thought."

"Can we get on with this?" Goth asked. "There are plenty of more important matters that warrant more attention than this."

"Those affairs have not been forgotten, as I am sure you are aware, Goth," Sardon said. "They will be taken care of in due time. But first we must attend to matters within our own agency."

Goth huffed and tapped his fingers against the polished surface of the table they were all sitting at. The Doctor smiled inwardly at how easy it always was to read Goth. Whatever this meeting was about, it was clear that Goth did not agree with it at all. And that alone made it fascinating to the Doctor.

"Doctor," Sardon began. "While your methods have been a bit…unorthodox at times…."

"More like irresponsible and uncalled for," Goth interjected.

"Your mission record has been quite satisfactory," Sardon continued, unaffected.

"Thank you," the Doctor sniffed. "Glad to know that I'm living up to expectations."

That prompted more than one titter from those in attendence, but the Doctor didn't mind. It was worth it to see Sardon struggle to regain control of the proceedings.

"However, some valid concerns have arisen," Sardon said, his tone encouraging the others toward silence. "As Goth has mentioned, there has been a certain reckless in your conduct of late which is not helpful in ensuring your safety."

"And naturally, you always have my safety in mind when you give me these assignments," the Doctor snorted.

"Nor is it beneficial for mission success," Sardon added.

"Now, that is more like you," the Doctor said, his smile returning. "So is that why you arranged this meeting? For a performance review? 'Make sure to behave or we'll punish you'? Oh wait, you're going to do that at some point anyway."

"The sentence that was decided upon by the High Council cannot be revoked, as you well know," Sardon said. "But that time has not come yet. Instead, we have decided to follow through with another idea that you yourself have requested more than once."

Sardon paused, his eyes flicking for just a second toward Goth, who was glaring at the Doctor. The Doctor smiled again as he realized that the fact that the CIA was going with any of his ideas had to be a large part of what was bothering Goth.

"We have decided to allow you to travel with a companion again," Sardon said. "The human boy, McCrimmon. He will have his memories restored to him and you will retrieve him from the point in time where we sent him after your trial."

Both of the Doctor's hearts leapt in his chest and it took every ounce of willpower he had to keep his expression neutral. One of the hardest things he had ever done was watch helplessly as Jamie and Zoe stepped into those transports and had their memories of him almost completely erased while being sent back to where he had found them. He had thought that he would never see them again and that thought was a lead weight inside him that did not grow lighter with the passage of time.

Jamie's departure in particular had worried him. While he hated to think about Zoe being robbed of all that she had gained from her travels with him and missed her terribly, the fact remained that Jamie had far more to lose in going back to his time. Not only did he lose all the knowledge and personal growth that he had amassed, but was also at risk for losing his life. The Time Lords had put Jamie back in Culloden, back into the aftermath of a bloody massacre that showed little mercy to the Highlanders. Despite the confidence the Doctor had in Jamie's resourcefulness, he had feared for the piper's wellbeing every moment over these last fifty years.

"However, you should not consider this an uninfringeable situation," Sardon cautioned. "Your missions will still be assessed by the same standards we have always used. And if your performance should falter...we will have to consider other alternatives."

"And Jamie?" the Doctor said, his voice low. "What will his status in all this be?"

"He will be under our purview just as you are," Sardon answered. "And thus, he will be subject to the same authority and the same rules as you."

"And when this is over, what then?" the Doctor asked. "Will he be allowed to keep his memories? What of his return to Earth? You can't send him back to the same place again. It isn't safe for him there."

"The boy's fate will reside in your hands, Doctor," Sardon said. "Of course, the human's conduct will be considered. But ultimately, your actions during the remainder of your service will be the crucial factor in deciding how much latitude will be given to finding a resolution for him. I suppose it's up to you to decide if this is a gift or another punishment."

The Doctor nodded grimly. He suspected that it was considered both a gift and a punishment by many in this room. There was no other way that this proposal would have been allowed to go forward.

"Once you have retrieved him, you are to return to Gallifrey and await further instructions," Sardon said. "And Doctor, do not forget that your actions regarding the human will be monitored. If he chooses to accept your offer to travel with you again, he will have to report to us the same way you do. But if he chooses to reject your offer and remain on Earth, he must not be allowed to retain his memories and you are not to interfere in his time line ever again."

"I thought as much," the Doctor replied. "Very well, I should get going then, shouldn't I?"

One of the other Time Lords grunted in assent and most of them got up and filed out of the room with the exception of Sardon and Goth, both of whom continued to watch the Doctor.

"Sardon, I wish it to be known that I still strongly object to this course of action," Goth said, jumping to his feet.

"Your objections have been noted," Sardon replied with a wave of his hand.

"Have they?" Goth spat, his eyes firmly fixed on the Doctor. "He is a convicted criminal. A dangerous meddler who thinks nothing of breaking our laws on a regular basis. Why should we reward him by appeasing his whims?"

The Doctor said nothing. He knew that there was nothing he could say or do to change Goth's mind about him. He would be an implacable enemy to the end. The Doctor had resigned himself to this and had long since decided to focus on defense and maneuver in his dealings with Goth.

"The work we do is far too important to approach lackadaisically," Sardon responded. "The Doctor has done a satisfactory job thus far and if we have the means to maximize his effectiveness we should use them. Otherwise, what is the point of having him as our agent at all?"

"Sardon, I don't think I'll ever tire of your acting as if I'm not here when you talk about me," the Doctor said with a smirk.

"Think nothing of it, Doctor," Sardon replied with a smile of his own. "I often find myself disregarding your presence anyway."

"You said yourself that he was reckless," Goth interjected. "Are you saying that we should reward his irresponsible behavior by letting him drag this human into such a dangerous existence?"

The Doctor glared at him, his lips pressed into a thin line. Goth stepped closer to him.

"You accuse us of being indifferent to the lives of innocents and demand that we make arrangements for this human's safety," the Time Lord continued. "And yet, you are the one who wants to throw this human into situations that are far beyond his comprehension or his ability to survive them without your help."

Goth's lips twisted into a sneer, and he dared to look straight into vivid blue eyes that were currently ablaze with unfathomable emotion.

"Tell me Doctor, is this your idea of altruism?" he snapped. "To collect these primitive beings, make them dependent on you and then use them to fulfill your own ends? Perhaps others should take it upon themselves to find some way to guarantee that this human's best interests are considered."

"Goth, whatever you might think of this decision, it is final," Sardon said. "As I said before, your objections have been noted. Rest assured that they will be considered if need be in the future. But for now, I believe it is time to attend to those other matters that you were so urgently referring to."

Goth glanced back at Sardon and nodded reluctantly. He turned his gaze back toward the Doctor and flinched when he saw the look in the Doctor's eyes. It wasn't a look of mere anger. It was far more dangerous than that.

"Goth," the Doctor said in a disturbingly quiet voice. "I'm certain that no one would dream of undermining the decision that was made here today. Therefore, I'm sure that there's no need for me to mention that any…interventions taken in regards to Jamie might result in all sorts of unfortunate consequences."

"And yet you just mentioned it anyway," Goth spluttered.

"Oh, I did, didn't I?" the Doctor said with another grin. "How silly of me to be so redundant. I wonder why I felt the need to do that."

Goth glowered at him again, but also took a step back. In that moment, the Doctor was assured that his message to leave Jamie alone had been received and understood. He gave Sardon and Goth one last jaunty little wave and dashed out of the room toward the docking bay where his TARDIS was stored during his stays on Gallifrey.

With the twist of a key and a slamming of the main doors, the Doctor was off. He immediately scowled when he noticed on one of the console monitors that the Time Lords were feeding information into the TARDIS' databank. He brought up what they had sent him on the monitor and found out that they had sent him the coordinates for the moment when they dropped Jamie off in the Highlands.

"Now then, off we go," he said to himself, clapping his hands.

The TARDIS dematerialized into the Vortex while the Doctor continued to smile and pull out his recorder from one of his pockets. He had just put it to his lips when the TARDIS shook violently, propelling the instrument out of his hands. His mouth fell open and he rushed over to the console.

"Oh, oh no," he muttered. "It almost looks like some kind of time eddy. Trying to draw us in. It looks small, but we can't be too careful. Let's just see what we can do here…."

The Doctor's fingers flew over the switches and buttons. He was confident that the TARDIS could pull itself away, but still felt some lingering concerns over how the eddy's interference could have affected his trajectory.

"Oh crumbs," he grumbled. "Well, it's not perfect, but it seems to be close to our original heading. Yes, very close indeed. We shouldn't be more than, oh say, a couple hours later than we had planned."

The Doctor suddenly looked up, his hands fiddling about nervously. It just occurred to him that he had been carrying on a conversation as if there was someone else there to listen to him. This wasn't the first time that it had happened. But that did not lessen the lonesomeness he always felt afterward in the slightest.

He slowly sat down onto a nearby chair and leaned forward, his head drooping down into his hands. It wasn't until now that he realized how desperately he needed his solitude to end. He wanted to be happy and relieved that he was on his way to see Jamie again, but something in the back of his mind warned him that it might not be so simple.

'It's too much to ask Jamie to make this sort of choice right after giving him back his memories,' he mused. 'Of course he'd want to hold onto his memories once he got them back, but letting him keep them means he'd be forced to come with me….and then he'll belong to them, to the CIA.'

But how can I make him fully understand his options before I give them back when he has no knowledge of the universe or of space-time travel anymore?'

'And how can I ask him to make such a momentous decision based solely on the words of someone who is now little more than an acquaintance to him?'

The Doctor lifted his head and clenched his hands against his knees. He imagined that Sardon knew that he would have to grapple with questions like this and that Goth probably relished the idea of him facing this dilemma.

Worst of all though was the reality that he would have to decide if he had the right to choose what was best for Jamie. Goth's words about the piper being primitive and dependent soon came back to him unbidden, angering him further.

'No… No! Jamie is an intelligent being who is more than capable of making up his own mind. I can't tell him what he should do. It has to be his choice entirely. No one has the right to decide his fate for him.'

'Not even me.'

The Doctor ground his jaw and returned to the console. He was determined to find a way to give Jamie a true choice and ensure his safety. If that meant regaining him as a companion, it would be wonderful. And if that meant finding a place to leave him behind on Earth forever….then he would learn to accept it

No matter what it would cost him.