Author's Note: Last chapter. I plan on going back to work on my other open fics for now, but I have plans for more 6B era fics in the future. Stay tuned. :)
I do not own Doctor Who or any of its characters.
Thank you to everyone who read/followed/favorited/reviewed this. It is always appreciated. :D
Although it didn't happen all that often, occasionally, the Doctor wondered why he rarely took proper holidays.
Granted, there were times when the TARDIS landed somewhere that was unpopulated, or under-populated at the very least, and he was able to spend time leisurely exploring with his companions. There were even a couple times when he managed to land on the Eye of Orion, a place that never failed to impress him or the people he traveled with.
However, when it came to actually attempting to steer the TARDIS toward a destination that was specifically designed for fun and relaxation, the Doctor seldom saw the need. So when Sardon informed him that he could go on leave for a time and then Jamie suggested taking a real vacation, he found himself unable to come up any ideas. On a whim, he decided to try Lires, a planet with a reputation for having some of the best resort facilities on this side of the universe.
It was while he was standing off to the side with Jamie, listening to their obnoxiously perky 'activities guide' that the Doctor remembered why he avoided resort planets most of the time.
"All right, we are having so much fun, aren't we?" the guide, a woman named Cassilida, chirped.
"Doctor, why does yon lassie keep askin' us that?" Jamie whispered to him out of the corner of his mouth. "Does she think we might forget or somethin'?"
"More like she was trained by the owners of this resort to try to brainwash us into having fun, Jamie," the Doctor grumbled. "It's bad for business if people come here and see that the guests are miserable."
"Well, she's nae doin' a verra good job," Jamie huffed. "If she tells us to 'smile our joyful smiles' one more time, I might have to put her over my knee and larrup her."
"Come on, you two," Cassilida said, waving her hands at them. "Remember your joyful smiles."
Jamie scowled. The Doctor, fearing that he might go through with his threat, immediately grabbed the piper's belt. Jamie flashed him a dirty look, but quickly resigned himself to his fate and did his best to approximate a smile.
"Good, good," Cassilida said. "Now come this way. We've got an exciting activity planned for you."
Both the Doctor and Jamie rolled their eyes and followed the rest of the crowd toward one of doors leading outside. Overall, it hadn't been a terrible vacation up to this point. Lires was a lovely planet with a variety of landscapes to enjoy. Having been here once before the Doctor knew the natives to be a friendly, easy-going people who purposely led simple lives. Plus, the main resort was lavishly furnished and offered numerous opportunities to participate in a grand selection of activities or to do absolutely nothing at all.
Unfortunately, the Doctor's original plan to spend today reacquainting himself with the natives fell through when he and Jamie accidently won vouchers to take part in the one-day 'Sunny Adventures' outing. They had tried to give their vouchers away, but after attracting unwanted attention from the staff, they decided to play along and try to enjoy their prize.
The Doctor glanced over at Jamie and let out a low chuckle. It was clear that the Scot was reaching the end of his patience after the 'Getting-To-Know-You' tournament. He had a sneaking suspicion that Jamie would not find whatever Cassilida had planned next any more palpable and was already formulating an escape plan.
Still, as annoying as this outing was turning out to be, it wasn't enough to sour the Doctor's mood. Especially given how much of an improvement all this was from his life the previous week.
As Jamie had predicted, leaving Scotland had not gone quite as easily as planned. Not only was there the expected wrong turns as the Doctor pieced together the path back to the TARDIS, there was also a tense moment when they ran into a pair of English soldiers patrolling near the edge of the moors.
Fortunately, a switch to a Russian accent for the Doctor and a quick change into a bonnet and dress for Jamie proved to be enough of a distraction to enable them to slip past the soldiers with surprisingly few questions. After that was over, the Doctor was thankful to find that they were only yards from the TARDIS, partially because he was worried about additional soldiers, but mainly because Jamie had not stopped glowering at him from the moment he first saw his disguise.
The Doctor's return to Gallifrey also proved to be a tense situation as it was clear that Goth, and even Sardon to some extent, were surprised that Jamie had agreed to accompany him. Sardon briefed Jamie on what would be expected of him and then told the Doctor to escort him to the medical center to get his identification chip implanted.
Taking Jamie to the medical center for this task was bad enough in the Doctor's eyes, but the fact that Goth inexplicably followed them was even worse. The attending doctor was ready for them when they arrived and instructed Jamie to roll up his sleeve. As soon as the piper complied, the physician seized his arm and was about to inject the chip when Jamie flinched and yanked it away.
"Failure to cooperate will be considered sufficient cause to send you back to Earth," Goth said in his most condescending tone. "I hope the Doctor has explained that to you."
"Of course he knows," the Doctor snapped. "But that medic had no right to grab him and attempt to forcibly inject him like that!"
"Perhaps," Goth sniffed. "But that does not change the need for this procedure to be completed."
The Doctor glared at Goth for another moment before turning to Jamie and patting his shoulder.
"It's all right, Jamie," he assured him. "They're just going to insert a small device under your skin as a means of identifying you. I have one myself in my forearm."
"Ye mean they'll put one of those serpent tattoos on my arm tae?" Jamie asked.
"That is only necessary for convicted criminals," Goth interjected. "It will not be required for you."
"Oh aye," Jamie scowled at him. "How verra kind of ye."
"May I proceed now?" the medic asked with more than a little impatience.
Jamie nodded and held out his arm. The physician tapped it a couple times to find a suitable site before pressing the device against the Scot's arm. Jamie hissed as the needle pricked his skin and rubbed his arm once it was over.
The Doctor watched all this with eyes full of regret. He hated how Jamie was being treated, but he hated the idea the CIA now had a measure of control over Jamie even more. The chip itself was innocuous and couldn't be used to harm the piper in any way, but the fact remained that it was a symbol signifying Jamie's status as one of their puppets. He knew that it wouldn't be easy, but he made a silent promise to himself to someday find the means to have that chip removed from Jamie's arm.
"Sardon will want to discuss your future assignments with you later," Goth added. "You and this human can wait for him in your quarters."
"Right, back to our cell then," Jamie grumbled.
"Hardly," Goth replied. "I realize that your species has not progressed beyond the use of such measures, but our civilization has long since moved past the need to exercise such barbarism on our prisoners."
"No, ye jes treat anyone who's nae one of ye like nothing," Jamie retorted. "Specks o' dirt to be brushed aside and every bit as filthy to ye. Ne'er minding that only the dirt can take in both life and death. But I suppose that's nae somethin' civilized people like ye have the time to think aboot."
Now it was Goth's turn to glower. The Doctor was aware that it wasn't a good idea to openly antagonize Goth, but he had to struggle to hide a smirk just the same.
"Come along now, Jamie," the Doctor said, placing his arm on the piper's shoulder. "There is an impressive view of my home world just outside my quarters, and I'd like to show it to you."
Back in the present, the Doctor frowned, but made sure to conceal it from Jamie. He didn't like to think about the way other Time Lords mumbled and subtly gawked at the piper wherever he went. Their reaction was akin to how the Doctor imagined high society patrons in a fancy restaurant on Earth would respond to one of their fellows insisting on dining with his dog. He was certain that their demeanor did not completely escape the Scot's attention. But if it affected him, Jamie chose to keep it to himself.
"All right, now if you'll just follow me, I'll show you the next stop in our adventure," Cassilida said, waving her hands at the crowd. "And I can promise you that it will be most exciting."
The Doctor nudged Jamie and they followed. Their meeting with Sardon had surprised both of them when he announced that they would be given leave until further notice. The Doctor suspected that this would prove to be the calm before the storm, but decided to put that idea aside for the time being. Instead, he would focus on reacquainting Jamie to life on the TARDIS and try to make his friend feel at home again.
However, as happy as the Doctor was to have Jamie back, the transition from being almost constantly alone to having the piper in his life again did not always run smoothly. There were times when he fell into habits he had formed out of necessity and acted as if there was still no one else around. He would spend hours contemplating the controls on the central column or fiddling with some system within the TARDIS. During these times, the only conversations that he would engage in were with himself. All it would take was a word or a touch from Jamie to startle him severely which would prompt him to react with irritation and a surly demand to keep out of his way. He often forgot to join the piper for meals and usually neglected to ask Jamie where he would like to go or what he would like to do.
After a few days of this, Jamie finally put forth the suggestion for a holiday. The Doctor was surprised by this. The Scot had never asked for a vacation before. Nevertheless, the Doctor, driven by guilt over how he was treating his companion, agreed that it was a good idea and chose Lires for their destination. One of the owners had been indebted to him for years and had given him a permanent pass to the resort as a way to repay that debt. The Doctor had even managed to have the TARDIS transported to his and Jamie's room so they wouldn't have to worry about it while they were here.
Still, despite being a pleasant place to visit, the Doctor found it difficult to relax. He kept thinking about what Sardon might have planned for them next and was still somewhat distant from Jamie.
The turning point finally came two days into their vacation.
It was late at night after a long day spent exploring the layout of the resort that it happened. Jamie had fallen asleep almost instantly after they went back to their room while the Doctor decided to catch up on some reading he had been putting off. It hadn't taken him long, however, to fall asleep as well. Sleep was something he had avoided as much as possible over these last few decades. His dreams had become reminders of everything he no longer was and everyone who was no longer with him. Thus, he was far more exhausted than he had realized and now that he had the chance to truly relax, sleep came easy to him.
A short time later, he woke up to find Jamie missing. At first, he thought that maybe the piper had gotten up to use the restroom or get a drink of water, but then he noticed that the only sound in the room was his own breathing.
Panicked, the Doctor jumped up from his chair and searched every section of their rooms. Then he dashed into the TARDIS to see if Jamie had gone in there for some reason. He had the TARDIS scan for life-forms and was horrified when only he registered.
The Doctor wrung his hands together as he paced around the room. He could sense that he had been asleep for about two hours and wondered what could have happened in that amount of time. One terrible idea immediately popped into his mind.
'They did this,' he thought. 'The CIA. I knew there was something wrong when Sardon told me to take time off. They changed their minds and sent Jamie away to Rassilon knows where.'
The Doctor sank back down onto his chair and covered his face with his hands. It seemed unnecessarily cruel for them to allow him to reunite with Jamie only to snatch him away again a short while later without warning, but the Doctor was well aware that they were capable of such cruelty. He imagined that Goth played a hand in this. It was the just the type of thing he would do. He also chastised himself for letting down his guard and allowing himself to believe in something that was clearly too good to be true.
"Doctor? Are ye all right?"
The Doctor started violently and looked up to see Jamie standing in the doorway to the bedroom, his hair mussed and his eyes heavy with sleep.
"Jamie," he said. "What…where have you been?"
"Sorry, I was still feelin' a wee bit hungry and went out to find a snack," Jamie said with a yawn. "Would ye believe there was actually a line jes to get a sandwich? At this time o' night tae? I sat down on one of those couches in the lobby to wait and I guess I fell asleep again."
The Doctor sat nothing as he got up from his chair and rushed over to embrace him. Startled, Jamie gasped before returning the embrace.
"Hey Doctor, what's wrong?" Jamie asked. "Why did ye…?"
"Jamie, please forgive me," the Doctor interrupted. "I know that I haven't been the most welcoming person and that it hasn't been easy to travel with me again…."
"Och, it's all right," Jamie insisted, patting his back. "Ye're still gettin' used to me again. All that time alone, I'm sure it gets to ye after a while."
The Doctor shook his head. He didn't know if he should tell the piper the truth of what had upset him, but in the end, it didn't matter anyway.
"Ye…ye thought I was gone again, dinna ye?"Jamie murmured. "Ye thought the Time Lords took me away. That's why ye were surprised, isn't it? Ye were surprised I came back."
The Doctor squeezed his eyes shut. He suddenly realized that part of the reason why he had tried to remain somewhat distant from Jamie was because he was paranoid that it would abruptly end before too long. Of course, it wasn't fair to the piper for him to act this way, but the Doctor wasn't sure if he could handle the aftermath his hearts would have to endure if he allowed himself to fully bond with him again only to have it end shortly thereafter.
His brooding reverie was suddenly interrupted by Jamie squeezing him harder.
"Doctor, I swear I'll do whatever I can to stay," Jamie said. "But I know I cannae promise I always will. That's not jes 'cause of those Time Lords. My life is no more than a blink of an eye to ye."
"Jamie, stop it," the Doctor retorted, his breaths becoming uneven as his frayed nerves grew even more taunt. "Stop talking that way."
"I'm sorry," Jamie said quietly. "I jes…I jes don' want ye to surrender to the fear anymore. Don' let the Time Lords take away who ye are. Let yerself live."
"Who I am," the Doctor whispered. "I'm not sure if I know anymore, Jamie."
"Ye know," Jamie insisted. "Ye jes need to remember. It'll come to ye."
The Doctor let out a sigh as he walked alongside Jamie. The rest of that night had been spent with him going back to his reading and Jamie dozing next to him on the sofa. Almost every night after that, Jamie made sure to maintain contact with him while he slept be it a hand on the Doctor's arm or a drooping head leaning against him. Neither said it aloud, but he knew that it was Jamie's way of reassuring him that it was safe to close his eyes, to sleep and be secure in the knowledge that his friend would still be there when he woke up. The fact that Jamie had understood this without the need for any explanations was a poignant reminder of why he had missed him so much.
After four nights of this, the Doctor to finally felt more refreshed and alert than he had in decades. He just wished that Jamie would stop fussing over him and acting like he needed to walk on eggshells. He was sure that they were both steadily moving toward the point where they could break down that last barrier of caution and reluctance, but could not see how to best overcome it.
"All right, here we are then," Cassilida announced. "These hover vehicles will take us to our next destination: a specially prepared concert featuring an original composition that re-imagines many of the galaxy's favorite popular songs. Presented by our very own Golden Lires Resort Towers Band!"
The Doctor shuddered and wasn't shocked when Jamie did the same. Both of them had an innate appreciation of music and it wasn't difficult to envision the monstrosity that awaited them.
"Now, for those of us who haven't used hover vehicles like these before, let's go through a short training session together," Cassilida said. "The first thing to keep in mind as you ride is the need to maintain appropriate horsie positions for safety purposes."
"Horsie positions?" Jamie snorted. "What does that even mean?"
"I don't know, Jamie," the Doctor muttered. "But my advice to you is to just say neigh."
"Och, I see some things ne'er change wit' ye," Jamie smirked at him. "Seriously, Doctor, can we nae get away from here?"
The Doctor glanced over to see one hover vehicle parked slightly away from the others. He motioned to Jamie to follow him and they slowly crept over toward it. They looked back one last time to see Cassilida still engrossed in her riding lesson along with rest of the crowd. Satisfied with their chances, the Doctor hopped onto the vehicle and started it up. Jamie climbed on behind him and held onto his waist as the Doctor sped off.
"Wait!" Cassilida shouted. "We haven't finished our lesson. No! No, that's not the right way! Come back!"
But the Doctor and Jamie ignored her, and soon they were outside the resort and were speeding along the plains.
"Doctor, ye sure ye know how to steer this thing?" Jamie yelled.
"Of course I'm sure, what do you take me for?" the Doctor groused. "Just hold on while I figure out where the brake is."
"The what?!" Jamie spluttered. "Doctor, don' ye think we should…?"
Jamie never got a chance to finish that sentence due to the Doctor trying out one of the levers and unexpectedly discovering what he was looking for. The vehicle came to a sudden stop, but its passengers did not. Both of them sailed into a thick pile of brush. After each of them confirmed that they had survived, they pulled themselves out of the bushes and back onto their feet.
"Well," the Doctor chuckled as he rubbed his head. "At least it was a soft landing."
"Aye, I suppose that's better than usual," Jamie scowled while checking himself for injuries. "Where are we anyway?"
"Oh, I'd say about five miles from where we were and about ten miles to the nearest village," the Doctor mused. "You know, I've been meaning to visit them for quite some time. I wonder if Nocluia is still the Head Elder. Oh I do hope so. You'll like him Jamie. Always ready with a smile and never one to…."
The Doctor's words trailed off when he looked behind him and saw what looked like a large pyramid a few yards away.
"Hello?" the Doctor said. "Now, I know that that wasn't there when I was here last. And yet, it looks as if it's been sitting there for centuries."
The Doctor walked over to it with Jamie close behind. Symbols were etched into the stone. The Doctor studied them while tracing his finger along their edges. He peered around the edge and beamed at what he found.
"There's an opening over there," he said, clapping his hands together.
"Oh no, ye're not thinking of goin' in there are ye?" Jamie said, holding his hand out.
"Why not?" the Doctor asked. "There doesn't seem to be anyone around and it appears to be safe enough."
"Aye, it always looks that way to ye," Jamie said. "Come on, Doctor, think aboot it. Surely someone put that there for a reason, right? And if ye're right aboot it bein' put there recently despite it lookin' ancient, that means that somethin' is up, right?"
"Yes," the Doctor said, his smile growing. "Makes you wonder what it is, doesn't it?"
Jamie huffed and rolled his eyes. It was possible that this pyramid would turn out to be completely harmless, but the Doctor was pretty sure that Jamie was probably right to be suspicions. As it was, there was no reason why they couldn't just turn around and head off for the village like the Doctor had originally planned.
But there was something there, some sensation pulling at him that the Doctor nearly hadn't recognized. However, it didn't take long for him to realize what was making him hesitate: he was curious. It wasn't about what he needed to do or what someone else was telling him to do for a change. It was only about the desire to know, the urge to explore. It was about that child's question that held the most ancient of wisdom: why?
The Doctor looked over at Jamie and could see a spark reflected in the young Scot's eyes. In that moment, they both knew that this was also about regaining the choice to live and not just exist, to find their own meaning no matter what their lives or their futures held for them.
"Let's go in and find out, shall we?" the Doctor grinned. Jamie opened his mouth to protest, but threw up his hands instead.
"Och, what's the use?" Jamie sighed, a smile sneaking its way onto his face in spite of himself.
Both of them laughed and marched toward the entrance. Neither of them had any clue as to what they might find inside.
They only thing they knew for sure was that, whatever it was, it could never compare to the journey they took together to learn the answer.