WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS

Author's Note: This story is rated R for mature themes, mild violence, angst, and sexual situations. If any of these ideas bother you too much to keep reading, please don't! I welcome feedback as long as it is not "flaming." Helpful suggestions and opinions I can handle. Please review if you read: it's my first Dr. Who fic and I need to know how I'm doing. Thanks!

PROLOGUE/PART 1

Rock-a-bye baby

In the tree top
When the wind blows,
The cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks
The cradle will fall,
And down will come baby
Cradle and all.

"Doctor?"

Sarah's voice, soft and concerned, drew him out of his daze. How long had he been sitting on the ground? She put a hesitant hand on his shoulder, and then withdrew it almost immediately. He wouldn't look at her, his gaze instead following the trail of bloodied bodies strewn about the field like rag dolls.

"Doctor."

"What is it, Sarah?"

"Doctor, would you please look at me?" Her tone bordered on agitation.

He slowly turned his head upwards. Sweat and blood mingled in his curls and gave them a reddish cast. His eyes made her shiver. They weren't angry, or sad. That she could have handled. What frightened her is that they were vacant.

In all the time she'd known him, his eyes had been outraged, regretful, thoughtful, merry, dark blue mirrors that showed his every mood. Now those mirrors were broken.

"Why wouldn't they listen?" He whispered. "I warned them, all but begged them not to attack. And now look what's happened. Every last one of them dead. For nothing. All for nothing. The building was set to explode, the order knew they would kill themselves rather than be taken. I knew that. Even you knew that."

"Well, thanks a lot," she quipped, trying to lighten the darkness. But he wasn't having any of it. "They don't listen, until it's too late. So many times, so much pointless violence."

Sarah's eyes widened in outright alarm as the Doctor began rocking back and forth on his heels. "Always the same," he whispered. "Bloody useless. And I'm tired."

"Come on, then, we'll go back to the TARDIS and you can rest before we head off again," she said lightly. He shook his head.

"I'm not leaving."

"Well, right, I mean, we'll do what we can to help out first," she began, but he cut her off.

"You don't understand, Sarah Jane. I am tired. Tired of all this. And I'm not going to do it anymore." His eyes closed.

She stared at him. "What do you mean?" She gasped.

"What I mean is, I am seven hundred and forty-nine years old. I have died and regenerated 3 times. I was there when Genghis Khan began his conquest of your world. I was there when war broke out on the planet Theteon. Both times. I carried a boy who had no business being given a gun away as we were pursued by soldiers. I have seen machines that wanted to control the universe. I have been tortured, imprisoned, beaten, threatened, and nearly killed more times than even I might be able to count. I've seen people I cared about die because of me, or their stupidity, or some other pointless reason."

His eyes had opened again and were fixed on hers, but for all that she could read in them he might as well have been staring at a wall. Whatever made the Doctor who he was, gave him energy and faith and drive, was gone. Simply gone. And there was nothing in its place but a shadow on his soul.

"I have seen these things too often," he murmured. "And it is going to stop."

Now she was truly terrified. He'd never spoken like this before, and she had no idea of what to make of it, or what to say to him. He rose, started to wipe his hand on his coat sleeve, then saw that it was covered in blood. With a sudden, angry movement he wrenched his coat off and threw it down. Almost as an afterthought, he began taking off clothes.

"Doctor?" Sarah cried, distress knotting the normal smoothness of her features, as she watched him throw off his hat, unbutton his vest, tear it off his body along with his shirt as though he could no longer stand the sight of them. When he was clad only in scarf, trousers and boots he stopped. He stared at the clothes, then thrust them at her and started walking.

"Where are we going?" She asked, hurrying after him.

"I'm going to the TARDIS to move to the next continent over. Then I'm going to go into a nice quiet little town, buy some clothes, rent a room, and sleep."

"Why don't we just stay in the TARDIS?" She asked.

He glanced at her over his shoulder. "I don't want to," he said simply.

"And what about me?" She said, fear climbing into her voice and making it higher than normal.

"You can stay in the TARDIS. Or you can stay in the town. Whatever you want, Sarah. I'll give you money, I won't leave you hanging, you know that." He stopped walking and swung around to face her, his expression more serious and sad than she'd ever thought it could be. "But I have to be alone. I'm sorry."

"Doctor, listen to me."

"No, Sarah Jane, it's you who must listen to me right now," he said gravely, taking her slim shoulders in his hands. "I feel that I am about to snap. Do you have any idea of what that would be like for me?"

She swallowed hard. "No," she replied in a rough, soft voice.

"Neither do I, because it's never happened. But I do know that the last thing I would ever want to do is hurt you. And if you are with me right now, that is precisely what will occur. I've got to try and get hold of myself, and I can't do that with someone else around."

"You seem all right now," she protested. He shook his head hard. A fleck of blood slid out of his hair and onto her arm. She drew a startled breath at the sight of it.

"What I seem and what I am are two different things. You know that."

"Yes," she replied. She nodded. "All right, we'll have it your way, then. A little planet side stopover."

"Not a stopover, Sarah." He started walking again.

She rushed to his side, grabbing his arm and making him stop. "What do you mean, not a stopover?"

"I mean that, regardless of what happens, I'm staying on this planet. I'm done with it all."

Sarah stared, comprehension creeping into her mind like bitter poison.

The Doctor's face was resolute. "I'm never going to travel again."