OH MY GOD GUYS I AM SO SORRY. I did not forget you! Or this story. Things have been absolutely mad and I do want get this story finished. I've been writing for four years now jesus.
Disclaimer: well jeez I wish I owned one of these two franchises, but alas I do not.
And if anyone was curious, the series' I was referencing in that first bit of Chapter 17 were as follows: Thor, The Chaos Walking Trilogy, Hunger Games, and then Games of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, X-Men, and Avatar: The Last Airbender (during Kyoshi's time as Avatar), then finally, obviously, Supernatural.
She stands there, thoroughly unmoved by the site before her. A dead kelpie, an alien man-beast awash in blood, and a very poorly dressed skinny streak of nothing who is wide-eyed and babbling.
After a moment, with Viral just staring and the Doctor still spouting nonsense, she offers her hand to help the Time Lord up. Viral still just looks at her, like he's seen a ghost. He spits the kelpie blood that's pooled in his mouth on the ground, and makes a half-hearted attempt to wipe his face. He will now look anywhere but her face.
"Cille-or Tsuuma, or.." the tall man says, and she shushes him.
"Cille is fine. I've gone by it twelve years now."
The Doctor starts to talk, but his voice dies off when Cille walks past him to stand in front of Viral with a curious look on her face. She's still nearly a foot shorter than the beastman.
"You don't look like any of the fae I've encountered. Too tall, for one."
Viral spares a look over his shoulder, but does not speak.
"Clearly, not human," she continues, reaching out to almost touch the back of his right arm. He knows nothing of her, he tells himself. The dream world they lived in was nothing like his world, nothing like this one.
This woman was a stranger who shared her face. This woman sought comfort in his arms. His mind raged against itself.
"I mean, I should have figured as much when you swept me away in that box. But what are you?"
"Beastman," he says, a rumble in his voice. He doesn't know what a fae is, but the way she talks about them, all bitterness and anger, she'd imagine they were cruel things.
She gives this a moment's thought, and steps back from him.
"Well, clearly," and she grins wide and almost wicked, "I would never peg you for a little old faery. More like a changeling's child."
Viral looks to the Doctor, who should honestly have a compendium of earth mythology in his head. The man jumps to Cille's side and tries to engage her in conversation, but she keeps looking at Viral and he finally, finally turns around.
"Hello again, Cille."
The voices are the same, but the person is not.
"Yes well okay hi Doctor here maybe we should move out of this particular area of the woods."
"Oh, I rather think we're okay. Kelpies don't move in packs, and we're far afield of their usual stomping grounds."
"Well I meant that I heard someone else coming and Viral is sort of, well, covered in blood."
"There's a stream this way, where I've set up camp. Come along."
The air is cold and bracing, still, but the woods are quiet. The sun is still shining through the trees, and Viral spends the hike studying their surroundings. It had been practice during his time in the military, but now it was habit. He had spent so long by himself that letting his guard down wasn't an option. Even now, flustered as he was that he couldn't think of anything but an emotional gambit a heartless enemy had used against him, he kept scouting around.
The tang of the kelpie's blood was still fresh on his tongue. It was saline and copper and earth. His jaw ached from the force he'd used and he was half certain bits of bone were stuck between his molars.
And he felt so alive for it. The hunt and the chase were the blood in his veins.
He had seen the Doctor's face. He knew the look. He'd seen it far too many times before 'back home'.
People always forgot that he was an animal, deep down. He was bred for battle and survived by the skin of his teeth, only to be rendered obsolete. He did what he had to to survive.
And that wasn't always pretty, and it wasn't always nice. Not that the Doctor could talk, since there was something darker behind his eyes that frightened even Viral.
It was the pity.
He hated being the object of someone's pity.
They reach Cille's camp, and Viral scrubs the dried blood from his hands and his face, and rinses his mouth. He cleans the crusted earth and blood from beneath his claws, and sits on the bank in silence.
"It's wonderful to see you again," the Doctor says in the midst of starting a small fire. Cille's camp is very small; she looks to be the only occupant. She has a makeshift tent set up between two young trees, and little else.
"I could say the same of you. Twelve years, for me. I expect not the same for you."
"Ah, no," the Doctor blushes, "considerably less. Our transport sort of...moves through time and space."
She doesn't seem flustered by this.
"What have you been up to?" the Time Lord asks, all cheeky grin and wild hair.
"I found a clan who needed help, and they took me in. Skillful with a knife, as it turns out. They...well, you met the kelpie. Fae are wicked things and get to be a problem further north. I was tracking the one your friend killed for weeks, now."
"They sent out a woman?" the Doctor says. He arches a single eyebrow, and almost immediately regrets his question.
"Considering I've put down of those in the past five years than most of the men? Yes."
Viral chuckles quietly.
"Admittedly, the Hunter life was...stressful, to begin with. But after I'd gone from Rome back to Briton in the space of a few hours, after...," she pauses for a moment to look at Viral, "after the dreams I used to have, the presence of the fae wasn't so odd."
"You two returning is, though."
The motormouth Time Lord is silent for once.
"I, well...just wanted to drop in. Spacial movement so quickly for someone like you, can be very upsetting."
The Doctor and Cille talk a little more and eventually they all partake in some roasted fish from the river (courtesy of Viral's quick reflexes). The stars are out and shining when Cille and Viral finally get to speak to each other in peace. The Time Lord is marveling at the stars again.
The maps he must have in his head, Viral wonders. Stars and planets in those solar systems and the lives and histories of people upon them.
Viral enjoys the cold air and the shining full moon. It still makes him no more willing to talk. Cille sits near him, silent for a long while.
"Twelve years has changed you," he says. He sees a dim star, off to the right, tries to recall its name.
"Time will do that," she replies. He chances a look over; she's got her legs stretched out and she's leaning back on her palms. Her feet are bound up in boots and her legs swathed in fabric.
"When we left, you were shy," he says, "timid, even."
He's trying to be blunt, trying to be standoffish. He does not want to stay.
She laughs. It's short and bitter and harsh.
"I was. You learn fast when your life is in danger. But the hunt, the chase...it's kind of enjoyable, sometimes."
He can't help but look at her with an odd sense of fascination.
"There are things that you can feel born to do, I suppose," she continues, "and I was never meant to be a house-slave. The fae are usually respectful but they are wicked and dangerous things and I will keep my people safe."
And he smiles.
"You've gotten strong then."
"Yes," she replies, "I have."
He wants the conversation to stall there, but she just looks at him with his mouth full of teeth and misshapen limbs and grabs a hold of his arm.
"So how do you know me, then?"
He pulls away, shakes his head.
"I don't...I can't...Cille," but she won't let go. She's not fighting back tears-she's angry.
"I have been trying to find out why I know your face for a long time. You are not going to sit here and lie to me because you're not comfortable with it. I have dealt with liars and thieves and deceivers. I am a woman, but I am not weak. My 'constitution' can handle it. So tell me," and she's too close and her breath is warm on his cheek but the words are cold.
"Who are you?"
And he tells her. How he came from a world a long while away where there were humans and beastmen. How they fought. How people died. Why the men were trapped below ground. About Simon, and Yoko, and Kamina. About how enemies became friends. How he helped save the world and was left alone.
And he tells her that Beastmen don't reproduce like humans and most animals. That they needed help. That the Anti-Spirals best weapon was to give you everything you ever wanted.
"But that doesn't tell me who I am to you," she interrupts, "I have lived a whole life with dreams that are too real, things that guide me too well. You are the only moment of clarity at all. Tell me who I am."
"They give you what you want the most," he says, teeth on edge, "and I had wanted a family. A wife," he looks at her, "and a child, and to cease being a soldier. All impossible, of course."
She stares at him for a long moment, as if she isn't sure what to say.
"Is that why you kissed me?"
"No I ...I had not meant to do that."
A hand cracks him across the cheek, and he bites into his tongue to not snarl out of habit and instinct.
"You do not even know me."
"I don't." he agrees, "and that is why I left."
"How do I even remember this?"
"I do not know how the anti-spirals work. I could not tell you."
She sets back down to the hard-packed dirt with a huff.
"Well," she says, "well."
Then after a while, "what was she like?"
Viral huffs, then replies.
"Much like you. Shy, but fierce. Protective. A good fighter. A mother. But she wasn't real. You are. You have your own life and I...I have no part in it. I am so sorry."
"So what will you do? Travel with the Doctor until you decide somewhere is good enough, plop down, call it home?"
"I do not know."
Silence claims them again. The moon shines off the water, and neither of them move for a while. Viral is aware, after a fashion, that Cille is staring at him.
"Your neck," and she reaches out to run her fingers along the slits of his gills. He tries to protest the touch but his breath hitches in his chest and rumbles out as a purr, which surprises him and Cille alike. She stares at his chest, then his face, and stops her hand for a moment.
"What was that?" she asks, a laugh in her voice. He mutters out an explanation for the purr and she looks so content to have found this out that she keeps going, and he leans into her touch.
"Oh, that is precious," she says as he sort of half-leans over her. He tries to look upset but it isn't working. He finally resorts to taking hold of her wrists and pushing them away.
"D-don't tell," and it takes him a moment to get his voice back in order, "do not tell the Doctor. I would never hear the end of it."
And she looks at him and there is no pity, only curiosity and eagerness and a thrill for a hunt and she smiles.
Night goes and day comes and for once it is rather uneventful in the Doctor's life. Cille and Viral talk a time or two in the night, and come morning they are trying to find the TARDIS again. The scent of it is easy to track, but Viral still insists on eating a proper meal before they return to the TARDIS. Cille agrees and brings back several small creatures and they have a lovely meal.
The Doctor makes some sort of excuse to leave the two alone, though Viral is certain to keep him within sight.
"I wish I could have helped you more," the beastman tells Cille. She bites back a laugh.
"I will be fine. Will you, though?"
She cocks her head and stares right through him. She is new and strange and lovely and he wants to know her, truly know her.
"Yes. I have him, and there are worlds to see."
The walk back to the TARDIS is slow and quiet. She's still standing there, blue as blue and the cleanest, most comforting scent he's ever smelled. The closer they get, the more he wants Cille to grab his arm, to touch his shoulder, to say anything.
And they are standing at the doors now. Cille runs her hands over one of the wooden panels.
"It's...it's alive," she says, quiet as a whisper, "well isn't that something?"
"Yeah," the Doctor grins and strokes the side of the box lovingly, "she certainly is."
"You're going now, I expect."
It takes Viral a moment before he realizes that it's directed at him.
"A pity, then. You seem to be a natural at handling the fae. Could have used you," she says, and she reaches up to press a kiss to his cheek and he can only stare.
The world before him is wild and wonderful. The land stretches out and miles away on either side there is beautiful ocean.
And there is a woman who wants to be his friend and a land that he can learn and navigate and be nothing more than a story in the end.
He looks out at the expanse in front of him, and back into the TARDIS. The doors barely shut behind him and the motors have only begun to turn when he make his decision.
"Doctor," he says, "you are the stupidest man I have ever known. One day your idiocy is going to get you killed."
But Viral grins, wide and feral and truly truly alive and he pushes past the doors and lands face first on the ground. He pops up quick, and he can still see Cille halfway down the hill, marveling at how the box is fading from view.
Viral powers down the hill, stumbling and falling and rolling and he catches her by the waist.
"You are here. You are real, you are brilliant," he says, out of breath and more verbose than he's been in years, "and I want to know who you are, now."
And he tries to be mindful of his teeth and kisses her and doesn't care if it's all a dream.
He pulls back and she's somewhat in shock.
"I'm sorry," he mutters, letting her go. But she smirks just as wickedly as he can and reaches up and messes with his gills and it feels like home.
THERE WE ARE. FOUR YEARS. IT'S DONE. Thank you all for your reviews, your kindness, and your patience. I didn't want this to be one of those fics that people enjoyed but never actually was finished. I like to think Viral and his badass lady-love go kicking fae ass everywhere and adopt a little changeling kid who is the most precious thing.