What Doesn't Happen
(There was no happily ever after.)
What you had to remember about a Type-40 TARDIS was – given several hundred thousands years of existence and a couple owners who were just a bit too open-minded (or mad. If they were mad, that worked too) – they tended to get a bit…willful. Now obviously, this isn't on overt problem as a ship is still a ship and it can't do much without a pilot, but given the opportunity to be contrary, a Type-40 can and will pull a lookie-loo while it's residential Time Lord isn't paying attention. This is important to mention because in the whole of Time and Space just then, there was only one TARDIS left and that one TARDIS was old as hell, hella old, real damn old, old when the old farts on Gallifrey were a snotty little Time Lordlings old. Also, her residential pilot – while undoubtedly brilliant – was a couple pears short of the old gum tree and plagued by the personality of chronically distracted five-year-old. Also, he was currently arguing with a chronologically challenged immortal in a long jacket about which way Pluto was (someone had, apparently, nicked it while no one was looking) and couldn't be bothered to noticed the trending schemes of his living ship.
All these variables, when added, summed up this TARDIS thus: she was particularly persnickety…and just a little bit sneaky.
Very casually, the Time Rotor started to hum and prep itself.
"I'm telling you," the Time Anomaly was insisting, "Planet snatchers. Grab whole terraformations and toss 'em into their sun like firewood."
A couple levers threw themselves this way and that in a certain fashion.
Her pilot was sputtering. "That's ridiculous. Also, you nicked that bit off a child's TV program."
The temporal regulators hissed and decompressed.
The Anomaly snickered. "You watch TV shows that Toshiko's ten-year-old nephew watches."
A couple dimensional buffer circuits buzzed online.
"Jack Harkness, I'm two inches from chucking you out the door and seeing how you fare in deep space…also did you know there really is an Irken Empire?"
Then the TARDIS threw herself into the Time Vortex and – because she was really not as young as she used to be – the sudden transference into the flux of reality hurled both her occupants to the floor around her center console and sent them banging into things. She sighed a little as she hurdled through the blinking whirl of the millenniums, flashing past the rise and fall of civilizations, the creation and destruction of whole worlds: she was so terribly out of shape these days. She felt positively flabby. (Well, no she didn't because she was a vastly superior sentient shape ship through whom the knowledge of the whole of Creation ran and, obviously, could not be 'flabby'. But whatever the equivalent of 'flabby' is on a pan-dimensional time machine that was how she was feeling just then.) She blew past a couple hundred years. Stopped. Then reversed back fifty and stopped in the year 37.4/Plum/96 just to the left of the Milky Way.
Obviously, her pilot was not pleased.
"Doctor, what the hell just happened?" demanded Jack Harkness from the floor.
The skinny Time Lord in question was already running around the console, flipping errant switches and checking the handbrake, running around some more, then rechecking the handbrake.
"I don't know! I set the handbrake," he said in utter bewilderment.
Jack rolled his eyes and got to his feet.
The Doctor reached up and knocked on the centre column. "What's the matter with you? Aye? We were in the middle of saving Pluto."
"S'not like anyone really gives a damn about Pluto any way," Jack pointed out. "Not since that lot in the twenty-first century decided it was a moon."
The former Time Agent joined the Doctor in inspecting the various instruments on the control board, searching for something obvious like – for example – a jelly baby jammed in the gaps of some vital 'never press ever' button, or a shoe hanging off an important lever that should never be thrown. The handbrake notwithstanding, it was not unreasonable that Mr. Oncoming Storm might miss something like that. Meanwhile, the Doctor continued to frown up at his recalcitrant spaceship in that funny way that suggested he was literally waiting for an answer. Jack worked for years to pretend that was just the Doctor being bonkers, but lately he's come to be comfortable with the idea that ship was staring back at him. Besides, he admitted, it was endearing in a weird crazy Time Lord sorta way.
Jack went to investigate the display module to see where the TARDIS landed them, flicking the outside monitor on to take a look outside. He blinked a couple times. Then once more. When the image on the screen refused to go away, he looked up.
"Doctor, I think you should take a look at this."
"Jack. My TARDIS has just decided that a darting off to a random point in Space and Time is more important than Pluto."
"Yeah. Her and everyone else who doesn't care about Pluto," said Jack impatiently. "So far as I can tell, Doctor, you're the only one who cares about Pluto. Now get over here and take a look at this right now because I don't know what I'm looking at and if I'm looking at what I think I'm looking at then is a damn sight more important than Pluto. Doctor! Now!"
"Why doesn't anyone like Pluto?" muttered the Doctor, patting the TARDIS once more. "Alright, Jack." He bounded to the other side of the console and rubbed his hands together. "Let's see what we've got." He grabbed the display screen and pulled it around… and went completely impressively white. There was a good long five second interim where the Doctor just stood there looking terror-stricken and incredulous (long enough for Jack to get concerned) before he finally shook his head and stepped back from it, like putting some distance between himself and the image on the wave-screen might help somehow. He didn't say anything, just ran both hands through his hair to the back of his head and left them there.
There was a beat.
Another beat of silence.
"That's impossible," he said quietly.
"So I'm not crazy-go-nuts?" Jack clarified.
"It can't be."
"But it is."
"Doctor," said Jack flatly. "I think this requires some that innovative Time Lordy logic that doesn't include blindly denying the existence of the obvious. Now, tell me if I'm looking at what I'm looking at or if this is a very clever trick."
Because if it was a trick, it really wasn't very funny.
In the display screen image of the space outside, drifting like a toy set adrift in a bath of darkness and ten billion constellations, there was a floating fire-engine red police public call box, identical in every way but color to the TARDIS. It wasn't moving anywhere fast, if Jack were any expert (and he sort of was). The box looked as though it had seen the brunt of several dozen small hyper-fission cannons; great scars of blackened charcoal-black were burned across its sides, furrows raked into its bright paint. A massive dent in the top left corner had taken out the top left window above the doors. It was battered, banged up and generally all buggered to bits. The only sign of life was the street light on its roof, flashing a slow, two-four time rhythm. It drifted freely and silent, slightly askew through the gravitational eddies of the stars around it.
"Doctor…I think it's in trouble," Jack said hesitantly.
The Doctor continued to look as though someone had just popped out a pocket of anti-space and punched him. Jack weighed the benefits of slapping the Time Lord out of it versus waiting for him to resolve his blue-screen of doom. Luckily before he came to a decision, the TARDIS hummed impatiently at them. As though that were just the kick he needed, the Doctor darted to the other side of the console and started up a complex sequence of manual commands that Jack had never – in the several hundred years he'd known him on and off – seen him initiate.
"What are you doing?"
"Opening a two-way comm.-channel," he replied, flipping switches. "The TARDIS is picking up its psionic-wave distress call. Thinks that it's picking up another TARDIS and that's why it jumped." The central column chimed; a low deep humming sound that Jack had never heard before. The Doctor was yanking his tie loose in distraction, something he only did when extremely agitated. "I'm scanning for a…a certain frequency. It's exclusive only to a true blue Gallifreyan – ah ha!" The Doctor's grin was both of satisfaction and bitter, blackest disappointment. "No response. That thing, whatever it is, is not a TARDIS. No TARDIS would ever be grown not knowing that base-code. This is just a very clever phone-box in space."
Jack leaned against the console, staring very hard at his maniac friend. "But it's still in trouble, Doctor."
He sniffed. "Does look that way…" he agreed blithely.
"So why aren't we helping?" Jack demanded slowly.
"Because, Jack, my TARDIS – despite the very, very good reasons I'm giving her why it's completely impossible – is still telling me there's another TARDIS," snapped the Doctor. Jack, as though threatened by a very, very temperamental nuclear bomb, stepped back slowly. "Every TARDIS was erased from the time-stream with Gallifrey, the Time Lords and everything else. They're gone. All of them. Ergo, that cannot be a TARDIS, but something is disguised very, very cleverly like a TARDIS and so intricately that a real TARDIS is falling for it and I'm not having that. No one should be able to do that. It's not fair to her or me." He brought his fist down on a stuck module and a light came on the paneling above it. "So we're going to figure out who's doing it and why. Two very important questions: 'Who?' and 'Why?' Will make me completely happy the moment they're answered."
"So…" Hesitation. "It's more important than Pluto then?" the immortal inquired brightly.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "Yes, Jack. It's more important than Pluto." He spun a couple knobs as an afterthought and dashed to the door, snatching his jacket from the handrail and tugging it on over his shoulders. "Now, I've docked with her, it, the thing, whatever it is. We're presuming its not a terrible and obvious trap set for the very purpose and point of my capture, which it probably very likely is given my track record with Sod's Law and the way the universe works – but!" He shook a finger at Jack, grinning that manic megawatt grin. "Even if it is a big, bad Time Lord trap, I know something they don't! Guess. Whaddo I know that they don't? G'wan!"
"How to not save Pluto?"
"Cheeky. I'm throwing you out over Wales, next pass over. No!" He bounced on his toes and looked very pleased with himself. "What I know that they don't is that if you're going to fake being a TARDIS so well, then you're gonna have to abide by TARDIS rules."
"And those are?" Jack loved this game.
The Doctor grinned. "Driver picks the music!" he sang with glee. And with that, the Time Lord dashed off through the doors and left Jack wondered how it was that someone this insane was the sole hope of many, many universes and planetary crises to come. "Don't doddle, Captain!"
The inside of the other TARDIS was…exactly like the inside of the Doctor's TARDIS if, say, the Doctor had accidentally lit the place on fire a couple times, knocked out all the ambient light, and gutted whole circuit boards of wiring from the ceilings like crazy black and rubber party streamers. Everything was dark. No lights save for a couple dim emergency wall lamps and the same low pulse of the distress beacon, which was likewise glowing rhythmically through the inert crystal rods of the Time Rotor. The Doctor was already crouched inside a hole under the control panel, messing with things. Jack stood still, realizing with an eerie sort of shiver that this ship, like the ship they'd just come off of, seemed to be watching him.
"Heebie-jeebies," he replied, non sequitur at its finest.
"Doctor, this ship is alive."
"Yes it is," said the Doctor, his head still lost under the console.
"What are you doing?"
"Quickly realizing that the universe is a terribly unfair place where bad things happen for no reason."
"Yeah, I know. That's obvious right? Shoulda figured that out centuries ago. But never mind that – Ow!" The Time Lord banged his head on the lip of the console. He stood up rubbing the spot furiously, but didn't seem inclined to let braining himself have an effect on his enthusiasm. He went on inspecting the control board, which – unlike everything else – was a good deal neater and more tidy than the controls on the Doctor's TARDIS; more uniform and new, though worn by frequent use and covered in... Were those post-it notes? "What I was saying before, Captain, is that any TARDIS that docks with another TARDIS initiates an automatic time-lock. It's a biological constant. Like, you breathing out carbon dioxide. They have to. It's automatic. And what I was assuming was that this ship is simply psychic enough and Time-saturated enough to trick my TARDIS into thinking its real. But if that's the case, she she'll treat this ship like a real TARDIS and time lock it. That kills engines, lights, weapons, defenses, small nuclear bombs, I-pods, everything up to and including clever Time Lordy traps. Dance to our tune."
The Doctor stopped briefly to rub a hand across the console; palm running up the weathered panel like one might sooth a hurt cat. His expression was no longer gleeful or angry…just sad.
"But she hasn't got any power to kill. She's used it all up getting here."
Jack finally made his way into the room properly, coming to lay a hand on the central column. It pulsed warmly under his touch. "Is it – she? – really a TARDIS?"
The time Lord didn't respond. He just stood there staring up at that identical crystal cylinder rising up from the heart of the machine, eyes lost in some spinning forever place that Jack Harkness could never touch. That terrible, lonely, hopeful but not daring to hope look that made Jack want to grab his friend and A: tell it would be okay and B: snog him out of it. (It should be mentioned, plan B was a possible solution for all problems almost all of the time, whether it made sense or not.) Either way, standing about wasn't getting anything done so Jack repeated, slightly louder, but in a gentler tone.
He looked at Jack like he'd forgotten who he was.
"Is this ship really a TARDIS?"
"Yes." He sniffed, moved to the other side of the console in what was meant to be a busy manner, but came across restless. "It's a real TARDIS, Jack."
"You said it used up its energy? Did it crash? Fall out of the Vortex?"
"It could have." The Doctor ran a tense hand through his hair, face laced with pain. "I suppose…"
"But that's impossible. Even in the Vortex, even hiding somewhere in the universe, you would have known about it. Sensed it. Right? Time Lord Spidey-Senses. The TARDIS should have felt it at least. Where the hell did a whole other TARDIS come from? And how –?"
"I don't know!" the Doctor barked finally, killing the questions dead. Jack stopped. It was just then he noticed the other man was gritting his teeth, which was the Doctor translated version of freaking the hell out. The Time Lord went back to fiddling with unresponsive controls, more for a need to move than because it did any good. His tone was slightly ragged. "She's on the brink of death, Jack, she's dying. My TARDIS is trying to nurse her back to health, but... but I don't know." The Doctor just stared at the paneling under his hand.
"I'm sorry, Doctor."
"It's like the Master," he said without warning and Jack blanched. "For her, not me. For the TARDIS. If she loses this ship it's like I lost him: a split second where we aren't alone, where there's just one other being in the whole of Creation that's part of what we lost…" His eyes darkened. "Only it's just a second. Then it's gone. That's what it's like."
Jack didn't say anything.
"Impossible," the Time Lord huffed randomly. He rounded the console, ducking wires. "I say that a lot and set myself up for disaster with it on a regular basis. Shouldn't take me seriously when I say 'impossible'. S'not a good word, 'impossible'. S'almost as bad and 'Ooh, nothing could possibly go wrong' or 'At least it's not raining sulfuric acid,'" he chattered amiably. It was the flippant, rambling that meant he was scrambling, wheels spinning in four dimensions behind the handsome dark brown of his eyes. This wounded TARDIS had the Time Lord spinning in the wind. "When I said all TARDISes had been wiped from reality I wasn't wrong. It's true. They're gone. But I was assuming that this TARDIS was a Gallifreyan TARDIS."
"No." The Doctor stepped back a bit, hands slipping into his pockets. "This TARDIS is brand new. It was grown after the destruction of Gallifrey. That's why it doesn't know Gallifreyian sub-harmonic communication base codes. Why would she need them?" His tone was mild, his expression blank. "There's no one else to talk to."
Jack shook his head. "Okay. Stop," he said. "I'm sorry. Rewind. You can grow a TARDIS off Gallifrey?"
"Sure," chimed the Doctor, abandoning his melancholy to go hunting down the side ramp for the galley. "You can grow 'em wherever you like, given you've got a graft off a living host TARDIS. But you need a Time Lord. Only a time-sensitive Gallifreyan can raise a TARDIS to adulthood – well, to adolescence – well, something like that. Whatever. Semantics." Jack followed the Doctor as he disappeared to the next level. "Point is this ship is full grown so that means…" He popped his head back up near Jack's feet to give him a warning look. "…it must have a pilot."
"A pilot…who stole a piece of your TARDIS," concluded Jack slowly.
The Doctor's expression was admonishing. "Or someone I give a piece of TARDIS to in the future. For all I know, I'm going to grow this TARDIS in the future and this is my own future TARDIS. Let's not jump to conclusions. I'm searching the lower decks. You watch the control room; make sure our prospective pilot doesn't try to jump ship. See you in a few." His voice faded as he descended downward. "And don't touch anything!"
"Does that include the prospective pilot?" he called.
"Especially the prospective pilot!"
"Even if he's you?"
"Double especially if it's me!"
Jack grinned and went to examine the console's collage of post-it notes. Most of them were completely incomprehensible scribbles, lines of funny swirly, wiggly symbols that meant nothing to the former Time Agent. Then there were a bunch written in English that said things like, "The fifth moon off Majora." and "Don't let the eggs go bad!!!" or "New shoes? Where to buy:" There were also a snatching of notes in French and ancient Greek that meant the new TARDIS wasn't translating and their TARDIS wasn't translating inside the new TARDIS. He supposed the two living spaceships created some kind of buffer, canceling each other out or some such. He'd have to ask the –
He looked up and the Doctor was standing the bridge.
He was wearing jeans and a Ramones T-shirt.
He was ginger.
Jack's first thought was: 'He looks good ginger.' His second was 'Oh shit!' because in the span it took him to think the first thought, the Doctor who was not the Doctor resolved his expression to one of great and angry determination. Then he sprinted – no, blurred – across the room toward the immortal, jumped on the center console, vaulted off it and tried to curb stomp Jack Harkness in the face. Jack ducked in time to avoid needing dental work, but this Doctor wanted to fight. The moment he hit the grating, he pivoted, reared back and axe kicked the former Time Agent in the chest, slamming him into the guard rail around the console with bone-bruising force. Jack found himself unable to breathe much less explain to the extremely irate looking doppelganger that he wasn't here to hurt him.
"Wait –" he wheezed. "I'm not –"
The pilot attacked him, drove a fist at the Time Agent that seemed to blink into existence two inches from his face. Luckily for clever Jack, he'd been traveling with the Doctor long enough to recognize when someone was bending Time to cheat physics and managed to twist away. He blocked the next hit, deflected a roundhouse then managed to bull through a blow to his shoulder and grab the pilot's slender wrist. Big mistake. The moment his hand closed on his arm, the wiry red-head twisted his back into Jack's chest, grabbed the offending hand and yanked him forward over his shoulder, thus throwing him an impressive distance into one of the coral support struts around the console.
Shit, never mind hurting the doppelganger, thought Jack through the black and white spots dancing about his in head. It was more a question of the doppelganger hurting him.
"How the hell did you come back!?" shouted the lookalike Doctor. Even dazed and on the floor, Jack was startled to hear a thread of hot fear in his voice. "Was it her? Did she do this?" he demanded frantically, without sense. His eyes weren't the Doctor's. They were the same shape, the same wild and unattainable intensity of emotion as the Doctor's, but they weren't his. His eyes belonged to someone else, but what they were – most vividly – was full of terror. "Answer me, was it her!?"
"You're confused," said a voice calmly.
The lookalike spun around and froze.
"You're not where you think you are. Calm down."
The real Doctor was, of course, standing on the other side of the console now. He had a hand on the rail, as though he'd just sprinted up the walk from below and stopped there to steady himself. His expression was a mix of parental austerity and some other strange wire of compassion wound through the back of the Doctor's eyes in a way that looked like understanding or hope or – to Jack's bewilderment – heartbreak.
The lookalike didn't look like a fighter anymore. To the contrary he looked startlingly and frighteningly fragile. He swallowed hard and took a step toward the Doctor, like an instinctive reaction, then stopped, unsure. The Doctor nodded slightly. The doppelganger, seeing that, seemed to go to pieces given the permission. He let out a sound that was like a sob or a growl and ran into the man's chest, grabbing him in a hug that was violent as it was desperate. The Doctor gripped his counterpart like he could turn to smoke and nothingness if he didn't… And then everything clicked and Jack knew exactly who the doppelganger was. He realized exactly whose eyes the lookalike had.
'He's got Donna Noble's eyes.''
Somehow, impossibly, through all the oceans of improbability and 'not-very-bloody-likely' the feral ginger scrapper who'd nearly killed Jack Harkness, was the Doctor's impossible twin, the Time Lord/human biological meta-crisis fresh from the other side of reality. And he was a complete mess. He shook in the other's arms so hard his teeth were chattering. There were bloody scratches up his arms, his knuckles torn open, his clothes blackened with streaks of filth. He was breathing too fast, choking something, some strangled confession or a curse or a cry against the faded cloth of the Doctor's jacket, but the Time Lord just hushed him. He adjusted his hold on the impossible pilot, leaning back to look him in the face.
"It's alright," he insisted. "You made it. You're fine, now. We've got you."
"I thought –" gritted the Other Doctor. "I thought we didn't make it. I thought…"
"You thought wrong. You're both safe," the Doctor repeated. "Just relax. You're safe now, Doctor."
The meta-crisis shuddered. "Don't do that. Don't. That's not… not mine."
"I'm sorry," the Doctor said steadily. "What's your name? Tell me you name, okay?"
"I tried," he confessed desperately. "I tried everything. I did everything, but it was impossible. I couldn't become anything else and I'm sorry."
"It's okay," said the Doctor gently. "Just tell me your name."
"I don't…" protested the Other Doctor.
"…Doc." There couldn't have been a more uncertain statement imaginable. "That's what the others called me."
"Doc," repeated the Doctor gently. "Okay. Doc, you're safe now. I want you to calm down.
He bit back a moan of despair. "I ran," he blurted. "I ran away, but I couldn't – She followed me. Rasallion, she followed me, Doctor!"
Jack could see this wasn't going to end without a freak out, but the Doctor seemed to have figured that. He hushed his lookalike, pressing a hand to the side of his face, against his temple and murmured something.
Doc looked terrified. "Don't look," he begged, gripping the Doctors lapels. "Please don't."
The other didn't resist the suggestion after that. He closed his eyes and went limp. Jack, having got to his feet at last, shook the last of his concussion from his head – note, this is very Jack thing to do and not everyone can do that – and came to kneel across from the pair of Doctors. The real Doctor was looking at the meta-crisis with an expression Jack didn't dare try to sort through, but it was at least one part sorrow and another part deep icy fear.
"What happened to him?" Jack whispered.
"I don't know," the Doctor said quietly.
"How can he be here? He was in another dimension. You don't cross those, you don't just…hop. Even with a TARDIS it's impossible. And for that matter where'd he get a TARDIS?!"
"We'll sort it out later, Jack."
"And why's he ginger?!"
"And why'd he kick me in the face?"
"Jack." Glare of impending doom. "Help me get him up."
"Doctor…" Jack grimaced at the second round of glaring. "I don't want to sound… The first thing he did, the very first thing, was attack me."
"Jack. We'll sort it," he repeated. "Help me get him into the TARDIS."
- - -
- - -
They moved Doc to the Doctor's TARDIS and laid him down in one of the spare bedrooms where he slept like a dead thing. He didn't even stir while the Doctor checked his heart rate, temperature, blood-pressure ("You can do that by touch?" Jack demanded) and bandaged the skinned and bloody flaps of flesh torn open on his knuckles. When he was done, the Doctor pulled a blanket over him – a gesture that Jack had only ever seen him implement with a long gone London shop girl – and dimmed the lights as he left the room.
"Definitely him," muttered the Doctor once they were out in the hall, alone. "He's shut off every single one of his telepathic synaptic centers, but it's him."
"Why'd he do that?"
"Don't think he did. The TARDIS probably did it during the crash. S'why I couldn't sense him. Severe crash landing protocol calls for a TARDIS to render her pilot unconscious if maintained psychic connection would result in the possible death of the pilot. It's an outdated protocol. My Type-40 wouldn't even do that, but because his TARDIS is so young and he's so…" He grimaced. "…abnormal it wouldn't surprise me that it would do something like that."
Jack whistled, shaking his head and running a hand through his hair. "Shit, Doc."
The Doctor looked up at him through his bangs. "Don't call me that, Jack."
"Oh, right." He glanced toward the room beyond where he could just make out a fringe of bright red hair sticking up from the tangled pile of the comforter. "You… sure we shouldn't move a bit? What if he wakes up?"
The Doctor shook his head. "He's inherited my Gallifreyian REM cycle," he said with a shrug. "He won't wake up for anything short of a kick in the ribs."
Jack eyed him oddly. "I didn't know that." A thoughtful pause. "Anything?"
"Don't even think about it, Captain."
"Too late," he sing-songed then sobered in that easy slip-side way that was so distinctly Jack Harkness. "Was he hurt in the crash or something? Because he acts like someone conked him with a brick, no offense. Also, he's punching people in the face. Namely me. What's going on?"
The Doctor pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. "He might be suffering some telepathic frisson, psychic trauma from being connected with a young TARDIS during a crash, but I don't think so. Even an adolescent TARDIS wouldn't allow her pilot to feel that. Certainly not if he's part human." He lowered his hand to look Jack in the eye. "It's far more likely that he's blocking me on purpose and using trauma as a front…"
"Doctor, why isn't Rose with him?'
"I don't know." The Time Lord's face remained blank. "And I can't ask him. He was terrified that I might look into his mind to see what happened. Forcing him to anything would be a mistake and it's none of my business until he says it is." The Doctor leaned up against a wall, staring into a corner across the way with a worrisome level of intensity. "He's given himself another name."
Jack arched a brow. There was a melancholy in his voice that didn't seem deserving in the context. "Not really. Doc's not a far cry from Doctor is it?"
"Yes it is, actually," the Doctor retorted sharply. He paused. "I was wrong."
Jack blinked several times. "I'm sorry I think the universe just shuddered. What was that?"
"I was wrong," he repeated without humor. "All those years ago I left him on that beach with Rose and I was wrong. He's not me. I assumed that the regeneration, however strange, would still essentially be… I mean it was logical at the time and he was – Ah, it's not explainable in your language. I just thought that the name would stick to us both. It's why I said he was me and I was him. If the Doctor was both of us, then it would hold. It did hold. He was the Doctor the last time I saw him, he was me. I could feel him in my mind and he was me. But now the name's fallen off him and I don't know why." There was despair and frustration and exhaustion in his voice. "I left Rose with a stranger."
"That's not you're fault, Doctor."
"How is it not my fault, Jack? I made the decision. I could have chosen a different course, but I picked that one and it was wrong." He turned away. "For both of them."
But the Time Lord was walking down the hall. "It's fine. I've never done anything right by her. Why would this be any different?" Jack didn't manage to say anything before the other man rounded the corner. "I'm towing the other TARDIS into the Vortex. Could take a while. Keep an eye on him."
Jack was left standing the hall.
- - -
- - -
They are all burning. The world is burning and the inside of his mind is on fire, is full of flame and crazy supernova detonations of heat and cold and he is crawling for the TARDIS doors. He doesn't know anything. Where anyone is, where they've all gone. (Except he does. He knows exactly where they've all gone.) He's clawing his way to his feet against the doorframe, stumbling through onto the inner walkway, staggering through. His thoughts are ash. His eyes can't see anything but streaks of light and blackness so deep he can't move for terror of it. His blood is roaring through him, pounding through him, beating against the walls of his fragile almost human body like it wants to get out of his skin. The TARDIS is singing her song of terror into his already shattered mind, seeking direction, seeking some sign that he's okay, any sign of her pilot but he's just curled inside her like a wounded animal, clenched around the pain that seems to burn from his centre out. He cries out blindly.
He doesn't know what he says.
Something in his dead language.
Something like, "Help me."
Something like, "Run."
The TARDIS doors slam shut. He feels her come alive around him, feels Time and Space melt as she streaks like a meteorite through the fabric of reality. He feels her fear, her resolve, her desperation and that intense burning wire of connection strung like adamantine between them. He feels her dread mirroring his, the horror of the hunter in the Time Vortex behind them, coming up on them like a ghost in the darkness, hungry and pitiless and fathomless dark. Their thoughts are singular, unified in terror: Run. Run. Run. He doesn't hear her, because that's impossible, but if he could put words to the murmured impression of thought that whispers into his shredded awareness they would be these:
'I'll protect you. Don't worry.'
Then the world explodes. Reality evaporates. He knows her pain ripping through them, like a hot slab of fire sliding through the middle of their beings, before she cuts her connection with him. He's thrown against the console. He feels the floor fall away. Then he knows nothing.
Yeah, that's right. I'm a duplicate Doctor fan. Judge me as you will but be sure to tell me what you think. Criticism is always welcome. Clever reviewers are cherished and showered with attention. Flames make me laugh. It's good for my click that little green button and see what happens!