There are a few things he knows.
He knows he is in a city called Cardiff. He knows he mustn't take off the ring he wears, even though the jewel is cracked and he has the vague sensation that something didn't happen the way it was supposed to, and that it was connected to the ring. He knows that if he looks someone in the eye just the right way and tells them to give him their spare change, they will do it and look very nervous as they scuttle away.
There are many things he suspects. At some point, he believes he was very important. At some point, he held the fates of every being on this planet in the palm of his hand. But no one seems to be aware of that.
I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own
He shouts at people as they walk by the bridge he sleeps under. The crowds make him angry. They don't pay attention, even when he screams that their world is puny and worthy of being crushed. They don't even look at him when he starts crying and talking in a language that makes perfect sense to him but no one else comprehends, to fill up an aching loneliness somewhere in his temples.
When someone laughs at him, he reaches into a ragged pocket of his stolen duffel coat as if to grab a weapon. There isn't a weapon. He can't remember where the reflex comes from. Even he is surprised at how eager he occasionally is to kill random strangers.
I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing,
"Now the old king is dead!
Long live the king!"
He is torn between aching to recall his past and dreading that it might make his current state more pitiable. His impressions of glory and triumph, when they flash across his mind, make the rain colder and the disgust at human contact viler.
One minute I held the key
Next, the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand
He looks up at the sky a lot, searching for something. Otherwise he hits the concrete walls with sticks to a beat that never varies. The beat in his head. He bangs out the rhythm even harder when someone tries to talk to him, particularly one fresh-faced reporter who buys his attention with liquor (he never manages to get as drunk as he wants, and he can't stand the cheap stuff).
"What is the point of this again?" he asks her, cradling the paper bag in his left arm and tapping a steel railing with two fingers on his right hand.
"I'm doing sort of a 'Weird News' report, something to amuse the readers – you look remarkably like Harold Saxon, the late former Prime Minister."
"Harold Saxon didn't exist," he replies quickly. It's something he's most unaccountably vehement about.
She gives him a charitable smile. "Now, don't get yourself worked up."
"He wasn't a person. Not a real person. A shadow. An illusion. And all you wretched apes couldn't see it." His voice rises as he speaks. So does the drumming.
"What is your name?" she asks him in soothing tones, trying to change the subject. She runs away when he howls incoherently and smashes the bottle on the pavement.
It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn't believe what I'd become
He is hauled into an asylum for paranoid schizophrenia, but is released when he proves, through a series of tests, that his IQ is genius-level and that he speaks at least forty languages. Though oddly, in his first test of lucidity, when asked what color grass is, he blurts out, "Red," before seeing their faces and correcting himself.
A nonprofit organization offers him a job. He throws it in their face and returns to his bridge.
For some reason I can't explain
Once you go there was never
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world
One night, very late, a man walks by who is wrong. He should not exist. The fact that this impossibility does exist, and is only a few feet away, makes him feel like his teeth are being ripped out, like his spine is trying to escape his body. He launches himself at the man even though the abomination has friends with him, even though he is only armed with a piece of glass, pummeling and slicing and shouting, "Freak! Freak! YOU SHOULD NOT BE!"
The friends pull him off but he won't stop screaming.
The man stands and stares at him. "Don't hurt him."
"He's insane," one of the friends, an attractive young man, says. The other friend is busy prying the bit of glass out of his hand.
The abomination looks at him more closely. "No. No he's not. Well, actually, he always has been, but in this case he's just being perceptive. Do you remember my name?"
"Get away from me." He grits his teeth when the man touches his face.
"Do you remember my name? I'll let go of you when you say it."
"Jack," he hisses.
"This guy knows you?" the other friend asks. "He looks like Harold Saxon."
"Yes. He's also supposed to be dead. He seems to have come back broken."
The younger one replies in surprise, "He is Harold Saxon? This is like Elvis or something."
Tired of his captive flailing around, the third man twists his arm behind his back so far that it would hurt to move. "So what are we doing with him?"
"Well, he's an alien, so he's our jurisdiction."
"We elected an alien?" they chorus.
The drums grow louder and louder. "I'm not going anywhere with you!"
Jack grins. "This may be petty of me, but I'm very pleased to finally get to do this." And he knocks him out.
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?
He can't move. He's shackled to a bed with hospital restraints. They're talking about him – or, rather, Jack is talking, and the others are asking questions.
"He hypnotized the world into electing him. He was trying to take control of the Earth. I helped stop him – he sent the rest of you to the Himalayas so you wouldn't be there to help me. Then his wife shot him."
A female voice now. "Why did he react that way to you?"
"You know how I can't die? He's from a species that have an extra sense to perceive time. My condition upsets that sense in a big way."
"How is he alive?" It's the attractive young man again.
"A friend of mine told me that his species can embed their personality and consciousness in a watch. I think he did something similar with the ring he's wearing. He wore it constantly before. It's broken, though. His mind came back altered – for which I am very grateful."
"This species is…"
Jack sighs. "Time Lords. He is the only other one."
"Yes. He was once best friends with the Doctor, and it was the Doctor that defeated him."
"Who's the Doctor?" the young man asks.
"He's officially classified as an enemy of Torchwood, but since the Battle of Canary Wharf he's pretty much been considered neutral," someone else says.
"And Jack's got a crush on him," opines a caustic male voice.
"I can hear you quite clearly," the 'patient' calls out. Jack flings open the door and enters the room. After some argumentative whispering he shuts the door behind him, leaving the rest of his team out.
"How much do you remember?" he asks, taking a seat by the bed.
"I ruled the world. At some point. Somehow. Every time I look at you, I get the urge to kill you. Do you know why the drums follow me?" He's even tapping his fingers on the edge of the bed.
"Yeah, I do. And I can understand the urge to kill me. You were practically addicted to it."
That doesn't make sense. Or maybe it does. The thought makes his skull itch. "You're so horrible. You should be erased."
Jack is good at pretending the comment doesn't hurt. Not good enough. "I've contacted the Doctor. He should be here soon."
"I don't know any Doctor. And I'm a Time Lord?"
"What time is it?"
"9:34 AM and twenty-five seconds," he says automatically.
"Also you've got two hearts. Pretty clear indicator. I guess you don't remember your name."
"I got kinda sick of saying it, so I'll let the Doctor sort that out."
An odd, yet eminently familiar, grinding noise suffuses the room. A blue box materializes before him and a tall, thin, youngish man with brown hair steps out. Their eyes meet. The hollowness in his temple is filled and it's the loveliest sensation in the world.
The other one speaks first. "Koschei?"
A long-forgotten word springs to his lips. "Theta?"
Then Theta runs to him and nearly crushes him in his arms, kissing his lips, hair, nose, cheeks, and neck. "Koschei. You're back. I've got you. You're back. You're back. I'm not alone. You're back." He's weeping.
"You think you can get him off my planet for me?" Jack asks, brightly. It annoys Koschei – he has a name now – that Jack's tone should be so familiar with Theta.
Theta leaps off the bed and gives Jack a hug. "Thank you for finding him and not hurting him. You don't know what this means to me."
"I think I can hazard a guess. Good luck on fixing him."
"Oh, I'm a new man." His grin is almost idiotic in its enthusiasm, which makes him adorable beyond words.
"So…um…are those your real names, then?"
"Childhood nicknames until we chose our titles. We hardly ever used our real ones."
"Theta, why are you friends with him?" Koschei asks, petulant.
"I don't think either of you understands what I see in the other." Theta starts unfastening his wrists. "Come along. I'm taking you home."
"Is the grass red?"
"I'm afraid not any longer, but a ship is better than nothing. Don't look at Jack like that. You're not allowed to hurt anyone again."
"Just don't leave me."
Theta waves goodbye to the freak and pulls him into the blue box. Which is bigger on the inside, and not a surprise at all.
And then the world, though still confusing and full of gaps, is all right.
I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
Roman cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain,
I know St. Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word…
(But that was when I ruled the world.)