CHAPTER TEN

Tejana was in the Zero Room for three days, reclining astonishingly in mid-air, as though on an invisible bed. The Doctor had explained that this was one of the properties of the Zero Room, the complete absence of furniture contributing to the aura of absolute peace.

"Will she need to regenerate?" Jack asked, restlessly wandering up and down the console room while they waited.

"I don't think so," the Doctor answered, using his sonic screwdriver to fiddle with a tangle of circuitry. "Or she would have done it by now. Physically she seems fine, apart from that burn. I think it's an extreme form of shock. Hopefully the Zero Room will sort that out."

When at last Tejana appeared at the console room door, they were relieved to see that her eyes were lucid once more.

"Doctor! Jack! Whoa, what hit me?" she exclaimed clearly in English. Limping painfully, she moved forward to join them, looking like a little girl in her too-big pyjamas and her hair loose down her back. "And what am I wearing?"

Jack gave a shout of delight and enveloped her in a huge bear hug.

Struggling to extricate herself, she said crossly, "OK, what's going on? Doctor, you've regenerated again. And the TARDIS is different...what have I missed?"

The Doctor hugged her as well, which made her even more suspicious, as they were rarely overtly affectionate towards each other.

"You've been gone three months," the Doctor said carefully. "You disappeared from the TARDIS console room while I was regenerating. Don't you remember?"

"Was it the Master?" Jack cut in harshly. "Did he do this?"

Tejana frowned and put her hand up to her forehead. "The Master...died...on The Valiant."

"He came back, Tejana, you know he came back!" Jack insisted.

For a moment she swayed on her feet. The Doctor could see the clouds of confusion returning to her eyes.

"Take it easy, Jack!" he admonished, catching her by the arm and leading her to a chair.

"Tejana," he continued gently. "You were delirious. You called me 'Koschei'."

"Koschei..." she repeated, almost inaudibly.

Then her eyes shot frantically to the Doctor's, her hands tightening on his arm, as another torrent of Gallifreyan flooded from her lips.

"Slowly!" the Doctor interrupted. "Speak English, Tejana. You're safe now. Speak English to me!"

Tejana drew in great sobbing breaths as she fought to regain control, trying to block out the horrific images of dying Gallifrey, the piercing memory of the Master lying broken on the floor of Rassilon's TARDIS.

Haltingly, in English, she said, "The vortex manipulator took me back...back to the Last Day of the Time War. The Master...was there. The Time Lords...were going to kill him...for saving your life."

"Please tell me you didn't rescue him?" Jack demanded, throwing his hands in the air in exasperation. "You did, didn't you?"

"Jack!" the Doctor said sharply.

"I tried," Tejana responded bitterly. "But in the end I left him behind."

"What happened, Tejana?" the Doctor asked softly.

And so she told them. Not all of it, just the bits they needed to know, a highly-edited version which skimmed very lightly over the journey to the Tower of Rassilon within The Matrix. That was hers to keep, never to share.

She didn't look at the Doctor as she spoke, not wanting to see the pain in his eyes as she spoke of the fall of Gallifrey.

At the end of her story there was stunned silence.

"Do you see now, Jack? Do you get it? He didn't just save my life, he saved everyone on this planet. And everyone on every planet throughout the whole of time and space. I'm the one who would have killed you all, every last one of you!"

"That's not true!" Jack protested.

"It is!" she said fiercely. "And that's why I have to go back! Doctor, you have to help me! There has to be a way to go back! I can't just leave him there!"

The Doctor looked at her, his eyes full of sadness. "I'm sorry, Tejana, I'm so very sorry. But if there's no record of the coordinates on the vortex manipulator, there's nothing we can do. You know that. He could be anywhere in time and space, there's no way of tracking him down."

Tejana closed her eyes tightly, internalising the angry, pain-filled scream which wanted to burst from her throat. The Doctor was right, she knew he was right, but that didn't make her feel any better.

Slowly, she stripped the vortex manipulator from her wrist and handed it silently to Jack.

Then she climbed brokenly to her feet. "I'm exhausted. I need to rest."

"Tejana..."

"Don't, Doctor," she interrupted tightly. "Please, just...don't."

Unerringly, she made her way to the bedroom which had been hers since she was a young girl and had run away from Gallifrey to travel in the TARDIS with the Doctor. She felt so old, so tired. It was all such a long time ago, so much had happened, so much had gone wrong.

She sank down wearily on the edge of the white wrought-iron bed and looked around the room, filled with a tangle of laboratory equipment and odd souvenirs collected from every corner of the Universe. Whatever devastation the Doctor's latest regeneration had inflicted on the TARDIS, it had not touched her room. It was just as it always had been.

Without having to glance around, she knew the Doctor stood in the doorway behind her.

"You never saw it," she said softly. "What you did to Gallifrey."

It wasn't an accusation. It wasn't even a plea for expiation for her own actions. It was simply a realisation, achingly expressed.

"No," the Doctor acknowledged bleakly, as he came and sat beside her. There was a deep pause and then he held his hand out to her. "Show me."

For a second, she was tempted. To take his hand, to open the mental gate, to share the burden of the canker which had burrowed into her soul...oh gods, the relief would be so great! But when she looked at this man she loved so much, the man that now wore a stranger's face, she knew that she could never do it. Rassilon had been right about one thing – the guilt of The Moment would remain with the Doctor for all eternity. She would not add to his torment.

"No," she refused, her voice heavy with sorrow. "Never."

The Doctor gazed at her steadily. Then his hand dropped and he gave a single nod, understanding that what she offered him was not a rejection but a precious gift.

"The burn...from the Master's life energy," he said tentatively. "It's gone right to the bone. It's beyond my power to heal. But it turns out that there is still a legitimate Convent of the Sisters of Plenitude on the Lost Moon of Puch. They should be able to help."

Tejana's hand curled protectively around her right ankle, wincing with the pain.

"No," she said again.

"But..."

"NO!" she snapped harshly. Then, seeing the surprise written across his face, her voice softened in apology. "No, really, it's fine."

"Well...you should get some sleep," he said awkwardly, retracing his steps to the door, his voice determinedly cheerful. "Maybe tomorrow you can meet my new companion, Amy Pond. She's brilliant! Scottish...and ginger too, can you believe? Just like Donna. You'll love her!"

Tejana smiled as she lay back on the bed, pleased that her father was no longer trying to travel alone.

"I'm glad. You were too lonely."

The Doctor hesitated and looked back at her.

"Tejana...is there anything else you need to tell me about what happened in The Matrix?"

Her smile slid away and she turned her face to the wall. "There's nothing more."

She heard him draw in a deep breath, as though he was considering pushing the question further. But all he said was, "Rest now then," and he quietly closed the door.

Without the enforced peace of the Zero Room, she didn't expect to sleep. But absolute weariness took the choice from her and she drifted off almost as soon as she shut her eyes.

Seamlessly, inevitably, the nightmare took possession of her mind yet again. This time she welcomed it, eagerly searching the dark for that other presence, praying she would find him there.

But she was alone, more alone in his absence than she had ever been before, and the sequence of the dream marched on unhindered. She fought the guards when they came, violence born out of grief and loss, but to no avail. Again she endured the eldritch torture from her memories, an unchanging parade of events.

However, this time, when the pain grew too much to bear, it was not the Doctor for whom she screamed, but the Master.

And, like the Doctor so long ago, he never came.

She listened in vain for the sound of the drums and, when she woke, her pillow was wet with tears.

THE END


Author's Note

For the sequel to this fic, please read: "The Portal of Eternity".

SUMMARY - Tejana is now living on Earth, trying to put her life back together. Still haunted by the atrocities she witnessed at the Fall of Gallifrey, she is attempting to rebuild Torchwood with Jack. However, Jack is himself still badly damaged from the 456 incident and Tejana's beloved father, the Doctor, has regenerated into a stranger. Worst of all, whether she likes it or not, she is still deeply grieving the loss of the Master. But the destruction of Gallifrey has changed the balance of the Universe, and something ancient and unimaginably evil has returned, something which will change everything...