Disclaimer: Not my characters
Notes: written for Glinda-Penguin in the Henrietta Street ficathon over on livejournal, for the prompt 'Compassion, after the Time War'.
When the Time War ends she spends a while screaming, and a longer while after that laughing hysterically. It's possible she destroys a few timelines in her frantic flailing for an appropriate emotional reaction - she doesn't remember much for the first few subjective months.
Mutually assured destruction. Initiated by the time Lords or the Daleks, it still has the same result, the same repercussions, shockwaves that reverberate throughout time and space and a few dimensions just on the edge of her awareness. She hears rumors that The Doctor was responsible. Some say he was acting under orders from President Romana. some say orders from Grandfather Paradox. She considers either possibility equally as likely and equally fantastically ironic.
Whoever ended The war did a shoddy job of it (so it really does stand to reason that it was The Doctor). Most of the temporally sensitive civilizations remember it, and even some of the non-temporals still have legends of Lords of Time or great metal machines. For two species that are supposed to have never existed, the Gallifreyans and Daleks are rather well-remembered.
She can feel the presence of at least one other TARDIS in the timeline, though there might be more, she's not sure. She has no desire to find out who it is, or if there's a Time Lord to go along with it.
She doesn't exactly go looking to see how much of the timeline has gone to shit, but she's not exactly ignoring it, either. Carmen Yeh is dead. Sam Jones is not the girl she remembers, and Compassion finds it debatable if this chemically dependant, dark-haired girl would have been able to do what the other Sam did on Anathema. Tiffany Korta is not a pop-star on Earth - Compassion can't find a single record of her existence.
Some parts of the timeline, on the other hand, remain strangely static. Nathaniel silver is still giving immortality his best shot. So is someone else, a few centuries later, and he's doing a far better job of it. She's never had the prejudices of the Time Lords drilled into her, so her immediate reaction to his immutability is not disgust or pain. It's still in no way comfortable when she materializes not twenty meters away from him. On Earth, of course, because the universe thinks it's really clever.
He's looking right at her; there's no way she can lie and convince him that she hasn't just materialized from thin air. Instead, she goes for the straight-forward approach. "You're an impossible thing, you know."
He walks towards her, steps measured. "Who the hell are you?"
"Just an observer. Passing through."
"Earth in this time period is a-"
"Yes yes, I know. I'm not about to go invading anyone, no need to call the Shadow Proclamation. Are they still calling themselves that? I lose track. It's a bit pretentious."
"Who are you?"
She tilts her head. "Asked you first."
"No, you didn't. But since I'm just that kinda guy, I'll tell you anyway. captain Jack Harkness. Torchwood."
"And you can't die."
He stares at her, and there's something strange in his expression that she can't identify. "The Doctor," he says, finally. "Do you... do you know him? Know where I could find him?"
She'd like to say that she leaves just to spite him or The Doctor for being everywhere even after he's dead, but that would be a lie. And if the four humans closing in around her with concerningly advanced weaponry had thought they were being sneaky... well. Captain Jack Harkness, Torchwood, would have many more opportunities to test his immortality via the incompetence of the people who worked for him.
She has the same conversation with two different women in two spaceport bars that seem to fluctuate between reality and non-existence.
"I'm an archeologist. Been hired for a job in this area helping some religious group or another write their revisionist history. Boring work, but they pay well."
Compassion nods automatically. "You must have *some* interest in history."
A private little smile. "If you only knew. Nothing like seeing history for yourself."
An uncomfortable pause. "Well. You know. Through the eyes of archeology. Buy you another drink?"
"What brings you here, then?"
Compassion pauses. "Revisionist history."
She doesn't stick around to see what Bernice or River think of that answer. For all intents and purposes, this should have only happened once, but she can't tell which woman is meant to be real.
Fitz Kreiner survived the War. She doesn't ask how - doesn't think she wants to know if he stayed and fought or if he ran back to Earth at the first sign of trouble. In general, she doesn't want to know all that much about Fitz. It's possible she's a little bias, but as irritating as Kode had been he'd been the closest thing she had to a friend.
"All dead," Fitz agrees when she brings up The War. "Best not to think about it too hard."
"Because you don't believe it?"
He stubs out his cigarette. "There's this thing that people do. It's called not talking about it"."
"I'd noticed. It's unproductive. Have you spoken to The Doctor?"
Fitz's hands are shaking as he pulls out another cigarette. "He's dead."
"Right. Of course. And you're just here, on twenty-second century Earth in a dead-end job doing nothing with your life."
He shrugs. "Does it surprise you that I might want to settle down?"
"Yes." She leans forward, trying to invade his personal space just enough to put some intensity behind her words. "I think that you've been in contact with the Doctor. Or maybe you haven't, that's debatable and it makes me happier to think that you've not been. Either way, you're probably here on some sort of mission. Under-cover job. What is it this time? Evil aliens controlling taxation?"
He stares at her. "I think that's the longest sentence I've ever heard come out of your mouth."
"It was multiple sentences."
"Sorry." He doesn't sound sorry at all. "Look, you may as well come inside if you're staying."
Fitz doesn't like her much, either. She follows him into his flat nonetheless. It's untidy and smells of stale cigarette smoke and alcohol. The tile is in need of sweeping and the posters on the walls look as if they'd been put up fifty years ago and no one's bothered to take them down. His guitar leans up against the wall by the door, wood still gleaming and well cared for. She can hear water dripping from the sink and the unobtrusive bleep of a mobile phone with a new message. Everything in the flat is positively drenched in vortex energy, as if a massive dog had rushed in from outside and shook itself in the middle of the living room.
"Time didn't heal the way it was supposed to after The War," she says as he puts on the kettle.
He glances back at her where she stands at the edge of the kitchen, lips pressed together into a thin line. "You're assuming it was supposed to heal properly."
She waits. He'd like her to play into his script, but he is not The Doctor and she's not some hapless human girl. He waits more than is appropriate before continuing. Of course.
` "Let's just say, if you're the most powerful race in the multiverse, and you're fighting an equally powerful race, and you know you're both going to go 'boom'—"
"Why concern yourself with the aftermath?"
"You're not telling me anything I don't already know. That doesn't change the fact that things are still going wrong."
"And what would you like me to do about it?"
"I'd rather know what you're already doing about it. I can feel the energy everywhere, you've not been temporally stationary. So my question is, how are you traveling about in time? Stolen Vortex Manipulator? Stolen TARDIS? Stolen Faction Paradox artifact? You'll note how all those options begin with the word "stolen"."
His smile is bright and sharp and reminds her a bit of The Doctor, and suddenly she is in two kitchens, a thousand kitchens, an infinite number. A man with one arm, wearing a bone mask steps towards her and smiles as he speaks.
"Faction Paradox doesn't exist."
When she leaves, he goes with her. Eventually, she knows, he wants to find The Doctor. And because he is more like The Doctor than she'll ever tell him, they wind up picking up companions along the way.
"They deserve to see the universe," he says.
All of this is true. The rest is dependant upon the reader's interpretation of history. Compassion is writing every revision onto time itself, over and over again.