Title- Secret Crowds
Characters/Pairings- 10 and everyone he's ever met (a bit of 10/River if you r e a l l y squint)
Summary- Wilfred Mott is knocking four times. The Doctor's death is at hand... or is it? Turns out there are quite a few people who have a few things to say about that.
A/N- I think I made a very grievous error in downloading The End of Time pt. 2 from iTunes. I keep watching it. Why on earth would I do that? Do I, on some subconscious level, enjoy emotionally torturing myself? Anyway, I just keep imagining what everybody- and I do mean everybody, including a large handful of people from the old series whom we've never seen- would say if they'd been there that day. This little bit of semi-coherency arose from that.
I've cannibalized a few minor concepts from my other story, with regards to what Jenny's been doing since leaving Messaline, so if you're following that, you'll recognize things from this in future chapters. But this just had to get out or I was never going to get on with AAWLOR.
"Watch your words spread
Hope like fire.
-Angels and Airwaves
For twenty seconds, he was safe. Twenty glorious seconds, and he nearly cried with relief.
Then... tentative taps on glass. Four of them.
Wilf. Poor, lovable, hapless Wilfred Mott, trapped in an impossible cage, with only one person to let him out.
He knew from the moment he heard the knocking that this was it. He hadn't escaped after all.
It took Wilf longer. He didn't understand until he heard the explanation. He just didn't see... And of course, when he did, he argued.
And the worst bit was, he wanted to listen to him. Damn it, a huge part of him wanted to listen to the old (or not so much, depending on perspective) man and leave him there. It didn't happen often, but just this once, the Doctor wanted to just save himself. He wasn't ready! He didn't want to be a stranger to himself again, not so soon. And there it was, that little temptation to walk away. Wilf was old, by human standards. He'd lived a full life. It would have been fully justifiable to leave him there.
That, of course, was why he couldn't do it.
"I could do so much more!" he screamed at the sky. "So much more!"
He wasn't sure if he was shouting at the universe, or Fate, or Time, or some god he'd never believed in.
And it wasn't fair, was it? It wasn't fair at all, and he said so, screaming at everything and nothing, raging against whatever it was in him that fought against his survival instincts and drove him, inexorably, toward the radiation chamber.
"No, it's not fair," a voice from nowhere said.
He stopped. Looked around.
Wind rushed past him as formerly empty air was violently displaced. A shimmer of blues and violets filled the room, a bubble rapidly expanding until every foot of the destroyed room was full. There were people inside the field, all around him. Blurry, indistinct, but so many. He could only stare in amazement at something he, in all his long years, had never before seen.
The lights vanished, and the people were cast into sharp relief. Faces leapt out at him, familiar faces, but he was too floored to match them with identities.
"No," a voice behind him said fiercely. "It's not time for this yet!"
He turned, and there she stood, between him and Wilfred. Archaeologist, mystery, heroine, the only woman in the universe who knew his name. River Song.
Her hands were on her hips and she shook her head. "You don't get to do this."
"Yes, of course it's me," she said.
He wanted to look around. He knew he would recognize the familiar people in the crowd around him if he just glanced at them a second time, but River had a commanding presence and he couldn't look away.
"What are you doing here?" he asked instead.
"Stopping you," River answered.
He didn't know what to make of that. Maybe he looked confused. He must have, because she smiled. Part of him floating around the back of his head decided he liked her smile.
"For the most brilliant man I've ever met, you're something of an idiot, Doctor," River informed him. "So many simple solutions, but because an old psychic told you you were going to die, you just decide to ram headlong into the obvious one."
"How did we know?" she finished his sentence as her expression turned serious again."How did we know you were going to throw your life away?" River gestured behind her, eyes never leaving his.
From behind her, a shorter figure emerged, and then his head was spinning.
A little blonde angel.
Time Lady Presumptive.
"Jenny," he breathed.
She smiled, and there was evidence of old tears on her face. "Hello, Dad," she said.
"She heard the singing," River explained. "Traveling the vortex in a home-made time machine and she heard the Ood-song and knew what it meant. She also- being the nosy girl she is- managed to get a copy of my diary. Cross-referenced the song's point of origin, realized it was happening far too early, and came running to me."
His hearts squeezed in his chest as he looked at the women facing him. He wanted to cry all over again.
Maybe he already was crying.
"I... Wilf. The radiation. There's not time for this. Only a few minutes before the chamber floods and kills him. I have to-"
"But that's just it!" Jenny interrupted. "It's not just your choice. I've been traveling the universe, Dad. Saving planets, defending civilizations, and always running. And you know what I've discovered? They know you. They all know you. Everybody. The whole universe, in every time, in every direction, there are stories about you. The Doctor, John Smith, the Wanderer, the Oncoming Storm, the Lonely God, the Sainted Physician... there are a thousand different names, but it's all the same man. The most wonderful man in the universe, they say." Her voice cracked and fresh tears followed the shiny paths of old ones down her cheeks. "You're not gonna die, we won't let you!" she choked out
"We?" he asked.
And looked around.
Faces clicked into place.
Martha Jones. Her sister. Her parents.
Thomas Kincade Brannigan.
Sarah Jane and Luke.
Ghostly images of Rose and his clone, projected through universes across the void.
Cathica, the Satellite 5 journalist from what felt like an age ago.
Ianto Jones and Gwen Cooper.
A scattering of Ood.
A redhead in a wedding dress with an auton clinging to her arm.
Sally Sparrow and Larry Nightingale.
A barely-there girl made of stardust.
And dozens upon dozens more, filling the room, spilling out into the hallways and onto the lawn. And right there in the center of circle stood Jenny and River, blocking his path to the damaged power station.
"I..." He couldn't even speak. For what might be the first time in his life, words had absolutely failed the Doctor.
"We couldn't just let you die," Mickey said, stepping forward.
"We all love you too much," Martha added, taking Mickey's hand. "You're too good, too much a part of all of us. You come blundering into people's lives and you turn us upside down and you make us so much better than we were- you make the whole universe so much better than it was- and we love you for it. You think you're so alone, Doctor, and I understand why. But you're not. Not while there's us."
"When Jenny called, we had to come," Liz took over. "My god, it's been years since I've seen you, Doctor, and you've a new face now. We never did get along so well, and that's mostly my fault, but you changed my life all the same. You changed all of our lives."
River smiled and took his hand. "Over the years, groups of us have come together when you needed us. We've gathered when you call to help you do the amazing things you do. But now, for the first time, we're all here together. Not all of us. If Jenny had taken the time to gather together every single life you've touched, we'd cover the Earth a billion times over. This is just a... representative faction, if you like. We're the people who know you best, who have the most invested in you. People from your past, people who could be from your future, if you let us help you here and now. And we say that whether you can regenerate or not, you're not dying today."
He was definitely crying now. Tears spilled over his cheeks. "But what can we do about Wilf?" he asked in a shaky voice, overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and determination he was witnessing, unable to believe it was all for him. "The reactor's gone critical. He's going to be swimming in radiation any minute now."
"Why do you think it took us so long to get here?" a new voice asked, merriment in every syllable. "Jenny had a damn difficult job tracking me down. Actually, if they hadn't had to look so hard, they probably wouldn't have gone tearing across the universe so much and there'd be a lot fewer people there. Originally they were just looking for me and it sort of... grew."
Captain Jack Harkness pushed to the front of the crowd.
And suddenly there was a way out.
And no one had to die.
And the Doctor smiled.
A/N- I think I may just write a sequel, once AAWLOR is finished. I have other potential rewrites for TEOT, but I like this one the best and rather than inundate the lists with more rewrites and follow-ups, I think it's wisest just to write a sequel to this one.