Summary: After almost 2000 years, the Doctor is freed from the Pandorica. But the universe still needs saving and the Doctor isn't quite sane anymore. The Time Lord is running out of time.
A/N: There are a few things that may be a bit OOC in this fic. I have no idea how Jack Harkness actually talks, but I'm going with he's under tonnes of stress from seeing his old friend in such a state. Also, I chose Cardiff since that's were one of the Torchwood facilities was, and I'm assuming they'd still have people hanging about who know a thing or two about aliens
The Most Feared Thing
He stumbles out of the box and everything is fresh air and natural light and his muscles aren't working so he collapses. The cool air is magnificent, the floor is cold, the moonlight shining through the window is the most gorgeous thing he's ever seen. The smell of cleaner assaults his nose and he's never smelled anything so wonderful as that horrible, fake pine scent. A timid voice washes over him but he can't grasp what it is saying; he squints and there is a brief glimpse of fiery red hair, attached to the head of a little girl. He thinks he should say something but he can't find any words, and it's amazing to hear a voice that isn't his own and isn't inside his head.
The little girl fades into the background, and right in front of his face he notices a hand. It is a terrible hand, skeletal and atrophied into a distorted claw and clothed in pallid skin. The hand is lying listlessly on an icy marble floor, and when a tiny voice way in the back of his mind points out that it's his hand he loses control and bursts into tears. It's just too much; he's been locked in that emptiness for who-knows-how -long and suddenly he can see and hear and feel and it's really too much.
The little girl is talking again, and then another voice joins in. His sound-starved brain can't handle two voices, and he spasms on the museum floor and passes out.
He is in a bed. The blankets are thick and fluffy, and a bright rectangular window punctuates the white wall to his right. A small dresser stands next to the bed, devoid of personal possessions. He blinks. How did he get here? Where is here? The last thing he remembers is an explosion of sensation after being freed from the Pandorica, but after that everything is blank.
Everything before that is blank as well, he realizes. He had no idea who he is or why he was in the Pandorica in the first place. How long had he been there? Why?
Something important looms on the edges of his memory but he can't quite grasp it. There's something he needs to remember, something very special, but the thought slips away when the door across from him opens smoothly. A woman pokes her head in, and she beams when she sees him. "Hello, I'm Jennifer. I'm your nurse." She enters the room fully; she is wearing plain white scrubs and her long brown hair is pulled back into a bouncy ponytail. Her face is kind but intelligent, and when she looks him over he can feel the curiosity leaking from her gaze. She is carrying a brown tray that is laden with a bowl of soup, a glass of water, and something else in a small cup.
He seems to remember the name Jennifer. He knew someone else with that name, once…He shakes his head as she sets the tray in front of him and adjusts his pillows so that he's sitting up. The soup smells delicious and he realizes that he doesn't remember the last time he ate. He's positively ravenous now. He makes to lift the spoon and start eating—except that the only response his hand gives is a feeble twitch. He frowns and attempts again.
"Here, let me. Your muscles are very weak," says Jennifer softly, from where she sits beside his bed. She takes the spoon and carefully brings it to his mouth. The broth is scorching and bland but he loves it. When he tries to swallow, however, he encounters another problem; his throat, unused in ages, coughs and gags instead of swallowing the broth. It takes a ridiculous amount of effort to get the soup down his throat and to his stomach, where he feels it warming him slightly.
Jennifer is staring at him again. "What is your name?" she asks as she lifts another spoonful to his lips. He swallows with effort. He doesn't know his name. He doesn't know who he is. He licks his lips and tries to speak but ends up coughing instead. Jennifer pours water into his mouth and he gasps and stutters and finally he forces out words. His voice is hushed and hoarse and sounds like an old man's, but he manages.
With Jennifer's help he sips some more soup. She looks worried. "What do you remember?"
He thinks about this. He strains his mind and there is nothing but darkness in his memories…except the Important Thing that was there before. He still doesn't know what it is. He focuses on it, tries to pull it toward him even as it slips away. He manages to snatch only a part of it.
"Blue," he whispers. No sense. Blue is essential somehow. Yes, something that is blue…
(something old something new)
There is a small scraping sound as Jennifer pushes the cup toward him. Applesauce. Fantastic.
What are things that are blue? He ignores the applesauce and stares out the window. Sky blue is not the shade he is looking for. Ocean blue is closer but not quite. He wonders if there is an ocean nearby. Bluebirds. Bluejays. Bluefin tuna. He has no idea.
Jennifer gathers the uneaten applesauce and the half-empty soup bowl, but leaves the glass of water on his bedside dresser. "Your physical therapists will be in soon. If you need anything just press this button." She points to something he didn't notice before: a small white box with a red button resting on his bed, with a cord that disappears behind the dresser. He spares it a glance before resuming his inspection of the window.
"Would you like to lie down?"
He doesn't respond so she bites her lip and picks up the tray. As she turns to leave he murmurs a question.
"Where…?" Where am I?
She smiles. "Welcome to Cardiff Hospital, John Doe."
The physical therapists come every day and massage his muscles. Their soothing hands and voices lull him, and as they work he ponders the color blue.
There is something else. Something red. He wishes he could remember something besides colors and vague feelings; both the red and the blue are comforting to him, though he doesn't know what either of them mean.
Strangely, somewhere around the third day he remembers that Romans were an important part of something. Blue, red, Romans. Doesn't add up.
On the fourth day he has a visitor. He has spiky black hair, a square jaw, and an air of solemnity. He barges into the room, leaving the door half open in his haste, and Dr. Windon runs in after him.
"Jack, he's not strong enough. He can barely sit up, for God's sake!"
The visitor, Jack, ignores the whitecoat and pulls up the chair beside his bed. "Hello." His voice and his face soften when he looks at the man in the bed, and his eyes are very sad. 'John Doe' stares. He thinks he has seen this Jack before, but he doesn't know for sure. Maybe he's simply making stuff up now.
"You don't know me," breathes Jack, more to himself than anyone else. John Doe jerks his neck in some imitation of shaking his head.
"They tell me you don't know who you are. I might be able to help you with that."
No response. Only staring. The Important Thing is pushing at his mind again. He wishes he could move. He has a random urge to straighten Jack's tie but can't.
"Your x-rays show that you have two hearts, and an unusually complicated circulatory system." Jack is talking slowly, his eyes boring into John Doe's as if willing him to remember. "I know of one man who had two hearts, and he was the last of his species." A pause. "Do you remember this at all…Doctor?"
Dr. Windon starts. "What? I don't—"
"Not you!" Jack rolls his eyes and turns back to John Doe. "Doctor. Gallifrey. Time Lord. Any of this ringing a bell?"
He is time lord doctor gallifrey? No, no, sort things out properly. Gallifrey is a place not a thing. He is a time lord doctor from Gallifrey? Almost got it. He is a Time Lord from Gallifrey, and his name is the Doctor. Got it in three.
John Doe says, "The Doctor."
Days later he gets another visitor. Another young man, this one lanky and awkward with short blonde hair and a big nose. He remembers the nose. It may have been on a Roman. This man, however, is clearly not a Roman; he is wearing jeans and a plaid button-down, and looks exceedingly ordinary.
"Oh, thank goodness, it is you," he says, clearly relieved. "The doctors said you had amnesia. Do you…er, know me?"
The Doctor squints at the blonde, trying to remember. He definitely remembers that face attached to a Roman-garbed body. But there's something else. The blonde is only half of a whole. The other half is red. Red-haired, that's it.
"Roranicus Pond?" He ventures, and the blonde looks surprised.
"Close enough. It's Rory."
"Rory." He tries out the name. It sounds right. He nods. Another little detail pops into his head. "You're a plastic centurion."
"Yeah. Look, I don't know what you remember, but we really need your help. The world does, I mean. Need your help. Erm…"
No. The Doctor is still reeling from everything Jack told him (Regeneration? Honestly! Jack must be taking the mickey!), and there's no way he can handle whatever Rory is going to tell him.
Rory the Roman. Amelia Pond with the red hair. He just has to figure out what the Blue is and he'll have it. The Blue is the most important one.
(one day it would just drop out of the sky and tear down your world)
Before he can get lost in a drift of Blue, however, Rory is speaking. He's rambling about the Pandorica (the Doctor shudders at the mention of it), and about Daleks and Cybermen and almost two thousand years have passed—Two thousand years? The Doctor swears in a language he didn't know he knew. He's been locked away for almost two millennia! No wonder nothing is straight in his head!—and history is erasing itself.
History is erasing itself? "I don't understand."
Rory looks lost. "Honestly, I don't either. I'm a guard at the museum of natural history, and we're losing exhibits. They just disappear. Today we lost our exhibit on the dinosaurs. Like they never existed."
Soon they will be erased too, and Rory thinks the Doctor can stop it.
The Doctor isn't so sure.
That night he lies awake and stares out his window. He can't sleep, but then he can never sleep restfully because when he closes his eyes the darkness swarms around and grasps at him and he's in the Pandorica again. He stares out the window, and his sluggish brain finally picks up on a small detail that explains why the darkness in this place seems to complete. No stars. He frowns. It occurs to him that he has not seen any stars gracing the night sky since before the Pandorica. Strange. But…if there are no stars, how is there a sun?
Unless it isn't the sun.
Unless it's something else entirely.
In the time before the Pandorica, he thinks, he would have had everything figured out in minutes. Now it's taking him days. History could be entirely erased by the time he figures it out, and by then it would be too late to do anything about it.
The next day he requests to be taken outside. He can sit up by himself (mostly), and his reawakened muscles jerk and fidget and he wants to move. He spent so long being still, strapped to that chair in the Pandorica, that he doesn't think he wants to be still ever again. He needs motion. He needs to feel alive again.
The sunlight is blindingly bright against his eyes, and Jennifer slips sunglasses on his face and rubs sunblock on his arms and neck and face, everywhere the hospital outfit doesn't cover. She wheels him outside and he instinctively turns his face to the sun.
Which isn't actually the sun. Right.
If it's not gas that's exploding and sending out rays of warmth and light, then it's something else that's exploding. Something Blue.
(I can't stop it, I'm not in the TARDIS)
Time and Relative Dimension in Space. His blue box. Not a Pandorica-shaped box, but a police-booth-shaped box. His old girl. His Sexy. His TARDIS.
His TARDIS is exploding. The thought sends him flying into action, or at least attempting to. He gets as far as standing unsteadily on his feet before crashing to the ground and landing awkwardly on the pavement. Lovely. Jennifer screams and runs around the wheelchair to pick him up. He ignores her even as she manhandles him back into the chair, his hazel eyes glued to the fireball masquerading as the sun. Ooh, this is very not good. How long will the TARDIS keep burning? How long before history is erased?
He is running out of time.
The next time he sees Rory, the blonde says "We lost the Beginnings of Human Evolution exhibit today. I think the erasing is speeding up." The Doctor agrees, and spends the next two days thinking. His brain is so slow now and oftentimes he loses track of where he was and has to go back to the beginning. He scribbles on paper towels to keep himself from getting distracted, and by the end of the two days he has used up twenty-seven towels.
He may not know exactly who he is, but there is one thing he knows for (almost) certain. He knows what he must do to stop the erasing.
He tells Jennifer that he likes tinkering with electronics, and hints that being able to engage in a hobby might speed up his recovery. She is reluctant to let her amnesic patient fool around with things that could electrocute him, but eventually relents when he gives her a puppy dog stare and pleads "Pleeeeeeeaaaaaase. Time's passing so slooooowly." She watches him while he disconnects and reconnects cables and types in codes, and often he has to request that she bring him specific pieces. When she asks what he's building he distractedly replies "Just a thing" and tries not to let on that this thing has a very specific purpose and could affect the entire universe. Not that she'd believe him anyway.
It takes him almost too long. Rory comes in one day looking terrified; elderly people are disappearing. The oldest ones go first. No one else seems to remember that there used to be a significant number of geriatric people in the world, but Rory, being a time traveller and non-organic, does. "They're being erased," he says, sounding awed and horrified.
"Rory, I think I can fix this."
He tells Rory his plan. Rory looks dubious.
"Are you sure that it's going to work?"
"Are you positive?"
"You really have no idea, do you?"
"Of course I don't!"
Rory considers the plan while the Doctor considers Rory. Eventually the lanky blonde nods. "I'll help you. Nothing to lose, I guess."
That night Rory doesn't leave when visiting hours are over. He hides in the closet instead, and when the corridors are empty he slips out and shakes the sleeping Doctor. "To my wheelchair! Allons-y!" whispers the Doctor with as much optimism as he can muster, and Rory loads him into the wheelchair and proceeds to make good use of his plastic ears by listening for the night nurses while he quickly wheels the Doctor outside.
Now the difficult part. The Pandorica. Bile rises in his throat when he thinks of going back into his former prison, but there are no other choices. Well, actually there is one other choice: Be wiped from history along with everything else. Neither choice is very appealing, really. Rory unlocks the doors to the museum and wheels the Time Lord to where the Pandorica is still on display.
The Pandorica looms in the dark room, a greedy beast awaiting prey. It is foul and horrifying and the Doctor whimpers involuntarily. He doesn't know if he can do this. Scratch that. He can't. Not going to happen. He leans farther back into the wheelchair as they approach the dastardly thing, and Rory notices.
"I could do it for you," Rory says suddenly. "Tell me how to hook up the, uh, timey-wimey stuff, and I'll go for you."
"No!" He sounds childish but he can't let Rory do it either. It's not Rory's TARDIS or Rory's prison and absolutely none of it is Rory's fault. He reaches out and brushes his frail hand against the dark outer shell, and the Pandorica rumbles and shudders and slides open. They are bathed in its deceitfully soft emerald light, which reveals the evil chair to which he was strapped for so long. He squeezes his eyes shut. Have to be strong. No choice.
Rory carries him into the Pandorica. He is breathing too quickly and his hearts are pumping too fast. He needs to focus. With shaking hands and bleary eyes he somehow manages to hook up the electronics, and when he is done Rory gently straps him in. Before stepping out, Rory does something entirely unexpected; he hugs the Doctor, which is incredibly awkward mostly because the Doctor is fastened to the chair so Rory really has to wedge his hand behind the Doctor's back in order to get his arms all the way around him, and partly because the Doctor has still not gotten used to physical contact. He leans into Rory's arms as Rory whispers goodbye. When Rory pulls away his blue eyes are rimmed with red and it looks as if he is going to start bawling at any moment.
Rory turns back to the Doctor, looking almost hopeful. "Yeah?"
The Doctors offers a pained smile. "Geronimo."
The Pandorica closes.
Everything is black.
(I remember you)
He blinks and realizes he is lying on a floor, sprawled flat on his back. Small bright lights flicker around him and a peaceful hum thrums through his skull. He is in the TARDIS.
He remembers. Rory, Amy, River. The Pandorica. Everything.
How is he still alive?
(I remember you raggedy man)
He is the Doctor. Eleventh regeneration. His companions are a girl who waited and a plastic centurion, with occasional help from the mysterious River Song. The TARDIS is his time machine, which he stole.
Everything is back to way it is supposed to be.
(and you are late for my wedding!)
Amelia Pond is getting married today, he remembers. Lucky Rory. He sits up suddenly. Jumps up, in fact. He can move! No more wheelchair! Yowza!
He needs a formal suit and a bow tie. His head hurts and he has many questions, but those can wait.
He has a wedding to attend.
(If you remember something it can be brought back)