A/N: Featuring a cameo from a good friend. I'm gonna make her a star! :D
Chapter 18 – End of the World
The Doctor had gone into a state of low-level hibernation in order to deceive Leo, with the signal to wake up being a squeeze of his hand. He was perfectly happy, floating around in the nothingness without a care in the world until he felt his hand being squeezed. It was almost disappointing to have to go back to reality, but mentally kicked himself regardless and slowly, very slowly, opened his eyes to the world outside.
He registered Rose first, cupping his cheek and smiling reassuringly down at him. Next he saw Jack on his other side, looking the other way. He himself was lying down with a metal ceiling above his head – the shape and texture of it denoted it was a modified van of some kind with windows.
Suddenly, fierce pain shot through his stomach and he couldn't help the cry that tore from his throat as a consequence, making everyone jump about a foot in the air.
"Oh god, I'm sorry," a new voice said quickly, nervously. Still partially in a daze, he lifted his head slightly to see a petite brunette woman, hands near his gunshot wound.
"S'fine," he murmured, blinking to try and get some focus.
"This is Heather," Rose told him gently. "She's one of Leo's doctor's, she's helpin' you."
"Well actually, I'm a radiographer," Heather confessed, blushing slightly.
"Close enough," Jack enthused, winking at her. Heather's light blush quickly turned into full-faced redness.
"He's awake?!" a sudden yell came from outside the van, and suddenly there was Leo struggling to drag a bullet-sieved leg behind him into the van, glaring at Heather when she tried to help him. "Fuck off."
She fled instantly, and Leo quickly turned his attention back to Rose, Jack and the Doctor; his expression hardening as he raised his gun. He limped over to the Doctor, shoved away Rose and hit the Time Lord's temple with his gun.
"Oi, wake up, prick," he demanded. The Doctor was still in a lull, so instead Leo pressed the tip of his gun right against his bullet wound and pushed it right down. The Doctor screamed and folded in on himself, instantly cuing a response from Jack and Rose to move closer to protect him. Leo ignored this and grabbed the Doctor's neck in one hand, the other pointing his gun directly at Rose's head.
"How do you regenerate?" he spat in the Doctor's face.
The Doctor groaned, still panting to desperately try and get the pain in his stomach to a manageable level. But it was quickly clear Leo wasn't willing to wait for this and he tightened his grip ever so slightly around the Doctor's throat.
"I'll ask again," he said slowly, gratingly. "If I fucking shot you right now, how would you regenerate?"
"I… Everything… Everything just… goes," he whispered, staring up at Leo through sunken eyes. "My… my brain falls out… through the nasal passage… my skin melts… my organs… organs dissolve… then new cells… start to grow and… and everything grows back… For… Forget who I am… Forget how to walk..."
"How long does it take?!"
"Four… Four weeks."
"Oh yeah? What does this all feel like, then?!"
The Doctor looked Leo straight in the eyes, the Time Lord's own engrained with pain and utter misery, lingering for a moment until he finally whispered his reply, every syllable with absolute conviction...
"… Like white-hot fire in every single cell of my body."
Leo sighed, apparently annoyed. "Fuck," he cursed, letting go of the Time Lord. "Right."
And without a single word to follow that, he got up, limped to the van door, clambered out and slammed it behind him to the sound of a clicking lock. Seconds later an engine started and all three were nearly sent flying as the van they were in accelerated off like a commencing race.
"You okay?" Jack asked the Doctor, concerned.
He nodded, offering a half smile as he became more aware, Rose helping him to sit up.
After a moment he realised she was staring at him, and he frowned back, scratching his head. "What?"
"… Were you telling the truth?" she asked gently.
"Hope not," the Doctor replied, pulling a face. "That sounds like a regeneration I'd pass on."
She smiled a little. "I… I meant the bit at the end."
He gazed at her, suddenly sad. "… I didn't need to lie."
She instinctively hugged him with care, and he appreciated it as Jack patched up the last of what Heather hadn't had time for.
"Have you still got your phone?" the Doctor suddenly asked, looking at Rose.
She nodded, bringing it out of her pocket and handing it to him. He pulled it up and checked the signal bar. It was at nothing.
"No signal," he muttered, straining to reach into his pocket to bring out the sonic.
"I thought there's no signal here?" Rose wondered.
"We're getting closer to the Switch. The Switch is cross-dimensional and highly tuned to transmitters, and the chip I put in has an affinity with the technology, so if I can just shift the reception…" He buzzed the phone with the sonic for a moment, and then waited. Jack and Rose watched intently in anticipation… until one tiny bar came up.
"Bloody hell," Rose breathed, astounded.
"You can say it," the Doctor said with a grin, going to the contact list.
"You're a genius," she replied almost automatically, laughing out loud.
He beamed. "Yes, yes I am," he replied, and pressed the call button, holding it to his ear. "Calling Sarah."
"But she doesn't have any signal…" Jack began, but quickly realised the futility of his statement when Sarah had apparently answered.
"Sarah!" the Doctor enthused. "It's me, the Doctor. Are you okay? … I'm with Rose and Jack, we're fine. Listen, Rose's Mum, Jackie and an alien called Kilo should be with you by now, they… Oh… Did you check the… Oh… No, it's okay… Don't worry, I'm sorting it… You just stay in there safe, okay? … Take care, I'll see you soon… Bye."
He hung up, and looked at Rose.
"Where's my Mum?" she asked seriously.
The Doctor handed back her phone to her. "You might want to call her."
Rose did so instantly, slightly panicked.
"Rose? How did you…"
"Mum! Where are you?"
"No, you're not!" Rose yelled anxiously. "The Doctor just called Sarah!"
"Mum, seriously, where are you?"
"Umm… nearly at the Lake District, love."
"Mum!" Rose shrieked, her eyes shooting open wide. "Go to Cardiff!"
"Because you need me, sweetheart."
"Oh for god's sake," Rose muttered, hand on hand. "Look, just… Put Kilo on."
"Okay," Jackie replied, and there was a scuffle as the phone changed hands.
"Hello?" Kilo asked.
"Kilo! What happened to the Cardiff plan?!" Rose practically screamed down the phone.
"We… We decided not to."
"We had a talk, we wanna help you."
"But you can't go…" Rose suddenly stopped dead, staring at the Doctor in horror. "Wait, you and my Mum talked?"
"You can understand her? She understands you?"
The Doctor took the phone off of her instantly. "Kilo? When did this happen?"
"Oh, hey, Doctor. I dunno, it just started."
"How?" the Doctor urged. "You mean instantly or progressively?"
"Umm… Progressively I guess…"
"Doctor," Rose suddenly said.
He looked up instantly to see her standing precariously upright, looking out of the windows. Jack helped him upright and guided him over, keeping the Time Lord steady as all three looked out of the window at the sight in front of them.
The sky was completely blood red, with neither a cloud nor the sun in sight.
"Red sky at night, shepherd's delight?" Jack wondered hopefully.
"It's 4pm," Rose muttered.
"Kilo," the Doctor said quietly down the phone, seriously. "Go to Cardiff."
"I'm serious, Kilo. Have you seen the sky?"
"What about it?"
The phone suddenly went dead. The Doctor checked the signal bar and it had nothing again.
"Doctor!" Rose urged, and he checked out of the window again. It was a spontaneous storm. When seconds ago it had been a clear sunny day, it was now thunder, lightning and torrential rain pouring from a completely blood red sky.
"What hell is going on?!" Jack wanted to know, uncharacteristically panicking which alarmed the other two. But before the Doctor could answer him there was a massive creaking sound and breaking of wood from somewhere outside, and the next thing they knew they were flying headlong towards the front of the van in a rain of debris and the sound of crushing metal as the van stopped completely dead. All three flew straight into the opaque metal dividing them and the driver.
Dazed for a moment, the Doctor got onto all fours, looking immediately for his two companions. Rose was struggling to sit up with a hand on her head, and Jack was…
"Oh God," Rose whispered as her eyes connected with the sight of Jack, mostly crushed beneath a giant oak tree that had fallen straight through the roof and right onto him and the driver. He looked dead; his head and shoulder poking out from underneath a combination of torn metal and smoking wood.
"Jack!" Rose wailed, stumbling to him immediately, trying to get him free but to utterly no avail. The Doctor tried too, but it became very apparent his wounds didn't like that and he yelped in pain.
Instantaneously a blinding flash of light seemed to come through the destroyed windscreen, as lightning struck the ground right in front of the destroyed van. Rose shrieked in alarm.
"It wants me!" the Doctor realised. "We've got to get to the Switch!"
He resumed trying to get Jack free, but Jack's hand suddenly launched up and grabbed the Time Lord's arm. The Doctor looked down to his friend, the ex-Time Agent's mouth red.
"Go…" Jack choked, coughing and spluttering through the blood. "Get to the Switch."
"Go!" he forced out with all the strength he could muster. "I'll catch you up!"
And then his eyes closed, his head lulled, and he quietly died.
"Oh God," Rose whispered again, reaching to Jack's face. "Jack…"
"Rose, come on!" the Doctor demanded, grabbing her hand and pulling her to her feet.
"We can't just leave him!" Rose screamed angrily.
"We've got to!" the Doctor screamed back, sonicking open the back doors of the van. He all but fell out, collapsing down onto the concrete holding his stomach with his face contorted in utter agony.
Another blinding flash, and this time it was barely three metres away from him. Rose screamed a very loud scream in response, and it prompted him to get to his feet, fighting the agony.
"Rose!" he yelled urgently over the pouring rain and constant thunder. "Get over here!"
"I can't see!" Rose screamed back, hands on her eyes. The strike had blinded her.
He launched forward to take her hand, pulling her away from the van. He put a tight arm around her, pulling her against his chest protectively as he raised his other hand to the sky, and closed his eyes to brace himself for the impact.
What he didn't register was Leo, only just about managing to touch the Doctor's back with the tips of his fingers before lightning hit the Doctor's hand, and all three were swallowed up in a ball of energy and completely disappeared.
When the Doctor opened his eyes, he very quickly realised he was in the Lake District. A little to his relief, as he'd hoped the lightning had been a transmat. Quite lucky, really.
The sky above was still blue, but he could quite clearly see a line of red on the horizon. Time was running out.
He found Rose lying next to him, the transmat having knocked her out. He scrambled to her, placing his fingers on her temples to give her a mental kick to consciousness. Her eyes immediately snapped open, and then closed again.
"Who's there?!" she asked anxiously.
"It's me, the Doctor, it's okay," he assured her quickly. "Still blinded?"
"Yeah… God, Doctor, help me," she whined.
The words 'help me' coming from her drove knives straight into his hearts, and he quickly brought out the sonic screwdriver, pulling up her eyelids to examine her eyes.
"It's okay, just a bit of basic retina damage from the light, even the sonic can repair this," he assured her. "Stay still. I need to poke your eye a bit."
He adjusted the settings on the sonic, and pressed the tip ever so carefully against her eyeball, before flashing it with a quick burst of light. He did the same on her other eye, and pulled back. She opened her eyes slowly, blinking rapidly until she was lying there staring at him.
"It worked!" she enthused, hugging him tightly. "Thank you!"
"Ow…" he muttered feebly.
"Oh, sorry!" she said quickly, letting go and grinning at him, before her eyes suddenly averted upwards. "The sky's blue," she realised.
"Not for long," the Doctor muttered, pointing off across the horizon. "Look."
She did, and saw the thin line of red that seemed to be progressively getting taller and wider…
"Doctor…" she began, frowning. "I've gotta ask…"
"It's the shifter," he said, anticipating her question. "I don't know why, but it's breaking, or powering down. And that's activated an emergency setting… The lightning, it was a transmat, and it's focused in on a Time Lord to take him to the Switch so he can do the maintenance and get out before the reality disappears."
"It's the end of the world," she muttered.
"We need to get to the Switch," she realised.
He nodded again. "Keep holding onto me, please. I don't want you to be stranded. C'mon," he said, helping her to her feet… when suddenly a gun was thrust straight in his face.
The Doctor didn't even need to look up, just sighing. "Afternoon, Leo," he acknowledged.
"I don't know what the fuck's going on but you are gonna take me to the goddamn Switch right now!" Leo screamed, absolutely beyond furious.
The Doctor ignored him, checking Rose. "How's your leg?"
"Fucking move!" Leo yelled, thrusting the gun again.
The Doctor stared at him for a moment, grinding his teeth slightly. He wasn't sure how much more of this short arrogant human he could take.
"I'm checking Rose is all right, and then we'll go to the Switch," he grated, and turned back to Rose.
"We're fucking leaving now or I'm gonna fucking shoot her!"
"Oh, come on!" the Doctor cried, thoroughly annoyed. "What good would that do? If you want to go to the Switch, drop the gun and then you can follow us."
"Fat fucking chance!" he grabbed Rose's hair and dragged her towards him, his gun resuming its usual position against her head.
The Doctor's eyebrows lowered and his body tensed. He was obviously about to flip.
Rose quickly held up a hand. "Doctor, it's okay, we'll just go to the Switch, yeah? We need to move."
He gazed at them for a moment longer, before he reached out to take Rose's hand and pull her away from Leo. "Okay," he said, and glanced at the horizon again. The red line was getting thicker, very quickly. "Allons-y."
A/N: Not sure when I'm gonna pop up again, so for now I'll say Merry Christmas! :D