This story was originally written in 2007, and posted to Teaspoon and LJ. I'm working on archiving it here on FF, as a work-up to finally finishing the final two planned stories in the series. Yes, I know. I work on the same time-table as glaciers.
Warning: Brief mentions of violence, non-graphic. Angst.
Disclaimer: I own nothing at all, and I make no money from this.
Chapter 1 - Brooding and an Unexpected Shift
"Death is natural and necessary, but not just. It is a random force of nature; survival is equally accidental. Each loss is an occasion to remember that survival is a gift." - Harriet McBryde Johnson
The Doctor punched a final button, sending the TARDIS spinning into the vortex, and leaned against the console, head hung low in brooding thought. She'd wanted to say yes-he could see it in her eyes, in the tilt of her shoulder as she asked if it was always this dangerous. For a dizzying moment, he'd allowed himself the luxury of hope; that somehow, the universe would figure out that it owed him one (or a few dozen, really), and that she'd join him.
Strange, how during the few hours in her presence the ache in his hearts had dulled to a tolerable background throb instead of the wrenching pain that had driven his forward tilt into each new crisis since the sickness of regeneration had tapered off. Of course, this time around had still been dangerous, but for the first time in Rassilon knew how long, he found himself enjoying the challenge set before him.
And stranger still, he'd wanted to live through it, not merely survive the encounter. Since regenerating, his duties towards Time had acquired the quality of a protracted Gallifreyan form of hara-kiri, with survival the unfortunate side effect of getting the ritual wrong. There were so many others who deserved to come out from the destruction of Gallifrey relatively unscathed (emotional scarring aside-he certainly didn't count it, considering it part of his just punishment), so many innocents, and his own death had seemed fitting penance for being the one to press the button, for having the audacity for a last act of rebellion against his people and surviving while the rest of them burned.
But then, like an avenging angel, that daft little ape had swung from a chain and saved his life, and as he caught her he found himself wanting to live, to enjoy doing the right thing, and for the first time since the Time War ended, it actually felt forgivable to still be standing. For the first time since Gallifrey burned, he felt like himself. Is it really so surprising, then, that he went against his own better judgment and invited her to come along?
The Doctor grimaced and ran a hand roughly over his features. He'd sounded so desperate, bordering on weak, and she'd all but said no. But then, she hadn't actually said, "No," had she? She'd gone with an excuse, an obligation to that pathetic lump cowering at her feet (and he did give her points for such a fitting description) that he was sure she would have disregarded without blinking if he had just said the right thing. He knew he had forgotten to tell her something...
No. It was better to just put it behind him, put her behind him, and move on to the next task. No matter that she had seemed to thrive on this life; she is inquisitive, brave, and she has so much potential. Best not to drag her along and subject her to his death wish.
The Doctor straightened up at that thought, and began turning dials and flicking switches on the console, setting in the coordinates for a temporal anomaly he'd sensed while on his way to deal with the Nestene Consciousness. If he was going to indulge in suicidal tendencies, he might as well get on with it while the going was good. And perhaps, he could keep enough of that alive feeling he'd had around Rose to make it a worthwhile demise.
With one last pull of a lever, the Doctor started the TARDIS materializing, only to feel everything shift to the side with a sickening lurch, far more violent than the usual turbulence of his landings, and the TARDIS began shaking and bucking beneath his feet. He frantically ran from screen to buttons to dials, trying to get his ship to finish materializing.
"No, no, no, no, no, no, NO!"
He chanted denials as the Cloister Bell rang from deep within the ship, and the TARDIS gave a final heave, throwing him hard against a support strut as she came grinding back into reality. The Doctor saw black at the edge of his vision, and succumbed to darkness as both consciousness and the TARDIS's power slipped away.
Coming back to the waking world was like trying to climb up out of a tar pit, and for a while the Doctor was tempted to allow himself to simply lay there on the grating until everything sorted itself for once. No rest for the wicked, he thought grimly, and he forced himself onto his knees, fumbling in the dark to get upright and standing again. As he got to his knees, however, he blinked in confusion, and his eyes widened.
Darkness. His vision was completely submerged in inky black, and although he could feel the deck grating beneath his hands, he couldn't see it. He reached blindly into his breast pocket and pulled out the sonic screwdriver, its familiar buzzing filling the air as blue light spilled from the tip, barely illuminating the space around where the Doctor had been thrown.
The TARDIS was completely dark, and as the Doctor reached out, he realized she was also lifeless. His mind had felt particularly hollow since the Time War, without the minds of his people humming in his subconscious, but the TARDIS had always been there, murmuring in the background, offering some measure of reassurance with her presence. Now, she was just gone, and the echoing loneliness in the Doctor's head was terrifying.
He stumbled past the console in a daze; no signs of life in the old girl at all. No spark, no nudge, nothing. The last piece of his homeworld had died around him, and the Doctor felt himself slipping into numbed shock.
His feet went into autopilot, carrying him out of the TARDIS doors and into the sunlight outside. He locked the door behind him, and then slid down to the pavement, back against the door and knees up to his chest. The Doctor folded his arms, tucking his hands to his sides and staring forward, unheeding of the single tear tracing down one cheek and splashing onto the leather of his jacket.
Around him, people bustled about the Millennium Centre, oblivious to the strange blue box and the dark man huddled against it, and a zeppelin floated overhead, blocking the bright midday sun and casting a cold shadow over the TARDIS and her pilot.