Zoe was still too much in shock to fully get a grip on what the Doctor was doing as she stared, helplessly, at the rushing water. It was only after she heard the second splash, as a black-clad blur dove into the water, that she found her voice.
"Doctor!" she cried. "Jamie!"
She had suspected for a while now, based on his poikilothermy and his eating habits, that the Doctor's people were reptilian—specifically, crocodilians. Now, she was hoping that she was right—and that the rushing water wouldn't be too much for him. Jamie didn't stand a chance on his own; even under normal circumstances, he couldn't swim. Zoe was no better, and even if she was, this canal would be too much.
There was little she could do other than follow the crowd as they ran alongside the canal; they weren't paying any attention to her, but were determined to find out what had happened to the impostor and the boy with the glowing eyes. And all Zoe wanted was to be reassured that her friends were alright.
She had never believed in miracles, and had never asked for one—until this very moment.
Jamie, in the meantime, had been flailing in vain as the rushing water carried him further down the canal. Once, he broke the surface and managed to get a quick breath, but now, everything was going hazy as he struggled to hold his breath.
His lungs were screaming in protest; he had to breathe—had to…!
His eyes snapped open as he felt a familiar arm around him. Though he couldn't speak, the look in his eyes was one of surprise—and relief.
The Doctor was, as Zoe hoped, a strong swimmer. He helped the piper above water with one arm while grabbing for the canal wall with the other. Jamie coughed and spat out a mouthful of water before greedily gulping down the fresh air.
Along the expanse of the canal walls were small, metal ladders, built for easy access during times of drought for any necessary repairs to be made. Still keeping an arm around Jamie, the Doctor grabbed one of the metal rungs, gritting his teeth as the water continued to rush past them. Jamie also held on to the rungs, trying to make things slightly less strenuous for the Doctor. The current was starting to lessen now that enough water was spreading throughout the canal, but it was by no means a simple task.
That was when the members of the crowd stopped running. They didn't move—didn't say a word. They all gathered along the edge of the canal, just staring down at the Doctor and Jamie.
Zoe reached them, now, looking ready to cry with relief. But this sense of elation quickly dissipated as she saw the crowd, and how they stared at them with unreadable expressions on their faces.
Slowly, she crept closer to the edge, waiting for someone to react. Nothing happened, and she then proceeded to hold a hand out to them. The Doctor now lifted Jamie as much as he could with one arm, trying to get him out of the water enough so that the current wouldn't be too much for Zoe and pull her in, as well.
Jamie took her hand, and after a few tense moments, she succeeded in pulling him onto dry land. Now only contending with his own weight, the Doctor was able to use one more burst of strength to pull himself up the ladder and out of the canal.
Immediately, he clung to the both of his companions as they all knelt beside each other; he glared up at the crowd, silently daring them to make a move.
"Salamander deceived you all," he said. "It was he who caused the drought with that infernal machine of his; so desperate was he to stay in control, he distracted you all with a scapegoat! I warned him what would happen if he tried to harm Jamie—and you saw his fate yourselves!" His eyes blazed as he looked upon the crowd. "So, that leaves us with just one question—who will be the next bubble to touch the needle?"
He stared at the crowd, unblinkingly. There appeared to be a silent standoff—one Gallifreyan against a crowd of humans. In the end, it appeared that Salamander's fate was enough to deter them from confronting the Doctor without him; a few people cast a glance at the still-swirling Vortex in the sky as the last of the water poured from it, and then began to leave, heading back towards the city.
Others followed suit, and then more; soon, crowd mentality struck again, and the Doctor and his companions were soon left alone, prompting the three of them to breathe a sigh of relief once more.
"I thought they would attack for a moment," Zoe said, trembling.
"That, my dear Zoe, is what they mean by tyranny of the mob," the Doctor said, a calm expression returning to his face. "Salamander would not have been able to get as far as he did had he not used that to his advantage. I was concerned over whether or not they would attack, as well. But it seems the idea of spending time in the Vortex was unpleasant enough for them to consider otherwise. Besides, I am sure that they have plans to hoard as much water as they can now that the drought is over." He looked down at the piper. "Jamie, are you alright?"
"Aye," the piper said. "But, for a moment, I di'n think I would be. I don' know how ye managed swimming through that mess."
"Yes, well…" the Doctor said. "Sometimes, not being human has its distinct advantages."
"Ye were more human than they were."
The Doctor looked at him in surprise.
"I think I understand what he means," Zoe said, surprised that she did. "Not human in the physical sense, but in the emotional sense?"
"I believe that is exactly what he meant," the Doctor said.
"Aye. They were ready to kill me, just because they thought it would end their drought. And ye wouldnae let them, e'en though they would've killed ye, too."
"Well, I am rather fond of you, Jamie," the Time Lord said, with a smile. "And you, too, Zoe. By the way, your theory on saturating Jamie's cells with water seems to have been spot-on after all. Look!"
"Look at what?" Jamie asked, confused, and was still baffled as Zoe grinned at him.
"Your eyes, Jamie! They aren't glowing anymore!"
The Doctor pulled a mirror from his pocket, grinning, too, as the young Scot glanced at his normal eyes.
"Yes, it seems that we forgot that saturating your cells with water meant the internal cells, as well…." the Doctor said. "You took in enough water to purge your cells of the Vortex energy."
"Oh, aye…" he said, looking up in time to see the Vortex closing, all energy restored. "That's it, then—it's over?"
"Well… not quite."
The two humans looked to the Doctor in confusion.
"Salamander may be back in the Vortex, but I imagine it won't last," he informed them. "That wristband that he made me give him… that was a time-travel device called a Vortex manipulator. I've only ever heard of them, but he seems to have acquired one on the black market. Assuming he can keep his sanity again, it's only a matter of time until he learns how to activate it."
"…That means that he can go anywhere in space and time as he pleases!" Zoe said, her eyes going wide.
"If he learns how to fully control it, yes," the Doctor sighed. "And I'm sure he'll find a whole new civilization to manipulate to his own ends. I don't suppose he'll ever learn. And I also doubt that we've seen the last of him."
"Oh…" Jamie said, looking troubled.
"Don't worry yourselves about that right now; let's enjoy the peace while it lasts, shall we?"
Jamie and Zoe exchanged glances and looked back at the Doctor, nodding in agreement. They'd made it through this misadventure—and another one was sure to come their way soon enough.
Epilogue: The Night has Gone
Once the surging waters in the canal had calmed down sufficiently enough, the Doctor retrieved Jamie's knife from the crystal, knowing how much it meant to the Scot. Jamie was, indeed, grateful to have it back, but he was more grateful that the three of them had survived the ordeal.
Soon, the three were in front of the fireplace in the Doctor's study, now in dry clothes and sipping tea as the TARDIS traveled once more into the unknown.
"Doctor…" Zoe said, after some time. "There's something that I'm not so certain about. It's about emotions."
"You and Jamie keep saying that emotions are a good thing, don't you?"
"Yes, we do."
"…But I don't understand how being upset and worried is a good thing. It's like I told you—I yelled at Jamie earlier, and I don't know why."
"Well, ye were mad at me," Jamie said.
"And then, at times, I was… scared and sad," Zoe went on. "Like when we thought we were going to lose Jamie to the dehydration… or when we were trapped in the fire. I don't like these emotions; how can they possibly be good?"
The Doctor just smiled.
"Because emotions are what make you human," he said. "And they are all important—the bad, and the good. Picking and choosing your emotions just wouldn't do, you see. You need to experience them all. Emotions guide us; they help us choose which paths to take—especially during times we have to make difficult decisions."
"Like when ye decided to get water for me instead of stopping the Vortex problem right away?" Jamie asked. "…I ne'er did thank ye for that."
"Jamie, trust me when I say that once I made my decision, I never regretted it," the Doctor assured him, ruffling the piper's hair.
"I'd have done the same for ye," he promised.
"Perhaps, someday, you will," the Doctor said, and he turned back to Zoe. "But do you see now, Zoe? We are able to appreciate each other's company now more than before we arrived on Neo Serenity."
"I… think I understand…" she said. "The bad emotions are important because you appreciate the good ones more?"
"…I still don't like the bad ones, though."
"Aye, no one does," Jamie said. "I don' like it when I remember all the things I've lost. But I am grateful for what I have. Sometimes, I worry that I'll lose it, though."
"That's only natural, too," the Doctor said. He knew the feeling all too well, having lost so much already. "And if there is anything out there that finally succeeds in driving us apart… I promise to the both of you—I will find a way back to you. I don't know how long it will take… but I will find a way."
They believed him; there was no question as to how much they meant to the Doctor—or how much he meant to them.
In the end, they knew that would be their biggest strength, for it had gotten them through so many scrapes—and would get them through so many more.
Notes: And, it's done! A huge thanks to everyone who followed this fic; I hope you had as much fun reading it as I had writing it!