Out of sheer instinct, I grabbed the Doctor's arm. The wisps of light swirled and danced all around us.
And then it started—the searing pain in my head. Visions of my past were being pulled into my consciousness—my times with my parents… my brothers… the McLarens… And then the times I spent with the Doctor… with Ben and Polly… Victoria… Zoe…
My fingernails dug into the Doctor's arm unintentionally; both he and Anthony had vacant expressions on their faces, but they didn't seem to be feeling the same pain that I was. Was this because of my weakness to mind probes?
"Doc… Doctor…" I stammered.
I had to release his arm, clutching my head as the pain grew in intensity. It was the absence of my clinging that made the Doctor realize that something was very, very wrong; he forced himself to look at me—to focus on me.
"Jamie!" he cried.
I wasn't able to say a word—I could only stare blankly as all of the places I'd been and people I'd met swam before mind's eye.
"STOP!" the Doctor cried, turning to face the wisps. "He can't handle the mind probe—you'll end up damaging his memories permanently!"
He took a few steps forward.
"Let them go—let the both of them go!" he pleaded. "I'll stay here—you can probe through my memories all you like!"
"Doctor…!" I gasped. "No…!"
"I am five hundred years old," the Doctor continued, ignoring me. "That's five hundred years' worth of memories for you to view all you like—far more than what you ever could get from these two! Just let them go!"
I gasped again as my head suddenly cleared, no longer hurting. Anthony snapped out of whatever trance he was in, as well.
"Doctor, you can't!" I cried.
"You need to get Anthony back to his parents!" the Doctor retorted. "We were entrusted with rescuing him!"
The wisps were now closing in all around him. He stared at them, unflinchingly, and silently held his arms out as if to say, "What are you waiting for?"
They accepted; the wisps began to swirl and circle around him.
"Doctor!" I cried.
"They're letting you go; do you really want to chance losing your memories for good!?" he yelled back, from somewhere in the light. "GO!"
There was something in his voice that told me to listen; I didn't listen to him often—something that annoyed him greatly—but this time, I knew what he was trying to say. It wasn't just the two of us at stake here; there was Anthony to consider.
I looked at Anthony, who was looking at me expectantly, as though asking if he should leave alone.
And that was when I made the most difficult decision of my life—choosing to do what the Doctor would have done. I grabbed Anthony by the shoulder and, together, we ran out of the house. The boy looked relieved to be free from the house, but it was still difficult for me to accept that I had made the right decision.
"What happens now?" he asked me, as the two of us ran down the road.
"I'm taking you home," I said. "And then I'm going back for the Doctor."
"You'll just get trapped in the house again!" Anthony exclaimed.
"Maybe so," I said. "But at least I'll…"
I trailed off as a police car drove by, making its rounds. I yelled frantically for the policeman driving it to stop.
"What are you doing?" Anthony asked, as the car stopped and began to back up to us.
"They'll take you home," I said. "Just tell them who you are, and they'll take you back to your mother and father!"
"They'll want to talk to you…" Anthony said, as I began to run.
"Aye, but I need to be somewhere else right now!" I threw over my shoulder.
I hugged the shadows as I headed back to the Adelo House; I wasn't followed—Anthony was doing his best to keep the policeman occupied with the fact that he was the missing child that everyone had been searching for, and after making sure that I wasn't being followed, I proceeded to reenter the house again.
"Doctor!?" I called. My heart was in my throat when I received no answer, and I went back to the kitchen. "Doctor!?"
There were no more wisps of light visible, and the Doctor had vanished, as well. It was as though he hadn't been here at all.
"Give him back!" I pleaded, hoping that whatever was in the house could hear me. "Please!"
There was no response; I knew that the spirits in the house had found a treasure trove of memories in the Doctor, and they wouldn't even let me near him for fear that I'd succeed in finding a way to get him out.
They were hiding him from me. And that was when I remembered about the false wall and the hole.
Slowly, I exhaled and closed my eyes, concentrating. The Doctor sometimes taught me the tricks of his people—one of those tricks he had tried to teach me was thought transfer. I wasn't sure exactly how he did it; all I knew was that it allowed him to silently communicate with other Time Lords—usually, other versions of himself.
Seeing as though I was a mere human, however, we have never been able to make it work. Then again, we never really needed to; just exchanging a glance usually told us all we needed to know.
But now I needed for it to work—even if we couldn't make enough contact to actually say something, I needed to know where he was.
I tried my best to block out everything—the coldness of the house, the loneliness I was feeling… I just focused my mind entirely on the Doctor.
That was when I heard it, in my head—a steady beat-beat-beat-beat, over and over again. For a moment, I didn't know what it was, but then I quickly realized—it was the beating of the Doctor's hearts.
Slowly, I headed towards where the sound seemed to be coming from; opening my eyes briefly, I could see that I was heading straight for another wall. I shut my eyes again, waiting for the moment I would walk right into it.
The moment never came; when I opened my eyes again, I could see the wisps of light sticking to a longcoat-clad form upon the floor.
"DOCTOR!" I cried.
Desperately, I tried to brush the wisps away; they were cold to the touch, and the Doctor himself was cold. His eyes were open, but he seemed to be in some sort of deep trance—no doubt the work of the spirits, who were making him recall everything he had ever been though in his life.
"Doctor!" I exclaimed. "Doctor, look at me!"
He did turn towards the sound of my voice, but he seemed not to notice I was there; he just stared right through me.
"One day," he murmured. "I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back…"
"Doctor! Wake up!" I pleaded, shaking him by his shoulders.
This achieved nothing, other than causing him to drop something he had been holding in his hand. The light of the wisps reflected off of it—and I realized that I was looking at the Stattenheim remote control. He had been planning to escape from the house as soon as Anthony and I had left, but had fallen too deeply into the trance to follow through.
I quickly grabbed the remote control and activated it; the TARDIS soon arrived, and though I'd hoped that the familiar sound would snap him out of his trance, but it didn't seem to do any good. He merely looked at me again and smiled, raising his fedora hat—
"Doktor von Wer, at your service!" he said, in an accented voice.
"Oh, Doctor…" I said, sadly shaking my head. "Maybe you'll be alright once we get you to the TARDIS…"
I helped him up, but before I could help him over to the TARDIS, I saw something beside the TARDIS, on the wall, that made me freeze in my tracks.
A face was slowing coming out of the wall; its eyes were sunken in, and when it opened its mouth, a howling shriek emitted from it.
"Oh, my word!" the Doctor exclaimed, now finally snapping out of his trance. He stared at me. "Jamie!?"
"Ne'er mind me—there's a face in the wall!" I cried, clinging to him.
"I thought I told you to leave—"
The face shrieked again, and now the Doctor clung to me.
"To the TARDIS! Quickly!" he said.
The wisps of light were now swirling around the both of us; they were angry—angry at us having gone back on the agreement.
And then, it struck me again—the searing pain in my head as my memories were once again prodded and pulled into my mind's eye.
"Jamie!" the Doctor cried. "No…!"
But he was falling back under the trance again, and I was doing the same—except that my trance also came with something that felt like a blade poking into my head. A cry of pain escaped my lips.
The Doctor clung to me again; somehow, the prospect of me losing my memories again was enough to keep him worried enough to focus on me.
"Jamie…" he gasped. "TARDIS… safe…."
The pain was too great for me to reply him; once again, I was forced to let go of him to clutch at my own head. He still clung to me with one arm, however, even as the spirits did their best to put him back under the trance.
"Slower… concentrate on one thing…" he murmured, suddenly falling flat onto his face—and taking me down with him. His other hand was extended towards the TARDIS, the key in his grasp.
I cried out in pain again, and he managed to get both of us closer towards the TARDIS; we were so close—all he had to do was get up to unlock the door.
But even though he tried, he sunk back to the ground. I now forced myself to get up, taking the key from his hand and unlocking the door before the pain in my head grew too intense, and I fell to the ground.
"Jamie…?" I heard the Doctor ask.
I cringed, still clutching at my head, shutting my eyes and just wishing that the pain would go away.
I could hear the face in the wall screaming—louder and louder. I couldn't pay attention to anything else—not even the fact that the Doctor had his arms around me again. I just silently begged and pleaded for it all to stop…
…And then it did.
"Jamie? Jamie, wake up!"
I could feel myself being shaken by the shoulders, and when I opened my eyes, I saw that we were inside the TARDIS console room. The key was still clutched in my hand, and the Doctor was staring at me with a worried expression; even when surrounded be those wisps, he hadn't looked this scared—the thought of me losing my memories again was, evidently, more frightening.
"Jamie… do you know who I am?"
I shook the last of the cobwebs from my head.
"Aye," I said. "You're a daft old fool."
I don't think I'd ever seen anyone so pleased to have been called a daft old fool before. But he quickly put on a stern expression.
"Why don't you ever listen to me!?" he asked. "I told you to leave—I would have used the Stattenheim to escape!"
"Och, nae the way you were," I said. "If I had nae been there, you'd have been in that trance fore'er, reliving all of your memories."
"And you might have lost yours!" he countered. "What would you have done then!?"
"I don' know," I said. "But the real question here is… what would you have done if I had lost them?"
The Doctor looked at me.
"Started from scratch," he said.
There were times when I could never be quite sure whether or not the Doctor was telling the truth. This, however, was not one of those times; I know because I'd have done the same had that fate befallen him.
I guess we're both just a pair of sentimental fools.
Epilogue: Picking Up the Pieces
The TARDIS didn't wait for us to give her directions; the moment the wisps outside started trying to pass, she dematerialized. The Doctor quickly hurried to the console, and after taking a moment to look at the calling card that the couple had left us when they had asked us to take their case, brought us to a landing in a nearby alley.
We made it to the address on foot, in time to see Anthony being embraced by his mother and father. The Doctor grinned broadly, pleased, and then cleared his throat to announce our presence.
"You're okay!" Anthony's father exclaimed.
The lassie nudged him.
"He's the King of Okay, remember?" I heard her say, quietly.
The Doctor didn't seem to hear her, however, and she turned to address him directly.
"We were worried about you, though," she said. "Especially after Anthony told us what you did."
"Yes, well…" the Doctor said. "I'm quite alright, as you can see. And I can see that you three will be quite alright, too."
"Thanks to you," Anthony's father said. "I don't think we can ever repay you for what you've done."
"Oh, there's no need for that," the Doctor insisted. "Seeing this… This is reward enough."
"Of course it would be," the lassie sighed.
"And I didn't do it alone," the Doctor added, pulling me up to them. "We are Smith and McCrimmon, after all!"
I gave a rather embarrassed smile; I was just relieved that the Doctor was alright, too.
"Well, then," the Doctor said. "I think Jamie and I shouldn't intrude upon this happy reunion any further. Hopefully, you won't need us again, but if you ever wish to chat, you'll know where to find us!"
"Yes…" the lassie said. "Thank you." She then looked to me, briefly, and whispered, "Look after him."
I blinked in surprise, but gave a quick nod to let her know that I understood as Anthony and his father also voiced their thanks aloud.
"Come along, then, Jamie," the Doctor instructed. "Back to the office!"
He headed down the street, and as I turned to follow him, I could've sworn I heard the lassie say something, very softly—
"Thank you, Raggedy Man."
I shrugged it off; the Doctor certainly did look raggedy, as she said. All in all, that was a clever name for him.
The Doctor and I were both quiet as we walked back to the TARDIS, which materialized back in our office. The Doctor hung his coat up and sat at the desk, putting his feet up on it as I poured a cup of coffee from the coffeepot.
"Coffee?" he asked me. "At this hour?"
"You should get some sleep, Jamie," he said, getting up from the desk. "Not drink coffee."
"I see you're nae sleeping."
"Yes, well, I don't need it," the Doctor said, taking the coffee from me and directing me to the couch. "You're only human—you need at least eight hours."
"It's going to be a long time before I sleep again," I said, as I sat back on it. "I keep thinking about that face in the wall… and you, lying there, surrounded by the wisps."
It was the second one that had scared me the most, and the Doctor realized that as he grabbed a blanket from within the TARDIS and placed it over me.
"You gave me plenty to worry about too, you know," he said. "But the important thing is that we're both alright—and neither of us would have been able to make it out of there had we not worked together. So just think about that instead—how we've come to rely on each other."
I trailed off as he started playing a tune on his recorder—a slow, relaxing tune that I didn't recognize.
"It's a Gallifreyan lullaby," he said. "Now, shush—you're defeating its purpose!"
Despite myself, I managed a smile as I rested back on the couch, listening to him and his lullaby. It was funny—how even the most dire of situations ended up with us being closer than ever.
And as I drifted off to sleep, thanks to the Doctor's lullaby, I was already looking forward to our next adventure.