AN: felt like writing this. Because I don't have time for a full forty-plus-thousand word story, this one's told in snippets, but maybe in a year or so I'll come back and write the full thing. In the meantime, enjoy this for what it hopefully is.
In the citadel at the heart of Gallifreyan society, a mighty spire stretching up to the skies, two people worked hard to try and repair the damage a conflict - the great conflict - was causing.
If they had been thinking, they might have thought that this was a futile endeavour. The Time War - a war people were already calling the War-To-End-All-Wars - was raging across all reality. Time was being ripped, torn, wrecked, re-wrecked and beaten to a bloody pulp, histories constantly being rewritten, and yet the Time Lords were left with their solemn duty to try and maintain it while fighting against the Daleks - a fight that was increasingly condemning their souls. But they weren't thinking about that, instead choosing to focus on their tasks. Both of them were in their under-tunics, their heavy outer robes being discarded due to the strenuous work involved in keeping time in order. The room was filled with stacks of data pads and scrolls in equal measure, a testament to their hours of work.
The younger looking of the two was Raynaraldovnian, a woman with short blonde hair and a stern frown on her face. She was the senior of the two, on her fifth incarnation and around six hundred years old. She was monitoring multiple timeliness at once, a task she had been taught by her uncle, Pollisraldovnian. He was on his eleventh body now and currently was holding the city of Arcadia.
The older looking of the two was a man named Trobisdellatrovella. Only in his second incarnation (having lost the first during the initial strikes of the War) and over eight hundred years Rayna's junior, he was a grey haired, mousy man with wide eyes filled with a sort of innocence. He was currently monitoring fixed point events with some concern. The Daleks knew about fixed points, but as the war dragged on they had become increasingly prone to ignoring them in favour of disrupting time to tie up Time Lord resources.
It was Trobis who was especially worried. There was a massive temporal disturbance going on that required attention, centred around the history of Earth, a planet in a distant spiral arm that held some significance (being the centre of around forty different galactic and multi-galactic governments across four and a half billion years).
"That interference in Earth's time stream is definitely centred around Humanian Era 2180 or thereabouts," Trobis said, wiping, "but it stretches back millions of years. It's a massive amount of interference..."
"Trace the event line then," Rayna said irritably. "There must be a single cause."
"Tracing," the younger Time Lord said. "And..."
He smiled, and enlarged a segment of a time line.
"Humanian era four billion BC," he said. "Insertion of a genetically enhanced species by the Daleks - said species was already hyper evolved by Dalek meddling. They appear to have created a machine species that have engaged in cyclical extermination of all advanced organic life over multiple periods of time. It appears that the Daleks dumped this species in the past without meaning to have them disrupt history."
"Typical careless Dalek behaviour," Rayna said tersely, clucking her tongue. "Don't know how we're going to fix this one. We can't spare anyone, and no one knows Earth well enough to help set things straight..."
"I do," a gravelly voice said behind them. As one, they turned.
An unimposing man was staring at their display with narrowed, analytical eyes. His hair was long and dark brown with streaks of grey shooting through it. His face was covered in stubble, and there were bags under his weary blue eyes. He wore a battered dark green military coat with the collar turned up, a dark green double-breasted cavalier waistcoat, an open necked grey shirt and ascot neckerchief, and tough dark brown trousers with black boots and black shin guards. Finishing the ensemble was a battered leather bandolier, in which there sat snugly a small silver device with a red energy cell affixed to the bottom.
This man had once been the Doctor.
He might have still been the Doctor too, but he never identified as it, though he rarely objected to being called it.
Once upon a time, the Doctor had been a sort of unofficial hero of the Gallifreyan people, a knight in shining armour to rescue and to heal. Now though, he was more like a boogeyman: he was a shadow behind the lines, and where he went, Daleks died and once beleaguered Time Lords had breathing room. It was never enough - but it was still a source of hope that he could do it, though also strangely terrifying. What if one day he turned against them?
"Sir!" Trobis said quickly. "Um, I'm sorry if we're a bit messy here, we weren't expecting you..."
"Calm yourself," the tired looking man said to the nervous temporal engineer. "I'm not General Maxil, nor am I Commander Androgar. I'm interested in this interference you mentioned, not your messy office."
"Well," Rayna said, "I think it started before the main Humanian era, but we can't reverse that damage without serious repercussions." She paused. "The Protheans, the Gilgarians, the Yuqwer... they're all gone."
"Gone how?" the Doctor asked.
"Machine creatures, a kind of synthetic life form," Trobis said. "The periodically wipe out advanced life, and leave behind means for new life to develop along the same predetermined cycles in order to make the extermination easier."
"But Earth's history can still be set on track?" the Doctor asked, eyes scanning the temporal display shrewdly. "They can be saved from this cycle."
"Yes sir," Trobis said quickly. "The timelines there are still massively in flux."
"Can you find an insertion point?" the Doctor asked.
"I believe so," the nervous young Time Lord said. "One moment..."
He entered in a command, and a series of Time/Space co-ordinates opened up, indicating a point in 2185 where time could begin to be repaired: they also indicated a pivotal individual - one Commander Shepard of the Human Alliance Military. The Doctor took one look at them, memorised them, and then turned on his heel and started leaving the room.
"Good luck Doctor," Trobis called out. The man stopped, turned around to look at Trobis, a small frown on his brow, and then without another word turned and left.
"He's changed," Rayna said softly, and began entering new commands.
"It's the war and his new regeneration I expect," Trobis commented. "But he's still on our side, that's the important thing."
"For now," Rayna pointed out.
The man who had once been the Doctor looked around. He had abandoned the TARDIS console of his previous incarnation a long time ago, considering it too... homely for his present needs. He wasn't an explorer or avuncular adventurer anymore. He was a soldier, and he needed bare, utilitarian controls.
This room had been his secondary control room - it's old bare white design had begun growing since being left untended, pillars of coral shooting up from the floor to touch the ceiling. The doors to the outside world had warped into the model of the Police Box exterior the ship had assumed oh so long ago, and the console had become a rounder shaped thing, with more coral growing on it. Still, it served his purpose - he didn't need it to be pretty.
It was strange, this body. He had worn it for almost fifty years now, and it amazed him how few of the pretensions of his old bodies it had. He had little interest in comfort, no desire for company, and he had only changed his predecessor's outfit when it had needed it, such as switching to a more practical coat than the frock coat and choosing a more durable pair of boots. He had kept only one thing out of sentiment - a bandolier he had gotten from the last failure of his past life, the straw that broke the camel's back.
Cass. I apologise.
It had been that death that prompted the man who had once been the Doctor to choose a different, more ruthless path - a choice even then he had not been entirely willing to make, but the truth of the matter, the truth of the Time War, had prompted him into it. No choice but one. No choice at all.
Physician heal thyself.
He hadn't expected to like it, but he had expected to not feel the guilt so much. Unfortunately, while his new persona was apparently willing to do things other Doctors had not, he still could not find a way to suppress the guilt of choosing to send men to die to defend others, of deliberately killing... still, in a way that guilt was something he was grateful for. He was still, on some level, himself. If only a little.
Bringing his attention back to the matter at hand, he manoeuvred his TARDIS into a materialisation vector.
"Right then," he said softly. "To business."
He walked outside the door.
Vala'Ren nar Arvanna ran for her life.
Three Turian mercenaries were chasing her. She wasn't sure whether they intended to kill her or worse, intended to tear her suit open and... in any case, she didn't want to find out.
She should never have come to Omega! She has thought it would be more exciting here, but all she had found was danger and now this!
She was so busy cursing her luck that she didn't notice the blue box that had materialised straight in her path, effectively blocking her escape route, and so she ran straight into it, the impact sending her sprawling to the ground.
"What the hell?" she muttered, looking up at the box in wonder. It had words in a language she didn't immediately recognise on it, but she had no time to set up translation software before her attention was taken by a door in the box opening, revealing a human male. He had dark hair and wore a green coat, with green and brown clothes underneath, and had a bandolier with some sort of tool hung in it across his chest, the minute he stepped out he looked down at Vala.
"Good day," he said amicably. "I'm sorry, did I park in the middle of the road?"
Before she could answer, the three Turians appeared, slightly out of breath from the chase, rifles aiming up at the human and Vala.
"Hand us the Quarian, human," the leader of the group said angrily. "You don't wanna get involved with our business."
"I find," the man said as he stepped past Vala, looking at the Turians with an odd mix of curiosity and weariness, "that I do."
"I said, hand us the Quarian," the leader repeated, sounding angrier still.
"Do you mind if I ask why?" the man asked, apparently not the least bit perturbed by the guns aiming at him.
"Yeah, we do, so piss off," the lead mercenary said, brandishing his gun.
The man looked down at Vala, ignoring the Turians for a moment.
"Do you particularly want to go with these gentlemen?" he asked, his voice going from tired and weary to soft and kind.
"No!" she said at once. "Please - they want to kill me, you've got to help me..."
The man had an odd look in his eye at those words, but he smiled amicably, giving Vala an odd feeling that things might be going well for her.
"Very well then," he said. "My apologies gentlemen, but the young lady doesn't appear to wish to go with you."
"What she wants doesn't matter," the lead Turian said. "The street rat'll just have to face up to her punishment."
"What crime has she committed?" the man asked.
"Dunno, but she's done something, all suit rats do," the lead Turian said.
"I'm a Quarian," Vala put in bitterly. "That's enough for most people."
The man looked at her, another odd glint in his eye, and then back to the Turian.
"She doesn't want to go with you," he said, "and I don't think I want her to either, given all I've. I suggest you leave before you get hurt."
The statement was so blunt and yet so ridiculous that the lead Turian gave a wild laugh.
"You seem to think I give a shit, human," he said. "I only wanted to kill the suit rat - but calling an arrogant newcomer bastard like you seems like as much fun..."
He raised his rifle, but before he could finish aiming, Vala moved, using overload on his shields.
Before she or anyone else could do anything else, however, the man had brought his small tool from his bandolier and aimed it at the lead Turian - a moment later, a wave of sonic energy lashed out from the device, knocking all three Turians a good twenty feet away from the man. He had a strange, cold look upon his face, and his body language was stiff and still, like a statue - as if he had reflexively brought the device out and used it. A moment later, he relaxed and lowered the device, before replacing it on his bandolier.
"My apologies," he said to Vala. "I didn't expect it to be so forceful. I'm used to tougher enemies."
"Don't apologise," she replied. "Those bastards had it coming."
"You seem remarkably resourceful," the man pointed out. "I doubt you needed my help."
"I have a few tricks," Vala said. "But without your help I'd have died. Thank you."
The man seemed uncomfortable with her thanks.
"Might I ask your name?" he asked her.
"Vala," she replied. "Vala'Ren nar Arvanna." A moment passed. "What's yours?"
"I am called the Doctor," the man said, a sad smile appearing on his face, "though not for some time now."
"That's just a title," she pointed out. "Don't you have a name?"
He didn't answer, instead taking a moment to hold up his device. It glowed red for a moment, and he clucked his tongue.
"Omega, not the Citadel," he said softly.
"You were going to the Citadel?" Vala asked, surprised. P
"You're a Quarian, pre-reformation," the man - the Doctor - observed, though what pre-reformation meant Vala could not guess. "I imagine then that this is 2184?"
"You mean in Earth years?" Vala asked, frowning behind her mask at the oddness of not knowing the year. "I think it's more like 2180... why?"
"Ah, I'm early then," the Doctor said, turning back to his box. "Thank you for your help, Miss Ren."
Without another word, he stepped into his box.
"Hey!" Vala said, following him.
A moment later, she stepped out of the box, eyes wide behind her helmet.
"That's impossible," she said softly. "Just impossible."
A moment passed where she scanned the exterior dimensions of the box with her omni tool, and then, confirming the evidence of sanity, she stepped back inside.
Yeah. The hell with sanity.
She reminded him so much of others, to new girl. Of...
"How is this possible?" she asked.
"It's Time Lord science," the man who had been the Doctor replied wearily, flicking switches as he walked. He paused for a moment to look up and see her reaction, almost afraid of...
You're a Time Lord... get away from me!
Look on the bright side, I'm not a Dalek!
Who can tell the difference anymore?!
"What's a Time Lord?" the young girl asked. The man who had been the Doctor almost sighed in relief.
"My species," he said.
"You look like a human," the girl said.
"They look like us," he countered. "My people are from a galactic civilisation that is many millions of years older than humanity."
She didn't look like she believed him, but he didn't mind.
"And why are you called Time Lords?" she asked. "Don't tell me you can actually travel in time..."
He gave her a look. She quieted down for a moment. "Keelah," she swore softly.
He smiled, almost despite himself. This really was too much like having a companion again. He knew he shouldn't get attached, shouldn't be so damn cheerful around yet another young girl who would probably only die in his company, and yet here he was. If he had been thinking clearly, he would have taken her somewhere and left her there. But he was not thinking clearly.
He was thinking like the Doctor.
"If you're so much more advanced than us, why are you here?" she asked, breaking him from his reverie.
Ah. His mission. In all the excitement, he had almost forgotten why he was here.
"I'm on a mission. I need to get to 2185," he said softly, turning away from her. "A massive galactic extinction event is coming, one that must be prevented or defeated."
"That's five years in the future," the girl said. "You mean I get to see the future?"
"It is not so very far in the future," the not-the-Doctor said before he could stop himself. "If you like, I could take you..."
He caught himself, but it was too late.
"Take me where?" Vala asked.
He shouldn't answer, he should retract the offer, he shouldn't do this, he is not the Doctor...!
"Forward," the Doctor said, turning to face her properly, "to see the height of the third Quarian Dominion. Or backwards to see your people's colony on Haestrom, or Rannoch itself. Further back, if you choose, to see the Prothean empire or the Qul-Miyorey. Further forward, to see the age of the Quarra, your people's descendants. All times and all spaces are at your fingertips in here."
Idiot. Of course she'll say no.
"So after you complete your mission..." she said slowly, "we can go anywhere?"
No, he thought.
"Yes," he said, and cursed his own, indomitably happy nature.
"Alright," she said, and she sounded so happy. They always did. "Let's go complete that mission."
Despite himself, he smiled.
A gun was being pointed at his face. Much as he would have liked this not to be the case - it reminded him far too much of his normal passtimes these days - it was.
He had materialised his TARDIS on a balcony, overlooking a beautiful space station vista. There were several people on this balcony: a human male with dark skin in an official looking suit, a Turian in blue armour with battle damage to the collar, a woman in a skin tight bodysuit, and a woman with a red-haired bob, stern eyes and a thin mouth, wearing battle-armour and holding a large, dangerous looking pistol, which she was aiming right at him.
"You've got three seconds to explain how and why you're here," she said sternly, her voice tinged with an American drawl.
"That's hardly enough time," he pointed out. "I'd have to explain temporal mechanics, transdimensional theory and good piloting, and all of those are extremely complicated. Especially the last one."
The woman's eyes narrowed.
"Or I could just show your politician friend this," he added, holding up a wallet, inside which was a piece of psychic paper displaying his credentials. For once, they were real credentials, his UNIT ones. His actual UNIT pass showed a different face and he had never visited Earth with this one.
The politician's eyes widened, seemingly understanding what he was seeing.
"Stand down, Shepard," he said, his voice deep rich and melodious, as he moved to a computer console. "I have to check this."
"Anderson..." the red-headed woman - Commander Shepard, possibly? - said, sounding uncertain.
"Trust me," the politician - Anderson - said. "If you'll wait a moment, sir," he added to the man who had been the Doctor
"Of course," the not-Doctor said, eyes wide with optimism. A moment later, Anderson looked up at him.
"This face isn't on record," he said. "But the box and the credentials more than check out."
"You wanna fill me in, sir?" Shepard asked, sounding frustrated.
"Shepard," Anderson said seriously, "this is the Doctor. He's an alien expert and consultant that's helped the human race numerous times in the past."
"If he isn't an expert on Reapers or Collectors, what good is he?" Shepard asked.
"Perhaps if you asked me?" the not-Doctor asked, feeling mildly bemused at being talked about.
"Alright," Shepard said. "What do you know about Reapers?"
"Nothing of any sort," he said with a soft smile.
"Then what good are you?" Shepard snapped, apparently frustrated.
"But," the not-Doctor continued, "I do know about their origins."
Anderson and Shepard both looked shocked at this.
"You know where they came from?" Shepard asked, suddenly sounding either awed or scared - a mix the man who had once been the Doctor knew very well.
"In a roundabout way," he said. "I know the origins of their creators. They were a genetically engineered race, made for a war."
"The Time War," Anderson said softly. The not-Doctor looked at him in shock. "We've met incarnations after yours. They've filled us in on certain things."
"Have they now," the not-Doctor said. He had a future then? That was interesting.
"Sorry, what's a Time War?" Shepard asked, sounding faintly amused.
The not-Doctor gave her a look, and she almost stepped back at the ice that was suddenly in them.
"Nothing to joke about," he said, almost harshly. "Nothing to joke about at all."
"Um..." Anderson said, "Shepard, if I have the Doctor's box brought down to the Normandy, would you be alright with him being part of your crew?"
"I don't know what he can do," Shepard pointed out.
"I'll forward the file," Anderson said, smiling softly. "But trust me, Shepard, you want the Doctor on your team."
"Alright," Shepard said, turning to the not-Doctor. "If you'll come with me?"
"One moment," the not-Doctor said. He turned to his box. "Alright, Vala, it's safe to come out now."
A moment later, a Quarian woman, maybe in her early twenties or late teens, stepped out of the blue box. She looked altogether nervous, if her body language was to be believed. The not-Doctor turned to Shepard.
"This is Vala'Ren. She's my associate. I trust there's no problems with her coming with us?"
The Normandy was a dull ship. Same size ratio within and without, a bunch of military grunts, and barely any decent conversation. Except for Vala, of course, and oddly enough, Commander Shepard herself.
The first time the Commander came down to the cargo bay, he was sitting outside his TARDIS, utterly bored. Vala was off helping the engineers to fix a problem – she was a delightful girl, filled with the same wonder and joy of space that had attracted him to it all those many years ago.
He sighed. He had never been good at dealing with boredom, but at least he was controlled enough to not just run away now, when he was needed. That was something to be said for this incarnation.
"Doctor," she said, approaching him.
He looked up at her, but didn't answer.
"Have you got a moment to talk?" she asked him.
"Surprisingly many moments," he replied. "What is it you would like to talk about?"
She sat next to him.
"You mentioned a war," she said. "A Time War. I'd like to hear about it, if you'd be willing to talk."
He looked away from her, eyes frowning slightly. He didn't want to think about it.
"You've read my file," he said. "If you're people have information about my future, it's possible you know more than I do."
"It doesn't mention the war," Shepard replied. "Only that it happened."
"That is, perhaps, for the best," the not-Doctor said.
Shepard sat there expectantly for a moment. Clearly she wasn't going to go away until he told her something.
"I can say little about the Time War," he said finally, feeling rather foolish. "It isn't something language is fit to describe. The edge of it is insanity, conflict and fear. The centre is a place I rarely go, and it is rarer still that I speak of it."
"Your people are fighting it," Shepard said. "Against who?"
"A race your kind will not meet for many years," the not-Doctor replied. "They are called the Daleks."
"Sounds a bit kooky," Shepard said, chuckling slightly. Again, she stopped the minute the not-Doctor looked at her, his eyes cold and hard.
"They are machine creatures, mutated brains placed inside metal war machines equipped with devastatingly powerful weapons," he said, his voice emotionless. "They are without pity. Without remorse. Without any positive emotion whatsoever. They know only two things: hatred and fear. Hatred of all things, and fear of..."
He paused, trailing off. He turned his eyes away from Shepard, not wanting to finish the sentence, but she didn't let the atter be.
"Fear of what?" she asked.
He looked up at her, eyes filled with something she couldn't quite place.
"Me," he said softly. "Fear of me."
One morning, when Shepard granted her crew shore leave, the not-Doctor brought Vala into the TARDIS with him. He set a course, and a moment later they stepped out onto the surface of a planet.
It was Rannoch. It was over a thousand years after the events of the Reaper war, and the not-Doctor had felt this was an adequate time to pick in order to show her how much hope she had, how much hope her people had. The planet was green and prosperous. A city - large and sprawling - was off in the distance, the architecture advanced but so obviously Quarian.
He didn't know exactly why he had chosen to bring her here. Maybe he had simply hoped it would make her happy. Judging by the hug she gave him, wordless and gentle, and the soft sobs in her throat that sounded happy and sad all at once, he had been successful.
For a moment, he felt almost like the Doctor again. It passed quickly, but it felt far nicer than he had expected.
The Reaper IFF was a trap, as he should have known it was. His mistake, but one he was willing t live with in the grand scheme of things.
He ran to the TARDIS, ushering as many people in as he could. One after another of the crew ran in, as many as he could get through. The crew had all managed to evacuate down to the lower decks, the Doctor letting them into his ship to save them.
Did he just think of himself as the Doctor? No, that couldn't be right.
And yet, here he was, saving people's lives. The Doctor – the man who made people better. A choice. A Promise. It made him smile.
He couldn't see Joker, the young man with Vrolik's syndrome who was the pilot, but the AI on board, one EDI, had told him that the young man was busy trying to get them away from the Collectors. That left only himself and…
"Vala!" he called. The girl was running for the TARDIS – a Praetorian right behind her. Inside his mind, he urged her to run faster, but his hand was already going for his sonic screwdriver.
"Doctor!" she called. And then a silver limb swung down, impaling her in the side, bursting through the back and through the front of her suit, blood spilling to the deck.
"NO!" he heard his own voice yell, and the screwdriver was up, blasting the Praetorian back. He ran up to her, picking her up and carrying her into his ship, trying not to feel the sense of clawing despair as it latched onto him. He ran inside his ship as the Collectors entered, glaring at one that glowed with yellow fire.
In that moment, he stared at a Reaper, and it at him. He knew this.
"We will meet again," he said to it, as the TARDIS door closed.
Chakwas knelt by the girl as she bled onto the floor of his TARDIS. He knelt next to her, looking down on her. She looked up at him, eyes wide. Chakwas looked up at him. He met her eyes. She shook her head.
He looked back down at her. She looked up at him.
Her hand reached up to her mask, unclasping the seals one by one. He could do nothing but watch as she removed the mask, revealing her face. She looked just like a human, indeed, not too dissimilar to…
Cass. I apologise.
She wanted to see the universe.
"I wanted to see you…" she said, gasping slightly. "And I wanted you to see me…"
He smiled softly.
"You're very beautiful," he said, and he meant it. The Quarians had always been a remarkably beautiful race to him, though perhaps not as fascinating as humans.
"Thank you," she said weakly, smiling. "For… everything… I saw… the homeworld…"
Her eyes widened slightly, the smile fading as death claimed her. And then the life left her, her mouth open, her bright eyes dimming, wide and unseeing.
If she could speak, what would she say?
She would beg your help.
"Doctor?" Chakwas said, looking across at him. He looked at the woman, his eyes stones in his face, cold and hard.
"No more," he said.
He was not the Doctor, and so using a gun should not have made him as sick to his stomach as it did. One shot, one Collector fell. Another shot, another collector.
But the stronger feeling was a sort of bittersweet revenge – this was the Daleks' fault, all of this. Not just Vala, but all of these people, stolen and murdered. All because of the Daleks. Not even intentional – just carelessness. Unthinking idiocy. Not caring about consequences.
He would end this insanity, if it killed him. He knew it would, one day. Maybe he'd be lucky and they wouldn't resurrect him like they had so many other fallen soldiers.
This war had claimed everything. Everything he loved. His happiness, his freedom, his optimism, his joy… his very life, once. A life that had started in such optimism, and had ended with the decision to become a warrior. How had it come to this?!
He almost didn't notice when he ran out of bullets, except that he switched to his sonic screwdriver on impulse, projecting repulsion fields to smash Collectors against walls and rocks, destroying them. Ending them. He didn't seek cover, not caring as bullets and bolts whizzed towards him.
It was only after the battle, as he and Shepard and the others caught their breath on the Normandy after the destruction of the Collector base, that he managed to assess himself. He had been fortunate – no wounds, save a few grazes and a hole in his coat.
It wasn't over though.
In space, so many months later and yet no time at all to a man as old as he felt, he saw one ship among the Reaper fleet. A larger Reaper than any other. He glared at it, and though he knew it was unlikely, he thought it saw him too.
"Harbinger," Shepard said from next to him, her face grim. He looked at her briefly, then back to the Reaper.
"I told you we would meet again," he said softly, so that none could hear him. but he knew the Reaper did, and he felt it's fear. Somewhere deep in his mind, he felt good about that.
On Earth, amid the ruins of London, he walked.
He walked through devastation. He walked past rubble and bodies, so much death and yet only a fraction of what he himself had seen.
He walked where others ran.
Commander Shepard ran, Tali'Zorah – a Quarian somewhat like and yet unlike Vala, who he didn't think about - and Kaidan Alenko – Shepard's lover - ran, soldiers of all races and all armies ran, but he walked.
He walked with such deliberate purpose that others stopped and stared at him as he did so, staying behind cover to see one man, not even wearing armour, walk.
When Shepard's party stopped, he walked over to them, almost casually.
"Shepard!" he said, only raising his voice to cover the din. "Are you alright?"
"Kaidan's wounded!" she said, clearly concerned for him. She and Tali'Zorah helped him up as the Normandy descended. In that moment, the Doctor saw what must happen next, the choice he must make.
He reached behind Shepard and gripped her neck in a precise move designed to knock her out.
"I apologise," he said softly. "But there will be no more death. I will not allow it."
Ignoring the calls of protest from Tali'Zorah and Alenko, he lifted Shepard onto the Normandy hanger deck and dropped her on the floor. Without another word, he turned and walked forward towards the beam leading to the Citadel.
"What the hell are you doing?!" he heard Alenko yell after him. He ignored the cry.
He walked on, an unstoppable force, an oncoming storm to frighten boogeymen. He was not the Doctor, but he had the Doctor's force of will, the Doctor's strength.
It would have to do.
When the Illusive man stood in his way, he knocked him down, resisting the man's pitiful mental control with the practiced ease of a Time Lord. He tended Anderson's wounds only briefly, enough to save his life. He ignored the child when it appeared, instead focusing on the machine it stood by, his eyes analysing it shrewdly.
"You aren't what we were expecting," the child said, its voice surprised.
"I never am," the not-Doctor replied, not looking at it.
"We were expecting Shepard," the thing continued.
"Shepard is indisposed," the not-Doctor said. "I trust I will not be disappointing?"
"You are a Time Lord," the child said. That surprised the not-Doctor enough that he looked at it. "We heard of you, in our deepest memories. Things the creators creators knew and fought. We thought you would be gone by now."
"Apparently not," the not-Doctor said grimly.
"It makes no difference," the child said. The Doctor almost barked a laugh at that. The arrogance of this thing was startlingly amusing to someone who had fought the Nightmare Child and the horde of Travesties, a man who had seen the Carsenome Wells burn and the Eternals flee.
"If you know what I am," he said grimly, "then you know I will stop you."
"You are only one Time Lord," the thing said in return. "You have no choice but to choose one of the choices before you."
"Your choices?" the not-Doctor said, eyebrows raising slightly. "You mean, to cripple the entire galaxy by destroying technology? Or maybe to destroy myself to control the Reapers – if that's really what this machine allows," he added scornfully. "Or maybe the recombination machine in the centre – which would, by the way, create a sterile, immortal race of half machines that would never grow as people again? Oh, thrilling choices."
"Those are the only ones I offer," the thing said, smugly.
"Then I shall make my own," the not-Doctor said.
"And how will you do that?" the child asked, sounding doubtful. "You are one man, one Time Lord."
The not-Doctor looked up, smiling softly. A sudden lightness filled his heart.
"I am the Doctor," the not-Doctor said, feeling it for the first time since Vala had died. "I am more than a Time Lord. I am the oncoming storm, and just this once, I have hope."
"What hope?" the child-thing asked.
"The hope," the Doctor said, bringing out his screwdriver, "that if I introduce a new kind of energy to this machine, it will transmit it across the universe."
He raised a hand, blinking once. A golden glow emerged from the hand, a tiny little piece of himself. He looked up at the crucible.
"What is that?" the child-thing asked uncertain for the first time since it had spoken. The Doctor – for one moment, the Doctor again – smiled, and a single word escaped his lips.
He concentrated on a result, a single result that he hoped might save the universe, might even do more than that. The energy shot from his hand and he aimed straight for the crucible, which fired as the energy shot into it. A golden glow began to emerge from the tip of the crucible, and suddenly…
Shepard awoke in the Normandy's sickbay, eyes snapping open. In front of her stood Kaidan and Garrus.
"Oh," she said. "We..."
"We're alive," Kaidan said at once, smiling.
"What happened?" she asked. Kaidan shrugged.
"Anderson'll tell you what we know," he said.
"What happened to the Doctor?" she asked. Neither Garrus or Kaidan answered with words, but instead looked to the bed next to Shepard's.
A green military coat and ascot neckerchief lay on the bed, next to a handwritten note.
Have a good life, Commander. That much is owed to you.
She looked up at Garrus and Kaidan. Kaidan smiled.
He looked out upon a world he had saved, his new leather coat and dark grey scarf clean against the
The energy had fried the Reaper machines, left everything in them annihilated, but it had done something much better.
The regenerative energy had been copied and extrapolated by the crucible, and had been transmitted across the galaxy. More than that, it had washed over the entire galaxy. Those who had been grievously wounded had found
themselves restored, the recently dead awoke restored, and best of all, husks had regenerated into their human and otherwise forms. Banshees became Asari, Marauders became Turians, Brutes became Krogan (and their heads regenerated bodies and became more Turians)…
It was, perhaps, almost too good to be true, but he had managed it. It had aged him - his long mane of hair had turned silver in its entirety and he could have sworn he had more lines now, but he could live with what had happened to him for the thing that price had bought.
One day of happiness. One day where he healed instead of killed. One day where he was the Doctor.
"For Cass," he said softly into the rising sun. "And for Vala."
He sighed. He had stopped this batch of temporal interference, and now he had to return.
There was a war to fight.
Apologies if the ending seems a bit unlikely – I wanted the emotional impact of just one victory for the War Doctor.
Thanks for reading.