Diversions & Digressions | fanfiction by mara

You Weep Alone

You Weep Alone

by Mara

Summary: In which we learn where the Doctor went after the Time War, and who he met there. (DW/Firefly crossover)

Author’s Chapter Notes:

This is my entry in the Multiverse 2006 challenge, written for Buggs (aka
boofadil). I hope you like it, as it got…um…a bit out of hand. Thanks a
bunch to Merlins_sister for the British beta. Oh, and I’ve included one mildly
obscure DC comics joke here for any DCU folk who might be reading. Bonus points
if you catch it.

CONTINUITY: In DW continuity, this is before Rose. (It’s slightly AU, as one
aspect of the plot was jossed by “Rise of the Cybermen.”) In Firefly continuity,
this is somewhere near the end of the series.


NOW:

The Doctor dove toward the TARDIS door, and she was singing in his mind,
welcoming him back. His companion instinctively covered his back as he slammed
the key into the lock and he was in the door, turning to look as she was spun
around, hit in the right shoulder by a projectile.

For an instant almost too short to measure, he hesitated, but it was already too
late. Reinforcements flooded the room and dragged her out.

“Come out of there with your hands up and we won’t shoot you,” a soldier
shouted.

Swearing in Old High Venusian, the Doctor ran to the console, hand reaching for
the dematerialization button. His hearts raced and he could feel sweat breaking
out from the running and…

He could leave now that he had the TARDIS.

His hand moved to begin the calculations reversing the TARDIS’ last-ditch run to
this place…

* * * * *

24 HOURS EARLIER:

The Doctor stalked through the street, avoiding puddles of unidentifiable
rubbish, annoyed to once again be separated from the TARDIS. She was irked with
him as well, filling the back of his mind with the staticky buzz of her feelings
on the matter. She’d been clingier than normal since…since everything.

Wherever she was, they were bouncing her. Probably a cart of some sort. For some
reason, no matter how advanced the culture, they always felt the need to stick
the poor old girl on some primitive conveyance. It was vaguely amusing to find
that was a universal truth even if you’d moved to an alternate universe.

A muffled thump up ahead caught his attention. Who else was out on the streets
so late? He almost turned in the other direction, but habit set him jogging
towards the sound, past the crumbling stone wall and overflowing garbage bags.

In the shadows it was hard to tell who was who, but he almost certainly saw one
unarmed figured backed against a wall, facing three opponents with knives. The
rearmost person said, in an unctuous voice that got on the Doctor’s nerves, “I
gave you a chance, but you chose not to–”

“Well, well,” The Doctor said in his most penetrating voice, “what have we
here?” The knife-wielders all whirled to stare at him.

The Doctor leaned against the nearest wall, arms crossed, as the lone figure
took the opportunity to slam two heads together, then ducked under the third
opponent’s knife and kicked him in the groin. As he doubled over with a yelp of
agony, his knife was neatly removed from his hand and tucked into a boot.
Glancing at the last man, the figure kicked him in the head with a muttered
imprecation in Mandarin.

The figure stepped into the weak glow of a flickering streetlight, revealing
itself to be a dark-skinned woman in a leather vest, boots, and a long coat. She
had a purpling bruise on her left cheek and a wary expression. “Thanks,” she
said.

“Not at all. I’ve never liked uneven odds.” The Doctor studied her. “Lost, are
you?”

Her eyes narrowed. “What’s it to you?”

Once the Doctor would have been offended and protested at great length, but a
little incivility was just one more straw. Turning, he started out of the alley
without a word.

“Wait.” Her voice was low, but urgent.

Walk away, he thought, don’t get involved. But his steps slowed.

“Why did you help me?” she asked. “Most people wouldn’t bother.”

The Doctor shoved his hands into his jacket pockets and turned. “It’s what I do.
Or did, at least.”

The woman looked dubious, but after studying him in the weak light, she deemed
him harmless. Searching the three men, she stripped them of weapons and wallets.
“We’d better get going. The cops will be here any minute to arrest us for
breaking curfew.”

“Really?” The Doctor brightened. “That will simplify things then.”

She paused in her search, staring at him. “You *want* to be arrested?”

The Doctor shrugged as he helped her drag the three men further into the
shadows. “They’ve taken my ship. I’ve found the easiest way to track it is to be
captured by the authorities.”

The woman shook her head. “Maybe you’d better come with me. If that’s your idea
of a plan, the captain’d skin me alive if I left you.” She strode away, not even
glancing over her shoulder to see if he followed.

He caught up to her with several long strides. “I’m the Doctor. And you are?”

“Zoë Warren. My ship’s Serenity.” She was silent for a moment as they reached
the end of the alley and peered around the corner. “The authorities have her and
the crew. So I guess we’re going to the same place.”

“Hmm. What did your crew do to annoy them?”

Her face was shadowed. “What did yours do?”

Both hearts skipped a beat. “I have no crew.”

He’d tried to keep his tone light, but she didn’t buy it. “Ah,” she said.

“I annoyed the government by not having any papers,” he said to forestall any
further comment.

“That’d make ’em a mite unhappy with you. ‘Specially on the brink of a civil
war.” She gestured and they sidled down the road. “We were here on business, but
our client thought to save money by getting us arrested. Figured with the war
about to break out, we’d be stuck.” She glanced back at the alley. “Then he
figured with my husband in jail, he could take advantage of the situation.”

Her tone made it clear what kind of advantage he’d thought he had. Watching the
purposeful way she moved, the Doctor began to feel almost sorry for anyone who
crossed this woman. After a moment, he followed. It wasn’t as if he had anything
better to be doing.

* * * * *

An hour later, they were most of the way across the city, zigzagging around
police patrols toward Zoë’s safe house. The Doctor considered giving himself up
just to get things over with, but found himself curious about Zoë’s plans.

It seemed like a long time since he’d been curious about anything. Since he’d
had the *time* to be curious about anything.

The Doctor grimaced at the irony as Zoë leaned against a wall, face drawn and
tired. “Almost there,” she said, tilting her head to see around the corner, then
ducking back.

“Oh yes, I see you,” a familiar voice said from around the corner. “And this
time you won’t escape me so easily. We could have had a pleasant time, you
know.”

Zoë said something in Mandarin that the Doctor had previously only heard from
foot soldiers in the army of Kublai Khan. He raised his eyebrows and stepped
past her, even as she tried to grab his arm.

“Hullo!” he said with a bright smile, striding toward the man Zoë had kicked in
the groin back in the alley. “Very nice to meet you. I’m afraid I didn’t have a
chance to get your name before.”

“Captain Collins,” the man said automatically, even as he raised his gun.

The Doctor sidestepped, pulling the gun and the captain’s hand with him.

“Wha–”

A sharp squeeze to pressure points on the wrist and the gun clattered on the
pavement. “No guns,” the Doctor said, his voice low and fierce.

“What the hell are you–”

The Doctor ducked, a punch grazing his cheek, and Zoë was there, grabbing
Collins and throwing him against the wall. “I’m tired of you,” she said. “I’m
beginning to think I should have killed you back in that alley.”

Her knife was at Collins’ throat before the Doctor could react, but he put his
hand on her shoulder. “There’s been too much killing.”

“They’ve taken my husband,” Zoë said, glaring over her shoulder at him, but he
held on and her hand dropped to her side.

Collins’ face was soaked in sweat, pulse beating a tattoo in his throat. Eyes
darting back and forth between them, he asked, “What are you going to do?”

Zoë’s eyebrows shot up. “Good question. Doctor?”

“We’re going to…” The sound of boots hitting pavement made his head turn.
“Run!”

Zoë slammed her prisoner’s head against the wall and dropped him as they both
took off at a dead run, the approaching guards much too close.

* * * * *

There followed a familiar twenty minutes of narrowly eluding pursuit, harrowing
near-misses, and all the things that made the Doctor nostalgic for the old days.
But eventually it ended, and he and Zoë ducked under a last fence and went up a
set of camouflaged stairs into a dimly lit room, furnished with some blankets
and a low table.

“I’ve got food, if you want some,” she said, seating herself on the floor and
unwrapping a package that lay there. “Bread’s almost fresh.”

Shaking his head, he dropped down beside her at the table. “What’s your plan?”

She looked up from slicing cheese. “Get to the capital. Find the crew. Kick ass.
Take the ship. Leave.”

The Doctor blinked at her for a moment. “That’s better than my plan?”

“It’s worked for us before.” Zoë shrugged. “Besides, our plans usually go
*wrong* at the point where someone gets arrested.” She leaned to the side and
grabbed a blanket, tossing it toward him. “You’d best get some sleep.
Tomorrow’ll be a long day.”

* * * * *

The morning dawned bright and clear, the sky nearly cloudless, and not long
after sunrise, Zoë and the Doctor were on their way to the capitol in a
rather…unorthodox fashion.

Crossing his arms as he lay on the bouncing uneven surface, the Doctor stared up
at the load of purple-white turnips suspended above him, mere inches from his
face. Occasionally, a clod of sharp-smelling dirt would drop down, just missing
his nose or mouth. He turned to look at Zoë, who was trying hard to keep a
straight face.

“Travel like this often?” he asked.

“When I need to.”

He sniffed. “Getting arrested would have been faster.”

Zoë coughed to cover a smile. The turnip farmer was some business partner of a
former military subordinate of Zoë’s. Or something.

“So, you’re smugglers?” he asked.

She didn’t react to the jibe, didn’t even seem to register it. “We do what we
have to, to make ends meet,” she said. “We don’t always act…strictly within
the law.”

“Neither do I.” He grinned. “When I left home, I–” Memory flooded back and he
closed his mouth with a snap.

“You lost people in the war.” It wasn’t a question.

How could she–Oh. Another war. He’d momentarily forgotten there *were* other
wars. “You could say that,” he said, turning away again and memorizing the shape
of the turnip right over his nose.

“Who?”

“All of them. My planet was destroyed.” He wasn’t sure why he said it. Only the
TARDIS shared this knowledge with him.

“There must be some alive on other planets.”

He swallowed once, twice, forcing out the words he’d never spoken aloud. “All my
people are dead, everywhen, everywhere.”

The vehicle hit a bad patch of road, and they listened to the rattling of the
old truck and a squeak in the right rear wheel.

“The Captain and me, we’re pretty much all that’s left of our platoon,” Zoë
offered after a while.

“But you have a ship and a crew.”

She pursed her lips, seemingly looking for the right words. “We’re alive. We
moved on.”

“You make it sound so easy.”

“It’s not. But it’s that or die. Lots of ways to die out here.”

The Doctor thought about his remaining regenerations. Every Time Lord knew ways
to jump to the end, although the authorities tried to hide that knowledge. Few
of his people took the option, but they knew it was there. He’d almost…in the
aftermath, if he hadn’t had the TARDIS, if she hadn’t had to jump them to this
strange universe…

Zoë was staring up at the turnips when he looked at her. Her enemies were still
here, still after her. “How do you forgive?” he asked.

“You don’t.” She turned her head, eyes dark and cold. “But you move on because
there’s nothing else.” She looked away again.

And with that, she closed her eyes, leaving him alone with his thoughts.

* * * * *

“Gorram!”

The Doctor’s eyes shot open, and beside him Zoë tensed.

The farmer muttered something else as the truck slowed down. “Checkpoint,” he
said. “Stay put.”

Zoë’s hand rested on the butt of her gun and the Doctor frowned down at it.
Before he could say anything, they heard voices.

“Morning, sir,” the farmer said. “What’s the holdup?”

“We’ll ask the questions around here,” a surly voice replied.

There was a thunk as the truck door opened and then closed. The voices moved a
few feet away, but were still clear.

Papers rustled and the surly voice asked, “Have you seen this man?”

Zoë and the Doctor stared at each other.

The papers rustled again and the farmer said, “No, I don’t believe I have.
What’s he wanted for, anyway?”

“That’s none of your business. You two, search the truck.”

“Hey!” the farmer protested. “I said I hadn’t seen him. Don’t mess up my
produce. It’s all I’ve got to support my family!”

That argument swayed no one, and the truck bounced on its old springs as the two
guards climbed on and kicked the turnips around. The Doctor held his breath as a
booted foot slipped through the turnips and landed close to the mesh screen just
over his face. Zoë yanked his arm and he slid to her side, both of them holding
their breath.

“Damn turnips,” someone muttered above them. “I hate turnips. Why don’t we ever
stop the trucks with beautiful lonely women?”

“What would a beautiful woman want with you? C’mon, there’s nothing here but
vegetables. Let’s go.”

The Doctor let out a breath as the turnips shifted to cover them completely
again. Zoë poked his back and he realized he was still pushing her against the
edge of the truck. Moving carefully, he slid back to the center of the truck.

They stared at each other as the farmer climbed back into the cab of the truck,
starting it up with a noise reminiscent of a herd of elephants clearing their
throat.

As they pulled back onto the road, the sound settled down to its normal roar and
Zoë tilted her head in inquiry.

“I think,” the Doctor said meditatively, “they’ve finally gotten a look at my
ship.”

Zoë waited, but he didn’t choose to elaborate.

* * * * *

The farmer dropped them off at the edge of town with a warning to watch out for
the Patrol: “Them’s mean ones.”

Zoë clapped the man’s shoulder, passed over something that clinked, and stepped
out onto the road toward the low buildings surrounding several tall modern ones.

The Doctor frowned as he looked around him, at dusty dirt roads where no
children played and adults scurried from place to place, heads low, clothing
patched. He’d been in this alternate universe for…he wasn’t even sure how
long, but he’d been too busy mourning to see where he’d ended up. Striding to
catch up with Zoë, he said, “The guards who took my ship had modern weaponry and
were well-fed.”

“We’re out on the Fringe,” and her voice said ‘why am I explaining the
obvious?’. “The Alliance don’t spend more than it has to. These folks barely
make a living.”

“Let me guess,” the Doctor said, feeling a familiar anger rise in his chest.
“The leaders of this benighted planet collect whatever they want in taxes and
let everyone else starve.”

Zoë stopped in her tracks, holding out a hand to stop the Doctor as well, just
in time to avoid being hit by a man flung through a door. From the reek of
alcohol wafting out, this was the local pub. When the man rolled to a stop and
sprang to his feet, he found Zoë staring him down. “Go home,” she said.

The man opened his mouth, blinked at whatever he saw in her face, and staggered
away.

“That’s the way it is out here,” she said as if their conversation had never
been interrupted. “The strong thrive and the weak survive.”

Her words were accepting, but under them, the Doctor heard an anger to match his
own. “What are you doing about it?” he asked.

Zoë shrugged. “Whatever we can.” And she kept walking, people automatically
moving out of her path.

The Doctor stood still for a long moment, remembering other worlds, other
companions, and days when those would have been *his* words.

Zoë glanced over her shoulder. “C’mon, Doctor, we need to get off the streets.”

Shaking his head, he took one more look around, wondering if this planet had a
stash of revolutionaries anywhere.

* * * * *

As they got closer to their destination, Zoë grew more tense. “Things are too
quiet,” she muttered to the Doctor.

“You’d prefer they were chasing us through the streets at gunpoint?”

She shot him a filthy look. “I’ve found that this is usually when things go
wrong.”

The Doctor was about to respond, but caught his breath and yanked Zoë’s arm,
suddenly ducking into the small space between two buildings. “I believe I just
found your complication.”

“What?” Zoë’s eyes widened. “Oh no.”

“Oh yes. Your friend from the Patrol seems to be striding down the street just
ahead of us.”

She cursed in Mandarin again and the Doctor reminded himself to ask later where
she’d learned it. “I wanted to get some help, but I don’t think we have time.
We’ve got to move now.”

The Doctor nodded. “Lead on.”

* * * * *

From where they lurked behind a convenient hedge, the Doctor looked up at the
building that loomed over them like a particularly noxious raptor. “Why,” he
asked rhetorically, “must the building always look like it was built by a
graduate of the Manga Khan School of Architecture?”

Zoë shook her head, obviously having learned that sometimes it was better not to
ask what he was talking about. “We don’t have time to waste.” She frowned at the
attentive guard.

“Then we’ll go in *my* way,” the Doctor said. Before she could stop him, he
stepped out from behind the bush with a spring in his step and a giant smile on
his face. He strode up to the guard, waving his psychic paper in the man’s face.
“There you are. Where have they put the blue box?”

The man’s face was a study in confusion. Fortunately, he wasn’t the brightest
star in his spectral class. “Blue box?” he asked.

“Yes yes, the blue box. I was ordered to take a look at it. Where is it?” The
Doctor tucked the paper away, crossing his arms and tapping one foot in
impatience.

“Uh, the eleventh floor. The Controller ordered it sent to the lab for
disassembly.”

“Thank you very much,” the Doctor said as Zoë appeared behind the guard and
slammed his head into a fence post. “See?” he said to her. “Nothing to it.”

She gave him a look that promised retribution. “One day that trick won’t work,
Doctor. Now, what blue box?”

“My ship. I told you.”

She spoke slowly and clearly as they ducked through the gate and ran toward the
nearest door. “We’re here to find my crew. Your ship is at the spaceport. Where
ships are.”

“You heard the man. My ship is in the lab. Fortunately, unless they have a set
of transdimensional socket wrenches, they won’t be able to disassemble
anything.”

Zoë held up a hand and looked through the glass of the small side door,
gesturing him to follow her in when the coast was clear. “Your ship is a blue
box.”

“Well, it only *looks* like a blue box,” he said with some indignation.

“Of course.” She sighed. “Cap’n’s gonna kill me.”

As they turned a corner, several peons scurried by, and the Doctor and Zoë tried
to look inconspicuous. “He has something against blue boxes?” the Doctor asked.

Zoë shook her head. “He has something against crazy people. And we’ve already
got one aboard.”

The Doctor pointed at a set of closed doors. “Lift? Or certain death? What do
you think?”

* * * * *

The lift wanted a keycard to take them near the lab, but a few moments work with
the sonic screwdriver and it whisked them upward. The Doctor strolled out with
his usual assurance, followed by Zoë, who didn’t look at all pleased by his
approach to infiltration.

“Haven’t you ever learned that if you look like you know where you’re going,
nobody will question you?” he asked, marching down the hall to a promising
doorway.

“In my experience, people try to *shoot* me when I break into their
headquarters.” Zoë’s hand twitched over the gun again.

“When you’ve lived as long as I have–”

The Doctor broke off as he opened the door and peered in. “There you are!” he
cried, striding toward the blue box.

“Doctor…” Zoë said. “You’re talking to a box.”

He whirled on his heel, pointing a finger at her. “It’s not just a–” His eyes
widened and his throat caught on a useless shout as guards swarmed through the
doorway.

The Doctor dove toward the TARDIS door, and she was singing in his mind,
welcoming him back. Zoë instinctively covered his back as he slammed the key
into the lock and he was in the door, turning to look as she was spun around,
hit in the right shoulder by a projectile.

For an instant almost too short to measure, he hesitated, but it was already too
late. Reinforcements flooded the room and dragged her out.

“Come out of there with your hands up and we won’t shoot you,” a soldier
shouted.

Swearing in Old High Venusian, the Doctor ran to the console, hand reaching for
the dematerialization button. His hearts raced and he could feel sweat breaking
out from the running and…

He could leave now that he had the TARDIS.

His hand moved to begin the calculations reversing the TARDIS’ last-ditch run to
this place. Swearing again, he tracked the movement of Zoë and her captors
through the building, ignoring the shouts and bangs from outside.

The Doctor couldn’t take his eyes off the scanner, for fear that he’d lose her
in the hordes of scientists and bureaucrats that roamed the halls. The TARDIS
was impatient about something and he fended her off as he watched them drag Zoë
halfway across the building.

“Not enough space to materialize there,” he said to the TARDIS when Zoë had come
to a halt. “We’ll have to do this the hard way.” He quickly set a course for a
nicely deserted hallway not too far away from Zoë.

Moments later, he stepped out into the hallway, strolling his way toward what he
was certain was a cell. He burst through the door, waving his psychic paper.
“There’s my prisoner,” he said with enthusiasm, even as Zoë’s eyes widened in
alarm. “I’ll just take her back with me and…”

He trailed off as a gun appeared under his nose. Captain Collins stepped out
from behind the door. “I don’t think you’ll be living much longer. You’ve made
me the laughingstock of the Patrol, but they won’t laugh when they see I’ve got
in custody *both* of the most wanted criminals on this rock.”

Eyeing him for a moment, the Doctor said, “Go on, Zoë, get out of here. I’ll
deal with this.”

Collins’ gun hand moved to point at Zoë, but he was stymied when the Doctor
grabbed it in an implacable grip, keeping it pointed at his own head.

“Go ahead and kill me,” the Doctor said. “As long as Zoë gets away.”

“You’re not serious.” Collins looked sorry he hadn’t kept another guard in the
cell with him.

“I’m very serious.” The Doctor dropped his jovial exterior, letting his age, his
anger, his frustration show in his eyes. “Just try me.”

Collins flinched back from the Doctor’s expression, but his finger stayed on the
trigger.

Without turning his head, the Doctor barked out an order. “Zoë, *go*!”

Zoë stepped past him, but instead of walking through the half-open door, he
heard her pick something up, then a whisper of sound, metal on leather, and a
gun was pointing past his ear at Collins. “I don’t think so, Doctor. I don’t
intend to let you die now.”

Collins frowned in a petulant fashion. “Hey!”

“Shut up!” Zoë and the Doctor said.

Zoë spoke up before the Doctor could say anything else. “Dying won’t bring your
people back. You know that. That’s why you’ve been helping me.”

“What about me?” Collins asked.

Zoë growled softly. “Keep quiet or I’ll kill you first.”

The Doctor let the other man’s wrist go and stepped back, leaving Zoë’s gun
pointed at him. “Let’s go,” he said softly. They backed out of the room, leaving
the befuddled Collins in the cell. Zoë pulled the door shut, and the Doctor
listened with pleasure to the click of the lock. “My ship is just around the
corner,” he said.

Zoë nodded and that was when he realized blood was dripping down her arm. His
face must have reflected his surprise, because she glanced down. “It’s not as
bad as it looks.”

“Hmm.” Stoic could be taken a bit too far, he thought, concentrating on not
dragging her faster down the hallway. Slow and steady gets back to the TARDIS
safely.

Turning the corner, they came face to face with a short man in a stained lab
coat who almost walked by them, but stopped, eyes widening when he saw Zoë’s
blood. The man opened his mouth to yell for help, but by the time sound came
out, the Doctor already had his key in the TARDIS door.

“They’re coming,” Zoë muttered to the accompaniment of yet another bunch of
pounding boots.

The Doctor grabbed her good arm and they both dove inside the TARDIS. “We’ll be
safe here,” he almost yelled, the elation of reaching safety a familiar rush to
his system. Smacking the emergency door button, he moved Zoë nearer a light so
he could check her injury.

He dug under one of the grates and pulled out an emergency kit one of his
previous regenerations had stowed there, pulling her shirt to the side and
cleaning her wound. This gave her a moment to look around.

Her body stilled. “This is the blue box.”

“She’s called the TARDIS.”

“Ah.” She looked around. “Nice.”

He glanced up. “What? No ‘But it’s bigger inside than outside’? How
disappointing.”

“Sorry to disappoint you, Doctor.”

“Hmmph,” he said, wrapping a clean bandage around her arm and shoulder. He found
himself pleased by her reaction. Anything else wouldn’t have fit her
personality.

“So,” Zoë said, catching his eye, “you’re not from around here, are you?”

“No. I’m from an alternate universe.” The exhilaration died. “After the war,
*my* war, the TARDIS brought me here to escape being destroyed with my entire
race.”

She studied him for a moment. “You’re an alien.” There was an odd tone in her
voice.

“The two hearts give it away every time,” he said, tapping his chest on both
sides.

“There aren’t any aliens,” she said. “Everyone knows that. No bug-eyed monsters
or little gray men.”

“Really? I know at least twenty races of bug-eyed monsters and five different
varieties of little gray men.” His eyebrows shot up. “I’d love to know where
they went in *your* universe that you haven’t met them.”

The TARDIS relayed the sounds from outside, and Zoë’s eyes flicked up at the
banging of heavy objects being flung toward them. The Doctor glared at the
walls. “Why do they always do that, even after it’s obvious they couldn’t get
through with a wrecking ball?” he asked.

Zoë clenched her jaw as he tightened the wrapping, then stood without waiting
for his help. “How does this thing move?” she asked. “Can we get to my crew?”

“Of course!” He snorted. “Why d’you think we came here first?”

“I thought you might be planning to leave without me,” Zoë said, her tone so
neutral it lacked affect.

For a moment, he stared at the shadows cast on the walls. “I…” He closed his
eyes, wondering what had happened to him, and knowing the answer.

Resting a hand on his shoulder, Zoë spoke. “I know. The important thing is that
you didn’t. Now let’s find my crew.”

“Right.” He leaped up and dashed to the center console, giving it a pat.
Spinning a dial, he began typing on the old keyboard set into the side. “What
can you tell me about them? How many are there? Anything distinctive?”

“Ah, the Alliance did something to River’s brain, made her able to read minds.”

The Doctor looked up. “A telepath? Here? I can find *her*.” The TARDIS balked
and he glared at the console. “Steady…” he muttered.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Zoë suppress a grin.

“What?” he asked her with a mock glare.

“Nothing,” she said.

He narrowed his eyes at her.

“It’s just that you…remind me of my husband when you do that.” Her mouth
twitched with a smile.

Shaking his head, the Doctor went back to the delicate task of convincing the
TARDIS to find a telepath in the building.

* * * * *

The rescue of Serenity’s crew was anticlimactic after everything they’d been
through, the Doctor thought. Zoë probably didn’t agree, but she certainly looked
relieved as she bundled the last of them through the TARDIS doors under the
shocked gaze of guards who hadn’t expected a blue box to appear in front of
them, along with a gun-wielding woman.

The Doctor hit buttons with a flourish and the TARDIS dematerialized.

“I’ll just be over here, kissing my wife,” an unassuming man in a very loud
shirt said, grabbing Zoë’s uninjured arm.

“Wash, we don’t have time–”

“We do,” the Doctor said.

“Doctor, we need–”

“Trust me, Zoë.” He caught her eye, the others too busy staring around them at
the control room to notice the exchange. “You have plenty of time.”

She shook her head, but allowed Wash to drag her off into a corner, where
everyone politely ignored them.

The captain–Mal Reynolds she’d said his name was–stepped forward. “Ah, Doctor,
we’re mighty obliged to you.”

“Not at all. The least I could do after Zoë’s help.”

Reynolds nodded, obviously understanding the importance of a debt. “But I have
to say, I can’t help but notice that your ship–”

“Is bigger inside than outside?”

“Something like that.” Reynolds grinned, obviously not entirely fazed.

“Yes, she is.” The Doctor grinned back.

“Right then. Must be handy on long hauls.”

“Something like that.”

Reynolds nodded, tucking his thumbs into his waistline. He seemed about to add
something when a strange sound caught their attention. “Gorram,” he muttered
when they saw it was the girl, the telepath. She knelt by the center console,
hands covering her ears, rocking slightly.

“Oh dear,” the Doctor said, striding over there.

River shrank back as he approached, her eyes wide enough to be saucers. “Don’t
belong,” she said.

“No, I don’t,” the Doctor replied.

“Little sister,” the young man with an arm around her shoulder said, “what’s
wrong?”

Her entire body began to shake. “The light. Too bright. It burns!” She scrubbed
at her face with her hands.

Everyone looked in her direction, several rolling their eyes, but the Doctor
ignored them, kneeling down by her. He could feel her mind, fluttering like a
trapped butterfly. “See me, River,” he said. “Don’t look at the light.” Touching
her cheek, he opened a piece of his mind to her, directing her away from his
connection to the TARDIS.

She stopped shaking, her face going slack as she looked inward. Suddenly, her
eyes came into focus. “Pain,” she said, her voice quiet and sad.

“Is he hurting you, River?” the young man asked, trying to pull her away.

She shook her head. “He lives in conjugations of pain. Been hurt. Hurting now.
Will hurt.”

The Doctor stared at her as she touched him on the cheek, feather-light. He
bowed his head at the feel of her mind on his, for a few moments reminding him
he wasn’t alone. “Thank you,” he said.

She stared into his eyes. “Must go home and know for sure.”

The Doctor pulled back. “You don’t–”

“Go home,” she said. “She misses home too. Told me so.”

Her brother gave her an odd look. “Who misses home, River?”

The Doctor’s breath caught in his throat. “My ship,” he said. “I didn’t
realize.”

River cocked her head to one side. “She forgives you.”

The Doctor shrugged in an attempt at insouciance. “We’ve been through a lot
together, the TARDIS and I.”

River patted the console, leaning over to whisper something while the young man
watched in confusion.

The TARDIS wheezed as they arrived inside the spaceship and the Doctor opened
the door, watching with amusement as Zoë and the captain chivvied their shell-
shocked crew out the door.

The Doctor followed them out, finding something about the cargo hold familiar.
Perhaps it was the same feel of a ship battered and bruised, but unbroken. And
obviously much-loved from the way various people found a way to touch a wall or
railing unobtrusively.

It looked like a nice ship, he thought, patting the TARDIS absently.

Zoë caught his eye from the other side of the space and walked across to him.
“You’re leaving,” she said.

He shrugged. “That’s what I do.”

Zoë glanced at her crew. “You could stay. Make a new life.”

From almost anyone else, the offer could have seemed selfish, more about the
TARDIS’ abilities than him. But the Doctor knew she was sincere.

And it was tempting to stay, somewhere with no lingering traces of Gallifrey or
the Daleks. Tempting to work with this woman and her quiet confidence and
calming effect.

“You could come with *me*,” he said. “Bring your husband. I promise the Alliance
won’t find you where I’m going.”

He knew the answer even before she shook her head with a small smile. “My place
is here. I gave my word a long time ago.”

“I need to go back.” The Doctor paused, and Zoë waited. “My people were from the
planet Gallifrey. They were called the Time Lords.”

“Time…” Her eyes widened.

He nodded as he opened the TARDIS door. “I’m the last of the Time Lords. And I’m
going home.”

–end–

Write a Comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

 

Essentials