Beta: The wonderful starxd_sparrow.
Rating: PG-13 for angst
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Doctor Who. What a pity!
Characters: Tenth Doctor, Jack, Martha, and various others of my own creation
Spoilers: Vague discussion of all three seasons of the new Doctor Who
Summary: After the Last of the Time Lords, the Doctor isn’t coping well and decides he’s finished with…well, basically everything. Martha and Jack encountered a strange alien which has taken up residence in a child.
“It’s dying?” Martha asked as she reached out to steady the Doctor who was sprawled across the console. “How can you tell?”
“I can feel it. I can feel its body dying inside of me. It’s been without a proper host for too long.” Nimble fingers pressed coordinates into the control panel and soon the sound of the TARDIS dematerializing filled the room.
“What can we do?” Jack asked as the TARDIS rematerialized with barely a hitch. It was obvious she was trying her hardest to make things easy for the Doctor. Jack was increasingly appreciative of small miracles.
“There’s nothing you can do,” the Doctor whispered, grasping a lever on the console and trying to pull himself upright. “It’s safer if you both stay here.”
“Safer?” Martha asked as she met Jack’s equally puzzled expression. “Aren’t these aliens friendly?”
“The Cybermen…so close now,” the Doctor stammered as his eyes fixated on something across the room. “The freighter’s going to crash into Earth. I can’t save him.”
“Cybermen?” Jack asked cautiously. “Where do you think we are, Doctor?”
“Katarina triggered the airlock. I couldn’t stop her! She was sucked into the –“
“Stop,” Jack growled as he grabbed the Doctor by his shoulders. “You’re not going to relive all of that. It wasn’t your fault.” He gave the frail shoulders a shake for good measure before hauling the trembling Time Lord to his feet.
“How do you know?” the Doctor asked bitterly. For what it was worth, at least he seemed like he was now operating in the present.
“Because I know you,” Jack returned simply.
“I can feel them,” the Doctor said quietly, his eyes darting around the room restlessly as powerful memories slammed against the waning control he had over his own mind. “Their voices, the smell of their skin. I can hear the sound of the metal slamming the ground as the Cybermen approach. Exterminate! Exterminate!” The Doctor brought his hands to his face and brutally pressed his fingers into his eyes. “Make it stop. Please, make it stop!”
Martha grabbed one of his hands and pressed it against her cheek. “Do you feel this?” she asked. “This is real. This is right now.” The dampness of Martha’s cheek seemed to permeate the Doctor’s addled brain. “Focus on this,” she repeated as dark eyes lifted to meet her own. “Focus on me.”
Seconds bled into minutes. Jack and Martha unconsciously held their breath.
Martha found herself laughing through her tears as the Doctor’s brown eyes accepted the love and compassion he found staring back at him.
“We’ve got to hurry,” the Doctor stated, his mood changing in a split second. Jack grabbed the Doctor’s arm and eased it over his shoulders. “If I’m correct, which we all know that I am, this should be Emballir, the fourth planet in the Almatron system.”
Jack kept his arm wrapped around the Doctor’s waist as he led him outside the TARDIS. They were greeted by the sounds of dozens of weapon safeties being released at the same time with cruelly orchestral precision. Jack’s free hand immediately went to the blaster that was concealed underneath his coat.
“No Jack,” the Doctor growled. “We didn’t come here to start a war.”
A tall man stepped out of the assembled brigade. “State your name and purpose.”
“Captain Jack Harkness,” Jack began. Despite the Doctor’s warning, he kept his loose hold on his blaster.
“Doctor Martha Jones.”
“The Doctor.” The alien raised a bushy eyebrow, the Doctor added, “Just the Doctor.”
“The Doctor?” the alien guard asked. “Queen Marista’s Doctor?”
“Yes, I’m Marista’s Doctor. Now will you please ask your guards to lower their weapons? You’re making my hitchhiking parasite rather nervous.”
“You found a cure? Bless you, Doctor!” the guard cried. “Lower your weapons! These are welcomed guests of Emballir.” He took another step away from his fellows. “My name is Linrot.”
“Welcomed guests?” Martha mouthed to Jack. This was certainly a change from the typical reception they received on alien planets, but he certainly wasn’t going to complain.
“Come, the queen will want to see you immediately,” Linrot stated as he motioned for several guards to assist the Doctor.
“I’ve got him,” Jack stated as his fingers pressed against the Doctor’s side.
“Feeling a bit possessive, are we?” the Doctor asked. Despite his teasing, he made no move to lift his arm from Jack’s shoulders. Martha fell into step beside them as they followed the guards into the village.
The Doctor grunted in pain, and Jack turned toward him. Sweat trickled down the side of the Doctor’s face, a testament to the exhaustion that was circling through his body. “Do we need to stop?” Jack asked, his voice laced with concern.
“He wants out,” the Doctor returned, his eyes closed as waves of nausea filtered through his body. “He wants to go home.”
“So you’ve worked out that it’s a boy?” Martha asked.
“No, not exactly,” the Doctor responded. He leaned against Jack even more as his body fought to keep itself upright.
“How much further?” Jack called as he easily supported the bulk of the Doctor’s weight.
“The city gates are over the next hill,” Linrot stated. As if on cue, massive white gates appeared before then.
“Oh, the pearly gates!” the Doctor said gleefully. Martha gave him a concerned glance. “What? They’re really made out of pearl. You should see the size of the clams on this planet. Best seafood this side of Ahlenor.”
“I’m sure.” Jack grabbed the Doctor’s slipping forearm. Despite his renewed jovial manner, the Doctor’s body was weakening with each labored step.
The gates swung inward. Martha and Jack stood in awe of the white city that lay before them. They were both comfortable with their decisions to remain on Earth, but neither could deny that they missed this. Life of the edge, meeting new races, traveling across the universe, saving planets and aliens alike – yes, it was a life that was fantastic. Neither could deny that.
“Come, let us seek audience with the queen,” Linrot stated as he gestured for the trio to continue following him.
“We haven’t got time,” the Doctor growled through clenched teeth, his mood changing like wind. “The creature, the mirsux, that cow looking beast thing, have you got one around here somewhere? Because I’ve got a dying parasite that needs to get back into its proper host.”
Linrot glanced around nervously. “I suggest we see the queen before any decision –“
“Listen, we didn’t just travel across space to be – “ Jack began, but was interrupted by a beautiful woman in a flowing blue robe. She had long plaited blonde hair that nearly touched the ground and vivid purple eyes.
“Who are these travelers?” the woman asked condescendingly.
“This man claims to be the Doctor,” Linrot explained.
“That is not my doctor,” she responded with a sniff. Several guards placed their hands on their weapons, ready to take action if need be.
“I made you a promise, Marista,” the Doctor stated as he pulled away from Jack and managed to find the strength to stand on his own two feet. “Do you remember that bleak night before you took the throne? Your people were in turmoil over the loss of the mirsux, and I said I’d find a way to help you. I’m here now because I’ve found a way.”
“But you’ve changed,” she whispered as she fought to find some resemblance between this man and the Doctor she had once known.
“Yes, I’ve changed, but I’m the same man.” He tapped his chest once for emphasis. “I’m the same man where it counts.”
She moved to stand in front of him, lifting a pale hand to touch the Doctor’s cheek. The Doctor took her hand gently and pressed it to the back of his neck. The parasite moved against the palm of her hand.
“It’s inside of you!” she shouted, breaking the powerful spell that seemed to have overtaken the pair. “It’s killing you as we speak! You daft idiot, you know we’ve tried using different hosts before to keep the parasites alive!”
“That’s gratitude for you,” the Doctor grumbled as she grabbed his arm.
“Come, to the medical laboratory.” Her fingers closed around the Doctor’s hand and she pulled him alongside her. “You obviously haven’t changed as much as I originally thought.”
The Doctor’s feet clumsily attempted to keep pace with the annoyed queen, but soon his waning energy gave out, and Jack magically appeared at his side. Again, the Doctor’s arm was secured over broad shoulders and familiar fingers pressed against his side. Martha appeared in his peripheral vision, her presence soothing his weary mind.
The queen glanced back at the trio, but she only looked at the Doctor. “We used stasis fields to protect the last remaining mirsux.” Her imperious look softened, and the Doctor saw Marista as he remembered her: a frightened, fretful young woman who needed his help. “I always hoped you’d come back. I never stopped believing in you, Doctor,” she added as she glanced at him through purple, hopeful eyes.
“This was just luck,” the Doctor explained. “I had nothing to do with it so don’t thank me.” Jack pressed his fingers into the Doctor a bit harder than necessary, expressing his displeasure.
“You willingly gave your body as a transport,” Marista continued. “You knew the risks involved.”
“That’s not what he told us,” Martha stated as she glared at Doctor. What happened to ‘I hadn’t given it much thought’?
“Still refuse to give yourself any credit.” A small smile played on the corners of her delicate mouth. “Another thing that hasn’t changed.”
“I like her,” Jack commented with a grin.
“Stop it,” the Doctor chided.
“What? I was just saying –“
“You were flirting.”
Large metal doors scraped open to reveal a medical facility, effectively ending their exchange. “This is our research facility. Our top scientists have been attempting to find some way for the mirsux to survive without symbiotic relationship with the parasite. We’ve had little success.” Marista gestured for the guards to remain outside the laboratory, and the metal doors closed.
“This is Suwa Yhabel, our top scientist.” Marista introduced a rotund man with a walrus mustache who’d come to greet them.
“Captain Jack Harkness.”
“Don’t you ever stop?” the Doctor admonished from where Jack had deposited him on a chair. Jack rolled his eyes, but opted not to respond. He was enjoying the familiar banter with one of his oldest friends.
“It’s so nice to meet both of you,” Suwa responded. “And you must be the Doctor. Our queen has been waiting for your return.”
“We need to revive one of the mirsux,” Marista stated as she gestured towards one of the steel chambers. “The Doctor has brought the last remaining parasite home.”
“That’s – that’s just not possible! How can this be? I thought they had been wiped from existence by the pesticides.”
“It showed up in a human child on earth,” Martha explained. “We don’t know how it got there.”
“This is wonderful news!” Suwa said joyfully as he started tapping buttons of the side of the stasis chamber. “The mirsux will remain in a sedated state, but it’s very much alive. It should revive more once the parasite has returned.” The scientist carefully opened the glass door and pulled the metal handle.
“Huh,” Martha mused, “it does look like a cow.” Brown, shaggy fur covered most of the animal’s head and large horns protruded downward.
“Except for the six eyes part,” Jack clarified as he pointed to the furry head.
“Doctor, it’s safe to move the parasite,” Marista suggested with a smile. She frowned when he didn’t move. “Doctor?”
“Doctor?” Jack shook the Time Lord’s shoulder. “Open your eyes.”
“What happened?” Martha asked as she knelt in front of him. “Is he asleep or unconscious?” She gently patted the side of his. “Please, don’t do this now,” she pleaded.
“Open your eyes,” Jack ordered. “I know you’re tired, but if you can just hang on a few minutes longer, we’ll go home.”
“You can sleep in a proper bed,” Martha said as she wrapped her fingers around his hand. “That sounds nice, doesn’t it?” The Doctor’s head fell against Jack’s hip and his eyes remained closed.
“Doctor, please,” Marista whispered as she watched the scene unfolding before her.
The Doctor groaned, and his eyes fluttered open. “Help me up, Jack.”
Martha closed her eyes briefly as relief flooded through her. Jack eased the Doctor’s arm over his shoulder, and Martha did the same on his other side. Together they lead him to the sedated mirsux.
Forcing his eyes open, the Doctor stared at the sleeping creature. Four legs were curled underneath a large tan body. Even in rest, the mirsux seemed to be struggling. The Doctor pulled his arms free and reached into his pocket to retrieve his sonic screwdriver.
“What are you doing?” Jack watched the Doctor manipulate the buttons, and he had an idea about what that setting was.
“It’s going out the same way it went in,” the Doctor explained. “Trust me.”
“Is this going to be like ‘I’m a Time Lord. I know exactly what I’m doing. I’m fine, Jack’?”
“In theory, this process should go without any problems.”
“In theory?” Martha squeaked.
“It can’t exactly stay in, can it?” the Doctor snapped. Without further protests, the screwdriver effectively split the skin on his palm. He stumbled forward, most of his weight falling on the mirsux, and pressed his hand to the back of the creature’s supple neck. Jack took a step forward, ready to intercede if necessary.
“Come on then, out you go,” the Doctor encouraged softly. The bulge didn’t move from the Doctor’s neck. “What? You can’t be serious.”
“What’s wrong?” Marista asked. “The parasite should sense the mirsux.”
“You can’t stay here,” the Doctor explained. “You need a proper home.”
“He’s talking to it, isn’t he?” Martha whispered. Jack shrugged, once again at a loss. Being on its home planet could have enhanced the parasite’s ability to communicate, or the Doctor had the creature inside of him long enough to form some type of bond. Whatever it was, Jack was certain he’d seen stranger things. At least he hoped he had.
“It’s hard being the last one,” the Doctor murmured, his voice quiet and so very gentle. “But you’ve got to go on, haven’t you? The mirsux needs you to survive. You’ve come too far to give up now.” The Doctor reached his uninjured hand back to rub the protruding spot on his neck. “It’s not your fault. You didn’t mean to cause that child any harm. No, you didn’t hurt me either.”
Jack and Martha shared a private look. Despite all he’d be through, the Doctor remained the most compassionate man they knew. Battle-weary and war-torn, he was still an inspiration to them all.
“It’s time for you to go home now,” the Doctor repeated as he pressed his bloody hand against the mirsux.
The bulge disappeared and the assembled group watched mesmerized as it slowly moved underneath the fabric of his coat, down his arm, and disappeared into the mirsux.
Welcomed warmth spread through the Doctor and he finally succumbed to his exhaustion, his body slumping over the mirsux, his cheek resting against the soft fur.