Everything was green.
He didn't open his eyes, didn't have the strength, didn't have the presence to do such a monumental thing, but still, the feeling of green enveloped him. Everything was green, and cool, and soothing. There had been nothing like this for so very long. No green. Only bone-dead white, and dusty black, and the old red of dried blood.
“Sleep,” someone told him. “You're safe. For now.”
The concept was a nostalgic one.
He woke, and there was no change, just that same exact green, except now it seemed less soothing and more imprisoning. He tried to speak and couldn't, the ancient technology that had long ago replaced his throat seemed to have gone, there was nothing but screaming rawness instead and he panicked because it didn't matter except he needed to speak-
“The Doctor is safe, too,” the voice told him.
The third time he woke, he had the sense that time had passed. The green was gone, and so had the background noise he hadn't even noticed until it vanished. There was nothing but silence. He opened his eyes, mildly astonished to discover that he still had eyes that could open. There was no miniscule hum of machinery, no burn of nanorobots constantly working to stitch together the ancient ligaments that he tore just by blinking. He just... opened his eyes.
He was somewhere white. White walls, white floor that blurred a few meters from him into a hazy white distance. He was sitting, back against the wall, legs folded. He had legs. Suddenly, in a rush of memory, he grabbed at his arm. At the empty space where an arm would have been. His fingers twitched. He had a hand, and he had an arm, one of them, and where the other one might have been- he didn't quite dare to touch his shoulder, but it felt like a mass of scar tissue. But he had one functioning arm. No impossibly heavy glove weighing him down. No shriveled mummified reminder of-
“Yes, I amputated,” a woman said. He threw himself sideways, fell over. Lay there, staring at her, breathing quickly. She was short, overweight, freckled and pale with brick-red long ringlets of hair. Her face was blank but had the kinds of creases that said she usually wore a frown on it. She looked very real, but when he lunged out at her he was not at all surprised to find his (beige, skin-covered) hand passing right through her.
She tsked at him. “Behave,” she said. “I saved your sorry life, but I haven't forgotten what you did to me. You're staying in this room until I find somewhere better to put you.”
“The Zero Room,” he said, and nearly hyperventilated at the sound of his own voice, dry and cracked but human, undistorted by any filters. He ran his new, moist tongue over the uneven edges of his teeth. “The- their old TARDIS had one. I remember.”
The woman narrowed her eyes at him. “You do,” she said, somewhere between a question and a comment. “That's good, I suppose.”
He looked at her steadily. “Where is the Doctor?” he asked. Even saying the same reawakened the urgent need, the anxiety. His hand, with its short, soft fingernails, clenched into a fist.
“You've really inconvenienced me,” the woman said. She was irritatingly familiar. He knew he'd seen her recently, and he should try and remember, but he couldn't think past the overwhelming need for the Doctor the Doctor the Doctor. “I saved their lives because I wanted to be the better person, and that would have been fine if I could have just dropped them off and been free, but you had to survive, and be dealt with. I'm really angry about it.”
Her voice dropped and went cold and he shivered in spite of himself, actually afraid. He didn't remember who she was but he knew she had absolute control over his life right now. He was weak, weaker than he'd ever been, without the armor and exoskeleton, without the vigor of youth.
“Let me out of here,” he muttered.
“I certainly will not,” she said. “For one thing, you'd probably disintegrate. I've fixed you the best I can, considering I don't really know what I'm doing, and stopping short of just cloning you again. But I have no idea how you'll hold up against any exposure to normal Time, or, you know, a stiff breeze.”
She wasn't lying. He felt the fear again. It was unpleasant, and yet he grabbed at it. He hadn't felt fear for so long, and it had returned to him to prove that he still wanted to live. Wanted to see the Doctor's face again. He couldn't think beyond that.
“I'm going now,” the holographic woman announced. “Try not to go insane with boredom. I'd give you a set of cards or something, but, well, I don't care enough.”
He had done something to her. Something cruel. That was obvious from her tone, but he thought he also remembered, a little. He'd done it casually, thinking of her as nothing but a meaningless obstacle between him and his one true eternal goal.
She flickered for a moment and then was gone, and there was only the whiteness.
Father Kreiner settled down to wait.
It was some time before anyone else came to interrupt the seamless, unrelenting white light.
Unfortunately, it was him.
"I don't want you," Kreiner said to... to Fitz.
"Funny," the fake Fitz said. "That's what I was going to say." He took a drag of his cigarrette.
He looked considerably better than he had when they'd last seen each other. Kreiner couldn't see any lingering bruises from that encounter. But the boy was not unwounded. His fingers were shaking even curled around his cigarette. His eyes had deep shadows under them. He was wearing a fraying bathrobe that Kreiner thought looked vaguely familiar to him.
In bad health or not, it still hurt to look at him. The face that would have been his, the face of- what was it- thirty-two? thirty-six?- year-old Fitzgerald Michael Kreiner with no implants or scars, face tanned, not pale from the constant cover of a mask. That face belonged to him; and he could never have it-
Or could he?
What did he look like, now? He didn't know. God damn it.
"I want to see the Doctor," he said, with extremely generous patience.
"Compassion's keeping him asleep," the fake Fitz said. "Wants to dump him off somewhere and have him spend a hundred years getting over everything he's been through. But we have to figure out what to do with you first."
They said they would save me, Kreiner wanted to cry. They promised. They were supposed to be here, to help me.
"What did they do?" he asked, instead, voice suddenly dry.
The other Fitz studied him for a while, taking a drag of his cigarette and exhaling the smoke slowly.
"Blew up everything," he said at last, voice falsely normal as though discussing the weather. "Gallifrey, Time Lords, Faction, bloody all of it. All gone. You should be gone, too. How does it make you feel, knowing your mates won't be coming to rescue you?"
The Doctor wants me here," Kreiner hissed. It was very tempting to kill the clone, right here and now. But the Doctor wouldn't like that. They would be extremely displeased, probably.
The Faction was gone. Kreiner-
no, Fitz- the real Fitz, god damn it all- yet he still couldn't take back the name like he wanted to-
was truly free. He could do what he liked, and nobody was around to torture him in amusing ways. Not that they'd bothered, after the first hundred years or so.
"The Doctor isn't awake," fake Fitz pointed out. "I don't know what the hell he said to you."
"They said there was always hope," Kreiner whispered. "They promised."
The boy didn't answer. Just turned. Leaving. Kreiner bit his lip and dug his regrown nails into his palms, holding himself back from grabbing the boy, begging not to be left alone.
Fake Fitz stopped anyway, and turned his face back towards Kreiner's. Meeting his eyes. His cigarette was starting to go out, Kreiner noticed, but he didn't say anything.
"One thing," False Fitz said. "Why'd you keep calling him "they"?"
Kreiner looked at him, taking in that comparatively young and stupid face.
"Translation thing," he said.
If the Doctor hadn't said anything he wasn't going to either. It was ironic, though, that Kreiner had learned so much more about Time Lords since becoming their mortal enemy. A hundred heads on his wall, so many stabs to both hearts, but hey, he was passably fluent in Gallifreyan, and had listened when the Doctor had spoken in it.
Maybe that would mean something to them, later.
There's always hope, or failing that, there's always something.
False Fitz left.
The white had been waiting for him. It came back, and there was nothing else for Kreiner for a while.
in between posting the first chapter and this one I started using they/them pronouns and I was a bit "aaaaaghhfgg" over writing this bc I really didn't want the pronouns to be a big deal but I can't think of Eight as he any more so. Hopefully it wasn't too awkward.