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Epilogue: Sting of the Zygons

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“So? Where are we off to now?” Martha asked with a grin, circling around the console to be at the Doctor’s side. “’Cos I thought-” She stopped herself short at the sight of him- both hands on the edge of the TARDIS’ control panel, eyes closed, head slightly bowed, and taking deep breaths. He looked exhausted.

“Doctor…?” she said in a hushed tone, gingerly reaching out to touch his shoulder.

“Hm?” he hummed, still still until his gaze found Martha. Snapping to action, he still seemed a bit slower than usual to his companion. “Right! Sorry, just taking a breather there. Ah, orbit, actually. Earth’s. Just for a bit. Making sure they get to a remote enough region without any pit stops on the way and that they settle in nicely. Engines in the state they’re in it might take them a day or two depending.”

Martha’s eyes narrowed as the Doctor turned back to the controls, fine-tuning their rematerialization. Even though he knew she was watching now, he wasn’t quite his usual, dancing-about-the-console, talking-and-grinning self. Granted it wasn’t the most perfect of endings to their little jaunt, but all things considered it’d turned out decently. Those who’d been captured by the Zygons were free. The Skarasen was docile and free. The remaining Zygons- and their children as he’d told her- were on their way to await rescue. One that might not come very soon, granted, but a rescue nonetheless.

It was only when the red-and-yellow scarf that he’d somehow managed to find again after all the adventure of the past few days slipped down his neck a few inches that Martha put two and two together. She’d nearly forgotten about that in all the… everything that’d been going on.

“Right, are you gonna let me take a look at that, then?” she asked, pointing at still angry-looking, still very red, blotchy, and swollen Zygon sting on the Doctor’s neck. Not to mention a fair few bruises where the Zygon had wrapped its hand around his throat.

He seemed, for a moment, to consider feigning ignorance at what Martha meant. But decided he wouldn’t be able to keep up the charade when the final thud of the TARDIS’ rematerialization nearly caused him to lose his footing. Not the norm for the man that’d been flying the ship for centuries… and the wince that he was unable to suppress when the scramble to stay upright included bending his head farther than his wound allowed to be comfortable.

“D’ you know how to treat a Zygon sting?” he asked, though obediently untying the scarf and taking a seat on the console room’s chair. “

Are you going to tell me what I should be looking for?” she retorted, raising an eyebrow. Martha had dealt with plenty of professors over the years who’d decided that demeaning their students was the best way of teaching- even when they were as close to finishing their training as she was. She knew how to hold her own and certainly wasn’t going to let the Doctor second-guess what she'd been learning for all these years. Not after everything she’d seen with him now. “As it’s not exactly covered in the normal sort of university on my planet.”

“Well, it’s… normal for it to be as swollen as it still feels. For me, anyways,” he began, chided but not apologizing. “Most other species wouldn’t have that much swelling but would… would be dead about now so swings and roundabounds.”

“Is there something you should take? Antihistamine?”

The Doctor shook his head as far as he could. “Nah, the toxins are just about gone now. No outside help needed there.”

“Gotcha. So it should be pink with green spots then?” Even without the comical and utterly rare look of confusion on the Doctor’s face, Martha couldn’t keep a serious face for more than a few seconds. “Joking- joking, Doctor! Now, c’mon. What I should be keeping an eye out for. You never know when this sort of thing might come up again, right?”

The Doctor cracked a smile, a genuine smile. “No, I suppose not,” he said, the slightest shadow of a memory tickling at the back of his mind.

*

Despite one-hearted protests that it’d be fine left on its own and really he’d heal up with only maybe the tiniest of scars within a few days, the Doctor found himself seated in his favorite chair in the TARDIS library with a cold compress held to his neck in one hand, a book in the other, and a hot mug of tea steaming on the small table next to him. One of the small benefits of living in a space-time ship was being able to engineer coasters that meant your tea never got cold. Not if you didn’t like it that way.

Blanket spread across her lap and her legs up on the small sofa, Martha sat opposite him. Though she’d been excited when he’d found a book for her on the anatomy of some local-ish to Earth aliens, the adrenaline from their most recent adventure was clearly wearing off. Not to mention how little opportunity for sleep there’d been, too.

Even the Doctor found himself suppressing a yawn or two. Fighting off Zygon poison, the other handful of minor bumps and bruises he’d gathered, and the latent effects of being trapped in an imprint chamber were all taking their toll. But he wasn’t quite done yet.

Dark eyes flicked up from his book to see that Martha’d finally fallen asleep. He stood quietly, downing the last of his tea and laying his book over the arm of his chair. Compress abandoned, too, he unfolded another blanket and draped it over her. A small thanks (and not nearly enough) for all she’d done for him today.

Padding out of the library, he steadily made his way towards the console room to check on the Zygon ship’s progress. Still tired, he dragged the scanner screen over to the console’s sole chair. It took a whack or two to get it working properly, but the trail the ship’d left was easy enough to find.

“North pole, like I said,” he muttered to himself, nodding. “Good.” The Doctor propped his feet up on the console, watching the final hour of the Zygon ship’s journey before it landed and faded- now barely detectable with its systems at minimal capacity and its remaining crew deep in amber sleep to wait for rescue. One he hadn’t a clue if it would ever come.

He briefly wondered if that’s what the force that UNIT and himself had found… well, in a few decades for the planet but centuries ago for him had been up to in part. But they’d mentioned awaiting rescue as well. Perhaps from the same ship or convoy of ships? One just happening to awake sooner than the other? Maybe.

Maybe.

At least these ones had been somewhat reasonable. Or desperate. Or… a lot more caring for their young than the Doctor had expected. All of those. At any rate, if there were more Zygons out there, they’d have someone to rescue now. One day, anyways.

Job done, the Doctor allowed his eyelids to drift shut. Zygor, where it had once stood before the war, was a long ways off. Perhaps saving those children would make things just a little bit more right. He doubted it, of course, but he would fix what wrongs the Time War had wrought where he could. Or try to, at least.

Maybe it would allow his dreams to be just that little bit better.