“We’ve done it,” The Doctor said with shock, studying the scanner intently as he saw Gallifrey fall away behind them. “We’ve actually done it!” he danced between Jamie and Victoria, spinning around them in delight.
“A canny believe it Doctor, your plan worked.” Jamie said with a wide grin that warmed the Doctors hearts.
“That was marvellous,” Victora said grasping the two in a tight hug. “The looks on their faces when you used the sneezing powder.”
The Doctor allowed himself a brief moment of satisfaction, leaning on the console he plotted their journey out. He almost couldn't believe it himself, they’d escaped, he’d been waiting years, decades even, as he concocted a plan that made his previous escape from Gallifrey look like the hastily carried out farce that it was. Their arrival, awarded to him in a warped mockery of his previous life, had only pushed him to bring the plan into effect earlier than he had initially conceived. His handlers believed he worked best when supported by loved ones, they’d been right.
“We’ll be out of their immediate sphere of influence soon-enough,” The Doctor said glancing at the scanner. “The fog should begin lifting shortly.”
“Fog?” Polly wrinkled her nose in confusion.
“The memory blocks? Periods that exist only exist vaguely?” she shook her head and the Doctor turned to face Ben. “What about you Benjamin, how’s your memory, anything you can’t quite recall?”
“My memory’s fine Doctor?”
“No spaces, absences of any kind?” he shook his head.
“Perhaps…” The Doctor pondered as he paced the room. “Perhaps they didn’t see the necessity in memory blocks for the lesser species, yes, yes, that must be it.”
“Lesser species!” Zoe gave an indignant cry.
“A turn of phrase,” he smiled at her warmly. “Please forgive me, you’ve spent enough time among my people to get a sense of their views on the wider universe. I sometimes forget I’m as much a product of those attitudes as any other Time-Lord, I fear my time among them has only increased my blindness.”
“I’ll say,” Dodo smirked. “They kidnap me and poor Helen to help you deal with The Terrible Zodin and don’t even bother to thank us afterwards! I’m not sure they would have taken us home if you hadn’t escaped.”
The Doctor paused mid-stride, glancing at his fellow escapees; Dodo Chaplet and Helen Mortimer, briefly unsure when his keepers had opted to pair him with the two. Seeing them again was an unexpected kindness, and despite their initial disbelief he was the Doctor, they had quickly become a dependable duo, helping him through the toughest months...years? Of his ongoing captivity. It must have been during the Zodin affair...regardless, their sudden reemergence into his life had helped push him towards escape.
“Yes,” he said quietly. “They don’t have much respect for the unlike. You may have gathered that from some of our ‘adventures’. He all but spat the word, what little he could recall clearly already disgusting him. “Intervening only when it suits them.”
“Still, some of the scrapes we got into, eh Doctor?” Steven said, giving him a hearty slap on the back. “Sontarans, Vespiforms, Players, The Embodiment of Gris, The Corsair and her sinister crew, hardly the underdogs of the universe.”
“And we all agreed that Tannis chap needed to be stopped,” Ian added, joining the pair. “Or were the Time-Lords wrong to intervene there?” The Doctor turned to give Chesterton a piece of his mind only to find Jamie staring down at him. “And you have to admit it’s nice that ye can actually fly the TARDIS now, control where we’re going an’ aw that.” The boy flashed a cheeky grin. Something was wrong here, who…who was he travelling with. He’d left...he’d left with Jamie and Victoria, or was it Zoe and Ben? Tony and Paula? They all spoke to him, voices echoing across the console room, always close by, but he only had two companions.
“You can’t really call it control when your journey is already decided” The Doctor snapped, trying to fight through the fog, tiredness he’d been fighting off since his trial threatening to flood over him. He needed to focus, to ignore the distractions, only a little longer and he would be safe. “Or at least, that’s what I’ve always felt.” He flashed a weary smile at Ben and Polly, turning his attention back on the console. “And yes, we may have dealt with threats, made the universe safer, but safe for who? Whose interests were we really serving? For every Tannis there were half a dozen researchers whose only crime was being curious about their universe. We...I toppled tyrants at the behest of tyrants, never daring to challenge them in ways that really mattered.”
“Was I really so bad to work with?” Serena shot back, hurt dripping from her voice. “You’ve built our people into monsters, they could have exiled you, killed you even. Instead, they welcomed you back, allowed you to keep doing what you’ve always done, only with the support and comfort of home.” He’d seen her die, he’d had to tell her family, she couldn’t be here, none of them could.
“She’s right you know.” another, immediately recognisable voice said. The Doctor turned sharply, refusing to accept it’s presence. They wouldn’t, would they? Of course, of course they would. Only they could be so cruel. “Would you really abandon it all again Grandfather? Our people, our family?”
“Please don’t go!” John and Gillian chimed together, twin daggers piercing his hearts. “We almost never got to see Cousin Susan before you came back.” The Doctor rested his head against the console, cold surface and distant rumbling offering little comfort in the face of what he knew he had to do. They would never let him go, not really, not like this. It was a nice lie, one he wanted to believe in, but it was still a lie. With a cacophony of giggling grandchildren behind him The Doctor rose slowly, one hand dabbing his nose with a handkerchief while the other methodically worked the console.
Hands fell on his shoulder, Jamie and Victoria peering around him with a keener interest in the console than either had ever displayed during their time together. “Are you okay?” Victoria asked with lilting concern?
“Aye Doctor, whits the matter? No getting cold feet are ye?”
“Of course not,” he said with a clap, shoving past them as he moved around the console, working buttons and switches with lightning-quick reflexes, finally coming to a stop directly across from them, slow rise and fall of the column warping half their features. “I just wanted to take the time to say how much I value you both, I really don’t know that I would have survived these last few yea...well however long it’s been...without the both of you. When you came back, when they brought you back I should say, I was over the moon, you were a glimmer of hope in the dark.” He began working the console, quick glance confirming they were advancing on him. “I think they thought you would pacify me, make me softer, more willing to work with them, but they made a mistake there.” He savoured once last glance at their faces, as good an imitation as any. “I would never allow you to be trapped with them.”
“Aww gee it up Doctor, ye canny escape them.” Jamie said with a hint of anger, the two converging on him from either side.
“Jamie, Victoria...” The Doctor dabbed his forehead, jabbing a final command into the console with a grim smile. “Thank you.”