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Let Me Be

Chapter Text

Act I

 

Five. His fist hits the wall, threading hot pain through his hand and up his arm. He's surrounded by stone – the three walls of the diamond wall, and the Veil behind him. It's shuffling closer.

 

Four. He grits his teeth, and pretends not to feel how the hairs on the back of his neck are standing on end in warning.

 

Three– and the golden light is blinding, like the reflection of the twin suns on the glass dome of the Citadel. A breeze whistles through the tree leaves, oh so beautifully red, and it fills him with a warmth he hadn't felt since...

 

Two.

 

And then– but, oh, what was her name?

 

He can see her. He can see the way she walks through time next to him, as an equal. He can see her existence across time and space; a bright light wherever her foot meets the ground.

 

She plays with her hair sometimes, enough that he notices. It's always that one strand that doesn't fall quite behind her ear, which she curls around her finger when she's thinking, or when she's nervous.

 

She smiles like the stars are in her eyes, and galaxies are at her feet. She's always smiling. He remembers– it was on a far away planet, during a winter cycle; they were huddled into their coats as they watched a meteor shower paint white streaks into the sky, and she'd turned to him, beaming, and he'd never felt warmer in his life.

 

She talks. She talks a lot. He remembers– it was on a busy city street, filled to the brim with species big and small, and a market. She's crouched in front of a crying Adonian child, her head bowed, a comforting smile dancing on her face. He steps closer, and she says to child, “Everything will be okay.”

 

He loves it when she says that.

 

He loves her.

 

But the stone walls are unforgiving; they're suffocating, and his fist pauses, with the final blow tingling against his knuckles. One more, and he would be free– free to save her from time itself.

 

But, the Veil's cold fingers touch his face, and the warmth of the golden light builds, builds and builds into something unbearably hot, like he's trapped in a furnace, cooking alive–

 

“Everything will be okay,” she says.

 

The Veil's fingers dissolve against his face and into oblivion.

 

Then, his knees give way, but there's a groove in the diamond surface next to him, so he crams his fingers into it and holds on. He teeters; falls against the wall, and then rights himself with a cry.

 

The golden light is encouraging, singing to him about twin suns, red grass, a glass dome– but what was her name?

 

He can see her, in his mind's eye, skipping through the long blades of red grass. They part for her, drawing a path towards the Citadel. It's glorious; the pinnacle of the Time Lord's power, but it's on fire

 

“Everything will be okay,” she whispers, and the wind carries it to his ears, and it's like music. A sweet melody, just drifting across the breeze, beckoning him to press his fingers to the stone.

 

He swallows. The golden light hums softly in his ears.

 

“I can't do it,” he grounds out. “The paradox...”

 

“Everything will be okay,” it sings to him, and the humming intensifies. He can hear shouting, gunfire, and there's a clock ticking hypnotically, in amongst the cacophony of noise.

 

“It's the pain,” a woman's voice says, in High Gallifreyan. “It's always the catalyst for the impossible, and the unspeakable.”

 

Somebody chuckles. “I do like miracles,” they say.

 

He takes a step towards the light.

 

Pain grinds at him, but he takes another, and then another, and another, and then staggers into the wall. It's a welcome, cool touch against his cheek, and the palms of his hands.

 

“You have to trust me,” the woman's voice continues. “Please, Theta.”

 

There's silence for a moment, but then Theta says, “I trust you.”

 

The Doctor's bloodied hand curls into a fist.

 

“Theta,” he whispers to the wall. “That name...”

 

The humming is deafening. His fist trembles as he withdraws it from the wall.

 

“Time is bleeding! Dying!” the woman cries in his ear. “Unless we fix this, everything will be gone, not just the girl.”

 

“I have to save her!” Theta shouts in return.

 

I have to save her, the wall whispers to him. Save her. Save Clara.

 

“Clara,” he whispers to the wall. “Oh, my Clara...”

 

Abruptly, the humming stops. The shouting falls to whispers, the gunfire stops, and the hypnotic beat of the clock slows down.

 

He closes his eyes. “Let me be brave,” he murmurs. “Oh, my Clara, let me be brave.”

 

His fist hits the wall– one

 

 


 

 

 

There is nothing but the darkness, the silence, and himself. It endures. 

 

 


 

 

 

He starts counting, from zero to one hundred, then to two hundred, and then quickly to one million, five million, one hundred million, one billion, one trillion, and on.

 

Time is passing.

 

It has to be, if he is counting.

 

But there's a twinge of.... something in the air, like a hint of mint, or sage, or spice. It's pungent, but not in the tasteful sense. It's timely.

 

Time is passing. But not how it should be.

 

There is residual time in the air, like a twinge for all the timelines that have been, should be, could be, and never will be. They are constantly changing at a nauseating pace– but such is the burden of a Time Lord.

 

It's a unique experience to feel time as a sixth sense.

 

A Time Lord can feel the age of the ground beneath where they exist, or the age of that around them. Age is an artist's masterpiece; filled with colour, intricate patterns and unspeakable detail, and youth flourishes from black and white, to grey, to colours which grow and mould to tell the story in the manner which that entity lived.

 

Time is passing around him, but it is also being manipulated– artworks form from ashes and dust; or change abruptly, with their patterns reforming and their colour pallet changing; or they disappear completely, sometimes forever, sometimes not, constantly.

 

But he exists in one place, counting from zero to one trillion, in time with his hearts. Or so he thinks. There is no way to tell.

 

All he has is time, nothing else.

 

How he got into this predicament, however, he has no recollection. It's all a blur of colours, patterns, and simply nothing.

 

Whatever is around him must walk through time, weaving an elaborate painting through galactic history. Whatever is around him is old, and so very, very wise.

 

Gallifrey, his numbed lips form, in the blackness.

 

Gallifrey, whose power is exercised across the universe, whose Time Lords dance through galactic history as if it's nothing, whose Time Lords should be dead and gone.

 

He remembers the Time War, and he remembers Gallifrey's attempted return, and he remembers the pocket universe. He remembers– ah, yes, the confession dial.

 

He's been running, as fast as his TARDIS can carry him, to Clara. Always towards Clara. She is all that ever matters. She is– simply– everything.

 

He's been running from the Time Lords, for what he suspects is the mess he made of his own canvas. But time whispers to him, so he shouts back, and splatters the colours around him into one, big, intangible mess.

 

His tenth face scrawled 'Time Lord Victorious' across history.

 

This face paints Clara into time and space, weaving her hair into galaxy after galaxy, and painting her smile across billions of stars, from one end of the universe to the other.

 

Why should Gallifrey reel, at that?

 

Gallifrey reels, time paints across the darkness in angry yellow, orange and red, because you are dangerous, Doctor. The hybrid–

 

In a delicate pink and bold purple is scrawled, Time. Time is reeling, Doctor.

 

Time passes, and the blur of Gallifrey's timelines slowly mould into clear masterpieces, definite from one another. In yellow, orange and red; it boasts age, but never as old as the halls of the Citadel, or the grass of the red fields, or the light of the undercities. Like a flame, is a timeline burning with power, wisdom and treachery.

 

Rassilon, the pink and purple provides.

 

And you? he asks, in brown.

 

I, the pink and purple replies, need you to wake up.

 

 


 

 

Something is ringing.

 

Not like a telephone would, but constantly, and it's buzzing against his eardrums like a swarm of angry bees. It crescendos steadily until it pops and gives way to sound.

 

Then, the world explodes into noise, and his head erupts painfully into a headache.

 

“–telling me we can't do anything?

 

“I'm telling you he needs time. Not you shouting in his bloody ear!”

 

Two different voices, which are like thunder blasting in his eardrums, split his head in two. He hears somebody moan, and realises it was him.

 

“Shit– This is you! See!” The voice moves closer, and an array of colours flash nauseatingly across the blackness.

 

“You will not address me as such! I'm the President–!” Rassilon, in yellow, orange and red, follows the other voice, and the two artworks blur together. His head is screaming, like a caged animal is trying to escape from his skull.

 

“Shut up,” the other voice hisses. “Udina! Fetch someone!”

 

“I...” he tries to say.

 

“No, stop it. Shh.” A gentle touch brushes against his agonising headache, soothing it, and the wild animal begins to calm. “Go back to sleep, Doctor. Everything will be okay.”

 

Everything will be okay, echoes Clara.

 

“I need–!” Rassilon roars.

 

The voice roars back, “I need you to shut up! He's in no state!”

 

“I will have you exiled, Cardinal, so help me! The Hybrid–!”

 

“–can wait! Let him rest!”

 

The headache starts to dissipate into the blackness as angry red spots, which are swallowed, along with the noise, the colours, and everything. He sleeps.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Time is passing, and he is numb. 

 

 


 

 

 

She sings while she works.

 

He doesn't remember when she first started the soft tune, but her gentle voice is a blessing.

 

He counts the beats and the rests, and how each of the notes flourish in a delicate G Major key, and swell through each bar in four-four time. She is slightly off key, falling flat on the higher notes, but keeps a steady speed.

 

She works, he listens and time passes.

 

Her words thread beautifully into the array of colours which she paints against time. She is young, now well-into her third regeneration, and boasts a flourishing rainbow through history, but it struggles to endure against all of the other masterpieces around her.

 

“You have a pretty voice,” he tells her, and his voice grinds against his throat like sandpaper.

 

A short intake of breath, and her hearts skip a beat, and then she laughs. “You're smooth,” she compliments. “Even while half-dead.”

 

He smiles. Or, he thinks he does.

 

“How are you feeling?” she asks next. Her voice, even while she isn't singing, is like music to his ears.

 

It is good to have time pass through her twin heartbeat, or each breath she takes, or her words, and not simply just aimless, endless counting, from zero to infinity.

 

“Half-dead,” he croaks in reply.

 

She huffs in amusement, and then silence fells the blackness. He can still hear her hearts beating, and when she inhales, and then exhales. When he listens closer, he realises she's scratching a pen across paper, dotting and crossing the Gallifreyan letters across the page.

 

“You're doing better,” she tells him. “Audio stimuli should start to feel more normal throughout the next few days. And then, hopefully everything else isn't too far behind.” She audibly sets down the pen and paper, which is enclosed with a clipboard, somewhere to his left.

 

“Everything else?” he asks. His voice is barely above a whisper, but she hears him; she shifts slightly in her seat, and inhales.

 

“Your senses.”

 

“Ah.” He swallows, and then wets his lips, trying to muster some volume into his voice. He feels better– quite a bit, actually, and it's good to have a conversation partner who isn't shouting or shushing him.

 

“Yeah, a lot of your bodily systems are damaged from your injuries,” she explains. “Which are pretty extensive, by the way. It looks like you got into a fight with a Dalek, who had a flame thrower.”

 

He smiles, and knows he did, because she laughs slightly. “Sorry,” she apologises. “I shouldn't joke.”

 

“No, it's...” He clears his throat again, and scrapes sandpaper through his mouth. “It's fine.”

 

“You don't have to talk,” she says. “Just rest. It's probably better that you do, or Rassilon's going to start his interrogations.”

 

Ah, yes, his splitting headache from prior. Rassilon didn't make his presence scarce, especially during an argument.

 

And not only their raised voices, but having two presences so versed throughout time was dizzying, because the two artworks would crash together at a sickly pace while they quarrelled. Yellow, orange and red would swallow everything whole, but miraculously, the other party held their ground, messily slicing bold, dark streaks through the cacophony of colours.

 

“They said– the Hybrid?”

 

“Yeah. Everybody's saying he's gone mad with it,” she explains. He must have looked confused, as she continued, “It's in the prophecies. A lot of them mention this Hybrid– half Dalek and half human, which is supposed to destroy the Time Lord race. You have information about it, apparently.”

 

He didn't.

 

It would link together the final dots, however; why the Time Lords had been chasing him, and why they had been so desperate to track him down.

 

But, it didn't answer why they'd locked him inside the confession dial when they simply could have asked; in which he would have denied any knowledge at all, anyway, because he had no information to offer.

 

It was all for her. For Clara.

 

“That's why he... bought me... here.”

 

She doesn't say anything for a moment. “He didn't,” she replies, sounding as confused as he felt. “What the other attendants said, was that they found you in the wastelands while they were tracking a temporal disturbance. You were unconscious; almost dead.”

 

That doesn't make any sense.

 

It was the Time Lords who sentenced him to the dial, and yet, they sent no one to monitor their investment. Surely, they must have watched the entirety of his sentence, laughing, with a net in one hand and a wine goblet in the other.

 

Instead, his arrival on Gallifrey was merely a temporal disturbance.

 

“Your name. What is it?” he asks the attendant.

 

“Pangarth,” she answers, with ebbing confusion dancing on the edge of her words.

 

“Pangarth, when–? When are we?”

 

“We're in stasis,” she answers slowly, as if he were mad. “But linearly, it's about 3 years after the end of the Time War.”

 

He inhales, and then holds his breath.

 

That was impossible.

 

In his last memory of the confession dial, the planets had shifted above his head; the stars had turned from light to shoals of dust and memories adrift in the dark tendrils of space; and no longer did the constellations smile down upon the universe, speaking eons of wisdom to its travellers.

 

He should be at the end of the universe, where light retreated from the approaching, hungry darkness; and inhabitants of the universe clung onto the last tendrils of hope.

 

Instead, he is on Gallifrey, time locked, in a pocket universe, just after the Time War. The stars still twinkle gently in the sky, as if they are softly caressing the darkness of space, and draw pictures bigger than the universe itself.

 

“... Thank you. Pangarth,” is all he says, slowly.

 

“Did you need anything else?” she asks. Worry creeps through her voice, quietly tiptoeing across her tongue while she tries to discern his sanity. “Or, I think I should leave you to rest. You should concern yourself with all this later, when you're better.”

 

Her artwork abruptly flashes across his vision, etching a perfect rainbow of colours into the blackness.

 

“Thank you,” he tells her again, “for talking to an old man.”

 

“It's my job,” she replies, a slight smile in her voice.

 

She says nothing for a few moments, while she fumbles with something and affixes it to the edge of where he was laying. The clipboard, most likely, which lives on the end of the bed.

 

“Get some rest,” she then advises curtly.

 

“I will,” he replies, but he's not tired, presently.

 

He knows that she's smiling again, and then she turns on her heel and walks out, with the soles of her shoes scuffing against the floor.

 

Her vibrancy fades from his mind's eye, and off into a distant memory, while she goes to discuss her concerns about lapses in his memory with her superiors. All she knows, is that he won the Time War, disappeared, and then reappeared three years later, without any explanation.

 

What he knows, is that after he used the Moment, he ran. He ran as far away as he could, in his big blue box, and never stopped. He never looked back, because there was nothing to look back to.

 

Now there is.

 

But what he knows, is that there is something is very, very wrong, and nobody is doing anything to fix it. He should not be here. Time doesn't permit it. But yet, it does. He exists, here, on Gallifrey, now.

 

And the Gallifreyan wind, which sweeps in from the west, from over the rolling hills of red grass, carries noise to him, but not answers; he hears Pangarth humming, somewhere, and lets it ease his descent into the darkness. He isn't tired, but he is too old for this.

 

 


 

 

 

Sound evolves to tastes on his tongue, and scents up his nostrils, which help author the story painted around him in the darkness.

 

He drifts across the verge of consciousness, perched delicately on the edge of the darkness. He swings his legs over the side, and pushes his palms into the nothing, leaning backward to look up at nothing.

 

His thoughts wander, to drown out the noise around him, so he can think on the strange twinge in the air which fights for control of the age of Gallifrey around him, and on Rassilon, and on all he's heard since he first woke.

 

Around him, it's usually Rassilon, arguing with somebody, or Pangarth, singing a soft tune as she works, or the other attendants, who tell him nothing of the universe they've seen.

 

As each person weaves a unique imprint through history, they also see the stars differently; appreciate the beauty of the array of planets differently, and love the universe differently, how they know to.

 

It's why he travels.

 

He is too old to see proper beauty, or to properly appreciate the masterpieces around him; the ones he can see with his own two eyes.

 

The ones that take shape as a sunset on a distant planet, or a sea of lanterns across a busy street, or a snow-felled path through an ancient forest, or standing atop the highest cliff overlooking the endless ocean, with his companions standing tall next to him.

 

It is through their eyes that he is able to see the glory the universe has still to offer, and all the good left in between those stars.

 

Oh, Clara.

 

How he wished she could see Gallifrey for him.

 

How he wished she was here, to be able to hear more than Rassilon's voice, booming in his ears, or the scrape of the attendants' pens across that clipboard, or when he inhales, and then exhales, again, again and again.

 

Time is passing, without Clara, and without beauty. It's only the darkness, so he lets it embrace him once more.

 

 


 

 

 

 

The sun and the moon and the stars in the sky

Give us light as time goes by

We rise with the sun

And sleep with the moon

And the stars sing a lullaby.

 

Sometimes we rise and we're happy

Sometimes we rise and we're sad

But when we look and see the warm sunlight

Everything's bright and we're glad.

 

The sun and the moon and the stars in the sky

Give us light as time goes by

We rise with the sun

And sleep with the moon

And the stars sing a lullaby.

 

Sometimes while sleeping we're dreaming

Of wonderful places to see

We fly through the sky in the moonlight

And laugh and sing joyously.

 

The sun and the moon and the stars in the sky

Give us light as time goes by

We rise with the sun

And sleep with the moon

And the stars sing a lullaby.

And the stars sing a lullaby.

 

Sometimes the stars are just twinkling

Reminding us we're not alone

For every star sings a sweet melody

That helps us to find our way home.

 

The sun and the moon and the stars in the sky

Give us light as time goes by

We rise with the sun

And sleep with the moon

And the stars sing a lullaby.

And the stars sing a lullaby.

 

 

Pangarth sets the clipboard back on the end of the bed, and then continues her rounds.

 

 


 

 

 

“–long I've waited! He's well into his recovery! I need this information, Cardinal! The fate of Gallifrey depends on it, and I will not have you doom our Empire!”

 

Rassilon.

 

“I'm not dooming anything. I'm telling you, he's unresponsive. Unreachable. He's recovering, yes, but it's slow.”

 

And that voice again.

 

“Then have the attendants reduce his dosages! I need him conscious!”

 

“We've already had this discussion.. And the answer is no, both from the attendants, and myself.”

 

Rassilon flashes angrily across time, and the yellow, orange and red is blinding. The other voice is a mix of soft blues and purples, which he didn't notice before. The man is old, also, and it's a weight he bears openly on his shoulders.

 

Then, the President approaches him, and he smells like smoke and ash. The blue and purple follows, and then sighs wearily, and takes Pangarth's seat. He plucks the clipboard from the end of the bed.

 

“When he is lucid, it's very brief,” the blue and purple continues, while Rassilon burns next to him. “You wouldn't get much out of him. The attendants don't.”

 

Rassilon sighs, too, but irritation streaks across his painting in an angry red. “I'm simply trying to do what is best for Gallifrey, Cardinal, you must understand that. The Hybrid threatens all of us, not just myself.”

 

“It's merely a prophecy–”

 

“Which is mentioned across billions of years of lore! It's real. And the Doctor knows something, I know he does. Why else would he run?”

 

The Cardinal sets down the clipboard. “I'm not sure,” he answers. “I'm sure he has his reasons.”

 

Rassilon makes a noise of vague disapproval, and the bold yellow, orange and red fades, no longer such a juxtaposition against the blackness of time.

 

“I'm sure he does,” the President says, eventually. “I'm most curious to hear them.”

 

The soft blue and purple suddenly swirls, weaving elaborate shapes across time. Letters form, punctuated with exasperation, to say, He's an idiot.

 

So, the Doctor murmurs, “Idiot.”

 

From next to the Cardinal, Rassilon freezes; his yellow, orange and red artwork trickles into almost nothing.

 

“What?” the President asks sharply in return. “Did you hear that?”

 

He knows the Cardinal is smiling. “I didn't hear anything,” he replies.

 

So the Doctor says, louder, “I said, Rassilon, you're a pompous idiot.”

 

Rassilon splutters, and the waft of smoke explodes into the pungent smell of burning flesh.

 

 


 

 

 

The days begin to slow down. Tastes become stronger, smells become sweeter, and sounds settle against his eardrums properly.

 

Rassilon is nearly always next to him, shouting about fear, treachery and betrayal. Of course, the Doctor argues right back, and tries to keep his voice steady.

 

 


 

 

 

Rassilon spits, day in and day out, “Tell me about the Hybrid!”

 

And the Doctor just says nothing.

 

 


 

 

 

“The Cloisters wouldn't lie, Doctor, especially to me,” Rassilon says. “You should have heard them after we bought you in.”

 

“A welcome home present,” he deflects.

 

“A warning. To the people of Gallifrey! About you.”

 

The Doctor musters whatever energy he has left to spread his hands uselessly. “Oh, yes, look at me! Very dangerous.”

 

Rassilon gives a long, impatient sigh. “Your words, Doctor, are what make you dangerous.”

 

 


 

 

 

“You have to realise that the Hybrid threatens you, also. You may have forgotten you are not a god, but simply another Time Lord, like the rest of us,” Rassilon says.

 

It has been days, and the President has grown weary of their talks, yet still he persists.

 

“But you still granted me another twelve regenerations,” the Doctor quips in return.

 

“For condemning us to this. The people demanded it, Doctor. They see you as a hero, but I know what you really are. A coward.”

 

“You're not wrong. But it was me who won, Rassilon. I beat it. I beat Davros, I beat the Daleks; all the others. And I beat you.”

 

 

 


 

 

 

“So help me, Doctor, I will torture it out of you, if I have to!”

 

He says nothing.

 

“What is it you're trying to hide, boy? Why are you condemning your own race to this genocide?”

 

He swallows thickly, and says nothing.

 

Time whispers, Clara.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Tears of sadness, tears of woe,

From those of peace who long ago

Came to show a way of light

But all man does is turn and fight.

Tears of sadness, tears of woe,

From those of peace who long ago

Came to show a way of love

But all man does is kill the dove.

 

Tears of sadness, tears of woe,

From those of peace who long ago

Came to show a way of light

But all man does is turn and fight.

Tears as they look upon this human plight

Where actions are losing true spiritual sight

Repeating the cycle – material might

As people pursue what they think is right.

 

 

Pangarth finishes her notes, scratching the pen across the page with precision.

 

“Is that the end of the song?” he asks quietly.

 

“Another two verses,” she replies, still writing. “And I've got a bit to write for you, too.” There, she stops, and leans forward in her chair. “Are you doing okay?”

 

He falters for a moment. “Am I okay?”

 

“That is what I said, isn't it?” She sounds more worried than annoyed.

 

“Yes! And I am okay, Pangarth. I am the king of okay.”

 

She starts to write again. “Well, good.” She's silent for a few more moments while she writes, and the Doctor counts her heartbeats out of habit. Then, she continues, “It's just... Rassilon is taking a toll on you, I think. Your sensory and muscular regeneration has slowed down. Not by much, but it's noticeable.”

 

“He does yell a lot,” he returns.

 

She huffs in amusement, still writing. “You can say that again. I walk past sometimes, when it gets really loud, just to check he isn't... you know...”

 

“Isn't what?”

 

“... hurting you,” she finishes, quietly, still writing. Time isn't bright, like it usually is when Pangarth is here.

 

He frowns, and when her silence continues, he asks gently, “He hurts people?”

 

She makes a noise of affirmation.

 

“Has he hurt you?”

 

Her pen freezes. “I... no. Not me. But others.” She continues writing. “People I know. People who oppose him.”

 

“Don't worry, I'm very good at opposing people. I do tend to prioritise safety.”

 

She laughs, still writing, and it's a welcome sound to his eardrums. The rainbow, however, remains subdued against the blackness of time.

 

“Yeah,” she says, and then sets down the pen. She returns the clipboard, and is silent for a few moments until she blurts out, “Sorry. You don't need to worry about more things–”

 

“No, tell me–”

 

“–it's just there's this rebellion, and my little sister, she's talking about it–”

 

Pangarth–”

 

“–and I'm just so scared–”

 

“Pangarth, shush,” he tries, instead, and she stops, swallowing thickly. “Slow down. And tell me.”

 

She sniffs, and a tear rolls down her cheek; a streak of black pierces the middle of the rainbow, dividing it in two.

 

“My sister joined this rebellion group,” she explains, “against the High Council. Something about time. Something's not right, she said. And they're not doing anything to fix it.”

 

Time is reeling.

 

“And?”

 

She takes a shaky breath. “I'm worried about her. You hear things, you know? About what Rassilon will do for power.”

 

“Trust me, I know exactly,” he replies.

 

Time is reeling, Doctor.

 

She takes another deep breath, her breath still shaky, and swallows again.

 

Clara would know exactly what to say to this girl. If he had those blasted flashcards–! “Okay... how about...”

 

“Sorry,” she says, for the umpteenth time.

 

“No,” he replies, and adjusts himself in the bed, sitting up a little straighter. “Stop it. I asked.”

 

“You're in no state to –”

 

Stop. Because your blubbering did give me an idea, which will keep your sister safe, for a time.”

 

Her hearts flutter in her chest. “How–?”

 

He smiles disarmingly. “You leave it to me. And I want you to finish that song for me, and when you get home, have a bowl of ice cream,” he adds. “A big one. On me.”

 

The hole in the rainbow doesn't heal, but it stretches further across time, just a little bit.

 

 

Tears of sadness, tears of woe

From those of peace who long ago

Came to show a way of love

But all man does is kill the dove.

Twisting the truth at their own accord

Controlling the innocent, seeking reward

Power and greed are ever near

Love and peace – lost to fear.

 

Tears of sadness, tears of woe

From those of peace who long ago

Came to show a way of light

But all man does is turn – and fight.

 

 

Time is reeling, Doctor.

 

I need you to wake up.

 

Chapter Text

 

Act II

 

It has been almost a week, linearly, but the rest of the universe is standing still.

 

Today, the day is young, and is accompanied by the soft pitter-patter of rain above, while time swirls around him in a sea of yellow, orange and red, glaring against Gallifrey, and around the blackness which is everything else.

 

“Do the people support you, Rassilon?” the Doctor asks, and sees the god in time, alight, but all he hears is the rain. “Or do they fear you?”

 

“You should not be the one asking questions,” Rassilon answers, eventually, from between clenched teeth.

 

“But shouldn't it be fair? You answer one, I answer one.” He pauses, while Rassilon stops his pacing and turns towards him.“Do the people support you?” he repeats.

 

“I have a claim to the throne of Gallifrey and I have taken it. That is not for the people to decide,” Rassilon replies, in monotone.

 

The Doctor says nothing, waiting. Rassilon sighs heavily.

 

“No,” the god says, quietly. “But I ensure they follow me.” He takes a deep, slow breath, and repeats, “What do you know about the Hybrid, Doctor?”

 

“Enough,” he replies. “But not enough to help you, not now. There's a friend I need to talk to– she has the information I need.”

 

Fire slowly creeps across time, towards the Doctor, and then suddenly bursts into a raging wildfire. The Doctor turns to ash, and Rassilon throws Pangarth's chair across the room.

 

“You... after all this time, you tell me you know nothing!”

 

His voice fills the whole room, all of time, and everything else. Then, the Doctor can taste the electricity of the glove in the air, like turned toast and smoke; Rassilon has his face in his gloved hand.

 

“Killing you would have saved me a lot of trouble,” he spits, and the Doctor can feel the heat radiating off his words against time; Rassilon's face is inches from his.

 

“You won't kill me, Rassilon” the Doctor returns, weakly, with Rassilon's hand nearly around his throat.

 

“Tell me the girl's name, and then I will.”

 

“Is that a promise?” The Doctor can't breathe.

 

“Oh, yes.”

 

 


 

 

Pangarth's breathing is slow and delicate, and she's close, perched on the edge of her chair. She's humming, and the Doctor is still, listening to her unspoken words and her twin heartbeat, keeping up with the breeze coming in off the western hills.

 

A ghost gently pushes his cheek against the pillow, and raises his chin, and then the room is suddenly bathed in silence. The vibrancy of the rainbow pales, almost melding as a grey into the blackness of time.

 

“What?” he asks.

 

“There's bruising,” she says, detached, “on your neck.”

 

Time sends a twinge up his spine, and then exhales across the back of his neck, and he barely represses a shiver.

 

Pangarth is talking again, quickly, “The other attendants did report discolouration. A little of it, around your chest and your neck. Udina was confident it was simply a reaction to muscular regeneration and the likes. But this... this is bruising. I know it.”

 

He wets his lips. “It's not painful,” he answers; lies, “so it probably is all of that medical babble. Because trust me, the only thing I can feel, besides time, is pain.”

 

“Not exactly reassuring,” she mutters in return. “I...” She gives a quiet sigh, and asks gently, “You're sure it doesn't hurt?”

 

“Positive.”

 

“Okay.” Then, she pauses, teetering on the edge of the chair; all the Doctor can hear are her heartbeats, slightly faster than normal, and her short, quiet breaths. “You're sure,” she adds.

 

“As sure as I am that this is Gallifrey, and you're real next to me.”

 

She lets out a half-hearted little laugh, and the leans backwards into the chair. “Okay. Okay.” She lets out a pained sigh. “I'm sorry. I'm just on edge. My sister...”

 

“–is safe. I told you, I'd take care of it.”

 

“Oh,” she squeaks. “I– I don't know what to say.”

 

He smiles. “Why, didn't you think I would help?”

 

“No! No, I did, I just–”

 

“You matter, Pangarth. You need to understand that. You are more than just an attendant, Pangarth, you are someone, and people will protect that. I will protect that.”

 

She doesn't say anything.

 

“Pangarth?”

 

“My attendant training was accelerated in the war,” she says, and her voice has changed, as if she's speaking with more purpose, and about something that matters. “Everything else before that; it's all a blur. Because it doesn't compare to how much I saw in those long years, in the hospitals, and on the battlefield.

 

“Somehow, I make it home. But it's not right, it's so mundane and normal and easy. So I work.

 

“Then, because of my dedication, they tell me I'm going to be attending the Doctor, a war hero. It's humbling, and then you go and help me, your attendant, after you've nearly died. You care about me. This is just my job–”

 

“And you do it splendidly. Especially on accelerated training.” He smiles, and she does too, because the rainbow appears in colour, just for a few moments.

 

“Thank you,” she says. “I mean it.”

 

“What can I say,” he answers, “you're very good at entertaining an old man.”

 

 


 

 

“So,” he says, and Pangarth is writing on the clipboard, humming something he doesn't recognise under her breath. “I've only gotten half answers from the man himself, but why exactly is it, that Rassilon is so obsessed with the Hybrid?”

 

She stops, and is thinking, because the sun rises from below the horizon and shines new-found light onto the rainbow across the blackness.

 

“It's not really a well-known thing,” she answers. “So nobody really knows why, if they even know at all.”

 

“Make a guess, Pangarth. Go on. Use that brilliant brain of yours.”

 

She laughs a little. “Okay. Okay, maybe it's because... I don't know. Maybe, he doesn't want Gallifrey to be threatened again, so soon after the war. He doesn't want to lose control of the planet again, especially when he can stop it.”

 

“See!” the Doctor cries. “Perfect!”

 

She's smiling shyly. “Just a guess.”

 

“A wonderful guess. Take a stab at something in the dark; sure, you can't see, but at least you know it's not in front of you.”

 

She leans forward in her chair, and there's a twinge of something light and feathery in the air. “But what if it stepped out of the way?”

 

He grins slightly. “But it can't see you coming. It's dark.”

 

“It might be able to see in the dark.”

 

“That would be unfair. I can't see in the dark.”

 

“We have thirteen lives! That thing certainly doesn't!”

 

“And this is... technically... is my thirteenth. So it's completely unfair it can see in the dark.”

 

“Well, you also are the one trying to stab it–”

 

They go on, and the Doctor's grin widens. So does time, and Pangarth's rainbow, which seems to dwarf the loneliness of eternity, just for a little while.

 

 


 

 

“I still don't understand why you continue to withhold this information from me,” Rassilon tells the Doctor.

 

“I told you,” the Doctor returns, “only I will be talking to her. She won't say anything to you.”

 

Rassilon is pacing, up and down, up and down, up and down, at the foot of the Doctor's bed. He continues, “She will. I am Rassilon, Doctor. The Conquerer of Yssgaroth, Overpriest of Dronid,

First Earl of Prydon–”

 

“Very fancy. Must look lovely on your resume, but frankly, Rassilon of Rassilon, I don't care. Only I am talking to her. She is my responsibility.”

 

Rassilon stops, and the room gets colder. “And all of civilisation is my responsibility, Doctor! You have no right to dictate what happens in my society.”

 

“Which you don't even rule, Rassilon. You said yourself, the people don't even follow you.”

 

Rassilon's voice drops low, “Oh, but they do. I won them the war.”

 

“We are trapped. In. Stasis,” the Doctor says, pointedly. “You have conquered absolutely nothing.”

 

“I have you.” Rassilon steps closer to the bed, and the Doctor hears the glove electrify to life in Rassilon's hand. “And I have the prophecies. The Hybrid. It will bend to me. You will tell me, or so help me, Doctor, I will take back all of those regenerations. One. By. One.”

 

Clara, whispers time, to the Doctor, and Rassilon doesn't hear it over the white noise.

 

 


 

 

He's half asleep when pink and blue breathes a haze across the blackness of time, coupled with an ebbing sense of urgency.

 

“It's good to finally meet you in person,” he says.

 

She puts a slight pressure on his knee, smiling. He pulls his leg away.

 

“And it's good to see you're getting better,” she returns.

 

“I do try.”

 

She steps closer, and he can hear her shoes click on the polished floor, and somebody yelling, from far away. She hears it, too; she stops, listening, and then she steps nearer.

 

“I need you to trust me,” she says. “Please, Theta.”

 

He listens to the way she exhales, and then holds her breath, then he says, “I trust you.”

 

She inhales again, and then pulls off the blankets covering his legs, and half of his torso. Her hands dance across his forearm, and he can't tell if she's hesitating or listening for the yelling again, which is getting louder.

 

“This will hurt,” she warns, after she takes a deep breath. “On three.”

 

He can hear footsteps, now, approaching in a steady, meaningful stride. Time flares, consuming the pink and blue in front of him.

 

“One, two–” He's about to tense, but she's already pulled something out of his arm, and it shoots pain up his shoulder, down to his chest, his stomach, down his legs and to his toes. “And there's two more.” She pulls them out without any preamble, and he hisses as tingling bursts out of his skin. “I did warn you,” she says, almost teasingly.

 

“Doesn't mean it didn't hurt,” he murmurs back, from between clenched teeth.

 

She pulls back the last of the blankets, and leans close; her breath is warm against his neck. “Swallow a lot of that pride of yours for a second, and put your arms around my neck.”

 

He stares at her, even if he can't see her. The shouting gets closer.

 

“It's that, or you walk,” she says, and she's serious. “Keeping in mind, everything I just pulled out of you was painkillers and other assorted, useful things.”

 

“I'm the Doctor, I'm over two thousand years old, and you are not carrying me,” he quips.

 

She sighs. “Quickly, then.”

 

She shrugs one of his arms over her shoulder, and together, they manage to drag him to the side of the bed, where his feet dangle over the side. She eases him into the floor, and immediately, his knees give way.

 

She hoists him upright, with her fingers in a vice grip around his arm, slung across her shoulders.

 

“Stupid, stubborn Time Lords,” she mumbles, and starts walking. His feet obey, to some degree, but he mostly leans on her.

 

There's a tingling creeping through his skin, like a relentless version of pins and needles. It gnaws at his nerves, and he bites back a moan, which is creeping up his throat.

 

“Where's all my sympathy,” he grounds out, and can barely hear himself, but she laughs, not breaking pace.

 

“If you bleed over a carpet that I own, then maybe.” She's walking quite quickly now, away from the noise, and every step jars him. “And even then, I did offer to carry you. You refused.”

 

He laughs a little, but it's quickly cut off when a groan fights its way out of his mouth, and he thinks he feels her swallow.

 

“It's not far,” she offers now, and he can sense her lingering urgency from before, like electricity in the air. It tastes like pop rocks. “Just have to get into teleport range.”

 

“Oh,” he says, but it comes out like a wheeze. “Not the teleport. Please.”

 

“Unfortunately, you don't get a say in what's best for you,” she answers.

 

He wants to ask why exactly that is, but his chest lurches painfully, and he loses sense of everything for a few moments. He hears her say something he can't decipher in amongst the ringing in his ears, but she's got a hand pressed against his chest, as if she's trying to chase all of the pain away, or simply, perhaps, trying to keep him upright.

 

“What–” he gasps out.

 

“Pain killers,” he just makes out, and it's muffled. “They work wonders, don't they?” But he can feel her urgency spiking, striking pink and purple boldly across the darkness.

 

So, he tells her, “M'fine,” but it doesn't seem to be reassuring, judging on how she speeds up. His feet barely keep up.

 

Then, she's saying something again, and he just makes out, “–bad idea! He's getting worse–”

 

There's no answer, but suddenly, she stops, and all he can hear is the sound of footsteps, through time. They're yellow, orange and red, and they echo like a slap across his face.

 

He hears her next words loud and clear, “Now! Do it now!”

 

Oh no.

 

Nothing happens for a few, long moments, as the shouting approaches like an oncoming storm. Then, the pink, purple, yellow, orange and red all trickle into one, and then into a blinding white, which consumes everything.

 

 


 

 

Time bleeds through his mind, sometimes blinding, and sometimes nothing more than a flicker of light. It's all brown hair, comforting smiles and impossible.

 

 


 

 

“Everything you're about to say, I already know,” Clara says. “Don't do it now. We've already had enough bad timing.”

 

The raven caws from outside.

 

“Don't run,” he pleads. “Stay with me.” Please.

 

“Nah,” she dismisses him, and there's a small smile playing on her face, and he wants to scream. “You stay here.” The smile fades, forgotten by time, and she locks eyes with him. “In the end, everybody does this alone.”

 

“Clara–” Please, Clara. Please.

 

“This is as brave as I know how to be,” she continues. “I know it's going to hurt you, but please, be a little proud of me.”

 

Her fingers trail across his cheek, and she doesn't look away, not for a second. He stares at her, breathing her in, and slowly takes her hand between his own. Her hands are gentle and soft, just like the look in her eyes.

 

“Goodbye, Doctor.”

 

The raven caws again, and she looks to the door, but he doesn't take his eyes off her. She twists the handle.

 

The door creaks open, and Ashildr flinches, but the Doctor doesn't notice. He can't. The raven caws again, Clara steps outside, and then door slips shut.

 

The Doctor follows her, and doesn't hear Ashildr's words, or Rigsy's, or anyone's. He just hears his hearts beating, and Clara.

 

“Let me be brave,” she whispers.

 

He holds his breath.

 

“Let me be brave.”

 

The raven's call fills up the whole of Trap Street, and then the awful bird spreads its wings and–

 

 


 

 

“Everything will be okay,” pink, purple and blue soothes him, with a hand on his shoulder, rubbing circles into his arm. “Go back to sleep.”

 

 


 

 

“I know where he will be,” Clara breathes. “Where he will always be. If the Doctor is still the Doctor, he will have my back.” Her breath hitches as her fingers meet air, spread uselessly behind her. “I'm right, aren't I? Go on. Please, please, go on, say I'm right.”

 

He grabs her hand, and it slots in perfectly. She lets out a gasp, and squeezes his hand, and he squeezes back, smiling. But she's looking at the robot.

 

“Ah. Hello, hello,” he says, to the bald robot. Hello, Clara. It's me. I'm here. “Rubbish robots from the dawn of time. Thank you for all the gratuitous information. Five foot one and crying. You never stood a chance.”

 

They run.

 

 


 

 

“Doctor?” Clara asks him, when he's in the middle of saying goodbye. His heart clenches and he stops, turns, and takes a deep breath. “Travelling with you made me feel really special. Thank you for that.” He swallows. “Thank you for making me feel special.”

 

He looks back at her, and she's more radiant than he's ever seen her, in all of their travels together. He gives her a slight nod, a smile playing on his face, and weight tugging at his heart.

 

“Thank you for exactly the same,” he replies.

 

 


 

 

He gasps to life.

 

“It's alright, it's alright,” somebody says, and he's too disorientated to figure out who it is, but their voice is gentle, like they've done this a thousand times over. “You're doing a lot better. Just a little while longer. Go back to sleep.”

 

 


 

 

“The TARDIS is outside,” he says, and there's a sort of excitement bubbling in his chest, as he looks at her. She's put down the mirror now, but she's not looking at him.

 

“So?”

 

“So,” he continues, stepping closer. She looks to him. “all of time and all of space is sitting out there. A big blue box. Please, don't even argue.”

 

Stars twinkle in her eyes for a few moments, and then its as if the universe itself has gasped to life in her bedroom. She grins, offering him her hand. He takes it.

 

Whatever words are on his tongue next, he forgets them when she places a kiss on his cheek. Pulling back, she murmurs, “Merry Christmas, Doctor.”

 

“Merry Christmas, Clara Oswald,” he answers, with his hearts fluttering in his chest.

 

 


 

 

Everything creeps back into existence slowly, and it makes a nice change. He's perched, again, just on the edge of awareness. Time is still around him.

 

“Good morning,” a deep voice suddenly drawls, drawing him back towards the light with purple and blue tendrils.

 

That's... the Cardinal.

 

He blinks, hard, and then scrubs a hand across his face. There's stubble, nearing on scruff, and he curls his upper lip in disgust. Darkness is staring back at him.

 

Time is still, and more gentle than it usually is. Rather than the looming presence of the eternity of Gallifrey sitting in the back of his mind, there's a small fireplace which bathes the room in an eerie orange hue. It caresses everything with a delicate touch, gently coaxing the shadows out of the darkness to stretch across the small room.

 

Everything seems muffled, somehow, and he can still taste that pungent taste in the air, even down here with the hum of the fire.

 

Purple and blue is standing out next to him, but it too is subdued; soothed by the presence of the fire.

 

“Hello,” he answers. “Sorry. Got a little preoccupied. The beard is new. I like new. Always an adventure in uncharted territory. Which leads me to my next question. This is the rebellion. Isn't it?”

 

“It is indeed,” the Cardinal answers. “I'll fetch her. She'll be glad to see you awake.”

 

 


 

 

“Rassilon sent out an execution order,” pink and purple explains. “We had to rescue you.”

 

“Contrary to popular belief, I actually am capable of taking care of myself,” he throws back. “I had absolute control of the situation, and it was just starting to work, too.”

 

The Cardinal laughs. “From what I hear, Rassilon tried to strangle you, and that was before he ordered your execution.”

 

“He's mad,” the pink and purple replies. “It doesn't help. Nor does the rest of the Council taking after him and his conspiracy theories.”

 

“You're sounding very rebellious,” the Doctor returns. “Good qualities, for a rebellion leader, too.” He hears pink and purple's breathing change in timing, just enough to indicate he amused her. “And now I've made some jokes and gotten cozy, is this where I learn who both are, really?”

 

The pink, blue and purples blend together; they both look at each other.

 

“First, I think you should know what this is all about,” pink and purple answers.

 

“Time,” the Cardinal provides. “It's damaged.” That explains the nagging feeling in the back of his mind, co-existing with the eternity of Gallifrey, like a pungent taste in his mouth. “And personally, I wasn't surprised to learn, that in fact, it is your fault.”

 

The Doctor blinks at him. “What?”

 

Pink and purple sighs, slightly annoyed. “No, not exactly. And it's currently not my concern; the inaction of the Council is more pressing. They chose to focus on you and the Hybrid, when time poses a more obvious threat as it collapses around us.”

 

“Because they're mad,” the Cardinal responds, like they've had this conversation before, and the Doctor doesn't doubt they have. “The war drove them all mad.”

 

“Then you arrive,” pink and purple continues. “The cloisters go crazy. Rassilon's obsession with the prophecies reaches breaking point–”

 

“I don't know anything about the Hybrid,” the Doctor interrupts, looking between them. He can feel the impatience radiating off pink and purple, and the exhaustion thrumming off the Cardinal's skin, in large, tall waves of fading blue.

 

Pink and purple laughs again, and there's something chilling about it this time. “Believe me,” she replies. “The people think differently. You're a scapegoat for everything which happened during the War. The final threat, Rassilon likes to call you. He has the people scared. About another war with the Hybrid.”

 

“He's the most paranoid, out of all of them,” the Cardinal adds.

 

“He doesn't want Gallifrey to be threatened again,” the Doctor says, remembering very clearly what Pangarth said, when he asked, “especially so soon after the war. He doesn't want to lose control of Gallifrey again, particularly when he can stop it, this time.”

 

“I... yes. That's quite right,” the Cardinal replies, his voice tingling with surprise. “And he believes you are the key to controlling the Hybrid, whatever it is. For whatever reason.”

“Mad,” pink and purple offers, again. “And the cloisters didn't help.”

 

“And now that you refuse to cooperate, he threatens you. He's desperate,” the Cardinal adds.

 

“And ignoring time,” pink and purple finishes. “Which is why we're here. To overthrow him, and to fix time. To save Gallifrey, one last time.”

 

Pangarth's sister was a part of this, opposing the High Council. Their cause seems just enough, and with the Cardinal playing double agent, the Doctor finds himself nodding.

 

“And me?” he asks.

 

“You?” pink and purple returns.

 

“Yes, me. It's all about me. You said I broke time. Completely unintentional, I assure you, but I'm still interested how I did it, so I can avoid it, for next time.”

 

The Cardinal, after taking a long, controlled breath, explains, “We're timelocked, locked away, somewhere in the corner of the universe. Yet, you're here. Not only in the wrong timestream, but somehow, you broke our stasis, just for a moment, to fall through the cracks. As a result, time is shattering, slowly, the longer you exist here.”

 

“But we can fix that, too,” pink and purple continues. “If we get time moving again, break the stasis, and get rid of you, the cracks will set. All of the timelines should reassert themselves back again.”

 

That actually is quite a solid plan, and it makes sense, if he recalls everything that has happened since he woke up in that hospital.

 

“I'm glad you lot can manage to think without me,” he returns. “But something's still lost on me,” he continues. “How did I get here? The stasis is impenetrable.”

 

“Well, all of your injuries were mostly pointed to one thing,” the Cardinal explains. “A Veil. And lots of environmental exposure, mind you. You were in the Dune Sea for days until we found you.” The Doctor doesn't miss the worry that hides in amongst his tone there, which is a curious observation.

 

“The Veil is engineered as a weapon against Time Lords–” pink and purple continues.

 

“–and it disables specific abilities,” the Doctor finishes for her. “I know. Regeneration, time sense, healing. I know.

 

Pink and purple flutters against him, and she's silent. The Cardinal continues for her, “Your entered the time portal with your injuries, and without your time sense, so you didn't belong to a timeline. It placed you anywhen on Gallifrey. Which ended up being here.”

 

“Right,” he answers, turning the concept over in his head.

 

“It's the pain,” pink and purple says, and her voice is airy, like she's not all quite there. “It's always the catalyst for the impossible, and the unspeakable.”

 

He huffs in amusement, but his thoughts are elsewhere . “I do like miracles,” he replies.

 

It makes sense, but he can't quite bring himself to believe it, because he's supposed to be at the end of the universe. Behind the diamond wall was a path to Gallifrey, where he's supposed to be, where he's supposed to save Clara.

 

“I know that's a lot to take in,” pink and purple says. “And you're still recovering. But we consulted with a few people, it looks like your healing is mostly finished–”

 

He cuts over her, “How long? Have I been here for?” Because he knows he's still healing; he can't see, and his nerve endings are still recovering, but what's more concerning is how much time he's lost. Nobody could ever give him a straight answer in the hospital, with them in stasis, and all.

 

“Where?” pink and purple asks, to clarify. “With us? Or here?”

 

“Both.”

 

“A few weeks, on the Citadel,” the Cardinal replies first. “You spent a lot of it unconscious. And here, again, this is only one of the first times you've been conscious properly, in a week or so.”

 

He swallows, and pink and purple notices, because she swallows, too. She adds, “Which is expected, Doctor, don't worry. Your injuries have been highly traumatic, and actually, it's quite a miracle you initially survived without attempting regeneration. Me moving you from the hospital didn't help, either.”

 

He nods slowly. They don't say much else, and what he does pick up, is Everything is going to be okay, whispered across time.

 

 


 

 

Besides the Cardinal and pink and purple, there's a collection of nearly three hundred Gallifreyans and Time Lords hiding in the undercities of the Citadel, and the guard-commander is called Maxil.

 

And they are right; he recovers slowly but surely, so one day, he wakes up and scrubs a hand across his face, and five fingers look back at him.

 

He spends a long time examining his hands, which are smaller and more pronounced than he last remembers. The bones seem to stick out, and he can see every crevice, as it is drawn in sharp black lines through his palm and fingers.

 

There's scarring, too. A lot. Now only faint memories of things long past, so it would seem, but it looks like he's been put through a furnace. He smooths his rough palms against each other, and goes to find pink and purple.

 

They're currently holed up a small, mostly abandoned and run-down residential building, using separate rooms as different points of operations, with the large room downstairs being the main operations room.

 

On one side of the building, the wall is completely blown out, so multiple rooms have stretched out to make a perfect patrol perimeter, and place to watch the city go by, with them having no knowledge of the insurgency below.

 

And sure enough, he finds her a floor below, and she's the most beautiful and sad thing he's ever seen.

 

She's blonde, with her long hair splayed across her back like a fan, and her face is painted with such hardship, yet, her smile is more gentle than the twin suns in the evening, as you walk across the open fields of red grass. She's also quite short, shorter than him, but the look in her eyes makes her appear larger than life.

 

The Cardinal is next to her, and he's got a moustache.

 

They're both leaning across a small table, filled with open scrolls, maps, pens and paper, on top of a holo-display. They both straighten when they see him, concern in their eyes.

 

“That explains a lot,” he says.

 

Romana and his brother hug him, tightly.

 

 


 

 

“Why were you in the confession dial?” Cardinal Irving Braxiatel asks, over dinner, in Romana's quarters (to the Doctor's disappointment, they are not pink and purple). They're eating by candlelight because the building has limited power.

 

“You really want to ruin this lovely, romantic meal with that?” the Doctor returns, still with half a mouthful of food. It's really basic paste; rations, probably. It's tasteless.

 

“Oh, no, I'm simply curious,” his brother replies. “It's never like you to get into trouble, is it?”

 

“I only followed in my big brother's footsteps.”

 

Romana smiles as she chews her food.

 

“The Hybrid,” he says, at Brax's smile, also. “The Time Lords from the future, they lock me inside so I'll spill them all my terrible secrets. And yes, finding your secret diary is one of them.”

 

Romana looks him up and down. “So what exactly did you tell them to escape? If it was for the Hybrid–” He brushes a scarred hand across his face. She visibly stiffens. “Oh.”

 

“I don't know anything,” he says, and it's like he's trying to convince himself, too.

 

“You mentioned to Rassilon you had a contact,” Brax continues. “You were going to extract her. It's why he pressed for the execution, you didn't reveal her location–”

 

Clara suddenly flashes before his eyes, all brown, flowing hair and warm smiles. He sighs, leaning back in his chair. His two friends watch him closely.

 

“Yes,” he breathes. “She...”

 

“Clara,” Romana provides, gently. He looks to her in surprise, and she's offers, “You said her name a lot while you were unconscious. That you were going to save her.”

 

Brax puts two and two together; he frowns at the Doctor, then his eyebrows knit together. “I know you didn't listen in school, dear brother, but that... currently... it would tear about time. Not that you should do it anyway, but even more so, now, the situation is too dire and fragile for dead people to be running around.”

 

Romana looks between them. “Sorry, did I miss something?”

 

The Doctor looks at his plate. Brax sighs.

 

“You're supposed to tell her,” he says, at the Doctor's silence.

 

“You started it,” the Doctor returns.

 

“It's your plan.”

 

“She's your leader.”

 

“She was your companion!”

 

“She's sitting right here,” Romana deadpans, arms crossed, staring at the both of them, with her eyebrows raised and head cocked to the side.

 

The Doctor wets his lips, looking between his brother and the rebellion leader, ex-President and ex-companion. “I... ah... Clara. I was going extract her.” He pauses, then adds slowly, “... permanently.”

 

She blinks slowly, and then he gets in return a split second later, “Do you really want to do this, Theta? Time is bleeding; dying. Unless we fix this, everything will be gone, not just the girl. By Omega, you can be a right idiot sometimes, you know that? What were you thinking?”

 

So, he tells the both of them about Clara.

 

 


 

 

“What we've got so far,” Romana is at the head of the room, and all eyes are on her as she paces up and down, gesturing to the holo-display, which stretches up to the ceiling. It's displaying the Citadel. “is numerous TARDIS, and a few working extraction rooms, all of which will give us a leg up. It's mostly older versions, but they'll still work all the same.

 

“The TARDIS will have to be overloaded, probably by severe temporal failure, and the extraction rooms will simply have to be activated, operating at maximum. This will forcibly manipulate time within our current bubble, to the rate of the rest of the universe, so the bubble breaks.”

 

They took quite a while to establish this plan. It had been in the workings even before the Doctor arrived on Gallifrey, but with all of their heads put together, they were able to shape it into something that quite possibly could work.

 

Romana continues, “This will seal the cracks, too. But first,” She settles her eyes on him. “we have to expel the Doctor, so all of our timelines can properly reassert themselves against the rest of the universe. We have to–”

 

“Ma'am,” somebody suddenly interrupts, a young girl, still in her second regeneration. She's at the door, and has a small holo-disc in her hand. “You're going to want to see this.” Brax is next to her, looking urgent, and the Doctor gets to his feet.

 

“Put it on the screen,” Romana replies, gesturing to the holo-display she's using, and she's staring at Brax, who is staring right back. The Doctor looks between them.

 

When the disc crackles to life on the display table, it's the High Council of Time Lords, with Rassilon at the head.

 

“The Doctor is still out there,” he says. “He lives in the shadows. Waiting to unleash the Hybrid upon us, to destroy us, in our weakest hour. Did you not hear the cloisters, Gallifrey, when he returned to us? A warning! He comes to destroy us! And now, when I ask for his execution, he runs to the shadows! They will not hide him for long! I will not allow the prophecy to come true!”

 

A crowd roars, and the Doctor looks down at his marked hands, feeling the weight of the room suddenly on his shoulders.

 

“Doctor, you will understand the price your deception comes at. You will not defy Gallifrey. You will not defy me. I am Rassilon! The Resurrected! The Redeemer! And I will redeem Gallifrey from your clutches!

 

“Let this be an example to all of you, should the Hybrid reign terror across our war torn state! And an example to you, Doctor, to what will become of your feeble attempts to defy me!” There's a long stretch of silence, where the whole room seems to hold its breath, then Rassilon booms, “You are cleaned of your crimes against our great nation, Pangarthoxiamianian, by death!”

 

Chapter Text

Act III

 

The Doctor works out that, linearly, Pangarth died on a Monday.

 

He desperately hunts through Romana's documents to try and locate her aforementioned sister, but his searches turn up nothing of use. He doesn't have the girl's name.

 

Not that she would want to see him, her sister's killer. It's his fault, after all.

 

They tell him that much, gently, but he wants to know. He needs to know.

 

“After I got you off the Citadel, Rassilon launched an investigation into all of your associates,” Romana explains to him. They're sitting in what's been assigned as his room, on a dusty sofa that bears marks of the war; there's burns scorched into one armrest, in the pattern and spread of gunfire, and the cushions are ripped wide open, stuffing spilling out and onto the floor.

 

“Myself included,” Braxiatel adds in. He's perched on the edge of the bed, arms crossed, looking solemn. The room, despite being nurtured by a gentle fire in time, is awfully cold.

 

“It's... not because of you, not really. It's her sister, and us.” Here, she shifts uncomfortably, pursing her lips against one another. “He uncovered our existence and her sister's involvement with us, so she was guilty by association.”

 

“Her close relationship with you was taken into consideration, but mainly, it was...” The Doctor, of course, doesn't hear the rest of his brother's assurances.

 

 


 

 

“You need to mobilise,” the Doctor says over dinner that night, interrupting some pleasant conversation about the inherent nature of positively charged particles to be attracted to a TARDIS, due to its part-negative charge, stemming from the ionised artron particles present in the heart.

 

Romana blinks at him, her fork dangling between her fingers. “Sorry?”

 

“Get out of here, get to the Citadel. It's only a matter of time before Rassilon finds you down here.”

 

She forces a mocking laugh, and turns to Brax for support, but to her obvious surprise his gaze is firm, with his mouth set into a line. “He's right, you know,” he says.

 

Romana's lips curl downwards into a frown. She looks between the Doctor and his brother, and then sighs lengthily, her eyes heavy. “He's always right,” she laments. “The blasted stupid idiot is always right. I know we need to move, but either way, we'll be slaughtered, we're not ready–”

 

“Bzz. Try again,” the Doctor challenges.

 

She laughs again, and it's one of the first times the Doctor sees truly how much this war has changed his friends. There's nothing in Romana's eyes, nothing at all, and Brax just looks sad. Both of the expressions are foreign to their faces.

 

“There are scarcely hundreds of us, Doctor. Time Lords, Gallifreyans, Shogobans, low lives, scum; all against Rassilon, yes, but awfully untrained. We've been trying, but it's nothing like the forces waiting for us in the capitol.”

 

“You're already leaps and bounds ahead of them, Romana.”

 

No, we're not,” she huffs, sharply. “Sorry, but that's not going to work, not today. Not here. Rassilon controls all of Gallifrey. I barely control this building.”

 

“Madame President,” Brax says, suddenly, surprising all three people around the table. “As is your proper title before he stripped it from you, you have formed and nurtured this insurgency for years, completely undiscovered, prior to this week.”

 

Romana opens her mouth to argue, but the Doctor adds, “And you have the best advantage of all, Fred.”

 

She raises an unimpressed eyebrow. “Please, for the love of the hair on your head, Doctor, do not say 'me'.” Now, that's the Romana he remembers, with a spring in her step and words that could stop even Winston Churchill in his tracks.

 

“Now that you mention it...”

 

Don't,” she warns.

 

Raising his hands in mock apology, he continues, “But now, really, there's no stopping me. I've already started talking. We both know it's all over. Because, madame President–” Romana stiffens. “–you and your insurgents, all of you are united under one banner; one cause. That in itself is far more power than Rassilon can even fathom, up there on his fancy little chair, in his extravagant little room, ruling over his tiny little, terrified people. And – wait for it, there's even a clincher – you've got the most powerful thing of all.”

 

There's a pause, in which there's a little bit more light visible in Brax's eyes, and Romana watches, waiting. He knows she wants this, really. She wants to march on the Citadel, she wants to fight, she wants to win; yet, every part of her is reliving the failures of the war.

 

It might not be obvious, what with her scheming as a rebellion leader, but the Doctor knows, because he can see himself in those eyes. He can see all of that darkness, self-loathing and corrupted self-righteousness.

 

He can see her, Romanadvoratrelundar, against time. She's pink and purple, wonderfully and beautifully so. She's striking; determined, but there's that twinge of doubt lingering in her colours across eternity, living in fire; in Rassilon.

 

“What?” she prompts him, and her voice is hush, whispering pink and purple through the little room. A smile ghosts across Brax's face.

 

He grins at her. “Romana, my wonderful, beautiful, glorious Romana. You have a plan.”

 

 


 

 

“What's in it for you?”

 

His concentration broken from his tampering with his sonic sunglasses, he frowns, glancing towards his interruption. Romana, in a night gown, in the doorway. It's like an old English novel.

 

“Well, usually, it's a good ol' sense of satisfaction. Always good. Or maybe a pat on the back, if it's a bad day,” he answers.

 

Intelligently, she ignores him, stepping inside the room. “You want to fix time, yes, I can understand that. But something's still bothering me. The girl. It's not her, is it? You're not going to save her, still, after everything?”

 

Clara, he wants to provide. It's on the tip of his tongue.

 

“You said yourself,” he returns instead, his voice controlled, “if I extract Clara, there won't even be a Clara. The universe could fall apart.”

 

“From what I hear, that hasn't stopped you before.”

 

“And just what have you heard?”

 

There, she falters. “Now you've got me stumped,” she admits. “Because that line usually works.”

 

He chuckles a little, and he thinks he sees her smile, in the low light. When it all fades off, back into time, the Doctor inclines his head slowly, saying, “I'm... 'in it', Romana, because it's the right thing to do. For time. Especially as a Time Lord, even a terrible example of one.”

 

“Okay,” she replies. “Thank you. I just needed to check, for my own piece of mind.” He must have looked confused, because she continues, “For when the time does come, I need to know that I can trust you to do the right thing. That's all.”

 

It takes him a few moments to find the words to respond, “Romana, you can always trust me.” It feels like more an insistence than a reaffirmation, though.

 

 


 

 

After Romana's debriefing, people are moving all across the building, darting from one side to the other, fetching arms, ammunition, protection, and all things similar. The Doctor fashions himself a screwdriver with a few spare parts in the chaos.

 

Slowly, people start to collect in the main hall, and mixed feelings dance through time; anticipation, fear, excitement, worry, determination, relief. It's all a bit of a haze.

 

When the people blur together, beginning to form a crowd, he trudges off to find Romana.

 

He finds her at the Gaping Hole in the Side of the Building, as so it is named, staring off into the distance. The rolling hills of what once was red grass is visible just beyond the skyline from here, if you look over all the buildings, traffic and existence.

 

She is sitting on an piece of debris, a stone column of some sort, and there is a gun dangling between her fingers. Naturally, his chest lurches, his breath catches in his throat and he nearly falls onto the upturned column trying to sit down next to her.

 

“Romana–” he starts, but she is already talking, saying, “I haven't touched this since...” She trails off, then shakes her head in finishing.

 

“Romana,” he says again, but this time, more gently.

 

She looks at him, and there's something in her eyes. It's a lot better than nothing at all, but what bothers him is that he can't read it. It's like being back in that room – a haze cast over his perception and judgement. She's clouded. She's in turmoil.

 

“You probably won't even need it,” he assures. “This will work. I know it will.”

 

She averts her gaze. The corner of her mouth twitches up in an indication of... something. She brings the gun into her lap.

 

“It's actually a prototype,” she explains to him, thumbing the barrel with her finger, leaving a fingerprint mark. “The Agency started to develop it back after the Borusa Affair.” He can't help himself; he smiles in salute to all the memories and people long past. “And I know, you're probably thinking what on Gallifrey the Agency could hope to develop against timescooping. And that's where you're wrong, because it's actually just another gun, an old prototype they gave me as a show of good faith. It fires bullets. It recoils, a little less than other guns, they told me. It kills.”

 

“Are you going to use it today?”

 

“I'm not sure,” she admits. “I've only ever fired it once, at the little target they provided me, after a handshake and wishing me good luck.”

 

“Sounds like the Agency.”

 

She huffs slightly, in amusement, and then offers him the grip. He frowns at it, then at her.

 

“Take it,” she prompts.

 

Maintaining eye contact, he pulls his new screwdriver from his pocket and throws it in the air. It flips twice before landing in his palm. “Not for me,” he replies. “But thanks.”

 

She's smiling a little. “No, take it in your hand.”

 

After stuffing the sonic away, Romana drops the gun into his hand, and it weighs absolutely nothing. It's empty.

 

They lock eyes. Romana smiles again, properly this time.

 

“I suppose... what I'm trying to say,” she continues, after a few moments, “is thank you.”

 

“Not goodbye, I hope?”

 

“Oh, never. It takes a lot more to get rid of me. A few bullets included,” Romana answers. “I'm going to do this, Doctor, and I'm going to do it right. My feelings don't matter, not really, because it's the people I'm fighting for who will feel this victory, or failure, the most. I need to know which it will be. I need them to know.”

 

She takes the gun from between his fingers and shoves it into its holster, which sits at her hip. Then, she gets to her feet, offering the Doctor her hand.

 

He takes it, and she grasps on tightly, holding his gaze, almost as firmly as his hand. “For time,” she says.

 

“For Gallifrey,” he returns.

 

 


 

 

“The plan works in three movements,” Cardinal Irving Braxiatel addresses the room of nearly three hundred Time Lords, Gallifreyans, Shogobans, low lives and scum. “First, breaching of security, which is the job of four three-person teams, to access the Citadel's underground tunnelling system undetected. My security access with help with this.”

 

“Second,” Romana takes over, “storming of the building. We have surprise to our advantage. The more of the Citadel we can take in the confusion, the easier it will be. Twenty seven ten-person teams are be assigned to certain areas, to which you will secure. Of the remaining eighteen, most will move for the High Council chambers, and the remaining to inventory our TARDIS and extraction room access.”

 

“Lastly,” Braxiatel continues, “to expel the Doctor from our timestream, we will deposit him back into his timeline using the extraction process.” Murmurs quickly went up from the crowd, but Brax quieted them with a raise of his hand. “A controversial process, I understand, but the times call for desperate measures. Once we have control of the High Council, we can work to begin damage control measures, but for now, it is for Gallifrey's best interests we move for.”

 

“Remember,” Romana cuts in, “we work not only for Gallifrey, but for time. Rassilon's negligence at the expense of the Hyrbid has caused undocumented damage. The sooner we expel the Doctor and break our time lock, the sooner Gallifrey will be whole again; the sooner we can reform our society from the ashes of the Time War, the way we want it, not the way Rassilon demands it.”

 

“For Gallifrey,” somebody puts forth, loudly, in amongst the sea of faces, lives and emotions. “For time!”

 

“For Gallifrey, for time!” people begin to echo, like a chant, building in sound and building through time, as a dominating presence to dwarf Rassilon's corrupting flames.

 

Romana looks at Braxiatel, who both look at the Doctor. The Doctor nods to them, mouthing, “Run.”

 

 


 

 

They move. There's something in Romana's eyes as she gives the infiltration order, a bit like euphoria.

 

 


 

 

They infiltrate.

 

 


 

 

They siege, violently. People die. The life from Romana's eyes fades a little bit more.

 

Braxiatel is hit by a stray bullet, and Romana binds his arm while saying, “I'm still not sure why you stayed. I mean, you're a businessman, not sentimental. I'm not sure whether to feel blessed or guilty.”

 

She gets a kiss in return.

 

 


 

 

They converge at the main hall for a moment's peace, and then divide in two. Eighteen becomes Thirteen towards the High Council's chambers, led by Cardinal Irving Braxiatel minus one arm, and five towards the TARDIS storage and extraction rooms, led by ex-President Romanadvoratrelundar.

 

The Doctor is Romana's plus one, much to her objections.

 

“You'll need me,” he argues while she checks the other teams' status throughout the Citadel.

 

She scoffs, without sparing him a glance. “Don't we always?”

 

“It's always those buggered type 40s in storage. And who knows one better?”

 

“I'll give you points for being stubborn,” she returns. “But until we can secure those rooms, then it's not safe. Go with Brax, help him talk down the Council, if you can. You might be able to make them see some sense.”

 

“He's my brother. Braxiatel. The fabled salesperson of the twelve systems. He can sell anything. Including the famed Lady Romana, too, apparently.”

 

Now, she does look at him, and rolls her eyes, but it's in combination with that glowering, love-filled look he used to get when they were travelling together.

 

“I hate you sometimes,” she accuses.

 

“I know,” he agrees.

 

 


 

 

There are in excess of one thousand TARDIS scattered through the storage units. Plenty, for what Romana plans to do.

 

There are far less extraction rooms, perhaps three and four working rooms, at most. A lot of them were destroyed during the conflict and have yet to be rebuilt.

 

When she's satisfied, she tries to raise Braxiatel on the comms, but it's all static.

 

“Might be interference from the Eye of Harmony, ma'am,” one woman suggests. “We're practically standing above it.”

 

Romana nods in thanks, still focused on her communication device. Absent mindedly, she calls, “Doctor? With me. Let's get you situated into one of these rooms, for when Brax is ready.”

 

 


 

 

They wait.

 

Romana quickly grows impatient, and for some reason, there's a sense of anticipation hiding at the back of the Doctor's throat.

 

“Something's wrong,” she insists, after the umpteenth attempt. “They... haven't done it, have they?”

 

The Doctor swallows. “I don't know.”

 

It was actually funny considering his brother had failed. Not peculiar, but amusing, that after his long and eventful life, in which he'd succeeded in every other aspiration, he'd failed at perhaps the most important one yet.

 

Most important two, he corrects himself, upon looking at Romana, who is tugging at her hair, still trying to raise the upper group on the comms.

 

And him. The Doctor, Theta, his brother.

 

He's still here, too. He doesn't know of a universe without his brother, not really. It certainly is a strange proposition; one which makes his throat dry, and his hearts nervous.

 

“I'm going up there,” Romana announces. “Wait here, keep these rooms secure, no matter what happens. If we manage to extract you today, then I'm counting it a success.”

 

She's about to turn on her heel and dart off, but the Doctor grabs her by the wrist. He sees the flicker in her posture, where instinctively, she wants to twist around and sock him straight in the jaw.

 

But when he tugs her back towards him, gently, she becomes limp in his grip and collapses into his chest, her fingers trying to find purchase in his shirt. She audibly bites back a sob.

 

They're both equally surprised.

 

Fuck, I'm sorry, I–” She pushes herself away again, and whatever force is prompting him today, he needs to remember to ask it what on Gallifrey it was thinking, because he encases her in a hug. She stiffens, sniffs, and then buries her head into his chest.

 

He sets his chin on top of her head, letting his eyes fall closed, and exhales. “He'll be okay, Romana,” he murmurs. “He's always alright. It's a family trait, I think. Kings and queens of okay, the lot of us. Hell, the both of us survived a Time War. Me? Twice over. We're invincible. And I'm sure, that after everything he's been up against, a power-crazy politician isn't anything new.”

 

She doesn't say anything.

 

He gives her a squeeze, then plants a kiss on her hair.

 

“And today, Romana, you– you've been absolutely extraordinary. Whatever happens, however this finishes, please remember that you were amazing. Fantastic.

 

“It sounds like you're saying goodbye,” she says into his shirt.

 

“Wouldn't dream of it. You'd drag me back here by my ears,” he returns.

 

Here, she does wriggle out of his grip. He lets her go. She wipes at her eyes, straightens her clothes, squares her shoulders, and then salutes him. Then she's gone.

 

 


 

 

Stepping into the extraction room sweeps a cacophony of emotion through him. It's a stark white room, leaving little to interpretation, but to the Doctor, it's like a blank canvas.

 

He finds the console he's looking for at the head of the room, facing a large white wall.

 

The central dial is staring at him, boring into him with dead, black eyes, which seem to be able to tell thirteen regenerations from one another, and how much they've all lost. How much he's lost. From Katarina, right at the start, to Clara, now, and possibly his brother, too.

 

What's one more? it teases.

 

One more planet, one more adventure, one more bond, one more friendship, one more heart string he thinks he ran out of millennia ago. Apparently not, because he still picks up those stupid humans and takes them to see impossible and marvellous things, grinning at them the whole time; holding their hand as they run.

 

Just the two of them. Through time and space. Together.

 

The-Doctor-and-Susan.

 

The-Doctor-and-Ian.

 

The-Doctor-and-Barbara.

 

The-Doctor-and-all-of-them. Thousands of them, and he'd said the exact same thing, all the way through to the first time he set foot on a different planet with Clara Oswin Oswald.

 

The-Doctor-and-Clara.

 

And he would do it again, again, and again.

 

He hits the panel angrily, and it hurts his hand, so he does it until his palm is an angry red and his arm is throbbing. The dial still stares.

 

Left, for Clara.

 

Right, for time.

 

Left, to shatter the web of time into tiny fragments across the fabric of reality, and to save Clara's life. To save all of their lives, theoretically. Would he not do this for all of them? Would he not do this for his own brother?

 

And right, to close the bootstrap paradox from that awful hell and send him rightfully to Gallifrey, at the end of time.

 

It's only one more, the dial says.

 

“Her name,” he grounds out, to the dial, staring right back at it. “is Clara.”

 

“And is she worth time?”

 

He squints at the dial. “You've picked up a new dialect very quickly,” he tells it. “The psychic thing... A whole new level of dire ominous conversation. You were doing quite well.”

 

A woman laughs, like she means it. “Yeah... I'm not exactly a dial.”

 

He looks up.

 

The extraction room is unforgivably stark white, but also empty. Time is nothing here– simply a straight, white line, and the room complements this beautifully. However, the woman's voice easily cuts through the static in his ears, as clear as a bell.

 

“Don't you recognise my voice?”

 

“Should I?”

 

“That's... my bad, probably. Your audio stimuli still was adjusting, all through your recovery. The relapse you had when Romana moved you made it worse.”

 

He frowns, and then asks slowly, “Pangarth?”

 

She smiles. He knows she does, because just for a moment, there's colour in this awful, wonderful room. “Hello, Doctor.”

 

“What's the afterlife like?”

 

“Very golden.”

 

“Ah... I... owe a lot of people money.”

 

She laughs again, and it's a beautiful sound to his eardrums. It floats wonderfully above the static, and helps him ignore the sudden urgent banging at the deadlocked door. It occurs to him that he doesn't remember closing it, and that either, Romana is a really fast runner, or he's unclear on how long he's been in here for.

 

“A man like you; I thought you'd be rich by now,” she answers.

 

He doesn't miss the double meaning. “So,” he says, “what are you supposed to be? Are you just a memory? Or, how about a ghost? I like ghosts. A good supernatural mystery! Oh, what about: I've finally gone mad and I'm talking to myself, and this is all in my own head.”

 

“Well,” she says, with amusement clear in her voice. “We are in an extraction room, with Time Lord technology, which is psychic as much as it is physical. Perhaps, you willed me here, so I'm here.”

 

Again, he looks up, frowning at the white walls, which would soon either contain Clara, or himself, a time long, long ago.

 

“Then why can't I see you?” he asks.

 

She hesitates for a moment, but doesn't know how he knows. “Well, what do I look like?”

 

He draws her, in his mind's eye, against the plain canvas on the wall.

 

He gets to her smile, and realises his entire picture is simply just colour; wonderful, and beautiful arrays of pinks and blues, clustered together with a master eye to create a perfect blend of gradient, that thread through the canvas in a form of precise dance.

 

And then, green and red complement each other, twisting through the picture in knots, which seem to hold together the yellow, orange and purple that create the delicate background, which in itself, is also its own canvas as it saunters through the gentle blue and pink gradient, sometimes smudging it, and other times avoiding it all together.

 

“Oh,” he says.

 

“Oh,” she mimics, incredulously, brogue and all.

 

He stares at his painting, which seems to illuminate the whole room, shining an eerie glow over the black dial, and wonders how, after everything, he ended up here.

 

She lets him think, for a while, until there's a loud bang on the door, and she takes a nervous breath in.

 

“You shouldn't blame them,” she says, and knows she's looking at the door, like he is. “They fought this war for time, and now, to have it torn out of their grasp by you... it's...”

 

“–not my place,” the Doctor finishes. “Is it?”

 

Pangarth doesn't say anything. The Doctor pushes himself away from the tiny console, and moves to his invisible artwork. He runs his thumb across the wall, tracing the swirling patterns across the white background.

 

“Clara...” he says. “Oh, Pangarth, I should have told you about her. She's wonderful. Amazing. Beautiful. You'd never think so, though, but it's... it's...” He trails off, and his thumb pauses on the wall.

 

“Which would she have chose?” Pangarth asks then, gently.

 

The Doctor rests his forehead on the wall, and his eyes fall closed, showing nothing but the emptiness and loneliness of time before his eyes.

 

“I... think... I would never mean that much to her.”

 

Pangarth smiles again, but doesn't say anything.

 

He lets out a long sigh, and turns, back to look at the panel. He stares at it for a long few moments, while the door vibrates angrily with pounding fists.

 

“It's not my place to decide for her, is it?”

 

“She's not deciding.”

 

“But she is. All of them are, all through time and space, and all of them trust me to do what's right for them–”

 

 

 

Did I mention it also travels in time?

 

 

 

Just one trip to say thanks. You get one trip, then back home.

 

 

 

Well, you could always come with me. You've seen it out there. It's beautiful.

 

 

 

So what do you think? Other planets. Wanna check some out?

 

 

 

You know, the thing about a time machine, you can run away all you like and still be home in time for tea, so what do you say? Anywhere. All of time and space, right outside those doors.

 

 

 

“–but more importantly, what's right for everybody else.”

 

He approaches the panel again, and the dial is still staring at him; taunting him; daring him. He works at his jaw, and the banging intensifies.

 

“Doctor,” Pangarth stops him, just as his fingers hover over the tiny black button, his fingers twitching in anticipation. “You're a genius, but do you ever take a moment to stop and think?”

 

He frowns, looking around the room, but it's still him, the panel, and Pangarth's artwork. “I don't understand. I thought about it. Chose the right thing. Aren't that's what hauntings are supposed to accomplish, even from sentiment rooms?”

 

She doesn't laugh. “No... it's...” She shakes her head, and again, the Doctor simply frowns at the empty room. “You spent nearly a month lying in bed, listening to me talk, and sing, and... exist. I know, you couldn't hear me probably, but oh, you could think. And you did. You thwart the High Council, you even thwart Rassilon–”

 

“Oh, you want a monologue?” he asks, with anger bubbling through his chest. “About Clara? I didn't tell you about Clara, as wonderful as she was, because she breaks my hearts. They all do, always, and I go on and ask them anyway. I take them adventuring, show them wonderful things, and it's all I get in return. I wanted to but I–”

 

Now she is laughing, but it's almost sad, so he comes to a stop. “Don't you ever stop and think? Slow down. Take a deep breath, open your mind, and use what's around you.”

 

He looks at the dial, at his blank wall, and at his hands on the panel.

 

“Pangarth, I don't–”

 

“There it is! Just think for me Doctor, please, before you do this. I need you to understand.”

 

Tell me!” He surprises himself with a sharp cry, which stops the banging on the door, and freezes over his painting on the wall. “I'm tired of secrets! I'm tired of all of this, Pangarth! What more could the universe possibly have to offer me? It takes and it takes and it takes, yet still, the stupid idiot I am, I give back. I keep giving. But it takes them from me, Pangarth, always. All the time. It took my family. My planet. Clara. And I'm tired, Pangarth, I'm so tired.

 

“Just one more,” she pleads, in a whisper. “One more. Save the universe one more time. Do it for her. For Clara. Do it for all of them.”

 

“I am!”

 

She takes a shaky breath, while the Doctor lets out a controlled sigh, exhaling his tension into the room.

 

Then she asks, “Doctor... the last time you were on Gallifrey, when was it?”

 

He fights down the images rising in his head, and swallows thickly, looking down at the dial, which teases him with its innocence. The anger bubbles through his chest, up his neck, and threatens to spill out of his throat.

 

“... the War,” he says, slowly, and Pangarth is nodding.

 

“And before that? A long time ago, wasn't it? Since you saw what your home should truly be like. How beautiful it is. How it should be remembered.”

 

“Centuries,” he whispers.

 

“Too long,” she echoes. “And... the language of Gallifrey; they it sounds like music from a Gallifreyan's lips. It's like singing, and harmonising, and a choir, that it's almost impossible to comprehend because it's so captivating.”

 

He hasn't been shy of High Gallifreyan, with the TARDIS's translator circuits, but it has been so wonderful to hear it spoken against his eardrums again. Even now, with Pangarth and her cryptic, final words, as the fate of the universe rests on his shoulders, it's so beautiful.

 

It's how Gallifrey should be remembered.

 

Oh, how much he wished Clara could see it for him.

 

When she sees the paddocks of red grass; the way her eyes would light up, or when she hears the singing tree leaves that hum gentle tunes in the breeze, or when the west wind would play with her hair as they watch the twin suns set over the horizon.

 

He remembers her face, when he asked her to explore the universe with him. She looked scared, absolutely terrified, but she'd jumped on board, to see planet after planet after planet, in a universe teeming with so much life it's impossible not to keep travelling.

 

She'd been terrified of running away with him, and he'd shown her beautiful things, and dangerous things, and awful things.

 

 

Sometimes the stars are just twinkling

 

Reminding us we're not alone.

 

For every star sings a sweet melody

 

That helps us to find our way home.

 

 

The language of the Time Lords stretches out across the room, touching all four corners in a gentle musical melody. His fingers twitch on the dial, and the banging on the door starts again. He catches a pleading cry from his brother.

 

“She ran away with me,” he tells the room; Pangarth; the universe, “to see amazing things, even if she was scared. And she died. Because of me.”

 

 

The sun and the moon and the stars in the sky

 

Give us light as time goes by

 

We rise with the sun

 

And sleep with the moon

 

And the stars sing a lullaby.

 

And the stars sing a lullaby.

 

 

Clara flashes before his eyes, and he sighs, then his breath catches in his throat. The sung words are threading themselves against the air in High Gallifreyan. It's– oh. Oh. Oh!

 

“Pangarth,” he says, excitedly now.

 

Because the universe takes selfishly, always, without remorse. It takes away days never to be lived, emotions never to be felt, smiles never to be seen, and connections never to be had. Continually. Always.

 

But sometimes, just occasionally, the universe lets something slip, and it's a wonderful, beautiful occurrence, one to be treasured.

 

A miracle.

 

The last of the sung words gently caress his face, like a gentle finger trailing across his cheek, and says again, “Pangarth. It means impossible, in High Gallifreyan.”

 

He flicks the dial to the right, and Clara offers him her hand. Her artwork cracks into two, giving way to a white light, quickly becoming blinding, hot against his face, like it's burning

 

“Everything will be okay, Doctor,” she assures him.

 

He takes Clara's hand, and it goes black.

 

 


 

 

When he open his eyes, he's standing in Trap Street. Ashildr is looking solemnly at him, and at the bracelet clasped around his wrist. He opens his mouth to remark something, anything, but there's a sharp metallic sound, and then nothing.

 

 


 

 

When he opens his eyes, there's a young boy looking down at him curiously, his top lip pursed. There's a twin heartbeat in his chest.

 

He manages to push himself to a sitting position, and finds himself in amongst a sea of red grass. A breeze whispers across the field, and the grass dances to the given tempo, tickling at the Doctor's shoulders.

 

The boy lingers at his outstretched feet. He tears his gaze from to the field, to him. “Go to the city,” he tells him, which glints on the distance; that wonderful glass dome, a crystal on the red Gallifreyan continent. “Find somebody important. Tell them... tell them I'm back. Tell them, I need to know what they did, and I'm on my way. And if they ask why, tell them I don't care who it is, I still need answers. I'm not leaving without them. If that's a problem, have the head of your table vacated before I arrive, otherwise I will do it for you.”

 

The boy is still staring. The Doctor ducks his head, leaning closer. “You... did get all of that, didn't you?” He gives a timid nod. “Good. Quickly. It's a matter of utmost urgency.”

 

The boys runs off, towards the Citadel.

 

He looks down to his confession dial at his feet, barely visible in the grass. When he opens it, it's simply nothing. It's black, and in time, it's a straight white line.

 

“You can probably still hear me, so just between ourselves, I'm still quite cross,” he tells it. “I remember... bits. I fixed it, but she's still gone, isn't she? Then, make sure that you know, you've got the prophecy wrong. The Hybrid is not half Dalek. Nothing is half Dalek. The Daleks would never allow that. The Hybrid is destined to conquer Gallifrey and stand in its ruins. And it did. Rassilon, if you can hear me – run. because this is my planet, and I'm here. The Hybrid is here, finally, to conquer your reign and return Gallifrey rightfully to its place in the universe.”

 

And when he reaches the High Council's chambers, President Romanadvoratrelundar laughs for almost five minutes, thanking him for the wonderful monologue.

 

And then she explains.

 

In the timelock – for him, it had been an alternate timeline, one working parallel to his own, which entered the confession dial and landed on Gallifrey correctly. Except, the two merged once the timelock broke, and reverted the Doctor's timeline back to its most stable instance.

 

“Clara,” the Doctor translates.

 

“I tried everything,” Romana tells him. “I'm sorry, but if I did any more, your timeline would start to unravel.”

 

They hug, and she explains some more, about the confession dial. They are still at the end of the universe, which Romana and the People's Council feel is best for while Gallifrey rebuilds.

 

“And Trap Street?” he asks, learning forward to plant his elbows on the table.

 

“Well, I had to structure around established events, which was Rassilon's orders to capture you. So, instead, I constructed your confession dial to be a stasis pod, rather than a prison,” Romana explains.

 

“How long?”

 

“The same,” she replies. “Four and a half billion years. The express way.”

 

He smiles a little, wondering about all of the adventures the universe dished out to its inhabitants in four and a half billion years.

 

“And... Pangarth,” he says, lastly.

 

Romana gives a slow nod. “When Miss Oswald stepped into your timestream on Trenzalore, she created echoes, to fill all of the gaps. She assimilated into the timelock perfectly, as a measure to try and counteract the damage to time, but she wasn't enough.”

 

“But she helped.”

 

“Without her, Doctor, I'm sure it would have finished differently. And that is an avenue I do not wish to cover today.” She stands, and the Doctor does too, watching her closely. “The others are waiting for you. Come.”

 

 


 

 

They drink tea with President Romana, Agency Director Irving Braxiatel, Admiral Maxil, and others.

 

“There's something I ought to show you,” Romana says at one point, while Brax tells an awfully descriptive story of one of the Doctor's first temporal experiments to Maxil, who is laughing his face red. “Come with me.”

 

She leads him down, deep into the Citadel, where she stops outside an aged door. It used to be white, by the looks of it.

 

“This isn't...” he starts.

 

“Some functionality did remain intact after we broke the timelock,” Romana returns. “It seems... there were some psychic power reserves from the last user.”

 

He practically races inside, hands onto the console, fiddling with all of the controls. Romana watches from the doorway, her hands folded into the large sleeves of her robes. There's a smile playing on her face.

 

When he twists the dial, there's a grinding noise, then a pop, and a door appears on the end wall. He looks back at Romana.

 

“You'll have a few hours, at most,” she tells him, and then turns to leave.

 

“Romana,” he stops her, his voice thick with emotion, dripping off into the air. She turns back, smiling. “Thank you.”

 

 


 

 

The Doctor's fingers hesitate on the handle. He knows what he'll see, and yet, he's not if he'll fully comprehend it with his own eyes.

 

Clara. His Clara. Dying, behind that door, right now.

 

He swallows, and then tugs the door open.

 

She's standing there, her arms spread like a martyr, and blinking at the frozen raven in front of her chest. Cautiously, she side steps, moving out of its path, and examines it with a frown on her features.

 

He's too enticed by the bounce of her brown hair and the way she holds her hands gently at her sides to see she's noticed him, standing there, also suspended in the middle of the street.

 

“Doctor?” she asks, like she definitely doesn't believe it. He certainly doesn't.

 

“That's my name,” he answers, and his voice breaks. “Don't wear it out. At the moment, it's the only one I've got and I'm quite attached to it–”

 

What? How are you here? I'm...” She looks back at the raven, then at him, and there's anger on her face, as well as a mixture of confusion, and traces of relief.

 

“I'm from the future,” he explains. “And Clara, you... you're...”

 

“Dead,” she finishes for him. She pushes two fingers to her wrist, and he has to smile, because she's so extraordinarily smart. His Clara. “Yep, dead. No pulse. Completely, stone dead. So, if you wouldn't mind, Doctor, can you please explain what the hell is going on?”

 

“You're dead,” he starts, and she glares, and he smiles, which probably doesn't help. “You're... dead,” he says again, “on Gallifrey. The Time Lords, they... ah... they're very clever. They've extracted you from your timestream, just before your last heartbeat.”

 

She stares him down. “We're on Gallifrey,” she repeats, incredulously. “As in... Gallifrey... Gallifrey?”

 

“Gallifrey Gallifrey,” he confirms, and has to swallow around the lump in his throat.

 

She steps cautiously towards the door, to which he's still in the doorway, and peaks through. A frown crosses her face.

 

“You know you're supposed to clean your room before you invite a girl over, right?” she remarks, challenging him with a smirk, but sees the look on his face and everything crumbles. “Doctor?”

 

She's close enough, that he's able to grab her and pull her into a hug. She makes a surprised noise, but once she's there, she grabs him and holds on, too.

 

“What's going on?” she asks him gently.

 

He holds her a little bit tighter, setting his chin atop her head, squeezing his eyes shut. “I'm... glad you're here,” he tells her, when he's able to control his voice.

 

She smiles against his shirt, and then murmurs, “Come on, big guy. Talk to me. I mean, the hugging's great – you're actually a super hugger – but we humans need words. We can't do the Time Lord-y thing, with the... telepathy, probably.”

 

“Touch telepathy,” he offers, a slight smile on his face, despite everything. They both pull away to look at each other, the both of them smiling, in various degrees of amusement and fondness. “I... was going to bend the universe for you,” he admits, once he's memorised the exact colour of her eyes. “Extract you, like this, but run away with you again. Away from the Time Lords. Away from the laws of time. Because I thought, that maybe after everything I'd given the universe, it might give me you back.”

 

She stares at him for a few long moments, then her face softens into the most beautiful smile he's ever seen her wear.

 

He continues, “Things didn't go... ah... exactly according to plan. I made the right choice, saved the universe, the usual deal, but now you're... you...”

 

“Oh, Doctor,” she laments, moving her hand up to cradle his cheek. “I'm so sorry.”

 

He swallows. “So am I.”

 

“You know what, though,” Clara prompts, trailing her finger down his shoulder to rest on top of his left heart. “I'm not gone, not really. I'm always going to be just here. Whenever you need me, you just say the word, and I'll be there.”

 

He drops his chin to his chest, and Clara goes on, “And if that's not enough, remember what it feels like.” She slips her other hand into his and gives it a squeeze. “Remember how good I was, how extraordinary I was. Because up there, and in there,” She draws a circle on his chest. “I'll always be there. I'm never going to leave you.”

 

“I...” he tries, and then lifts his face to look at her; takes her in, everything, from her head to her toes. “Clara. My Clara. My impossible girl. Thank you.”

 

She smiles warmly in return. “Now,” she says, gently, and looks out across the extraction room. “We're on Gallifrey Gallifrey. How about a bit of a walk? I don't know about you, but even dead, you've got to watch those calories.”

 

“Anything for you, Clara,” he returns.

 

He shows her the grass first. They lie in the fields, watching as the sky darkens to gave way to night, and he points out each of the constellations. He shows her the trees and the singing leaves, the twin sunset, the Citadel, and everything, how Gallifrey should be remembered. All she does is smile.

 

The breeze plays with her hair as she tells him its the most beautiful thing she's ever seen, and the grass seems to part as she leans in and kisses him, properly.

 

“Oh,” he squeaks when she pulls away.

 

“You don't like saying goodbye,” she replies.

 

“Oh,” he says again.

 

She starts laughing, sadly, but it's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen in all of his lives. “I'm so proud of you, you know,” she says, after a long stretch of comfortable silence. She's leaning against his shoulder, her knees hugged up to her chest. “You did it. You got to Gallifrey.”

 

He swallows because he's trying not to cry “I got to show you Gallifrey,” he answers.

 

“Thank you,” she murmurs. “Thank you, Doctor,” she says again, louder. “I mean it. For everything. For the life you gave me, the experiences, the knowledge, the friends, the adventures. I would never trade it for anything, ever.”

 

“Clara Oswald,” he says in return. “I thank you for exactly the same.”

 

When he's ready, they walk back to the Citadel, slowly, hand in hand, talking like they're old friends.

 

At the extraction room, they lapse into silence. Clara kisses the Doctor again, on the cheek.

 

“Remember,” she whispers in his ear, before she pulls away. “Run, you clever boy. Always run. Never stop. And be a doctor.”

 

Clara Oswin Oswald leaves, and as he leaves the extraction room, time whispers to him, Everything is going to be okay.