Chapter 18: Such Sweet Sorrow


 

     He found Lios examining the newly healed skin on his torso, which still looked pink, and a bit angry. The young man looked up at his entrance, and hastily started donning the clothing piled on the gurney next to him.

     “Wait a tick! If you don’t mind, I’d like to have a look.”

     Lios was not yet ready for company.

     Ideally, he’d have liked a day on his own, rather than the precious few hours he’d had to process the current state of his life. Plenty of experiences needed compartmentalisation, and he needed to wade through more than his share of revelations regarding his values and priorities.

     It was more than just the girl. It was more than the adventure, or the terrible turn it had taken toward its end. It was everything. Adventures were wonderful, necessary, and he knew being with the Doctor meant some of their expeditions would be hard. They would be full of danger. They would be pivotal for the growth and prosperity of the places they saved… or damned with their interventions… and that was always hard, but it was eye opening, nonetheless.

     And then there was his sister. He’d thought about their predicament, and her reticence more than a little over the last two weeks. He’d been at a loss as to how to go about bridging the gulf between the Doctor and Selene. Watching how well they worked collectively, feeling the synergy, the extreme rightness of it all as the four of them came together could not have been coincidence. It was right. But he didn’t know how to keep it from falling to pieces around his ears. Where was the glue which would keep his family together? How was he ever going to find it, and how could he make them all understand how important it was? Further, he’d sensed his sister’s timeline, and that shouldn’t have happened. Sure, it was weak, but he’d never even glimpsed it before. Despite how well they’d come together, despite the comradery the Doctor and the Alpha had struck, he was terrified they were ultimately going to lose her. He’d been so sure – it had been so easy to come away with the old man and believe it would be their saving grace – but he was no longer so confident it had been the right move on his part. Perhaps he should have been more cautious. Perhaps, he had mucked everything up already, and nothing could be saved.

     In short, he just wasn’t ready to face the Doctor and keep his emotions in cheque.

     “I’m fine. All healed,” he replied as he buttoned his trousers, not looking at the Doctor.

     “Have you ever used a dermal generator before?”

     “No, but I figured it out.”

     “Let me have a look then.”

     “It’s fine, honestly.”

     “Why does everyone assume I’m the Doctor in name only?” the Doctor groused, all indignant pout and flapping hands. “It’s like telling people not to wander off. They never listen when I say, ‘I’m a doctor.’ I am a doctor, Lios, or, well, no… not of medicine per se… I’ve got degrees! Honorary degrees! But with as much as I’ve seen and done, I am as qualified as any MD, and I’d like the peace of mind a proper examination will give,” he said, taking the younger man by the arm and guiding him onto the gurney. “Last thing either of us needs is your sister going mental because you became septic when I could’ve prevented it.”

     Lios shifted uncomfortably for a moment, then seemed to come to some internal resolution, and shrugged, lying back.

     He appeared to have done a decent job of repairing the wounds on his torso, but the areas harder to reach were left only half healed.

     The Doctor retrieved the instrument, and set about finishing them off.

     “It’ll heal itself in a few days…” the young man mumbled half-heartsedly.

     The Doctor ignored him and continued his ministrations. He had finished the right shoulder and arm after a few minutes of strained silence, then made his way to the other side of the bed. If he’d let the silence stand, perhaps the eddies and ripples in time would have moved in another direction.

    Harbingers of misfortune rarely wear neon signs proclaiming one’s fate. They do not come dressed in mauve sequined disco jumpsuits – unless of course they’re from Bendragonas III, where the standard uniform of the palace guards in the Northern Sector were just such eye-offending spectacles. Most disasters of fortune begin with an innocent query from a concerned party, such as “What’s that shadow,” and “Why is it getting so big.” Sometimes, if the concerned citizen asking has the time, or indeed is too stupid to run, this is also followed by “Why is it on fire.” The Doctor’s particular point of inquiry, while not in reference to a planet killing event, was intended to earn a smile, and, perhaps, win a little trust, but it heralded much more, just the same.

     “So, Heliosdanaritaxicor,” he tried with a tight smile, “tell me about the nymph.”

     Lios went very red all the way to the tips of his ears, and seemed to want to evaporate. In fact, he was checking to see if he had the ability, though without finding much success. “Nothing to tell,” he spluttered. “I… I let her pretty face cloud my judgement. Won’t happen again.”

     He just wasn’t ready to talk, and the pushing would either shut him down completely, or make him spill his guts entirely. Lios wasn’t certain which he preferred.

     While the Doctor had an easy time reading these things on his hot-tempered sister, Lios was less transparent. Lios smiled in the right places, kept his temper, and was not talkative as a rule. The young man was generally gentle, so the Doctor had no idea he was pushing too hard.

     “Ah, but where is the fun in that? It’s all over, isn’t it? No harm done on your part, and what an…”

     The Doctor had fixed his eyes on the mysterious markings on the young man’s arm, which might have been mere decoration and nothing at all to worry over, but life was rarely so kind. The Doctor had never seen this particular phrase casually. No, it always came with all the weight of time and impending calamity. His face was inscrutable, but the torrents behind his green eyes were not lost on the observant young man.

     Lios knew it had been coming, and perhaps, welcomed the release the inevitable blow-up would provide, so he waited for the older man’s reaction.

     For his part, the Doctor felt like his hearts had stopped. Seeing anything about Bad Wolf written in Gallifreyan was jarring, and sent him reeling. They might be no more than tattoos… given who this young man was, it might have been a tribute of misguided reverence, but again, he doubted it. Rose would not have let them cling to such naiveté. Yet, the Doctor was not willing to jump to any conclusions, especially conclusions which may well presage trouble for Rose’s children. He hoped he wasn’t making a mistake.

     “…an adventure,” the Doctor continued, his face becoming a mask of frivolity. “Sorry,” he cleared his throat. “Thought I might have left the kettle on for a moment. I haven’t. I haven’t been near the galley in hours. Tea does sound lovely though, doesn’t it? Anyway, yes, quite the adventure. Your brother is quite angry with your sister, though. Might need a little intervening. That’s your specialty isn’t it? Forgive me for assuming it, but you are better with both of them than anyone gives you credit for. I’d offer, but I think reason and pragmatism isn’t what Torin needs right now. Perhaps, you should go find him when we’re all done here.”

     He went back to his task with a blithe, I’m-the-Mad-Man-with-a-Box-and-Nothing-Bothers-Me smile, which didn’t quite reach his ancient green eyes.

     “You’re not going to say anything?” Lios snapped with not a little frustrated disappointment. He wanted to row— needed the row at that point. He felt like everything – all the hiding, all the secrets, all the running after his sister and being shut down constantly, and mediating everyone all the time – was crushing him. He needed the weight gone from his shoulders, and it would be thrown at the Doctor’s feet if need be.

     “No, I rather think Selene has the right of it,” the Doctor hedged, “but that’s because I’m very pragmatic myself. You see, Torin is upset that—”

     “That’s not what I meant!” Lios bellowed.

     “Oh?” The Doctor sighed, looking very old, and very tired as he regarded the stormy blue eyes piercing into him. “You’d tell me if I asked? Your sister hasn’t forbidden it? It’s the reason you didn’t want my help, obviously. Getting you lot to open up has proven exceedingly difficult so far.”

     The wind abruptly left the young man’s sails. His posture collapsed down into itself, and he slumped forward with his head in his hands.

     “Selene is scared you’ll chuck us out,” Lios murmured hoarsely.

     The Doctor furrowed his brows, what kind of monster did she believe he was?

     Was he really that bad?

     Maybe he was.

     The road hadn’t exactly been a smooth one with her, and, perhaps, he might have overreacted at first… but no! No, he felt absolutely stung by this unfair belief she harboured. How very incredibly little she trusted him. He wasn’t a tyrant. All he’d done was try to help. They’d argued, but it was no reason to believe him capable of purposely doing them harm. And for this? It was ridiculous!

     “Lios Tyler, I know where you come from. Why should this be so shocking?” he demanded softly, trying very hard to keep the accusation from his voice. “And why would I ever chuck you out? That’s a bit insulting, really.”

     “Doctor…”

     “I know she doesn’t trust me – well, I thought we were making progress, but, that is only very recently, and to be honest, I suppose I don’t blame her. She’s been scared – terrified really –  and I know how important you are to her, and I’m… I’ve… I’m…”

     “Doctor, she—”

     “No, it’s alright, actually. Were I her, I would probably do the same, honestly, and I just have to learn to forgive that quality in her.”

     “Doctor, she’s—”

     “Really, you don’t have to try to make peace between us. I’m not angry. Er— well, not very angry—I-I’ll get over it. I won’t even mention it to her, if that’s easier for you. I can’t imagine she would be happy I’ve found out before she bestowed the honour upon me herself. Am I right? This is what happened when you looked into the Untempered Schism, isn’t it?”

     “Yes, but Doctor—”

     “You all have them then? Same place?” He sighed, “I wish I’d taken more time to understand this Bad Wolf business. Just when I think some strange chapter in my life has finished, it comes right back. Of course, it is hard to leave behind something which was scattered through space and time specifically to follow you. I’m sorry I caused this, Lios. I really am.”

     “Doctor! It isn’t your fault! Please! Don’t start that.”

     “You’re a good man, Heliosdanaritaxicor, but yes, it is. Any way you trace what happened with Bad Wolf and your mother, I’m at the root of it, aren’t I? I’m not saying I regret having you here, but if I’d never meddled in your mum’s life, this wouldn’t be happening. Have you lot figured out why it’s there then? Are you willing to share with an old man?”

     “No, we haven’t, not exactly, not fully, no matter what the Alpha thinks, and I’m gonna bloody murder Torin for spilling that name to you. But Doct—”

     “Ah, but it’s Selenialatovara Tyler you’ll be murdering, not Torin Tyler, whose short but brilliant name is apparently an homage to Tyler-kind everywhere.” The Doctor smiled warmly at him, and gestured toward his arm for permission to examine it more closely.

     Lios nodded, and opened his mouth to speak, then snapped it shut and drew his blonde brows together. He held his arm out, letting his internal debate rage wildly once again.

     “Lios?” the old man hesitated. “I’m going to do something right now that I almost never do – on principle, you see. Well, while I say almost never, I really can’t recall the last time I did, but that’s hardly surprising. I am very old, and very stubborn.”

     The Doctor traced the golden writing with a finger for a moment, then scanned it with his screwdriver. Plenty of tests were viable options – and he’d run them all – but the basics were always a good place to start.

     “Where was I?” he asked after examining the readouts on his sonic. “Oh, yes! I’m going to ask you for advice. You’re cautious, and I’m… not. Well, no, I am, very extremely cautious about some things, but I’ve cocked up enough so far so… er… I mean, I’m in considerably new territory here after all, and the last thing I want is to undo the headway I’ve made with your sister. She told me she likes me—er—no, she didn’t, not really, but she said we could be mates, and you like your mates, right?” He smiled a little bitterly, and tried to catch his patient’s eye, but Lios was staring firmly at the marking that could have been a tattoo, but undeniably wasn’t, and refusing to make eye contact, “But, well,” the Doctor continued hopefully, “you know her, and honestly seem to… handle her better than anyone. Not that she needs handling. What I mean is, you understand her, and she lets you take care of her more than she lets anyone else.”

     Lios still would not look at him, but his words seemed to make the boy crumble behind his stormy blues.

     “Should I confront her?” the Doctor carefully posed, understanding finally what a vulnerable state the young man was in. “How… how serious is this? What can you tell me? Would you rather I just had it out with her, and left you out of the middle? Is it better to let it go? All I want is to make sure you’re all protected, Selene included. I’m… I’m at a bit of a loss, you see. I’m tired of fighting with her, and she always seems to be able to avoid whatever she doesn’t want to share anyway. She’s very frustrating.”

     “Selene…” he half whispered, “Doctor, she’s my sister. She’s…”

     “Yes! No, I know! And I understand if you’d rather not get involved. I’ll just leave it then.”

     “No!” he yelped, his voice returning in force. “Doctor— She’s— Doctor, I love my sister and I want to keep her safe. She’s – I can’t – But she’s – God! She’s so stubborn – and infuriating!”

     “Well, yes, just said so myself, didn’t I? In fact, I think I expressed all those things.”

     “She won’t let anyone help her, and she’s so goddamn self-righteous that she probably never will!”

     “Well, I—”

     “But she’s my sister! My only sister! My big sister, and my protector! She’s part of what makes me whole, do you understand? Sh-She’s taken care of us and sacrificed so much so that we wouldn’t have to! She’s dedicated and loyal! She’s a good person, Doctor! She is! She doesn’t deserve… this…”

     He tore at his pointy blonde hair and let out a gruff cry of frustration.

     “Alright! Alright! I’ll back off! I won’t say a word to—”

     “No! This life, I mean, or me utterly betraying her right now—”

     “Hold on a minute! Don’t beat yourself up! No one is betraying anyone, Lios.”

     “—but, you—someone has to say something! Someone has to help her! Please! She’s my sister! Promise me that you’ll help her?”

     He grabbed the Doctor’s tweed coat and clutched at it like a lifeline.

     “I-I’ll do whatever I can, you know I’ll—”

     “Promise me,” he shook the old man in his grip slightly, “promise me you won’t get angry with her, or refuse once she’s blown her top, ‘cos she will! Oh, God! She will! She’s not even going to speak to me for…”

     The Doctor put his hands over Li’s and gently eased his vise-grip from his coat. Lios looked down at his hands before dropping his head into them.

     “…well, if you can help her, it’ll be worth it.” His voice was muffled between his fingers, but the agony was crystal. “There’s always a price isn’t there? A price for what’s right. If the price for her life is my betrayal, then I have to pay it, don’t I? Torin doesn’t understand, but I do! I can’t ignore it all because I prefer things cosy.”

     “Alright, keep calm!” the Doctor placated, resting a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Back up a bit. What am I missing? Why doesn’t she want help? What do you mean?”

     He raised his head from his hands and met the Doctor’s eyes with determination. “The markings. It’s not Bad Wolf, Doctor. Selene is co—”

     “Wha’ now? I’m wha?”

     She stood in the doorway with her face a mask of calm and ease, but Lios looked horror-stricken and his words died in his throat.

     “Omega, wha’ were you sayin’? The Doctor’s waitin’.”

     The Doctor observed as the two siblings stared at each other in the tense silence, the Alpha challenging, and the Omega pleading, but not lowering his gaze.

     He decided it was up to him. “Alpha,” he began in order to keep from further antagonising her, “would you mind showing me your arm? I wish you’d have told me about this, but I’m not angry with you.”

     He took a single step in her direction, but halted when she mirrored his step forward with a step back.

     He put up his hands and moved back again.

     “I knew you were keeping something from me, and honestly, I thought you’d give me a little more credit than this. I knew you lot were closely tied to Bad Wolf. You have nothing to worry about from me.”

     She continued her unblinking showdown with Lios, all but ignoring the Doctor and his assurances.

     “It wasn’t Li’s fault, you know. I came in and saw before he was finished. He tried to keep your secret, but we have no need for these secrets between us any longer. Please,” he pleaded, hoping against all odds for peace and resolution between them, “let’s just move forward from here. May I see your arm?”

     She finally looked away from Lios to let her eyes bore into the Doctor’s.

     Hard and cold as ice, all fire absent, she was being exceptionally hard to read. She wasn’t displaying any of her usual signs of agitation, like fidgeting from foot to foot, nor was she faffing about with her layers of clothing. No exasperated huff escaped her lips, and for once, her brows stayed smooth and separated.

     She looked less like a huffy know-it-all, and more like a woman who had lived over a century. Her eyes expressed utter weariness, resolve, and sadness with a hint of regret.

     “Las’ bit’s in,” she said finally, but didn’t take her eyes away from his. “I’m gonna try to power her up with the little channeller. Thought maybe we’d do it together, but maybe ‘s not such a good idea after all. Li still looks like he could do with a bit of help. I’ll jus’ be headin’ back.”

     They were both startled from their silent disagreement by the clattering of metal on the floor.

     Lios had jumped off the gurney, knocking the dermal generator off its cart, and was advancing on his sister with helpless frustration clearly written all over him.

     He reached out and seized her muffler as she stepped back toward the corridor.

     She had a stern warning on her face, and he, a desperate apology.

     The bare-footed young man, in only a hospital gown and trousers, moved closer, and obscured her from the Doctor’s view.

     “Little Brother, please,” she begged through gritted teeth.

     Though he couldn’t see her, the Doctor could hear her torment, and moved forward to intervene. Surely, they all could work through this without so much agony?

     Amber eyes locked with blue. Love filled both, and for a fraction of a moment, the air cleared, and brother and sister were united once more.

     Then the Omega’s face hardened, and he tugged.

     The red bit of fabric fell away, but by the time it hit the floor, she had taken off, with speed and silence, back the way she’d come.

     Lios hung his head in shame as he stifled a sob. He bent to pick up the discarded length of red, then stared at the pathetic wisp of ownerless cloth in his hands.

     “She’s got them everywhere,” he whispered sadly. “The words. It’s not just her arm. She keeps covered, but they come almost all the way to her chin. Torin… Torin and I… it’s on our arms, and just about the Bad Wolf… Not her… Hers are… so much worse… She’s… Doctor, please… please, help her…”

     He stood in the doorway, holding the limp scarf, tears streaming down his cheeks, and had never felt so ashamed and alone.

     “I don’t want my sister to die, Doctor. Nothing is worth that,” he croaked. “Not some planet or… anyone, I don’t care how that sounds.”

     The Doctor, too, felt frozen in place. He’d been there for two rather major fights between brother and sister, and hadn’t a clue how to fix any of it. Normally, he’d suggest they go for a trip, and hope it worked itself out, but he had an inkling the root of the issue was much deeper than a few hurt feelings. He was still foggy on exactly what had happened and why. Lios was pleading for Selene’s very life, and it made no sense at all.

     “Please,” he implored again. “She’s not a pawn for the universe to play games with. She’s my sister… my sister…” Lios swallowed the hard lump in his throat but couldn’t look up from his toes.

     The Doctor finally unglued himself from the spot where he’d stopped transfixed, and moved to take Lios by the shoulders. He waited until the young man could finally look him in the face before speaking.

     “Have you seen them all?”

     Again, Lios found the floor irresistible to look away from.

     “No. Yes. Not exactly. I’ve seen them all written down, but they’re so hard to decipher. They could mean so many things… Please…”

     “I’m not going to let anything happen to your sister, calm down.” He pulled the boy in for a desperately needed hug, then moved back to try catching his eyes again. “Tell me what you know, and what you think you know. Tell me everything. Big things, little things. Things you don’t think I’ll find important. I need it all.”

     The TARDIS prodded him to get his attention, but he studiously ignored it as he focused on the youngest of the children.

     “I will. Please, give her one more chance though?” He finally looked up at the Doctor. “To tell you herself, I mean. She’s got them all written down, and maybe she’ll even give that to you. If not, I’ll get them, but, please, it’s important that it’s on her terms as much as possible now. I’m afraid—I-I’m so afraid she’s going to do something stupid. Maybe if you… Maybe if she sees you’re on her side…”

     The Doctor shook his head and smiled sadly. “She won’t tell me anything, you saw how she looked at me, but I’ll make the effort—er… Should I go alone?”

     Lios seemed to shrink to half his considerable size. “She won’t want to see me for a while. She’s really upset. I mean, really upset. She’s shut down our telepathic connection and everything.”

     The Doctor reached out for her presence himself, and found nothing. The girl was barring everyone. Not exactly hopeful.

     “Understood. Hey,” he stopped on his way out and put a hand on the young man’s shoulder.

     The look in his eyes spoke of guilt, panic, and immense pain. He pulled the boy in for another hug and found himself being clutched like a life-preserver.

     “Deep breaths,” he soothed. “It’s gonna be alright. Really, it is. At least the secret is out, right? That’s always the worst of it. Like ripping off the duct tape when you’ve been captured, right? It’s terrible, and you want to scream, and maybe leave explosives in their basement, but it gets better. Now we can sort this mess out, alright? You did what you had to do. Maybe it doesn’t seem like the right thing right now, but sometimes the right choices feel wrong, or too hard to make. I was just talking to your sister about that, actually.”

     “When we do this to each other it hurts, physically and everything,” he confessed pointing to his head as he pulled away from the hug. “For her too, and she’s doing it anyway. She’s punishing us both. It’s just… if we lost her for real… I’m such a prat. I just should’ve tried harder with her.”

     “Oi,” the Doctor interjected firmly. “None of that, Lios Tyler, she’s going to forgive you. She’ll have a fantastic shout at me, we are overdue after all, and I’ll make sure she gets it all out. Leave it to the Doctor, eh?”

     The ship gave him another impatient prod that he pushed aside. He was going already!

     “Doctor… I… I am…I can’t… Thank you.”

     He nodded benevolently, and set off for the young TT capsule in which he was sure to find the Alpha hiding out.

     Hopefully, he’d be able to get back in.

     He had a feeling, even if she had locked it, he would no longer be denied access by Torin or Lios.

     After a few minutes of meandering slowly to gather his thoughts, the TARDIS moved the console room just to the end of the hall. That was helpful, and he thanked her silently, even if she was nagging him to hurry up as he plodded and mulled over how to approach the surly woman, who hated to be less than perfect and right, but admitted talking it out wasn’t her forte.

     Only, when he arrived in the console room, the TARDIS that had been pretending to be a tree was conspicuously absent.

     The Doctor rolled his eyes.

     She must have fixed its cloaking device.

     He wasn’t going to let her childish antics affect him, however. He was going to be the essence of patience and wisdom. Zen. He was Zen, and she was a motorcycle in need of maintenance – but that book was rubbish. He’d forget that analogy. He was going to break through to her, and fix everything because, as she had pointed out the day before, he was the madman in a blue box who did just that.

     Fixed things.

     And, if he could bring down corrupt empires and peace to solar systems, what was a bit of cryptic writing and a domestic between his kids?

     Er—Rose’s children.

     Mates of his, really. His mates.

     She wanted to be his mate, right? Here was his chance.

     He strode over to the corner where he knew it to be, and reached out to feel for the knot where he’d find the door, but met only air and nothing.

     Panic swept through him for a moment as he continued moving forward. He should have smacked into solid timeship, and there was nothing.

     He dashed from empty space to empty space in the hollow hope that he’d only misremembered its location, or that she’d moved it somewhere else to throw him off.

     After three minutes and thirty seconds, he gave up and ran to the console.

     “She’s really gone, hasn’t she? How? It shouldn’t— I took the bloody thing! Oh, Rassilon, Old Girl! What in the bloody hell is she thinking? Show me!”

     The TARDIS sent him a wave of her own frustration and sadness, and the images of the Alpha running into the console room chased by Jack.

     The captain stopped her, and pulled her in for a crushing hug. She wriggled out of his embrace, and started to make her way to her ship. Jack grabbed her hand, spinning her back around. They seemed to be shouting at each other, then stared for a tense moment until the captain hung his head, and followed her inside. Nothing more happened for another few minutes, then the tree began to disappear.

     Not fifteen seconds after it had gone completely, he saw himself pensively enter the room before the memory faded.

     “She’s left.”

     He was utterly bewildered.

     “No word to any of us. She just left.”

     How could things have gone so entirely wrong in so short a time? Why did it feel like he was smack in the middle of the mother of all tantrums, and what wouldn’t he give for a way to send everyone to their rooms for a century?

     “Who does that? Who the hell does she think she is? Where did she go?”

     A set of coordinates appeared on the monitor. Cardiff. He sighed in relief. Unless she was dropping Jack off before running off, she probably went to refuel. It also meant that she probably wasn’t leaving there in a hurry.

     Grounded. She was bloody grounded. Maybe, he could put her in the zero room for a time out while he worked on a way to lock her out of her ship. He’d leave her on Earth for a while, but he couldn’t put the humans through that.

     Should he go after her while she was stuck?

     As if the very act of thinking it was enough to chase her away, he lost her coordinates the next moment.

     “No!” he yelled, and began combing for any sign of her TARDIS. “No, no, no, don’t do this!”

     The search could take hours.

     Oh, Selene Tyler. What are you doing?

     The timeship sent a feeling of loss and grief, then the image of Lios pacing in the infirmary. This was followed by Torin in the darkened library, brooding with his head in his hands. She sent him a feeling of grief again, and the equivalent of a mental push.

     “We’ll figure it out,” he said calmly, as much for his own benefit as anything. “It’s not the first time she’s run off in anger. She’ll come back. She just needs to cool down. We’ll stay here a bit and give her a chance to do. She’ll come back, Sexy. She’s young and hot-headed, but she’ll come back.”

     The ship sent the images of the boys again, and pushed.

     “Yes, I suppose I’d better, but shouldn’t we give it a bit first? Just in case? No sense in causing them any more worry.”

     Impatience and a push.

     He sighed, and ran his fingers through his fringe.

     “…Fine.”

     But which to start with?

     Torin might rage and pretend he was glad she’d left, whereas Lios would likely blame himself entirely. Neither prospect was appealing. Blimey, he didn’t like playing the mediator. Selene Tyler would be grounded to the zero room until – well, until he decided it was long enough, and Jack… Jack was lucky their timelines were out of sync and the paradoxes his death would cause were major. He’d find a way to make him stay dead otherwise.

     He hesitated, glued to the spot in front of the corridor while he weighed which young man would be most upset.

     The TARDIS gave an impatient hum, and it was only a few minutes before Torin’s curly brown head appeared around a corner, followed very quickly by Lios’s spiky blonde around another. They exchanged looks of concern for each other before looking toward the Doctor.

     Thank you. He growled mentally at the Old Girl. Thank you so very much. Could have given me just a few moments, couldn’t you? But you just take all matters pertaining to them into your own hands, don’t you? Interfering box of bolts with delusions of being a nan.

     She sent him a mental huff, then went back to wallowing in her own upset.

     Oh, how was he going to do this?

     “Your sister scarpered,” he blurted.

     Brilliant. Very well done indeed. Still, to the point, in any case.

     Both young men stopped in their tracks with matching stunned expressions.

     Torin’s face quickly melted into a look of annoyance and anger, while his brother’s morphed into utter terror and panic. They silently regained themselves, and hurried into the console room to view the offending empty space.

     Torin was the first to speak, “I’m so bloody tired of her right now, I can’t even find the words.” He tugged at an ear and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Me. I can’t find the words.”

     “Shut the hell up, Torin!” Lios exploded, rounding on his sibling with naked panic in his eyes. “You don’t know the half of it.”

     “Oi! Watch it!” Torin retorted back, the uncharacteristic outburst catching him off guard. “You said yourself she’s been bang out-of-order lately! Now she’s swanned off in our ship without even a word! And what?” He advanced on Lios, and threw his gangling arms in the air. “We just wait until she feels like coming home? Since when are any of us so far beneath her that we should put up with that kind of bullshite, eh? It’s not right, and she can’t be doing this!”

     “Torin, she isn’t coming back!”

     Torin shoved his younger brother and yelled into his face, “Shut your bleeding gob! ‘Course she is, you prat! The Alpha wouldn’t do that! Just shut the hell up!”

     “Torin,” Lios shouted, and lunged forward, catching his brother by the lapels of the new blue suit the TARDIS had provided.

     The Doctor moved to pry them apart, but Torin held up a hand. Lios was staring into his older brother’s eyes and pleading as he mentally flung the the incident in the infirmary at him.

     After a few tense moments, the two melted into matching postures of defeat.

     “She wouldn’t just ditch us, Li,” Torin insisted in a whisper. “She wouldn’t.”

     Lios looked broken and lost, but convinced he was right.

    “Torin… Brother, I could see her timelines. That should never have happened, but I saw them, Torin, a little bit on Olympia, and just then in the med bay, they were clear as day, and I’ve… I’ve had this feeling… for months, Torin, months… She was always going to leave us… It’s why I… pushed.”

     “I agree with Torin,” the Doctor interjected. “I think she’s just blowing off steam. She’s totally lost without you two. Try to relax. We’ll sort this. It’s a steaming mess right now, granted, but we’ll sort it. We’ll wait. She’ll be back.”

     He tried to sound confident, but, as the two debated, he was losing conviction.

     When he put himself in Selene’s position, it was hard to ignore that she’d left the two for whom she cared most in relative health and safety, and with a sort of guardian. She’d taken Jack – not gone off alone – and stopped in Cardiff where she could refuel. Lios had made it clear that she was either in, or intending to be in some sort of danger. Perhaps she was trying to be noble.

     “I need you to tell me what happened at the Schism. Really tell me. I need to understand why she would do this.”

     Neither looked at him, but they both nodded.

     The Doctor felt the invitation to accept their memories and allowed them to wash over him and coalesce into one, if slightly manic, set. They were all tinged in grief, anxiety, and determination.

     And love.

     So much love.

     They had looked into all of time and space… and it was… terrifying… and heartsrendingly beautiful…

     …..and intoxicating in its power, but unbelievably overwhelming, and seemingly uncontrollable – which was new to be honest, and not a little dismaying – and it was… it was…

     …looking into them.

     They were looking into all of time and space, and all of time and space was looking back – searching for something.

     Did they mention how overwhelming it was?

     Bright light completely blinded their vision, and no matter how they tried, they couldn’t move.

     Selene was gone – and not.

     Her little blonde head was there one instant, and gone the next, but they could feel her hands grasped in theirs, despite the void between them…

     …which made no sense in the sensory sense, because the senses usually agree when you’re very clever and not easily surprised, but who were they to argue with All of Time and Space if making sense didn’t seem to matter very much to it just then?

     “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio…” came an androgynous, golden echo, followed by silvery laughter.

     A wolf howled in the distance and they felt an intense heat between them.

     Each had an arm plunged inside an intense light, which burned like a star, and held them fast.

     The heat became searing pain as their arms were consumed in the progressive supernova, threatening to overtake them at any moment.

     It pushed at the boundaries they created but never went far beyond.

     Between them, and only them, they held its power at bay.

     The explosion began to reverse itself, drawing the fires and blinding light back inside itself until the air was once again cool, and their sister with her overbite, sharp chin, and blonde waves stood between them.

     Her eyes burned like twin suns, and she seemed not to be aware of her surroundings. She was staring ahead of herself into the heart of time.

     Timelines spun and wove themselves around them, all in an endless dance of possibility vying to become reality. One shone bright and hot, eclipsing the others as it wound itself around the three, finally encircling them and beckoning them to gaze inside. Their sister couldn’t tear her glowing eyes away from it.

     When they looked with her, they saw it collapsing in on itself, breaking apart and dying.

     As the destruction moved nearer to the eye of the storm, the damage seemed to be originating from a red planet, much like the one to which they had recently journeyed. The terrified screams of trillions of souls winking from existence created chaos within their minds.

     The destruction zeroed in on a city encased in glass, and specifically on one inhabitant of that city. He wore a set of intricately embroidered, crimson robes, a neck piece bearing a strange mark of infinity, a gauntlet which glowed with blue energy, and a golden circlet studded with small red gems. He held a staff made of gold, with complex spirals at its top, and snarled at everyone. He witnessed the screams of billions, and could only muster a bitter contempt for everything around him. In that moment, their purposes in life became as clear as the shining dome meant to protect the burning masses. He had to be stopped. He was the enemy. He would end everything, and they had a chance to put it right.

     Why else would they see something so grim unless they had a chance of preventing it?

     He laughed as reality collapsed around him, and it was all they could do to keep from crying out in horror.

     Gentle pressure met the hands holding their sister’s, before she let them both go, and moved forward toward the maniacal man destroying everything.

     They tried to stop her, keep her from going anywhere near the dangerous man, but found they couldn’t move.

     The man paid her no mind as she approached. He seemed not to see her even as she stood directly in front of him, but when she spoke, his icy blue eyes snapped to hers.

     The evil in his eyes gave way to longing/greed.

     The Doctor shook his head, coming out of the memory and looking expectantly at the men to whom they belonged.

     Torin answered first.

     “I say greed. He looked like he wanted to grab her and use her until she was empty, useless, and completely broken.”

     “It was longing,” Lios contradicted. “Yes, he looked like he wanted to grab her, but it wasn’t just for power.”

     “Anyway, it was weird, ‘cos we definitely haven’t ever met that man.”

     “And they definitely knew each other,” Lios agreed.

     The Doctor, who all too well knew their mystery villain, said nothing of his fear and suspicions, and instead went back to examining their joint memories.

     He held out the hand encased in the gauntlet to their sister.

     Temptation etched lines into her face, but in the end she made no move to take it. 

     They couldn’t hear her next words, but the man’s features contorted with rage. A bolt of blue energy from the gauntlet shot straight through her, but like any phantom, it did her no harm. She simply shook her head and smiled sadly. She stepped back toward her immobilised brothers, then waved her hand, and he began to lose his solidity, dissolving into little more than smoke.

     As he faded from view, an unearthly melody began to play.

     Music, like none they had ever dreamed, surrounded them and began to lull them to sleep. The Universe was singing to them, and they couldn’t fight the drowsiness…

     The Doctor let that memory fade into what followed, but let the memories pass without touching on them. He had seen enough of their grief to know that he didn’t want to live through his meta-crisis dying.

     Instead, he focused in on the hours of examining the girl’s marking, and the futile efforts to interest her in doing anything but pour over the makeshift High Gallifreyan textbooks his meta-crisis made. The hours turned to days, days to weeks, and weeks to months as she tried to master the complex language without a master of her own. She spent the next few years doing little but pouring over everything he’d left.

     The brothers worried, but Rose – blessed Rose Tyler and her stubborn streak – had had enough of the obsessing one day, and locked every book she could find in a steamer trunk, which she promptly loaded into one of their short-range cruisers, and sent down to the nearest habitable planet.

     She told her daughter to go after it before it fell into the wrong hands, and changed history.

     Selene had panicked and raged at her mum, but Rose took it in stride and told her to get on with it.

     Selene was gone three days two hours and seven minutes, and they were just about to take the whole Star-liner in, when she came back covered in slime and algae from the swampy surface of the planet, and positively glowing with life and adventure.

     They still caught her studying all the time, but she had become less openly obsessive, and more inclined to participate in family life.

     “She wants to get to Gallifrey,” the Doctor pointed out, “but it’s gone. Rassilon is gone, and Gallifrey is gone. It’s all gone. I destroyed it. All.”

     “W-we know—”

     “Lios, she’ll come back, because there’s no way to get to where she wants to go. I don’t understand why this was such a big secret. I could have ended this madness when we met with three simple words. They’re. All. Dead.”

     “We know, Doctor. We know all about the Moment, but it’s not that straightforward, is it?” Lios reasoned weakly.

     “Yes, actually, it is. I destroyed the planet, and it’s gone along with everyone on it. No one to fight, no one to save. That’s as straightforward as it gets, by my ken.”

     Lios opened his mouth to object further, when the phone rang. The Doctor ran to it, instead of ignoring it for once, and answered.

     “This had better be whom I think it is, and you’d better make it good.”

     “Hullo, Da— er – Bow-tie. Erm… I… I’m terribly sorry about all this. I was stupid, wasn’t I? I’m sorry. I really am.”

     “Your brothers aren’t half nearing distraction, you know.”

     “Yes, I know, but, well, er… Tell them to stop worrying. They needn’t blame themselves. This was completely my fault, and…”

     Torin was hovering, and obviously fighting the impulse to grab the phone and shout at his sister.

     “Torin would very much like a word, I think.”

     “No! No. Actually, I don’t have a lot of time so – er – Doctor, I’m stuck. Can you pick me up at the coordinates I’m sending?”

     “Of course, but Selene, what—”

     “I’m alright. I’m fine. Just come, please.”

     “Alpha—”

     “Mates, right? I trust you, and you trust me? That’s how it works with mates, right?”

     The Doctor stayed silent as he mulled over her words.

     Something wasn’t right.

     She was telling him something, but was it that she really needed his trust, or that he should be wary going in after her?

     A set of coordinates appeared on his monitor.

     “I’m coming to get you—oi!”

     Torin really did reach out and snatch the receiver this time, though Lios, who had been hovering, made a valiant effort to wrest it from both of them for himself as well.

     Torin was easily tallest, and held it out of reach, then climbed on the jump seat, put a trainered foot in Li’s face, held the Doctor back by the forehead with his free hand, and put the receiver to his ear to hear his sister’s soft laughter and a muffled sniff.

     “Ha!” he cried in triumph. “You’d think you’ve been gone a few years and not a few minutes with all the sorry sods ’round here, eh? Alpha, I… oh.”

     The line was dead.

     “That’s a bit more than disappointing.” He jumped back down and hung it up with a scowl. “Where did she get stuck then?”

     “Odd,” the Doctor remarked as he input the coordinates. “The Tower of London. Twenty-first century. I’m not picking up your ship but the TARDIS isn’t able to land inside either. Very odd.”

     “Really?” Torin intoned in curiosity as he peeked over the Doctor’s shoulder. “Has that ever happened before?”

     “No, and I can’t say I like it very much either.”

     “What could do that?” Lios asked.

     “Humans,” he said, as if it explained everything. “Humans who have things they shouldn’t. Well, looks like she might be in a bit of a pickle. Shall we go find out what kind of trouble she could get into in,” he glanced at the watch on his wrist and whistled wryly, “sixty-eight minutes and twelve seconds?”

 

 


Chapter 19: Exodus


Chapter 17: Compassion


TPOLnew4-2

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