Fandom(s): Doctor Who
Characters: David Tennant, original characters
Word Count: 1785
Summary: (The Actor AU 2) Will's friend becomes terminally ill and there's nothing he can do about it.
Author's notes: This is set about two years after Neighbours and before Repercussions. The entire story is novella-length and too long for a single LJ post, but it's not a chaptered fic; more like a sectioned fic. I'm going to post all of it in bite-sized pieces over the next day or so.
Mary’s hospice room, to which she’d been moved not many days after she’d first entered the hospital, was rather cheery for its purpose, with a large window shaded by translucent curtains that brightened the line of well-wishing flowers on the table across from the bed. The patient herself laid curled up, clutching her precious tablet to her chest, her face and frame gaunt and haunted. Her brother sat by in the armchair, elbow deep in his own work on his laptop. At Will’s and David’s entrance, he pushed his small table aside and hopped up to greet them.
“Back again so soon, Will?” he quipped, though his gratitude for his sister was clear. “Hoy, David. Long time no see.”
“I’ve been meaning to drop by, but time has a way of flitting off, doesn’t it?” He glanced awkwardly down at his hands. “Will told me about her prognosis. I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Kevin replied. “At this point, I’ll be glad to see her suffering end. But don’t tell my mum I said that. She’s still hoping.”
“We all are.” With a polite nod, David stepped back to observe the sleeping figure.
“How’s your mum doing?” Will asked.
“Holding up.” Kevin wrung his hands as he spoke. “I sent her back to Mary’s flat to sleep. She’s here all the time now, and she needs to keep up her own health. Least I can do is spell her when I’m up here on the weekends.”
“We all try to get her to rest when we come by, but she won’t listen to us.”
“My mum’s a stubborn woman,” Kevin claimed with a smile, “especially when it comes to Mary. Just as stubborn protecting her as arguing with her.”
Will grinned. “Same as with my mum and my sister Beth. Especially when Beth was a teenager. They could argue for -”
Will’s story was cut off by a familiar sound, to Will at least: the trill of the sonic probe built into David’s mobile. Kevin stared at the man with a frown and Will played along, whirling around to gawk at his friend. David fiddled with the phone, tapping frantically at the screen whilst in actuality keeping it steadily pointed at Mary. The sound finally cut out and spots of colour rose on his cheeks.
“Sorry, sorry,” he pleaded, grimacing in embarrassment. “I hit the wrong button, and I can never figure out how to get this thing to shut up.” Will had to admit that the man was definitely a convincing actor.
Kevin glanced at his sister. “It didn’t wake her, so no harm done.” In that brief moment, Will shot a questioning glance at David, who shook his head then started tugging at his ear as he frowned at the sleeping woman.
“Well, mate,” coaxed Will, “maybe we should go out into the hall to make sure we don’t disturb her.”
“Not a bad idea,” said David.
“I could really use a coffee,” announced Kevin. “Can I get one for either of you?”
“No, thanks,” replied David as Will requested, “If you don’t mind. Two sugars.”
“Sure. Back in a mo’.” Kevin slipped out.
“Not a thing, mate?” Will whispered to confirm David’s findings.
“Not as far as I can tell. Nothing out of the ordinary for contemporary Earth.” He slid his mobile into the back pocket of his denims.
Will groaned in frustration, gazing at the sleeping woman. “Damn. I was hoping, whatever it is that’s taken her over, it’d be a simple explanation.”
“Me, too. I was sure…” David trailed off, staring at his friend. “Taken her over? What makes you say that?”
Will paused, frowning as he considered what he said. He hadn’t noticed his own casual phrasing. “Well, it’s like that, isn’t it? Like all those films where something takes over someone and makes them do weird things.”
David peered back at Mary, his tongue tracing his upper lip. “I was looking for an alien disease, or nanotech maybe, odd energy signatures, that kind of thing. I wonder…” He fished his inhibitor out from under his shirt and pulled it off over his head. Gathering its chain into his fist, he glanced at Mary. The next moment, his eyes glazed over and he swayed forward, the pendant falling from his limp fingers to the floor with a heavy clunk. Will jumped forward barely in time to catch him and return him to his feet.
“David! Are you all right?” The life had returned to his friend’s eyes and he was standing on his own. “What happened?”
“Aye, I’m fine,” David breathed. “I just, I just didn’t expect that.”
“Expect what?” Will asked as he dipped down to fetch the inhibitor and stuff it in his pocket.
David’s eyes twitched toward the door. “Tell you in a bit. Kev’s got to be on his way back. Come on.” He seemed a bit shaky as they exited the room and walked to the ward lounge, and was quite grateful to sit down in one of the cushy armchairs, though he continued to stare off toward Mary’s room. Kevin appeared not long after with the drinks.
“Want mine, mate?” Will offered to David.
“Nah, I’m fine.” David’s attention was still on Mary.
Will and Kevin chatted for a bit, until Kevin excused himself to return to his vigil, expecting his sister to awaken soon. As soon as he was gone, Will turned to David.
“So what happened?”
“What you said about being taken over, it gave me the idea to check her psychically. That really doesn’t occur to me, you know. I don’t even remember I can do that.” He shrugged sheepishly. “So I tried, and you were right, sort of. There’s something there.”
“Probably. I only got a glimpse.” With both hands, he scrubbed at his face, rubbing his eyes then scraping his hair back. “Will, there’s a psychic entity inside her. Pure thought, that’s all it is. I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
“You lost it for a moment.”
“Aye, I did. Oh, how to describe?” As he groped for words, the hint of a smile curving the corners of his lips betrayed his fascination with the being. “That’s all it is, just thought. It’s not like connecting to someone who’s thinking. It’s total immersion. It’s the difference between dragging your fingers along the surface of the pond and jumping in and dissolving in it.”
Frowning, Will leant forward, elbows on his knees. “And that’s what it’s doing to Mary? Drowning her?”
“I don’t know. I only barely glimpsed it. I need to jump back in and find out.” Though his statement of intention was firm and serious, David’s eyes sparkled with the anticipation of learning more about the entity.
“Are you going to be all right?”
“Should be. At least I’ll know what to expect this time. And I’m sitting down.” Clasping the arms of the chair, he grinned at his friend. “Here goes.” He closed his eyes.
A few seconds later, David’s eyes opened and he nodded. “All right. I understand now.”
“That fast?” croaked Will.
“That fast. We didn’t so much talk as download our thoughts into each other.” Breathing deeply, David sighed before explaining. “As I said, it’s a psychic entity, from a planet called…” He faltered. “Well, they don’t communicate verbally. The planet concept is about equivalent to rough-ochre-wide-arid-comfort.” He shrugged. “They don’t have physical bodies, but live in symbiosis with the dominant species on the planet. They feed on the individual’s mental energy, and in return, they enhance creative endeavours, both the arts and the sciences.”
“Is that why Mary suddenly started writing?”
“Aye. And why Gareth couldn’t stop making those little statues.”
Though his friend still wasn’t out of the woods, Will relaxed visibly. At least things were starting to make some sense. “But why’s it here killing people?”
“It doesn’t mean to. Its host came to Earth to explore but died suddenly, and all the entity could do was take a human host.” David tapped himself on the temple. “Problem is, you’re not compatible. It’s only able to survive by consuming the mental energy from the host’s dreams, but -”
“But that’s killing the host because they aren’t getting the benefits of their sleep,” Will finished for him, clicking his fingers as he made the connection.
“Why doesn’t it just take a bit off one person and hop to the next? That’s got to be better than killing them off.”
David shook his head. “It can’t. It melds with its host for life and trying to leave it is such an expenditure of effort and energy, it could die in the process. It only gets released when the host dies, and it has to grab a new host immediately or dissipate.”
Will wagged a finger at his friend, glaring. “I know what you’re thinking, mate. Don’t you dare.”
“Why not? It’s willing to take the chance, and moving to me is easier because my psychic ability gives it a bridge. And maybe a Gallifreyan is just what it needs.” David grinned, proud that he found a simple cure for his friend.
“And if you aren’t compatible?”
David shrugged. “Then I’ll have three months to find a better solution.”
Scowling, Will glanced back toward Mary’s room.
“Exactly,” breathed David. “That’s the question, really: who’s more important, Mary or me? And you know the answer.”
“No! No, I don’t,” Will shot back. “You two are equally important. She’s just a bit more urgent right now.” He leapt from his chair and paced off, then whirled back around. “Go on, then. Save her life, sacrifice your own. It’s the only thing to do, but I don’t have to like it.”
David smiled. “It’s already done.”
“I was afraid you’d say that.” He buried his face in his hands.
“I didn’t see that there was any other path forward.”
“There wasn’t,” Will murmured. With a heavy sigh, he shook off his frustration and sat down next to David. “Are you all right?”
“Yes. For now. It’s not much different than normal. It’s a part of me now, no different than a leg or arm. I know it’s there and can sense it if I look, but otherwise, I feel the same.” He puffed out a breath, a slight tremor in his shoulders belying his good humour. “This entity is thousands of years old. It’s lived a hundred different lives, and outlived them all. I could learn a lot from it, maybe see what’s in store for me a bit clearer. Maybe this is just what I needed.”
Will slumped back in his chair, shaking his head at his friend. “I hope so, mate. I really hope so.”