Fandom(s): Doctor Who
Characters: David Tennant, original characters
Word Count: 2322
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.
Two days later, Will’s phone beeped as it sat on the desk next to him at work. The message was simple and short, Kevin letting him and his coworkers know that Mary was ready to receive visitors. Will shot off a quick text to David, then rounded up the gang to go see their recuperating friend.
Amy had taken a day of holiday to be with her best friend, and she was there chatting with Mary when the group arrived. Kevin sat next to their mother Abby, who beamed with happiness at her daughter’s sudden health.
“Still lounging about here?” boomed Ben as he led the visitors into the room. He strode straight up to the bed and took Mary’s hand. “I figured you’d be out running a marathon by now, just to get moving.”
“No,” Mary grinned, “I’m not quite stir-crazy yet. Just happy to be awake. Thanks for coming by,” she crooned, squeezing his hand.
“You’re really looking a lot better,” replied Will. “I’m so glad it’s all over.”
“Well,” began Kevin, “she’s got a lot of strength to get back, and the doctors aren’t sure she’s out of the woods yet. They want to keep her here a few more days, to watch for a relapse and to try to figure out what happened. They’re completely mystified.”
“And that’s what’s really going to make me go crazy,” groaned Mary, “but I can’t argue.” She glanced at her brother and mother. “Kev and Mum said you’ve all been coming to visit every day and I wanted to thank you. Not that I can remember a moment of it.”
“Not us,” corrected Will. “Maybe a couple of times a week for me. The one you really should thank is Amy. She came here almost every day after work.” Amy flushed, bowing her head to hide it.
“I know,” Mary murmured, smiling shyly at her best friend. “I really didn’t deserve it.”
“Oh, hush!” Amy admonished her. “Don’t say things like that.”
“Don’t even think about it,” Abby said, patting her daughter’s arm. “Don’t worry about anything that’s happened. It’s all over and doesn’t matter a bit.”
“How can I?” Mary laughed. “I don’t remember a thing.” She reached over and patted her tablet on bedside table. “There’s five hundred thousand words of a rather fascinating novel on this thing and I’ve no idea where any of it came from. Everything’s just a blur of strange dreams and…” She faltered, grimacing as she tried to remember. “Except…” She looked up, her confusion plain in her tired eyes. “You, David. I remember you.”
“Me?” David was just as astonished as she was, or, Will suspected, he was feigning surprise with an expert flair.
“Definitely you. You came to me with…” She scowled at the memory just out of her grasp, then grunted in frustration. “I’m not sure who it was. But you told me not to worry, that I’d be all right. And I believed you.”
David shook his head. “Just a dream, I’m sure. I only came here once or twice, with Will, and I never said anything like that.”
Mary shrugged. “Fever dream, then? Or perhaps a pipe dream.” She flashed him a playful smile.
“You’re going to finish the novel, I hope?” David asked, oblivious to her flirtatious poke, and she winked at Will. “What I saw of it was excellent.”
“I don’t know.” Absently smoothing her blanket over her legs, Mary stared at the tablet. “I know it was me that wrote what’s there, but it wasn’t me, you know?”
“It was all you, love,” said Will. Stepping over, he picked up the tablet and handed it to Mary, who accepted it with shaking hands like it was made of fragile glass.
“No, it wasn’t.” She ran hesitant fingers over the cover of the device. “I can’t explain it. It’s like it was someone else and I don’t know if I can match that. Have you seen it? It’s brilliant, better than I could ever do.” She slumped back against the headboard, pinching at the bridge of her nose. “ I can only barely remember how the novel was going to end.”
“Mar,” Kevin breathed, leaning forward to catch his sister’s attention, “what’s there, that’s all you. I watched you type it. And I’ve read your other stories, you know, the ones in those notebooks that you used to hide behind the books in the bookcase in Mum’s house?” Mary’s eyes widened, and spots rose on her cheeks. She grabbed at her blanket and pulled it to her chin. “Yes, those. I don’t know if Mum knew about them, but I did.”
“Of course I did,” murmured Abby. “It was my house.”
Kevin grinned at his mother and turned back to his sister. “They were fantastic. I used to sneak downstairs every weekend before you got up to see if there were more.” He took both her hands and looked into her eyes, nodding. “I know you can finish this novel.”
Mary stared at her brother, then smiled. “All right. I’ll do it. I’ll try, at least.”
Mary’s friends remained with her for over an hour, then Will departed with David, catching a ride home with him. As soon as they turned onto the high street, Will asked the question that had been foremost in his mind through the entire visit. “How’s the thing been treating you, mate?”
David grinned. “It’s absolutely amazing. The ideas, the inspiration! They never stop, just one after another, tumbling out. Last night, I wrote a whole treatise on the ripple effect of paradoxes on n-dimensional spaces, because I’ve got to get this all down whilst I can.”
Will tried to reply with a “That’s brilliant,” but David kept gushing.
“I’ve made more progress on the TARDIS in two days than I have in the past two weeks. And you know,” he declared, wagging a finger at Will as he watched the traffic, “I realised that though Donna really did revolutionise TARDIS growth and cut the time down to a reasonable amount, and I’ve worked off even more based on her calculations, she was working off the Doctor’s education, which was rather shoddy, to be honest. There’re quite a bit of improvements I could make that could tighten the time down even more without making too many concessions in construction and operation.”
Pausing for a turn, he continued with a glance at his friend, his eyes gleaming with the subtle gold that he allowed only when he was excited. “And it’s dredging up memories that I’d thought I’d lost. People and events I haven’t thought about in years. I’m recording it all, because I won’t be able to recall them when it’s gone.”
Will needed to ask one more question before he could stop worrying. “Then it’s working for you?”
David fell silent for a moment, his darkened eyes trained the car in front of them. “No. It’s not. I’m a better match for it, absolutely, and I think I’ll last a bit longer, but it’ll kill me in the end.”
“Yeah.” David chewed on the tip of his tongue for a moment. “And the effects are a little different for me. I can feel them already. You know how Mary had been suddenly dropping off to sleep for little catnaps?”
“For me, if I’m not actively thinking, I’m out. Maybe it’s because I don’t normally sleep much, it’s just naturally trying to get more. It’s not so bad right now and just doing things like driving like this is enough to keep me awake, but I know it’s going to get worse.” He tapped his forehead. “I have to keep my mind active at all times, the more the better.”
Will sighed. “Well, mate, do you think your new highly lubricated brain can find a way out of this?”
“Oh, yes. I think I already have, but I can’t do it for another three months.”
Peering sideways at his friend, Will steeled himself against the probable answer to his next question. “And if it doesn’t work?”
“Then we’ll see if I’m conscious enough to figure out plan B.” David’s tone was oddly cheerful. “But it shouldn’t come to that. What I’m thinking should work.”
“If there’s anything I can do.”
“Oh, it’ll all depend on you, I promise. I won’t be able to do this on my own.”
“I’ll do everything you need.”
Glancing at his passenger, David smiled. “Thanks, my friend.”
Slumped on the low wall, hidden behind a row of bushes, David fought to stay awake, shaking his head violently and even pinching himself every so often. The summer warmth only served to lull him into a comfortable doze, so he forced himself to shift often, into awkward or even painful positions to keep himself alert. He tried to occupy his mind with working through difficult engineering problems and remembering his loved ones from both of his lives, but this degenerated quickly into twisted dreams of his family and friends, those from his other, past life, swarming over the Doctor’s TARDIS, pulling apart the circuits and machinery and leaving it in pieces. He began muttering to himself, reciting Hamlet from memory. He hadn’t thought about the play in years and dredged through his brain trying to get it word-perfect.
He nearly leapt two feet into the air when the mobile buzzed in his hand. Juggling it as he fumbled to activate it, he clapped it to his ear. “Will?”
“That’s me, mate. It’s time.”
“Yup. All three of them.”
“All right. I’m on it.”
“Thanks. Remember, try to keep out of sight, but distract her if you have to.”
“I got this, mate. Go on.”
David stuffed the phone in his pocket and hopped up to look around. As he expected, there was no one in sight; everyone in the area were still down on the high street. He jogged down the alleyway into the road, crossed over to the opposite pavement and ran down to the next street, and stopped at the sight of a police box nestled between two blue cargo containers. He bit back a wistful smile.
As he walked up to it, he unclasped the chain of his neural inhibitor and, removing the pendant from his neck, slipped it into his pocket. He placed a gentle hand on the front panel of the TARDIS, then leant against it and closed his eyes.
“I’ve missed you, old girl. It’s good to see you again.” A light chuckle puffed out of his nose. “No, I know you know who I am. You exist across all of time, even across paradoxes caused by our careless mistakes.”
He took a deep breath. “I need your help. I have an entity in me, in my mind, and it wants to go home. Can you please take it back to its planet and find it a suitable host?” His eyes popped open. “Oh, don’t give me that! I know you go wherever you feel like. I’ve always been sure that you let him think he knows what he’s doing.” A heavy pressure on his mind that David hadn’t noticed had been darkening his world suddenly lifted, and for the first time in weeks, he straightened to his full height. “Thank you. I owe you one.”
David stepped back, letting his hand linger on her panel. “Farewell. I’ll see you again, I’m sure of it.” Pulling out his inhibitor, he strung it around his neck, then tipped a two-finger salute to the lonely blue box before spinning away and striding back the way he came.
Concealing himself with a pair of shades and a cloth cap pulled down low over his brow, he lost himself among the people returning to their homes after the running of the Olympic torch, proud that he’d managed to pull together a plan to locate the TARDIS based on a story he’d performed over eight years earlier in his own timeline. The DVDs he’d brought from his home universe had been essential for success, as he doubted even the entity could have dredged the name “Dame Kelly Holmes Close” from his faint memories of the script. From there, it’d been easy to determine when the torch was scheduled to pass through the area. With Will as his lookout, he’d rendezvoused with the TARDIS whilst avoiding being seen by either the Doctor or Rose. With a self-satisfied grin, he stopped to perch on a low wall and pulled out his mobile to ring up his friend.
“How did it go?”
“Perfect,” he replied as he scanned the passersby for faces he should avoid encountering. “The TARDIS took the entity and I expect she’ll divert there as soon as they leave.”
“And the Doctor?”
An unexpected lump in his throat clogged his voice and he swallowed against it. “Don’t think he noticed me,” he finally croaked. “I could feel him, but nothing out of the ordinary. As I expected, he was too distracted by the Olympics and the crowds and the Isolus, though I think maybe the TARDIS helped hide me.”
“Good on you, mate. Meet you at the car, then. I expect you want a hotel and nice long sleep.”
“Yes,” he sighed. “A real sleep. Finally.” Hopping up from the wall, he jammed his free hand in his pocket and resumed his stroll back to the car to meet his friend. “I’ve got to say, it was glorious being able to think like that, and it really helped the TARDIS make leaps and bounds, but I’m glad to have my mind back.”
“I’m glad to have you back.”
“Aye.” David spotted Will at the other end of the block and waved. “Come on. Let’s get back to normal life again.” Dropping the mobile into his pocket, he broke into a jog and joined back up with his mate.