I'm hoping now that David quiets down in my head and I can move on to working on other stories that I've thought of and works that I've abandoned for a while. I read through what I've written of what will probably be my next multi-chapter, and I'm starting to get very excited about returning to it. Wish me luck!
Word count: 2816
Dawn on Boxing Day had never been an event that David had ever bothered to observe. He'd never been one to brave the crowds in the shops to search for sales and discounts, and even if he'd been a sports fan, the football and rugby matches were held much later in the day. The day after Christmas had always been a day to sleep in and then spend with family and friends, but this time, he must be up at dawn, and he must be alone.
Not that he really slept much anymore. He'd already been up for hours, building the framework for the external dimensional stabilisers, and had made better headway than he'd anticipated; he'd thought he'd be distracted by his dread of the morning to come, but instead found that his determination in not letting himself react to what must happen strengthened his concentration on his work. After toiling through the night with a single-mindedness born of a desperate need to forget what was happening outside his door, he had abandoned his tasks an hour before the sun began to rise to spend some time in meditation, hoping that the TARDIS might choose to speak to him and help him through this difficult day, but he met only silence. Thus, he exited his time capsule and wandered downstairs to make his tea.
Cradling his thermos in the crook of his elbow and clutching a small bag of biscuits to his chest, he pushed the front door open and stepped out into the crisp British morning. He perched on the top step and poured himself a cuppa, then sat back to drink and wait. The town was eerily silent, and for good reason: there wasn't a single human in it. All but two humans on the surface of the Earth were now copies of the Master, and those copies were in their erstwhile homes, awaiting final orders from the original. This was now a planet of Time Lords, a defiled, twisted version of majestic Gallifrey. It amused David, in a tragic sort of way, that somehow, no matter what this Earth was or became, he could never find a home in it.
Nibbling on a biscuit, he stared up at the sky. Perhaps I shouldn't have come here. When the Doctor decided that he'd fled from his destiny long enough, that it was time for him to close the paradox and return to his normal timeline, David and Jenny had had the universe to choose from for a home to settle down in whilst they each grew their TARDISes and determined their future paths. Jenny had chosen a far future Earth colony, one where time-travel technology and long-lived aliens were not unheard of. She'd avoided the only home she'd known, Messaline, because, as she said, it held too many memories. There was nothing there that could help her and the colony needed to establish its own future without the interference of a Time Lady. David had taken almost the exact opposite tack. Though he hadn't actually lived on this Earth, he had chosen to settle here, feeling that living among humans in his own time zone would be easiest and most comfortable. He'd only been here for a little over a week, living in a house the Doctor owned and had lent to him, but he was already wondering if he'd deceived himself, casting a veneer of logic over a subconscious longing to return to being human. Not that it mattered anymore: until the TARDIS matured, he couldn't leave if he wanted to.
A planet of Time Lords. At least with the nearly seven billion Time Lord minds chattering away across the sphere, one more voice wouldn't be noticed. Setting his cup down on the step, he pulled at the chain around his neck and brought out the pendant that lay hidden beneath his jumper. Unclasping the chain, he removed the amulet and closed his eyes as the inhibitor's pressure on his mind receded. In a way, it was like popping his ears: the compression on his mind cleared and he could hear the cacophony of murmurs clearly. With a very careful mental touch, he dipped into the flood of Time Lord consciousnesses and felt the empty silence that normally echoed in his head wash away. This is what it's like to have a home, a people. Of course, it was hardly healthy to welcome in the mental chaos of seven billion Masters and he was careful to only skim the surface of their influence, but he knew he would never have another experience like this.
Very carefully, he began to explore, to reach out across the sea of Masters, looking for a specific voice, one he knew was located high above the planet, trying to keep itself concealed. He was trying to hide himself, too, as he knew that if the Doctor felt him, identified him as an anomaly, he might become distracted from his path, his destiny, and that would be disastrous; the paradox of the Doctor meeting him now might itself unravel the timestream. However, he was confident that as long as he kept himself quiet, he wouldn't be noticed, just one fleck of dust buried in this churning mass of Time Lord minds. It helped that throughout much of this morning, the Doctor was going to be too busy, too distracted by far more important events to notice.
There! David's hearts leapt and an exultant smile spread across his face as he felt the Doctor's distant mind. It was at once so familiar to him, as he'd spent the last two years closely connected to him, and yet so strange, since the Doctor no longer remembered him, his memories of his time in the paradox stripped from him when the paradox circuit had been turned off. David knew him so well that though a casual contact like this was normally barely an impression, a whisper lost in a roaring crowd, he could feel the Doctor's despair from across the miles: the dragging burden of his failure on Mars, the dread of the Master subjugating the planet he loved so much, his powerlessness whilst trapped in the scuttled Vinvocci ship, and his fear of his prophesied oncoming death.
Unable to contain his nervous energy any longer, David jumped up and paced across the stone walk leading to his house, clenching his fists and punching at the air in frustration. He didn't care that a Master might notice him, not only a non-transformed humanoid but a twin of his archenemy, striding angrily back and forth. The Doctor had been right: now that the moment was here, David struggled with himself to not run to the Doctor's rescue. It would have been so easy to stop this whole chain of events. When he had realised that all he needed to do was prevent the Master's resurrection at Broadfell Prison to avert the Doctor's death, he had run into the TARDIS and sequestered himself there, under the excuse of working on her systems, knowing that being in a different dimension would make the events of Christmas Day easier to ignore. But now, sitting on Earth and sensing the Doctor falling to his destiny, it was all he could do to keep himself from jumping in his car and driving to the Naismith mansion. It would be so easy: disguise himself in one of those helmeted guard outfits and knock Wilf out of the way to slip into the glass control booth when the scientist tried to flee. He'd then disable the nuclear bolt, and if he couldn't, once the Time Lords came and went, he'd throw the switch to vent the radiation into his own chamber, giving the Doctor no opportuniy to sacrifice himself. And he'd do it: he'd willingly give up his one life to save the Doctor. Perhaps he'd hesitated, been too scared to do so when he'd been human, but now, after all the Doctor had given him, he would gladly repay him. The Doctor was worth everything he could give.
But he knew better. Even without his Time Lord sensibilities and understanding of temporal mechanics and philosophy, he knew the disastrous consequences of subverting an already established timeline. One might argue that his knowledge of the sequence of events had come from a script of a television programme in another universe and thus shouldn't be considered immutable, but it ran much deeper than that. This wasn't a fixed point - those were momentous occasions, on which the fates of civilisations or worlds hinged, not the death of one individual, no matter who he might be - but the prophesies and the timelines all converged on the death of this Doctor, so much so that it might as well be considered fixed. And these events were what created the next Doctor, the Doctor who had brought David back to this universe, who had shown him his true past and had created his future for him. The timelines of David and the Doctor looped and whorled with each other in a complex pattern, woven together so tightly that a tug on one of them could easily strangle the other. This event would finally free them both, allow them to separate and move on, into their own futures. It must happen.
Thus, the cold Time Lord voice in David's head chided him for his embarrassingly human response to the Doctor's onrushing death. It bade him to abandon this nonsense and return to his work, as the TARDIS, a living, timeless being, deserved his attention and care more than did the man who would not survive the day. However, his human side was just as obstinate as any Time Lord could be, and he thrilled in morbid anticipation of the suffering and sorrow the day promised to bring. I'm a glutton for punishment, he joked to himself, and whirling, he sat back down, picking up his tea and settling in to listen and wait.
He didn't need to wait long. It was hard to miss the triumph that swept the planet as the pathway between Earth and Gallifrey opened: the Masters were, for once, upstaging the Doctor in being the saviours of their people. Then the self-congratulatory pride receded in the wake of tense anticipation, and amidst the chaos of billions of the Master's consciousnesses - a churning susurrus of insanity that was starting to make David dizzy - five distinct individuals blossomed as the Time Lords began to emerge from the time lock: Rassilon, the Woman, the Man, and the two escorts. David shied away from the contact, hiding as well as he could whilst continuing to listen with fascination, afraid of the Lord President's condemnation if he ever discovered the existence of this bastard human Time Lord. An idle thought flitted through David's head: if the Final Sanction had succeeded as Rassilon had planned, would he, David, have ascended as well? The mere idea of another change, and of such magnitude, into a being so far removed from who he felt he was, nauseated him. Thus, he wasn't ready for the pain lancing through his body as the Doctor smashed into the cold marble floor. As he involuntarily jerked into a curled ball, the teacup tumbling from his hands down the step, he scrambled to scale back his psychic contact; in his yearning to be there for the Doctor, he had gotten careless. Then, the writhing mass of Master minds evaporated as Rassilon reverted the population of the planet, and though this exposed him dangerously, David couldn't tear himself away: the seven individuals in that room were like a shining beacon, calling him to a home he had never known, and he hoped that they were too busy to notice the eighth voice hovering at the edge of their peripheral sense. He concentrated on staying tiny and silent as he climbed back to his seat on the steps.
A short moment later, David raised his eyes to the sky to watch the enormous red and orange planet emerge from the time lock, dominating the tiny marble of blue and green. As the ground began to tremble, the terrace came to life, his neighbours rushing out of their houses and panicking and screaming at the sight of their world's doom looming overhead. From here, it was only a matter of time. David hunched forward, his elbows on his knees, holding his head in his hands as he listened.
Normally, a Time Lord's mind was identifiable but indistinct and guarded enough that personality and emotion did not transmit over a casual link. However, even from this distance, Rassilon's voice was so strong, it bristled with arrogance, entitlement, and triumph, and David winced, physically cringing as he edged his mind away from that toxic aura. But there was another mind that he could feel, a mind so clear and so close to his own, and he drank in the wisps of that consciousness that he could afford to touch, that he had missed so for the past nine days as he'd settled his life here on Earth. He immersed himself in the Doctor's determination to stop Rassilon's mad plan, his indecision as he chose his target, and his anguish and self-condemnation as he doomed his people to obliteration for the second time. As the giant red planet receded overhead and cheers of salvation and relief erupted all around him, David's tears splattered the stone step between his trainers.
Then Wilf knocked.
Of course, David could not hear the quiet rap of knuckles on glass over three hundred miles away, but his heavy hearts sank lower with each repetition. In waves, the Doctor's realisation that he had not escaped fate, his fear, his bitterness washed over him, as, for once in his long life, a brave man railed against his fate. I could have saved you... But I couldn't. I'm sorry. David's fingernails raked his scalp as he fought the urge to do something - anything - to help him. Even now, he could lend him his strength, join his voice to his song, support him through this final trial, but even that, he was forbidden to do. The Doctor had to make this journey alone and find his strength in himself. And he would, because... This was my purpose. I was created to tell the Doctor my story so that he could do this, so that he could find the right path again, so that he could save the universe and save Wilf. David chanted silently, reminding himself that he'd done what he needed to do, those two years ago, that he'd already helped the Doctor through this final day. However, he could find no comfort in the thought.
Bracing himself mentally, David blocked much of the agony the Doctor radiated as he absorbed the many-times-lethal dose in the nuclear bolt chamber. Still, it burned, hotter and sharper than he had expected, and he trembled as he tried to work the clasp of the inhibitor's chain with his bloodied fingers. Failing to manipulate the slippery metal, he clasped the medallion to his clavicle. He knew that once the Doctor emerged from the booth, his mind and his attention would be clear enough to sense the distant intruder and David couldn't allow that. As the inhibitor deadened his sense, he panted his relief from the searing pain, a tiny fraction of what the Doctor had endured.
This was the end. The Doctor would take Wilf home, then embark on his final journey to see his friends one last time, holding back his death until he could give them each one last gift. He would return to this time zone a few days later, to see Sarah Jane and Luke, but this last moment had been the final time David would sense him, ever. He hoped he would meet other, future Doctors as he journeyed through his unnaturally long life, but he would never see this one, his Doctor, again. Wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, and unknowingly leaving a bloody smudge on his cheek, David climbed to his feet. Forgetting his tea things on the steps, he pushed his way into the house, the medallion clamped firmly against his chest. He trudged up the stairs and into his bedroom, stopping in front of his fledgeling time capsule, a gift from the Doctor, a child of the Doctor's TARDIS. Closing his eyes, he placed a hand on the cool metal surface and laid his forehead against its back, taking some comfort from the subtle hum of the machine transmitting through his flesh. He breathed deep, then, tracing his upper lip with the tip of his tongue, he pushed the door open and disappeared into the cavernous chamber beyond.