Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
A cyberman looks impassively at the flaming hole that has just appeared on the other guard's chest. Then it collapses, floored by a dead-on shot through its head.
Erik beckons Charles and Raven out of the TARDIS. The closest entrance has been made secure. Raven, like Moira, carries a weapon. Erik needs no firearm; he carries only a stash of bullets, easily accessible at his side. Charles is unarmed, except for the Gem.
Raven leaves them, with a quick nod, and assumes her post at the doorway. The rest turn and go quickly to the control chamber entrance. Erik snaps the necks of the cybermen guarding the door and they pass easily into the chamber itself. Then it is a melee of lasers and gunfire and all they can do is hide behind something heavy and not die. After a minute, Moira gets her bearings and begins returning fire at the cybermen. Charles isn't sure, because it's hard to get see anyone right now, but as they entered and the cybermen scattered he knows he saw The Master – he could swear on it.
A particularly loud crack sounds, and a cyberman slumps over as it dies. Erik looks over at Charles, just for a second, and sighs deeply, to himself, closing his eyes to better access his power. There is a clattering sound as the remaining cybermen fall, crushed by their own mutilated metal skin. Then quiet.
Charles hesitantly stands. “Master,” he calls. “Was that you I saw?” He notices a lump moving, and watches as it stretches up into a man.
“Doctor,” the Master greets him. “It's been awhile. For you.”
Moira and Erik are standing now, each running to protect one of the doors into the chamber. Charles glances wistfully down the third corridor, from whence they came, then turns his full attention to the Timelord.
“Can't imagine why you've been avoiding me all this time,” the Master grins at him.
“Master, I am sorry for what was done to you,” Charles responds. “But you've got to stop. Give the cybermen their soldiers back; you don't need them, you're only getting them killed.”
“I'm getting them killed, Doctor? Bit rich, coming from the man who brings his friends and their guns. How about a weapon befitting a Timelord, mm?”
“Weapons are not befitting of a Timelord,” Charles shouts, before he gets ahold of his temper. “You're in pain, Master. I can feel it, and it feels like an open wound.” There are sounds of a struggle coming from somewhere else on the ship, but Charles is not easily distracted.
“Are you volunteering your services, Doctor?” The Master spits the question at him. “Always such a friend to the downtrodden, isn't that right? You only like people who need you, who will go on needing you. You--”
“Enough!” the Doctor interrupts. He is edging closer, palms open in a gesture of reassurance. The gem is nestled between his first and second finger. “If I wanted a therapist's opinion, I'd trick one into believing I'd already paid them. But I'm afraid you're hardly qualified.”
The Master laughs. “So full of kindness, Doctor. Kindness and pity, the two things you do best. I think I might get to see angry again, though, right about....” The Master grins into his eyes. “Now.” He looks behind Charles, and his face fills the other man with dread. Erik and Moira are watching their doors; no danger approaches from there. But the door they came from, the door he can't see right now... He turns slowly to see what has made the Master so excited.
Raven is crawling into the chamber, leaving a smear of dark blood behind her. Charles' mouth opens.
Moira reacts quickly, shooting forward to dispatch of the dismembered cyberman still chasing his sister. She saves Raven's life as Charles watches, too far off to do any good. More cybermen flood in after Raven, and Moira is having trouble getting her up and out of the way in time. For a split-second, Charles thinks about Raven being trampled by metal soldiers for trying to fight his battle for him.
Then, finally, Charles is running to her, dragging her to shelter by the wall, crouched to clasp her hand in one of his as his vision blurs. Moira is there too, clutching Raven's other hand and stifling sobs. Charles is trying to keep half an eye on the master and the cybermen, but they seem rather unimportant right now.
“Wait,” Raven sits up. Moira tries to ease her back down, but Raven waves her off. “Please, it's okay. Look, Charles,” and she props up her leg. “Just my leg. See?” she shows Moira as well. “I can just shift to heal, just... I need a few seconds. I'll be fine.” Charles' hearts start beating again, and he falls back against the wall. He sees Moira whisper something to herself, and then she tearfully reaches down and, to his surprise, kisses Raven on the mouth.
Then she stands, moving across the room to position herself alongside Erik. He looks at her once before returning to his offensive, barely stemming the tide of cybermen flowing in from the first door. Getting back to the TARDIS might be a problem. Getting back to the Master is probably impossible.
Charles waits silently as Raven heals, willing the cybermen to move past without noticing them tucked away in a dark corner. Erik and Moira are engaging them, and Charles can only hope the two can take care of themselves.
“Okay,” Raven whispers with a reassuring smile, and he points at the second door, the alternate route back. She nods and they creep along the wall. A blast nearly hits Raven's hand, and they're off, fleeing down the corridor. When Charles looks back, a small force of cybermen is pursuing them, but the bulk seem to have stayed in the control room. Small blessings.
Erik and Moira are overwhelmed. Erik grabs another handful of bullets, because if he's going down, he'll take a hell of a lot of these damned robots with him. Out of nowhere, an arm yanks him around a corner by his collar, and suddenly he is pressed up against the wall.
“Stay still,” Moira tells him, body pressed against his as she fires around the corner into the control room. Then she eases off, and beckons him to follow.
He turns back, and cybermen have already noticed their exit –they are swarming the door, lumbering after them. He looks back at Moira, and she is watching him impatiently.
“This wasn't the alternate route,” Erik observes mildly.
“It's what we have instead!” Moira barks. “Just run!” She turns and begins sprinting off. With one last look, Erik speeds off to join her.
"I got it, you know," Charles says, out of nowhere as they flee for their lives. Again. "The day you left, in fact."
"What?" she shouts from behind him. "Keep going!"
"I'd always just trudged about in my skin before that. Never had much complaint with it. Then suddenly, and for the rest of my life, half of my body was literally good for nothing. And there was the pain of it, but also the shame, and doubt. I never put it together until that day; I saw it in you but never really understood it."
She steers them into a crevice and they peer over, then crouch down side-by-side, backs to the wall. An impact rocks them forward and Raven assumed a fighting stance.
"You are beautiful, you know. Perhaps I shouldn't say such things, but you are." Raven needs to keep alert but she can't look away from him. "Of course you are -- you're my sister. Who in the world could be more beautiful than that?" Raven's vision blurs a moment and she blinks it away, as the creatures advance. They might attack at any second.
"Charles--" she begins, and then one leaps at her.
I'm glad you followed your ideals, Raven, instead of following me. It comes to her in her mind, and it distracts her for a moment before she adjusts to it which earns her a blow to the torso. She recovers quickly. Charles seemed to be talking to her while using most of his powers in the fight. That must take quite a lot of concentration.
It most assuredly does, Charles' voice speaks to her. And I'm glad you found someone who appreciated you when I seemed incapable.
"Charles!" Raven scolds, going into a roundhouse kick. "I followed Erik because he understood my fears and challenged them; I stay because I believe in our cause; and yes, I certainly love him. But, choose him over you?" She was yelling as loud as she could now, hoping he'd hear her telepathically if not aurally. "I could never do that."
Moira peers around a corner and quickly pulls back. Her gun is loaded and held ready.
“We're hiding from them?” Erik says aloud to nobody. He can't stop wondering whether Charles escaped, even though the man has always been quite capable. “But, why would we hide when you can just shoot them?”
Moira gives him a dirty look. “They're not invulnerable to bullets, Erik. A good shot at a weak point would take one down. The eyes, maybe, or the neck.”
“Sure,” Erik concedes. “So that's, up to six before you have to reload? Assuming you never miss.”
“Yes, how awful of me to be born with no mutation,” Moira glares at him. “Never mind that you can't use yours without achieving a state of concentration. Clearly I'm unfit to live! Just like the rest of my kind. I see your wisdom now, Erik. You know what I don't understand? Why didn't you finish the job that day at the beach? You want to wipe us out, right? Why not start with me?”
“Be quiet!” Erik hisses. “Or do you want them to find us?”
“You mean you don't relish the chance to mow down more of them with those powers? I like how an evil man tortured you, so that makes it okay to eradicate his entire species. Except you were wrong about his species, weren't you?” Moira is gesticulating angrily with her weapon. She is going to get them seen.
“Stop,” Erik turns to her. “Shut your mouth.”
“Well, that's the man you chose to follow, right? He must have had some good ideas, I mean he's clearly a smart fellow.”
“It's not like that,” Erik is beginning to shout. “You don't understand!”
“Oh, clearly!” Moira steps closer. “Because if another human did that to me? I wouldn't take it as permission to wipe out some other species, but I see that's where you and I differ. If there was one man worse than Adolf Hitler himself, It was Sebastian Sh—augh!”
Erik turns around and there is another cyberman behind him, about to strike. Behind it, more of the ugly things stand watching, weapons raised. Erik makes a fist, but before he can strike, his wrist is in its grip. The cyberman puts one hand on Erik's chest and shoves him back to the corridor wall. He looks over at Moira and she is struggling in the other robot's grip, gasping for air. He closes his eyes.
Stop, he tells himself, though the cyberman before him now has a hand on his skull. Serenity. Calm. It's difficult to block the pain enough to concentrate.
Moira kicks the thing holding her in the crotch. It yells angrily, but doesn't release his hold. Both of her hands are on her neck, trying to pry its fingers off of her windpipe.
Focus. Serenity. Erik's eyes are shut tightly, desperately seeking – and suddenly it's there. Erik reaches out with his mind and feels the metal bodies of his opponents crumple like tin foil. There are crashing noises as the cybermen fall bonelessly to the floor.
Erik stands straight and catches his breath. Then he turns to Moira, still stunned. Her right hand traces lightly around her bruised throat. She meets his eyes.
“I suppose this makes us even,” she tells him. Then she adds, “Unless you count how I saved your life earlier.”
Erik can say nothing for a moment, he is so appalled. Then he notices the gentle smirk on Moira's face.
“I am in your debt, milady,” he responds dryly. “Let's not think any more about it until we're back on Charles' ship.”
“Excellent idea,” Moira nods. “And then I can resume mocking your truly abysmal life decisions.”
“Fine,” Erik allows, resigned. “Come on. I think it's that way.”
The door swings in as Charles and Raven spill into the TARDIS, half-tumbling over each other.
“Charles,” Moira wastes no time. “They have us surrounded. I don't know how we're going to escape.”
Charles flies to the controls. “We're not going to,” he explains, dashing about. “This was Plan B.”
“I thought Plan B was leaving!” Moira shouts at him. “Charles, I'm sorry, but we couldn't get to him. We really have to go.”
Charles whirls around to face her. “Not exactly,” he says, before typing something in and what on Earth is that thing...
“I'm sorry for misleading you all,” Charles declares, facing his compatriots as a large structure lowers from the ceiling above him. “I thought perhaps I could leave, if things went bad. But I have to try. Now that I'm here – I have to.” Charles grabs the helmet, now eye-level, and fastens it to his head.
“Charles...” Erik sounds nervous.
“Not to worry,” Charles tells him, positioning his hands on two sensor panels. “I've had days to work on this. It'll work.” His head tilts in a shrug. “It'd better, anyway.”
“Charles!” Erik repeats. Then there is a lull.
A lull which becomes a silence. Charles closes his eyes in concentration as the others look around at a soft lavender light infusing the ship. The rocking motion and noises from the vessel outside cease.
“What is this?” Raven murmurs.
“Nothing too fancy, new coat of paint and so forth,” Charles responds. “You could call it TARDIS 2.0, if you so desire. Oh, you might experience slight to moderate psychic echo, sorry about that.”
And then Charles opens his mind, just enough, and they feel it. Just the edge of it, and just that one second is almost painful.
It's a second of history, and the present, and the future. Twenty-thousand years of humans on Earth, talking and loving and sleeping and murdering, until they expand into the stars. It's beings from neighboring planets, generations of them, births and lives and deaths for millions of years. Each glint, each grain of sand, an entire consciousness, a mind, a life. And there are so many – so many, many beautiful minds, human and mutant and alien, monster and demon and angel. Each life a confusing path from right to wrong and back again; right choices, wrong choices, hindrance, help. And there are so many they can't be counted. More than any of them really imagined. And somehow each choice is laid bare before them, each moment of every life theirs to see and understand, everything from leaving to find a new life to adding sugar to a cup of coffee, and even the mad decision to invade Poland not two decades earlier. It's hard not to get lost in it, maybe lost forever.
The others catch their breath, recovering.
“Charles?” Raven pleads.
“It's all right, Raven,” Charles soothes. His eyes are closed on a frown, and he is shaking. Raven looks helplessly at Moira.
“Maybe you should--” Moira starts.
Master. It echoes through their heads. Hear me. Everyone in the TARDIS goes still.
Master! Charles calls again.
...Doctor? The psychic response reeks of malevolent curiosity, and the mind it emanates from is a jagged and broken creature, almost painful to behold. Is that you? What an exciting new trick!
I know you, Charles sends out, to his fellow Timelord and anyone else listening. I know you better than you think. I know you can still find peace.
Peace! The Master crows the word. You think I want peace?
I don't think you realize it, no, Charles retorts. But you do want it, Master. You need it. Your mind has been savaged. I can restore it. I can make you whole.
TALK TALK TALK! The Master shouts back. Moria covers her ears, but it does nothing. That's all you do, isn't it?
Listen to me, Charles is shaking harder now. I know you still hear them, Master. I know they still drive you on, on on... and nothing can ever be enough. You need everything, the whole universe, except even when you have it all it won't be enough either. You want to keep on running, keep leaving, but you can't! You have to stay, please. Sooner or later you'll have to stay.
Moira, Raven and Erik look to one another, each knowing what the others are thinking.
And when it happens, it'll kill you! Charles continues. Unless you accept my help! The Master's mind is spiked and angry, thrashing in pain though Charles tries to calm it. This must be Erik's cue.
He steps up beside Charles, puts one hand over his to create a physical connection, and shuts his eyes.
He can feel Charles' mind guiding him, and it gives him strength because he can also sense the frenzy of the Master in the background. Charles sends him a wave of comforting regret, and they are delving back into Erik's past, journeying into the times Erik doesn't think about if he can help it.
The camps. Erik swallows, and the remembered fear is so vivid, the confusion so fresh, that he clenches his jaw so as not to succumb to it. Charles is there, doing his best to soothe the hurt, but it's barely enough to even prove to himself logically that he is not there, this is not all happening over again.
Shaw. Erik is trembling now. He hears a shot, feels a stabbing pain in his own heart, but that bullet was not for him. He feels tears on his face, and Charles' mind holds him back from the abyss like a lifesaving hand. Much more of this and he will simply let go, because believing he is an adult now and with Charles is becoming hard and harder.
The anger comes on now, delayed, and Erik's breathing speeds up. He is more aware now of the situation, of Charles and the Master, but now all he can think about is Shaw, and those men, and that smirk, and he vibrates with the fury and betrayal of it; Shaw is dead now, there is nobody to be furious at, but he feels it, feels it with his bones and his guts, and he wants to crush this arrogant fool, a man of his own great race who should have known better, and nearly reaches out to do so but... something is wrong. He can't feel Charles with him – no. No.
Charles is stuck; they must have left him behind, and he is so sorry. Charles feels curled in upon himself, full of pain and fear.
I know, Erik tries to convey to him. It's too much to understand, Charles. Don't make yourself. Charles is shaking, and feels so close to heartbreak, Erik can't look.
The Toclafane, Charles thinks manically. The Year that Never Was. Utopia. All those people. The words mean nothing, but Erik can feel his grief.
Charles, stop, Erik tells him. It's already happened, it's already done. You can't dwell on it.
The hate, Charles continues numbly. It was so painful. So painful to see.
Charles! Erik shouts at him. We need you stop this, now. We need you to save us.
Charles looks at him, or notices him, or something similar. Well... he sends over. Yes. Right. He straightens. That is important.
Erik thinks about punching him again.
It's finally fading. The Master is close now, caught up in the whirlwind, and his mind watches curiously as the rage and hurt melt from Erik's awareness, leaving only small, black shadows in their wake. And finally, he feels Charles fully becalmed, mind and body there to support him as he staggers, returning to the present. Charles has both hands on the sensors still but Erik has sagged against him, and Charles bears up under his weight as he gives Erik a moment to recover fully. Erik finds his balance again, and makes to push off from Charles, and just as he does Charles turns and kisses his forehead, sending out a warming burst of gratitude.
The Master's mind is still bleeding, but it has been pulled along a strange journey from hated fear to familiar anger and now something new. It screams again, lost, but then for a moment, it looks at the Doctor in true confusion. And just for that moment, it stops its furious struggle. Which is all Charles needs.
Because this is what doctors are for.
Charles stops shaking, and his hands unclench. As they watch, even his face smooths, showing the beatific simplicity of a man at work.
The beast stills as Charles calms it, and carefully eases the Master's mind open. Strand by strand, he begins to repair the ragged remains he finds there. The mind before him shudders, but remains still, and he stays with it, coaxing and reassuring. The Master doesn't speak, and nobody else dares. The cybermen are frozen. Charles' eyes are closed, but a few tears find their way out regardless.
Slowly, the livid reds and burnt edges melt into clarity and calm. The pain lessens. Charles doesn't change the Master's memories; merely accepts them, explains them, takes away their hurt. Last of all, he reaches deep and removes the seed of madness from its chafed and irritated womb. The mind seals itself behind it, free again as it had been so long ago.
You... the Master makes to protest.
Yes, Charles responds. I healed you. That is my job, you know.
Get out, the Master commands, but he sounds different now. Just, get out! Go!
Charles leans back, unstraps the helmet. One hand moves to the coordinate controls.
“Okay,” he says out loud. He ticks in the figures, and they leave. Nobody stops them.
“That'll be that for awhile, old girl.” Charles smoothes his hand along a panel gently. “Maybe by the end of this lifetime, I'll have a real, Timelord compatriot again. If he doesn't still hate me. I don't expect I'll be able to stay out of the game for quite that long without a little excitement, truth be told. I'd be surprised if I ever go longer than a month or two before gallivanting off for a taste of adventure. But we'll see. Maybe this time I'll like the slow of it.”
With a strange joy brewing within him, Charles walks out of the TARDIS.
As soon as the key turns to lock her, Charles is confronted. He turns around, and there is Raven.
“How about taking everyone, Charles. Just once.”
Charles clears his throat. “Raven, I'm not sure--”
“How about it, Professor?” He whirls to his left, and it's Alex asking. Oh dear.
“Yeah,” back to his right, and it's Sean asking. “Just one trip, is all. For everything we've supported you in. Like Zambia.”
“Don't forget Cambodia.” Oh, Hank. He's polishing his glasses with his shirt as he continues. “I think we deserve to see it – to see her in action.”
Then behind them, he sees Erik. Moira stands next to him, arms folded. Erik smiles, and Charles knows his goose is cooked.
“How about it, Professor?” Erik asks wryly. “Got time for a school trip?”
“Oh,” Charles says quietly. “You evil genius.” And he turns around.
Better get her unlocked again. He didn't stand a chance of winning this one.
“This is amazing,” Hank breathes. (Charles admits this part is still a bit fun.) Alex looks bemused; Sean's mouth is gaping open.
“Don't worry,” Moira tells him quietly. “We won't go anywhere dangerous.” Charles can only roll his eyes.
“Hot damn, Professor,” Alex says, stepping out of the TARDIS.
“Quite,” Charles responds, tight-lipped. “Don't swear, Alex.”
“Holy bejeesus,” Sean murmurs under his breath. Charles can't honestly begrudge him that.
Raven wraps her arms around his neck as she steps out. He laughs to himself in surprise, recovering enough after a moment to hug her back. How long has he been without this?
Erik steps out last, stifling a smile. Nobody knows who called in the rebels to save their lives; Erik said mildly that he'd assumed Charles somehow managed it. Charles knows full well Erik was in the only room with a phone.
“Ungrateful brats,” Erik observes to himself, in passing.
“Here now,” Charles objects. “Who decided not to take any of the credit for saving the day?”
“They gave me shaving cream and told me it was whipped cream, Charles.”
“Well I'm sure they didn't mean... they what? Are you sure it was intentional?”
There is silence for a moment.
Charles starts giggling.
“Charles!” Erik barks.
“I'm sorry, I'm sorry,” Charles attempts to control his giggling. “How awful for you.”
Erik meets Charles' eyes and can't bring himself to stay angry for long.
Charles gives him an open, excited smile. Erik finds himself returning it.
It was a good one, Charles concedes, walking back through the main doors with his charges. Alex had risked life and limb; Charles himself had nearly been killed. Not to mention Sean still has one giant blue hand, though that will wear off in time. But it is hard getting over the fact that this is his last adventure, for awhile – it seems unfair, given how recently he's found her again after so long apart.
Moira finds him sitting on his bed, feeling a bit forlorn. She is still carrying her bags back from the ship. She sets them down and looks up at him, smiling a challenge.
“Let's go,” she states.
“What?” Charles asks, already daring to hope. “Now?”
“Yeah,” she shrugs, in a most unladylike fashion. “Right now. Let's go off and save somebody. Just you and me. And Erik. And Raven.”
He chuckles, enormously amused. “And leave who exactly in charge?”
“Hank,” Moira offers. “Maybe Alex. Well... not for any length of time,” she admits with a wince. “And definitely not Sean.”
“Hank, you say?” Charles speaks deliberately, thoughtfully. “Just run away and leave it all to Hank for a month or two?”
Moira's smile widens.
“You grab Erik,” she says knowingly. “I want to tell Raven myself.”
A Timelord doesn't rightly die; usually, the Doctor barely even gets to age. He springs from one youth to another, and whatever he may have had as one man, he loses to the next. But a man like that is wise enough to know that sometimes, an innocuous choice can change the course of an entire lifetime. Sometimes a solitary traveler does find himself a new sister, a new brother, new children, and new love. Sometimes, quite unexpectedly, he gets the chance to be an ordinary man, for a few mere decades -- take a leave of absence and grow old this one time; stay, just this once, instead of leaving. Sometimes a lonely wanderer is allowed to find a way home.