The Doctor has met the Devil before. A few times, actually. He gets around, and so does the Devil, so their paths were bound to cross more than once. He's seen him in many places and many aspects. The Beast, Fenric…they're all the same creature in the end, the Doctor figures.
Of course, today the aspect is not nearly so obvious. No glowing yellow eyes on a sullen scientist's face, no black marks on white skin and red eyes. No, today Fenric is simply a girl. A thin, blonde girl. A thin, blonde girl in military greens.
Jenny, actually. Today, Fenric looks like Jenny.
"Jenny didn't smile like that," the Doctor says, struggling a little with the ropes against his forearms. It's true, of course. He remembers his daughter perfectly, down to her wide, toothy smile that seemed to mirror his. Fenric makes Jenny's mouth twist into a smirk that sits unnaturally on her face.
"But I like the smirk," Fenric says with Jenny's voice, looking in a dirty mirror on the opposite end of the interrogation room. "It looks devious and a little naughty." Fenric puts his (her?) hands on her hips and preens.
"You had one attractive daughter, Doctor. Well, with you as both mother and father…she even got your slim hips!"
Fenric steps towards him and suddenly Jenny's form is covered in a slinky red dress and her waist-length hair is curled and primped. Fenric drapes a leg to each side of the Doctor, straddling him, and wraps her arms around his neck.
"It's probably a pity you didn't get a chance to see her start dating. Oooooh, you'd have had so much fun, chasing away all those bad-bad boys who are probably just like you were at their age." She giggles, and the giggle sounds like Jenny's but it's not quite. Like all of Fenric's illusions.
The Doctor straightens and sneers. He refuses to be taunted like this. Okay, with the current situation he can't actually refuse to be taunted, but he can refuse to show Fenric how much it's affecting him. How much he really would've liked to argue with Jenny over boys and her wardrobe, because that's the sort of thing that---
No. No, he can't dwell. He has to keep his mind clear. The only reason Fenric is Jenny is because the Doctor's mind slipped for a moment and conjured up her saying how much she loved the running. Whenever the Doctor's mind slips, people get hurt. Right now, it's himself.
"You're thinking like I'm dangerous," Fenric says in Jenny's sing-songy voice. "Am I really that bad? You like to boast about meeting me! Like I’m a celebrity! That must make this more exciting than anything else."
The Doctor's had enough of this, really. He had enough of it when he ran away from the firehounds into this room and enough when he suddenly found himself bound to a chair.
"I don't play the fiddle," the Doctor attempts a quip. "And I don't care much for gold instruments at any rate."
"You want to know why I brought you here."
"And to get off my lap, yeah, that would be nice."
Fenric does another one of those twisted half-smirks but doesn’t budge from her close proximity. "It's nothing you wouldn't want to do anyway. In fact, I think you might go out of your way to."
"I'll be the judge of that." What would it be? Go back in time and find him a hiding place? Give him all the power of the Time Lords? Build him a sonic screwdriver? Play some chess?
Fenric grins Jenny's toothy grin. "I want you to save a planet."
The Doctor blinks. "What?"
She nods. "Sympatica 3. You're heading to that galaxy anyway, am I right?"
He is. Donna and he had finally picked a beach they wanted to try out, so he headed for the Systerix Galaxy, one of the most beautiful and peaceful places in the universe. Despite how much they'd lost during the Time War, the planets' people believe that there is still good in the universe. After everything he saw on Midnight, the Doctor thinks it's something he might need to be reaffirmed of, as well.
"Sympatica 3 was destroyed by a stray Dalek bomb twenty years after the Time War ended. Billions and billions of lives ended, Doctor. I just want you to stop it."
It's never that simple. It can't be that simple. "Why?"
"My own reasons. In return…" She taps a dark red fingernail against her teeth. "Besides returning you Donna, of course, who is perfectly fine if a little tied up at the moment." She grins. "I promise you that you will be able to live out your life with the one you love. You know I can make it happen."
That isn't possible, and the Doctor knows it. Even if Rose could come back through the walls of the universe, he would outlive her by centuries if not longer. But there's something more important to consider right now than Fenric's deal. There's Donna, and getting her out of this situation alive. The last time he saw her, they'd been separated at the turn of a building, the firehounds on their trail. He knew Donna would make it out. She's Donna! Of course she would.
But all he can think is that the last time he and a companion faced Fenric down, he nearly lost her for it.
And Rose. He remembers the prophecy from before. She is returning. What if that was part of Fenric, like the overlapping chess boards? What if Fenric can bring her back? What if there's a chance he can live out a life with her? The life he's never had but has started to long for as he's gotten older.
It's quite the temptation.
Rose isn't the first woman he's ever loved and if he turns Fenric down now he knows she won't be the last. But he also knows that there is a rather hollow part of his hearts that still misses her, still misses holding her hand and feeling safe. And with Fenric's abilities to bend time---
And…he can't see the harm in Fenric's desire. To be given the knowledge and the ability to save a world? It's the sort of thing he wishes for, not turns down.
"All right," he says, warily.
"Brilliant!" Fenric leaps off the Doctor's lap and is suddenly back in the military greens. She offers him her tiny hand and he realizes that his bonds have been released. Of course he'd be released now, now he's doing what Fenric wants.
He slowly moves to his feet, his forearms a little sore from the tight rope that had now vanished and his legs aching from running before.
"You save that world that you would've saved if you were given the chance anyway, and I'll make sure the life you've dreamed of comes true."
The Doctor takes a breath, and then takes Fenric's hand. It's tiny and bony with long fingers and he should've asked for Jenny back because what's his life if he could have his child with him? She had no chance, no chance---
"Now, really, Doctor," Fenric grins brightly at him, skimming over his surface thoughts easily. "You know I don't have the ability to bring back the already alive."
There's a crash as the interrogation room door opens, knocking over some barrels that had been blocking the way. It's Donna, who looks terrified but free.
"Can't even make plans with you, let alone finish 'em! Did you see those hounds? They had me cornered in a closet, but then they just vanished---"
When he turns back, Fenric is gone.
"So that's the Devil."
"In a manner of speaking."
"But you said you defeated that Fenric whatever."
"Evil always survives," the Doctor says, and he hacks the machete again, breaking some stray limbs out of their way. This Dalek bomb is much further out than he expected. But, really, a decade outside the Time War, he would've never found this without Fenric's information being programmed into the computer.
"Can't have light without darkness, good without evil, that sort of thing." And another swing.
"That's one of your Time Lord religions, right?" Donna asks, stumbling over one of the stumps and catching the Doctor's shoulder. "Good and evil balancing themselves. Good coming out on top, though, right?"
"The Great Moral Dialectic," the Doctor agrees. It's strange, sometimes, how easy it is to talk to Donna about things like his home religions. He sometimes doesn't even realize she knows until she brings them back up again.
"Is that the shed?" Donna points at an overgrown house poking out of the side of two very large trees. It's hardly even a building anymore, but there's certainly a telltale bit of a giant metal square poking out of one of the windows.
"They're actually very easy to diffuse," the Doctor says, hacking at a few more limbs. "Just need a sonic screwdriver and a little know-how."
"The people here don't have that know-how, I'm assuming. How can they stay so kind even after all the fighting?"
"Mystery of the universe. I think their lack of leadership is part of it. Everyone just shares." He hops up the side of the shed and pulls out his screwdriver. "The brainwave patterns of the species in this galaxy make it impossible for them to feel envy."
"I'm surprised they're not taken over by someone else."
"No one's ever had the desire. Bunch of forested planets? No one who wasn't native would want them, except for tourism reasons, of course." He removes the plate of a side and begins to pick at the wiring within.
"Speaking of," Donna takes a few deep breaths and watches the Doctor work. "When were done with this, we are going a solar system over, right? Promised me a beach, didn't you?"
He reaches in and pulls out a small cylinder, containing the detonators of the box. He grins and holds it up for Donna to see.
"I saved a planet!"
He sighs and nods. "Right, beach."
He hops down from the shed and very nearly lands on a tiny Sympatican boy. Blue-skinned and wide-eyed like the rest of his race, he appears to have been poking at an ant-hill, oblivious to the intruders until that moment.
"Sorry about that," the Doctor says, grinning at him. "Just…stopping natural disaster."
Donna steps up to the boy and grins. The only people they've met were the ones at the arrival station, who were all smiles and excited to see exotic arrivals. The rest of the planet is just like them, they were assured. The wide-eyed boy, however, isn't smiling.
"Hello there," she says. "It's nice to meet you."
"Is it?" the boy asks, and he turns back to the ant hill.
Donna looks to the Doctor, then back to the boy. "Is it what?"
"I think so." Donna crouches next to the boy.
For all that she's strong and independent; the Doctor knows Donna has a very deep motherly streak. It makes her moments with children forever endearing, because it's a part of herself that she'll never give to an adult.
"What are you doing?" she asks the boy as he furiously bats at the ant hill.
The boy looks up at her and his wide eyes narrow. "Killing things."
There's no more water at Bethany Beach. The memories the Doctor has of salty seawater up his nose and peaceful, hugging waves start to fade.
Many memories start to fade. Sitting with Romana in a hammock. Susan talking to a sentient Surveia tree. They're still there, but they're fuzzy. Off. Wrong.
"Doctor. I'm not standing in this suit for nothing. Really, let's go."
The Doctor shakes his head, then turns the blue, number-covered screen towards her. She looks at it, then back up at him.
"It's gone," he says. "The whole world is dried up and used up."
Donna shakes her head. "No, no, you showed me the brochure for this place. Endless walks of water and crystal sand. The people share their---"
"There are no people," he says. "None."
He flips to another screen. "Sixty years after the Time War, a warrior from Sympatica rose up with an army and took over the neighboring planets. Within a century, he had control of an entire galaxy. The entire galaxy. Drained them for their natural resources. Water, crystal. Everything."
"From the planet we saved?" Donna raises a hand to her mouth. "But we couldn't have known. You couldn't have known, Doctor."
"But you couldn't."
No, he couldn't. The knowledge of how to save a world was as tempting as the promise of the slow life. It was too good to pass up.
It was too good to be true.
It is a revenge the devil sometimes takes upon the virtuous, that he entraps them by the force of the very passion they have suppressed and think themselves superior to.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 2,237