I tell her that I love her, just one more time. Lean forward and kiss her, a bit too desperately, I imagine. A bit too intensely to be appropriate, but both Joan and I know it will be the last kiss we will share. The sounds of bombing goes off in the distance, but I try to ignore them, try to focus on Joan, on the woman I love but can never, ever have.
Breaking away is hard, but I do it. She smiles as reassuringly as she can. I don't know how she can look at me like that, like I'm still the most amazing man in her life. I'm not even a man, and she knows it, I'm just a story. Just something that this magic box of the Doctor's made up. To top it off, I'm crying like an infant, and there's no shortage of tears and mucus to foul up my appearance. How can she still look at me like that?
"I'll never forget you," she promises, and I know she is not lying. Joan wouldn't lie to me, I think. She tells me she'll be all right. The words sound true, but her eyes tell me that I was wrong in my assessment of her. She would lie to me, to try to protect me. To protect a man who is about to die.
I stand and leave through the door that Martha and Tim did not go out of, because I don't imagine it will be anything short of completely and utterly humiliating to have anyone see me like this. I am so afraid.
It's death I'm afraid of, and it's contained in this fob watch. Death. I will die. If I have never truly existed, if I have never been real, does it even matter? I am not certain. I step deeper into the woods because I know that once I am no longer myself, once I am no longer John Smith, the Family will know me. Without the trees, they may be able to smell the Time Lord that comes out.
I am so afraid. Not of the barrage, not of the dark forest, but of this watch in my hand and the creature contained within. My hands shake as I place my thumb over the button to open the watch, and I'm forced to look away as I press it. My fingers are numb from the cold around me, the bloody country cold of November. I can't help but wonder: will the sort of creature I am to become, this Doctor...will he feel the cold?
"I feel it." The voice is calm, relaxed. I open my eyes and he's there. This Doctor, this Time Lord that the Family wants and Martha loves. The storm in the heart of the sun, Tim said. The Lonely God.
I blink up at him, my hands still clutching the watch, my eyes still wet with freezing tears.
"What?" It is all I can think to say.
"I feel the cold," he says, and he takes a step forward, "More than a bit bitter out here, isn't it, John? November and all that, suppose we shouldn't be too surprised." He gives me a smile, but it looks as hollow as I believe it feels to him.
I take a breath, and my gaze flickers from the watch to the man. "Are you...I mean to say, are...are you the-the..."
"The Doctor," the man says, patiently, nodding very slowly, "Yes, I am."
"Good Lord." I let out a shaky laugh, because it's all I can think to do at this point. There he is: the man I've dreamt about, who has fought with both demons and gods. The man who will destroy me.
He looks like me. Exactly like me. Oh, his hair's a bit spikier, and his stance is a bit taller, but he still...he looks like me, but he isn't. He's donned in a slim, brown suit with blue pinstripes, and a disgusting brown trench coat that looks like it was cut from the cloth of a couch. He looks ordinary but not, all at the same time.
He is also the final proof that I have never been a real person, that my life has been nothing but a lie. I start to cry again and I must look deeply foolish, but the Doctor says nothing. He simply places his hands inside of his pockets and waits. Eternal patience of a Time Lord, I suppose.
"My whole life, it's all—I'm not real. I'm just a story." I know I am blubbering, but I can not stop. The Doctor doesn't ask me to. He simply stands there. In many ways, it is worse.
"Yes," he says, "You were invented by my TARDIS, a sort of time-space history creator, to give me a past while I was hidden."
"And everything I did, everything I felt---"
"It was real," he explains. "But you, John Smith, you are not real."
I shake my head, "Joan would not...she would not give her heart to a story."
"But she did." He, perhaps, does not mean to be as cruel as he sounds, but to my ears he is exceptionally cold, and the bite of the air around us holds nothing to it. The still, silent, freezing air.
The air. The barrage. The silence.
"There is no bombing," I say, suddenly, desperately, "They have given up, you don't have to---"
The Doctor steps towards me, shaking his head, "John, we are standing in a suspended piece of time, just after the moment you pressed that button on the watch. We're sitting just outside of time, we're just waiting to go back into it."
"This time doesn't exist either, then?" I say, "Just another piece of in-between you like to stand in? To trample over, like me?"
I am surprised at how affected he appears by my words. He takes a step back, as though he has been struck. I remember bits of his life, but I cannot figure out what would affect him. Otherwise I would say it again and again, and hope he would run rather than destroy me.
"There isn't enough time," he says, "John, I'm sorry, but there isn't enough time to---"
"We have all the time in the universe!" I shout, and despite the breaks in my voice, I am glad to hear how well it carries, how fierce I sound, "You created me! You made me John Smith, and now you're going to kill me! Just slaughter me, when I could have that life you let me see!"
"That was for Joan," he snaps back, "You're not going to die, you're just going to become me! Stop being so melodramatic, John! We have a planet to save!"
"I don't want to become you," I reply, "I want to be me, I want to live with her. Please, please, don't....you'll be destroying me, you'll change everything I am, and I don't want to die. Please, Doctor."
I must look pitiful, because his face has become a mask of pity. He pities me, and I hate him for that, but I also wish he would use it, spare me my life.
"I'm sorry," he says, "John, I'm so sorry."
He steps towards me, one hand extended, and I feel the need to run, to run away, but my feet are rooted to the ground. As he nears, I know what is going to happen. He is going to press within the body, every cell will alter, will rip and reform, and my memories will be suppressed, pressed into his own, mingled and become his. It is going to hurt, but that is not what I am afraid of. I do not want to become him, I do not want to lose her. I don't want...
"You will be murdering me," I say. It is cruel of me, considering the pity I can feel he has, but I must say it. The last words of the condemned to his executioner.
"I have to." He says, and I can tell he is not lying, he genuinely believes he has no other choice. I see images in his mind of other times, other choices he believed were the only ones. The Doctor does what is right. Not what is good or beautiful, but what he believes is right.
"You believe there is justice in this form of homicide?" I ask, "To create and wipe a living being off the face of the universe?"
"Would you rather she died?" his voice was lower, angrier, "Joan will die, Martha will die, all those people in the village will die, unless I stop them."
"What will you do to stop them?" I ask. He opens his mind and shows me. Instantly, I wish I had never thought to ask. He had kindness in his soul before, but they have gone beyond his levels of pity. He plans to trap them, to give them eternity, to allow them to see life but never touch it. It is appropriate, it is ironic, and it is cruel. It will be his revenge for what they have done to the village, to the people, and to Joan and me.
He can stop them, and I know I can't. I want to, but I am not strong enough. These moments before my death prove it. My shoulders slump, and I feel resignation seep into my pours. He has won, this Doctor, and I, John Smith, have lost. His hand reaches for my shoulder, and I close my eyes.
"Please," I beg, one last thing before I am to be crushed, "Please...let Joan...make sure she does not stay alone? You know what loneliness is, Doctor. Please, don't let her have that. She would make a wonderful...what do you call them? Companion. And you could learn to love her, as I did."
I do not have to open my eyes to know he has nodded his assent. His hand touches my shoulder and the first thing I feel is pain. Blinding, shooting, completely immeasurable pain. I can feel every cell of my body becoming his, and I can feel the insides of the cells, the—the Deoxyribonucleic acid, his mind informs me, explains to me. Saying it hurt is a bit of an understatement. We convulse, and we scream together, and I feel things come back into my mind, more words, more understandings, more memories. They flood, they overwhelm, and they drown, but they're real.
The time suspension ends, and I stand, brushing off the brown tweed that suited another man better. I head back towards the house, and avoid entering it, where I know another man's lover is grieving for him.
Martha recognizes me instantly, and she throws her arms around my neck, holding me tightly. She offers me my coat, but I refuse it, telling her my plan. I take my glasses out of the pocket and hold them delicately. Another piece of who I am, as opposed to who I was.
Is it murder if the man you were is still a part of the man you are?
I am the Doctor. And, as the bombardments in the sky remind me, time marches too quickly for me to pause and decide what is justifiable or not.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten) / Smith
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 1,869