The name seemed… wrong. She knew it was hers but something about it now felt off. Perhaps it was because none of her memories had completely settled down into place yet but right here and now, with her whole life swimming about behind her eyes in an unsorted order, she didn’t feel like the Doctor. Being the Doctor felt too hard. Too much responsibility and moral rigidity to keep up that moniker. Especially when it all felt so hypocritical. All that blood and destruction that lay in the Doctor’s wake.
She wanted to feel that again. And she knew that was a very un-Doctor thing to feel. Maybe she could just stop being the Doctor.
She looked to the man unconscious on the floor in the room ahead of her and was surprised at the rage that built in her gut at the mere sight of him. Her focus became fixated on his still form on the ground, where he’d been thrown back as the console he’d sat at the torture her, had exploded when overloaded with too much information to sift through at once. The rage must have been instinctual because she felt it there even before she could sift through the memories drifting about in her mind for the answer to who he was. She remembered the game they played. Him chasing her down throughout time and space. Desperate for her attention. Why hadn’t she given him it before? Not she. No. The Doctor. Why hadn’t the Doctor given him it? She remembered the hatred felt towards him. For all the death and destruction that he caused. For all the hurt he’d flung her way. But… she could see all the death and destruction the Doctor had caused. Saw it firsthand all the blood spilled at the Doctor’s hands. Saw all the hurt they’d flung right back. Also seemed hypocritical to her.
“Doctor!” A voice called out and she lifted her head to looked for it and a face appeared suddenly in front of her. She looked at it with drawn eyebrows, quickly racing back to the memory banks to try and put a name to it. One floated close to the surface that sounded right enough but her tone was wary as she spoke it out loud.
“Yeah, it’s me. Oh god, what’s he done to you?” her voice became suddenly slightly muffled as the human turned her head away to address someone else in the room, “how do we get this thing off?”
“Hold on.” Another voice drew closer, this one she recognised immediately. This was one of those voices that had been screaming in her mind just moments ago. Helping to overload the machine she was still strapped to. It was another version of the Doctor. The one in pinstripes that had always seemed more human than he really should have been. There was a buzzing noise and she felt the restraints give way and winced with a hiss as the helmet strapped to her head was gently pulled off, the burns into her head not giving way to an altogether pleasant feeling. “There you go, you’re alright.” She was gently helped from the seat and kept upright until she got her footing about her and could look around the room once again.
“Those Cybermen will only not react for as long as he’s unconscious.” She told them, glancing towards the two Cybermen still standing in the near shadows of the room, so far uncaring of all the people that had entered. The other Doctor with the eyebrows was standing over the Master, his companions at his side. The Ponds crouched over their version of him who’d began to stir back into consciousness after the Matrix had burst the paralysis coils.
“What do you want to do with him?” She glanced over to the Master’s workbench, something catching her eye and she walked over to it as she answered.
“Got an idea,” her movements were clumsy right now, her motor controls still taking a second to come back online, so to say, “I can handle it though. You lot don’t need to hang about.”
“You alright?” she recognised that there were a few concerned glances being thrown about behind her back, but she couldn’t bring herself to care much. Certainly not in any way other than being annoyed that they might stick around and get in her way.
“Fine. Angry. Sore. Brimming with ideas. Don’t worry about it.” She waved off the concern of her past selves and quickly shoved her project into her pocket and turned to them once again, pausing as she looked down to the Master’s still form. “Actually, maybe you could help me move him? Better to get out of here before these Cybermen reboot alongside his brain.”
“Are you sure about being alone right now?” Yaz sounded suspicious, unable to help herself as she watched the Doctor make her way around the TARDIS console, entirely too calm for someone who’d just almost had her entire mind wiped clean. The Doctor had had them bring the Master back to the main hall in the upper levels once again before talking her past selves in circles until they finally took her for serious that she was alright and had it handled. Yaz had sent the Sandshoes version a pleading glance, knowing even then that something wasn’t right with the woman and he’d tried. He had tried. Stating that maybe he’d stay and just make sure everything went smoothly but the Doctor had countered that by stating that she had no idea what information the Master would let slip if he was awake. This version of him would have no qualms spilling everything and there was some information that they just couldn’t find out, even with the timelines righting themselves.
Only, after they’d all left, the Doctor had ushered them into the TARDIS and stated that she needed time to heal alone in the vortex before she could even think about facing off against the Master. They’d been confused and had questioned her on it.
“Yeah.” She looked up over the console, a smile on her face that had none of the usual warmth and neither Yaz nor Graham or Ryan dared take any steps closer to her. The same uneasy feeling was settled in their guts that had been there since they’d unstrapped her from that chair. Something wasn’t right but they couldn’t quite pinpoint what was wrong. She seemed to remember them all. Nothing seemed wrong except a subtle shift in personality. And the Fam didn’t know enough about Time Lord physiology or about what happened when someone tried to wipe your mind to try and say much other than voicing their worries. Only the Doctor would know how she was feeling and how best to recover from it. But the Doctor also lied. Tried to cover things up. As far as the humans knew, the second they left the Doctor could collapse or god knows what else. “I just need some time to myself to sort my head out. I’m gonna park the TARDIS in the vortex, use the zero room to just fix my memories back into their proper places, everything’s a bit ‘wishy-washy’ right now. I don’t know how long it’s gonna take, I’d rather drop you all off at home so you’re not waiting about for me.”
“If you’re sure…” Graham murmured hesitantly, and the Doctor just nodded to them and reached for the take-off lever. The flight back to 21st century Sheffield from Gallifrey was a lot smoother than they were used to and there was barely a bump as they landed.
“What about the Master?” Ryan asked, none of the humans making any movements towards the doors, “you just gonna leave him there? What if he escapes? He’s still got an army of immortal Cybermen!”
“You let me worry about that, alright? You lot just, get a shift on. I’ll be back before you know it.” The three looked between one another, clear concern across all their faces and it was Yaz who spoke up, stepping closer to the Time Lord, trying to reason with her.
“Look, I think we’d all feel more comfortable just being here for you. We don’t care how long it takes. So, why don’t you just bring us back into the vortex and then we can all just relax, and you can-”
“And who are you to try and tell me what to do?” the sudden snarl to the Doctor’s voice made everyone jump and the Doctor seemed to back off at the shock and fear that appeared across all three companions’ faces. She appeared suddenly somewhat contrite and made a face, looking away, “sorry, like I said. Brain’s not in the right place. I’m kind flittering through some… other personalities right now.” That sounded like a lie. But again, the Doctor had been through a traumatising event. She took in a deep breath and squared her shoulders and looked to the Fam with a pleading expression, “please, I just need some time to myself to think over everything that’s happened. What the Master did to me… I need time to heal from it.” She motioned a hand up to the marks across her head, “it’s not just physical. Mentally, I’m still… not quite right.”
“Alright.” Yaz said eventually, stepping back, “alright. Promise you’ll come back as soon as you feel better?”
“I promise.” The Doctor looked her in the eye as she answered and, despite her still ‘off’ personality, Yaz’s shoulders dropped from their tenseness. The Doctor wouldn’t break a direct promise. Yaz knew that.
“Okay then,” Graham said after a moment of silence, clapping his hands together once awkwardly, “guess we better head then. See you soon?”
“See you soon.” She smiled at them, not moving from next to the console as the Fam all trailed out of the TARDIS. As soon as the door closed, the smile dropped from the woman’s face, a scowl taking its place until she was able to finally leave Earth behind. The scowl of annoyance stayed in place until she finally landed back on Gallifrey, and then a bright grin on excitement appeared in its place. She stayed for a moment next to the console, using the monitor to be able to see herself as she pushed her hair back from her face so she could see the series of marks burned into her skin from the mind wipe machine. She gently brushed her thumbs across the marks, her hands still holding her hair back, and winced at the jolts of pain they caused. Then she grinned at the pain. She stepped back from the console, hands dropping to her sides and made her way towards the doors. She had to find the Master