It’s a bit chillier than he’s strictly comfortable with and they’ve taken his nice warm coat off him but that’s fine. He’s thrived in colder environments than this. Besides it’s not like he’ll be there long so it doesn’t really matter. “You could do with hiring an interior decorator for this place,” he says looking disdainfully at the rough stone walls lit only by the pale blue glow of the bars obscuring his view of the window. He’s already learnt the hard way that they don’t like being touched. His voice echoes through the empty room eerily, emphasising just how empty the room is in a way that he’s not strictly comfortable with. Right won’t be doing that again. Oh well it’s better to keep up the element of surprise. Wouldn't want his daring escape attempt to be foiled just because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Which is fine. He does his best work in secret. The king of secrets he is.
He shoves his hands into the pockets of the burgundy jumpsuit they’d forced him to wear when he first arrived to see what he has to work with but they’re still distressingly empty. He quickly pushes down any ensuing panic before it can properly take hold. So what if he doesn't have his trusty sonic or anyone to bounce ideas off? It’s fine. Conditions mightn't be optimal for an escape just at the moment but they will be. Eventually a guard will come around to feed him or make sure he hasn’t escaped and then he can convince them he’s been wrongfully imprisoned or steal something useful off them while they're distracted. Maybe he’ll get lucky and they’ll forget to lock the door behind them. It’ll be fine. He just needs to be patient.
He wanders over to the window that serves as his sole insight into the outside world. If he stands on tiptoe he can catch a glimpse of a large expanse of space decorated by a few sparse stars. It’s not enough information to tell him where he is but that’s okay. It gives him something to do while he waits for opportunity to strike.
He’s been here for at least a week at this stage he’s sure of it. It’s hard to tell. There’s no day/night cycle and there’s no variables to count. No one’s even come to give him anything to eat.
That’s odd in itself. He’s usually good with time. He closes his eyes for a moment and reaches out but there’s nothing. He can’t even tell if it’s night or day. That’s very concerning actually. But then again it’s not particularly helpful. Better not to dwell on it.
His stomach cramps painfully at this thought and he allows himself a few moments of weakness to curl in on himself and just breath through it before pushing the sensation down. “Helpful thoughts only” he whispers to himself.
Time lords are tough enough to handle a few days without food. Does he still count as a timelord? He pushes that thought down too. He’s declaring this as a helpful thought only zone. He’s hit with another painful stomach cramp. They can’t leave him here forever. Eventually someone will come to check on him, to make sure he hasn’t escaped, Rasalion he can even work with someone coming to integrate him. He’s hardy. He can handle it. All he needs is someone he can talk to, talk at whatever then he’ll be able to get the information he needs to escape.
He stands suddenly in a flurry of motion. Something inside him warns him that he should be conserving his energy for whatevers to come but he can’t bear to be still anymore. He paces up and down the cell as fast as he can without putting himself in danger of whacking his nose off those unforgiving stone walls. It takes him an embarrassing number of tries to figure out how fast that is. He paces back and forward waiting for the clear headedness that usually comes with movement but all he feels is frustration.
Eventually he collapses on the floor of the cell too exhausted to pace anymore. He can’t see the stars from where he lies even when he cranes his neck. He's too weak and tired to move for a better view.it doesn’t matter. He’s already stared at it for so long that it’s burned into his memory. Searching desperately for something, anything familiar. Anything that can give him some hint to where he is. Then he'll be able to find his tardis. Find his fam. Find his way home. He’s lived so long, travelled so far surely there’s something familiar out there. He just needs to find it.
He doen’t know what time it is.
He doesn’t know what time it is.
He doesn’t know what time it is and he doesn’t like it.
He can feel his breaths coming out as short panicked breaths. He forces them to slow down. It’s fine. None of his friends have the same sense for time as he does and they all seem to cope just fine. Besides there are plenty of ways to keep track of time. He can count. He's great at counting.
He sits cross legged and counts focusing only on the numbers. When he reaches 86400 he scratches a jagged mark onto the ground beside him. It bends his fingernails back painfully but he just goes back to his numbers. Surely someone will have come by the time it’s time to make the next one.
They’ve been stuck on earth for three months now. It had been peaceful at first. He could sleep through the night without fear of being awoken by blaring alarms. He could be guaranteed three meals a day plus as many snacks as he felt inclined to eat. He even managed to keep the houseplants alive now that he was actually around to water them.
But he found himself straining his ears for that familiar groaning sound or startling every time he saw a blonde woman in a crowd. Any sign that she was okay would do him. He missed her something fierce. Of course he did. She was one of his pseudo grandkids even if she had taken a bit of a grumpy turn towards the end. He remembers the still smoldering wreck she called home. Maybe she had a right to be a bit out of sorts. Maybe they should have pushed harder to help her. Not that she’d responded well to them being pushy in the past but he’d seen enough friends struggling to know that leaving people to their own devices when they were struggling was a mistake. God he missed her.
Not to mention the fact that he was just plain bored. Traveling with the Doc only emphasised how unsuited to retirement he was.
At least his remaining grandkids still want to spend time with him. Although Yaz spends so much time with them now he’s beginning to wonder if he should either invite her to move in permanently or start sending her home occasionally so her family knows she’s still alive.
“You okay love?” he asks as he passes her a hot cup of tea. She’s currently curled up on the sofa next to Ryan, the two of them sharing a fuzzy pink blanket, looking absolutely exhausted.
“Yeah” she says, yawning around the word. “Just tired. Night shifts a killer plus I’ve been having these weirdly vivid dreams lately.”
“What kind of dreams?” Graham asks absently as he settles into the neighbouring armchair and takes a sip of his own tea.
“I don’t know they’re just weird. I’m dressed in this jumpsuit thing and I’m alone in this big stone room.”
“And you keep trying to come up with ways out but you know you’re trapped,” Graham finishes. He looks up to see identical startled expressions on both the kids faces.
“Alright that’s well weird,” Ryan says looking as spooked as Graham feels.
“That’s gotta be bad right? I mean if we’re all having the same dreams somethings gotta be messing with our heads.”
“The Doctor said she was a bit psychic. Maybe it’s her. Maybe she’s reaching out to us somehow?”
“Do you really think she’s still alive? I miss her too but surely she’d have turned up by now?”
“Think Graham. You said yourself she was trapped somewhere. Maybe she’s been stuck there all this time. She’s all alone. We need to find her”
“How? We’re stuck on earth.” he points out but he can’t help but feel a twinge of hope blossoming in his chest.
“We do have a Tardis.” Ryan points out.
It’s true they have a Tardis but it had parked itself in Grahams back garden before taking the form of an unassuming shed and none of them had been able to get inside since.
It’s worth a shot so they troop out across the frosty grass before stopping uncertainty in front of the weather worn looking wooden door.
“You do it, the Tardis likes you.”
“That’s the Docs Tardis init? This one’s bound to be different.”
Yaz places a hand on the door that had remained stubbornly closed since they arrived in Sheffield twelve long weeks ago.
“Hi, I’m Yaz, dunno if you remember me. We travelled here together from Gallifrey. Anyway I, I mean we” she gestures behind her at where he’s standing with Ryan feeling more than a little awkward, “we’re just wondering if you could help us find our friend. Well you’ve met her. She has a Tardis like you. Maybe they’re together? Anyway we think she needs our help and we’d be really grateful if you could help us get to her.”
She turns back to the boys with a helpless shrug. They don’t have a plan B this barely qualifies as a plan A but if the Doc really is crying out to them they need to work fast.
She gives the door a tentative push and miraculously it opens. They tumble in unceremoniously. The first hurdle is taken care of.
He blinks blearily. He’s stiff and uncomfortable from sleeping on the hard stone floor. He doesn’t remember falling asleep in the first place. His head has been so groggy lately that it takes him a few minutes to realise he’s lost his count.
He looks around panicked. All those tally marks that had been so comforting when he made them now seem to be mocking him. He can’t take it anymore. The walls are too close. He’s sure they weren’t this close to start with. Is the room getting smaller? He can’t breath.
He needs to get Out!
He draws his fist back and punches the cool metal of his cell door as hard as he can. He vaguely registers how much his hand is aching the blood running down his wrist and pooling uncomfortably under his sleeve. He doesn’t care. He just needs to power through. No time for unhelpful thoughts.The little bird can sharpen its beak on the mountain of pure diamond and so can he.
“It’s a high security prison. We can’t just walz in like we own the place. We need to be careful.”
“Yeah and while we sit here being careful she’s out there somewhere suffering. She’s hurt Graham.”
Graham's gaze automatically goes to his own hand. It’s uninjured. He knows it is.
“I know cockle. I promise we’ll get her out as soon as we can. Of course we will. I just don’t want us getting caught or we’ll be no good to her.”
“Don’t worry you and me can always sneak off and break her out by ourselves if he slows us down too much.”
“Oi. I don't plan on slowing anyone down. She's already been there three months. I'm not letting it turn into four.”
“No.” Yaz whispers so quietly Graham almost misses it but she sounds absolutely horrified.
“What do you mean no. I thought you of all people wanted to get the doc the hell out of there.”
“No. I don’t mean no we don’t need to get her out of there obviously I want her back with us I mean,” she closes her eyes for a moment and takes a deep breath. “The tally marks.” she finally says without elaborating.
Ryan swears quietly beside him but Graham still feels lost.
“What about them?”
“There’s too many,” Ryan mirrors Yazs horrified whisper.
“Maybe she just counted wrong,” Graham suggests half heartedly. “Yeah I know,” he answers the disbelieving looks from the other two. They needed to work faster. They need to bring her home.
He’s curled in the corner of the cell, his hand cradelled protectively to his chest. It doesn't really hurt anymore but it’s starting to smell and he suspects he shouldn't be using it too much. Not that he has much energy to spare for it anyway. His back aches from being in one position for so long but he can’t see the point of moving. His fam thinks he’s dead. His oldest friend is dead. His whole planet is gone. Even whoever locked him up here seems to have forgotten about him. No one's coming. No one cares.
He curls further in on himself to try and relieve the stabbing hunger pangs in his stomachs. He knows if he rides out this new wave they’ll eventually fade back into the back of his mind and he’ll be able to get some sleep.
He’s so tired.
“It’s easy. We have the right uniforms. Noone will even question us.”
“It’s easy for you. You know how cops walk whereas me and gramps are just making it up as we go along.”
“Yeah because my experience on earth gives me all the info I need to infiltrate a bunch of anthropomorphic rhinos. Look we have the gear just walk like you know what you’re doing and don’t talk to anyone.”
The armour feels heavy and already he’s uncomfortably sweaty.
Left. Right. Left. Right.
He winces at the heavy thump of her footsteps sure that they’ll alert someone to their presence.
It feels rather anticlimactic when they get to the cell without running into anyone. But they do and there she is. They’re so close to having her safe
She’s thinner than the last time Graham saw her. Her hair reaches past her shoulders in uneven scraggly waves. She’s curled in on herself in such a way that he can’t see her face but she doesn’t seem to have responded to their presence.
He looks at the kid's uncertainly. “Maybe.” he starts but doesn’t finish the thought. He’s not ready to entertain the possibility that they’re too late.
Yaz seems to sense what he’s about to say because she shakes her head furiously before dropping to her knees beside the Doctor, explaining what’s happening to her before gently rolling her onto her back.
“Doctor. Open your eyes for me. It’s okay, you're safe. Just focus on me Doctor.”
Hazel eyes blink open blearily but they don’t focus properly.
“Doctor can you hear me.”
She lets out a vague hum but her eyes flutter shut again.
Yaz looks back at them anxiously but all he can do is return her look helplessly. None of them have any medical training past basic first aid. At times like this he really wishes Grace was here. Then again it’s not like the Doc’s strictly human so maybe that’s a moot point.
“Help me get her up. We need to get her back to the Tardis. Now.”
Yaz is already draping an arm over her shoulder and Ryan is at her other side in an instant mirroring her actions. They get her upright but she immediately sags backwards and Graham moves quickly to place a guiding hand on the small of her back.
They left the Tardis nearby but even so they move at a frustratingly slow pace every second of which Graham is convinced they’ll be discovered and all this will be in vain.
Graham can feel his heart pounding as she takes step after painstakingly slow mincing step. Finally. Finally! After what feels like hours they stumble through the doors. The doctor seems to sense that they’ve reached their destination slumps even heavier in their arms, Ryan and Yaz only just managing to lower her slowly to the ground before she crashes downwards.