Thanks ya'll! I hope I continue to hear from ya'll, and more of ya'll. :) it helps a lot! See how fast I got this chapter out? Lol. Granted, it's a bit shorter than usual, but natural stopping points and all...
Anyway, I can't wait to hear what ya'll think! The more specific the better! Thanks so much for reading and reviewing! :)
How long had they been here? The Doctor didn't know the answer to that, but he knew if he did it might give him an inclination of how long he might have left.
He didn't want to change. But if there was no other way out…no other way to get Rose and the child to safety and be able to stay with them, besides…besides really being dead…
He wouldn't fight it, then. It would be so hard not to, but he wouldn't.
It hurt. Everything hurt, from his hair to his toes—could hair hurt? No, hair couldn't hurt; he was being ridiculous—but it hurt more knowing it was more likely than not that he wouldn't be himself much longer. Especially now, when he was scarcely conscious for longer than a few minutes at a time anymore.
It was this thought process he was going through again, the next time he woke after he'd told Rose that they had a way out.
He'd been right that she wouldn't be happy about it. But she stayed there, right beside him. He couldn't really feel her hand in his anymore, but he knew it was there. He wished he could talk to her more, but sometimes he just didn't have the energy. They must have been here a while then…two or three days or more, in all, because he could sense the last of his strength seeping away. Soon enough his body would begin to destabilize and shut down.
At least they fed Rose. Enough, anyway. The fact that she was pregnant seemed to continue to affect the way they treated her. It told him there was good in the Kadhar still. It didn't help, though, to know that they would likely turn on Rose and on the child in an instant if they knew that, in some ways, it was his. If they knew the baby had any Gallifreyan blood at all, hidden or not.
Rose tried to get him to eat a bit, once or twice. It was nothing more than tasteless ration wafers, but he still refused to take more than a bite or two of what they'd give her—and only that to appease her.
"Please," she begged. "You've got to keep your strength up; you can't regenerate on me yet. There might be another way. Just trust me. Please…"
He wanted to trust that she was right. Oh, he really did. But still he didn't eat anymore. He told her he felt sick and he couldn't really, and at least it was truth.
By the time the Kadhar had returned once or twice more, the world seemed to simply fuzz out to nothing most of the time. He was vaguely aware that when they stopped coming, the shaking of the ship increased considerably. Part of his mind wondered what was happening, part of it worried for Rose, and part of him just…wanted the pain to stop.
"-octor! Doctor, wake up! Wake up, come on…!"
There was slapping on his cheek. He made a face and tried to turn away, before he registered the tone and thought perhaps it might be important.
Nothing was very clear when he opened his eyes, but he could tell that there were no bars between him and the face bending over him. Rose was here with him.
He blinked. "Rose? You…how are you…?" He was more than a little appalled, too, by how weak his voice came out. It was barely there at all. He tried to move and he really, really couldn't do much.
"Just how I thought," she told him quickly. "Whoever's attacking the Kadhar did us a favor; the sonic finally bounced close enough."
The Doctor blinked again. "That's…a little bit insane."
"You think?" Rose snorted in agreement. "Come on; we've got to get to the Tardis while we can."
Right. About that.
"Rose…" He trailed off in a weak groan and shuddered as a wave of pain passed through his body. He didn't even need their help anymore for that; his nervous system had been attacked long enough it was causing him trouble on its own. "I can't walk. I can't…move, really."
"I'll help you."
"You could help me, but you can't carry me. You'd have to…for me to go anywhere…right now." His heart dropped like a stone into his stomach as he realized the only answer. "You have to go, Rose."
"The Tardis…she'll take you to Earth."
"I am not leaving you. I can come back for you; just tell me how," she insisted.
"-t's not…something I can tell you. I can't…give it to your mind either. Not now. My hands are…I can't feel them. I need them…for that. And I'm too weak."
Rose was shaking her head. "Th-then…I'll just hide there. And stay here. They won't be able to get in; I'll be safe. Once you've regenerated you can get there. We can leave together. I'm not leaving without you."
Well…that might work, actually. "Maybe…"
He still didn't want to change. But Rose needed him. And at this point…he doubted there was any way around it now. He was slipping away.
Her hands were on his face, making him look at her. "Stay awake!" The call was uneven, shaky. A small sob from above him, and the Doctor tried hard to focus on her again. "I can't do this again. How many times do I have to watch you die…or regenerate. Any of it. I can't do it again. There has to be another way."
She leaned down closer. She cradled his head and pressed her forehead to his. "Please just think. Is there anything else?"
"I don't know."
They stayed like that for a while, because they were close and he didn't think either of them wanted that to change. It seemed strange, after everything that had happened…that this could be the end.
She was kissing his forehead and his cheeks when the Doctor realized…maybe there was one way. It wouldn't get him out of regeneration—it might even speed it on—but it would get them both out of here. Together. He didn't have to die here. Not for good, anyway.
"Help me sit up," he said then.
"I have…have an idea. Help me…" He started to pull in deep breaths, but it was too difficult. That was why he needed to be upright. He needed to be able to breathe more easily, and he needed to concentrate.
"Okay, okay. Come on." Gently she shifted her arms down around his shoulders and tugged him up again her shoulder. The Doctor focused on his breaths, and on what little control he still had of his body. Could he even do this, or was he too far gone?
"What are you doing?"
"Give me a minute," he grated out. Moving hurt. Doing anything hurt. It was worse when what he was trying to do began to work, but it was worth it. It was working. Just maybe they'd get out of this.
It had to work. He knew Rose wouldn't leave without him if she said she wouldn't.
"Ah! Ah…blimey. Oh…"
He moaned, and Rose's hold around his shoulders tightened in alarm "What? What is it?"
"It's okay…just what I was hoping for, actually."
"What are you talking about? What are you doing?"
The Doctor continued to pull in deep breaths, forcing the sensation to spread. He could feel just enough energy returning. It should be enough, even if it was little more than an illusion. "Forcing an adrenaline overload," he breathed. "Well…what we have in place of adrenaline. More effective than human hormones. It should be enough to get me there. I'll be able to get up in a minute."
She stared down at him incredulously. "But that's dangerous! Your hearts are already weak from—"
"I know," he gasped. "No other choice though, is there?"
"Be careful," Rose pleaded.
"Oh of course; always."
The responses were coming quicker now. He felt more like himself already. He was beginning to sweat and it hurt like hell, but he could move. He was alert. Another minute and he was pushing to his feet, realizing the chains were already gone. He still couldn't feel anything from about the middle of his forearms down, but everything else seemed to be back in somewhat working order for the moment.
"Okay! Let's make an escape, shall we?"
Rose stared, unbelieving, as the Doctor jumped to his feet and went for the main door. A few moments ago he'd been prone the floor, helpless and barely conscious. Now he was all but his old self but for being a little shaky, flushed, and sweaty.
She hurried after him to the door, where he was checking through the small window for anyone out in the corridor. "Are you sure you're all right?"
He let out a heavy breath and winced. "I'm not all right at all, but I'll make it there. Can we not worry about it now? I don't know how long I can maintain this; we need to get to the Tardis and gone."
Rose nodded quickly and swallowed. "Anyone out there?"
"No. And I still can't use my hands; you'll have to do the honors. It's your screwdriver as it is." He smiled at her, and she couldn't help but smile back. Maybe they'd be all right after all.
Outside the lights had dimmed, though she couldn't tell whether it was on purpose to conserve energy during a fight or emergency lighting due to power failure already. Either way, the semi-darkness made it easier to slide through the corridors unseen. Once or twice they had to duck and cover, but mostly the corridors were empty. Everyone was at battle stations. Those that weren't seemed too busy to pay attention to much else.
The ship still shook under their feet at times. When it was violent Rose was afraid the Doctor might collapse. He leaned into her or the corridor wall, face ashen, and he sounded awful.
"It's fine, I'm fine. Allons-y!" But it was forced.
She had the distinct feeling there was something he wasn't telling her.
But they made it to the Tardis. The even darker corridors leading down to the cargo bays were deserted, and she had no trouble getting the main door open to the one the Doctor indicated held the Tardis.
The blue box was there, just as he'd said—in the middle of the main floor like a prize on display. Rose could hardly believe it when the familiar door closed behind them and they were safe. It was over.
The Doctor hurried to the console and circled it, flipping dials and switches and pulling a lever here or there. One last check of the scanner and the last lever was flung, and they were off.
"Extra shielding up…scramblers...and we're switching time tracks too, back to your time. They uhm…certainly shouldn't be able to…follow us…"
Everything was supposed to be fine now. They were safe. But the Doctor slowed down considerably and trailed off at the end, and he was leaning heavily into the console now.
He collapsed. She barely made it to his side in time to catch him before his head hit the grating. It hit her knee instead. Not much better though, really. He tried to get back up, but he only made it as far as sitting up, back against the railing. An arm was over his chest, and he hooked the other elbow over the railing behind him.
"What!" she cried.
She was relatively certain the drops of moisture on his face were no longer only made up of sweat. "I'm sorry," he gasped. "It—it was the only way. You wouldn't have gone. But it's n-not your fault. Ah! Guh…"
"What! What's happened?" Rose cried, gripping his shirts at his chest.
"One of my hearts has stopped…other one will follow soon. Won't be able to stop the regeneration now. I'm sorry. I thought maybe, but…just too weak. The uhm…the hormone overload. It was too much. Bad idea."
"Then why'd you do it!"
No. No, not now. He couldn't change now. They'd just…
Well, maybe they had figured it out and maybe they hadn't, but she wanted to know for sure. She wanted to know if it possible. If he changed he'd be different. He might feel differently. She knew he would always care for her, but it might not be in the same way if he changed. It changed last time. It was so much clearer, after he changed last time. The man she met in that basement so long ago, who grabbed her hand and told her to run…he'd been so much more closed off than the man dying in front of her now. What if it went the other way this time? She couldn't bear that.
"Stupid question." The Doctor almost laughed when he said it, but instead he cried out in pain again and curled in on himself. Rose held him up against the railing.
Rose shook her head, trying to clear it. She gulped back any threatening tears and tried to think. The Doctor had thought of something back on the ship, but now it would have to be her turn. "Can we get it started again?" she asked.
"Your heart! Can we get the one that's not working now started up again?"
"Probably. For a few minutes. But it wouldn't do any good, Rose…I'm…I'm too unstable. Every cell. That's why I'm dying."
Unstable. Suddenly she had one crazy idea. "But if you were more stable, would your heart keep working if we got it started? Would they both? Or is there too much damage?"
"I-I don't…I don't know. There's no way to know for sure. Time Lords…our bodies can heal a lot of damage on their own, and quickly…even without regeneration, but I don't know how much is too much."
"But stabilizing your...nervous system, or molecular structure, or whatever…whatever that Dalek energy messed with…that would help, wouldn't it? Give you a fighting chance?"
He stared at her curiously. "If I could get this other heart started again. Maybe. I…" He trailed off as he realized what she meant. His eyebrows went up. "The med bay."
Rose nodded quickly. "That scanner you used on me, when I got here. That beam. Could it help you now?"
He stared at her for a moment or two, thinking maybe. Finally his eyes came to life again—no longer defeated, but hopeful. "Maybe! Gah!" He groaned loudly. "We have to hurry…"
She took that as her cue not to waste time pulling one of his arms over her shoulders and hauling him to his feet. She noticed in the process just how bad his wrists really looked—skin burnt and cracked and bloody there—and she was glad he couldn't feel that bit just now.
It wasn't easy—he still had weight, as skinny as he was, seeing as he was tall—but they got him to the med bay. They made a stumbling beeline for the bed he'd put her in when she first arrived here, and the Doctor fell into it.
"What about your heart?" Rose asked quickly.
"Uhm…uhm…little round device. Top shelf. That cabinet there," he said, nodding toward it. Meanwhile he was pulling the scanner down.
Rose sprinted to the cabinet, found what she thought he meant, and rushed back. "This?"
"R-right. Good. I-it's like one of those things you…you have in hospitals on Earth, just much more compact."
"Don't waste time explaining! What do I do with it?"
"Just a minute!"
He cried out again, and then went quickly back to his clumsy banging on the scanner controls. He was trying to use fingertips, knuckles, anything, to adjust the settings, even though his hands were still numb. It would have been funny if his life weren't hung in the balance.
"Okay! Okay...that's the best I can do with it. It'll work or it won't." He let himself drop back against the pillow.
"What do I do?" Rose asked again, holding up the round device in her hands.
"On my chest…right side, right one's stopped." He glanced down as if remembering something. "Oh, right, on skin."
She'd figured that. She already had her sonic screwdriver out. She adjusted the settings and used it to start a tear at the top of his t-shirt that she then pulled further open herself. It would be too difficult to wrestle it off of him entirely, with the suit jacket and other shirt still clinging around his arms. They didn't have time for that. Rose set the device firmly down on the skin of the right side of his chest, and then nearly laughed because there really was a big red button. She didn't have to ask how to activate it.
"Like the red button? Picked these up specifically for the big red button," the Doctor gasped.
"Shut up." She pressed the button and quickly pulled her hand away. The Doctor's body arched from the bed as he shouted.
"Try once more," he groaned before she could ask. Rose did it before she could think about it.
This time it worked. The Doctor let out a breath of relief and rubbed at his chest, but it wasn't over. Rose pulled the small device away and set it aside, and leaned over him worriedly. He was still in so much pain, and she hated it.
"Okay," he breathed weakly. "Time to try this, I suppose. Need to…need to hurry. Regeneration trying to build…"
She needed to stand up. Back away. Start the scanner.
But if it didn't work she'd never see him again. She knew enough to know that the invasive beam would likely set off his regeneration immediately if it didn't work to stabilize him enough to stop it.
"I know," the Doctor told her gently. He knew what she was worried about.
She kissed him, and this time he didn't protest. It wasn't long or much, but it was what she needed now…if it was going to be her last chance. When she pulled back he was looking at her strangely. Or…not strangely. He was looking at her the way John used to look at her, and she gulped back a lump in her throat.
"Rose, I've always…"
"I know," she interrupted. "Always have, you idiot."
She didn't know why she didn't want him to say it now, after she spent those first two years in the parallel world trying to get back here and wishing more than anything she'd been able to hear the words. Maybe she thought it would kill her to have really heard it now. If this didn't work.
She stepped back, and she turned on the beam.