The dusty, chalky smell of old plaster plays with the Doctor’s nose hairs, waking him.
His back is flat on the ground; there is white light everywhere, flimsy and sharp, flowing in curtains.
The dust is heavy in his hair; he can see it hanging like ripe grapes over his face, ready to drop and give him a coughing fit.
His hearts quicken in his chest, two uneven drums.
Trumpeting that old quick time down through his bones, deep into the dirt beneath his spine.
His fingers feel... filled, full with needles, as if someone’s dropped them in a vat of liquid nitrogen.
“Thank god I’m not a human then- if I had been... somebody would have died today.” he manages, curling his hand into a fist and working the nerves with a burst of will, murmuring a friendly curse to the aether. “... And lost some fingers, besides! I’ll probably have trouble with this hand for a while... I want to thank the audience, my mother and clowns.”
But his laughter dries in his throat, come out a hacking cackle instead, rumbling from the deeps of his gut- a mere albeit abiding desire for water, perhaps?
Too much dust in the lungs. He’s going to cough anyway, he realizes bluntly, as his clenching fist rhythmically pulverizes the lone occupant of his palm, a bit of crunchy rock... probably once a part of the collapsed ceiling overhead. The remains of a polarizing neural confiner, basically an aluminum helmet attached to some electrode runners, a metal party straw and some kind of containment device, stick like rushed spider’s legs from underneath a couple overturned troughs.
“So much for the portable Flesh generator...” he murmurs, coughing again as he looks around some more.
His shaky eyes spy a column or two, leaning on some other column’s remains, some ten footsteps away from where he lies among the ruins of the descending passage.
“KENNY!” he calls as loudly as he can while he struggles back up onto his front to knees and feet, swaying away from a badly cracked column perched precariously near his face.
The old dock is still with us, at least... he thinks to himself, lowering his bottom lip so he can mouth breathe despite his digging fingers in the dust.
Pausing only once to rub at the sharp pain in his back, he applies his fingers to the dust again, sniffling and begging the dirt to offer up another pair of hot-blooded fingers.
“Please, oh please please please! Kenny, if you’re dead down there I’m going to kill yo...”
The Doctor shuts his mouth.
His silt prying hands have found...
Soft, five-fingered gold.
He wraps his hand around the man’s dust-coated wrist and pulls.
A singularity of pain mines his innards like a spade through old roots, carving his senses into jumbled little pieces.
But he pulls.
And he heaves.
Straining, he manages to haul Kenny out from the chunks of rubble, thrusting the man beyond himself and into the main dock room, away from the stairs.
He sinks back, then forward, curving into a ball against the next contractive event- his womb’s version of an awkward office Christmas party.
As he flails ineffectually against the slushing of his nerves, the Doctor stares at Kenny, lying where he tossed him.
Kenny’s long hair is gone, replaced by a silvery, hawkish man-pixie styled page boy cut, dusted, of course, by a great many particles of ancient collapsed dock. He stays where the Doctor flung him, against the cracked column.
The column topples backward, away from them both, with the force of Kenny’s weight. A perfect toss.
Definitely a ten. Possibly an eleven.
“Anime will rot your brain, Kenny; it’s obviously where you got that pretty hair- I should really stop watching it. People might think I’m cool or something- OW!”
The unconscious Time Lord’s lungs are working, at least- his chest is moving in the normal fashion, his fingers aren’t twitching... and the coup de grace- every so often, thank something, that reassuring twist of gold splashes from between his lips and skirts off to someplace other than... this.
“I should find the altar now, Kenny,” the Doctor murmurs, numbly maneuvering his somewhat unfelt hand into a tight pocket.
Dust specks play their silent operatic harmonies in the moonlight like fairy globes, reflecting off each other as they fall.
The Doctor looks about with almost an eagerness, wondering at the mounds of dust positioned higher in the moon’s rays then the rest of the fallen structure.
“The feed troughs for the catsharks...” he gasps, rubbing the sight back into his gluey eyes.
The light seems dimmer...
Closing them for the moment, he reaches out with his fist, knocking his balled fingers in crude panto against every structure he knows is within the dust pile radius lit by the light of the only moon of Gallifrey visible from this location.
“You know, Kenny...” the Doctor rasps, as loudly as he can with dust in his lungs and such a persistent gnawing in his back, “It’s probably why they chose this site for the altar of Hennalneia- those old dock builders. Like they knew. But what do I know? I’m a Time Lord, not an archaeologist... my wife would have a field day.”
No answer, of course. Gutarriezknindracastorblyledgespillioth’s pleasingly dark-skinned body is deeply unconscious, lost in the shiny, sleepful battleground of his own stabilizing regeneration cycle against that broken column yonder.
With a sigh of content, the Doctor blows, forcing the air from his lungs to travel more than five footsteps away and free the middle trough of dust. With that done, he draws a last breath and opens his bruised hand, dropping the circle-shaped gleam of carved gold inside it into the trough.
The Rose Ring.
He knows it has caught the light and completed the circuit, because the ground is dancing suddenly beneath the ancient sea upon which the tiny dock is situated. The layers of dust claim the wind scratching up against the horizon, but his eyes are unfocused, shallow; another contraction will take him out completely, for the present. He shudders with the involuntary nature of the subject at hand, and, more than half-blinded by circumstances, clutches up the Ring again, fumbling it into his pocket. A bit of something comes off it... bits of something, crumbling. It must have been scorched; not a surprise, considering the horse’s arse his year has been.
“Best not to look a gift mount in the mouth then. I’ve got you both and will monitor through the night, sleep now. We’ll go directly to Boeshane in the morning; but only once you’re able to travel.” calls a deep and familiar voice that curries no argument.
A lovely blue hum fills his ears; he almost follows it down into the black, immediately. But...
That man... his timbre, that tone, it... hails through the pain-fog like a lighthouse beacon, and the Doctor smiles as he watches Kenny being taken by hover-litter through two beautiful blue doors by himself in a slightly taut grey suit, and him with Rassilon’s strength bearing his own shivering body up in the most delicate, the most incomprehensible of embraces.
“H-hey, hot lips!” he gasps, breathless as another contraction builds behind his spine, spilling him into temporary alertness again, long enough to snidely position his tongue and lips just so, “... isn’t this our second honeymoon?”
Rassilon chuckles softly, smiling as he steps in through the TARDIS doors. “Well, my most favored chess partner...it seems things have turned out well to plan. I do hope you’ll share with me the honor of a game later. Old soldiers need their pastimes, after all.”
Proud and amused... perhaps even somewhat relieved, the very first Lord President of the Time Lords looks down at his charge, a vaguely hopeful expression gracing the barely quirking edges of his mouth. Of course, the Doctor is already slumbering, his dirty rabbit head lolling there against Rassilon’s chest as he carries him inside.