The Red Shoes
“So, Doctor Holloway I presume?”
The albino was cordial. She’d give him that, at least. It was one up from the Captain’s tone, in any case. Martha Jones was a colleague; a sister in arms against whatever it was that was threatening The Doctor’s life. He looked so young, so vulnerable, floating at the center of his Ship like a developing foetus. What had happened to the triplets he’d been carrying before his transformation? The wings on his back... only three. Perhaps their flesh had been absorbed, reused in the change. Except that they seemed to exist separately from him, as though they were still children, only different. Like him. She allowed herself a quick little smile at the notion. According to the others, he was even younger now then when he’d gotten pregnant... he’d had long, straight red hair, blue eyes. Now his hair was short, deep brown and shaggy, perched across one side of his forehead like a cascade of extravagant dirt, forever falling in and out of place. Rather like him, really. So very like him.
The agent was still looking at her, one slim white hand eloquently involved with twirling a pen, which would have been completely normal, except that the pen was twirling in mid-air. He wasn’t touching it.
“Oh! I’m sorry, Agent Pendergast. I was thinking about something else.”
It was silly of her to state the obvious like that, but... her mind was on other things. Like the beautiful alien hovering in stasis above the console of his own Ship. Like that alien’s daughter, who had grown in mere moments from a machine, died in his arms, then came back to find him, to tell him and ended up in a mess. She was like him, right down to the goofy little grin and that gleam in the eye she got whenever adventure was mentioned.
The agent was unperturbed, as usual. An interesting man. “There’s...no hurry, Doctor. I was just wondering...how did the two of you meet? Was it in the normal way, or did our friend the Time Lord just happen to fall into your lap, so to speak?”
That one got Grace Holloway right in the lower intestine, which was probably how he’d planned it. The man was a genius, after all. “All right, if you want to know so badly, Agent, I’ll tell you.” She steeled herself, forcing herself to remember what she’d done to The Doctor when they’d first met.
“A street gang filled him full of bullets. He passed out and was brought into my ER. I operated on him, and the anesthetic nearly stopped him regenerating. I killed him.”
The pale man stopped playing with the pen and smiled at her, blue eyes glittering. “Now, now, Miss Grace. It could have happened that way to any one of us.”
“Do any of you have my expertise? My doctorate? My medical degree?”
“... of a kind. I hold several doctorates in chemistry, philosophy, English Literature... ” Pendergast’s face never changed. He only seemed more determined to speak with her. He had more nerve than anyone she’d ever met! Everyone except The Doctor.
“Don’t you forget about me, Grace Holloway. I saved the world with him, too.” That was Martha, chiming in from somewhere; probably the TARDIS baths. She deserved one. She’d taken the first shift after they’d brought The Doctor back from Feversham, to make sure nothing happened. But what worried them all more than anything was that he was sleeping at all. None of them had ever seen him sleep.
Stifling a yawn, Jack Harkness emerged from one of the off-leading corridors with a toothbrush and a can of beer, sporting boxers, blue flip-flops and a white tank.
“Hey, Martha! You’ll never believe what I found in the thirteenth bathroom! There’s graffiti in there dating back to-”
His eyes caught at The Doctor’s still form, comatose and floating in the strange stasis-inducing fluid above the heart of the console, and all pretense of content slid from his face.
“God. No change?”
Jack looked at Grace, false hope heavy as a noose around his neck.
Grace shook her head. “He’s still completely unresponsive, at least as far as we can tell. But, he is what he is. Perhaps he’s just... healing himself?”
“Hm. Tell me, Grace Holloway,” said the agent, eyeing the center console where the Doctor floated in limbo as though it was some kind of science experiment, “... do you think it would be a wise idea for me to try something? In my youth, I studied in Bhutan with the Buddhists there, and learned some very interesting techniques for stilling and focusing the mind. A few days ago, The Doctor rid me of my demons. I think I can do the same.”
“Be careful, Aloysius.”
Jack’s voice was low, soft. A knife in the dark. But Aloysius Pendergast just cocked his chin toward the man and looked at him, neither smiling or frowning.
“There will be blood, and shadows of shadows to drown your soul.”
The agent stared right through him, a skill honed through years of hunting those who would inflict pain on others. Years of seeing the carnage left in their wakes.
“Huh. Of course, Captain. You see, I tend to look at these situations in a very special light.”
He reached up, extending his arm to the column of watery fluid enveloping the alien.
“Indeed, I even look for them. Besides, why bring a torch when you can bring a mirror?”
Then he touched the cold, ever-flowing wetness, and the console room dissolved gradually into little points as he withdrew into himself. As for his destination, it was no mystery, for Aloysius Pendergast knew exactly which door in his Memory Palace would lead him to the prize.