Characters: Nine, Rose, Jack, Slitheen (various)
Chapter Five: Good
Author's Notes: We come to the end of our Raxacoricofallapatorian (I do love typing all iterations of that word) story, by introducing someone from the Doctor's past. As I was writing this story, I suddenly realized who could have been at the root of this planet's original problems. Fans of Old Who - tell me if I'm right. Thanks for reading, many thanks to Best Beloved for editing (any mistakes are mine), and many, many thanks to the BBC and RTD for letting me play, unpaid and just for love, in their Whoniverse.
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Once they were safely home, the Doctor's usual air of cheerful arrogance evaporated. He stood unmoving at the console, hands spread across it, eyes hooded. Jack's tentative conversational gambits went unanswered, and Rose at first hesitated to try any herself. She'd dashed herself on the rocks of his silence all too often to brave it without good reason, and all of a sudden she wasn't sure she had a good one. She and Jack both headed elsewhere for a few hours.
Eventually, though, both of them returned to the console room, drawn by the necessity of getting to the heart of their friend's unhappy state.
It didn't look as if the Doctor had moved an inch in all those hours.
Rose recognized how much frustration and curdled anger were hiding underneath his mute inaction. She knew the Slitheen had sparked his fierce wrath, but she was certain he'd been nothing but happy at the chance to give Blon a second chance. She thought back to Raxacoricofallapatorius, trying to remember everything that had taken place.
He didn't look up. "What?"
"Why did you look so upset and guilty about EF Havreem's story?"
"Who says I looked guilty?" He still wasn't looking at her. "Not fond of evolution gone wrong, me, but I've done nothin' to feel guilty about."
Across the console room, Jack turned to watch the Time Lord.
"We both saw how you reacted," she said, more sure of herself now. "You stopped talkin'. You knew all about the what-do-you-call-'ems, the Forerunners, and the Velox Levitas worlds, but you left the lesson to Jack; it was like you couldn't bear to talk. And then you got so angry in the grotto when he told us how the Slitheen came about that you couldn't sit still, nor stand still, either. That's how you act when you figure you've done something wrong."
"I don't know where you apes get your ideas," he said, pushing off from the console board to walk away from her. "Y'judge me by your standards, and keep makin' mistakes like that."
"It's not a mistake," she insisted. "And I know you have nothing to feel guilty about, so that's why I'm askin' you. What's wrong?"
For a moment she thought he was going to answer. Instead, he shook his head, and turned on his heel when he saw his route away from her put him in danger of walking straight to Jack. When he realized they had effectively flanked him, and blocked the door to the hallway, his approach changed again, and he was suddenly all Time Lord.
"It's none of your affair," he said, cold and dismissive.
If he'd thought that would cow Rose, he'd badly misjudged her.
"Don't you dare say that!" she flared, stalking over to him, pushing at one shoulder until he turned to face her directly. His face went dark with rage, but she didn't care; she went further and poked him in the chest, her face up in that darkness of his, in her best Jackie Tyler imitation. "An' don't you dare to get angry at us for askin'! We were all involved in this, you an' me an' Jack! We decided together to bring Blon here, and we all helped catch her.
"Come to think of it, I was there when you met the Slitheen — they hunted me, and I helped you figure out who they were in the first place, and told you to go ahead and bomb Number 10 to defeat them, and ... and one of them tried to eat my mum, thank you very much, in case you'd forgot that, so everything about the Slitheen is just as much my affair as yours.
"An' if you hadn't remembered, we're supposed to be a team, and you're the designated driver, so when you go all silent and unhappy, I think me and Jack have a right to know why.
"Besides," she said, her voice lower, "d'you think we like seeing you so unhappy? What kind of friends would that make us?"
The Doctor stood slack-jawed at her assault. When he looked over at Jack, the Captain shook his head. "Don't look at me. I agree with her."
Rose held her breath. Would it work?
It did. She watched the darkness retreat, the ice melt from his eyes, and waited.
He finally slumped, not quite defeat and not quite relief.
"Captain, did any of your clever Agency instructors ever tell you about Miasimia Goria?"
Another conversational u-turn, and worthy of EF Havreem's hairpin navigational approach, but Jack took it in stride. After a moment of thought, he shook his head again. "I've never heard that term. A person? A planet?"
The Doctor laughed without humor. "Both, s'pose, in the royal sense. It was a planet run by an old ... colleague of mine. Woman who called herself the Rani."
"Colleague of yours?" Jack looked at Rose. She shrugged in acknowledged ignorance.
"Yes. And, yes, she was from my home planet. We went to school together."
Rose sat down on the jumpseat, patiently waiting to see where this was taking them. She wasn't willing to say anything that might cause him to change his mind about talking. The Doctor generally avoided any mention of his destroyed home world, and Rose was hungry for anything that could help her understand him better, both in this particular instance and in general.
"She was brilliant, mind better than almost all of our Academy instructors, and twice as arrogant as any of them. She thought I was a fool ... but she thought most of us were fools. Had nothin' but disdain for immaterial things like right and wrong. Thought they were arbitrary rules for the weak-minded. The only thing she had any belief in was science. The only person she had much respect for was— " He stopped momentarily. "Her specialty — one of her specialties — was xeno-genetics. And she saw no reason why she shouldn't go out and get raw material for her research from the universe at large. As far as she was concerned, even sentient species were only valuable if she could use them in her studies. Her experiments. Even the most conservative, bigoted Time Lord rejected her attitude. She was eventually expelled from Time Lord society, but she didn't give a damn. It freed her up, actually.
"She used my planet's technology and knowledge to find just the right world, just the right species. She found them, and enslaved their world. Miasimia Goria. They didn't look at it that way, not in the end. Worshiped her as a goddess, and she used them, the entire population, as lab rats.
"Now what does that remind you of, Rose Tyler?"
It wasn't difficult to connect the dots. "Are you saying this Rani was behind the Forerunners?"
"Nope. Not in the least. Those creatures had some belief system. I might not hold with what they did, but they did it for something other than intellectual curiosity," the Time Lord said, and Rose realized, with a chill, that he'd probably met Forerunners. "The Rani has — had — nothing but intellectual curiosity.
"But I think it's very possible — probable, even — that she was fiddlin' about on Raxacoricofallapatorius's veldt 10,000 years in its past. It's the sort of thing she'd have loved doin'. It stinks of her, actually." He was leaning against one of the TARDIS struts, and put his head back against its coral solidity. Rose saw his eyes close, saw a double pulse in his exposed throat.
"And I think," Jack said cooly, "that you had nothing to do with what this Rani did, and that you are — as usual — putting yourself needlessly through hell."
The Doctor stiffened, but opened his eyes, and trained them on the Captain. Two blue gazes, icy and warm, locked and engaged.
"You don't understand," the Doctor began, before Jack interrupted him with a snort, a gesture of disrespect the leather-clad Gallifreyan rarely suffered.
"Doc, don't even think of pulling the 'I'm alien' bit on me. Here's the thing. I understand that you think you have to answer for the sins of every Time Lord psycho who ever existed, because you're the only one left. You don't. It's as simple as that.
"And in this case, seeing as how you gave our friends back there a leg up on saving any Slitheen kids they might find, or maybe even solving the Slitheen problem completely in the future, you went above and beyond the call. If you're not satisfied with that, you're an idiot. A genius, but an idiot."
He laughed. "And that's all the analysis I'll subject you to — as long as you promise to wise up. After all, I don't imagine I'll ever understand you. Hell, you're the last survivor of a race that disappeared from the universe and covered that up by changing the fabric of time. That's the kind of parlor trick no one's ever duplicated, although the Time Agency would sell its corporate soul to try, assuming it had one, and assuming it even knew you guys had pulled it off.
"What else? You feel time in your bones. You're 900 years old — and pretty damned well-preserved for a nonocentenarian, might I add, cheekbones to die for, and what I wouldn't give to check out what's under your ... jumper — and you travel around in a dimensionally transcendent blue box that thinks for itself most of the time."
"Two hearts, don't forget that," the Doctor said with the faintest ghost of a rueful smile. Jack's cheeky hyperbole, coming as it did on the heels of his calm and accurate analysis of the doctor's current mental state, was hard to withstand. Rose was fighting a case of the giggles herself.
"How could I? I intend to win at least one of them."
Now it was the time Lord's turn to snort, as Jack walked over to him. "Haven't bought me that drink yet." But the smile was stronger, and Rose watched the tic in his jaw quiet.
"Well, we can't have that, can we? Point us in the direction of some really good bourbon, why don't you?"
The Time Lord abruptly pulled himself upright, and his very unexpected grab at Jack's shoulders surprised a very un-Jack-like yip out of the Captain. "What do you think, Rose Tyler? Do you think we should go drinking?"
She joined them. "Can I get a big glass of eggnog?"
The looks Jack and the Doctor gave her were more than worth the rubbish joke.
The rotor danced to the rhythm of the vortex as the three of them laughed.