A Small Piece of Coral

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A Small Piece of Coral - Page 2 Empty chapter 14 of 17 (part 2)

Post by Paksena on Sun Jun 21, 2009 7:40 am

Fortunately Pete had no intention of adding to the situation. "Jackie, Rose, both of you. Shut up!! I want you to take it out of here. And by out of here, I mean out of the house, down the road, and past the post office before either of you say another word."

"What, why?" asked Jackie, confused by Pete's demands.

Pete lowered his voice keeping it calm. "Because these kinds of emotional outbursts are almost as hard on him as that cannon is. Look at him, surely you can see it."

Jackie turned to the Doctor, the expression on her face going from confused to horrified as she studied him. The Doctor could only imagine what he must look like to her. By now his breathing was labored, he was feeling feverish, and just plain tired. His throat was tight, causing saliva to back up in his mouth; he swallowed hard trying to clear it.

Jackie started to move toward the Doctor. "Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't know." Pete grabbed her arm and stopped her.

"No, Jacks, he doesn't need that now either. You and Rose clear out of here for a while and get control of yourselves. If you have to fight fine, but do it away from here. Go down to the pub and have a row if you must. That's what they're there for. You can entertain the locals while you are at it." Pete took a deep breath. "Now go. I'll take care of him."

Rose started clapping slowly and loudly, smirking at the Doctor. "Oh, bravo, well done, you even have Pete conned. You'll get that Olivier award yet. Best long suffering death scene outside of Camille." Jackie grabbed her arm and yanked her roughly out of the room, telling her to shut up.

Pete closed the lab door and locked it. The Doctor could tell he was forcing himself to relax as he went over to the teapot. "I hope they do take it down to the local pub. I would love to hear how that fight ends. This stuff work when it is cold?" He asked as he held up the teapot.

The Doctor laughed softly. "Seems to, though Jackie seldom lets it get that way. How did you know?"

"Know what?" asked Pete as he poured the cold tea.

"That being around intense emotions, especially negative ones …" The Doctor fumbled around in his mind for the right words that wouldn't make him sound like a total wimp.

"Oh, that was easy," replied Pete as he took the Doctor his tea. "Once I knew what to look for. Heck, even I can feel the energy those two generate when they are in a row. I knew it couldn't be good for you."

Pete leaned against a table, arms crossed, considering the Doctor carefully. "She could have killed you today couldn't she? I should have been paying better attention. I knew she was getting impatient. I'm sorry."

"Don't be, as far as I am concerned you saved my life and more. She told me she was planning on a second run before you cut the power."

"I didn't save much though, did I?"

"What do you mean?"

"Your life, you've just about packed it in, haven't you?"

"Is it that obvious?"

"Well, considering even the security guards at Torchwood are asking how you are, I would say it is. George in particular is asking after you. He says he misses your little jaunts around the city. I think Jackie and Rose are the only ones who don't see it."

The Doctor took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I used to think Jackie didn't see it, but today she threw a fit that I would try to leave early tomorrow without having a proper breakfast. She said it in such a way that I could tell she knew it would be a last meal. She's just been keeping up a front."

"Well that would explain the flurry of activity in the kitchen tonight. You would swear they were preparing for a Christmas feast," Pete's voice took on a more serious tone. "You're not cutting it a little too close are you?"

The Doctor furrowed his brow at the question and pulled on his lower lip. "As of this morning I wasn't, I was going to start out tomorrow at the normal time, but after this afternoon, I've had to change things."

"So your last night, you don't even get a full night's sleep."

"That's hardly important." The Doctor put down his now empty teacup next to the monitor.

"Here let me get you some more of that. Pete took out his cell phone and made a call. He told the person on the other end to bring down more tea and a couple of blankets.

"I don't need those really," protested the Doctor.

"Yes, you do, you're shivering. I may not have Jackie's nursing skills, but even I can see that much." The kitchen staff must have anticipated the order or more likely Jackie had told them to prepare it before she left. Pete had just finished putting his phone in his pocket when there was a knock at the door.

Pete opened it, revealing two servants. One carrying a large tray encumbered with two teapots and two cups. The other was carrying two thick wool blankets. The servant with the tray spoke up as she put the tray down and cleared off the used dishes. "The blue pot is for the Doctor, sir. The misses sent down the other pot for you."

"Thank you," Pete replied as he took the blankets from the other maid. "We won't be needing you any further." He closed the door but didn't lock it when they left.

He brought the blankets over to the Doctor who was not very pleased about the attention he was about to get. "Now don't look at me like that," Pete objected. "Jackie's been pouring tea down you and heaping on the throws since she knew you were ill. You have lived even longer than you thought possible. I'm not about to change a successful treatment. Especially when, from what I can tell, every extra second may count." He laid one of the blankets over the Doctor's lap and draped the other over his shoulders. He poured the Doctor a cup of tea and brought it over to him.

"What, no pail of hot water to put my feet in?" the Doctor asked lightheartedly.

Pete called his bluff. "You want one? I can have one brought here in a few minutes."

"No, no, don't bother, I'll manage without it," the Doctor joked. Then his voice became serious. "Why don't you get yourself some tea. We have a lot to go over and I want to make sure you understand it all while we still have time."

Pete complied and sat down on a lab stool near the Doctor, nodding to him, indicating he was ready to get down to business. The Doctor considered where to begin and decided he might as well start with the latest addition to the list of things he needed to take care of. "So tell me, Pete, do you know where she keeps that duplicate dimension cannon?"
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A Small Piece of Coral - Page 2 Empty Chapter 15 of 17 (Part 1)

Post by Paksena on Mon Jun 22, 2009 3:09 pm

Pete answered, reluctant admiration showing in his voice, "She built it in a lab right next to yours. Even used the power from your lab so I couldn't tell what she was doing. If I hadn't have known that you weren't working today, I would have thought the power surge was for something you were doing. I can't believe she managed to build a second one under my nose."

The Doctor shook his head. "She caught us both out. She was probably adding items to my supply requests and I never thought to check before I signed them. I'm a pretty bad bureaucrat I'm afraid."

"That's why I should have been checking, instead of just pushing them through."

"You were alert when it was needed. If she is using the same power source it should be fine. I can deal with it. Do you know if she had the schematics on the network?"

"I didn't think to check. What are you planning on?" The Doctor fixed him with a serious stare and raised one eyebrow. "Is this one of those ‘better if I don't know’ things, again? You're not going to do anything that is going to make me regret trusting you, are you?"

"No, but Torchwood might regret trusting me. You are going to want to distance yourself from me after tomorrow. In fact, I want to go over what I did here today with you so you can sell it as your own research. It's unlikely it will be accepted very well if they knew I was involved."

"It's going to be that bad, huh?"

The Doctor looked up at the ceiling and frowned. "Well… Let's just say if there is ever a holiday in my honor, it will have a lot in common with Guy Fawks day," He swallowed and looked Pete straight in the eye. "You are going to want to have, what is it called, plausible deniability? It's important that you are able to implement my plans, otherwise we could save the universe and loose the planet."

"I'll try, I had them listening to me once. I should be able to do it again."

"You're the salesman. Just sell it."

Pete shook his head. "I'm not as good as Rose apparently. If I'd had her on my staff, Vitex could have gone worldwide."

"Well, she won't be a problem. You should have a clear field. You're better at sustained politics than I am. You should do well, you have to."

"Are you going to send her back?"

"If all goes according to plan, yes."

"And if it doesn't?"

"I'll do what I have to." He hoped he was telling the truth.

"Why are you doing this for her? You certainly don't owe her anything."

"Maybe I do, if not for her I wouldn't exist. My brother was set to go through a full regeneration and she was upset, said she had come all that way, he decided to stop it midway before he actually changed. He poured the energy into his severed hand. I guess that's what I was then. The result of his actions is what you see before you, with the help of a spark from Donna," He smiled remembering that spark, the wonder that was Donna, he hoped she was well. "It was risky, he could have died, but he did if for her.

"So, in a way I owe her my life. If not for her I would still be a hand bubbling away in a jar attached to the TARDIS." He had vague memories of that being a part of that magnificent machine, all the power, not just propulsion, but the computational ability needed to navigate the vortex. He wished he could tap into it tomorrow. He suddenly felt guilty and checked the coral. It was content not quite asleep, but close, a tuneless humming in its mind. He looked up at Pete.

"Sorry, got lost in some memories there for a moment. I also owe it to my brother, I was supposed to take care of her, make her happy, help her forget about him. I failed pretty miserably at that."

Pete's face was thoughtful. "Are you glad you were… I don't know… what's the right word, born… created?"

The Doctor stared at him puzzled. "Why do you ask?"

"It's just for a moment there you almost looked wistful, like you wish you were back to being just a hand."

"No, back then it was all just sensations, reactions on a primitive level, any real sentience was from the TARDIS. I would just be drawn up into it, no more independence than your own hand has. It's a bit strange actually when I remember my past, there is a point where it branches off and I remember being a hand attached to the TARDIS, Donna and my brother, all three at once.

"What I am now is really a blend of the three. My brother predominates. Then being a hand, I think because of being connected to the TARDIS. She's a pretty powerful influence. I get the feeling being with my brother for so long has made her a bit more temperamental than a TARDIS should be."

Undercover of the blankets the Doctor held the coral. "Being with you is a lot like being with the TARDIS," He told it. "Wait a minute is that who mum is? Did the TARDIS help you?"

He receive a message of "mum tired" the TARDIS tired? That didn't make sense, the TARDIS being tired. He pressed the coral for more information and all he got was that it was tired too. Absurdly he had an impression of the coral in a bed and rolling over as it pulled the covers over its head. Its way of telling him it was too tired to be bothered with his questions. He gave a little smile at that.

The Doctor turned his attention back to Pete. "I prefer the way I am now. I'm glad to have had this chance at life." He took a deep breath changing the mood. "Can I get these blankets off me now? I'm not shivering and I feel ridiculous." He raised his eyebrows hopefully at Pete.

"You do look better now, go ahead. I'm just trying to keep you alive here and myself quite frankly. I wouldn't want Jackie to catch me neglecting you. We should get to work. I see they've brought down some more tea. I'll pour you a fresh cup then you can tell me what you have found."

Tea in hand the Doctor showed Pete the problem that had turned up with the ice dam and explained the solution. "You're saying Tony helped you come up with this?" Pete sounded incredulous.

The Doctor grinned at him. "In a way, yes, not that he was doing any actual civil engineering. But when his drawings developed a pattern, it sparked an idea for a solution. Hopefully in the future you can tell him about how he helped save the planet."

"You try to make everyone a hero don't you?"

"Well," the Doctor drawled. "I don't want to grab all the glory for myself, I can share a bit of it." He laughed at himself.

"It's good to see you enjoying yourself for a change, you've been so serious. So after the ice dam gets taken care of, we go on to making the radiation reflectors?"

"No, try to do both at the same time. The radiation reflectors need to be done in parallel with the ice dam. The more of the sun's energy you can reflect back while you are working on the dam the better. Just keep an eye on the models to make sure you don't create too drastic of a change, I have some charts here that show the maximum safe drop rate for the planetary temperature. Try to stay above that."

"Freezing isn't a cure for boiling. I've got that," Pete assured him.

"Good, I'm glad you two have that settled," called Jackie from the door. "It's time almost for dinner."

The Doctor was not pleased to see the wheelchair Jackie had brought with her. "Where did that come from?"

"We have one on each floor, just in case."

"Well, please put it back. I appreciate the thought but I am not that far gone yet. Here, I'll use this if that will make you feel better," He picked up a cane that was next to the work station. The irony that its handle was a stylized wolf's head wasn't lost on him. "But no wheelchair… Please."

Jackie looked at him doubtfully. "Well, if you're sure… I don't want you falling again."

"Jacks, He's fine. He's had about two pots of your tea and is fully recovered. We were just wrapping up here. We will be up in a couple of minutes."

"You had better be. Cook and I had been working all day on tonight's dinner. If it gets spoiled because you two couldn't shift yourselves, one of you is going to be needing this wheelchair." She looked them both sternly in the eye before leaving the lab, taking the wheelchair with her.

"I don't think she's kidding," observed the Doctor.

"I know she isn't. So what else is there?"

"The rest is in this folder on the computer, minor stuff mostly. This computer has a VPN connection with Torchwood doesn't it?"

"Yes, why?"

"I have a bit of work I need to do tonight. When I am done I am going to disconnect this computer from the network. Air gap it. Whatever you do, don't reconnect it until after midnight tomorrow."

"Alright, that shouldn't be a problem."

"Good, well that should about cover it. Let's see what Jackie and cook have prepared for us shall we?"

"That would probably be a wise move," Pete agreed.
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A Small Piece of Coral - Page 2 Empty Chapter 15 of 17 (Part 2)

Post by Paksena on Mon Jun 22, 2009 3:10 pm

Dinner, as it turned out, was a sumptuous affair, lamb, roasted potatoes, with all the accoutrements. For once the Doctor didn't have to tend to his soup while others were eating a heartier fare. The talk was light and cheery, mostly neighborhood and stable gossip, who was getting married, who should be getting married, who the new vicar was, swapping of jokes, a very pleasant time, marred only by an empty seat usually occupied by Rose. Apparently Jackie had made her point and Rose was nursing her wounds in her room.

Dessert was served in the lounge. It was actually an assortment of bite sized treats. Miniature cakes, tarts, truffles and chocolate covered fruit. All small enough that no one had to forgo one treat in favor of another. For the Doctor it was the perfect way to end the meal, sampling all the delights Jackie and the cook had prepared, though he did carefully avoid any that may have liquor in them, not wanting to stress his system even with just a little alcohol, this close to the end.

He excused himself from the festivities, saying he had some work he wanted to finish up in the lab. Jackie appeared distressed at his leaving. The look on her face was almost enough to make him stay, but it was important that he determine how much work he had left to do. Rose's second dimension cannon was an unplanned for complication.

Once in the lab he discovered Tony had followed him, most likely sent by Jackie. A pot of tea soon followed after. He was afraid he was not serving her well. Tomorrow she would be losing a daughter. He wondered if she realized that yet. Well one more thing to put on his to do list for tonight.

He hacked into the Torchwood network and quickly located the schematics for the second dimension cannon. Pete was right, she had tapped into the power supply in his lab. That made things much easier. Just a few quick tweaks in the morning and it should be taken care of.

He then proceeded to secure the computer. He set the firewall to maximum security, deleted the program used to connect to the Torchwood VPN, deleted all the information on the dimension cannon from the hard drive, along with the drivers for the network card and the modem. He then defragged the hard drive while he removed the network cable and put it in his pocket.

It would take an effort for anyone to connect the computer to Torchwood or any other network for a while. It certainly wouldn't be done by Pete in a moment of forgetfulness, which was what his primary concern was. He also wanted to make sure it was his finger prints on its removal from the network, not Pete's.

When he finished he saw that Tony had fallen asleep on the floor next to him. He resisted the temptation to pick up the youngster one last time, instead choosing to shake his shoulder gently to rouse him.

Back upstairs he discovered that Pete and Jackie were enjoying a late night aperitif. "This little fellow needs to go to bed," the Doctor declared. "Pete could you do the honors while I have a word with Jackie?" Pleading with him to understand it was important he get to talk to Jackie alone.

"Oh you mean you are going to quit monopolizing my son and let me have some time with him?" was Pete's reply, humor showing in his eyes.

"Thank you." The Doctor bent down to give Tony a quick hug. "You sleep well, you worked hard today." Tony staggered sleepily over to his father, who picked him up carried him up to his bedroom.

Once Pete was out of the room, the Doctor sat down in a chair across from Jackie. He leaned forward resting his forearms on his thighs staring at her with concern. "Jackie, I need you to do something for me."

"Sure, anything, just ask."

"I need you to make peace with Rose, tonight."

Jackie shook her head vehemently. "No, I can't… not after what she has been doing to you. Not after what she said to me. No… no… it's too soon. That's too much to ask Doctor, I'm sorry."

"Jackie, tomorrow she is going to be leaving by my hand. You may never see her again. The last words you have with her shouldn't be in anger. I don't want to be responsible for that. Please… for me, try at least."

Jackie took a deep breath; he could see she was considering what he had said. She was a proud woman. He knew Rose had been especially hurtful to her, and not just today. "Alright, I'll try, but for your sake, not hers."

The Doctor closed his eyes and leaned back in the overstuffed chair letting it support his head as he relaxed at last. "Thank you." He opened his eyes full of appreciation for her. "Jackie you've been wonder. I can't possibly ever repay you for all you have done for me."

Jackie became flustered with his praise. Looking down and futzing with her hair. "It's nothing anyone wouldn't have done."

"That's not true. You had no reason to take me in. You could have just left me on that beach in Norway."

"I could have never done that. Not to you."

"Well, I do thank you and want you to know I appreciate it. I need to get some rest now to prepare for tomorrow." He stood up, leaving the wolf head cane by the chair and picking up a horse head one to replace it. "If I don't see you in the morning, don't worry, I haven't run off. I'll be at Torchwood."

"Oh you won't be leaving here without a good breakfast if I have to put an alarm on your bedroom door, you hear me."

The Doctor laughed. "Yes Jackie, I hear you. Now good night, you have a daughter to make peace with."

Jackie screwed up her face distastefully. "I'm only doing that for you." she called after him as he entered the lift. The Doctor leaned against the back wall of the lift for the short trip to the second floor. It had been a long day and an exhausting one. He made his way to his room slowly finding the cane to be of more use than he thought it would be.

After a long soaking bath, he lay in his bed exchanging energy with the coral one last time. This time it was he who ended up better for the exchange. The coral having somehow avoided the effects of the dimension cannon.

He let his thoughts gently brush it, thanking it for its gift. Letting it know he needed it to be with him till the end. They had been in this together from the start and together was how they were going to end it, as it should be. As it didn't want him to leave it alone in this hostile universe, he didn't want it to leave him alone either.

It answered him sadly, its thoughts filled with regret that the Doctor's time had been so short, that it had never become a proper TARDIS for him. The Doctor told the coral he wasn't a proper Timelord, so what would he do with a proper TARDIS, the coral was perfect for his needs. His time may have been short, but it would be long enough for him to fulfill his purpose, which is more than many with longer lives could say. He told it to rest, it would need its strength tomorrow. They both would.
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A Small Piece of Coral - Page 2 Empty Chapter 16 of 17 (part 1)

Post by Paksena on Tue Jun 23, 2009 6:07 pm

The Doctor awoke sitting bolt upright in bed, the air rushing into his lungs as he took a huge desperate breath. He sat there gasping, trying to determine what had happened. As more oxygen entered his bloodstream, he realized what it was. He'd stopped breathing in his sleep. He was at the point now in his decline where he needed to be awake to keep breathing. He could no longer rely on his body's autonomic functions to keep his lungs operating for him. If he'd had any doubt that he was at the end of his life, this confirmed it. Staying in bed was pretty useless now, if not actually dangerous. He wouldn't be sleeping again.

It was just a few minutes past midnight. A soft breeze was blowing into the room. He could hear the rustle of leaves outside. He considered taking a shower but he didn't want to wake anyone. He dressed quietly in the dark, his blue suit and the burgundy t-shirt. The same clothes he had arrived to this world in. He picked up the horse head cane and silently entered the hallway.

He made his way to Rose's room hoping she was awake and they could get going. There was no movement inside that he could discern and he was loath to wake her. He had no idea how her talk with Jackie had gone. If it had gone badly, disturbing her sleep would not be a good idea.

He went to the kitchen to see if he could make himself some tea. He found what looked like the tin Jackie kept his special blend in. A quick sniff confirmed it was the right one. He made a pot and carried a tray with the tea and a cup out to the garden porch. There was a small white painted table that he placed the tray on before sitting in the rocking chair next to it.

He leaned his cane against the table only to have it clatter to the porch floor as soon as he leaned over to pour the tea. He winced at the noise. He didn't want to disturb anyone's sleep, against the backdrop of the quiet night. The sound the cane had made seemed overwhelming. He finished pouring the tea and sat back in the rocking chair while he sipped it, debating what to do. He didn't want to irritate Rose and wake her before she was ready, then again he didn't want to wait too long and waste precious time he didn't have. His waking up the way he did had given him cause for concern. He might have even less time than he thought.

He rested his head against the high back of the rocking chair, letting it fall wearily to one side. He heard a faint swishing sound followed by a sharp squeak. An owl had plucked its prey out of the garden. He didn't know whether to feel sorry for the mouse or envious of it not having known the time of its own death. Either way, the nocturnal raptor had gotten what it wanted.

He continued to listen to the night sounds, the crickets and frogs creating their own quiet symphony. It was disturbed by the mechanical sound the mansion's air conditioner kicking on. He thought about going back upstairs to close his bedroom windows but decided not to bother. His door was closed and as were the vents in his room. The open windows would have minimal impact on the cooling of the house.

Soon he heard a rush of water going down a drain and the knocking sound the pipes often made when the water was first turned on. Someone was up. Possibly Rose. Maybe he could get going soon. Strange that he should be so eager now to get it over with when he had been putting it off for as long as possible. But his hope for a reprieve, some last minute save, to take the terrible decisions he had to make from him, was gone. There was no more time. It was up to him, his skills and no one else's.

He heard the sound of a shower, he hoped it was Rose. If it was, she should be down soon and they could get going. If it was Jackie, there would be a breakfast and more time wasted. He was fairly sure Jackie knew this was his last day. She would want to fuss over him and make sure he had plenty to eat. He really didn't have time for that. He'd tried to say his goodbyes last night. It would have to be enough.

He picked the cane up off the porch and stood up. He left the teapot there, hoping it would be a sign to Jackie that he had what he needed and was gone. He saw Rose coming down the stairway as he entered the house. He met her at the bottom. "You ready to go?"

"I thought mum was going to make you breakfast." She eyed his cane with disdain but made no comment.

"It will be easier if we just pick up something on the way. The sooner we get to Torchwood the better."

She pursed her lips and closed one eye while studying him. He could feel her suspicion and contempt. "Well, just so long as you tell her it was your idea. I don't want to get blamed for anymore of your tricks."

"That won't be necessary, but if it is, rest assured I will tell her it was my idea."

"You'd better. I don’t want her mad at me because of you again."

"I don’t either. Trust me, if there is a problem I will tell her it’s not your fault. Come on, I thought you were the one who couldn't wait."

"I can't, why are you so eager?" she snapped back.

"It's time, that's all," he responded softly.

Rose led the way to her car, a pricey SUV that never left the pavement and seldom had more than one passenger. The Doctor settled into the passenger seat putting the cane between the seat and the door. Rose again looked at it with displeasure, but said nothing as she put the car in gear.

They drove past the stables on the way to the motorway. He made a half hearted effort to see Shadow, knowing it would be almost impossible. The village was quiet; all the businesses shut, not even a solitary dog walker to be found. The motorway was eerie, he could see one set of taillights off in the distance, an occasional solitary pair of headlights would approach and pass them going in the other direction.

He looked over at Rose, her face illuminated by the glow of the panel lights, even more eerie than the deserted motorway. He could see the single minded determinateon on her face that had enabled her to rapidly rise to power within Torchwood. He wondered, if his brother had ever given her what she had wanted, if that determination would have lessened or at least been turned to less destructive goals.

He looked away from her and leaned against the car door hunching his shoulders, huddling against the cold of the air conditioner. He could already feel Rose's scorn for him and what she felt was his infirmed act as an assault on his energy field. He was loath to adjust the climate controls as a result, knowing it would aggravate her further.

He took a chance on adjusting the vent so it at least wasn't blowing on him anymore. One of Jackie's throws would have been welcome right now. He closed his eyes and tried to think of something other than the temperature.

He wondered about Rose's return to his brother's universe. What would happen if he succeeded today. Would his brother just take her back? He hoped not, that would be the wrong answer for both of them, but his brother really did have a hard time seeing clearly where Rose was concerned. But if he didn't take her back what would he do with her? She had too much knowledge of the future and alien technologies. She could easily cause problems that would necessitate his brother's involvement, constantly drawing him back to her.

His brother could erase her memory but then what? There was no family to leave her with as there had been with Donna. He doubted Mickey would take her back. He couldn't see his brother just leaving her on the street to live rough, maybe turn her over to a group home till she got on her feet. No he really couldn't see his brother doing any of that. Rose without her memories would be a Rose that needed him and the whole disastrous cycle would just start all over again.

The Doctor sighed. He'd failed his brother and might very well be sending him a problem he was ill equipped handle. He'd made a right hash of things from the start. He had shared his brother's cocky arrogance, feeling his task here would be simple. How hard could it be to keep one human distracted and happy? For him it turned out to be impossible. When he looked back on it, every choice he made had been the wrong one, leading him inevitably to this desperate end.

He had to help her get back. He had no choice. He couldn't leave her here after he was gone. There'd be no one to stop her and the worst thing imaginable would happen. He hoped his brother would forgive him.

He opened his eyes and sat up as he felt the car slow down. Rose turned into one of the all night service stations that populated the motorway. She parked near the entrance and gave the hand brake an extra hard jerk, slamming the door as she got out. She had apparently worked herself into a temper. He sighed and reached for his cane, getting out slowly and followed her inside.
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A Small Piece of Coral - Page 2 Empty Chapter 16 of 17 (part 2)

Post by Paksena on Tue Jun 23, 2009 6:09 pm

The service station was brightly lit, lots of chrome and shine providing a sharp contrast to the uninhabited motorway. It gave the impression of being clean and modern, but the age and neglect was apparent if one was observant, a crack in the glass of the display case, mismatched hardware on a door, a ring of rust around each screw head, dirt and grime in the corners.

Rose already had a tray in hand and was quickly placing her selections on it when he entered. She was about to check out when she noticed the Doctor was hanging back and hadn't even picked up a tray yet.

"Don't tell me you didn't bring any money?"

He gave her a half smile and shrugged.

"All right, get yourself something. How were you expecting to get home with no train fare? I'm certainly not going to drive you!"

"There's always Pete," he replied, as he tried to figure out what in the display wouldn't turn his stomach into a war ground. He settled on a shrink wrapped muffin, then poured himself a large cup of coffee.

Rose examined his tray suspiciously. "I thought you liked tea?" she asked almost accusingly when she paid for the two of them.

"I do, but this is more for medicinal purposes. I just need a large dose of caffeine." he explained, following her into the dining area. He carried the tray with one hand while he used the cane to ease his progress. He arrived at the booth Rose had chosen. A bit of the coffee spilled as he tried to set the tray down one handed. She impatiently rolled her eyes at his clumsiness. He sat down and leaned the cane against the booth wall.

"You don't have to do that anymore," she declared.

"Do what?"

"The whole dying act. You may have fooled my family but I'm not buying it. You are going through a lot of trouble and wasting time for nothing. So just drop it!"

He studied her carefully as he considered his reply. She truly didn't believe he was dying. He could explain the truth to her, go through the evidence, start an argument, have her get upset but unconvinced, a waste of time and precious energy.

She wasn't a monster. If she ever realized the truth about what she had done it would be devastating to her. Her disbelief was a defense mechanism. It was why she cried when her shield of denial started to crack. Deep down, part of her knew the effects of what she had done. Knew she had nearly destroyed the entire time space continuum when she made it back to his brother. Knew she had been killing him with her attempts to go back to his brother again.

But she could never let this knowledge see the light of day; admit it to anyone, not even herself. It would mean she would have to abandon what she wanted most in life, take responsibility for the consequences of her actions and she was unable to do that, at this point it would be a horrendous burden. So she lived the lie, dwelled in delusion.

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. His best course at this point was the path of least resistance. Try to deflect her with a bit of unexpected humor.

"I think I look quite dapper with this cane, don't you? Besides, your mother has gone to all that effort collecting them, might as well put at least one to good use," he quipped.

She frowned twisting her mouth to one side as she shook her head slowly. She did however uncross her arms and start in on her breakfast. The Doctor was relieved. He didn't want a fight and he couldn't afford to give up the cane, he needed it. His ploy seemed to have worked.

He drank his coffee and nibbled on his muffin. He really wasn't hungry, but felt he should have something in his stomach. He watched Rose carefully. He had a question he wanted to ask for no real reason other than his own curiosity, just to see what her thought process was concerning her return. She looked up at him when he had finished his muffin. She slid a five pound note across the table to him.

"Go get yourself something else to eat. That muffin can't be enough for you. Try the danish. You always like those."

He smiled. He really didn't want anything else, but she was feeling gracious at the moment and he didn't want to break that mood by refusing her offer. He bought himself a danish and some yogurt and returned to his spot across from Rose. Trying to sound casual he asked his question.

"When you get back, what are you going to tell my brother?"

"What do you mean what am I going to tell him?" The Doctor winced internally. She was becoming defensive.

"Well, I just wondered what you had thought to tell him as to why you were back. Surely you must have thought about when you will first speak to him. It's going to be a big moment. You should have something planned. It will set the tone for the rest of your relationship." He tried to keep a tone of gentle concern in his voice.

He could see her mind working, trying to figure out if this was a trick, deciding if she could trust him. Then her expression softened. "To be honest, I really hadn't thought about it. I've just been concentrating on getting back. Remembering how I felt when he was running towards me before that Dalek showed up. I know he wants me, needs me, it's important that I be with him."

The Doctor kept control over his emotions. A stupid childishly romantic moment that had nearly killed them both was what was stuck in her mind. In some ways he wasn't surprised, it confirmed just how irrational Rose was when it came to his brother. She saw herself as a princess in a fairy tale and her brother the magical prince that only had eyes for her and could handle any situation as long as he had her for inspiration, but would be lost without her, the special one.

He tried to be careful in how he responded. "Well, remember, he did leave you here for a reason. You might want to think about what you are going to say about that."

"I'll just tell him what you have been telling us. That the energy is wrong here and it killed you." She smiled pleased with herself.

"I thought you didn't believe that."

"I don't, but I can sell it. You were convincing, had everyone fooled. I'll just explain it the way you have. He'll believe me. It won't be a problem"

The coral was becoming agitated. The Doctor could tell it felt she was wrong, her plan wouldn't work. "That's alright it's not our problem, we have our own job to do. Just relax please, I need you calm." The coral responded to his silent pleas, apologizing and singing a quiet song of comfort in the Doctor's mind. “Thank you,” he thought softly as he found himself relaxing with the coral's help.

He looked at the table. All the food had been consumed and it was time to go. "Well, you have it all under control then. We should probably go now."

"What, no lecture? No, trying to convince me I'm bringing ruin on the universe?"

"No, no lecture. We do need to get going." He reached for his cane and stood up.

She frowned at him. "Can't you just lose that thing?"

"What, lose my horse head cane? I like it. It's as if I have Shadow with me," He held the cane up and crooned to the silver horse head, stoking its face with one finger as he did so. "Don't worry, Shadow, I won't abandon you. You're safe with me."

Rose gave a begrudging smile despite herself. "Come on, quit stalling, let's go," she ordered, conveniently forgetting that leaving had been his idea.

The rest of the drive to Torchwood was uneventful and they pulled into the garage before sunup as the Doctor had hoped. Their footfalls echoed on the marble floor as they entered the reception, the guard looked up from his book, surprised to see them there so early.

The Doctor saw his reflection like a specter in the windows while they waited for the lift. Gaunt and pale, dark rings under his eyes, cheeks sunken, hair dull, the suit that had fit him perfectly when he arrived hung off him, like he was a kid in his father's clothes, his finger tips barely extending past the sleeves. He wasn't surprised Jackie had decided a wheel chair was needed. That Rose felt the cane was an affectation designed to gain sympathy, showed how strongly she held on to her denial of the facts.

They said nothing to each other as the lift took them to the top floor. Rose strode quickly to the lab and entered. The Doctor followed wearily, leaning heavily on the cane for support. Sooner than he wanted he was outside the lab. He stood there steeling himself for the responsibility that lay within. What happened there in the next few hours would decide the fate of Rose, the world and possibly the entire time space continuum. It seemed so melodramatic when he thought of it, but the truth was, it did all rest solely on his shoulders. Hopefully, he wouldn't make a hash of it
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A Small Piece of Coral - Page 2 Empty Chapter 17 of 17 (part 1)

Post by Paksena on Wed Jun 24, 2009 8:38 pm

When the Doctor entered the lab he could see that Rose hadn't bothered to clean up after herself. The cable from his power supply running to the next room was in plain sight. That would make at least part of what he had to do easier.

"So you used my power source for your spare dimension cannon," he observed as he walked over to survey the damage.

"It was handy, my budget paid for it, why not?" she challenged, daring him to find fault with her reasoning.

He rubbed his jaw ignoring her tone, not wanting a fight. He wasn't pleased with what had been done. The splice he was looking at was amateurish at best. Downright incompetent would be a better description. He was amazed they hadn't blown the power supply.

He retrieved his tool kit and went to work, hoping Rose would get bored watching him and leave. It didn't work.

"What are you doing now? I thought you had everything ready." Rose asked impatiently

The Doctor looked up from his work. "I need to determine how much damage your team did and fix it. It would be best if you left and got yourself another tea or something so I can concentrate."

She frowned at the suggestion. "You don't have to check it out. They knew what they were doing. You're just stalling."

The Doctor sighed and shook his head. "Look, we are here early so we don't have problems with power flows. I've already found one problem. It's vital I make sure there isn't any more damage. We are only going to have one shot at this, so everything needs to be correct the first time, we won't get another chance."

Rose looked at him with disgust on her face. "The Doctor could throw this kind of thing together in minutes, what's wrong with you?"

He rubbed the back of his neck trying to get the increasing tension out of it. "Nothing's wrong with me. If I had the endless supply of technologies that is stored in the TARDIS I could throw it together too, but I don't. I don't even have a sonic screwdriver. Things that he can do with the sonic, I have to do by hand and check visually."

The Doctor shook his head as he morbidly thought to himself. "He also has more than a few hours of life left to correct any mistakes. Where my only advantage is I won't be living with any of my mistakes, at least not for long."

"Alright, I'll buy that, but why can't I stay?" Rose asked petulantly.

"Because I need to concentrate and I can't do that when I am constantly being distracted by your questions and fidgeting."

Rose, chagrined, put down her hand whose index finger she had been using to twirl her hair. "I need to check my messages. My power being cut yesterday caused me to forget to do that. I'll be back in an hour." She shot him an accusing look and turned toward the door.

"Good, I should be ready by then," the Doctor replied with a wave of his hand.

"You'd better be. I don't want you putting this off another day," she shot back over her shoulder as she left the lab.

"I don't want to either," thought the Doctor. He took a deep breath and went back to work repairing the splice. A chill went down his spine as he came upon a mass of melted metal and composite materials in the center of the cable.

The power which Rose had attempted to fire the cannon at was much higher than what he had felt. Because of the ineptitude of her technicians, most of the power from the supply had been lost in the inefficient join. If not for them he would have died in Pete's lab yesterday and Tony would have been alone with him when he perished.

He felt a tightness in his chest and swallowed hard against the thought of his young friend having to witness his death. He shook himself, pushing that thought away. He didn't have time to think about disasters that might have happened. He needed to concentrate on the job in front of him to prevent a future one.

Once he finished repairing the splice, he checked over the console he had built. He had borrowed the basic design from the TARDIS, a bit of nostalgia on his part, lots of bits and pieces that appeared to have been added at random. No labels or anything to indicate what a specific control was for. Only he could operate it. He powered it up. Rose's technicians hadn't touched it. He felt as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders, everything was as it should be.

He then checked the computer network. Rose had managed to obtain for him full administrative privileges on every computer in the Torchwood network. Those that were turned off, he could power up remotely, a few needed to have that done. He was going to need the computing power of all the computers linked together in a dynamic neural network. This network was actually the most critical part of his design.

The dimension cannon had been reworked by him to be controlled with a probability computation engine. That engine would determine the most probable place particles of the barriers between universes weren't. It would then align particles of Rose with those spots, finessing her through the barriers to universe prime. In theory it was possible to do, though the odds of it actually working were astronomical. Still it was the best chance he had of sending Rose back and not destroying everything in the process.

The neural network would do the majority of the work. Any anomalies, places where the predicted empty space didn't occur would be handled by him. He hoped he was up to it, that he hadn't let his arrogance put everything at risk. The coral in his pocket sang reassuringly. It would be here to help.

He put his hand on it and thanked it. "Not long now, it will be over soon. Then we can finally rest." He could almost see the coral smiling. Funny how its messages were becoming clearer now that each of them had so little energy left.

He thought about what he needed to check next and realized there was nothing left. But rather than be reassured by that fact, it gave him an oddly disconcerting feeling of anxiety. He felt he should be checking something, given the importance of what he was about to try.

He sat down, looked up at the ceiling, closed his eyes and took a deep breath, forcing himself to relax. Nervousness was just wasted energy. Conservation of energy was the watchword for him now.
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A Small Piece of Coral - Page 2 Empty Chapter 17 of 17 (part 2)

Post by Paksena on Wed Jun 24, 2009 8:39 pm

"I thought you had work to do?" The sharpness of Rose's words caused the Doctor to jump up from the chair, startled, his cane clattering to the floor. "I come back and I find you doing nothing."

"That's because I am done. I was just waiting for you," replied the Doctor as he bent down and picked up his cane.

"I am here now, so let's get going. I've waited too long for this."

"It's ready and waiting for you." The Doctor gestured towards the transfer platform as he walked towards the control panel leaning heavily on the cane for support.

Rose smiled. She was wearing the same blue leather jacket she had worn when his brother had left her on the beach, she appeared to have taken some of the time she was gone to reapply her make-up. It was bright, on the borderline of garish, designed to attract attention. He wished his brother good luck with her.

He powered up the equipment. The first phase was to put Rose in a stasis field so the transfer would seem instantaneous from her point of view, one moment here, the next in universe prime, the same one as his brother.

That step accomplished it was time to do the difficult part, the transfer phase. It started slowly at first. The neural network doing the calculations, when an anomaly occurred he would tweak the flow of particles. To his amazement, it was actually working, even though he was hampered by having to use the cane to maneuver around the control panel. His free hand flew over the counsel, his long fingers making reaches that would have been impossible for most.

Soon the transfer was thirty percent complete. The anomalies were coming faster, he was starting to tire but he was still able to cope, the coral was singing, helping to keep his mind clear and focused on the task at hand, supporting him as his energy was being destroyed by the cannon. Rose's little trick the day before had obliterated any safety margin he had. It was going to go right down to the wire.

At fifty percent, his fatigue was becoming too much for him to ignore. He was missing some of the anomalies, resulting in tiny tears in the fabric of reality. His cane fell to the floor as he made a desperate attempt to reach a control before yet another tear occurred. He made it, but now he had to lean on the console for support, he didn't have time to retrieve the cane. Just as well he was needed two hands now more often than not. He leaned his thighs against the edge of the console to take some of his weight as both his hands became fully engaged.

Then the neural net had a failure. A power fluctuation had destroyed a few of the network's packets when they were transmitted, the delay caused by their having to be resent resulted in a computation not being completed in time. The number of anomalies created was overwhelming. His breathing was labored as he fought against the panic that rose in his throat. He blinked futilely, trying to clear his vision that was starting to blur, as the dimension cannon added its relentless assault to the burdens of the failing Doctor.

He felt the coral send him a little bit of energy in an effort to help him, but it wasn't enough. He couldn't fix all the anomalies the missed calculation had caused. He couldn't even fix a tenth of them. Reality was starting to tear. He'd failed. The decision he had hoped to never have to make, was now in front of him, unavoidable.

He could revert the dimension cannon to its original function and finish pushing Rose through by brute force, ripping all of reality again, causing multiple universes to collapse, this second wound so close to the first would be unable to heal. Rose would be saved, but only for the short time until all of reality was destroyed. His other option was to stop the transmission before it was too late, destroying Rose. Bringing her back was not an option.

It was a terrible choice, because he knew the right decision, but was loath to make it. Then the part of him that was Donna came to the fore. Donna, wonderful, brilliant, Donna, who realized the Vespiform wouldn't listen to reason and had to be killed. He felt as if now her hand was on his, as it had been on his brother's when they blew up Mount Vesuvius causing tens of thousands of people to die, many of whom they knew, so millions of others could be saved. With Donna's strength of purpose in him, he pressed the control that he had hoped he would never have to use.

He heard a scream, it must have been the cannon. It couldn't have been Rose, she should have felt nothing. "Please let it be the cannon," he prayed. No one deserved to feel what had happened to Rose. She was gone now, her subatomic particles scattered across several universes, to be used to heal the tears that had been created. There was no visible trace of her here. No one on this world would know of his failure and her death. He hoped that would spare Jackie some pain.

His body was failing, each breath like lifting a tremendous weight, his vision almost gone, everything a shade of gray, his limbs leaden. The coral cried, wounded by the energy flows around them as the Doctor fell heavily to his knees, cracking them on the floor.

His throat was tight as he tried to swallow, he was furious at himself for failing to consider just how weak he would become when he created his design. The controls he needed now were in the middle of the console. If he'd had any sense he would have put them on the floor. No matter how he sick felt, it was necessary he stand back up and finish his job.

He reached for the console edge, his hand slipped on the smooth surface as he tried to pull himself up. That arrogance in his design again, he never thought a few handicap grab rails might come in handy. He sat there on his knees, his legs folded under him as he looked around through the dense fog that now served as his vision, desperate for an answer.

He saw a vague shape, his cane lying on the floor. He reached for it and clumsily knocked it further away. He teared up as the frustration and pain threatened to become more than he could bear. Driven forward by desperation, he reached out again, stretching his arm to its fullest, not wanting to give up his seated position in his weakened state. He managed to get a finger on the rubber tip of the cane. He dug a nail into the soft material and gained the slightest of purchases.

Carefully he teased the cane towards him, sliding it slowly across the floor till finally he could put his full hand on it. Aching, but relieved he took the cane in both hands and pushed himself up off the floor, fighting with gravity until he was standing upright, however unsteadily.

He felt along the console till he found the recessed button he needed, pressing it would send a command to all the computers to run an erasure program on the hard drives. It would finish up by flashing all the firmware, rendering the computers useless. A worm would be implanted in the network routers that would cause any computer that logged on before midnight tonight to meet the same fate. Any plans for the dimension cannon, at least the electronic ones, would be totally destroyed.

He pressed it, and saw a vague pulsing. It was how the red flashing indicator light he had installed to verify that the program had been launched appeared to him now. He felt it with his fingers, sensing the heat generated by flashing, unwilling to trust his failing eyesight. His relief was so great, he felt himself go weak kneed.

Again he found himself on the floor, unsure as to how he had gotten there. He seemed to have lost a few minutes. Just one more thing he had to accomplish and he was done. He knew he had to stand, when all he wanted to do was lie down. In fact, he realized, he was lying down. He pushed himself up onto his hands and knees, coughing from the effort, his throat burning and raw.

Thankfully he felt the cane was next to his hand. He sat back on his heels and caught his breath. There was a pounding on the door, or perhaps it was just in his head. He was pretty sure Rose had locked the lab, so he should have a bit more time. He pushed up on the cane again, and staggered to his feet.

The next control he needed should be easy to find, it was large and mushroom shaped. He heard a crack behind him as he found the button's smooth surface. He put both hands on it and leaned. The power supply surged with all the energy Rose could ever have wanted.

Only what it did now, was destroy both dimension cannons, with a power spike so large the resulting heat burnt out the circuits and slagged all the metal parts of both cannons, rendering them useless inert lumps. Destroying them thoroughly, as he had asked Rose to do when he had first arrived in this universe. He needed no indicator light to verify his success. The sound of circuits sparking and the acrid smell of ozone and burnt plastic that permeated the lab, was all the confirmation he needed.

He was done. Gratefully he slid to the floor. The only project Torchwood had left was the global climate one. All the data for that was safe on Pete's isolated computer. With Rose gone, there was no champion for the dimension cannon, and even if there was, they would have to start from scratch. Pete should be able to show a much better return for their resources than any competing project. It was up to him now.

Finally the Doctor could relax, rest, at last let go. He curled up on his side, his now useless eyes closed. His body felt like it was on fire. The coral was whimpering from pain and exhaustion. He sent the last of energy he had to it.

He heard the door crash open. Pete's voice calling to him, hands rolling him onto his back, pressing on his chest, trying to get his lungs to breathe, his heart to beat. He wanted to push them away, let them know he was ready, his time was over, but he had no strength for it. Then it was as if he was lying on red grass, feeling the warmth of a double sun on his face. It was the coral comforting him with the memory of a home he had never seen as he sank into oblivion.

Alone, the coral screamed out its suffering and anguish across the universes reaching out to the only other consciousness it had known as it joined the Doctor in death.
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A Small Piece of Coral - Page 2 Empty Chapter 17 of 17 (part 3)

Post by Paksena on Wed Jun 24, 2009 8:40 pm

The Doctor was working on the Helmic Regulator when the TARDIS informed him the end had finally come. The fact that the message had been delivered with a splitting headache that caused him to drop his sonic screwdriver, indicated how upset she was.

When his brother had first awakened the coral and tried to connect it with the parallel universe's energy, it had cried in agony and reached across the universes connecting to its mother, the TARDIS, in a thin line of communication that somehow navigated the barriers between the universes without breaching them.

From then on he'd had full knowledge of what has happening to his brother in the parallel world. Rose's initial refusal to accept him, the brief time they appeared to be getting along, and her ultimate rejection of him. He knew of the toll the parallel universe had exacted on his brother's body. He'd stood by helplessly as the deterioration was accelerated by Rose's experimentation with the dimension cannon.

It was as if he had been watching a mud slide. So slow he felt there must be time to stop its devastation. Yet so much momentum towards the impending disaster there was nothing he could do but hope some miracle, some unforeseen circumstance, would intervene.

The TARDIS had been upset with the situation her only child had been put in. She rankled at its failure to grow, the shortness of its life. She pushed on the Doctor's mind to do something to save the situation, to fix it, to allow her child live. But there was nothing he could do. If he breached the universes again everything would be lost.

Then, when Rose had fired up the dimension cannon again with the coral and his brother at the end of their lives, the TARDIS took matters into her own hands. She tried to send massive amounts of energy from universe prime through the communications link to the coral. It was like using a fire hose to push water through a hypodermic needle. Vast amounts of energy had spilled across the universes with only a few ergs actually getting through to her child.

The TARDIS had depleted itself and barely had enough fuel left to limp back to the rift. The Doctor wasn't sure if the rough landing had been due to the lack of fuel or the TARDIS' mood. Either way, he had cracked a rib and sprained his left wrist upon arriving.

He had decided to distract himself, working on the TARDIS, while she refueled and maintained the death watch over his brother and the coral. The distraction however proved insufficient as the anxiety of the TARDIS pervaded her interior. Light, heat, all her services became erratic, as she, frustrated and powerless, waited for the end.

He was relieved it was over and hated himself for feeling that way. His brother had taken on an impossible assignment. An assignment the Doctor should have taken care of himself, he loved Rose, though not the way she wanted. He thought his brother could fulfill her desires giving her what he could not.

His brother instead ended up being sacrificed on the altar of his incompetence, his reluctance to deal with Rose himself. His brother could have stayed here in universe prime, the coral would have grown into a TARDIS and there was a better than good chance, his brother would have absorbed enough universe prime energy to have regenerated into a full Timelord, with a full Timelord lifespan and set of regenerations.

His brother had selflessly given up that chance. Instead he took on the assignment to save Rose for him. His brother was to take care of her, keep her happy, distract her from trying to get back. A fool's mission as it had turned out. Rose had tossed him aside. His possibility of a Timelord life had been sacrificed in vain.

He looked down at the deck of the control room as an unwelcome thought entered his mind. Davros was right. He turned his companions into weapons. Rose had become an out of control weapon, so single minded in her goal, she was oblivious to the destruction she caused.

His brother, the weapon that stopped her, self-destructing in the process. Tears ran down his face as he thought of Rose and all the mistakes he'd made with her. If he had never entered her life she would be alive today, maybe married and having children.

He constantly worried about technologies falling into the hands of civilizations not yet ready for them. He forgot to do the same for individuals, especially individuals he liked. Rose had lacked the maturity to handle the knowledge he had given her. He had been as responsible for her destruction as if he had set the switch which killed her himself. His brother had merely been his hand.

He gave a short snort of laughter at that irony, sadly shaking his head. His brother, having started as his hand, had ended up acting as it. Seeming so young, so eager to please, taking on way too much, too early, never having a chance to enjoy his very existence as he had deserved to.

He had thought his brother would have a good life even if it was destined to be short by Timelord standards. Instead it had been a nightmare of desperation, trying to accomplish an impossible task as Rose had run amok.

The Doctor's ruminations were broken by the TARDIS starting up her engines. He released the hand brake and let her go her own way; he had a feeling he knew what this was about. She would want things done properly and would give him trouble until they were.

They rematerialized in on a remote island in northern Scotland. An abandoned cabin nearby provided him with what he needed. It was cold and hard work on that windswept isle, it was fitting that it was. The constant sound of the waves crashing, destroying themselves against the rocks, seemed a fitting memorial dirge for his brother. The pyre was completed as the sun began to set.

He had debated what to put on it as a remembrance of his brother. There was nothing in the TARDIS that was really his. He hadn't been there long enough to lay a claim on anything as his own. The Doctor instead chose to use something dear to himself, his sonic, he couldn't quite bring himself to part with his coat and felt a bit ashamed at that fact.

He set the fire when the sun dropped out of sight in the west. He stayed and watched over it as the wind fanned the flames, sending the sparks out into the night. He would remain there until the sun rose again in the east and the last ember had died out. His brother deserved at least that much from him. What Rose deserved, he would think about later. One thing he did know, the TARDIS didn't care.
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