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FIC: All Around Me

Title: All Around Me
Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters/Pairings: Tenth Doctor, memory-cameos of One, Four, Eight, and Nine.
Date Written: 2007
Summary: "I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad- The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had." He doesn't have a deathwish, not exactly - but it feels like one sometimes.
Rating/Warnings: PG. Anyone easily squicked by morbid thoughts should read with caution.
Notes: This is unusually dark, even for me. If you want to listen to the song that inspired this(Mad World), I’d recommend the Gary Jules version.
Spoilers: Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks, Gallifrey backstory, Genesis of the Daleks, the Time War, PotW.

The last Dalek and the last Timelord part ways in time, as they always have done and will continue to do, a forever struggle that will consume both their resources and allies and surrogate worlds until the universe’s embers go cold. The Dalek can rebuild its race, given enough time and ingenuity and luck. The Timelord is as extinct as the dodo.

He is tired.


The survivor wanders through the annals of time, adapting and growing and losing bits of himself as he changes into what the universe needs; taller, shorter, more darkness, more light, smarter and faster and more willing to keep up the battle. More willing to throw himself on all the right fires. More willing to die.


The student sits quietly, not putting up a fight as the teacher explains to him in explicit detail why his life will not go anywhere- not ever. He needs to shape up, pay attention, behave like an adult. Conform. And he’s not going to, because the teacher has known his kind before, and they never do. The student doesn’t argue because he doesn’t disagree, and he holds no resentment for the truth. It’ll be a hard choice later, perched high on the University spire in the motionless, domed-in air – prove them wrong, or remove the burden his incompatibility is placing on his family and fellows.

The survivor hates him for either choice.


The renegade slumps against the inner door of the derelict TARDIS. He is still a firstlife, hand balled into the fabric of his shirt over his single racing heart, high on adrenaline and rebellion and the stinging aluminum taste of fear, unused to danger in this dusty and catatonic world. He half expects the guard to trace him here, to burst through the doors and have him destroyed for his crimes, minor as they are. It’s an exciting thought.

The survivor sometimes thinks it would have been for the best, meeting the business end of a stazer that night, long before he’d stumbled into that white-stone radiation forest, before he’d made the enemies that would follow him into the darkness.


The assassin stands before the first Dalek, breath drawn and held as it hones in on him, weapon coming to bear. It knows him for the alien he is or perhaps it can sense his murderous intent, and the first creeping waves of doubt enter the assassin’s mind. The ends and the means and everything in between; the commands of gods and the tears of angels, and of course he doesn’t believe in that nonsense but surely there are some rules, some things which are beyond the shadow of morality. Surely mass murder is inexcusable by anyone’s compass.

The survivor screams and rails at him, begging him to do it, to end it here and now, while it can still be ended. Another part of him just hopes this first Dalek aims true, prevents Gallifrey’s first shot from being fired. Ends the war before it begins.


The soldier casts eyes only once on the blasted plains, breaking apart under rust-orange skies. He has lost everything and everyone, even himself – he has done the inexcusable and made himself a stranger, unrecognizable, smeared in the soot of genocide. He is ready to die in the bloodied dust of this world, more ready than he’s ever been. He waits for the firestorm he knows is coming.

The survivor, watching from the shadows, holds his breath.


The veteran stands among the monsters and closes his eyes, waiting for the darkness that he’s had one foot in already for far too long. It isn’t clean; he still harbors regrets. Not enough of them to make a difference - too little, too late, too far gone. Too old. Too tired. But they are there, and they gnaw.

The survivor keeps his eyes open. He has no more regrets.


It’s all circular, in the end. The grey and dead faces wander past him, one well-timed death leading to others, saving some that should have died, looping in on itself, feeding the cycle - life and death and survival and the calm of giving up and the white-hot burn of the universe as he falls through it, a speck clinging to the surface of one tiny world after another, never sinking roots in far enough to not go flying off into nothing.


The student falls, from far too much of a height to hope for another life, another tomorrow. The renegade is caught, awkwardly, a miscommunication of intents that leaves him bleeding out on the floor of the vessel he’d tried to steal, lost in less than a life. The assassin is cut down before he can make his move, the first victim of an empire built on the blood of the different. The soldier is wrapped in flame as it eats up the landscape of his beautiful world and it only hurts for a moment, consciousness burning up in a flash. The veteran closes his eyes and falls before his oldest enemies, and the regrets flare, restless, unsated.

The survivor stands in a darkened theater, arms spread to the wings, inviting. There is a terrible heat and an incomprehensible light, and there is a moment on the floor when he feels a stillness overtake him, a quieting of the voices and the memories and the rushing of blood and breath. The student and the renegade and the assassin and the soldier and the veteran roll up into him and they are all still and quiet and it feels something like daybreak on Gallifrey, the moment the sun peeks over the horizon and plays silently down the blood-colored grass, and the world seems to hold its breath, and nothing hurts.


Somewhere in the time vortex, the Timelord shakes himself back to the present, hand sliding down the slick surface of the central column of the console and reluctantly breaking contact. His companion stares at him uneasily, shifting from one foot to another, and he has no idea how long he’d been lost there, falling through his own thoughts.

For a moment, in the theater, he’d really thought they were going to fire, had steeled himself for nothingness. He lets out a held breath, draws another. The stillness slips away, the machinery of life ticking onward as always, a cacophony of gears and clockwork and blood in his ears. It is normal and expected and taken for granted; another narrow escape, another day his hearts will beat out the rhythm of time and deny the monsters and the petty tyrants of the universe. He always survives, and that is good, that is fine, that is what must happen. He has to survive.

But there was a moment there that felt almost like peace, somewhere in that waking dream, and something now that feels vaguely, hollowly, like loss.