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'Verse: This is, of course, my AU!Doctor, who still wears Nine's clothes, has the drums, etc. The nice thing about AU? I can take canon's characters and have 'em meet Ten under different circumstances.
Words: 630.
Notes: What the hell am I doing writing a Doctor bit? Avoiding writing my original stuff, that's what. I SEE WHUT I'M DOING THAR. And WARNING FOR CHARACTER DEATH. Of course.





He is at her side when she dies. She has been dying for days—both of them have known this, though they have not said the words. She is old, the doctors—the medical doctors, the doctors of one subject, the doctors whose expertise is important right now—have told him. Organs only last so long. The body only lasts so long.

She smiles at him, lines crinkling at the corners of her eyes, even now, when he feels the pulse in her hand—a hand scarred from a lifetime spent digging in the past—falter and waver, double-beat and return.

Her hair has gone gray and her body small, too small in the hospice bed, and the last time he saw her, three of his months ago, she was young and straightbacked and full.

She won't give him any details, tell him if it's been worth it, if he kept coming to her, if the last time he saw her they'd parted on good terms or bad. It doesn't matter, he tells himself, because he's here now, and whatever mistakes he makes or has made, they're in the past/the future and this moment is their moment, the only time he will ever watch her die. He takes some comfort in that. She dies of old age, and she dies now, and every time he runs with her, after this, she will live.

He's young, she says. Not so young, he tells her. Still 903? she asks, one thin gray eyebrow arched, and he rubs the back of his neck and manages a weak, sheepish grin and doesn't answer. You're still in black, she says. And again he doesn't answer, though he feels the weight of the blue book on her bedside table, overstuffed and battered, petals and leaves and inserted slips of extra paper peeping out from between the pages.

A spoiler, she tells him, sensing the shift of his focus. You change your clothes. Once.

Later, she says his name, his real name, and squeezes his hand so softly he almost thinks it's just the pressure of another struggling heartbeat in her veins.

Remember, she whispers, don't give away the end.

-----

They're deep in the mines of Yepth's Hammer, and she's pressed against the glass of the heart chamber's quadruple-thickness viewport, red-brown hair glowing in the light of the lava channeling through tubes around her, racing to heat the antechamber she's standing in, to heat the cold surface of this frozen planet, saving her, saving the colony far, far above, from the slow sleeping death of cold and exposure.

No one's meant to be in the heart chamber while it operates, not for long—the heat of the molten rock coursing through the great ventricles and atriums of the pump at its center grows with every second, and soon it will be enough to kill a human being. Not long after that, it will be enough to kill him.

But this was the only way to repair the mechanism, to save the planet, to save her. And he had to. Because he knows she lives. He takes comfort in that.

She yells through the glass, and she's young and straightbacked and full, even in her panic and the apprehension of grief in her face.

He puts a hand against the glass, the other still tucked easily, casually, in the pocket of his suit trousers. The long coat's far, far too warm now, but he doesn't take it off. Janis Joplin gave him this coat. And the woman on the other side of the glass taught him to wear it.

Remember, he tells her, don't give away the end.

She has her journal with her, and he knows they still have so many pages to fill.
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