Written as a Yuletide treat for Lelek
Thanks for beta-reading and hand-holding to hhertzof and fredbassett
When Fitz padded into the TARDIS console room, everything was dim and dark. It wasn't unusual to find the TARDIS like that at night, or at least at during the hours the TARDIS notionally treated as night. Fitz glanced at his watch and was unsurprised to discover it read 2am. There was no sign of the Doctor and the rotor in the centre was stationary. Either the Doctor was somewhere in the TARDIS or he was already outside.
He was probably outside. That was happening more and more often. They roamed the universe and as the Time War became more and more desperate, and they stumbled from one burning battlefield to another, the Doctor vanished off on his own adventures in the middle of the night. He was desperate to rescue anyone - everyone - as if trying to pay some kind of one man penance for the sins of his people.
Fitz rubbed his hand gently along the edge of the console. "Did you wake me up? What kind of trouble has he got himself into this time?"
The scanner dropped down into view. He could see the Doctor, standing with his back to him, arguing with someone through a closed door. Fitz sighed. Bloody typical.
Then suddenly the TARDIS raised the lights, opened the doors and all hell broke loose. The floor tilted and Fitz had to grab hold of the console for support. He shouted for the Doctor, who looked over his shoulder, and Fitz saw his eyes open in surprise and horror at the open TARDIS door and Fitz hanging onto the console. Then there was a crash. Twisted metal and burning debris fell between them. The lights went out and acrid smoke filled the air.
He couldn't hear anything above the sounds of burning and crashing outside.
He took a deep breath, coughing on the smoke, and attempted to pull himself up to the console controls.
"Look! I know you were just concerned for him and trying to get him to safety, but is there any chance of getting gravity localised again?"
Fitz coughed again and hoped that the TARDIS would understand him. There was a lurch, and the room righted itself momentarily and then the floor slid away once more. The lights flickered and then came up which at least was something. Fitz looked towards the door. All he could see was a mound of rubble and darkness beyond.
Then he let go of the console and allowed himself to slip and slide down the floor until he ended up against the debris. He scrambled up the pile, hands scraping at the loose metal and wiring. Up near the top was a void, a gap he could scramble through if only he could widen it slightly. Fitz began frantically pulling stuff away, anything that moved he worked to pull free and then either tossed it behind him into the console room or shoved it outwards down the far side.
He'd been at work for about ten minutes when he saw lights in the darkness beyond. They were moving and he froze cautiously in place, waiting to see who or what it was. Three women in long red robes emerged from the gloom carrying burning torches. He saw one bend down.
"He is here!" she said with a note of triumph in her voice.
Quickly the other two brought forward a stretcher.
"Hey! Wait! Help!" Fitz threw caution to the winds. If they had found the Doctor then he needed to be out there with him. "Hey!"
The woman looked back at him, raising her torch so Fitz could see the lines of ageing worn into her face.
"He is beyond your help now. Only we can tend to him!" she said.
"At least get me out of here. I need to be with him."
She turned her back. "Not this time," he heard her say. "This time it is better if you are not there."
"Hey!" Fitz was still shouting as the stretcher party vanished into the distance.
It was a couple of hours before Fitz finally succeeded in crawling out. Somewhere along the way the TARDIS had managed to restore local gravity. That had allowed Fitz to venture to as store cupboard and collect a torch. It didn't take him long to realise he was inside the remains of a crashed spaceship. He clambered out, following a route of cleared debris obviously left by the red-robed women.
He finally emerged into a dark and barren landscape. The torch light showed dusty rocky ground. The footprints of the women were clear enough and he began to follow.
He'd not gone far when a group of figures emerged suddenly from the darkness and he found himself face to face with more of the women and a grim-faced man wearing the Doctor's clothes.
Fitz stopped short. He knew about regeneration but the fact of it came as a shock.
"Doctor?" he asked cautiously.
The grim expression on the man's face deepened into something sad and resigned. "Maybe. We'll see."
"Well, at least you survived," Fitz managed. He suddenly felt incredibly awkward and rubbed his hands on his jacket before extending one for a shake.
The man took it cautiously and Fitz was struck by how ridiculous it was to be greeting his best friend like a stranger met for the first time.
"Fitz," the man... the Doctor... said quietly and it was halfway between a question and a cry for help.
Fitz felt a sudden need to embrace this Doctor. To feel that he was real. He pulled him into his arms and felt the crush of a returned embrace.
It's all going to be all right, Fitz told himself desperately.
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