Press the button, Doctor. Doctor, Doctor, Doctor. Press it. End it. Can you hear them screaming?
Eight sees his hands shaking, can feel the tremors going through his tired body. There is no wind here, just this barn and the endless desert outside. Nothing moves in the wilderness but him as he settles inside the barn and sets the box down. It looks intimidating enough, carved with gentle Gallifreyan hands so long ago it must have been when Rassilon himself was walking the streets and making certain the Time Lords are remembered until the end of everything.
Maybe this is it. Press the button, Doctor. End it, end it, end it. He wants to yell at the voices, tell them to shut up or maybe to scream at him louder. What he is about to do is more than he ever-
the box unfolds like a flower, presenting the Doctor with the ominous red button surrounded by golden metallic petals. He stares at it, wants to rub his hands to get rid of the blood he can feel seeping through his skin. His feet are rooted to the ground. Eyes flicker upwards, to see a figure of Charley smiling gently at him. A blink of an eye and the figure is gone. Another blink and it’s Lucie. Then it’s C’rizz. Then it’s all of his Companions at once and none of them, then it flickers further back until it’s Susan, her worried face having been gone from his life for so long he nearly forgot what she looked like. The Doctor shakes.
End their suffering, the ghostly figure of Susan whispers and in her voice is the screaming of a million lives.
(What the Doctor doesn’t know is the Time Lords discovering the theft in their archives, in their deepest darkest cellars. What the Doctor doesn’t know is that the Master has already ran away, hiding and unwilling to participate in a hell unfitting even for a dark-hearted being like him. What the Doctor doesn’t know that the High Council is letting their fear get over them, that they know exactly what is about to happen. He cannot use it, he must realize- The Doctor was never our friend, was he? only the Lady President stays silent, her mouth a grim line. In her hearts, she already knows)
Will I be able to carry this- this what I am about to do for the rest of my life, however long that may be? Eight murmurs into the air, as the figure of Susan settles to sit on top of the box, flickering into Lucie, into Charley, into C'rizz and then into someone Eight doesn’t know. Long haggard blonde hair and a flicker of gold in the dark eyes.
Yes, the figure of a wolf-girl says and she smiles but Eight trembles harder. He who is a killer of his own right, he who forsake the name of the Doctor and took up arms instead of healing- what right does he have to whine about what the future might hold when he is about to take away the future of a million million lives? They are screaming, all of them. The universe is burning while you wait and hesitate. Do not hesitate. They are beyond redemption. I am truly sorry. The wolf and the girl; maybe the same being, maybe not speaks with Charley’s voice and then in the voice of the Lady President.
Press it, Doctor. Press it so that the universe might live on.
The Doctor lowers his gaze and takes a deep breath.
He thinks of Gallifrey, her scorched ground and the burning Arcadia or the fallen sky trenches. He thinks of the Daleks, the killers of billions trapped forever in their metallic shells. He thinks of the Time Lords, those for whom time itself bends, unable to end a war that was never meant to end. He thinks of his own future and carrying on with the knowledge that he saved the universe (yet again) with a cost that is too terrifying to imagine.
But an universe where the hordes and the Could Have Been-King and everything the Time Lords have imagined is too much. Already this war, our war has destroyed so much. Oh, the blessed lesser species who have no knowledge of it! The way their history just changes and they do not even realize-
Eight wipes his mind free of this and raises his hand. The figure of a wolf and a girl speaks nothing but watches him with eyes that are compassionate and terrifying and everything and nothing.
Eight’s fingers shake. He hums one his favourite tunes, spares a thought to the life he has lived to get to this point; from universe and to the next, through numerous friends and planets. To almost destroying reality with his own hands.
For the good of the universe, Doctor. Save them, Doctor. Save them.
The slender hand that has created more than destroyed, slams down with more force than he thought possible. He closes his eyes and grits his teeth but is unable to close his eyes from the screaming, terrible screaming that fills his head and makes him double over in pain, clapping his hands over his ears but it just goes on. Behind his closed eyelids, the beautiful Gallifrey falls and there is a sound like a great lock being clicked shut.
How Eight manages to wander back into the TARDIS with the box, he doesn’t know. Later on, he would probably think the TARDIS came to him; after all, she is his best friend in the world. How Eight managed to steer the TARDIS to some dark spot in the universe, he doesn’t know (not the dark spot where the bright lights of Gallifrey once shone; not to the dreadful silence the Time War left behind, universe struggling to heal itself)
When the regeneration comes, it’s a relief.
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