The Doctor had made his decision. He had been a walking disaster long enough. Chaos and death followed him everywhere and he had finally become exactly what his enemies had always believed him to be - the Destroyer of Worlds.
He'd tried to kill himself six times since his TARDIS had opened up and dropped this new body of his on the Brigadier's front lawn. Lethbridge-Stewart, though, had been kind and good and, in his way, quite right. But the Doctor felt he had risked their hospitality and therefore their lives long enough. It was time to do something, time to try to find a way to forget.
He had considered the chameleon arch for awhile but eventually common sense had told him that it would only result in the same nightmares, only without his Time Lord ability to make sense of them. Probably make the human version every bit as unstable as he was, and possibly every bit as dangerous.
The Brigadier, watching him work, had believed it to be a good sign, because the Doctor working meant the Doctor wasn't moping or contemplating suicide any more, or dwelling, lost, on the War and all the things he had killed and let die.
But all the programming was in place now, the Time Lord was certain of everything, and it was time to let his friend in on his plans. He would need him.
"You want me to what?"
"Adopt me," the Doctor said, with a grin that anyone who wasn't the Brigadier would have thought was playful and happy.
"Have you lost your mind?" the Brigadier asked, before he thought.
"Yes," replied the Doctor quietly. "We both know that. And I can't heal, can't even try to get back to normal or even less insane if I don't do something to make it go away for awhile. I'm tired of fighting and I can't endure the silence. You can't understand what that's like - even I couldn't have imagined it before, and it is making me worse every single day. I need to get away, somewhere, somehow that I can pretend the silence is normal. Not just pretend... believe!"
The Brigadier shook his head in bitter frustration. How had it come down to this? After everything he had seen the Doctor save, rescue, pull out at the last possible minute, how was it down now that the one thing the Time Lord couldn't save was himself? He opened the file and read it carefully. For a mad man, the Doctor was inevitably meticulous.
"All right," the Brigadier agreed at last as the Doctor considered him with silent, pleading, aching blue eyes. "Give it to the weekend, take a little more time to try to think of another way. We'll try again with the mirror on Saturday. If it doesn't work, we'll do this."
The Doctor flinched, but nodded at last. "Of course," he agreed.
"And the TARDIS?"
"Doris did say she'd look lovely in the back garden. That's another reason I didn't use the arch. I'm the last..." He choked and sobbed and stopped talking for fully five minutes, rocking back and forth in his chair, muttering some chiming dirge that sounded like horror set to music.
The Brigadier came around and placed a hand over the Doctor's - his left, because he was still likely to lash out if his right was touched. "Focus," he said, after a moment, in the quiet voice of command. The terrible blue gaze snapped to his face, so alien, so lost, so alone. "I understand. She'll be safe here, we'll watch over her and put a pretty flower bed around her or something."
"Thanks," the Doctor said. After another moment of rocking, he sat up and sighed, his hand flickering over his severe, military haircut. "It's just, the Arch is an emergency protocol, the program's full of bloody great holes and I'd notice after awhile. Plus, it won't help, it'll just delay the inevitable. Eventually, I'd have to come out and I'll still be broken. What I've done here is more intensive. Much more."
"I see," said the Brigadier, not wanting to admit so much that he didn't, really. The Doctor's extensive file had a lot of detail, though, so it would take him days to assimilate it all. "I'm keeping this," the Brigadier added. "I think there are some things you'll want to tweak."
"Tweak?" the Doctor said.
"For example, you haven't mentioned your parents. Humans usually have them."
"Oh," said the Doctor. "Right. Erm. How about... maybe... Sidney and Verity?"
"Fine," the Brigadier said and jotted that down. "And which of them is my sibling?"
"Sibling?" said the Doctor, again quite startled.
"Well, if I'm going to be your Uncle Alistair, which I admit will be hilarious to me, I have to be one of your parents' brother."
"My mum?" the Doctor suggested tentatively. "Sidney doesn't sound like the sort of name someone would name a kid who's brother is Alistair Gordon..."
"Yes, that's true. Fine, my late sister Verity's big-eared brat. And I see you haven't explained your medical condition. I'll talk to Dr. Sullivan and see what he can come up with."
"Helpful Harry," the Doctor agreed with a morose half-smile.
"This bit is good, though. The keys."
"Yes." The Doctor sighed. "Give me two years if you can. The first key will let me out temporarily, long enough to answer about a half-dozen questions. You can't use it more than once a month, but that should be plenty of time. The second key will bring me back permanently. Only use it in case of an emergency."
"Fine, but I insist the keys also be taught to Harry and maybe John. I'm an old man, Doctor, and I think it would be a bit dangerous to have you wandering the world unable to break your own conditioning if the unthinkable happened."
The Doctor nodded slowly. "But nothing's gonna happen to you. That's why I've got to leave, so nothing happens to you or Doris. Because if I stay, sooner or later, something will come after me." He sounded desperate as he said this, a wounded child, hurt beyond fear at the thought of losing anyone else.
"London? You want to move to London?"
"Yeah. Familiar with London and it's a big place. Can lose maself for a while there."
"All right," the Brigadier agreed. "Last thing, then. You cannot be John Smith."
"You know why not," said the Brigadier, grumpily. "How many times has UNIT had to pick you up from somewhere because you were John Smith and no one believed you?"
The Doctor sighed. "Have it your way, then. What's my name, Uncle Alistair?"
The Brigadier considered him carefully, took in the narrow shoulders and the injured eyes, the trembling hands (the Doctor's hands hadn't stopped shaking yet), the closed stance of a wounded animal unsure whether to cower or attack. "Joshua," he said at last.
"Joshua?" said the Doctor, and thought about it. He shrugged. "Yeah, all right. Joshua Stewart."
The Brigadier smiled. "Just be glad I didn't call you Ishmael."