“You know this is saving people,” she says, almost pleadingly. She’s fiddling with the cuff of her lab coat.

So far he’s managed to figure out there’s a trickle of something that’s mostly blood running from his left eye socket down the side of his nose. It took a lot of squinting to figure that out, but on reflection it’s probably a thing that’s bound to happen when you’ve recently found yourself no longer in possession of a left eye. It probably looks terribly dramatic, he thinks as he focuses on it, like he’s crying extremely tragic tears of blood - ridiculous, really. But if he concentrates hard enough, maybe he can punch through the veil of numbness settled under his skin. Of course then he’d probably be feeling other, rather more unpleasant things at the same time, but he’ll just have to live with that.

“You’re saving lives,” the doctor repeats. From this angle, she’s sort of looming and her lab coat brushes his bare side. It comes away sticky with blood, red darkening to brown. “Do you understand? This is important.”

He can’t actually figure out how to move his mouth to form words right now, which must be satisfying for her, he supposes. Free pass to monologue at him while he’s rendered speechless, drugged to the gills on stuff that actually seems to work, tubes running every which way and his abdomen sliced open. Does he look dashingly bloodstained at the moment, or just pathetic? Probably the latter.

“There’s just nothing else on earth like you,” she says. She often talks like this, like she wants him to understand, to forgive. He’s got a reputation for it, apparently. “This is how we can save people. So many people. There just aren’t enough donors — this way, so many more people can benefit, keep living. Today’s optic nerve is going into a nine-year-old girl who’ll be able to see from both eyes for the rest of her life now.”

For god’s sake, if she’d just take off the drugs long enough for him to talk. If she’d even bring in a telepath, anything, just let him tell her they’ll have the technology to grow human organs out of nothing in only forty, fifty years if he’s read his watch correctly — no time at all. Look at the entire sprawling length of human history. They’ve managed for thousands of years already without free organs on demand, what’s fifty more without strapping him to a surgical bench and taking him apart?

This is really incredibly frustrating. He absently wonders where Amy and Rory have got to. The bloody drugs have gone and shot his mental clock to smithereens, so he doesn’t know how long this has been. They’ve managed to take out his liver four times now by his count, though he’s not exactly the most reliable judge right now, so he’d guess at a week… give or take about six or seven days.

He works up the energy to blink his right eyelid. Ah, that’s a relief. He keeps it shut for a moment, then opens it again to watch as she pulls back her sleeve to check the time.

“It’s nearly eleven, so you’re probably dying,” she says. “Okay. I’m going to take the regeneration suppressants out of your bloodstream, then we’ll do your other heart and lung.”

She goes to the IV stand and fiddles around a bit, and he wishes they weren’t going to take out the lung and heart after turning off the drugs. This is probably going to hurt, and oxygen deprivation is a killer. Still, is she just going to leave the other eye?

He works open his mouth, and she jumps back.

“Whhhhhhh,” he manages to get out. He flexes his jaw. “Waaaaaaaaaaay.”

From what he can see with one eye, her lips are pressed tight together. She doesn’t like him talking. He guesses it makes her feel bad about herself.

“Waste…of,” he drawls out, then pauses, voice stuck in his throat, regroups. “An…eye.”

“Glad you’re on board with this,” she says curtly, voice tight with fear and, he hopes, self loathing. Guilt means uncertainty, guilt means she’s scared, guilt means a weak point. “Alright then. Drone four, you’re on. Heart, lung.”

She looks him up and down and he’s abruptly very self conscious, strapped down on this bench with nothing but one of those hospital gown thingies that open in the front. It’s kind of useless for modesty, in all truthfulness. They still haven’t wiped the blood and assorted fluids off him from the last few surgeries, so that means they’re probably not going to do it again until he starts stinking too much. It’s an unpleasant thought since they haven’t shown any signs of chopping off his nose yet.

The drone buzzes forward. He’d probably quite like it in other circumstances. It looks like one that he could rig up to serve tea and scones.

The doctor licks her lips. “And the eye,” she adds. “Eye first.”

The Doctor does not allow his breathing to quicken.

x x x

After they’ve taken everything he had to give, he can feel energy tingling in his fingertips again. There’s also the beginnings of an impossible, unthinkably terrible pain, so vast it can’t be comprehended, but that’s just the drugs wearing off.

He feels regeneration sizzle through him, healing torn muscles and snapped bones, and he feels the organs grow back into place. The skin will come later, while the drugs are being pumped back into him to halt the full regeneration process. This is probably how he’s going to escape — somehow figure out how to get off the operating table while he’s still healthy and the suppression drugs haven’t immobilised him properly yet. That part is the whole system’s weak point. He’ll risk losing this face if he gets the timing wrong, which would be unfortunate, but better than the alternative.

He hasn’t quite figured out his plan yet, though, so when the drugs kick back in and the doctor returns to supervise the removal of his kidneys, again, he lets the little high-tea-serving robot take them. He wants to laugh hysterically at the sudden mental image of the damn things on a plate served up like scones, probably oozing blood.

x x x

They hollow him out, husk him, strip him of his organs until he’s an empty shell, left in darkness because they’ve plucked out his eyes. He wonders idly what he’s going to do to them afterwards. It’s always a problem in situations like this. Does he leave them nothing but a trail of bloody footprints all the way to the TARDIS and not a finger lifted in revenge, or does he stop them?

“We’re currently treating a twenty-five-year-old film student with one dead lung and one that’s dying,” the doctor says. “You’re going to save his life.”

The terrible thing about this endless guilt tripping is that he’s nastily susceptible to it. Already his heart’s going out to the poor film student who’s also most likely an orphan who can’t get a job because of his illness, and on top of that probably has six young brothers and sisters to feed.

He’s getting better at fighting the paralytic effects of the drugs. He tilts his head up a little to look at himself. His ribcage is cracked open down the sternum, white spears of bone poking up nauseatingly, and the scone drone (he’s taken to calling them that, entranced with how it rhymes on paper but not aloud) is reaching in and - oh dear. His head quickly thumps back against the table.

He’s had enough of this, the Doctor decides. He can escape on his own.

“A body that heals itself, over and over,” she says. She’s always trying to convince him. “Unlimited organs that are stronger than normal — it’s perfect.“ Don’t you see?

Soon. Soon, soon.

x x x

It’s wonderfully easy to breathe with both lungs, so much that he can’t believe how much he used to take it for granted. He concentrates enough to lift his head and watch his skin knit back together and that’s when he decides it’s time to go. He’s ready. He doesn’t think he can take another day of this, having his insides turned out and taken away.

Agonisingly slowly, he struggles into a sitting position. He yanks out the IV drip of suppressants and swings his legs over the side of the bench with some difficulty. He gives a little sigh when his feet touch the ground. Then the door slides open and he freezes.

“Oh,” the doctor says. “How —“

“You can’t keep me drugged forever, I’m becoming more resistant every day,” the Doctor says as quickly as he can, trying to get as many words out as possible, latch onto the guilt and carve away at her until she cracks. “You can’t do this. Please, please, just consider not doing this. Letting me go. This is not...right.”

“But it is,” she says. “Don’t you see. So many lives, so many people healthy again-“

“Doctor, I can save many more if you let me go,” he says urgently. “Please. There’s easier ways — better ways — organs can be grown in a tank, did you know? In fifty years, they’ll perfect the technology. In one hundred years, everyone who needs a donation will have one. In two hundred, they’ll be available on prescription from chemists. You don’t need to do this.”

She meets his eyes. (At least he has them at the moment.)

“That’s fifty years of people dying,” she says, “and we can stop it.”

“I could do it myself, introduce it now —“ He’s practically begging now. “Just stop this, just let me go!”

“But you won’t,” she says. “The timeline, right? Look, I’m sorry. I have to. I have to do this. It’s better this way.” But her hand is wavering over the pocket with the paralytic syringe in it. She isn’t taking it out.

The Doctor tests his weight, stands.

“No!” the doctor shouts, hands fisting in her lab coat. He jerks back. “No,” she says more calmly this time, but still desperate underneath. “You can’t go — not now. Just one more cycle, one more, please, I’ll let you go myself when you ask next, I give you my word but it’s this girl, fifteen years old — there’s so many things wrong with her they don’t know what to do, she needs multiple transplants but she’s not far enough up the —“

“I can’t,” the Doctor says. Can’t. Can’t stay here and undergo honestly painless surgery in order to save a child’s life. No. Of course not.

“I can’t,” he says again, but this time it’s weaker.

“Please,” says the doctor.

He’s silent for a long time. He’s the Doctor. He saves people. If he leaves now, she’ll die and he can’t save her. What’s fifty years? Only a lifetime to a human.

“Fine,” he says in a low voice. “Fine. One more. Just. Just one more.”

(Guilt is uncertainty. Guilt is a weak point.)

x x x

One more ends up being three more, and he gives in every time. He’s almost become used to it when Amy comes for him. She takes out the scone drones with a cricket bat.

“Oh, my god, Doctor, Doctor,” she whispers, bending over him so the ends of her hair brush his exposed heart. “I’m sorry, so sorry, I can’t believe we didn’t get here sooner —“

“Oh, don’t worry about it, Pond,” he rasps. “It’s just a flesh wound.”

“Not funny, you idiot!” She’s shaking. Her knuckles are white where they’re clenched on the bench. “I’m never letting you out of my sight again, you stupid, stupid alien.” She leans down and hugs him. He laughs breathily when he sees he’s getting blood all over her shirt.

“It’s okay,” she says. “It’s okay now, I’ve got you. I can hug you like this, right? You’re drugged,” she whispers against his ear. “It doesn’t hurt?”

“No, Amy. It doesn’t hurt,” he says. “Skin’s coming back now anyway.”

She closes her eyes, tears leaking from the corners of them, and smooths back his hair. Her lips brush against his forehead and he presses up into the contact for the split second before she pulls back.

“Okay. Okay.” She straightens up, laughs a little hysterically when she sees her shirt. Her hands tremble. “Right. Well, we can’t…can’t leave you like this, so —“

“The IV,” he says. “Take out the…”

“Shhh,” she says, “shhh, okay, I’ve got you,” and rips out the tube. He hisses as energy floods him and sits up slowly, swinging his legs over the edge of the table. He counts to twenty.

“Syringe,” he gasps. “Antiparalytic. Now — there —“

She grabs the syringe off the drone’s tray, uncaps it and waves it around a bit trying to find the right spot before he grabs it off her and just sticks it in.

“Okay,” he says. He’s feeling better already. “That should be-“

The door slides open, and Amy turns white. So does the doctor.

“Oh, oh, no,” she says weakly. “You can’t — you can’t do this. Not now.“

“Do what?” Amy says. “Do you mean I can’t bust my best friend out of the place where you’ve been keeping him prisoner to repeatedly harvest his organs?” She’s practically vibrating with some emotion caught between rage and horror. “In what universe can I not do this?”

“He’s not — I’m not holding him prisoner anymore!” she says desperately. “You just don’t get it. We’re saving people. He understands that.”

“Don’t you say that,” Amy snarls. “Just. Just don’t.” She turns to the Doctor. “Come on, we’re getting out of here. You can sleep in the TARDIS for a week, I promise. Actually, I’m making you do that.”

“No,” the doctor says. “Please. Stay. There’s this man -”

And the Doctor hesitates - because all he really wants to do is help people even when he can’t.

“…Doctor? Come on. Doctor.

He looks at the other doctor. This is his moment of weakness, he can have that much. It was so easy, he thinks, saving people like this. He didn’t even have to run.

Then he stumbles forward to pick up the scone drone. The doctor reaches for her paralytic syringe and Amy starts forward, but he ignores them. He pushes a few buttons, tweaks a few screws.

“There,” he says. “Good as new.”

“Doctor,” Amy says, voice hollow, “no. You can’t possibly be thinking…”

There’s a faint, sad smile on his face when he turns to look at her. “Believe me, Amy,” he says, “I don’t like what I’m about to do, not at all.” He gestures to the door. “Please, can you...”

She shakes her head stiffly — then her eyes widen. She looks at the other doctor and then she turns and walks out of the room.

“Are you staying?” the doctor says, pleading.

The Doctor sighs, presses one more button on the scone drone, leans down to whisper something into its audio receptors, then straightens up painfully and hobbles to the door. “I’m sorry,” he says gently.

“I just wanted to save people,” she says, and starts to cry. He can see she’s wearing a badge from this angle, where he’s not lying down.

“I know, Tessa,” says the Doctor. “I know. And you can. Now you can.”

The door closes behind him, and he locks it shut.