They weren’t going to kill her, the Doctor knew. The two copies of one man who were laughing at her now would consider it a pointless thing– she was no threat to them, after all. The Doctor was used to people wanting to see her dead, but not to those who just didn’t care– not those in the know, at any rate, who were aware of what she really was.
“Now, Simon,” said the older Jones, “what did I used to say about being an entrepreneur?”
“You said what I still say. When you do it right, it’s just like being a god.”
“I did say that. And now I’m thinking: the Doctor’s a bit like a god, isn’t she? One of the rubbish ones, from a very obscure mythology. Maybe when you get being an entrepreneur very right, you get to be whatever it is that’s able to keep a god around their house.”
“People often think they can keep dangerous creatures in their houses,” said the Doctor. “It rarely ends up going well for them.”
“Oh, I remember that it did, though,” said the older Simon. “I remember it worked out very well. See, when I was yours truly over there I remember thinking what a good idea it was to keep you locked up in our house, and now I’m looking back on it I see how I really was so right”–
He picked up the sonic screwdriver he had acquired, older but identical to the Doctor’s. He was about to waggle it triumphantly when he suddenly jumped up in shock, as the glass window of the shopfront shattered to bits and a Cyberman and a teenage boy clomped through.
“This is the place!” a young woman’s voice said from somewhere, and the Doctor was flung off her feet as one Simon grabbed her by each arm.
“Let go of me!” she shouted. “I’m not a bloody box!”
“Rule one, Doctor,” said the older Simon. “Like I always used to say–“
“–know what’s too important to be worth risking,” said the younger one. “Cyberman’ll clean up this mess. We’ve got everything we came for.”
Without much regard for her shoulders, the two Simons lifted the Doctor towards the door as she struggled and wiggled in their grip.
“We need to go quickly,” said the older Simon, nodding towards the Cyberman
and the boy. “That one, there. They’ve got a history.”
The Doctor looked down at the teenager, who she didn’t recognise at all. He looked blankly back at her, confused.
“I don’t know how much of my future you’ve seen,” said the Doctor, “but the version of me who’s me right now hasn’t ever met that boy!”
“That’s a shame,” said the other woman’s voice. “I don’t think it would end well for you.”
The Doctor had always prided herself on noticing things other people didn’t. But in the mess of danger and minimum wage labour she’d experienced over the last few hours, she’d fallen some way from the top of her game. And so she’d seen the clomping white shell of a Cyberman come smashing in, and never even thought to look it in the face.
The Doctor stared at the young woman’s head coming out of the Cyberman’s body. The woman’s expression was a mix of horror and utter contempt, barrelling into the Doctor like the blasts of a thousand Daleks. Faces change a lot, in the years between ten and fifteen. But the Doctor still knew instantly who the girl in front of her was.
“Chris,” she said.
“You,” Chris snarled.
“Oh God. I’m sorry, Chris. I really am! I didn’t mean for any of this to–”
“Mum!” gasped Chris suddenly. “If she’s here, Mum might still be here; there might still be a chance. It’s all the same as it was, the day that she disappeared–”
“She’s in there!” said the Doctor, nodding towards the back room door. “She’s in there, and she’s in danger–”
“Humza!” said Chris to her friend, “Come on!” The two of them ran to the broken frame of the door, neither giving the Doctor another glance.
“Don’t fancy their chances!” said the younger Simon cheerfully. “C’mon, Simon. Let’s get this new Doctor of ours home.”
When situations like this happened the Doctor would remember the promises she’d made to herself, not so long after she’d regenerated. The things she could never do for as long as she had this kind of body, because of the meanings they’d never have had before. She’d imagined a little girl before her and thought about what it would mean, to see the woman who saved the world do all the things that a hero should never do. But now she had met a little girl and left her whole life in a ruin, and every person the Doctor could be would react in the way she did now.
In the arms of her enemies and utterly alone, the Doctor began to cry.