Outside Omega’s castle the sky was a purplish blue, which stretched over sloping fields of yellow flowers. It was beautiful, and it was calm. It was the kind of place you might not mind being trapped in.
Together the Doctor and Omega walked through a field, the waving flowers coming up past their ankles.
“Even my domain hears stories of the Doctor,” Omega said. “How you faced the devil and fought down gods. And now you come to me about something as slight as an Ergon.”
“You don’t have to speak like that,” said the Doctor. “There’s enough flowers round here without them getting stuck in your language.”
“You’re prevaricating,” said Omega.
“Maybe,” said the Doctor.
“Avoiding what I was saying,” said Omega. “In plain language.”
The Doctor sighed.
“What I’m facing isn’t nothing,” she said. “The Ergon you made was a sad old thing. But mine’s a bit more high tech.”
Omega scoffed. “My Ergon had its merits,” he said. “It did cross into the world of matter. And it did know to follow my orders.”
“Yeah,” said the Doctor. “You’re definitely up on me there. I’ve no clue what mine’s getting up to. I’ve no control.”
The flowers wafting by them were silent, gentle. beside them were. This was a place where it was hard to run from things, even if you happened to be very good at it.
“It’s like it’s taunting me,” the Doctor went on. “Drew a great big question mark on its chest. Don’t know what it meant by that. Not really. If anything it’s answers that’re bothering me now.”
Her hands were in her pockets. She was looking at the ground. She looked over to Omega like she was making an apology.
“The Child,” she said. “It’s a lot to take in.”
Omega looked at her sympathetically, though the Doctor wasn’t able to meet his eyes.
“It’s the feeling of it,” he said. “Isn’t it? Relieving the memory of your pain. I wish I could say that it fades.”
The Doctor shook her head, dismissing him only slightly.
“There is wonder in it,” she said. “So many hidden lives. I’m more than I ever thought I was– but that’s not what I keep coming back to.”
“Of course not,” said Omega, squinting at the sky. “That isn’t the person you are.”
The Doctor snorted. “That’s rude!” she said. “You’ve only just met this me.”
Omega smiled at her, and this time she did meet his eyes.
“Perhaps,” he said. “But I do know what it is to wear a mask.”
The Doctor didn’t respond to that at all. Perhaps the millions of people she’d once been would have had a clever retort; a witty reply. But not at this time; not in this body. She did what she always did when people got too close to the truth. She shut down.
“Don’t worry,” said Omega gently. “I know that you’ve buried it deep.”
“Then how could you tell?” said the Doctor.
“Your coat,” said Omega. “It’s the colour of the sky on Yaz’s world. A clever touch! The sky is… so bright, and wide. Full of freedom. But behind it is a void. Darkness spread much deeper than imagining. Only those like us would see it for what it is.”
The Doctor now looked even more uncomfortable, somehow.
“My life wasn’t what I thought it was,” she said. “And neither was yours, was it? The universe as we thought it was… it isn’t there.”
“The Time Lords are dead,” said Omega.
“Yeah,” said the Doctor. “And they were never my people at all.”
The Doctor smiled very slightly, though something else was in her eyes.
“I think Yaz really believed I’d forgotten about the virus,” she said, eventually.
Omega frowned. “What virus?” he said.
She was quiet for a moment: pale blue under yellow flowers, a gentle wind against her hair. If you couldn’t see her expression, she might almost have looked serene.
“Yaz’s people,” the Doctor said. “I carry them with me. Like they’re family; maybe the only one I’ve had. And you have to keep family safe. And if you know… that there’s something difficult coming, something that’d break the best of us”–
“Optimism and knowledge,” she said. “It can be hard to marry the two. I worry… that I’ve let her down. Like all of them.”
“Your friends?” said Omega.
“Humans,” said the Doctor.
Omega snorted. “And clearly that makes you angry,” he said.
“We’re not that different, Omega,” the Doctor said. “Not in the end. Trying to save children. Not knowing if we could succeed.”
Omega’s eyes narrowed very slightly. He looked back disbelievingly, like he’d been slapped.
“Of course,” he said. “The fate of a species that isn’t even yours would make someone angrier than being trapped alone for billions of years.”
The Doctor scoffed. “You know I didn’t mean it like that,” she said.
Omega’s voice had risen very slightly. “You do know that not everything in the world has to be a parallel to your own obsessions”–
He stopped himself, and threw up his hands.
“But I won’t go down that road,” he said. “The Omega you knew is gone. It’ll take more than that to bring him back.”
The Doctor looked back at him unconvinced.
Unseen by them both, tiny flecks of red appeared in the sky above.