Outside the Doctor and Omega saw the castle crumbling, as the Ergons both erupting from its roof.
“Yaz,” the Doctor said. “If anything’s happened to her, Omega”–
She stopped talking as she saw her friend in the distance, a tiny splodge escaping from the castle door. Behind her stonework was smashing into the ground, as windows shattered and towers fell in on themselves.
“Nice place I had once,” Omega muttered.
Their Ergons were flying towards them, now, stark silhouettes under the deep red clouds. They were scratching at each other, screeching. Fighting in a way their owners would always resist.
The Doctor was staring at the violence above her, appalled. It was everything she fought against. She’d never wanted to see it broken free.
Omega saw her expression, and something then changed in his own.
“The Child,” he said gently. “It’s written on your face.”
He smiled, although his face was still held sombre.
“When I saw you all those years ago,” he said. “So many faces, a single expression of terror. Exactly the same as the one you’re wearing now.”
There was compassion in his eyes again. Determination. A flash of steel.“I’m not going back,” he said. “I won’t let it consume me again.”
They looked up at the birds that were now swooping down towards them. The Doctor’s burning red and orange, question mark talons and feathers of shifting fire. Omega’s harsh as metal shards, an equation written in a rage. Two kinds of anger that together had founded an Empire. Equals at last. Now finally ready for war.
“Matter and antimatter,” Omega said. “The electron and the position. All that’s different is how they are aligned.”
The shadow of the Doctor’s Ergon fell over her, and her face grew dark.
“There are lots of people out there who think of me as their opposite,” she said. “You’re firmly at the bottom of the list.”
“The Last,” said Omega with a smile. “As I have always been.”
The shadow of Omega’s Ergon had fallen over them, too. Now, his voice was quieter. Sombre.
“You know that you’ve made Yasmin’s life far worse,” he said.
“No I didn’t,” said the Doctor. “I showed her the wonders of time and space!”
“What wonders were those?” laughed Omega. “The only people in the universe more annoying than you? Take it from someone who knows anger. Your friend is furious with you.”
“Yaz means the world to me,” said the Doctor.
“And look what you do to a world!” said Omega, gesturing to his domain. “My home is in ruins; my lands turned red. No wonder her planet is burning, if it has a defender like you.”
Something feral shot over the Doctor’s face.
“You take that back,” she shouted. “YOU TAKE THAT BACK!”
Hungrily their Ergons circled overhead, vultures that knew they wouldn’t have long to wait. The Doctor looked up at them both, and gave a laugh that wasn’t like her at all– unless you had seen the depths of her, the dark brooding cave beneath the shell.
“You’re so frightened of it, aren’t you?” she said coldly. “That big stupid bird in the sky.”
“Those things are the worst of us,” said Omega.
The Doctor shook her head, the worst of her now seeping through.
“I see what it is now,” she said as she looked up at her Ergon. “I’ve been so stupid. It’s a phoenix. A big, glowing bird, always rising from the ashes. Never dying.”
The Ergon screeched in response, a horrible, compassionless cry. Rippling over its feathers were shadows like thousands of faces, each visible for a moment, screaming too.
“I’m so much more than I ever thought I was, Omega,” said the Doctor. “And you’re nothing. Everything you are is because of me. You’re a forgotten footnote. An empty shell.”
Yaz had run close enough to hear the Doctor, now, and she’d realised what was happening. The Ergon was bringing out the worst of her friend; everything she’d tried to keep buried. She’d become an anti-Doctor made of antimatter, reversed into something wrong.
This had been what happened to Omega, Yaz realised. He’d been trapped in the worst of himself. Unable to break free. That might happen to the Doctor too, Yaz suddenly realised. She’d be stuck in every part of herself she hated, here forever–
The two Ergons were coming down for their makers now, for Omega and the Doctor. Plaster shells had appeared on both their torsos, like the one that had taunted Yaz what seemed like an eternity ago. Hard casts of cloth and bandages, ripped open, yawning like sarcophagi. There was space in each that was just big enough for a person.
“I should never have tried to save you,” Omega said to the Doctor. “You only ever brought ruin. You were my end.”
The bandages on Omega’s Ergon flew out and grabbed him, starting to pull him in. He strained against them, uselessly. He screamed.
The Doctor watched him passively, not doing anything to help him at all. Her Ergon was wrapping bandages around her, too, but she was making no effort to stop it. She seemed almost happy as the cloth slithered over her arms.
“You were right in one way,” she said. “We’re a positive and a negative. Two cursed stories combining, cancelling out. ‘Cause you know what happens when an electron and its opposite meet?”
The shell of the Ergon closed around her, snapping her in.
“They annihilate each other,” she said.
Her grin was sick, and nothing like the Doctor’s at all.
Omega was still fighting the bandages, but it was clearly a battle he was losing. Yaz watched in horror as cloth bound his hands and his feet. Around her the flowers were bursting into flame and the ground was shaking with its creator’s anger. And as she looked over to Omega’s face she saw as his will broke along with his world.
“You will pay for what you HAVE DONE TO MY WORLD!” he roared in the voice of his Ergon. “FOR HOW I HAVE SUFFERED! WHATEVER PAIN YOU HAVE FELT — IN YOUR THOUSAND LIFETIMES, IN EVEN MORE — IT WILL BE NOTHING NEXT TO THE WRATH OF THE MIGHTY OMEGA!”
There was only a screech in response as the Doctor’s bird flew into the air.
A lifetime ago, Yaz had called on the Doctor to save her from a terrible monster. But the monster had been the Doctor, and the Doctor had made it much worse. And now — because she’d tried to be saved — she was almost certainly going to die.
She ran fast through the crumbling fields, while there was still a universe left that she could run through.