Doctor Who: Panic Moon Rising Ch. 04byKurokami©
Author's Note: This series builds off of elements of the previous Panic Moon series. To get the full experience, it is recommended, though not necessary, to read that one first.
Hello, fellows! Apologies for the longer wait this time, it won't happen again. I was just focusing on my Halloween contest entry for a while. You'll be getting new chapters far faster, now. As usual, your votes, comments and feedback are entirely appreciated, and many thanks to LogicalDreamer for beta reading for me. Enjoy!
He had to tear his eyes away from her.
That was important; no matter what, keep things casual. Don't act like her appearance there is in any way shocking or strange. Don't stare. Just keep walking, as though a past version of himself was not holding a future version of her hostage.
Sander kept walking, all the while feeling as though he had just crested the rise of a rollercoaster, and was just about to take the long, uncontrollable fall that followed.
He stopped in the middle of the path in front of the pair of Leadworth natives, he and Amy exchanging a steady, significant look. Beside her, Rory looked from the Scot to the stranger and back again, wondering why their journey had ground to a halt. Sander realized with amusement that they were probably going to see Mels.
'Um, hi...' Amy ventured finally, seemingly unable to hold his gaze for more than a few seconds. It was cute, in a way; this was much more like Amy as he had first met her, when her sexual guilt and conservatism had been far more pronounced. Back in his native present she had gotten somewhat used to him, he couldn't raise this kind of reaction with nothing but the lascivious look he gave her now. It bolstered him somewhat, even when standing on the brink of a universe rending temporal paradox.
'So, we need to talk,' He said, without really thinking. Like it or not, things were different now; history had changed, and he was the only one who knew about it. Amy's little alien hitchhiker was new, and it needed to be dealt with; Amy did not have an extraterrestrial tagalong when she boarded the TARDIS for the first time. He was obliged to help, if only for the preservation of his own timeline, and to do that he needed to stick close to Pond. Even if it did feel like skirting a narrow cliff face overlooking a sharp drop...
'We do?' The old Amy bluff began to shine through a little more, and she even raised a challenging eyebrow. Sander grinned without realizing it; how many times had Amy questioned him like this, only for him to resolve it in the most one sided way possible? This time, there were no Command Collars to fall back on. A challenge...
'Amy, do you know him?' Rory's voice intruded from off to the side, causing Sander to glance over and actually look at the future Mr. Pond for the first time. He didn't do so for long; this wasn't the same Rory who would wait millennia for his lady love. He wasn't the Last Centurion yet, and at the moment he didn't even have Amy. This was the Rory Williams that Leadworth had made; a boy with an otherwise good heart, made useless and nonfunctional by his sheer meekness. A lost soul with puppy dog eyes caught up in the wake of a woman with an actual purpose in the universe.
Sander wondered what would happen to Rory is he chose to wrench history out of its socket right now, dislocate the bones of time itself. If he excised Amy from the Doctor's future now, would Rory ever find the strength to be with Amy? Without the Doctor, there would be no Mels, no outside force to inform Amy of Rory's interest in her... why would he ever change? Wouldn't it be funny, watching the meek boy become the meek nurse... and have that be where everything stopped?
... Of course, he could never actually do that. No, that would cascade through history like a hail of bullets, ripping apart everything he had ever known, and for what? A cheap, vindictive joke? No, thank you.
'Yeah, she does,' Sander answered for Amy; he may have decided not to deploy his causality shattering practical joke, but that didn't mean he needed to make things easy for old Rory. 'Made my short stay in your little village quite memorable already, she has. And I need to talk to her, if she's not busy.'
'Well, actually, we were-'
'Not busy at all,' Amy, blushing furiously, cut Rory off before he could finish his thought. Even Sander felt a little bad at the way his face fell, the way he backed down from her without so much as a second thought. Amy had him trained to follow, as pathetic as that was; Rory Williams seemed to have himself defined as Amy's shadow. When she turned to face him, he actually took a minute step back.
'Give us some space, Rory?' With an apologetic smile, Amy gestured down the road. 'Why don't you go on ahead, I'll catch up in a bit and meet you at Mels'.'
Mumbling a series of platitudes and uncomfortable assurances, Rory began walking again, the slight hesitance of his gait hinting strongly at his unwillingness to leave his crush alone with a total stranger, especially one that looked as scruffy as Sander did. Still, with Amy watching there was little that he could do, and after a few seconds of slow but steady backpedalling he did seem to get the idea that she wouldn't change her mind, turning completely to walk up the path, shoulders slumped. Sander almost laughed; how was it that Amy still didn't realize that boy was crushing on her something bad?
'About this morning-' She began, once some distance had been put between the two of them and their retreating third wheel. Sander cut her off, waving a hand vaguely.
'Not here,' He said. 'Someplace actually private. Not something a gentleman or a lady discusses in the middle of the street, Pond.'
He knew he had used her name again, despite not having gotten it from her, even during their frenzied, alien hormone induced fucking. This time she caught it, and it caused her to frown, an expression Sander wasn't entirely unfamiliar with. Still, it was somehow different in the more level playing field Leadworth represented. If he said something she didn't like, she could just leave; he would have to work to keep her on the hook.
This time, she seemed to at least take it in stride, casting her eyes about the place before settling on an idea she appeared to like. Pointing, she led him in between the nearest two houses, into the small paved gap separating the properties. Apparently Leadworth was stricter about division of land than would be immediately apparent; the entire block had a network of orderly lined alleys serving as the border from one house to the next. Amy turned out to be quite adept at navigating them, walking with confidence through to the center of the maze; an isolated, slightly larger than the rest space clad in chill, shadow laden concrete. What sunlight there was only came second hand; the high walls of the houses that surrounded them on all sides kept the space bathed in damp shadows and the faint scent of moisture as a nearby drain pipe emptied messily in and around the grating below it.
A pair of bizarrely out of place reclining chairs sat together in one corner, made threadbare by age and exposure to the elements. Sander shot Amy a questioning look.
'Teenagers need places to go to skip school,' She shrugged, seating herself in the chair furthest from them, not coincidentally giving her a full view of Sander no matter where he went in the lot.
'What is it with you and dragging me into isolated areas?' He grinned back. 'I'm still a stranger, you know.'
'You were the one going on about privacy,' Amy tilted her chin up, eyeing the stranger with care. Her long legs folded up beneath her, as she slid back to bundle her entire form onto the seat of the armchair, gesturing absently for Sander to take the other one. He nodded, eyes never leaving her as he sat down beside her, taking in her wary, guarded expression. He didn't know to what extent the organism that had made her take him up to her room had allowed her to remember the events of the morning, but it had definitely left an impression.
'Listen...' Evidently she had opted to take the bull by the horns here, shifting nervously in her seat as she attempted to explain herself. 'I don't usually do things like, um, this morning. That's not me.'
'I know,' He said vaguely, looking around. He knew that was hardly the case, or at least it wouldn't be, once the Doctor came swanning back into her life. But as far as she knew, she was telling the truth; this place was a relic of her teenage years, grounded in reality. Bogged down by a normal life she longed to escape. Generally speaking, Sander had skipped over those days when observing her past, building up a stock of information about her, but he had seen more than one of the lazy afternoons she had spent in this gap in the fabric of Leadworth, whiling away the time with Mels and Rory. Biding her time, of course.
No matter where she had gone in Leadworth, a part of Amy was always biding her time, waiting for her Doctor to come back.
'How do you know?' This had been the question on her mind, of course. Ever since their first meeting, he had been slipping up here and there, it had to be making her curious. He blamed himself, naturally, but it was hardly surprising; he had never travelled through time before, he wasn't used to couching his words in all of this timey wimey bullshit. Even the Doctor hadn't really gotten the hang of it yet, though to Sander that had more to do with the Time Lord being desperately, awfully insane.
'Because every girl who picks up a guy for a one night... one morning stand says that. "I'm not that kind of girl," which always struck me as somewhat strange,' Sander recovered as quickly as he could, deciding to ramble a little and dislodge her interest in the question. 'I mean, obviously you are. You did it, after all. What would that make you, if not that kind of girl?'
The redhead had been blushing subtly the entire time they had been together, and this latest comment only intensified that. Suddenly, Sander found himself intensely interested; where was that girl who had seen the Doctor turn back the tides of the Weeping Angels, and then tried to seduce him? It could just have been that she had a fetish for weird strangers who made little sense, but then that wouldn't account for her being embarrassed about having slept with him. Sander already was a weird stranger, and he had made very little sense so far.
It must be something in the intervening years; what had happened to her between now and the return of the Doctor?
She didn't answer him, instead dropping her eyes into her lap, her entire being seeming to crumple in on itself in a shameful heap. She had never looked like this before, and Sander found it strangely frustrating; here was the only familiar link he had to his life, and she didn't even have the decency to act like the Amy he knew?
Again he turned his eyes away; if she wasn't going to look at him, he wouldn't look at her, either. Let this shadow of Amy Pond have her embarrassment. Sander began to think that this was just what Leadworth did to people; it normalized normalcy. It made complacency the only option, flattened its citizens out, smoothed the wrinkles on their brains and made them... this. Like it was a symptom of some Leadworth disease. Amy had fared slightly better than most, but it was easy for him to see the oily tendrils of the town attempting to drag her down with mounting success. Without the influence of the Time Lord, the difference was quite pronounced. How much longer did she have, before she too would lapse into the Leadworth coma?
With that thought, the angles of this strange gap in the town became skewed, to Sander's eyes. Odd, somehow. When he looked up, he noted that the skybox was all wrong; the four walls surrounding them stretched up and caged the sky above into an easy rectangle, but the patch of visible air was off kilter, the clouds descending at a strange, disjointed pace. Shambling through the sky as though awkwardly trying to avoid attention, ashamed to be seen floating over Leadworth. He could hardly blame them.
And on the stained concrete wall opposite him, there was a crack...
It only stood extant for a single moment, caught and frozen in the blurred motion of his vision, but the outline was inescapable. That familiar jutting, angular form. The Gloucester grin of reality. Like the universe, smiling smugly through a mouthful of broken teeth. And he remembered, not everything in Leadworth was locked in the straitjacket of normality.
The cracks in time...
They had been all closed up in the universe Sander had known, collapsed in on themselves at the restart of the universe. The Doctor's flashy sacrifice, at the second Big Bang. Their presence here was just another indicator that something was terribly wrong, like Amy's lack of parents, or more pertinently Prisoner Zero. Rather than just having slipped through time, it was becoming increasingly likely that Sander had fallen through into an entirely separate timeline, having been spat right back out into the original, aborted universe. Once again, he was the refuse of history.
The thought instilled in him an odd kind of fatalism; what did it matter, now? How could anything he or anyone else did here mean a thing? It was all destined for deletion, anyway; the sum total of this universe's accomplishments, excised from reality in the crossfire of the Doctor's petty war with the Silence. How could anything he did here have any kind of consequences? This place had a lifespan measurable in years.
'I swear, I don't know what came over me...' Amy said suddenly, voice meandering and aimless. She was mostly trying to justify her actions to herself, and it didn't matter one bit. Even if he didn't already know the answer to that particular mystery, it wouldn't have mattered. Why bother?
'Actually, I might know,' The idea seized him like a fist, squeezing out any hope of rescue he might have had, and replacing it with a manic sense of ennui. Nothing mattered, so what the hell? 'We've met before.'
'Nope, pretty sure I would remember that,' Amy said. 'Aren't many strangers that bother to come out all the way here. In fact... why are you here? People don't accidentally end up in Leadworth, you must have a reason.'
Sander had begun to feel like the only option he had was to throw himself over this precipice with a grin on his face; rescue was becoming less of a possibility by the second, yet he couldn't even allow his creeping horror at having found a crack in reality here to show on his face. He had to keep things together for the benefit of... what? A causality that he was seemingly no longer attached to?
There were still too many questions to deal with, here; would changes to established events here still cause divergence in his own timeline? Would he be able to ride through the Big Bang Two and land back in his native timeline? What would that mean if he did decide to screw with history in this universe?
It was all out of his control, that was the problem. The Doctor might be able to do battle on a universal scale, to go up against the dwindling sparks of a dying universe and end up restarting the whole thing, but Sander? Just a human, at the end of the day. A gifted mechanical engineer sure, but take away the technology he knew how to use and he was useless. Worse than useless; filled up with foreknowledge he could never use. That was having a use, but seeing it dangle just out of reach.
But there was something he could do, some part of all this that he could control, at least until he got rescued or the entire universe collapsed into itself. Whichever came first.
Sure would be fun to see how this developed...
'You want to know the truth, Amy?' He waited for her to nod, before he continued, leveling his eyes with hers. 'The truth is, I'm a time traveler.'
Amy stiffened in her chair, seized by surprise, but only momentarily. Seconds later, a scowl passed over her features, and she stood, fists clenched.
'Oh, right! Very funny!' She snapped, pacing out into the center of the yard, footsteps echoing loudly on the bare concrete. 'Any other jokes you'd like to make, funny man?'
'Not joking. You've met a time traveler before,' Sander reclined back in his chair, taking in the scene. He had more than a little academic curiosity about this; so far, nothing strange had happened. There had been no wavy, weird time stuff, nor had the fabric of reality altered because of this. Though of course, if it had... how would he even tell? The thought sent a shiver down his spine, but he continued, 'It was sort of a big deal for you.'
'Yes, yes, everyone knows the stories!' Amy's voice had deepened into a low growl, anger making her words hard enough to etch glass. Sander could tell he was jumping on a very sensitive subject here, 'Imaginative little Amelia, spacey little Amelia, lying little Amelia...'
'He was called the Doctor, he landed on top of your shed in an old fifties style police box, which apparently had a swimming pool and a library,' Sander cut in, droning out the facts as though they bored him. 'He ate fish fingers and custard, and you showed him the crack in your bedroom wall. There was a giant eyeball in it, talking about a Prisoner Zero.'
'Everyone. Knows. The. Stories,' She ground out each word through clenched teeth. 'I'm leaving.'
'But you never told anyone else about the apple you gave him.'
This caused her to stop dead in her tracks, back to Sander, looking out toward an exit which would take her back out into the streets, and her normal life in Leadworth. Her heartbeat sped up; too much... He couldn't possibly...
'W-what did you just say?' Try as she might, Amy couldn't get the slight tremble out of her voice, as she turned around to face him again. His expression was one of utter, confident relaxation. Amy only wished she could match that; after all these years, even she had started to wonder... what if it all just had been a dream? A fiction she had created?
If the truth is never externally validated, is it really the truth at all?
'The apple,' Sander persisted. 'The one you peeled a little smiley face into. Very cute, but you don't really tell people about those. Your mum used to do that for you, but... Nobody can really remember your parents that well, can they? Even your aunt. She knows you must have had them, but she can't recall them well enough. She gets all odd when you mention them, and since you can barely remember them either... you just stopped talking about them.'
'Because I learned it all in the future,' He said. 'My name is Sander Hackett, and in the future I know you, and the Doctor. I've met him, met you through him... I'm stuck here, but I can at least use this as an opportunity. I can save you!'
He stopped there, abruptly, as Amy stared, wide eyed. He allowed her stunned silence to pass unfilled with his own commentary, waiting for the entire world to collapse around his ears. Now he'd done it; causality had been violated in quite an extreme way, and the fabric of this universe wasn't yet flexible enough to bend with that. Though there seemed to be no immediate consequences, Sander's newly found reckless streak reveled in what may come in future.
Foreknowledge meant nothing now...
'Save me from what?' All of her previous anger had drained away, and now Amy was still, body carrying her tension as she stood in front of him, hands hanging limply at her sides, as though she didn't know precisely what to do with them in the moment. 'Assuming I believe you.'