The Doctor sprinted through the open gates. He could still hear the rage of the Bad Wolf behind him, but it was farther away now. He looked back over his shoulder, grinning like a maniac. The Bad Wolf bared her teeth at him and snarled. “You’re quite cross aren’t you?” She hurled a golden fireball at him from her fingertips. He leaped three feet into the air like a demented grasshopper. The ground sizzled beneath him. “Too close, way too close, too, too close!” He gasped, tripping over his own two feet in an attempt to get away from the woman in white. She howled an unearthly wolfish howl. In reply, three others howls joined in the symphony. A shiver ran up the Doctor’s spine. Every instinct he possessed, every bone in his body screamed at him to run. He dived into the woods, slapping away the branches that tore at his already bloodied face. His first mistake was to enter the forest. His second was hitting his head (smack!) on the low overhanging branch of a nearby tree. His feet flew out from under him. For a moment, the world hung there, completely upside-down, until the Doctor landed flat on his back in the damp soil. The Bad Wolf towered over him, her clawed hands curled into fists. “Silly Doctor,” She hissed, “Don’t you know where the big bad wolf lives?” A strange series of wolfish cackling laughter echoed from the depths of the woods around him. He flipped over and attempted to stand. A pain in his lower back stopped him, so he stayed there, on one knee, the other leg stretched out behind him. “Yeah. I know where the big bad wolf lives,” He turned to look into the heart of the woods. A knowing smile spread across his face. It was the smile of a boy who had discovered what he was getting for Christmas several days early, “But the big bad wolf isn’t you,”
Two eyes opened in the shadows.
Malik lunged forward, claws outstretched, saliva dripping from his jowls. The Bad Wolf didn’t even have time to scream. He knocked her down, pinning her to the forest floor. The wolves in the undergrowth dived forward to help their mistress.
“Go! I’ll hold them off!” He roared at the Doctor. The Time Lord clambered to his feet, “No, Malik, I’m not leaving you, there has to be another way!” A small wolf attached itself to Malik’s back and bit into his neck. Malik whimpered with pain, “You promised me you would save them Doctor. Go now, before it’s too late,” After a moments hesitation the Doctor tore through the woods ignoring the cries of pain from the wolf he had befriended. Malik had managed to fend off the Bad Wolf and her wolves – hologram projections- at the TARDIS, but this time he would not be that lucky. “I’m sorry Malik. You will not be forgotten,” He murmured, “Because an elephant never forgets, no, no – that’s not right,” His mind was becoming more and more muddled. He had to reach the TARDIS soon or he’d die from the shrapnel in his blood stream. The Bad Wolf was clever. She’d designed the weapon to kill him before he could regenerate. The Doctor’s body wasn’t aware that it was dying. He burst out of the woods, leaves and twigs following him, clinging to his jacket and sticking to his hair. Smiling, he caught sight of the TARDIS, “Hello sexy!” He cried, obnoxiously loud. Then he fell face first into the grass and moved no more.
Sere, still holding her crossbow, put the brakes on and slid to a stop. Her shoes glided for a fraction of a second over the damp ground. The Doctor’s bloodstained body lay in the dirt. She couldn’t tell if he was breathing or not. All the resentment she’d harbored towards him over the years fell away. Suddenly he was her father again. The crossbow slid from her hands. “Dad?” Her voice came out in a choked gasp. Rory shoved the other Sere into her arms and knelt beside the Doctor. Bewildered, Sere looked down at her doppelganger who wore a different face. Was she ever that young and innocent? Tears pricked the corners of her vision.
“Doctor, can you hear me?”
“Well, not exactly a coherent response but its better than nothing,” The black haired Sere muttered. The other Sere opened her eyes and twisted her neck to look at the Doctor. “Daddy?”
Rory stood and went around to the Doctor’s feet. He grabbed hold of his ankles and proceeded to drag the last of the Time Lords unceremoniously through the dirt. Amy was still holding Lily’s hand, but now let go to help Rory. “Don’t drag him through the muck!” She scolded, grabbing the Doctor under the armpits. The Doctor was still face down, but was now suspended between Amy and Rory, looking as always quite awkward. His arms were bent at the elbow, his wrists hanging like they were on puppeteer strings. He let out an intelligible string of words that didn’t seem to be in English. Sere gasped and replied with an equally confusing string of words. The Doctor moaned weakly, “Get me in the TARDIS before you break my spine,”
Lily - in spite of all the blood, wolves, and general pandemonium - giggled. Rory kicked open the TARDIS door with his foot and backed the Doctor into the TARDIS. Amy lost her grip on him just as he was almost over the threshold. His front half fell with a thump to the ground. Arms trailing before him like a ragdoll, Rory the Roman dragged him into the TARDIS. He told himself that at least he was lighter than the Pandorica had been when he had to drag it out of a fire. That had been awful; especially knowing Amy was inside it. Shuddering, he banished the thought from his mind and positioned the Doctor beside the sleeping emaciated boy.
“Well, my jobs done. I’ll go and be erased from history now. It was nice meeting you all!” The black haired Sere told them cheerfully. She passed the white haired Sere to Amy, gave her a quick salute and sauntered out the door with her hands in her pockets, “I’d love to stay for tea, but you know how it is. Wolves to save, Bad Wolf to kill, time line to be erased,” Her tone gave one the impression their day had been mundane. They all knew that was not so.
The future incarnation of Sere walked away towards the castle with its broken windows and howling wolves. She was humming a tune that no one recognized. Rory could barely hear it, but somehow, at his feet, the Doctor was humming along. Even though he was clearly unconscious, a smile formed on his lips. A single tear tracked its way down his tattered bloody cheek and slid to the floor.
The Doctor inspected the four, thick, white scars that ran from his cheekbone down to his chin in the TARDIS console mirror. As he had feared, there was no way to reverse the damage the Bad Wolf had inflicted upon him. He was marked by her now until his next regeneration. He feared that the damage was deeper than that and would be unable to be healed by regeneration. With Rory’s help, he’d removed the shrapnel in his system using a super powered magnet and a molecular destabilizer. It had been the quickest way to do it as well as the most painful. Now, he wore a bottle of the metal shards on a string around his neck. He had joked to Lily that it was a token from the battle. If only they knew what sort of wars he’d been in. This was by far not the worst scar he’d ever received. Images of Daleks and mutilating scars passed before his mind’s eye. His eighth life had died rather violently.
He glanced up at the photograph stuck to the glass cylinder in the center of the console with tape. He had retrieved it from the TARDIS’s surveillance cameras. It was the only image of Sere’s previous life he owned.
‘Dad? Dad what’s happening to me? It hurts so much.’ Golden fire flickered across her hands. For a moment, Sere wondered if the Bad Wolf had chosen her for her next host. Then she realized what was happening.
It was a picture of Sere in that TARDIS blue, strapless, summer dress. She was standing next to the console, her white hair tied back into a bun. Her arms were outstretched for a hug. The Doctor smiled fondly at the memory. “What’s the matter with you, do you miss that me or something?”
‘Sere, try to relax, it’s alright,’ ‘But I don’t want to change!’ ‘I know sweetheart, I know.’
The Doctor turned to Sere who was leaning on the TARDIS console, her arms folded, and a smug smile playing across her lips. A silent mental command took a snapshot of her. He grinned. The right side of his face didn’t move much however because of the constricting scars. “I miss that you, but I love this you too,” “That rhymed,” Taddeo commented from his place on the other side of the console. After the boy’s recovery, the Doctor had offered many names to him. Eventually, he agreed to be called ‘Taddeo’ which was Latin for courage. He had a natural skill for guiding the TARDIS, so when the Doctor needed it most, he helped pilot. It was loads of fun when River came for an adventure too. Sere, the Doctor, Tad and River piloted all at once and the TARDIS, that old girl, sang with joy. The Doctor popped his head around the central column, “I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it!” Sere rolled her eyes and absently flicked a lever back and forth. The TARDIS groaned in protest, her lights flashing on and off. “Sere,” The Doctor began, “Don’t touch that,” Tad finished. She sighed and flicked the switch back to its original position.
Sere glowed with light. It was within her, bathing her in it, everywhere and nowhere all at once. In desperation, she looked to her father and let out a cry of fright. Without a second thought, the Doctor wrapped her arms around her protectively. ‘You’re a star, Sere. This is your time to shine,’ She exploded into light, her screams rising to a piercing decibel. Rory, Amy and Lily clung to one another, shielding their eyes from the star.
Sere narrowed her eyes into slits and glared at Tad. “It’s a good thing I love you,” She growled. He leaned over and pecked her on the cheek. In spite of her warning, her cheeks flushed, turning almost the same color as her hair.
The light faded and in Sere’s place stood a strange girl with dark auburn-red hair and pale blue-green eyes. They were the exact same color as the Doctor’s. Those beautiful eyes rolled back into her skull. She fainted in the arms of her father, crying softly as she dreamed. ‘It’s alright. Everything’s going to be just fine,” The Doctor murmured, holding her close. Lily un-tucked herself from her position between her mom and dad. ‘No way,’ She gasped, seeing how Sere had changed. She was now at least two inches taller than Lily. ‘Oh that’s just not fair!’ Lily cried, placing her hands on her hips. ‘My thoughts exactly. Why can’t I be ginger?’ The Doctor replied. Amy broke into hysterics at this comment, clinging to Rory for support. He smiled, bemused, and gestured for Lily to hug her mother. The humans and Time Lords clung to one another while a starved child wept silently in the TARDIS sick bay.
Vworp, vworp. The TARDIS landed with a loud grinding noise. “So? Where have we got to this time?” Sere demanded. She was sitting in the bouncy chair, picking at her blood red nails, looking thoroughly bored with life in general. The Doctor clapped his hands together like an overexcited seal, punctuating each syllable of the word he uttered, “Appalappachia!” Sere frowned, “Appalappachia?” She repeated. “Appalappachia,” Tad echoed.
Here we go again.
‘Even though I’m different now…you still love me?’
‘Of course I still love you. Inside, you’re still the same girl I fell in love with. It doesn’t matter what you look like or what personality you develop – I will always love you.’
‘Would you two lovebirds quit for a moment? There’s a rare Gragootian crystal formation over here that looks just like George Washington’s head!’
‘Thanks for ruining the moment dad!’