Title: Return To Me
Pairing: Tenth Doctor/John Smith
Fandom: Doctor Who
Prompt: 72, Mistake
Author's Note: Slight spoilers for Human Nature and The Family Blood. This is an alternate version of events in those episodes. Continuation of Believer.
Disclaimer: This is entirely a product of my own imagination, and I make no profit from it. I do not own the Tenth Doctor or John Smith. Please do not sue.
***It was a mistake to leave. The Doctor could feel it in every fiber of his being. He couldn't leave John; he could sense that there was something foreboding in the air, some sort of danger that was gathering around this place. John would be right in the middle of it, and if he left, there would be no one here to defend him, to make sure he was safe.
He couldn't do that, of course. He was fooling himself if he thought that he could keep John safe all the time. He couldn't keep himself safe a good deal of the time -- what made him think that he was capable of being John's savior and protector? He wasn't.
But he was John's lover -- and as such, he had to try to keep the man he loved as safe as he could, even if he didn't always succeed. He shouldn't be leaving. He could sense that there was some sort of malice in the air, something that he should be here to deal with. But he couldn't stay. The summons from Jack had been too urgent, too important.
If only there was some way to take John with him .... but no. There wasn't. He had no idea what he was heading into -- and everything that he was would be far too much for John to take it all at once, without the added question mark of the unknown on top of that. No, it would be much better for John to stay here -- and he would return as soon as he could.
With any luck, he would be able to come back only a day or two after he'd left -- in John's time, that is. In his own time, he could be gone for days, even weeks. But he would make sure to come back within the shortest amount of time possible; after all, he couldn't stay away from John for too long. It would feel too much as though he was missing a vital part of himself.
He sighed, looking over at the door to his love's room -- the only thing that was keeping him away from John at the moment. He'd had to come back to his own room to dress after they'd spent the night together -- a night that had been filled with promises from both of them, promises that the Doctor desperately hoped he'd be able to keep.
It was time for him to leave. He couldn't stay here forever. He would let John walk him as far as the train station, but he would insist that his love leave and come back to the school before the train left. He couldn't bear to think of John standing there on the platform and watching the train move off into the distance -- a train that he wouldn't be on.
Getting up from the bed, he walked slowly towards the door, hesitating in front of it. Once he opened this door, he would begin the process of leaving -- and even though it would only be for a few days in John's time, it could be much longer for him. He didn't want to be parted from John for even a day, much less the time it could take him to get back to his lover.
But he had no choice in the matter. He'd told Jack that if he was needed, he would be there -- and he couldn't turn his back on a friend in need. Torchwood wouldn't have contacted him unless it was something important -- and he wouldn't take John with him into a potentially dangerous situation.
He closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against the door for a few moments, trying to compose himself. It wouldn't do for him to be crying, or even seem depressed, while they were on their way to the train station. He had to keep John's spirits up, had to make him realize that the Doctor wasn't leaving him for good. He couldn't let John think that, not even for a second.
Besides, it wasn't that way. He would come back as soon as he possibly could -- and he would take John out of here and into the universe with him. It would be hard for the other man to accept at first, he was sure -- after all, he wouldn't have the slightest inkling of space travel or anything of the sort. He would think it was only something written about in fairy tales and fantasies.
When he returned, he would take John into his world, let him see the glory and wonder of the galaxies that were spread out before them. His lover was an intelligent man; it wouldn't take him long to open his mind and accept everything that he would see and experience. And he would have someone to share his life with, someone who would want to be by his side.
Taking a deep breath, he pulled the door open, going into John's room and closing the door behind him. The young teacher looked up at the Doctor from where he sat at his desk; the Doctor could tell at first glance that John had been weeping. The reddened eyes and overly bright eyes gave him away -- as well as the obvious signs of tears on his cheeks.
The Doctor didn't say a word, merely crossing the room and laying both hands on John's slender shoulders. The other man reached for his hand, blindly groping; the Doctor clasped that thin hand in his own, twining their fingers together and squeezing gently. How could he bear to give this up, even if it only did turn out to be for a few days?
Leaving John was too painful to contemplate. But he'd already made his plans, and he knew that he had to follow through on them. John would be all right for those few days that he would have to be gone. He was sure of it. He had to be sure -- otherwise, he could never make himself leave.
"Don't go," John whispered, his voice catching on a sob. The Doctor was almost positve that he could feel both of his hearts breaking inside his chest, exploding into millions of tiny, minute shards that he would never be able to piece back together again. Just the sound of John's voice was almost enough to twist his resolve and make him change his mind.
No. He couldn't change his mind. He'd promised Jack -- and what if there was something seriously wrong in the future? What if Jack and Torchwood needed him, in a way that he couldn't foresee? He would never be able to forgive himself if anything happened to the people he cared for, and he could have done something to prevent it.
But .... he would also never forgive himself if anything happened to the man he loved, and staying here could have prevented that. He would regret it for the rest of his life.
"I don't have a choice, John," he whispered, kneeling in front of his lover and reaching up to brush the tears from John's cheeks with gentle fingertips. "I'll be back within a few days -- and then we can decide what we're going to do with our future. Once I get all of this taken care of, I'll come back to you. I promise, love. I'll come back and we'll be together."
"What if something happens and you can't come back?" John was almost wailing now, burying his face in his hands. "Something's going to keep you from coming back to me. I know it. Once you get on that train, I'll never see you again." He raised his face to the Doctor's, the tortured expression on his handsome features tearing at the Time Lord's heart.
"Nothing is going to happen, John." The Doctor kept his voice firm with an effort, knowing that if he fell apart at this point, it would only undo John further -- and then he might not be able to make himself go. "I'm going to get everything taken care of that I need to, and then I'm going to come back for you and whisk you away with me."
"Promise me." John was clutching at his hands, his voice wavering, tears threatening again. The Doctor stood up, pulling John into his arms and clutching the other man close against him. He could feel John's single heartbeat thudding against his rib cage, almost as though it was trying to force its way out of that body and into his.
"I promise," the Doctor whispered, burying his face in the softness of John's hair and holding back his own tears. He hadn't known that it was going to be this hard -- he'd thought that they could walk to the train station, he'd be able to quietly exit the train and head for the Tardis, go back to his own time, take care of whatever the problem was .... and then come back to John.
It should have been so easy -- but it wasn't. He'd known that John's emotions were going to be on a roller coaster; he'd expected that from the moment he'd known he had to leave. But he hadn't expected his own feelings to be so strong -- and he definitely hadn't expected to have such an overwhelming premonition of danger.
Something was going to happen. He couldn't have said just why he knew that -- but he did. There was a sense of electricity in the air, of something going on that he knew nothing about, but that he should know about. Something that could spell disaster for the two of them.
No, it couldn't be. He was being silly and fanciful, letting his imagination run away with him. He would go back to his own time, and then he would come back to John as quickly as he could. He would make sure that he wasn't gone more than a few days -- surely John would be safe in that short time period. He'd come back and take his lover away with him, and everything would be fine.
He had to believe that. He had to. He wouldn't let himself believe anything else.
"I'll be back in just a few days, John. I promise you," he said softly, taking John's face between his hands and kissing away the few tears that were still streaking down his cheeks. "Nothing is going to keep me away from you once I get all this business squared away. You know that. I'll come back to you, love. You can depend on that."
John sniffled, still looking doubtful, but at least he seemed calmer now. "Wh-what time do you have to be at the station?" he said, his voice still trembling. "I don't want you to be late." He gave the Doctor a watery smile, obviously trying to lighten the moment and compose himself before they left his room. "The sooner you have this taken care of, the sooner you'll be back with me."
The Doctor nodded, reluctantly loosening his grip on John and letting the other man move out of his arms. "It won't be long, John," he reiterated, his gaze meeting his lover's. "I know it's going to seem like much longer than a few days -- but it won't be. And when I come back, then we can get on with the rest of our lives together."
"That will have to keep us going until you get back, won't it?" John said softly, glancing towards the door as though he was afraid to walk through it. "We should probably go -- I know you need to be there a bit ahead of time, and I don't want to cause you to miss the train." He looked down, his voice sounding choked. "Actually, I wish you would miss it. I don't want you to go."
"I don't want to go, love. You know that. But this is something I have to do," the Doctor told him, twining his fingers through John's and squeezing the other man's hand gently. "I have a little over half an hour. Just enough time for you to walk to the station with me."
John didn't say anything, only nodding in response to the Doctor's words. The two of them left the room in silence, heading down the stairs -- and to the Doctor's astonishment, John didn't let go of his hand. People stared as they walked by, heading for the front doors of the school, but no one stopped them. The Time Lord couldn't help wondering what was being said in their wake.
People would talk for a while -- probably a long while. They would whisper behind their hands, and they would probably make the next few days uncomfortable for John. He hadn't expected his lover to hold his hand as they'd left the school; it had been a brave step on John's part. Maybe he was learning to take his destiny into his own hands, and to throw convention to the winds.
"I'll have to face a lot of speculation when I go back," John murmured, once they were past the gate and away from the school grounds. "But I don't care. I wanted them to know what you mean to me. They can question all they like; they can even throw me out of the school, if that's what they want to do. But I won't hide who I am any longer. I won't hide what I feel for you."
"You shouldn't have to, love," the Doctor told him, squeezing John's hand more firmly. People were staring at them on the sidewalk, too, but he didn't care. He felt a wave of guilt sweep over him; he would be leaving John alone to face the accusations, the questions .... but John seemed to be capable of handling it all. What was more, he almost seemed to want the challenge.
"I want them to know," John murmured, his words mirroring the Doctor's thoughts. "I'm tired of hiding who I am, hiding how I feel, hiding what feels like the most integral part of myself. Let them say and think whatever they want -- I can be proud that I'm not in the shadows any more. I have a reason for that pride, a reason they'll never understand."
"What's that, sweetheart?" the Doctor questioned softly, realizing that they were getting to the station much more quickly than he'd thought they would. Only a few more moments, and he'd have to part from John for who knew how long, he thought, feeling his hearts seem to twist inside his chest. This hurt much more than he'd ever dreamed it would.
"That I have the love of someone who's much more than they could ever hope to be," John said softly, stopping in his tracks and turning to face his lover. "Someone who has the courage to be himself, and who's given me the courage to stand with him."
The Doctor couldn't speak for a few moments; tears came to his eyes, and he had to swallow hard around the lump that suddenly formed in his throat. Without a thought as to what he was doing, he pulled John close against him, pressing his lips against that beautiful mouth, kissing the man he loved in front of the rest of the world. He didn't give a damn who saw, or what they thought.
John's arms came up to wrap around his neck, to pull him close and cling to him. They were embracing in the middle of the sidewalk, kissing each other with more passion than they'd ever felt. The Doctor was slightly breathless when they finally pulled away from the kiss, his eyes locked with John's, unwilling to take those last few steps into the station.
"I love you," he whispered, cupping John's face in his hands and gazing into those dark eyes that had mesmerized him from the first time he'd laid eyes on John. "I'll love you all my life, John Smith. You're everything I've ever wanted, ever needed, ever dreamed of. And I promise you, love -- I will come back. In less time than you might think."
"I love you, too," John said, his voice breaking. The Doctor raised one hand to John's cheek, letting his fingertips brush over the velvety-soft skin one last time before stepping away and heading for the train station. He couldn't prolong this any more.
When he reached the building, he turned and waved, the raised a hand to his mouth to blow a kiss at the tall, handsome man standing there. John did the same, smiling a little as their eyes met. The Doctor's hearts seemed to stand still in his chest as John silently mouthed a few words.
"I love you."
He couldn't hear them, but he knew exactly what they were. His own lips formed the same words, his eyes meeting John's for a long, lingering moment before they both turned away, the Doctor to move into the station and John to head back towards the school.
Why was he crying? he asked himself as he hurried through to the other side of the building, exiting as quickly as he could and making his way towards the outskirts of the town and the field where he'd left the Tardis. She'd been protected, cloaked, unable to be seen by any eyes but his. She'd been safer than he had all this time, really.
He would be back with John soon. He was sure of it. There was absolutely no reason for him to cry. None at all. He would take care of whatever problem Jack was having, and he would come back for the man he loved. He would take John away with him, and they would be able to live however they pleased. They would be happy.
Entering the Tardis, he closed the door behind him, almost stumbling across the floor to the console. That feeling of doom still closed in around him -- and he was sure that it wasn't pointed towards Jack and the future. No, it was here. Here with John. He was sure of it. He should stay here, contact Jack somehow and run back to John to make sure that his love was safe.
But he couldn't. He'd made that choice already. And surely John would be safe for the brief period of time he'd be gone. Nothing could happen in that short interim. Nothing.
The Doctor pushed his fears to the back of his mind as he set the coordinates for the future, hoping fervently that whatever it was that had made Jack call him wasn't something that he couldn't take care of quickly. He just wanted it over with, so he could be back with John. Back with the man he loved, where he belonged.
The feeling of doom still persisted, even long after the blue police box had shimmered away into the darkness.
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