Summary: The Doctor's confrontation with Kahler Jex has brought up old memories and wounds, and he turns to the only person he can, River.
“He was a murderer, just like me,” the Doctor said, staring down at the glass floor of the Tardis.
He’d picked up River after dropping off the Ponds. He’d told her all about Kahler Jex and what he’d done. Not just what Jex had done, but what he had done.
River leaned against the console and looked at him, sitting slumped in the Tardis chair, his whole demeanor defeated. He wasn’t looking at her.
“How exactly are you a murderer?” she asked softly.
His head jerked up and he stared at her. “I’ve killed,” he said, as if she’d forgotten. He stared back down at his hands, “I’ve killed and killed, whole races, whole worlds. The Time Lords...” his voice broke.
She strode over and knelt in front of him. She took his face in her hands and forced him to look at her. His eyes were red. His lips quivered and it almost broke her heart.
She took his face in her hands. “Why did you kill?”
He stared at her, his eyebrows beetling as if he couldn’t believe she didn’t know. His eyes flickered, as if he was trying to check their timelines, he was sure... “You don’t know this?” he asked hesitantly. He swallowed, he didn’t want to tell her if she didn’t already know. She was River, born and bred to hate him, how could she not know?
She smiled. “I know, but tell me anyway." Her voice went hard, her hands holding his face tightly. "Why did you kill the Time Lords?” He jerked back at her accusatory voice.
Her blue green eyes bored into his.
“Did you do it for power?” she demanded harshly.
He jerked again. “No!” Why would she even ask that?
“Did you do it because you hated them?” she asked.
“NO!” He grabbed her hands and tried to shove her away. But she held him tight, her hands digging into his face, hands bred for strength. “River....”
“Did you do it so you could be the Last Time Lord?” her eyes probed into him.
“NO! River, damn it, let me go!”
“No, not until you answer me.” She held him in a grip of iron, refusing to budge.
“Why did you kill them?” she demanded.
“I HAD TO!” he yelled, trying to twist away. She clamped him tight.
“I had to,” his voice wobbled. “There was no other way...”
She snorted. “Surely not, with all the other Time Lords to call on...”
“They were all under Rassilon’s influence!” he yelled, then glared down at her, eyes red. “The war was going badly, the Daleks were winning, worlds were falling, the center of the Time War was so rife with temporal instability that it was eating itself. There were too many fronts, too many battlefields. We were stretched thin.
“I threw a time lock around the war to try to contain it, but it wouldn’t stop. The Daleks never stop. But once they woke Rassilon....” his voice stuttered.
“He’s always been our hero, the source of our culture, and he rallied us, for a while it looked like we were winning, we pushed the Daleks back. But they kept coming, and kept coming, and kept coming....” he gulped, and a tear leaked out of his eye, his eyelids were swollen, his face blotchy.
“They invaded Gallifrey.” He stopped, with such a stark look on his face that River almost broke, but she clamped her teeth tight and dug her fingers into his jaw. She could feel him shaking under her hands.
His eyes snapped to hers. “They invaded Galllifrey,” he said, in the hard stern voice he must have used as a general. “And something in Rassilon snapped. He could not accept defeat or retreat. He would not regroup. He wouldn’t even evacuate the planet. The children...” the tears did flow then.
He ignored them and kept on. “Rassilon was our greatest hero, the founder of our race, the genius we had always turned to for inspiration, and he was charismatic. He had the councils in his hand before the others even realized what was going on. He had everyone mesmerized. The thought of an ultimate victory, ascension, to become so high that no one could touch them...
“They couldn’t see. They were all so sheltered, to have all this thrust on them... war, fear, panic, they’d never lived with danger, and now he was offering them a way out. The Father of our race...
“By the time I heard and could get back, it was all already set in motion. They’d scoured the Daleks from Gallifrey, but almost overloaded the Eye of Harmony to do it. There were a few left who saw past his charisma, who saw the madness for what it was, they were the ones who called me and the others back from the frontier.”
His eyes swiveled to hers, from the history they’d been lost in. “I didn’t do it alone,” he said softly. He drew a great breath. “It took all of us. Working in secret, causing distractions, bypassing the security, in order to steal the Moment. It had never been intended to be used. Just another 'ultimate weapon' sealed away in the deepest vaults, forgotten. Too desperate a gamble even for the war."
His jaw flexed. “But we all knew what it meant. A suicide mission. For all of us. But we did it. They smuggled me out...”
The tears started again, he started to rock.
“Why did you do it?” River demanded.
He kept rocking. “It had to be me.” His arms wrapped tight around his stomach, as if he was trying to keep himself from flying apart. “It HAD to be me!” He glared at her, eyes burning. “It could only be triggered off by someone who had access to the matrix. I was the only one left. Rassilon had killed the rest.”
“So you pulled the trigger,” she said.
“YES!” His hands came up, hiding his eyes, heels digging into them, rocking, shaking so hard he was practically vibrating. River didn’t know what vision he saw behind those eyes. She didn't want to know.
“So you killed them all,” she said.
“And became the hero.”
“NO!” He pulled his hands down and glared at her. “I should have died too!”
“So you were the martyr,” she sneered.
He stared at her as if she were mad. Or hitting too close to home. Completely still.
“Why did you kill them?!” she yelled.
He jerked back and she dug her fingers into his face hard enough to bruise.
“To stop them killing everything else!” he yelled back at her, spit spraying on her face.
She glared and dug harder. “WHY DID YOU KILL THEM?!” she screamed.
“FOR THEM!” he bellowed back. His shoulders shook and he burst with sobs. He leaned forward into her shoulder. “For them,” he whispered.