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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Doctor Who/Thor crossover: In the Loop (3/3)

December 6th, 2017 (09:24 pm)
annoyed

feeling: annoyed

Part One
Part Two



-o-

The rain slowed, from a deluge to a steady sprinkle. They were all soaked by this point, but in the wake of the near-destruction of time, it didn’t seem to matter.

No, a lot of things mattered, but Martha’s ruined jacket and chilled skin weren’t among them.

“How did it happen?” the Doctor asked when no one dared to speak for several long moments.

Loki pressed his lips into a bittersweet smile. “We were able to stop Malekith and save Jane. But the last attack,” he said. “I made no move to protect him. Thor took the brunt of the hit. I managed to get rid of the Kursed, but I did not save Thor. I was so busy protecting myself that I believed he would be fine. Thor is a warrior, after all. Thick-headed and impulsive. He has won more impressive battles than this.”

“But he was fighting with you,” the Doctor supplied.

“He was distracted by his sentiment,” Loki said gruffly.

“Seems to be a family trait,” the Doctor mused.

Loki’s eyes darkened. “Be careful, Time Lord. I have no sentiment toward you that would have me spare you or your companion.”

The Doctor moved closer to Martha. “You only threaten pain to hide your own,” he said.

“So you did all this,” Martha said, undaunted, “to save Thor.”

“His death was unacceptable,” Loki hissed. He looked at the Doctor. “You know something of fixed points. It is not Thor’s time.”

“That’s never been for you to decide,” the Doctor said.

Loki lifted his chin. “I think maybe it is.”

“And why?” the Doctor pressed. “Because he’s your brother? Because of sentiment?

“Because I can,” Loki insisted. “Because I have fought too hard to sacrifice the things I want.”

Martha flinched, Loki’s intensity making her shudder. Thor was thunder, but Loki had the force of wind. Unseen, but with more power than any of the rest.

“You can’t always get what you want,” the Doctor said. “You said it, something has to give. And I think we both know what you’re willing to compromise on.”


More than that, they knew what he wasn’t willing to compromise on. Because Martha had seen Loki fall; she’d seen him escape; she’d seen him live. But she’d never seen him leave Thor for dead. It was unexpected, maybe. Or it was the most expected thing of all.

Loki set his jaw. “This outcome is mere chance.”

The Doctor smiled. “Is it? The great Loki, a god amongst mortals, didn’t know when his own spell had been broken?”

Loki gritted his teeth.

“No,” the Doctor said. “You knew. You picked this ending.”

“Everyone lives,” Loki said. “I am free to leave as I see fit. I may even be able to arrange things to maximize my advantage. It’s an unfinished story.”

“But you’re sending your brother into a battle,” Martha said. “He could die. And even if he doesn’t, you’re ruining your relationship. He’ll never trust you. Relationships can’t be built on lies.”

Not even lies of omission.

Not even if they were so much easier.

Lies changed everything.

Loki turned toward her with a smile. The look was composed, but sad somehow. Knowing, even if tinged with regret. “Something has to give.”

It wasn’t victory; it wasn’t pride. It was fact, simple and plain. Loki connived, he tricked, he manipulated -- by all accounts, he was evil. He was the bad guy.

But the reasons why, were never so simple. He was no hero, but was he actually a villain? Was he wrong for picking the lesser of two evils? For all that he had tricked and deceived, was it not better than the alternative?

What would Martha had done? What would anyone do? In the most impossible of situations, there was no right answer, and Loki had proved that. There were just ones that weren’t quite as wrong.

Life had seemed so simple once. But since she joined the Doctor, right and wrong were fuzzy, just like all the laws of time she’d ever taken for granted.

In the end, though, something always had to give. Every choice had consequences. Loki sacrificed his relationship with his brother to save Thor’s life; he risked the universe to spare his brother.

Martha had put her family, her friends, her future all on hold to pursue the Doctor, in some errant off chance that something might happen. Because she could.

Her reasons seemed silly now. Standing on Svartalfheim, where real losses were measured in blood and alienation, she couldn’t help but think how hard she’d made the things that should have been the easiest.

“Well!” the Doctor said, clapping his hands together. “Okay, then. You be on your way, we’ll be on ours.”

Loki actually appeared incredulous.

Martha stopped her musing, turning toward the Doctor in surprise. “Wait,” she said. “That’s it? He almost destroyed time and that’s it?

The Doctor shrugged. “Was there something else? Time is no longer going to unravel, so I think we’ve done what we came for.”

That was true, of course. But it wasn’t like the Doctor. He was a Doctor, after all. He saw a problem, and he wanted to fix it.

And Loki was a problem worth fixing.

Loki inclined his head. “You would let me do as I please?”

“We only came here to stop the time spell,” he said.

“So you care not for my exploits?” Loki said, cautious.

“Oh, I know plenty of your exploits,” the Doctor said. “I know all the things you’ll do, from the bad to the worst.”

“Well, shouldn’t we stop that?” Martha asked.

“And stop everything else?” the Doctor said. “History is not just the good, but the bad, too. What Loki is going to do, has already be done.”

“But look what he almost did!” Martha objected.

“He made sure the Battle of London turned out the way it’s supposed to,” the Doctor said. “Thor and Jane will go and stop Malekith. Things will work out, just the way they’ve always been meant to. And besides!” He turned to Martha. “We’re going to be late to a party!”

For a moment, she thought he was surely joking. Time loops, the universe on the brink of destruction, gods and brotherly betrayal, and he was still talking about the party as if nothing had changed.

But then, nothing really had changed. They’d relived the same moment, kept history intact. Loki and Thor would still be rivals, and the Doctor was still trying desperately not to be obsessed with Rose Tyler.

And Martha still hadn’t called her mother.

The devastation faded from Loki’s eyes as his cheeks started to regain their color. The lost look was gone, muted by a growing veil. “Then I suppose this is where we part ways.”

“Yes, yes,” the Doctor said. “Best of luck, and all that. Don’t try to destabilize the universe next time you try to fix things or make a mess of things or whatever it is you decide to do.”

“I am curious, Time Lord,” Loki said, suddenly thoughtful as he looked over the Doctor carefully once more. “What the full extent of your powers may be.”

The Doctor didn’t miss a beat. “Trust me when I say you don’t want to find out.”

It said something of the Doctor’s abilities that Loki didn’t argue. There probably wasn’t any point. Loki had what he wanted, and there was nothing and no one to stop him. If Loki had lost something on Svartalfheim, he wasn’t going to let it stop him. If anything, it would only drive him harder to keep going.

Because Loki was a powerful being. He was emotionally compromised and morally questionable. He was devious and ruthless while also being vulnerable all the while.

In this, Loki represented exactly what it was to be human in startling clarity that Martha didn’t know what to do. She didn’t trust him; she didn’t even like him. But there was something about him, something she could sympathize with.

Something she could empathize with.

She wasn’t sure how that had happened, but that was really just how it was with the Doctor. Everything surprised her, even herself -- sometimes for all the right reasons, sometimes for all the wrong ones.

That was what it was about, though. That was the nature of existence. The pull being right and wrong, good and evil. Sometimes you won it, and sometimes you didn’t.

Today they all won. Today, that was enough.

For Martha, for the Doctor and even for Loki.

Decided, Loki drew himself taller and started off, moving away from the cliffs.

“Wait,” Martha said. “Where will you go?”

“If your Time Lord is all that he claims to be, ask him,” Loki said with the faintest flash of a smile.

Martha turned to the Doctor, not sure whether or not to protest again, but the Doctor didn’t see her. His eyes were on Loki, hands in his pockets as the rain plastered his hair to his forehead. “Just remember one thing,” he said.

Loki paused, face poised with controlled curiosity.

The Doctor kept his gaze level, and even though his voice hardly changed its timbre, the meaning in his look was impossible to miss. “There are worse things, you know,” he said, “than not getting what you want.”

Loki raised his eyebrows coyly. “Oh?”

“You could get exactly what you want,” the Doctor continued. “Humiliate Thor, defeat all his allies, and then save him for last. You could take Odin’s throne and rule Asgard however you see fit.”

Loki huffed a small laugh. “I’m afraid I’m not seeing how any of this is a problem.”

“You could have all that,” the Doctor said. “And you’d be alone forever.”

Loki’s smile fell. “There are worse consequences.”

“No,” the Doctor said flatly. “There aren’t.”

Loki laughed mirthlessly. “And what do you know of such things, Time Lord?” he sneered. “Falling out of the sky with your little mortal, fixing all the ills in the universe. You think yourself a hero. You think yourself knowledgeable. But you are limited by your needs and your sentiment, even as you chide me for my own. How much more could you be if not saddled by the burden of lesser creatures. You know nothing of loss, Time Lord.”

The Doctor didn’t look away, didn’t even blink in the rain. “I know more than you think.”

Loki turned, more astutely now, as if rising to some instinctual call to battle. “Is that a threat?”

At the question, Martha tensed. Suddenly, the battle did not seem so complete after all. And Loki, who had just minutes earlier earned her sympathy, was suddenly the devious god the Doctor had said he was.

True to form, though, the Doctor just smiled with a shrug of his shoulders. “Just some friendly advice.”

Loki’s posture eased, just slightly, the darkness abating just enough from his eyes. Martha let out a breath she hadn’t quite realized she’d been holding.

“Time will tell,” Loki said finally.

“Yes,” the Doctor said. “Time usually does.”

-o-

It was a long walk back. In all the times they’d lived this moment, they’d never made it this far. They’d never had to pick their way back up the cliff. They’d never struggled and slipped, staggering toward the TARDIS before stumbling safely into the interior.

Martha groaned. “For all that the time loop was destroying the universe, it was nice to have dry clothes every time.”

The Doctor chuckled in exhaustion. “Well, it’s a bit of a trip to Destra,” he said. “You have time to head back and take a shower, if you like.”

Martha started in that direction, but lingered by the control panels for a moment. “Are we sure it’s over?”

“Well, we are here, aren’t we?” the Doctor asked.

“I know,” Martha said. “But what if he tries it again.”

“Time science isn’t for the faint of heart,” he said. “I think Loki’s learned his lesson.”

“I’m not sure Loki’s learned anything,” she said.

“At least this time we know how to stop it,” the Doctor said.

Martha smiled faintly. “Yeah.” She paused, not even sure why she was staying. Except it felt like something should be different. It felt like something should be said. They couldn’t relive the same moment so many times and walk away like it was nothing.

Because it was something. Even if no one else knew, it was something. She thought about Loki, moving on after all this, about all the ways he’d be different and Thor would never understand. What would it be like to see that? To know someone so well and then have them change so irrevocably?

Was that what it seemed like to her mother?

“They’ll be okay?” Martha ventured finally. “Thor and Loki, I mean.”

The Doctor fiddled with a few controls, glancing at her absently. “Those two?” he asked. “Give them a few thousand years, and see where they end up.”

Martha nodded, chewing her lip. “You know, I still don’t get it. All that Loki did, he did it for Thor.”

The Doctor nodded, matter of fact.

“But he hates Thor! We saw him kill Thor a couple of times. It doesn’t even make sense.”

“Sense is not something I readily apply to families,” the Doctor said. “Or Asgardians.”

“That’s the easy answer,” Martha said. “Why did Loki do all that? Why did he risk so much to save Thor?”

“The opposite of love isn’t hate,” the Doctor reminded her quietly.

“So they love each other?” Martha asked, incredulous.

“And hate each other,” the Doctor agreed. “For those two, it’s probably impossible to separate. Such strong feelings, all mixed together. If you think time travel is complicated, family dynamics are even worse.”

Martha smiled slightly. “I suppose I can believe that,” she said.

“Besides,” the Doctor continued. “Loki was right about one thing. It wasn’t Thor’s time.”

“So does that make it okay?” Martha asked.

“No,” the Doctor said. “Loki is selfish, dangerous, malicious, careless and a bit deranged. Very little that he does is okay.”

“Then why did we let him go?” Martha asked.

“Because if it wasn’t Thor’s time, it wasn’t Loki’s either,” the Doctor explained. “There is no Thor without Loki, and there’s no Loki without Thor.”

“Until the end of time, apparently,” Martha quipped.

The Doctor grinned. “Now who’s got time humor.”

“It rubs off on you,” Martha said.

“Brilliant,” the Doctor said. “Now! You better go get cleaned up for Destra. Because the best clubs have standards and wet and grimy probably aren’t going to cut it--”

He trailed off, watching her. She was trying to be interested; she was trying to be invested. It was hard, though. In the end, it had been all about family. It wasn’t so hard to understand that. It wasn’t so hard to see that love and hate were two parts of the same. It wasn’t even hard to grasp the reality that people hurt the ones they cared about more than anyone else.

That was family.

Loki had run away from that, but so had Martha.

And what for? What was any of it for? Loki’s decision would catch up with him, but so would Martha’s. Was that what she wanted?

Was that even what she needed?

Sometimes people made good decisions for the wrong reasons.

Sometimes people made bad decisions for the right reasons.

Sometimes people just didn’t make any sense at all.

The Doctor raised his eyebrows. “You okay?” he asked, interrupting her thoughts.”

“Yeah,” she said. “I was just thinking. About family.”

The Doctor paused, knowing. “You never did call your mom back.”

“Well, there wasn’t time,” she said, but it was a feeble excuse. In a time machine, the irony was impossible to ignore.

“We can stop back,” the Doctor offered. “Have a family night.”

She could. With the Doctor, it’d be easy. But what was the point, anyway? What would she tell them? Nothing had changed, even if everything had changed. What she wanted wasn’t what she needed, and something had to give.

Martha shrugged. “Nah,” she said, giving him a smile. “I don’t want to be late for the party.”

The Doctor brightened. “Destra!”

“Can we make it?” she asked.

The Doctor winked. “Well, last I checked we still had a time machine.”

Martha grinned as he started the engine. There would still be time for the rest. There would be time for lots of things. For now, though, Martha wanted this.

The Doctor, the TARDIS and the entire universe.

If it wasn’t the best decision, it was still the decision she was making.

The rest could wait.

The TARDIS lurched, and Martha just held on for the ride.