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Note: This story contains major spoilers for the Doctor Who episodes "The End of the World," "New Earth," and "Gridlock," including some dialogue from those episodes. There are also minor spoilers for the first three seasons of the current production of Doctor Who.

Part One

In his long lost youth, the Face of Boe would never have believed that endless life -- with time to do and be and learn so many new things -- could be boring. There had come a time, though, when he'd seen and done it all: He'd crossed the universe thousands of times. He'd traveled in time, both legally and illegally. He'd had dear friends and bitter enemies. There was nothing new to him in the whole universe.

To alleviate his boundless boredom, the Face of Boe got involved in politics, and later, philanthropic endeavors. A great deal of the funding for opening New Earth to human settlement came from his coffers through his various corporations and foundations. Eventually, he took a residence on the planet. He liked being surrounded by the ebb and flow of humanity; it reminded him of days long gone.

Continuing his philanthropy, he contributed vast sums to the Sisters of Plenitude, endowing their new hospital. He watched from his balcony as, across the bay from New New York, the shimmering tower rose girder by girder into the sky. When it was completed and opened for business, he looked on it from time to time with a proprietary pride.

It seemed only a short time after that, though it was, in truth, decades, when his dreams began to be disturbed by voices calling out for solace and hands reaching out for comfort. The dreams disturbed his sleep for weeks, but it wasn't until he heard the voices during the day that he realized they were not merely products of his troubled mind. The Face of Boe went to his balcony and contemplated his hospital's shining tower. "Something," he said slowly, "is rotten in the state of Denmark."

He closed his eyes and reached out. What he found sent his mind reeling. The Sisters would dare to do that? With his money? That made him responsible...and he had to end it. By the time he had turned his transport tank, though, he knew he could not do it. Politics and his own web of corporations hemmed him in. There was no way for him to withdraw his support from the hospital.

It did not happen often, but there were times when he wished for the simplicity of his two hands and a gun. He still had the gun, though it hadn't been fired in thousands of years. He sighed. Right, then. He couldn't go in there, guns blazing. He needed help. He needed...well, he needed a Doctor.

~*~*~


The Face of Boe seldom made public appearances, anymore; when he did, a media frenzy generally resulted. After all, he was well-known throughout several galaxies. Aside from being devastatingly handsome, he was obscenely rich -- the richest single being known. Of course, he'd had a long time to amass his fortune. The celebrity rags consistently named him their most eligible bachelor, which amused him endlessly. Fortunately, few of the eager starlets and socialites he met were willing to contemplate spending their lives with a big head in a jar, no matter how mentally talented he might be -- and he could say without boasting that he was very talented, indeed. His highly developed mental abilities compensated for his lack of other physical amenities.

But no matter how well-known he might be, very little was actually known about him. Though reporters constantly asked, he rarely answered personal questions. As a result, all manner of ridiculous rumors and legends had followed him through the ages. Only one of them was important, and that one, he had started himself.

So when he checked himself into the hospital of New New York, it caused a media fury that lasted for days. But eventually, the reporters got tired -- helped along, no doubt, by Matron Casp's frosty "None of your business" whenever anyone asked about the Face of Boe's condition -- and one by one, they wandered off for more interesting stories. Meanwhile, whispers circulated among the hospital's staff that the Face of Boe was, at long last, dying of old age.

Certainly he looked like he was dying: he floated in his smoke, asleep most of the time. His nurse, Novice Hame, reported that he was rarely conscious, though she could often hear his voice in her mind, singing ancient songs. Matron Casp was not sure she approved of Hame's attachment to her patient; she would need to learn to be more objective in order to properly serve the Sisters' purpose. Still, she was young and idealistic; she'd learn in time.

He was not dying, however -- at least, not yet. There was one thing that he had known for millenia, one hope to which, in latter centuries, he had clung: he knew how he would die. There had been a time when such knowledge would have frightened him witless, but with millenia of life had come a vast weariness. He was more than ready to stay forever in the comforting darkness.

He had checked into the hospital to take advantage of the Sisters' devotion to their patients; he knew he would be well cared for while he wrought their destruction. While his body rested in their care, his mind ranged free, sending a telepathic call throughout time and space. If the Doctor did not hear him, then certainly the living TARDIS would. In either case, it was only a matter of time; he only hoped he could maintain the call long enough: he did not want the Sisters to become aware of his...condition.

Days passed. He screened his activity from any of the Sisters' medical scans by filling his surface thoughts with music. Hymns, opera, rock and roll that he hadn't heard in millenia, lullabies that his mother had crooned to him on the Boeshane Peninsula, anything that occurred to him. Hame, apparently somewhat psychic herself, was entranced by the songs. He was not above ruthlessly exploiting her devotion.

At last, when he was beginning to despair, with exhaustion clawing at him, and darkness waiting to claim him, he heard the TARDIS' answering song. He felt it when the time capsule solidified out of the vortex; with a final crack, the engines of the TARDIS shut down. The door opened and figures appeared. He could see them with his inner eye and he followed them as they explored the ground where the TARDIS had materialized. The Doctor had changed, regenerated. This was the Doctor as he had last known him so many millenia ago. Rose Tyler, too, had become a seasoned traveler of time and space and fairly bounced with glee at setting foot on a new planet. One last message, then, to draw the pair to the hospital and he could rest for a while.

On the slightly psychic paper which the Doctor carried in his pocket, a message appeared: Ward 26. Please come. He held his thought and will focused on that little rectangle of white until the Doctor had read it and shown it to Rose. Then, exhausted, he allowed the message and his consciousness alike to fade.

*~*~*


He heard, dimly, the conversation passing in front of his tank between Novice Hame and the Doctor. The feline novice was telling the Doctor the legend about his last secret and the wanderer, the rumor so important to both of them that he had started it himself. He could feel the Doctor's interest and curiosity. Despite his muzziness, he recognized the signature of the psychograft in the depths below them, as Cassandra O'Brien Dot Delta Seventeen's spirit leaped from her skin to Rose's body, but before he could say anything, sleep pulled him back down. Around him, chaos briefly reigned.

When next he woke, his mind was clear and the Doctor was walking toward him, smiling. "You were supposed to be dying."

What passed for a heart in his body hammered briefly in the light of the Doctor's smile.

There are better things to do today. Dying can wait.

Behind the Doctor, Rose rolled her eyes. "Oh, I hate telepathy," she muttered. "Just what I need, a head full of big face."

The voice was Rose's, but the thought was not; Cassandra still possessed her. But Cassandra was not his problem. I have grown tired with the universe, Doctor, but you have taught me to look at it anew.

The Doctor knelt before his tank. "There are legends, you know, saying that you're millions of years old."

He laughed. There are? That would be impossible. He cast his mind outward, assessing the condition of the hospital and was pleased by what he found. Yes, the Doctor had worked his magic. The Flesh were cured of their induced disease and isolation. He would have to see what else his resources could do for them in the little time they had. He could find no trace of Matron Casp, however, and wondered what had happened to her; she, like the rest of the Sisterhood, should be punished for their crimes. Hame, he discovered, was in custody below. At least he knew where she was; he would need her later.

The Doctor laughed. "Wouldn't it just? I got the impression there was something you wanted to tell me."

A great secret.

"So the legend says."

It can wait. He almost laughed again as frustration flashed across the Doctor's face.

"Oh, does it have to?"

He smiled slightly and made a couple of adjustments to his transport. We shall meet again, Doctor, for the third time, for the last time, and the truth shall be told. Until that day.... His gaze slid briefly to Rose's face -- the last time he would see her, and it wasn't even Rose. Still...he reached out, and let Cassandra taste his great weariness and boredom. This, Cassandra, is eternal life. Is this what you want? For Rose's spirit, trapped under Cassandra's domination, he spared a caress, a mental hand on the cheek. All this, in the instant before he initiated his teleport and the hospital ward faded away to be replaced by the familiar sight of his home.

He sighed, his breath whiffling the smoke of his transport tank. He hadn't quite told the Doctor the truth just now. He was tired of the universe, more tired than even the Doctor could possibly imagine. But he had one more great task to perform and beyond that, an ending was at last in sight. For someone who had lived so long, seen so many things, outlasted everyone he'd ever cared for, it was hardly more than seconds away.

Part Three

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October 2011

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