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I Am Clever

alec_towser


A Fine Line - Between Chaos and Creation

Everybody seems to think I'm lazy; I don't mind, I think they're crazy...


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UNIT!100 - 081. How?
I Am Clever
alec_towser
Title: The Great Escape
Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: Inferno!Yates, Inferno!Lethbridge-Stewart, Inferno!Benton, Inferno!Master, Third Doctor, Sergeant Benton
Prompt: 081. How?
Word Count: 5913
Rating: T
Summary: It had started as a quiet afternoon - at least, until someone showed up sprawled unconscious on the tile floor of the UNIT lab, looking exactly like Mike Yates…
Disclaimer: I own nothing but my own OCs, should I create any for these stories.
Author’s Note: It’s not actually known if Mike Yates had a double in the Inferno!’verse, but this is my interpretation of what he might have been if we’d seen him (also my explanation for why we don’t see him in the serial).

Set sometime before the serial Inferno for Parallel!Yates, and sometime between Inferno and Terror of the Autons for the Third Doctor and UNIT. Makes reference to my previous story Benton vs. Benton, but is able to stand alone. Also, the expression Anti-Citizen belongs to Half Life and Valve.

This was supposed to be another short one-shot, and somehow turned into my longest story I’ve written so far, just edging out WITN (I blame primsong for putting the idea of other Inferno!verse character fics into my head…this one really seemed to explode once I got it started). I spent ages tweaking this, and I’m still not quite sure I’m happy with the end result, but I’m happier than I used to be with it. Hopefully it’s not horrible.


———

It had started as a quiet afternoon. The Brigadier and Captain Yates were at a series of conferences in Geneva for the next two weeks, and the Doctor was making the most of his time to make some adjustments to some circuits in the TARDIS console.

He was thoroughly engrossed in his work, when a sudden thump from outside the TARDIS startled him. Not thinking, he tried to sit up, then realized too late that his head was still underneath the console. Muttering some choice Gallifreyan curses under his breath, he rubbed his forehead as he carefully extricated himself from under the console and stood up. “Sergeant Benton? I told you I wasn’t to be disturbed!” he barked, then continued to himself, “Does no one pay attention to the signs I put up outside the laboratory?”

When no response was forthcoming, he decided to go investigate the source of the noise, to make sure none of his experiments had been knocked over. When he exited the door of the TARDIS, however, he was floored by the sight in front of him - Mike Yates; dirty, disheveled, and clearly beaten up, sprawled unconscious (or dead) on the tile floor of the lab.

Not wasting any time, he bent down to make sure the man was still alive. Upon discovering that there was indeed a pulse and he was breathing (however stertorous it might be), he retrieved his smoking jacket from where he had placed it on a chair, and draped it over the unconscious man. Then he made a call on the internal phone line, informing the medical staff of the situation.

As he waited impatiently for them to arrive, the Doctor found himself puzzling over the situation at hand. Clearly this wasn’t the real Captain Yates, as he’d heard no word from the Brigadier about a crisis at the conference. Was it a shapeshifter of some kind?

One way to find out, he decided, as the medical staff still hadn’t arrived. He grabbed a swab from the counter and wiped a small amount of blood off the man’s face. “That should be enough,” he muttered, bringing it over to a microscope to examine the sample.

Just then, the lab doors opened to reveal two of the on-duty medical staff. “Good of you to show up,” the Doctor remarked dryly, looking up at them; a male Second Lieutenant and a female Corporal. “I was beginning to wonder if I should just bring the man to you.”

“We came as fast as we could, Doctor,” the officer remarked, sounding slightly terse, even as the Corporal began to look over the unconscious man. Anything else he might have had to say to the Scientific Advisor was cut off by the Corporal: “Sir, this man’s got cracked - if not broken - ribs, a broken arm, and multiple lacerations and contusions. He needs to get to the Med Bay right away if we’re to help him.”

At that announcement, the medical staff hadn’t wasted any more time; loading the man onto a stretcher as carefully as possible so as not to aggravate any of his wounds, and rushing him off to the Medical wing to be treated.

———

The man hadn’t woken for several days, not until after he was well out of medical danger and weaned off the sedatives the staff had been giving him. When he finally did, the Doctor had immediately gone to see him, having instructed the MO to inform him of the man’s regaining consciousness.

When the Doctor arrived, the man was groggy, but still registered his presence in the room as he entered. “Where am I?” he rasped out, voice hoarse from the combination of disuse and the breathing tube he had been given while he had been unconscious.

“You’re currently in our medical wing right now,” the Doctor responded, handing the young man some ice chips from the bowl the Corporal had given him before he had gone in. The patient accepted them gratefully.

When he had gone through several of the ice chips, the Doctor continued to speak. “I know this may a little difficult, considering you’ve only just woken, but I’ve had some difficulties with your records; there was a discrepancy when I ran your blood for tests. Would you mind answering some questions for me?”

The young man nodded, though he immediately looked suspicious afterwards. “You’re not in league with Them, are you?”

“Them? I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

“The Republic. I won’t give you any information about rebel groups, if that’s what you’re after.”

The Doctor frowned. “No, I’m not working with this ‘Republic’ of yours. Look, why don’t we start from the beginning? Something simple: your name?”

The man seemed to relax, but only slightly. “I’m surprised you don’t know it. I would have thought my name would have been all over the Wanted boards up in the city. I’m apparently Anti-Citizen Number One right now.”

“I’m afraid I haven’t seen any of these boards.” The Doctor shook his head.

The man seemed surprised. “That’s odd. Well, if it matters, my name is Michael Yates.”

The Doctor started suddenly. “…Michael Yates?” he repeated slowly, as he’d just heard something he didn’t want to hear.

“Yes.” Michael frowned. “Why? What’s wrong?”

“Oh, nothing… except I know Mike Yates, and you’re not him. Would you care to explain where you’ve come from, and how you’ve come to be here? I promise I’ll explain things afterwards, and no harm will come to you,” he added after seeing the suspicious look return to Michael’s face.

“Well, all right.” Michael still looked dubious. “It started several weeks ago…”

———

Three weeks earlier…

They hadn’t wasted any time, dragging him out of his quarters at an ungodly hour (to keep him off-balance; he knew how this worked) to bring him in front of the Brigade Leader. Once he was there, Platoon Under Leader Benton and another soldier had remained in the office to restrain him should he try to run.

Not that he would; he knew that would be suicide at this point. Rather ironic that it would be Benton holding him captive, though; they had been good friends at one point. His thoughts were broken by a savage cuff to the side of his head. “Answer the Brigade Leader!” Benton snarled.

He looked over to see a look of dead calm on the Brigade Leader’s scarred face, and that was when he knew just how much trouble he was in. The Brigade Leader only ever looked that calm when he was at his angriest. “As you apparently didn’t weren’t listening the first time, I’ll repeat myself.” His voice was just as calm as his expression was, betraying nothing (yet betraying everything; he knew how the man worked). “Do you know why you’re here, Regiment Leader Yates?”

“Because I believe that England shouldn’t be under fascist rule that hides behind the facade of a so-called republic? Because I believe that man deserves to have the right to question his government?” He knew he was treading in dangerous waters by saying those things, but the words had already left his mouth. Too late to regret it now, he thought as he was rewarded with another cuff to the head.

“Defiant to the end, eh, Regiment Leader?” If anything, the Brigade Leader’s tone of voice got even icier. “Would it interest you to know that we’ve been aware of your actions for a long time? The sabotage; the aid in freeing labourers from the work camps; the information passed along to the rebels?”

He had tried to keep his face neutral, but apparently something must have showed (the downsides of working with the same superior officer for so long - everything was a ‘tell’), because the Brigade Leader’s icy facade gave way to a smirk. “Don’t look so shocked. Did you really think we wouldn’t be able to find out? Even if we weren’t able to find all the changes you made to our systems to hide your tracks, Grenadier Bell proved to be…most helpful when we hit any dead ends.”

His eyes widened. Carol! He had meant to get her out of here ages ago; far away, where she wouldn’t be affected by this. “What did you do to her?” he asked, a note of danger in his voice.

The Brigade Leader smiled cruelly. “She had an appointment with a firing squad earlier this week.”

Now he was just angry. “She never did anything! She wasn’t involved!” And it was true; he had seen to that. He had planned to shoulder all the responsibility to make sure that he wasn’t risking anyone but himself. Apparently it had failed him. He tried to step forward, but his guards’ grip on him just grew tighter.

“Does it matter?” the Brigade Leader asked dismissively. “Now I’ve ensured that she never will be. Now, as for you, Regiment Leader…you know, of course, that this sort of behaviour is not tolerated. You’ve not only undermined my authority as commanding officer of this facility, but that of the Republican Security Forces, and of the Republic of Great Britain.”

“Oh, good. I would hate to think my efforts hadn’t been noticed.” He just couldn’t seem to stop the snarky remarks. Apparently the closer he was to death, the more flippant he got. Well, it wasn’t like he had a lot more to lose at this point.

He was rewarded by Benton loosening his grip, then slamming the butt of his rifle into his side before grabbing his arm again. “Shut up. No one asked you to say anything.”

Groaning from the pain radiating from his ribs, he could only listen as the Brigade Leader passed sentence: “These actions will be taken as treason on your part, and you will be stripped of rank effective immediately. You will give us the names and locations of your rebel contacts, and then you will be executed, as befits your status as a traitor. Have you any last words to say for yourself?” He looked incredibly smug as he said this, as if Yates were simply a troublesome weed to be crushed underfoot.

“Actually, yes. I do have something to say… Sir.” He added the last part with just the right touch of sarcasm; after all, if he had been stripped of rank and branded as a traitor, he certainly didn’t think he owed the man anything anymore. Straightening himself up as best he could in his captors’ grasp, he looked the Brigade Leader directly in the eyes. “I’m sorry I didn’t do this sooner.”

———

He didn’t get a chance to say much after that, as he had been dragged away to the prison block relatively quickly after. He’d been stripped of his uniform and left with nothing but a plain white t-shirt and the standard-issue labourer trousers. Then he’d been left alone for the next two days (unbalancing him even further by bringing paranoia into the mix, and depriving him of food and drink to make him desperate when it came time for the interrogation - he’d seen it all done before).

Then came the part he had been dreading - the interrogation. He’d been praying, hoping that if there was a God, He would hear him and help him hold out against answering. He knew just how brutal these sessions could get (particularly if Benton and his thugs got involved), and didn’t want to have all his hard work to help the rebels be in vain.

Finally, he was ushered brusquely to Section Leader Shaw’s office and secured, with his hands tied behind the chair he’d been forced into. A desk lamp had been switched on, shining directly into his face, and as he’d been deprived of proper light for the last two days, it felt much worse than it probably was. Then the questions had started:

“Who were you working with?”
“Where are the rebel bases?”
“Where have the escaped labourers gone?”
“When and where is the next rebel strike planned?”
“What have you done with the missing parts to the Mole-Bore computer?”

Thankfully, he hadn’t known half of the answers to the questions, having asked to not be told of things such as the whereabouts of escaped labourers, and knowing nothing but code names of rebel leaders. It had been his own form of preventative measures, ensuring he wouldn’t be able to give a lot of information about the rebels away if he was caught, but there was still other information he could give them about his own part in the matter, should he give in.

However, the Section Leader had grown tired of his defiance and lack of ‘proper’ answers after a while, so she had chosen to leave him to Benton and his men in hopes of getting information another way. “Fear and force” was the Platoon Under Leader’s personal standard of ensuring compliance, and he had seen it in action all too often.

As much as he tried not to let it affect him, the idea of having to withstand those kinds of efforts was slightly terrifying. After all, this was a man who had beaten a labourer savagely simply for spitting on his boots their first day at the facility. He still wasn’t sure to this day whether the man had died or not from his injuries, but it made him wonder: if simple defiance cost the labourer that much… how much worse would it be for a traitor of the State?

———

As it turned out, it was much, much worse. Benton and his men knew just how to injure him enough that he would be feeling it for a prolonged period of time, but not enough to kill him. He knew his arm was broken, and judging by the difficulty he had drawing a breath now, he guessed that his ribs were, as well (or at least cracked). His shoulder had been dislocated for a time, until he had managed to reset it by steeling himself and slamming it into his cell wall. That certainly wasn’t something he wanted to repeat; he had blacked out immediately afterward, and apparently hadn’t woken for a full day, according to the Section Leader (who only showed any kind of concern because he hadn’t woken when it had been time for the interrogation, and she needed him alive to answer her questions).

They had given him food, but very little, and not very often. By this point, he couldn’t tell how much time had passed since his arrest, but he idly wondered how long it would take before they finally gave up and simply shot him. After all, it was hardly an effective use of resources to continue to bother with one man (even if he was now apparently at the top of the Republic’s Anti-Citizen list).

One day, he was visited by someone new: a man in a plain black suit. The man hadn’t questioned him, but rather, simply observed him and his injuries. After a few minutes, during which he felt like a insect beneath a magnifying glass, the man had left, leaving him curious as to what that incident was all about.

The next time he was visited, he had just come from an interrogation and was barely holding onto consciousness from the combined pain of aggravated injuries and a terrible migraine. The man had come and simply observed him again, but this time he was accompanied by a woman. Just before they had left and he had given up the fight to remain conscious, he could have sworn that he’d heard the woman murmur “the story changes, but the ending stays the same”, or something to that effect.

He hadn’t thought any more of it, as he didn’t see them again for the next several days. All he’d had to keep him busy were more interrogations, then being informed of his upcoming execution in a week, timed perfectly to line up with the much-anticipated Mole-Bore project reaching its conclusion. A double celebration, they’d called it. The project would succeed, and Anti-Citizen Number One, the biggest thorn in the Republic’s side, would be dead. After June 13, no one would remember him. Or if they did, he hoped they didn’t remember him for the horrible things he’d done as a member of the RSF.

They’d stopped bringing any form of food after that, saying there was no use in giving any useful sustenance to a prisoner who was only going to die in a matter of days, anyway. Even though it had only been a small bowl of unidentifiable gruel once a day, he found himself missing it as his stomach voiced its protest. Thankfully, the tortures had stopped - if only because the RSF had decided he wasn’t worth wasting time on anymore.

Two days before the execution, the woman paid him another visit, and this time she brought something with her. Upon closer inspection, it looked rather like a wristwatch. She silently beckoned him to come to the door, which he did, albeit slowly. “Who are you?” he asked, but she didn’t answer, putting the watch on his non-broken wrist.

She then made a motion for him to stay quiet, then cried out: “Guard! The prisoner has escaped!”

His eyes widened; what was she doing? He was standing right there! They would see him, and then he would be beaten again. But as he watched, the two soldiers that had been guarding the outer door ran up and didn’t seem to notice him standing there in the cell. Instead, they opened the door and started examining a part of the floor under his pathetic excuse for a bed. “Cor! Look at the size of that hole! How long d’you think he was working on that one?” one marvelled.

The other one smacked him on the head. “Idiot! That doesn’t matter; if the Section Leader sees that he escaped on our watch, we’ll be sent to the labour camp sharpish.”

He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Apparently they thought he had escaped? He looked over at the woman to see her gesturing for him to come out of the now-opened cell. He moved as silently as he could, while the lady addressed the guards again; “If the prisoner is not here for me to examine, there’s really no reason for me to stay. I trust my security clearance won’t need to be checked again before I go?” She held out a small wallet-sized blank piece of paper.

“No, no,” one of the men said distractedly, not even looking up from where the hole supposedly was. “Everything should be alright, Lady Ailla. Tell the lads at the gate that we cleared you already. Just… don’t mention the escape?”

“Of course not,” she said smoothly, even as she pocketed the paper and began to walk towards the exit. Not wanting to be left behind, he limped as quickly as he could behind her, trying not to make any sound.

———

He didn’t remember too much after that; the initial adrenaline rush wore off relatively quickly once they had cleared the gate of the base, and he soon felt all his injuries and dehydration/near-starvation catch up to him.

He hadn’t fully blacked out, but had remained in a state of semi-consciousness for the next little while - he thought he could recall the lady, Ailla, carrying him, but he couldn’t be sure.

She had taken him to some building that he couldn’t identify; not in his state. His mind drifted as he was propped up in a chair: he couldn’t believe that no one had noticed that he was right out in the open like this. The Wanted notices weren’t even up yet, though he had no doubt that it wouldn’t be long until the report went out that he had escaped. Hopefully he would be long gone by then. He shook his head, trying to clear his wandering thoughts, but it did no good.

He could hear her voice, talking to a man in the background; something about “perception filters” and “transmats”. Then everything they were saying was drowned out by the sound of a loudspeaker blaring that Anti-Citizen Yates had escaped from the Eastchester Labour Camp and believed to be seeking shelter nearby. If anyone had seen him, they were to report his presence immediately to the RSF. He thought he heard Ailla swear under her breath. “Blast. That’s torn it; it won’t be long until they see through the filter and trace his disappearance to us.”

Things were rushed after that, and he had developed a headache from the noise of the speaker; he heard them mention “fixed points” and “planetary death in days”, which had been followed up with a comment about “idiots and their ‘Mole-Bore’ project”, and he wanted to ask what they meant, but nothing came out. Ailla had offered him some water, which he’d needed help to drink, but he had to admit it did wonders for his incredibly dry throat. He tried to speak agin, and this time, he was more successful: “What’s happening?”

The man ignored him, continuing as if he hadn’t spoken. “Alright. I’ll do it; if only to bother that overbearing fellow who has the nerve to call himself ‘Leader’ and ‘President’ these days one last time. The space/dimensional anomaly the console will send off will surely distract him to no end…if he even cares about that sort of thing anymore.”

Ailla rolled her eyes. “Spare us the monologue on your petty rivalry, Koschei, and help me out over here? You’re the only one who can properly work this thing anyway,” she said, waving a hand at the partially melted console she was now standing in front of. “Or at least, what’s left of it.”

He hadn’t understood much of what was going on after that; Koschei seemed far too busy fiddling with knobs and switches on the console, and Ailla was helping him out, so neither of them would explain anything to him.

Just then, he’d heard a pounding at the door, and a voice on the other side. “RSF! Open up!”

Ailla looked worried. “I didn’t think they’d catch on that quickly!” she hissed, looking at Koschei, who was now examining something underneath the console. She then walked over to where he was seated and handed him a set of wires, which he’d taken, confused as to the significance. She looked back at Koschei again. “How much longer until it’s ready?”

“Power levels at eighty-five percent. Not much longer now.” Just then, the voice at the door came back, more insistent. “RSF! We have some questions to ask you about the escaped Anti-Citizen!”

“Can’t you hurry it up?” Ailla looked frantic. “We don’t have any time!” Then she seemed to have a thought. “Where is this even going to send him, anyway?”

“Patience, Ailla. I can’t make the console work any faster than it already is. And to answer your question; I’m not quite sure where he’ll end up, but hopefully it won’t be anywhere nearby. Ninety-one percent…” By now, he could hear a charge building from the console, and he was torn between the urge to panic and try to run and hide, and his over-taxed body’s desire to simply shut down and pass out.

The pounding was louder now. “Open up, or we’ll break the door down!”

“Ninety-six…”

“We know you’re in there, Koschei and Lady Ailla! Diplomatic immunity or not, you have ten seconds to open up or we will take this as a sign of defiance against the Republic and the Conclave and you will be put under arrest!”

“Ninety-eight…”

“Will someone please explain to me what’s going on?”

“No time. Koschei!”

“Charged!”

Just then, several things happened at once. Koschei flipped a switch on the console, sending an electrical pulse of some kind through the wires he was holding; Ailla walked over to the door as if to open it, and the RSF’s countdown reached zero. The last thing he saw before he felt a slight shock go through his body and everything went fully dark was the RSF patrol breaking down the door and shouting at Ailla and Koschei.


———

Michael had needed to stop and start the story at different times during the next couple of days due to not having fully recovered from his injuries, but he had eventually told it all to the Doctor. By the end of the story, the Doctor was stunned, but had managed to answer all of the questions that Michael had had for him. The man had managed to take it all remarkably in stride, accepting the fact that he was now in a parallel universe with less skepticism than the Doctor would have thought. Of course, this entire situation was only due to that universe’s Koschei and his meddling. He fumed. Even in another universe, the other Time Lord still found a way to cause him trouble.

“The only thing I don’t understand, though, is how things line up,” Michael had said, puzzled, snapping the Doctor out of his thoughts. “The Mole-Bore project would only have concluded a few days after I left where I came from, but you’re telling me that it was months ago here?”

“Yes, it was,” the Doctor had answered, “but time doesn’t always flow the same way in different universes. When I went and paid your world a visit, the project you were speaking of was much farther along than the one in our world. Not everything is identical. We were paid a visit a week ago by your wonderful Platoon Under Leader himself, and while it was my second time meeting him, it was his first time meeting me.”

Michael tried to work this out. “So you met him out of order? Wouldn’t he have recognized you when you travelled over to our world, then? And wouldn’t he have said something? He never mentioned this.”

The Doctor shook his head. “Not if I’d taken measures to ensure that he would forget. Because I already knew that he didn’t recognize me from my visit earlier, I had to make sure that he wouldn’t recall me. Pre-destination and all that.” He smiled, but then his expression sobered. “Unfortunately, as you’re not from this universe, you can’t stay here. The dimensional paradox your presence will cause could potentially destroy the space-time continuum as we know it.”

Sitting on the bed, Michael had gone pale. “W-what do you mean, I can’t stay? You can’t send me back! Not to that horrible place! You’ll be condemning me to death!”

“Perhaps you were meant to have died in that incident,” the Doctor replied darkly. “It wasn’t Koschei’s decision to make; whether you lived or died. You’re certainly not meant to be in this universe, and I can’t have you running around endangering everyone on this Earth with your presence.”

“But you don’t understand; there won’t be anything left! I heard that Koschei fellow say something about the entire surface of the planet being ruined within a day or so. I have nowhere to go!”

“Look, I’m terribly sorry about this, but you really can’t stay!”

“What if he were to change his identity and stay as someone else?” Both men turned around to face the source of the new voice. Sergeant Benton stood in the doorway. “Sorry, Doc - couldn’t help overhearing the last bit,” he apologized, stepping into the room. “But couldn’t something be done so that he’s not an exact double of the Captain and all these paradoxes of yours don’t happen? People do it on Earth all the time; hiding from debts, angry husbands and wives, the like.”

“If that’s what it takes, I’ll do it,” Michael agreed, nodding. “Just, please don’t send me back. Not to die.”

The Doctor pondered this for a few moments, considering. “That might just work, Sergeant. If he’s different enough from our Mike, the timelines and dimensions might be all right if he were to stay. I do have the equipment in my TARDIS infirmary, and it’s some of the few pieces of technology that are actually operational, so I suppose it is possible, but I will have to look at what would need to change and whether this would disrupt the timelines. Now, if you’ll excuse me, gentlemen…” He left the room to go back to the lab, presumably to sort out whether this could actually work, leaving the two men alone.

It was Michael who first broke the silence. “So am I to take it that you’re the John Benton from this universe?”

Benton nodded as he took the Doctor’s recently-vacated seat. “I am. Were you in the military in your world, same as the other me?”

Michael lowered his gaze. “I used to be, but I’m certainly not proud of that fact. Even if my world still existed, though, I had just been discharged. So now I’m just Michael Yates, civilian. No rank, no title.” Then he realized something. “How did you know about the other version of you? The Doctor said he had met him, but didn’t say you had.”

“Did the Doctor mention how he showed up here last week?” Benton smiled ruefully. “I had the unfortunate luck of being the first person he ran into, and became his hostage. I still have the bruises to show for it.”

“Hard luck. I’m sorry you had to go through that.”

Benton shrugged. “Hazards of the job. I knew what I was in for when I signed up.”

“Still.” Michael wouldn’t let it drop. “Someone has to apologize for him, because even if he were alive, he wouldn’t do it for himself.” Then he laughed mirthlessly. “Ironic, isn’t it? Whether it was out loud or just in my head, I spent a good deal of my life apologizing for the way he acted, and I’m still doing it now despite the fact that he’s dead. I don’t know whether to feel upset or relieved.”

“Oh?” Benton was curious. “Were you friends?”

Now Michael just looked sad. “We used to be. We were very good friends growing up. But being in the military changed him. By the time it all ended, it was like I didn’t even know who he was anymore. So there’s a part of me that’s upset that the man who was my friend is gone for good, and the other part of me is relieved that the man who was a brutal, ruthless bully won’t be able to hurt anyone anymore.” He cleared his throat, clearly uncomfortable after that show of emotion. “Anyways. I wonder what the Doctor’s up to; maybe he’s found that I’ll be alright to stay after all.”

“I hope so,” Benton agreed. “It’d be horrible if he just had to take you back to that dead world. At least when the other version of me got sent back, he was from earlier in your world’s timeline, so he had a place to go back to, even if he ended up kicking it with everyone else in the end.” Just then, Benton happened to catch sight of the clock on the wall. “Oh, bollocks.” Standing up, he apologized to Michael for needing to suddenly leave, explaining that he was taking his younger sister out that evening, and was running late. Michael accepted this good-naturedly, waving him off.

Once he was alone, Michael couldn’t help but hope that he would be allowed to live here - he certainly didn’t want to be sent back; not after the effort that Ailla and Koschei went through for him. He didn't know why they had done it, but he certainly didn't want their efforts to have gone to waste. He would do whatever it took to allow him to stay.

———

The next day, the Doctor spoke to Michael, explaining that the plan would work, but it would require him to lose his memories - everything he knew of his life in the other dimension. “A great deal of what shapes a man is the sum of his memories,” the Doctor had said. Other physical changes - name, fingerprints, eye colour, and the like - were easier to change, but if his memories were intact, he would still be too close to simply being another copy of Mike Yates and the paradox of having two people essentially the same in one universe wouldn’t hold for long. “I can let you keep certain personality traits and preferences, if you’d like, to help get you started here, but your memories of your life as Michael Yates will have to go.”

That had been the hardest condition to agree to, but in the end, Michael had agreed. After some thought, he had managed to come up with a list of traits he wanted to keep, which the Doctor had explained he would implant into his subconscious after his memory had been wiped. Benton had also offered to help him come up with some backstory and fake memories, which had also been added to the list of things to be implanted.

Upon ensuring that Michael was mentally prepared to leave his old life behind and undergo the procedure, the Doctor sent him into the TARDIS. He had been about to follow when Benton had stopped him. “Doctor, would you be able to add one more memory to that list for his new background?” The Doctor had been surprised, but upon hearing Benton’s request and finding that it wouldn’t destroy the paradoxes he was trying to fix, had decided to allow it.

———

Three hours later, the Doctor had let Benton know that the procedure was finished, and that the man had been moved into the UNIT infirmary until he woke. He then recommended that Benton should be there when he regained consciousness; the man would most likely be disoriented.

When Benton arrived at the medical bay, he found that the man was just regaining consciousness, clutching at his head in pain with the arm that wasn’t in the plaster cast. It was a slight shock to see the darker hair, he had to admit, but the green eyes were less jarring than he would have thought. The name felt odd as he used it, though: “Richard? Rich? You with us?”

The young man on the bed nodded slowly. “I will be…I’ve got a banging headache and my ribs ache, though. What happened?”

“There was an accident,” Benton recited the cover story they had gone over earlier. “Lorry ran you right off the A90. Your car didn’t make it, unfortunately, but you managed to make it out without too many injuries.” He gestured at the cast.

“Bugger. Well, I’m alive, so I suppose that’s good. Don’t suppose there’s any chance of getting a lift back to my flat when I’m discharged, then?” He grimaced as he tried to sit up, hissing as the pain in his head flared again.

“Of course. I wouldn’t just leave you stranded.” Benton handed over a glass of water and some paracetamol, which the other man took gratefully.

“Ahh. Thank you. Maybe I’ll give you one of my latest sketches as repayment,” he teased.

Benton had looked confused for a moment before he recalled that drawing was one of the interests that Michael had wished to keep from his previous life. “That won’t be necessary, though I’m sure they’re lovely. Just buy me a drink next time I’m off-duty.” He grinned.

And on the bed, Richard Michaels, self-declared artist, grinned right back. “Of course. Anything for a good friend like you, John.”

X-posted to FF.net, Teaspoon, AO3, and unit_family.

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If you don't do more with Richard Michaels and Benton, I will be very, VERY sad.

I take it you liked it, then? :P

I'm so glad you liked it. I honestly wasn't sure what peoples' reaction would be. :)

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