I could feel my shadow-static, Doctor, beggar man near me. I could tell he was inspecting me. I did not open my eyes. Instead, I reached out and grabbed him. I pulled him close and whispered into his ear. "I demand a safety helmet." Then, I let him go.
I heard him stumble backwards, both in surprise and because I had man handled him without warning. "Safety helmet?"
"Yes. Demand. Helmet. In haste. Yes," I said.
"Why? What would you..."
I interrupted him. I opened one eye and looked at him. "Now, that explains a few things. You don't know why I asked for one because you don't remember either. And you are afraid to say something. You don't want me to worry. You're the Doctor and you are supposed to know everything. But you don't, and I already know that." I closed my eye again, nonplussed and sniffed. "Doesn't matter. Demand. Helmet."
There was a long moment of silence. "How many times?" he asked, finally breaking the quiet.
"Three. Two times in a very small space you pulled me out of. And a third time because the TARDIS had a temper tantrum and threw us across the room, violently" I replied. "Seriously. Helmet. Not joking."
"Jessica, that was only the first cycle," muttered the Doctor.
I fully opened my eyes and glared at him. "First cycle?"
"The first healing cycle. You have been very seriously injured. You will need to go through a couple more cycles before you will return anything close to normal. Otherwise, you'll be fainting and blacking out for the rest of your life." The Doctor paused. "Also, we have been traveling together for sometime."
"How. Long. Exactly." I paused. "Wait a bloody minute and half!" I demanded again. "How would you know?"
"When I pulled you out of the console unit, that wasn't your first time on the TARDIS. That was my last regeneration. But you traveling with me before that too. My memory of you goes further back than that."
"Exactly. For. How. Long." I hissed each word individually. "And in case you missed that Beggar Man, those words were in alphabetical order. So I better get a straight, flippen answer."
"Your whole life, for five years."
I was in no condition to fly into a rage. I tried, OH! lord, did I make the whole hearted attempt to keep it inside. But you know, sometimes it leeks out even when you don't want it too. "Doctor," I hissed like a demon. "That is notan answer that I can process.'
"You are right. I didn't remember you. And yes, I hid that fact from you. You were eventually going to pick up on that if you were standing in close proximity to me. I don't think I should have to explain to you that I do this often. I lie. I lie like a super villain. I have too." I heard the shadow man take a pause. His static form paced back and forth. "Okay, I couldn't remember. So, I took the TARDIS back, while you were repairing here."
My rage abruptly passed. I couldn't be mad at him, not when he was making the attempt at honesty. By his pacing, he was concerned and had tried to find a way to express that concern without me worrying about it. That's why he's the Doctor. "When?" Trying hard to remember a 'first time.' But as hard as I raced through my mind palace, the place was simply barren.
"Since I couldn't remember. I went all the way back," he said. "But no matter when, where, or how I looked. I couldn't find it." He stopped pacing by the bed. "Also, I could not hide my presence. You always knew! You always knew I was there. I eventually gave up looking for me, with you. And then I realized, it was then, meaning now. My presence was now, back then."
I gave him a dismissing gesture. "I understand what you are getting at. Move along, space man!."
"So, I made myself known to you. You gave some weird speech about guilt, needing a Doctor, being labeled "crazy." I get it. And I am sorry, Jessica. It's my fault. I am real. I am here. You are not crazy. It's okay now." The shadow man started pacing again. "Only in truth, it isn't. You remember what you said about critical failure?"
"Sure I do."
"My response was that those result in disasters and cataclysms."
"You are my disaster. I'm sorry."
"Yeah, so. Things are going to get weirder. And I would like to take this moment to remind you that you, you said you weren't afraid of it. And that you were wanting to be a willing participant. This was a choice you made. So, don't be too mad at me."
"How much weirder could things possible get?"
"Famous words, Jess," he sighed. "Look at your arm."
I gave him a funny look and then lifted up my arm. I felt my stomach drop. "Oh," I whispered and fell silent.
The lines of brown and green infection had taken over half my body. But it wasn't just any old, random lines. These lines had restructured themselves to look like buses for computer components. I looked like a brown and green, geometric mandala. I started to laugh and cry.
"I know," said the Doctor. "I'm sorry.
I smiled at him. "You don't understand. I'm laughing because I am happy."
"Doctor," I laughed and cried harder. "This is hilarious!" He didn't say anything, so I continued. "This is the closest thing to a magic bus that any human can get. I leveled up! I have achieved Apotheosis!"
The Doctor was quiet. Then, he chuckled. Then, he started to really laugh. "You are the biggest geek I have ever known, Jessica." His laugh subsided. "So, how's your fairy tale?"
"Well, you need to take a rest, now. I have more to tell, but that will have to wait," he said. "But I can now understand why you are fainting and passing out all the time. I wonder how many more times you had a head injury."
"There's no telling. Fairy tales are often filled with danger and injuries. But I have a Doctor to help me with that. And a safety helmet."