Fandom/Pairings: Doctor Who (new series + Big Finish Audios) | Ten/Rose, Eight/Charley
Spoilers/Timeline: New series: set after Voyage of the Damned; Big Finish Audios: set after The Girl Who Never Was
Word Count: 1611 (this chapter)
Summary: The Eighth Doctor unexpectedly lands in a parallel world and a blonde unlocks his front door; the Tenth Doctor answers a distress call and finds an old friend on a deserted beach. When an old enemy brings the four of them together, can they save the universe in time to sort out their own timelines?
Notes/Disclaimer: This fic would have been impossible without the encouragement and input of my invaluable beta, unbrokensky. I own nothing, everyone belongs to the BBC and/or Big Finish. This chapter picks up immediately where the last one left off :)
chapter one | chapter two | chapter three | chapter four | chapter five | chapter six | chapter seven | chapter eight | chapter nine | chapter ten | chapter eleven
Rose slipped her hand into the Doctor’s – her Doctor’s. She was still having trouble believing that he was actually there, that all this was actually happening, that it wasn’t some crazy dream or the aneurysm she’d briefly suspected when she’d first heard the telltale sound of the TARDIS’ materialization only hours before. It helped to touch him, to link her fingers with his and feel the cool skin of his palm against her warmer one.
He squeezed her hand once, smiled, and took a deep breath. Then he pushed open the door of his earlier counterpart’s TARDIS and stepped resolutely over the threshold. Rose followed, blinking owlishly. Unlike either of the Doctor’s TARDISes, wherever they were was not dimly lit, but rather bright. Behind her, Rose felt the other Doctor and the woman called Charley step out after her.
“It’s so bright,” Charley muttered.
“Just wait a moment, Charley,” the other Doctor replied, his voice soothing. “Your eyes will adjust quickly.”
“That doesn’t make it any less bright,” Charley said somewhat peevishly.
Rose grinned in spite of the discomfort of the brightness; she was certain that mutinous tone had been in her own voice any number of times. She blinked a few more times and began to survey their surroundings as her eyes adjusted.
They were in a large room which was dominated by a clinical shade of white with pale grey or silver accents. Along the walls were panels with electronics alternating with shallow cabinets fronted by glass doors. Their shelves were stocked with jars containing different colors of liquids, some with things Rose was fairly sure she didn’t want identified suspended within them. Her gaze tracked over a number of doors with electronic keypads next to them, some of which were standing open.
She and the Doctor took hesitant steps into the room, still holding hands. Rose continued to catalogue the contents of the room until her gaze landed on the center of the room. She gasped, the sound surprisingly loud in the still of the room.
“Doctor!” she exclaimed. “Is that what I think it is?” She stared up at his face, which was locked in one of his closed-off expressions, the kind she was always terrified she wouldn’t be able to wipe off with a well-timed joke or a sweet smile this time around. “Doctor?”
He tore his gaze from the center of the room and looked down into Rose’s worried eyes. There was a terror in his eyes that Rose was fairly certain she had only seen there once before – when she’d been clinging by the tips of her fingers to the lever at Canary Wharf, seconds away from losing her grip and falling into an endless hell of nothing along with millions of Daleks and thousands of Cybermen.
“It’s a TARDIS console,” he said, his voice flat.
“It’s not yours?” she asked, grasping for one last moment of hope in the face of the Doctor’s terror.
“No,” he choked out. He shook his head a little, and the shadow of a mischievous twinkle entered his eyes. “Certainly not one of my previous self’s, and honestly I can’t see me ever going for the mad scientist look.” For a moment Rose thought he was going to be able to hold on to the humor of that statement, but his eyes immediately shuttered again. “Besides, it doesn’t feel like my TARDIS.”
Rose closed her eyes and concentrated. Though since she’d looked into its heart she had often felt the Doctor’s TARDIS at the edge of her mind, had spent years taking comfort in its warmth, this room felt cold. Empty. No, she thought, this couldn’t be the Doctor’s TARDIS. This was definitely not her home. “No,” she said softly. “It really doesn’t.”
“I wonder whose it is,” the other Doctor mused aloud, leading Charley past Rose and her Doctor with a hand resting lightly at the small of Charley’s back. He drifted away from her then, towards the unfamiliar TARDIS’s console. “Doesn’t seem like quite the Master’s style to me.”
Rose watched her Doctor run his free hand through his tangled hair and wished she knew what to say to him to help.
“It can’t be anyone’s TARDIS,” he said, more to himself than to anyone else in the room. “This can’t be happening.”
“If you…” Charley paused momentarily. “Regenerate, right?” The other Doctor nodded at Charley, and she continued. “If you regenerate and it changes your personality, and your TARDIS can look differently if you want it to, why couldn’t this be this Master person, just… regenerated?”
The other Doctor nodded. “Could be,” he said. “But it doesn’t feel like his sort of thing.”
“It’s not the Master.”
Rose heard a finality in the Doctor’s tone that had her dropping his hand and stepping in front of him. She smoothed the lapels of his suit jacket in a manner she knew he’d always found soothing and then cupped his cheeks with her hands.
“Tell me,” she said softly. “Breathe, and tell me.”
He glanced over at his other self. “I can’t.”
The other Doctor gazed at them steadily for a moment and then gestured to Charley. “Come with me,” he said. “Let’s go see if there’s anything on the TARDIS that could help us.”
“But, Doctor…” Charley began. He cut her off with a pointed look at his other self and Rose, and she nodded. “Of course.”
As soon as they had re-entered the TARDIS, Rose pulled her Doctor’s attention back to her. “Now tell me,” she said softly, her hands dropping to his lapels once more.
“It can’t be the Master,” he repeated.
“You said that. Tell me why you said it the way you said it.”
“He survived, Rose.” The Doctor’s voice sounded dangerously close to breaking.
“What, the War? You said no one survived. You said everyone died.”
“He was hiding at the end of the universe, hiding as a human, so it missed him. What I did, it missed him, and there he was. I – we – that is, myself and this woman I was traveling with, Martha, and Captain Jack…”
“You’ve seen Jack?” Rose asked, brightening in spite of their situation. “How is he?”
“Oh,” the Doctor said. “Er, he’s fine.” Something in his tone made Rose wonder exactly how fine Jack really was, but she chose not to press that particular button when she was obviously already in tender territory. “Anyway, we met the Master at the end of the universe, and then he tried… he went back to your time, a little bit after Canary Wharf, and he tried…” He broke off.
Rose reached up and adjusted his tie. “What did he try to do?” she asked, trying to keep her tone businesslike.
“He stole my TARDIS and used her to create a paradox. He could tell Gallifrey was gone, and he wanted to bring back the humans from the end of the universe and turn the Earth into the base of a new Gallifreyan empire.”
Rose watched the Doctor go somewhere very far away in his mind, somewhere far away and very, very sad. Her heart ached for him, and for the fact that she didn’t know how to fix it.
“Eventually I got it sorted,” he said, a trace of his usual cockiness breaking through. “With a little help, of course. I was going to take him on board the TARDIS, keep him on board, keep him from wreaking havoc, but then he was shot right in front of me.”
He looked down into Rose’s eyes, his own eyes brimming with unshed tears. “He died in my arms, Rose. The only other Time Lord in the entire universe, and he died in my arms.”
“He chose not regenerate,” Rose whispered incredulously, thinking back to what the other Doctor had told her in the chip shop in Pete’s World.
“I couldn’t save him. I couldn’t save any of them, Rose, not any of them.” She knew he was talking about the Time Lords, not anyone who would have been affected by the Master’s plan to refashion Earth in some twisted image of Gallifrey.
Rose raised her hands back to the Doctor’s face. “You did what you had to,” she said calmly, steadily. “You did what was necessary, nothing more, nothing less.”
The Doctor lowered his forehead to hers and took a deep breath, then another. “I know,” he said raggedly. “I know.”
He pulled away and Rose let him take a step back, sensing he needed the distance to rein in the emotion he’d let loose. After a moment, she spoke up, once again using a down-to-business tone in hopes of helping him focus.
“So, it can’t be the Master. Who else can it be?”
“No one,” he said immediately. “There’s no one else, I told you I’d feel them if they were out there.”
“You didn’t feel the Master.”
“He was a human, and he was at the end of the universe, trillions of years in the future and an unimaginable physical distance away. And then he was using a satellite to mask his presence.”
“Doctor, we’re standing in a TARDIS that isn’t yours. Either we’ve crossed into a timeline you swore was unchangeable thanks to the war, or else there is another Time Lord out there who managed to keep himself masked from you.”
A low, feminine laugh sounded from the other side of the room, and the Doctor and Rose whipped their heads around to look for the source. A woman with blood-red nails stepped into the room from one of the corridors, a smug smile on her face.
“Or a Time Lady keeping herself masked.”