Author: Liz/surrexi —
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: 1401 (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 follows Eight and Charley back into Eight's TARDIS, so it picks up about halfway through chapter eleven.
chapter one | chapter two | chapter three | chapter four | chapter five | chapter six | chapter seven | chapter eight | chapter nine | chapter ten | chapter eleven | chapter twelve
The Doctor’s hand was warm and comforting on the small of Charley’s back as he led her further into the third TARDIS’ console room. She listened as her Doctor and the other Doctor discussed whose TARDIS it might be.
“It can’t be anyone’s TARDIS,” the other Doctor muttered quietly. He shook his head agitatedly. “This can’t be happening.”
A thought occurred to Charley, and she turned back to look at Rose and the man whose hand she held. “If you…” She paused slightly, glanced at her Doctor questioningly. “Regenerate, right?” He nodded at her in encouragement, and she pushed on. “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?”
He nodded thoughtfully. “Could be,” he said. “But it doesn’t feel like his sort of thing.”
“It’s not the Master.”
The sharpness of the other Doctor’s tone had Charley looking back at him in surprise. Rose had dropped his hand and was moving to stand in front of him, gently smoothing his lapels.
“Tell me,” she said softly, cupping his face with her hands, making him look her in the eye. “Breathe, and tell me.”
Charley saw his gaze briefly but pointedly flick over to her and her Doctor. “I can’t,” he said tightly.
Everyone was silent for a moment. Then her Doctor moved his hand from her lower back to her shoulder. “Come with me,” he said. “Let’s go see if there’s anything on the TARDIS that could help us.”
“But, Doctor…” Charley began. Then she caught the look in his eye and the slight jerk of his head towards Rose and his counterpart, and she realized he wanted to give them some space. “Of course.”
He led her back onto his TARDIS and, leaving the door slightly ajar behind him, skirted around her and headed straight for the console. Charley trailed after him at a slower pace, enjoying being back in the room in which she’d spent so much of her time with him – when they weren’t running for their lives or negotiating for them with some hostile person or alien. Even in the dim emergency lighting she could make out things that had been altered slightly, things that remained endearingly the same. It made her smile, and she held the warm feeling of home close to her heart, armor against the storm she knew they hadn’t survived yet.
She reached the Doctor and found him pressing buttons seemingly at random. “Is that really going to help?” she asked skeptically.
“Er…” the Doctor hedged. “It… could. Maybe.”
Charley raised an eyebrow.
“All right, maybe not. But he obviously needed to tell her something I couldn’t know.”
Charley nodded. “I did get that impression, yes.” She glanced around the dim room. “Is there anything we can do here?”
“Not really,” the Doctor said regretfully. “I suppose I could dig out my sonic screwdriver. I so rarely use it, but it might come in handy…” He glanced around absently, patting his pockets as he did so. “Could be anywhere,” he muttered.
“He’s got one,” Charley put in. “I saw it. He said it’s got thousands of settings.”
“Thousands, eh?” A wry smile ghosted across his face. “Either he’s done a lot of tinkering with it or he’s exaggerating for maximum effect.”
Charley thought back to the way the other Doctor had been acting before they’d been pulled by something unknown into her own Doctor’s TARDIS. “I rather get the impression he’s had some time on his hands recently.” She stepped closer to the Doctor and touched his arm. “And you? Have you been keeping busy?”
The Doctor looked down at her, a tender smile on his face. “I seem to end up busy without even trying. But I have missed you terribly, Charley.” He pulled her into his arms for a hug, and she burrowed into him.
“I missed you too,” she said into his chest. “So much.”
Suddenly, the Doctor stiffened. “Something’s wrong,” he said quietly.
Charley pulled back slightly and looked up at him curiously. “More wrong than it already is?”
He nodded. “I can feel him – the other me, I can feel him in my head – and something is wrong.” He let go of Charley and crept to the door. He peered out and saw the woman with the red nails striding into the room.
“Or a Time Lady keeping herself masked,” she said, sounding smug and proud.
Charley, who had followed the Doctor to the door and was peering out as well, touched his shoulder lightly. “Who’s she?” she asked in a whisper.
“I’m not sure,” the Doctor replied. “There are a few possibilities. Can’t be Romana,” he mused. “She wouldn’t do something like this.” He shook his head, muttering things Charley didn’t catch under his breath. “Wait,” he said. “The equipment in the console room, the specimens in the jars…” He fixed his gaze on the woman. “It’s the Rani,” he breathed.
“The Rani?” Charley questioned.
“She’s a scientist,” he whispered. “A brilliant, genius scientist without even a semblance of a moral code. If it benefits her research,” he explained, “then it’s permissible as far as she’s concerned.” He looked back at his counterpart’s TARDIS standing in his own console room, then down at Charley beside him. “If she’s behind this, it’s very, very bad.” He took a deep breath. “Well, no use hiding in here.” He slipped his hand into Charley’s. “Come on, Charley. Stay close.”
He pushed the door open and stepped through. The woman he’d called the Rani immediately looked over at them, a wide and menacing smile on her face.
“So good of you to join us,” she said.
“Hello, Rani,” he replied dryly.
“I was just about to explain why I’ve brought you here, and I do hate repeating myself. Such a waste of time, don’t you think, Doctor?”
Neither Charley’s Doctor nor Rose’s Doctor said anything in response, and Charley supposed this Rani person wasn’t really expecting anything anyway.
“You’ve done something,” she said, turning towards the other Doctor. “I want to know what.”
He was stone-faced for a moment, but then was all forced brightness, though Charley could see his fingers tighten around Rose’s. “Oh, I’ve done many things in my time, most of which I’m sure you would find interfering and lacking in vision. You’ll have to be more specific.”
“Oh, don’t be so thick,” the Rani replied impatiently. “You and the Master, always talking around everything like children, never just saying what’s what. How either of you ever got anything done I will never know.” She crossed the distance between the two of them until she stood less than a foot in front of him, staring him right in the eyes. “Gallifrey, Doctor. I was in a parallel world, and then suddenly I couldn’t get back. The way was shut. It took me years, Doctor. Years wasted trying to get back here when I could have been making progress with my real work. And months wasted finding him, in his different time stream, following him until he found her,” she gestured to Rose, “which made it possible for your time streams to cross. And here we are, after all that wasted time. So I’d like to know, Doctor. What have you done to Gallifrey?”
Beside her, Charley felt the Doctor go still. She, too, wondered what the Rani was talking about. The last Charley had known, everything was fine on Gallifrey. Oh, the Time Lords were pompous and Rassilon had turned out to be a bit of a turncoat, but Romana had been all right, and at least once they left they could laugh at the funny capes and hats and the Doctor could tell her the story of how he’d stolen the TARDIS when he was much younger and never stopped running since.
“It’s… gone,” her Doctor said suddenly. “I can’t… that’s what’s been bothering me since we landed. I didn’t say anything, I thought it was just that something was off with Time and it was part of the problem of your TARDIS in my TARDIS in this TARDIS, but I can’t feel Gallifrey.” He turned to look at his counterpart. “Where are the Time Lords? Where is Gallifrey?”
“There was a war,” the other Doctor said flatly.
“And?” her Doctor replied, still sounding confused.