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: 1443 (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.
chapter one | chapter two | chapter three | chapter four | chapter five | chapter six | chapter seven | chapter eight | chapter nine | chapter ten | chapter eleven | chapter twelve | chapter thirteen
When the Rani asked about Gallifrey, Rose wished she could whisk the Doctor out of the room, away from the woman with the sharp red nails and the sardonic voice who was insisting on bringing up old pain, resurrecting old ghosts. Rose grimaced inwardly. Resurrecting old ghosts? What if that was exactly what the Rani was trying to do?
Rose and the Doctor hadn’t discussed the Time War very often, but sometimes when he was feeling particularly morbid, or the occasional time he accidentally got drunk on an unfamiliar planet, he had let slip certain details. One of the ones he almost always saw fit to mention was that nothing about the Time War could be altered, that the entire thing had been time-locked, and that as a by-product, he could never go back to Gallifrey, even if it were to a time prior to the Time War.
Rose had never quite understood how that had worked, but considering the subject she had chosen not to press for further explanations. She was fairly certain she wouldn’t understand anyway – much as she loved traveling with the Doctor, the wibbly-wobbly nature of most of their travels often gave her a headache if she thought about it too much.
She shook herself mentally and resumed paying attention to the conversation around her in time to hear her Doctor speak in the tone he always used when talking about the Time War.
“There was a war.”
“And?” asked the other Doctor.
Rose squeezed the Doctor’s hand helplessly, knowing there was little she could do at this point. She promised herself that when they got out of this – and she refused to believe they would do otherwise, as she hadn’t managed to cross the Void only to lose him immediately – she would come up with something spectacularly cheerful for them to do.
“But that’s not an answer, Doctor,” the Rani put in. “I want to know what you did.”
“Why do you care, Rani?” he asked, looking her in the eye. “You hated them, all of them. You hated how they limited you, how they restricted you. Why do you care that they’re gone?” he finished angrily.
Out of the corner of her eye, Rose saw that the other Doctor still looked shell-shocked over the news about Gallifrey and the rest of the Time Lords, but was nodding along with what her Doctor was saying.
“I never wanted them gone,” the Rani exclaimed, pacing away from the Doctor. “Oh, of course I wanted them to leave me alone and stay out of my affairs.” She turned back to look at the Doctors and their companions. “But the Time Lords had their uses, and besides, my TARDIS doesn’t run the same without Gallifrey hanging about. And how am I supposed to get back and forth from my parallel universe without other Time Lords about to manage the breaches for me?”
“Tragic,” the Doctor murmured. Rose took it as a good sign that he was making snide remarks.
“But I digress,” the Rani said, striding back to the Doctor. “What did you do? You’re the only one left; it had to be you that did whatever it was that happened. Tell me,” she insisted. Her eyes slid from Rose’s Doctor to the other Doctor and back again. “Tell him what’s in store.”
“There was a war,” the Doctor said again. “A war with the Daleks,” he continued, and Rose could tell that he wished he had another choice. “At the end of it, it was a choice between Gallifrey and the universe.” He looked over at the other Doctor, locked gazes.
“I choose the universe,” the other Doctor said, his voice resigned and sad, but strong as well. Rose thought perhaps this Doctor had a confidence her Doctors had lacked, perhaps he didn’t second-guess himself as often because he hadn’t yet made that terrible choice, hadn’t yet followed through on it and destroyed his own people in the process.
“I chose the universe,” her Doctor acknowledged gravely.
“How noble,” the Rani said sardonically. “And then, let me guess, you time-locked it so no one – not you, not the Time Lords, not the Daleks – could go back or forward or sideways to change it?”
“I had to end it.”
The Rani folded her arms across her chest and made a humph sound. “That’s too bad.” She wandered over to her console. “As you probably remember, the last time we met I was experimenting with Time – manipulating it, controlling it.” She began to press buttons in a leisurely manner, continuing to speak as she did so. “You interrupted me, of course, and ruined much of my work. And now you’ve inconvenienced me again – a terrible habit you’ve made, ever since our school days.” She shook her head, turned back to face them.
“You’re making up for now, though, Doctor, because in inconveniencing me you’ve given me something truly excellent to experiment on. An expert time lock, truly well-done you,” she added, turning to the other Doctor. “And then years of your life have gone by,” she said, turning back to Rose’s Doctor. “You’ve even regenerated again, if I’m not mistaken. Massive paradox in the making if I’m successful in unlocking the Time War, and I’m not interested in destroying the universe while I’m standing in it, so that’s that to be taken care of as well.”
She reached behind her without turning and hit another button, and the time rotor of her TARDIS began to pulse slowly and emit a faint bluish-white glow. Rose shifted slightly, nerves humming. This, she decided, could not be good.
“Which is why I need you both,” the Rani finished. “Both your TARDISes, and both of you.”
“The Vortex loop,” the other Doctor said. “You’re going to use it to break the time lock on this Time War?” He shook his head. “That’s impossible.”
The Rani laughed. “You’re only saying that because you haven’t tried. Or have you?” she asked, turning to Rose’s Doctor, cruel amusement in her tone.
“No,” he said, his voice low and guttural with emotion. “No, I haven’t. I wouldn’t.”
“Of course not. Because you’re the Doctor, and your lot in life is to suffer in place of the universe, right?” She walked back over to him and Rose. “Why? Don’t you want Gallifrey back, Doctor? Wouldn’t you like to show her that sky you love and hate at the same time?”
“No,” he ground out, but his hand tightened on Rose’s.
“Pity,” the Rani said. She looked more closely at Rose, who resisted the urge to shrink away. “This one’s special, isn’t she?” the Rani mused aloud. “There’s something about her, something…” The Rani’s eyes sharpened and it seemed to Rose as if she were filing information away somewhere in her vast Time Lord brain. “That’s a question for another day, I think,” she murmured, and Rose shuddered a little imagining what that might mean.
The Rani paced over to the other Doctor and Charley. “Anyway, Doctor, as I was saying, you only think I can’t break your time lock because you haven’t tried, you haven’t researched.” She laid a hand on his shoulder, and Rose could see his whole body go stiff. “Everything can be broken, Doctor.” She dropped her hand and began striding back to her console. “You just need the right tools.”
“And you think you’ve got them?” Rose decided all couldn’t possibly be lost if her Doctor was still asking questions in that scathingly disbelieving tone.
But the Rani only laughed lightly. “I’ve got three TARDISes, Doctor. And I have you. Both of you. And if I’m right, if my calculations are correct… that’s all I need.” She smiled venomously. “You’ve always been rather blasé about meeting yourself, Doctor, but you know how dangerous it is. It’s even more dangerous with you two. For you,” she said, gesturing to the other Doctor, “Gallifrey still exists, the Time Lords are still alive, and all is well. But you,” she said, pointing at Rose and her Doctor, “for you, they’re gone. The two of you are a universe-imploding paradox waiting to happen.”
“You’re going to try use that to cancel out the paradox you’d create by breaking the time lock and bringing back Gallifrey?” the other Doctor blurted out.
“That’s insane!” said Rose’s Doctor.
Again, the Rani only laughed. “Three TARDISes with Vortex energy looping through all of them, building and building and building – soon the result will be strong enough to break any time lock. And a paradox to counter a paradox. I prefer brilliant to insane,” she said with a smile. “But to each his own.”