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: 1889 (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 | chapter fourteen | chapter fifteen | chapter sixteen
Charley let her Doctor lead her into the TARDIS, jogging slightly to keep up with his long strides. She glanced over her shoulder as they crossed the threshold, saw Rose standing close to the other Doctor and watching him carefully.
“They are coming, Doctor,” she asked, worried. “Aren’t they?”
“Of course they are,” he said briskly, dropping her hand when she hung back at the door. He bounded up to his console and began working.
Charley watched the others outside, but couldn’t hear anything they were saying over the din of the Rani’s TARDIS self-destructing.
“Charley, I need you,” the Doctor called. She spun around and jogged the short distance to his side at the console.
“I can help?” she asked. The Doctor had never asked her to help him fly the TARDIS.
“Managing this is going to be a bit tricky,” he admitted. “Keeping his TARDIS along with mine while still getting away from the Rani’s without getting caught in the self-destruct…” He trailed off, his gaze going to the door. “We don’t have much time. And it’s going to take all four of us to make it out of this one.”
Charley took a deep breath and then nodded. “Okay, Doctor. Tell me what to do.”
He began to explain to her what she needed to do, until the other Doctor and Rose rushed in a moment later, the Doctor shutting the door behind them. Charley’s heart nearly cracked down the middle at the look on his face. It was, she decided, no wonder he’d been so extraordinarily happy to see Rose again. If he made a habit of going around looking that sad, Charley imagined he needed someone around who could make him smile the way Rose could.
“Ah, you decided to come after all,” Charley heard her Doctor say dryly from her side. “Good. I would have hated to leave without you.”
“I had to try,” the other Doctor insisted. “It’s important I try.”
“Hmm,” was all her Doctor said, and Charley wondered how much regeneration really changed him, despite his claims that it only changed his face and mannerisms. Then she thought about what the other Doctor had said about what happened to Gallifrey, how he’d told her she couldn’t travel with him because he ruined lives, and she thought maybe it was experiences that had changed him more than anything else.
The other Doctor and Rose met them at the console. “What still needs doing?” he asked briskly.
“I thought you and Rose could handle navigation,” the Doctor replied. “Charley and I can take care of keeping your TARDIS inside mine.” His eyes met his counterpart’s, and Charley was certain the tension between them could have been touched and tasted. “We need to land somewhere safe for the TARDISes to separate, and my instinct is to take us home, to Gallifrey. But apparently if I did, we’d tear the universe in two with our paradox, so I think we’d best not.”
“No,” the other Doctor said flatly. “I’ll take us somewhere safe, don’t worry.”
Just as he said it, there was a loud bang from outside the TARDIS, and the ship shuddered ominously.
“And the sooner the better, I think,” he added, jumping to the other side of the console. He gave Rose rapid-fire directions. Charley saw that her eyes were wide with nerves, but she followed everything the Doctor told her to the letter. Charley set her jaw, determined to be as cool under pressure. She turned to her Doctor.
“Finish telling me what you need,” she instructed.
After a few more harrowing bangs and shudders and one terrifying moment when they thought they were going to leave without the other Doctor’s TARDIS tagging along, Charley felt the subtle shift in atmosphere, the tiny adjustment of the TARDIS’ humming that indicated that they were in the Vortex. It was still a rough ride, but the Doctors were beginning to smile instead of frown as they worked, and Charley was certain that was a good sign.
“Where are we going, Doctor?” Rose asked suddenly, after he’d instructed her to hold down another lever and spin a wheel for a certain length of time.
“Home,” he said, with an intense look in the direction of Charley and her Doctor.
Charley glanced over at her Doctor, but his face was unreadable, especially in the still-dim lighting of the console room. Then there was a sharp jerk to the left, and she stumbled slightly. She forced herself to concentrate on keeping her balance so she wouldn’t be interrupted in the important work of keeping the two TARDISes tethered together during the journey.
Of course, there was only so much preparation she could make for what she was certain amounted to a crash landing, wherever they were. She found herself on her bum on the console room floor, a fresh bump on the back of her head from bumping it against the leg of the Doctor’s armchair. She got to her feet, resisting the urge to groan as she straightened up. Then she looked over at the other Doctor, who was running his hands along Rose’s arms and staring her up and down as though inspecting her for damage.
“Aren’t you supposed to get better at flying the more you practice?” Charley asked. Beside her, her Doctor chuckled lightly as he got to his feet. The other Doctor whipped his head around to look at her.
“How could I have forgotten how cheeky you are?” he said, a clear note of affection underneath the insulted tone of his voice.
“You always did have a bit of a selective memory,” she said with a grin. She switched her gaze to her own Doctor. “You really think I believe you’ve had genuine amnesia that many times?”
“Charley!” he exclaimed. “I’m sure I haven’t any idea what you’re talking about,” he said, his face the picture of innocence.
Charley beamed. Oh, she had missed him. And now, here he was standing in front of her, joking with her like old times. It was going to be like it was before, it just had to be. She didn’t care what the other Doctor said about not remembering seeing her again, she wasn’t going to let anything stop her from staying with her Doctor. Especially not after they’d gone through so much in the process of being reunited.
“So where are we?” her Doctor asked, interrupting Charley’s thoughts. “If Gallifrey isn’t there anymore, where is home?”
Silently the other Doctor took Rose’s hand and, gesturing for Charley and her Doctor to follow them, headed out of the TARDIS. Rose sucked in a surprised breath when she took stock of their surroundings, which Charley thought looked like depressing high-rising concrete buildings of some kind.
“But this is the Powell Estate!” she exclaimed, staring at her Doctor.
“The TARDIS has a default return setting that takes her to the place she considers home if it becomes necessary. Before the War, it was always Gallifrey. After, it sort of changed a lot.” He stroked his thumb lightly along Rose’s cheekbone. “With you on board, the Powell Estate was a natural choice – you had roots, I didn’t. She picked it for you. Ever since…” He swallowed convulsively and then continued. “Ever since Canary Wharf, it’s stayed here. I think she knew that sometimes I just needed…” He trailed off, seeming unable to continue, and enfolded Rose in a hug, burying his face in her hair for a minute. Then, kissing her forehead lightly, he pulled away from her and came to stand in front of Charley and her Doctor.
“We carry on, you and I,” he said seriously. “We hurt, so much, for such a long time.” He glanced back at Rose briefly. “But then we find reasons to keep going, good reasons. I know you’re just going to wipe your memory of what you found out about the Time War anyway, but I want you to know that until then. We are strong enough. We carry on.”
Charley’s Doctor nodded slowly. “All right,” he said softly.
The other Doctor mirrored her Doctor’s nodding and then shifted his gaze to Charley. “And now the question is, what to do with you?”
“I’m staying with him!” Charley reached up and put her palm over his mouth when he made to contradict her. “I don’t care if you don’t remember seeing me again after you read the note I left in Singapore! I don’t! After all that’s happened to get me here, I’m not leaving him!”
The Doctor reached up and gently pulled her hand away from his mouth. “I’m sorry, did you say Singapore?”
Charley gaped at him. “Of course I said Singapore, wherever else would I have said?”
“Oh,” he said, eyes slowly widening. “Oh. OH!” He jumped back from her and began to gesticulate widely. “When you first came on board the TARDIS before everything went crazy, I said something about the note you left and then you asked me how I knew about it and I said because I’m the Doctor…”
“Yes, yes,” Charley muttered, “I was there.”
The Doctor blazed on as if he hadn’t heard her interruption. She thought perhaps he really hadn’t, the way he ran on and on. “But we never said what note we were talking about. I was talking about the note you left me here, on the TARDIS. When you left for good.” He bounded back to her, grabbing her hands. “We worked that whole Singapore thing out!” He dropped her hands again, did a little bit of a fist pump, bending slightly at the knees for emphasis. “Now I remember!” He shifted his attention to his counterpart.
“’Cause you lock up all the memories of what happened but you do it with a deadline, and now I remember why. So that I could remember being you, watching me hatching the plan to take you back to Singapore!” He ran his hands through his hair. “It’s wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff all over again!”
Charley looked over at Rose and mouthed “wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey?” Rose shrugged, but she was smiling fondly.
“We all go back to Singapore,” he continued, “and you modify your memories and I’ll modify her memories so that the last thing you both remember is getting back there after the Cybermen fiasco. We just… invent something, some way you managed to get back both at the same time, I dunno. You find the note she left at the desk and race after her, only to run into her in the lobby, racing back in to find you and tell you she didn’t mean it!”
“And you remember that?” her Doctor asked. Charley watched the other Doctor hopefully. He nodded enthusiastically.
“Clear as yesterday,” he said, still smiling manically. “Very well-timed memory lock, that one. Well done you.”
Charley thought about it for a moment. She wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of someone messing with her memories, but then again, she didn’t want to cause any paradoxes. And this was what the other Doctor – the one from the future, she reminded herself – said he remembered happening. Besides, wasn’t the only thing that mattered getting to stay with her Doctor, where she belonged?
“When can we start?” she asked firmly.
The other Doctor grinned yet again. “Right away.”