Title: Beware of Darkness
Date Posted: 27 May 2006
Author: Van Donovan
Characters: The Eighth Doctor, The Ninth Doctor, The Tenth Doctor, Rose
Word count: 3,093
Warnings: Spoilers through season two. Loosely set somewhere after "The Age of Steel."
Summary: The Doctor meets himself
Notes: Contains Doctor/Doctor slash. You've been warned. :)
“Get back inside the TARDIS, Rose.”
She stood in the doorway anyway, just staring. They’d landed in what she could only describe as a razed wasteland. The sky was a strange, sickly shade of yellow, and although she could make out the shapes of majestic buildings in the distance, they had long ago fallen derelict and into disuse. The ground rocked beneath her, as though some sort of sonic wave had just impacted with it, and Rose stumbled, clinging to the TARDIS door, nearly falling over from the force.
Around them, the landscape started changing. An eerie blackness materialized, looking like nothing more than a cloud. It expanded in the distance, engulfing the ancient city within seconds. The cloud shimmered and morphed the world it touched: the buildings faded away, then flickered back into existence looking new and pristine, then crumbled and fell again into old age.
Several meters away from the TARDIS, a man was lying face down in the blackened rubble, and the Doctor carefully but urgently picked his way toward him. The Doctor stumbled at the sonic tremor and looked up at the encroaching void of blackness. He knew where he was, despite all reason telling him he couldn’t be here and now, and he knew what was happening. Casting a glance over his shoulder at Rose after regaining his balance, he demanded, “Get back inside!” as he found her still watching. His voice was serious and firm, and she obeyed.
It wasn’t until Rose had closed the door of the TARDIS that the Doctor started moving forward again. He took a painful look around, allowing himself to take in the ravaged and burned planet, before returning to the task at hand. He quickly shed his trench coat as he dropped to his knees, draping the heavy fabric over the burned body of the man before him.
The face that was once recognizable had changed, scarred with burns. The soft dark hair that had once fallen in gentle waves about the man’s cheeks had melted away, leaving only a few blackened tendrils clinging to his scalp. The man’s plush velvet suit hung in charred and tattered rags on his thin frame.
The Doctor pressed his palm to his mouth in shock.
The man took a ragged, shuddering breath, pulling the Doctor from his thoughts. This person was still alive, still breathing, and the Doctor wondered why and how. The earth shuddered again and the buildings that time had aged suddenly flourished to youth once more. The yaw wavered, spreading, and that time left only a featureless black void in its stead. It was black, menacing and all consuming, and the Doctor knew he had no time left. The planet had no time life.
“This is how it happens,” he breathed, stunned. Without thinking on it, he scooped the unconscious man up in his arms. Adrenaline rushed through him and he turned on his plimsolls and ran for the TARDIS.
Maybe Rose had been watching, or maybe the TARDIS knew and understood—she had brought him here, after all—but the doors flew open, and he took one final look at his home world, and rushed inside. There was sudden silence as the doors snapped shut behind him. The death of Gallifrey was behind him now, outside him, and he was once again surrounded by the familiar, comforting hum of the TARDIS.
“What’s going on, Doctor?” Rose asked in a frightened tone, and he wished he could explain.
Instead he rested the dying man on the floor of the TARDIS and quickly rushed to the console. “I’ll explain later,” he said. Ignoring her for the time being, the Doctor quickly began to plot coordinates to escape. Gallifrey was about to be pulled into a time yaw, crushed into an infinite time of non-existence; it was something that had already happened, so how he could have been drawn there befuddled him. Destruction into never-space was an end far worse than falling into a black hole. He knew, somehow, he would escape, had to escape, and yet the fact didn’t make plotting the navigation any less terrifying, or the logic of the situation any more understandable.
Rose was frightened. There was a manic seriousness in the Doctor’s eyes that she hadn’t seen since the Daleks had taken her from the Gamestation. She knew that meant he was busy saving the universe again, telling her lies that everything was fine, but it still unsettled her. She did what was best for her in a situation like this: stayed out of his way.
Instead of pressing him for questions, she crossed the floor to where the man the Doctor had brought into the TARDIS still lay.
Initially, she had thought he was dead, but as she approached, he stirred. The action nearly made her jump out of her skin. He sat up slowly and very gingerly pulled the Doctor’s coat on over his burned body, hiding most of the blackened skin from her.
“Are you all right?” she asked, though she knew he wasn’t. She approached cautiously, one hand out, like she might address a feral cat. “Can I get you something? Some water or... or tea?”
She glanced to the Doctor, but he was still frantically running around the console. The TARDIS was whirling now, straining against something, and Rose wished she could remember where the medical supplies were kept.
The man looked at her, focused his hard blue eyes on hers, and she froze. There was something familiar about his gaze, but she didn’t know what. She couldn’t place it. “I’m dying,” he said in a raspy voice.
“I’m Rose,” she unthinkingly replied.
The man cracked a faint, broken smile, and blood dripped down his split lips. He looked around the TARDIS wonderingly. His eyes were wide and clear even though the rest of him was darkened and broken. His gaze fixed on the Doctor and held for several seconds. Then he shuddered and seemed to almost shimmer. He looked back at Rose. “It’s over,” he whispered, clearly in pain.
Rose moved closer to him, wanting to help and not knowing how. “Doctor!” she called, not taking her eyes off the man. If the Doctor heard her, he didn’t reply. “It’s gonna be all right,” she told the man in a softer voice, though she didn’t feel she sounded confident. She reached to cup his left cheek—he wasn’t as burned there, and his skin was still soft. The man reached up and pressed his hand over hers.
“Hold on, Rose,” he breathed, and then the man closed his eyes, and exploded in light.
The force knocked Rose onto her backside, and she had to bring her hands up to shield her eyes. She had seen that sort of light before, knew immediately what it was, but she’d been further away the first time she’d experienced it. She couldn’t watch this time; it was much too bright.
In the distance, seemingly so far away, she could hear the Doctor yelling, but she couldn’t make out what he was saying. The light from the man flared, and the heat it radiated almost seared her with its intensity. It lasted for only a few dozen seconds, but she felt like it had stretched nearly her whole lifetime.
When it faded, she scrambled to her knees again and found the man curled on his side, eyes closed, the Doctor’s trench coat now nearly too small for his suddenly larger frame.
“Oh my God,” Rose breathed, staring down at him.
His skin had regenerated into soft, healthy pink tones, his body thickened and lengthened. His hair had grown back, but only a little, in a short-cropped smattering. His eyes were closed, but she knew they’d be a dark cloudy blue when he opened them. “Doctor?” she whispered, but this time she was talking to him, not the man at the console.
“Don’t touch him,” the Doctor said. The TARDIS had calmed down. She had broken free of the time yaw and they were safe, for the time being. The Doctor approached slowly, stepping down from the console level to where Rose and the newly regenerated man were, still by the doors to the TARDIS. “He’s just gone through,” he waved his hand vaguely, “more trauma than anyone should ever have to.” His words were clipped, and his tone grave.
Rose couldn’t take her eyes off the man. He’d regenerated into the Doctor—her Doctor—the first Doctor she’d met, ages ago. “He’s you,” she managed to say.
The Doctor offered her a hand, and she finally looked up at him. His face was stony and his other hand was rather self-consciously stuck in his trouser pocket. She let him help her to her feet, stepping away from the other man. “That just a face all your people put on then?” she asked. “Start like the one, turn into him and move on to this?”
The Doctor’s eyes were on the man, and he shook his head. “No.” He held Rose’s hand for several seconds. “You were right: he’s me.”
Rose opened her mouth to protest, but before she could the other man took a deep, shuddering breath and woke up. He flopped onto his back and then sat up. “It’s all bananas now!” he exclaimed. “Fourteen billion pounds worth, nearly enough to feed the entire nation of Benta Tryl!”
At first, Rose started down toward him, but the Doctor’s hand kept her on her feet. He gave her a significant glance, released her hand, and dropped to his knees instead. “It’s over now,” he firmly said.
“It isn’t. It will never be over,” the man announced to the air. He then looked at the Doctor and his eyes instantly narrowed. His brow furrowed, sending creases rippling up along his forehead. “Who are you?” he demanded. His tone was suddenly cold and serious. “I don’t think you’re supposed to be here.”
The Doctor glanced up at Rose, then back to the man. “You’ve just regenerated,” he explained. “Try to relax.”
The man was having none of it. He staggered to his feet, swayed and grabbed onto the TARDIS wall for support. “This is my TARDIS,” he stated. “Hello, old girl.” He patted the wall fondly. Then he looked back to the Doctor. “Why are you in my TARDIS?” he questioned. His eyes focused on Rose. “Where’s Charley gone off to, then? She’s not supposed to--” he trailed off. Putting a hand to his head, he squeezed his eyes shut, as though in pain. “Oh.”
Aware suddenly of his apparel, he looked down and found himself wearing only the tattered remains of his Edwardian outfit and a too-small trench coat. He blinked hard, stretching his hands out in front of him. He flexed them once, turned them over to stare at their palms, and then closed them into fists. He pressed the fists into his eyes and rubbed, and when that didn’t help, he ran his fingers through his close-cropped hair.
It was that action that undid him. His body sagged and he slumped into the TARDIS wall, barely managing to keep upright.
“What’s going on?” Rose asked, her voice faint.
“It’s the end of the Time War, Rose,” the Doctor explained. “The very end, at least as far as I knew it. The Time Lords and the Daleks have ravaged Gallifrey and Skaro and a thousand other worlds into oblivion. Using time yaws and time loops they’ve destroyed everything that ever was, so it could never even be.” He smiled but there was no mirth in his eyes. “And yet somehow, despite my involvement, I survived. I never did remember how.”
He met the eyes of the other him, the younger, ninth regeneration. There was a flicker of recognition in those blue eyes, at last. The recognition passed fast, replaced with a darkness that penetrated deep into the Doctor’s hearts. He stepped forward, trying in vain to decide what to say or do, to possibly console him. “I’m sorry,” he finally managed.
He didn’t remember this, meeting himself and Rose. Looking at his newly regenerated self, he wondered if it wouldn’t have been more merciful to leave him dying on that burning rock; to let the time yaw erase him from history, along with Gallifrey and the rest of the Time Lords. It might have been easier, and the haunted look in the other man’s eyes told him perhaps it would have been kinder.
He remembered the pain. That was still fresh.
“Rose,” the Doctor said. “Go to the wardrobe and get something for our new companion, won’t you?” he said. “I’m sure you’ll have a good idea of what.”
She didn’t want to leave, and he knew that. So he looked away from the man standing in his coat and focused on the girl. “Rose.” His tone was serious and she tore her eyes off the younger Doctor at last, focusing on the one she’d only come to know over the last few months. “He needs a moment. We’re not going anywhere, I promise.”
It took a little bit more coaxing, but eventually she went. When he was certain she had finally gone, he reached into his suit pocket, pulled out a banana, and peeled it. “Here,” he said, handing it over. “That’ll give you energy.”
The man took it, pressing his back flat against the wall of the TARDIS. He took a bite of the banana without saying anything. He chewed and swallowed before he looked back up at the Doctor. “The war is over, and we lost?” His voice was soft.
The Doctor smiled sadly. “We won.”
“At what cost?”
The younger Doctor didn’t say anything in return: he just ate his banana and stared blankly down at the floor.
It took no time at all for Rose to return. In her arms, she carried the familiar black leather coat and slacks that the Doctor remembered always wearing during his previous regeneration. Rose also had found and brought out an olive green jumper too, and dark shoes and socks. The girl was thorough, if nothing else. She handed the items to him, remaining hovering on the edge, and he brought them to the other man.
“These’ll fit you,” he explained. “I suppose you know where my… your room is?”
The younger Doctor took the clothing lifelessly and nodded.
“I should explain some things to Rose,” the Doctor said, gesturing to the girl. “You’ll be all right for a few minutes?”
The other man nodded, but barely.
He walked away slowly, leaving the Doctor wondering if he really would be all right. There wasn’t time to follow him, so instead he turned to Rose once they were alone. “The TARDIS brought us here,” he explained. “She has self preservation procedures installed in the event of an emergency.”
“We weren’t in any sort of emergency, though,” Rose said, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Not ‘til we arrived there.”
“No,” the Doctor agreed, rocking back on his heels, “but he was.” He inclined his head toward the doorway that led deeper into the ship, where his younger self had gone off. “The TARDIS sensed he was in trouble, and we were detoured.”
The answer didn’t seem to satisfy Rose. After a moment of consideration, she asked, “Why didn’t his own TARDIS come?”
The Doctor opened his mouth to reply, then rocked forward onto his toes, curious. “Huh. That’s a good question. Very good question, Rose, well done.” After pondering the thought a few moments longer, he shook his head. “Well, never mind that, for now. Just be careful with him, all right? He isn’t who you think he is. I mean, he is, but not yet. You don’t want to imprint yourself on him.”
“He didn’t remember me,” Rose said. “You didn’t. If we met now, why didn’t he remember me?”
“There are certain protocols we have to follow whenever this sort of thing happens,” he explained. “That usually includes a memory wipe. I don’t remember any of this, so that must be it.”
“Oh,” Rose said. “Thought maybe he was another you. Different timeline you.”
The Doctor studied her for a bit, pushing both his hands into his trouser pockets. He couldn’t get the image of the destroyed Gallifrey he’d just seen out of his mind; the image had faded a bit in his mind, with time, but seeing it anew opened the old wounds wide. “You want him to be?”
Rose shrugged. “I just want to help him.”
The Doctor cleared his head and smiled at her. “You will.”
The sound of footsteps made the both of them turn. They found the newly regenerated Doctor standing in the doorway, looking dark and somewhat lost in his new clothes. He shifted awkwardly, clearly not yet comfortable in his new skin. His eyes darted uncertainly between them.
“Hello, Doctor,” Rose said fondly. His gaze settled on her. She gave him a friendly, welcoming smile. “Welcome aboard,” she added. “We’re delighted to have you here.”
The Doctor tensed a little, looked at her, then stepped forward, placing himself between her and the time displaced man. “She means well,” he explained. “She doesn’t really understand.” He stepped up onto the console and crossed over to him.
There was a roughness to the other Doctor, a grittiness that seemed well worn, despite the new skin. The Doctor was old, so very old, and yet this version of himself seemed older, somehow. There was weariness in his eyes, an emptiness. It made his hearts ache.
The Doctor reached out to touch him, longing for contact, to sooth away the pains of what he had just gone through. No simple embrace could cure him, but he wasn’t alone, not right now. He felt that was an important thought to convey.
He wanted that reassurance as much for himself as for the other man. But, as soon as his fingertips touched the worn leather coat sleeve, the man jerked away, stepping back to distance himself.
Coldness flashed into the ninth regenerated Doctor’s haunted eyes and he fixed them on his older self. “I’m tired,” he said in a monotone voice. “I’m going to sleep.”
He looked once more at Rose, before turning to disappear down the corridor again, only his new body, still weak from the regeneration, didn’t hold out. He took several steps and staggered as his legs buckled. The Doctor hurried forward intuitively, catching him in his arms just as the other man fell into sudden unconsciousness.
.. to part two