Author's Note: Next chapter. Sorry this took so long to post. I hope to have more long overdue updates up next week.

I do not own Doctor Who or any of its characters.

Thank you to everyone who is reading/following/favoriting/reviewing this. It is always appreciated. :)

Chapter Fifteen

Even though it was late in the day, the sun continued to beat down on the landscape below. The air was dry and had turned the vegetation as brown as the dust that was kicked up by the steps of the little band of humans and aliens trudging back to the hacienda. The heat was oppressive and was the sort that sapped away a person's energy the longer one was in it. In short, it was miserable weather masquerading as a pleasant day.

And it was a perfect match for the Doctor's perspective of the situation he was in.

He took off his long black frockcoat and slung it over his shoulder while scowling again at his future self who was walking alongside him. This wasn't the first time he had met one of his later incarnations and had been vaguely disappointed or worried over what he saw. However, something about this version made even more leery than usual.

'Is this really what I turn into?' he thought to himself. 'An ostentatious grandstander who thinks that talking like a thesaurus and dressing like a cosmic carnival barker will get him results?'

"You are hardly one to criticize my fashion choices. At least I dress in clothes that fit me properly. After all, it's not as if the 'homeless eccentric' look ever caught on."

The Doctor's scowl deepened. He wasn't shocked that his later self had decided to invade his mind again. They needed to formulate some kind of plan to get themselves and their companions out of this mess without Dastari or Chessene finding out about it. It made sense for them to communicate their ideas telepathically in order to give them this advantage over their opponents.

Unfortunately, that also meant that he would have to put up with his other self's snide remarks.

"And you're telling me that the 'rainbow, patchwork quilt' look did?" he mentally snapped back at himself. "What in Rassilon's name possessed you to go with that outfit? And for that matter how did it even get into the TARDIS wardrobe in the first place? Have you been messing with the matter-constitution circuits?"

"Messing? Messing?!" his future incarnation retorted. "For your edification, I had acquired that suit from a very exclusive boutique about, oh, two incarnations back and had just never gotten around to wearing it. And just so we are clear on this, the TARDIS was able to make all the needed tailoring adjustments thanks to my thorough and exceptional repair work on her systems. Patchwork indeed. Do you have any idea how many of your 'chewing gun and string' fixes I've had to undo to get the old girl working optimally again?"

"Oh sure, it's easy to spend weeks fussing over a single circuit board when you don't have to worry about the Time Lords catching up with you," the Doctor shot back. "Look, this isn't getting us anywhere. We need to stop Dastari and Chessene from going through with this mad scheme of theirs. We simply can't let the Androgums have access to time travel."

"No," his later version responded. "No, that would be a disaster of epic proportions. I still can't believe that Dastari would willingly be involved in something like this."

"He's not the man you probably remember," the Doctor said. "He's…changed. He's actually convinced that the only way to bring about real progress in the universe is to guide and elevate the Androgums into a higher form of life by offering them great power and knowledge without restraint."

"You mean like what the Time Lords did with the Minyans?" the taller Doctor thought back. "Yes, I think I understand now. No wonder he was so willing to dissect the first Time Lord he could find."

Yes, well," the Doctor said, a shudder going through him. "Any ideas on how to put an end to this?"

"Nothing concrete," his future incarnation replied. "I do have something brewing that should ensure that they won't be able to use their Kartz-Reimer module. Beyond that though, I'm at a bit of a loss. Haven't you come up with anything?"

"When would I have had time before now?" the Doctor thought at him with another glare. "However, to answer your question, I have nothing at the moment. Why don't you go back to your own mind and leave my brain alone for a little while so I can think in peace?"

"Technically, it's my brain too," his later self replied. "Oh all right then. Might as well seeing as neither of us have come up with anything yet. Do let me know though if you think of something, will you?"

The Doctor thought about sending back another pointed remark, but decided to relish the newly gained quiet instead. Truthfully, he was still struggling with obtrusive thoughts about food and eating due to the linger effects of Dastari injecting Androgum genetics into him. He suddenly realized that his future self had either not noticed it or had chosen not to comment on it. Probably the latter. It was an unexpected bit of kindness and one he was grateful for.

It was then that he started to question his initial impression of this later version of himself. Everything about his appearance and demeanor shouted at the universe with a brash, pretentious, and almost angry voice. However, the Doctor could also sense a softness and warmth in this self's hearts that belied this harsh, brittle persona. He wondered why there was such a marked contrast between his future incarnation's outward manner and his inner being. Unable to check his curiosity, he gently probed the edges of his later self's thoughts. Just enough to give him some insight into what drove this version to so carefully hide himself away.

Then he caught a glimpse of pain, terror and darkness lurking in the corners of this colorful Doctor's soul.

The Doctor immediately pulled back. For a moment, he worried that his other self had noticed what he had done, but it wasn't long until the Doctor realized that he had been undetected. Then he felt his concern grow over what could have happened to his future incarnation. He could tell that it hadn't been all that long since his regeneration, and the Doctor was uneasy about the things that must have taken place in such a short time.

The Doctor sighed inwardly, his expression softening. He knew that his later versions did not want him to fuss over them. They had always bristled against it whenever he did. Still, he usually found that he couldn't help himself. Even though they were older than he was in some sense, the Doctor still felt compelled to look after them as best he could. The Doctor pondered the darkness he had seen and a disturbing thought came to him.

'Does he remember what I did while I was working for the CIA? All those years of duplicity and horrible, horrible events…has some of that made its way back into his conscious mind?'

The Doctor had to work hard to keep his expression neutral. He knew that the Time Lords would eventually wipe his memories of the missions he undertook as a "security precaution". He knew that most of them would consider it another facet of his punishment. Contrary to that belief, the Doctor did not resent this eventuality. In fact, he welcomed it. The truth was, he had no desire to remember all these years trapped in servitude to help preserve a status quo he frequently did not believe in. There was very little that he wished to hold onto from this time, and he had already made plans to ensure the safety of the memories that mattered to him.

Now, however, he questioned if the Time Lords had been truly successful in making sure that nothing remained of his tenure in the CIA. Even if the details of his work had not survived, there was a chance that a shadow of the things that he had seen and done had seeped into this future self's subconscious. Although he couldn't afford to dwell on it now, the Doctor made a promise to give this more consideration after this was over and maybe even work on finding a way to further suppress the effects this punishment would have on this other Doctor's psyche.

The Doctor was wrapping up his thoughts on the matter when he saw the body of a man lying face down just off the road. He was about to go over to see what had happened to him, not caring if Chessene would like it or not, when he suddenly realized that this was the driver of the truck he and Shockeye had stolen earlier. This revelation halted his feet as he stared at the broken corpse beside him, bowing his head.

"Keep moving," Chessene ordered with a flick of the gun in her hand. "Unless you would like to join this creature here. Remember that I only need one Time Lord for Dastari's operations."

The Doctor glowered at her. Then he felt a hand on his shoulder trying to nudge him along. He looked over to see his future incarnation giving him a nod. The Doctor nodded back and resumed his slow march toward the hacienda. In that moment, it occurred to him that he shouldn't have been shocked to see so much darkness in his later version.

Mainly because he was now convinced that it had its roots in him.

The Doctor felt bile at the back of his throat. All the food he had gorged down as an Androgum still weighed heavy on him, and he wished he could vomit it all up. Still, he was also aware that expelling the excess food would not get rid of the stain he felt on his mind and hearts. It would simply be another mark to blacken him on the inside. He had gathered many such marks during all those years he spent alone, toiling away for the CIA. Try as he might, he doubted that he would ever forget completely the way his mind was corrupted by feelings and urges that were abhorrent to him. Even worse was the idea that this corruption might have a chance to infest his future selves.

Suddenly, his brooding was interrupted by a warm hand patting his shoulder. He paused to face Jamie, who had been walking behind him.

"Doctor, it was nae yer fault," he said. "Ye were nae in yer right mind. And it was Shockeye who did the murderin', nae ye. He was looking for an excuse to kill. There was nothing ye could have done to stop him."

"Be silent," Chessene snapped. "And keep going."

The Doctor patted the piper's hand and gave him a meaningful look before the two of them resumed their march. He had fervently hoped that Jamie had not seen too much of him as an Androgum and was crushed when he realized that that was not the case. Ever since the CIA had allowed him to travel with the piper again, the Doctor had done his best to shield Jamie from the darkest aspects of his work and his own nature. Now, he would have to live with the knowledge that Jamie had seen him as a monster that was controlled by his basest desires.

He glanced back at Jamie again, a mix of delight and desolation filling his hearts. When he saw Jamie walk into his line of view while he was strapped to that wheelchair in the hacienda, he had been overwhelmed by a pure, unbridled joy. In that moment, if Jamie had wanted both of them to eat porridge and haggis for a week or had wanted to practice his bagpipes for hours on end in the console room, the Doctor would have gladly agreed to it, so great was his jubilation at seeing the piper alive and well. Just having Jamie near him and hearing his voice were comforts that he still could not believe he was able to savor again.

However, the Doctor was also painfully aware of the hardships Jamie must have faced since they arrived on Chimera…and the peril he continued to be in.

The Doctor felt his hearts sink again. During those moments when his body rejected the Androgum DNA and transformed itself back to full Time Lord, the Doctor had heard Jamie speaking to him and had felt the piper's hands gently clasping his shoulders. While it was true that Jamie's presence had helped him during the transition, he was also upset with the piper for taking such a huge risk.

'What was he thinking?' he silently fumed. 'That Androgum instinct was so strong, so powerful…I could have hurt him if I had had the chance. I might have even killed him if he had gotten between me and whatever desire had seized my mind in the moment.'

'I could have killed Jamie.'

The Doctor's insides quaked. He knew that he would not have been able to live with himself if he had hurt Jamie. It was bad enough that he would have to live with the memory of what he might have done. For a second, something clicked in his mind, an echo of the impressions he had gotten from his later self's mind. Then, just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone. The Doctor was disturbed at the implications behind that impression, but his concern for Jamie took precedence in his mind.

'Chessene said that she only needs one of my selves for Dastari's atrocities. So what does she plan to do with Jamie…or that other young lady, Peri?'

The Doctor swallowed hard. He vaguely remembered Shockeye fleeing the restaurant after he had attacked that matre'd. He didn't imagine that anyone would be able to stop the Androgum from leaving Seville and could guess that Shockeye eventually returned to the hacienda. The Doctor recalled how eager Shockeye had been to consume a human, and this memory created some alarming scenarios in his brain.

However, it wasn't long before the fear he felt over what Chessene or Shockeye might be planning for Jamie was replaced with anger. The Sontarans had already tried to kill Jamie once. Now the Androgums were probably getting ready to do the same thing. Having endured days of being drugged, prodded and restrained, the Doctor's nerves were shredded, his resolve stretched tight. He had not forgotten the importance of halting Dastari's experiments, but it was becoming difficult to not let this become something far more personal.

The Doctor blinked his eyes slowly and took a deep breath. His thoughts and feelings were moving into dangerous territory. Dwelling on revenge would only hinder his ability to think rationally and find a solution to the problems at hand. He would have to remain calm, despite the fury and revulsion he felt.

Soon, the hacienda was in sight. The Doctor sighed loudly as he dragged his feet over the broken stones of the front courtyard. Once they were inside, he pulled his coat back over his shoulders.

"Oh my word, what a mess," he said with a levity he did not feel.

"Hmm, I think, perhaps, Dastari you ought to sack your chatelaine," his later self quipped.

Shockeye soon appeared and explained how the ruined state of the hacienda was due to Stike meddling with his space craft while brandishing a limb from his corpse. Neither Dastari nor Chessene seemed particularly shocked or distressed by the news which was did not surprise the Doctor in the least.

"Down to the cellars," she ordered. "You know the way, I think."

The Doctor grimaced, but complied dutifully, unwilling to endanger Jamie or Peri by resisting. Once they were down there, Chessene and Dastari were concerned about the condition of the Kartz-Reimer module. Dastari asked about the briode nebulizer, and the Doctor raised an eyebrow as he watched his future incarnation put it out of his vest pocket.

"You mean this?" the curly-haired Doctor said brightly.

Then the Doctor frowned as he listened to his other self explain why he had to remove it so that his "symbiotic print" could not be used to operate the machine.

'Utter nonsense,' he thought. 'But it looks like those two are ready to swallow it. At the very least, we won't have to worry about getting dissected any time soon…and the Androgums won't have a functioning time machine.'

The Doctor frowned again as he grudgingly admitted to himself that his later version had come up with a good deceit to trick them. He was just about to share that thought with his other incarnation when Chessene spoke again.

"There is a simple way of testing whether you are still trying to deceive us," she said. "Come, girl."

The Doctor tried to protest, but could do nothing as Chessene grabbed Peri's wrist and guided her into the machine. He did notice the subtle wink that his future incarnation gave the young lady and hoped that it meant that this contingency had been planned for.

Sure enough, the module dematerialized and then rematerialized with seemingly no ill effects for Peri. The Doctor was curious to know how he had done it and made a note to ask himself when he had the chance.

For now though, there was the fact that Chessene was having them chained to pillars near the center of the cellar. It was a grim situation, but it wasn't one the Doctor was unfamiliar with. He immediately started to think about what lock-picking techniques would work best and what the four of them should do about Dastari and the Androgums once they had escaped and had a chance to regroup.

Those tentative plans were obliterated a few seconds later when Shockeye brought up his desire to make a meal out of a human again.

"Didn't you sate your appetite sufficiently in the city?" she said with more than a touch of exasperation.

"A mere snack!" Shockeye grumbled. "You promised we could have a human before leaving Earth."

The Doctor had hoped that Chessene would object, citing their need to make sure their time machine was working or to depart before either the Time Lords or the Sontarans caught on to what was happening. Unfortunately, Chessene's Androgum nature won out in the end, and she encouraged Shockeye to "take the one in the skirt."

Dastari finished snapping the metal cuffs onto the Doctor's wrists as Shockeye moved menacingly closer to Jamie, his eyes glazed over with hunger and drops of saliva gleaming near the corners of his mouth. Jamie backed away, his eyes darting around the room in what looked like an attempt to find a way to escape. The Doctor felt his blood turn to ice as Shockeye grabbed Jamie's arm and twisted it behind his back. The piper struggled, but it was no use. Shockeye easily shoved him forward and up the staircase.

The Doctor called out to the Scot as he was led away. He knew that Jamie would not be able to break free of Shockeye's grip and actually come over to him. It was just his usual reminder to Jamie when they were in situations like this that he would not be alone. Even if they would not be in the same room together, the Doctor wanted the piper to know that he would be with him in spirit. He wasn't always certain if the Scot drew any strength from that knowledge, but the Doctor was desperate to do whatever he could to lessen the horror of the situation for Jamie.

Dastari dangled the key to their chains on the tip of his finger for a moment before dropping it onto a table nearby. The Doctor strained against his bonds, knowing that it was futile. He could feel his later self doing the same thing, and soon the Doctor could sense the anxiety radiating off him. However, soon that anxiety changed to the beginnings of rage, and the Doctor was disturbed at how swift the shift had occurred.

"You're almost as clever as I am," he said, hoping to distract his colorful self from his fury. The tactic worked, and soon he got his answer about how Dastari and Chessene had been fooled. However, when his later incarnation started to smile a little too sweetly over the deception he had pulled off, the Doctor decided that it was time to put their focus back where it needed to be.

"There's no need to be so smug," he said, urgency in his tone. "We've got to get Jamie out of that butcher's hands."

Both of them turned toward Peri and encouraged her to nudge the wheelchair he had been trapped in toward them. The Doctor was pleased that his future self had come up with the same idea he had, a sign that they were starting to work in sync rather than being mired in the usual tension he faced when meeting himself. Thus, it wasn't long before his later incarnation was able to flip the keys off the table and kick them toward his hands. Seconds later, the curly-haired Doctor was free and was about to undo the chains on his second self's wrists.

Suddenly, a scream of sheer agony resounded in the cellar. Panic swamped the Doctor as far too many images of what Shockeye could be doing to Jamie to make him scream like that filled his brain. He looked over his shoulder to see his other self frozen in open-mouthed shock.

"Oh never mind me," the Doctor snapped. "That's Jamie. Help him!"

His words had the desired effect of getting his later incarnation to jump to his feet and start to dash out of the cellar. Fortunately, the Doctor remembered an important detail at the last moment.

"The key!" he hissed.

The blond Doctor tossed the key within reach of his earlier version's foot before racing up the stairs. Seconds afterward, the Doctor heard another scream from upstairs.

'Jamie…oh Jamie, I'm so sorry,' the Doctor sorrowed. 'Please hold on. Please.'

The Doctor scrapped the heel of his foot along the floor, dragging the key closer to him. He still had hope that the four of them would get out of this situation alive.

But he was also certain that they would not walk away with undamaged souls.