Heya! New chapter :D This one made me realize that I would really pay good money to have Nine and Donna interact in canon, pretty sure it would be absolutely hilarious. Please don't forget to tell me what do you think of it, I love to hear about it!
As always thank you to penandpaper, my fabulous beta!
When they got back to the cell, they were surprised to see that almost an hour had passed, as it was the first thing that came out from Donna's mouth as they passed the door.
"Thank god you're back," she sighed, looking clearly annoyed. "This one over there was ready to climb the wall." She pointed at the Doctor, who was trying his best to be as nonchalant as possible. "And don't try to say it's not true, I saw you testing the door when you thought I wasn't looking."
"That's not true!" he protested loudly as he hugged Rose, making a delighted sound at the view of his coat. "Well partially true. I was just checking if it wasn't stuck."
"More like you were trying to escape while I was not looking." added Donna, as she put on her own jacket. "So what did you find?" she continued, turning to Rose and the other Doctor.
Rose exchanged a look with her first Doctor before turning back to Donna. "For one thing, the security in this building is astonishingly abysmal. We literally didn't cross a single guard the whole time we roamed around. I mean I've not been in that many prisons in the grand scheme of things, but I think it's the worst guarded I've ever been."
"Really? You think Arashan was worse than here?" asked the other Doctor, curiosity written on his face. "Because they literally gave us a spa day and the only reason we 'escaped' is because I was getting mortally bored. If I had listened to you we would still probably be there."
"Oh, I completely forgot about that planet!" Rose exclaimed, finally recalling that adventure again. They had been accused of apparently parking illegally, and 'thrown' in prison for the outrage. Most relaxing four days of her life. Before the Doctor had enough of the idleness and decided to make them leave in the middle of the night. If she remembered correctly, she had been pretty chuffed with him after that. She turned to Donna. "We definitely need to be back there. Their saunas were out of this world."
"Anyway," continued Nine, while looking at Rose suspiciously, and trying his best to tune out the argument that had started between his counterpart and his other companion. Who was taking it as a mortal offense the fact he never proposed to go there. "We also found a pretty direct route that leads directly from this cell to the outside. Literally five minutes in a mostly straight line from here to the backdoor. And from what we gathered, it seems to be a round of 3 guards every fifteen minutes." He stayed silent for a few seconds. "But that situation makes no sense," he continued on, clearly frustrated by the murky situation.
"Why is a race so determined to destroy another, also so ruthless and disorganized at the same time?" the older Doctor pondered while finishing his counterpart's sentence. As Rose and the younger Doctor nodded, he smiled broadly. "We asked the same thing to the people here." An elbow to the gut made him cough. "I mean Donna asked the leader of the group here," he groaned as he massaged his side with a grimace.
"I found it quite weird to see so many people amassed in one place," Donna said like she had been the one talking in the first place. "So I asked Abran…the Gurunian that dressed in red," she added as she saw their blank faces. "What was the deal? He explained that before their king proclaimed the Ceti were responsible for his father's death and countless others, the two races were completely pacifist and neutral towards each other. The last war was apparently five generations ago for Gurunian. And the Ceti don't even have the record of one in their history." She looked sadly at the group of Ceti that was bundled against one of the walls. "So they are a really easy target for melomaniac rulers…"
After a second of silence, the Doctor jumped in again, trying to keep the discussion going. "This building we are in right now was initially a warehouse that was swiftly converted into a prison. Before that they never really needed one that could contain more than 10 people in total. Donna said that Abran explained to her before this, the maximum they had in one place was five. And it was mostly for theft or embezzlement." He turned again to Donna, with the manic energy of a spaniel as Rose thought to herself. "How long ago was the precedent murder again?"
"Nine years ago. Apparently it was a big thing and all. So you can imagine how it went. Especially when they say that every 'suspicious' death since they arrived was caused by them."
"And that means most of the Gurunian were only trained for warfare in the last few years." continued the younger Doctor, a deep frown on his face. He had clearly been stuck on Donna's words. "Except for a few that have a real appetite for violence…"
"Like the one that made us end up here?" Rose asked her current Doctor.
He nodded. "Exactly. The rest are mostly followers, clearly afraid for their life and family. And the Ceti are too noble and selfless to challenge the words of the people that took them in when they had nothing else. They feel responsible and their guilt stops them from asking questions. Donna asked, nobody tried to evade from there before. Not even once."
"So they don't feel the need to patrol that often. Why use force when shame does the work for you?" the other Doctor finished, making Rose's head spin with their ease to speak for one another.
"Abran said the resistance headquarters is only ten minutes from here. In approximately two hours, food will be delivered and put there" She pointed to one of the walls that was near the door. "It's the only moment before the morning that guards will be present."
"That means we wait for them to leave, and then we prepare our escape. So around six hours to send the whole group out from under their noses and escape flawlessly."
"Enough time for us to move everyone to a predetermined point, and for us to engineer a plan to overthrow the government!" the Doctor said with a manic smile.
"That would work," Rose said as she pondered on what they just said. "Ok let's do this!"
It took only fifteen minutes for both of the Doctors to get bored enough to start to bicker, and five more for them to take out their own sonic and compare their uses. To the great amusement of Donna and Rose.
"I wonder what would happen if all ten of the Doctors met each other," Donna pondered Donna as she looked with interest at her Doctor putting his sonic directly on his counterpart's face.
"Probably madness? I mean, did you see those two?" Rose made a vague gesture in their direction. "I once asked the Doctor if we could meet one of those past him one day, even by pure chance." She smiled at the memory, even today his face was still making her laugh. "He looked so offended, you should have seen his face! Then he lectured me for ten minutes straight about the danger of timewrap or something. The details are kinda fuzzy…But his face!" She laughed again at the image that popped into her mind. "So it is safe to say that nothing good would come of them all being reunited. Especially for the universe."
Donna made a noise of appreciation as she looked at them. "I have to say now that I know beanstalk didn't always look like he was one second away from being cast away by a breeze, but I am really curious what the others look like," she said with a sort of appreciation that made Rose look at her funny.
"What do you mean?" Rose asked, a bit afraid of the possible response.
Donna shrugged. "I mean when I see this him, I completely understand why you decided to follow him without a second thought." She wiggled her eyebrows with comical effect. "His backside alone is worth following anywhere."
Rose almost choked on her own spit. "Donna!" she exclaimed, a bit scandalized and a little bit jealous she had to admit. "I mean you're not wrong," she admitted after a few seconds. "But please!"
Donna shrugged with a wicked smile on her face. "Be honest, it's not his outstanding communication skills that grabbed you in…That guy is so bad with words, I thought he was proposing to me when he asked me to travel with him. I almost decked him."
Rose took her face in her hands, trying to stifle the giggle that was threatening to escape. Thank God the two Doctors were too busy trying to man up each other to look their way. "Why that does not surprise me." She finally looked at Donna in the eyes again, realizing the redhead was more having fun at her expense. "But yeah, and how can you blame me? Did you see him? He is gorgeous, and I was only Nineteen with nothing in my life. Suddenly he blazed in, saving my life and telling me to forget him. Of course I fell in love straight away," she pondered for a second. "Well more like fell in lust. Love came later."
"That's the spirit!" said Donna with great joy. "Not that I am condemning or anything, I would have probably fell head over arse if that one came into my life when I was Nineteen. Then we would have killed each other." She stopped for an instant before smiling back again. "Would have been probably more healthy than half of my relationships at that age." She turned to the two Doctors who were now speaking in hush. "I mean ours is as skinny as a pole with the energy of a golden retriever. Combined all that with the fact that at that time, just saying your name was enough to send him into a spiral. Plus the fact I was still hung up on the fact my fiance tried to have me eaten by a giant spider person, the chance of falling in love with him was in the negative. Even more when I started to live with him later on. He is so chirpy in the morning, it should be criminal…" she mumbled something for a second before continuing. "But the other him? Tall, dark, handsome and brooding? I would have been all over that!" She had a dreamy smile and her eyes lost focus. "Twenty years old me would have probably thrown herself at him. Thank god I am not twenty anymore and it was not him that found me. I would have made a fool of myself."
Rose tried to not look perturbed at Donna's words. She loved her friend, but imagining her throwing herself at the Doctor, or anyone for that matter was a bit disturbing. Especially because she felt the woman was so much a force of nature, it would work the other way around. And weirdly enough, having her and her first Doctor work together would probably work very well. Or have the planet explode at some point. No in between.
"You know, knowing my first Doctor, I'm sure you would be really great friends. Like really scary together most probably but…"
Donna snorted. "If you think I'll try to flirt with mister 'Rose please love me' don't worry for one second. I said what I said mostly to make you laugh. And rile you up a little bit. Because you keep looking at him like he would suddenly disappear, and when he moves out of your eyesight, you stop breathing for a second."
Rose sighed, turning her face to face the wall. Donna was not completely wrong. "You're not that far from the truth. The day he regenerated…He was talking to me, smiling like a loon, talking about visiting some planet and then suddenly he…" She tried to swallow the sob that was threatening to get out. Even all those years later, it was still quite traumatic. "He literally exploded in a ball of light. One second he was there, and then the next after light everywhere and before I had time to do anything he was changed. I was twenty, no idea that regeneration existed at all…So yeah seeing like that right in front of me, a small part of me is afraid it would happen again."
Donna's face softened at the words, she had not realized she had put both feet directly in one of Rose's most traumatic experiences.
"I'm sorry, Rose. I cannot imagine how upsetting it would have been for you. Hell even now, knowing it could happen, I am freaking out. So you…" She took the other woman in a brief hug, making sure she would not push her friend too much. "Let's make a deal. You keep them in check, and make sure to enjoy every second with this one and in exchange, if beanpole and Steamboat try on those stunts today, I'll make them so afraid for their life they will spontaneously revert back to what they were. Deal?"
"Deal!" Rose giggled loudly at the image Donna's words summoned. She could see their faces as clearly as it had already happened. After a few seconds of nothing but just a wide smile, her mood clearly aleavited by her friend, she nodded and hugged Donna in turn, who only looked mildly surprised at the move. "Thank you. You are clearly the best friend anyone could ask for," she whispered, making Donna hug her tighter for a second before taking a step back.
Donna shrugged. "Meh, it's clearly selfish. With you out of comission, pretty sure both Doctors would be unsufferable and would push me to murder. So for my own mental health, I need you at your best," Donna said with a wicked smile, before pushing Rose lightly on her shoulder. "But you are welcome, blondie."
Before her feelings threatened to swallow her whole, Abran appeared on Donna's side, making Rose jump a little at his sudden appearition.
"So, what are we going to do? A few of my people are starting to be nervous, and I don't want them to do something stupid," he asked, his face completely serious.
Rose, who had recovered from her burst of emotions, turned to the Guranian with all the assurance of a long time soldier, making Donna really impressed on how fast she could jump from emotional to calm and collected. She put a note to herself to ask her how she mastered that trick. Before following Rose and Abran to one of the quieter corners.
As the two women and the Gurunian rogue leader were busy trying to form a plan that would not backfire in their face within five minutes, the Doctors have moved on to other subjects.
"So what happened to Rose?" asked the younger Doctor as he put away his sonic, looking suspiciously at the older him. "She told me you were separated, but I feel it's not the whole story…" The way his counterpart fidgeted felt like he had been suddenly spot on, and it was not really reassuring him.
"It's complicated…" sighed the Doctor as he looked at Rose with a far away look on his face. "She…She got through a lot."
"She calculated space coordonate based on data from a vortex jumper, a vortex jumper she told me she basically designed from scratch. And don't get me started on the whole wild streak she is displaying now! Rose had always been jeopardy friendly, but it's taking it to another level!" He felt his anger spike once again at the reminder of her jumping out without even a care in the world for her own safety. And the guilty face the other him was displaying wasn't really helping him to calm him down. "She told me about your separation, how she came back and how she worked with UNIT for a stint before finding you, but I know it's still not the whole story. She's changed too much. The Rose Tyler I know is a far cry from yours. So I say it one more time… What. Happened?" His voice now full of the anger that was mounting in him, ready to let the timelord victorious out. He knew he should take a step back and talk it out, but the idea that Rose had been let down so hard by the one following him to the point of having to reinvent herself, it made his blood boil.
"I didn't know!" the other Doctor screamed back, his eyes now showing how ancient and tired he was feeling. He felt Rose's eyes on him, and made a conscious choice to show a more relaxed body language. The last thing he needed was her trying to intervene. "I didn't know. Ok?" he insisted, his voice more controlled this time. "We got separated. She got stuck in another universe and without the Timelords…I couldn't get to her. I didn't…I didn't have enough time." His voice broke at the memory of her falling to her doom, him incapable of saving her. He was a Timelord, the last one, and he had been beaten by Time itself. "I tried for months…" He looked down, refusing to have the other him judging him for his failure. "I didn't even know the universe was in danger until she literally appeared in front of me." He finally accepted to meet his eyes, but he would not betray Rose's trust, not after everything they had been through. He had remembered the discussion this him and Rose had while they were away. He also remembered the frustration that he had felt at that moment. But if she wanted him to know she would have told him already. Or maybe she will tell him later, they will know soon enough, but he will never breathe a word to anyone, not without her blessing. "I know you know it's not the full story, and that you are pushing yourself to not kill me here and now for it, but I will not tell you more. It is not my story to tell, and even if you will not remember it, I will and Rose is my utmost priority. If she decides to tell you, it's her choice. But you will not hear another word from me."
They looked at each other, Timelord against Timelord, Fire against Ice, and as the tension was threatening to be unbearable, the younger Doctor smiled. "You love her."
"With every fiber of my being." he replied instantly without hesitation, straightening himself to his whole height. "And don't try to judge me for it. I've been you. You're the one that started everything," he spit out, refusing to be judged for something he had made peace for so long ago. He was born loving Rose Tyler, yes, but when he had been faced with the choice of letting the feeling diminish when the fire of the regeneration had died down, he had fought for it. And he would never let anyone judge him for it, not even the pigheaded one that was his predecessor. Even more from the fact he had been the first one to fall for Rose Tyler.
Nine looked at him in silence, his eyes unreadable. "Does she know?" he finally asked, his voice dropping to a whisper, like he was afraid of his response.
"She…is sort of aware," replied the Doctor, looking at a group of Ceti that was huddled in a corner. "But she prefers for us to be friends." His voice has lost all his steam on the last word, making him deflate himself. This memory of Rose was still painful for him but he understood where she was coming from. He could not ask her to still love him like no time had passed. For her it was almost a lifetime ago, she had time to move on. But for him…one heart would always belong to her.
"We never stood a chance," said Nine as he looked at Rose, who was busy talking animatedly to Abran and a group of Gurunian, who looked positively enthralled with her. "How could we? She is…"
"Everything," breathed out Ten as he glanced in her direction. She was their north star, and he could at least comfort himself by thinking he was not the only fool in love. Like she had felt their gaze, she turned to them and with a smile she waved to them, making them automatically wave in return.
"Ok you two," said Donna's voice behind them, making them both jump in surprise. "Stop moping, you're almost making me sorry for you." They turned as one, facing her with a dumbfounded look on their face. "And before you two start weeping and waxing poetry to her truly…" She pointed to Nine. "You with me! Let's go!"
"What?" he said, clearly astounded. But before he could ask his counterpart or do anything else, she gripped him by his leather coat and tugged, making him almost stumble on the other Doctor. "And we don't have all day!" she continued with an authoritarian voice, showing she was not joking. "And you." She turned to Ten, who took a tentative step back, crossing the terrified stare of younger him that was still gripped with a fist of steel by Donna. "Go to Rose, she asked for your expertise." And without further notice, she marched down in the opposite direction, Nine trailing behind her. Not like he really had a choice with how bad she was clutching his jacket.
As he was recovering from the force of nature that was Donna, he could not help but hear her talking to younger him. "Oh stop moping! Rose will not fly away! Now, I need your most intimidating face, we need to put people in place!" He didn't hear his other response, but it was no need, as the memory of the scene floated in his mind, the indignation that scene had caused him still fresh. The joy of time travel and regeneration. Sometimes he wished he could remember everything in one place, not as things were turning down. Would make everything easier…Especially with how unpredictable he remembered his precedent regeneration was.
He walked to Rose, who he realized was talking strategy to the group around her. "Donna said you needed my input?" he asked her, still fascinated by this side of her.
She smiled back at him, showing she had been waiting for him. "Yes, I need your input on something. Only Abran here and Felgri," The Ceti that was just behind Abran nodded. "know how to get to the headquarters."
The Doctor saw straight away where the issue was. "And with how many people we need to move, unless they keep going back and forth, it's going to be problematic to send them all there," he finished, already calculating all the possibilities. "What is your plan B if the headquarters is discovered?" he asked Abran, who looked at them very intensely.
"We have another point in Trakrex, one of the Citi encampments, we thought that nobody will think of looking there if we have to flee. Everyone is too afraid of that."
Rose frowned, her mind already moving to the next step. "Does every Ceti know about this encampment?"
Felgri pushed Abran slightly aside and nodded to him, showing him it was now her turn to talk. "Yeah, even if most of them live in Perilas, everyone knows the name of the five encampments and how to get there." Her voice was soft and clear but the wariness of the whole situation was clearly taking a toll on her and Rose felt for her. Not being able to love whoever they wanted just because of a mad king. It was clearly unfair.
Rose and the Doctor looked at each other, already having a plan forming. "Felgri, you are going with the first group," Rose started.
The Doctor had put his specs on, showing he was not really serious. "Explain to the headquarters that people are coming up and to be on guard."
"Then continue to Trakrex, we will send all the Cetis over there. The less people involved for what will follow the better." Rose could already see the plan forming together, she had been afraid for the life of all those innocent bystanders. And except for a very few of them, most were just tired and afraid, and she refused to implicate them in a fight that could kill them without a second thought. Having them all moved to a secure location was the best they could do.
"While you make sure that everyone sends your way is properly secured. The last group composed of the rebel members, Abran and us will then go to the headquarters and will make sure nothing else like that today will happen ever again," finished the Doctor, the lines of his lips grim and stern.
"And how are we making sure that none of the Cetis will betray us between here and Trakrex?" Abran asked, clearly anxious about the success of the plan. He knew perfectly well that today was his only chance of overthrowing the corrupt system that was now rampant in his world.
Rose for the first time since the start of the conversation smiled. "That's where Donna and the other Doctor came in. I asked her to explain to them that not following orders would be detrimental for their future. And believe me, nothing better for that than Donna in full form and the Doctor as his grumpiest."
"Oh boy…" The Doctor facepalmed, vaguely remembering the chaos that was himself and Donna together. In a case like that he was glad he never met the redhead while he was in that form, the universe would have never survived.
"And what a success it was!" Donna said as she approached the group, the Doctor in her heels. "We literally put the fear of god into them, right Doctor?" She was widely smiling and to the surprise of everyone high fived him as he passed her.
"I have to say, you are really effective when you want something." He turned to older him. "If I was not so afraid of the Reapers, I would ask her to come with me just so she could put Jack in his place."
The Doctor looked horrified at the idea. "I am not sure anyone would survive that."
"Please…" Snorted Rose. "Like Jack wouldn't fall in love the second Donna turns him around."
"For that I need first to meet this Jack," Donna said nonchalantly as she sat down against the wall, soon followed by Rose while Abran and Felgri disappeared in the subdued crowd.
They stayed in silence for a few seconds as both Doctors sat down in turn, one on each side of Rose. Donna snorted, making all three of them turn to her.
"If you start fighting over her, I swear on the TARDIS I'll spray you both!" she threatened, as the Ninth Doctor gave her a shoulder bump, making her almost fall over. "Hey! Not fair! Contrary to scrawny over there." The Doctor made an outraged noise at the nickname. "I am not afraid to fight you, so don't start." They had a few seconds for tense exchange before he flicked her on the nose, making her yell in outrage. As they started to holler at each other, Ten and Rose exchanged a look, Rose clearly having the most fun of the two. "Like a house on fire!" She said, smiling widely.
He sighed, at least they were not killing each other. Yet. "And now what?" he asked, trying his best to tune them out.
She shrugged. "Now we wait."