Occ: If anyone wishes to have a link to the drawing which inspired this story, send me an IM and I'll send you a link. Otherwise enjoy this one-shot, many thanks to Glitz for the inspiration and to all ten actors who thus far have played one of the galaxy's greatest heroes over forty-five years, and a hopeful thanks to up and coming Time Lord Matt Smith. You're not in the story Matt, but I am looking forwards to 2010 and to see what you can do. Please enjoy, and feel free to leave a review if you'd like to. :)
A Multi-Doctor Fic Inspired by Gallifreybase Artist SabalomGlitz's Ten Doctors Picture.
It began with a simple wish. A desire in the midst of depression for a lonely man sitting in his TARDIS.
It grew. From a idea to a plan to one of those brilliant things you just had to do when you had a Time Machine, could technically undo the Time Locks for a couple of minutes and keep changing appearance every hundred years!
It sounded insane. Crazy. Utterly mad. He didn't exactly recall being asked the same question nine times in a row by a telepathic message before, did he?
A grin appeared on his face. He would probably go and break every rule all those hum-drum Time Lords made him read as a Time Tot, but rules were made be broken. Just once.
So he began to scribble out a sketchy message on paper, prepared to do the unthinkable.
No companions. It would just complicate things. He resolved to try and contact as many of them as he could, preferably when they were on their own. Probably feeling just like him. Maybe it would make them feel better.
No future selves, he thought. He'd had enough spoilers on all those occasions in the past – no sense trying to see the endings at this stage.
And if what Carmen said was true and his song was ending...
He straightened, frowning to himself. And no spoilers to them either. None. Nada. It's all for fun. No questions asked.
No Renegade Time Lords. No Death Zones. No accidental meetings in Monte Carlo and arguing for twenty minutes on the morality of self. Whatever that meant – his seventh him was always quite the conversational literalist, certainly compared to his fifth him.
Oh Rassilon, he was already using the famed 'talking about yourselves' trick and he hadn't seen any of them yet!
But still, he was going to do it! Forget the Laws of the Universe for a day! Have fun and meet yourself... nine times over.
Question is... how to do it? And where?
He spent a day planning it out; found just the right spot in the centre of the Time Vortex, using its immense power to aid him in his task. He knew what he would have to do was risky, terribly risky, but if he wanted to see all of them...
So with a deep breath and a measure of faith, he activated the signal. The Time Lock strained against his actions, but the eight hardest messages still got through, just. The ninth one was about easy enough though.
And then he waited.
ALERT. INCOMING TRANSMISSION TO TARDIS FROM UNKNOWN TEMPORAL NEXUS POINT. INCOMING TRANSMISSION, ENCRYPTED TO THE DOCTOR ONLY, INCOMING TRANSMISSION...
'Hello! This is the Doctor speaking. If you are the Doctor... well, one of them, well, one of me... well you. Us... Ugh, this temporal message is too long already... Anyway, respond to this message. I have something planned. It's terribly stupid and very risky, but that's what we're all about isn't it? I'm sending you these temporal and spatial coordinates. Go to them soon. And if you have company... don't bring them, please? Because really I'd like to avoid a major technical discussion to a lot of humans and other such peoples. No spoilers, no questions asked. Just me and me and me and me and me and me and me and me and me and me. Just ten minutes, that's all. I hope to hear from you. And thank you, all of you... for saying yes. Cause frankly I know you're all going to you cause I think I'm starting to remember it all now and me saying all this and me looking like you saying all this and... Ah, I'm starting to sound all Wibbley Wobbly Timey Whimey now, so I'll wrap up now. And Doctors... thank you. Again. Cause I wouldn't be me without a bit of all of you.'
TRANSMISSION ENDS. RECEIVER REQUESTS RESPONSE. SEND – Y/N?
It took a whole day for anything concrete, but when it came, he grinned like a loony. He enjoyed all of the various reactions, had to reclarify for some of them that yes, he was the Doctor and the universe wasn't imploding. Not this time at any rate
Nine messages came in swift succession. Some warm. Some wary. Some untrusting at first. One of him asked if he wanted several cups of tea when he landed. A certain one he'd encountered only recently even suggested an all Doctors Cricket Match!
He grinned once more at the suggestion. That would have been fun. But his idea stuck better in the time they had to risk everything, including the entire universe. Besides, Five would always win, and Six he knew would be a sore loser.
So! Time to risk everything including the universe then! Oh yes!
For a planet whose population was completely wiped out in a brutal war with the Daleks and had been abandoned for centuries... it was incredibly beautiful – not rivalling the Eye of Orion maybe, but coming stunningly close in terms of feeling and peace - a green sky against the shadows of neighbouring masses, great towering spires of stone and red dusty earth beneath his converses. As he stepped out of his TARDIS and inhaled the air of a world long since absent of pollution, he knew he'd picked a good place for a small, private company-
His feet trod into something hard and absently he glanced down, before his eyes hardened. It was the remains of a Dalek, the outer casing of its head pretty much all that was left, specks of dirt scattered over once-grey metal, the old style eyepieces on top of its dome.
Memories of the Time War flooded once again into his mind for a second, and in anger he slammed his trainer against the prone form, trying his best to ignore the sudden pain that emitted like a cry from his Time Lord Toes. He regretted it instantly. He couldn't seem sombre; not with his guests incoming. He knew he had to keep the spoilers of days to come to himself. Nine would understand.
He heard it then. Quiet at first but son rising to an inhuman wail, the materialisation of multiple TARDISes - the same TARDIS, at nine different points in time, scattered across the valley in several separate directions yet no one louder or quieter than the other - all wheeling into sharp focus, the sound of their engines struggling to avoid the inevitable law of the Time Lords, a law eight of those machines still believed they must uphold, even cut off from their people.
He hoped they remained that way. Ignorant for now.
He glanced one quick look at the Dalek, before he reached into his jacket and pulled out his lifeline in this impossible circumstance. It was the fob-watch, the one which made him become John Smith not so long ago by Time Lord reckoning. Not so long to forget Miss Redfern's words, come to that...
No. Happy thoughts. No point in regretting such things, not in front of them.
The noise stopped. The Doctors were in.
Nine identical TARDIS doors swung open. Nine figures emerged from their depths, and instantly the Doctor - he resolved to begin thinking of himself as 'Ten' for the next couple of minutes as he hit the timer on the fob-watch and the seconds started ticking by – burst into the most beaming smile he could manage.
Nine men marched up to the Doctor and stopped, just in front of his own TARDIS.
They were all here. The old Wanderer. The underestimated Clown. The gentleman Dandy. The grinning Scarf Wearer. The rushed Cricket Lover. The... well, he thought he was hardly enlightened in terms of fashion within that particular incarnation... The Mysterious Champion of Time. The passionate Tea Lover. And then staring straight at him... Big Ears himself, the brooding Survivor of the Time War.
For a second their eyes locked, quite understanding. They knew they couldn't say anything to the others about what awaited their people. Then he turned from Nine and grinned once again.
"Ohhhh yes! Now this is just brilliant! Well, bang goes the universe in..." And he stared back at the fob-watch for a second as his smile vanished temporarily. "...about Nine minutes and thirty-eight seconds, oh thirty six, or five or... well you get the idea. It'll be bad."
Across from him Five stuck his hands into his pockets and sighed. "Well it seems I'm getting a little used to seeing you. Mind you, at least on this occasion you've managed to keep me young at least, same as with the rest." At an odd look from the others he shrugged. "We've already had our previous encounter, like many of you might have had with each other, regrettably." A frown from Ten got his attention. "Oh sorry... spoilers. Right, forgot that little rule you mentioned."
"So then, I understand you assembled us here because you want to break the laws regarding a Gallifreyian meeting any of his own past or future incarnations; all for the sake of a rivvvvvieting photo?" Seven first raised his hand to gain attention and then adopted his own warm smile. "Well, certainly I'm game for such an activity!"
Three raised his own hand, somewhat less sudden and more gracefully than Seven had done so. "Out of interest old chap... how are we to do this? Left to right? Right to left? Not that I'm against spoiling the laws of those who exiled me so rudely to Earth-"
"I think you'll find that was me, you tall-footed nitwit!" Two glared up at Three and vice-versa as their efforts at length to ignore each other, despite their legendary egos due to a forced regeneration amongst all their future incarnations (and even One was aware to a degree of his future selves disagreement through his partial involvement in the original Omega Incident) at last snapped.
"I've had quite enough from you, you mop headed scarecrow!"
"Oh really, of all the-!"
"Oi! No arguing with yourself! Second sign of madness, right next to talking to yourself..." The Tenth Doctor opted to restore order before the confrontation got any uglier, or indeed if Two began arguing with Six, who would be the last incarnation he'd want to see angry. "Besides, we've just got eight and a half minutes left for what I have planned and I don't wish to spend it having you lot all arguing! All right?"
The pair cast a moody glance at each other, but otherwise nodded.
"Quite right, dear boy." He smiled as he stared back at the figure of his original incarnation, a wooden cane held loosely within one hand as he then glared back at his two most incoming Doctors. "Really, after the last few occasions you two should know to get along. Bless my soul; knowing that I shall become such unruly fellows in the future is most disconcerting. Now if perhaps we should listen to our future self's ideas, hm?" This prompted a wary nod from both men, who ruefully shook hands and resolved to get along for the time being, much to the pleasure of the Tenth Doctor.
"Right then, thanks for that. Sooooo... I was just thinking that it would be brilliant if all of us had a picture of ourselves – a picture which apparently..." And he glanced back at the Fob-Watch carefully, "...we have some six and a half minutes to take before the entire multiverse collapses from the impossibility of ten different versions of the exact same Time Lord being in the exact same place at the exact same time and all that exact same mixtures of the exact same arctron energy..." And he paused for a sharp intake of breath. "Which, quite frankly, would be bad."
Six first frowned and then interrupted in his own particular manner. "Surely that sort of thing happens to us all the time? I mean, the Universe is big enough for the ten of us. Just. Apparently." And he glared across at Two, who for a moment seemed a little more sheepish than he usually managed. "Not to mention any other future incarnations we have lying about in the cosmos..."
The most recent Doctor conceded the point. "Well yes, but normally there's a valid reason. Crisis on Infinite Worlds and all that...well, that or we just accidently bump into each other, which seems to happen far more often than I usually think it does... But here, it's on purpose, without the knowledge of the Time Lords..." (He couldn't mention that there was no Time Lords to see over this sort of thing anymore) "...and the fact that I had to entirely shift our prospective futures for it... Well, the less said the better. Spoilers and all that."
He turned back to the Watch. A whole minute and a half had elapsed from the beginning of his explanation, and the seconds were still ticking by. He didn't want to think of the sort of universal implosion which might erupt from ten Doctors at once. Just two incarnations not so long ago had nearly made one the size of Belgium. What would eight more cause?
Once Ten had nipped back into the TARDIS and took out a tripod spun camera in the space of a hasty minute, he found that his former incarnations had assembled in something of an unruly line in front of his ship, and his surprise made him nearly walk right into his Fifth and Sixth incarnations, the latter of whom cast him a flash of anger, swiftly followed by an apologetic nod. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be mad at myself."
Ten flashed a grin. "Third sign of madness, after all."
"Yes... quite. Now if you would kindly get on with it please? I am right in the middle of saving the Universe from the Amoeboids of Kavion Six and their scheme to turn all humanoids into an oily slime via their Manipulation Cannon, and I have left Mel with the torch paper, so if you don't mind...?"
The most recent Doctor of the party nodded sadly. He had come to realise that the others were perhaps missing the point of this universe-bending event – to do the impossible. But most of his former selves looked to be busy. He couldn't remember quite believe how hectic his life had been in the past, whether he was shouting down Daleks with Ian and Barbara, thwarting the Zygons with Sarah Jane and Harry, or blowing up vast evil entities with Ace's Nitro Nine.
Life had seemed more innocent. Dangerous, perilous and risky perhaps, but always fun. He looked briefly back at the Ninth Doctor, who nodded briskly. His eyes met the fob-watch once more – it had just reached the four minutes mark. "Fine then, let's do this."
The tripod was set up swiftly opposite the TARDIS and he stood to the most left, giving one final look at the group of Doctors – just as the camera flashed. "What? But... I wasn't..." He suppressed an angry stream of words – there simply wasn't time to take another snapshot.
As programmed ten copies of the photo whirred into life, and each Time Lord took a copy into his hand and paused to look at it.
Ten glared across at his first two incarnations, already spotting several other oddities within the proof of multi-regeneration picturing. "Why didn't you smile? I thought we always smile in pictures?"
One fumbled his cane awkwardly. "Sorry dear boy. I'm more used to traditional pictures you see. I forgot to smile too late."
Second folded his arms and poked Three hard in the ribs with a bony finger. "Well he distracted me! You can just tell, look at his smug overbearing smile."
The Third Doctor promptly swirled to face his previous self. "Really, I have had it with all of these overbearing comments of yours..." before he gave a short sigh, choosing not to play at Two's game, but rather returned to the photo in his velvet arm.
Four beamed and spoke for the first time. "Well, certainly I seem to have gotten into the spirit of things – same with you, dear fellow." He was addressing his future self who like the Bohemian had raised his cricket hat in a salute to the camera. "I say, what a wonderful photo, we're all in the moment, I think. Yesssss!" And he flashed his trademark smile of large teeth, which prompted most of the Doctors to do the same, particularly Ten. It was one of his forth incarnation's most endearing qualities, perhaps.
He then noted Six and Seven's positions. "A tad grand there Six.", which resulted in the largest of inhales of breath from the Sixth Doctor.
"I do think it suits me, and though I regret to agree with the scarf wearing flop I must say I'm rather impressed. Though I must wonder why you've chosen that pose, Seven..." Sure enough the Seventh incarnation of the Time Lord appeared brooding and thoughtful as he crotched over, his body let alone his face not facing to the camera.
Seven spoke with a measure of quiet contemplation as he leaned on his umbrella and stared back at his former self. "I was just pondering, Six. I always find when I'm amongst myself that I tend to ponder – tragic things like life and death, the universe and beyond, cold tea and burnt toast. It suits me as much as your pose suits you." The others were inclined to agree.
There were few complaints to make of the others. The Eighth Doctor cast a beaming smile at his own photo. "You know I rather like this shot. It nice to know that my future is in safe hands, as much as my past is good to remember." He then cast a glum look as he kept his hands in his pockets. "A pity there's no time for tea, but then I did promise Galileo a couple of minutes sometime this century, so no hard feelings."
The various versions of the same Time Lord turned as their latest model coughed abruptly. "Well, as great as this has been I must remind you that this fob-watch reads about a little over a minute and a half left soooo... it's been fun to see me again. All of me." He rubbed his head painfully. "Now you really must go before speaking in multi-tense gives me a Gallifreyian Migraine."
One by one the different Doctors shook his hand warmly, quick and precise as all of them moved to their ships, as their own TARDISes groaned and vanished into the ethers.
All but one.
The Ninth Doctor faced his future and nodded. "So it seems I'm gonna become a hairy weasel in the future. That's nice." He looked at where the others had been. "I'm glad you didn't mention the War. They don't deserve the knowledge of that weighting on their shoulders."
Ten nodded dumbly. "It's hard, I know it is." He fought the urge to ask and reveal spoilers for his past self, but curiosity won over. With Eight of his selves gone, the possible crisis had faded to Belgium levels, and there was enough time to converse. "How long? How long since it happened for you?"
Nine shrugged. "I haven't exactly been keeping track of the dates, mate. But yeah, not long enough." He looked back at Ten's TARDIS where the photo had been shot, then down at his own copy. "It took all my strength to smile and fold those arms, I can tell you. Just looking at their faces and thinking 'You have no idea what's coming.' And it's so hard not to speak, to scream out to them to run home. I spent all that time staying away from Gallifrey as them. And now I just want to see it one last time... but I can't." When Ten looked at his face, it was streaked with tears.
"You were brave. I understand that." He uttered. Once more his rational mind told him not to speak the words he had planned, but the thud of his twin hearts won out. "Listen... you're going to meet someone one day. Someone brilliant, someone who can heal you-"
Nine snorted. "If you think I'm going to have another of those stupid apes in my TARDIS..."
"I know, that's what I felt when I was you. I just wanted to hide away in the shadow of time. But you'll get better. You'll meet people, oh such wonderful people who will bring you around from how you feel now." He glanced down at the remains of the Dalek, and Nine's eyes swiftly followed suit. "That's not to say it'll go away. You'll always remember Gallifrey and the things we had to do to protect it. But trust me... people will come and find you, good people. And I want you to treasure every waking moment of their stupid ape lives... cause it'll be fantastic, all of it."
Nine motioned across at Ten's ship. "Don't exactly see you with anyone."
Ten's eyes felt to the ground. "I've had set backs too, in this new life of mine, some harder than others. But that's all the more reason you'll got to be prepared for it. Same as me."
He took his former self's hand and shook it. "Thank you, Doctor."
His previous incarnation grinned slightly. "It was something, I guess." Then he whirled round, closed his own ship's doors and vanished into the vortex.
Ten closed his eyes, straining to remember how his former self had felt back in the confines of the TARDIS. In a few months, he'd meet Rose Tyler for the first time, and become hopelessly in love with the universe once more.
As he gathered up the camera and the single photo of his ten bodies, a warm smile overtook his face. Whatever lay in store for him, whatever amount of song he had remaining, he would be sure to treasure it, like all who had come before him.
And it would be... fantastic.