A/N: This chapter by reader request. I'm always open to suggestions - you'd better hurry, though; it's almost time to bring our foursome home.
"So? What's it going to be, Spaceman? Is this world going to be graced with a Doctor Nobody TV show or not?" Donna had finally cornered John in the living room, fixing him with a mock-fierce stare and asking the question on everybody's mind.
"I don't know. I just can't decide. I mean, I certainly have no desire to get involved with anything like that, but if I don't, and just sell the rights like everybody's after me to do, then I lose all control over what gets done. And that just doesn't sit right with me. Even though nobody in this world outside this room (except Pete and Jackie, of course) knows that the Doctor is me, I still just can't let somebody come along and start telling wild stories and changing the character all out of whack. At least with our books, I still have complete control over it." This, the longest speech he'd made about the subject, wiped the amused grins off the other three faces.
"I hadn't thought about it that way," Mike remarked thoughtfully. "Though... we're leaving in about three years. Can it really make any difference after that?"
"We hope we're leaving. What if it doesn't work? Crap, Mike, even if you're not the Doctor", John's voice made air quotes, "now, you were the Doctor at the time of the stories we're telling. They're your memories, too. Don't you feel that? Would you be comfortable if they started broadcasting crap like what they did to Winston last year?" They gave a collective shudder at the memory of the show portraying Churchill as a timid teetotaler partly under Hitler's thumb, and Mike shook his head.
"No, I wouldn't want to see that kind of smear job on me. You. Us. Not as long as we're around. After we're gone – yes, IF – they can do whatever they want – they will, anyway. But for now..."
John turned to Donna and Rose. "Or you two? 'Debbie' and 'Lily' would have even less protection than 'the Doctor'. They could – probably would – turn you into brainless, screaming floozies." They both shook their heads, and he sighed heavily. "The trouble is, we're going to have to do something, or somebody will come up with a thinly disguised version and run with it anyway – at least, that's what Whitley says." Whitley was their literary agent. "I'm just dreading getting into it."
"Didn't Whitley say the first thing you should do is get another agent, one specializing in television contracts? They'd be able to help you find the right path." As usual, Donna made sense.
So they did. Whitley put them in touch with Spencer, who came in with an unusual suggestion: hold a script contest. Any party wishing to vie for the honor of producing The Doctor Nobody Adventures had to submit three scripts: one filmable version of one of their published books, and two original stories. The one with the demonstrably clearest understanding of their characters (and typical adventures) would win the rights – but John would maintain veto control over all scripts for the next three years. (By that time the character would be well enough established that even if they did remain stuck, they hopefully wouldn't be embarrassed by the show.)
Spencer even made it a blind contest: she had all the scripts sent to her office, and carefully removed any mention of their writers before forwarding them to the farmhouse, labeling each group of three with a letter instead. They ended up with eight trilogies to choose from.
And it ended up being no contest at all. For spot-on characterizations, well-written scripts (according to Spencer – and with twenty-eight successful years in the business, they decided to take her word for it) and two believable original plots (one of which was startlingly close to an actual incident from way back in the Doctor's sixth incarnation), C was the runaway winner.
John called Spencer to let her know, so she could arrange a preliminary meeting with whoever was behind the C. "Who?" he asked into the phone, getting the immediate attention of the other three. "You're kidding!" He was grinning broadly by that time, and they all but pounced on him when he hung up. "You are never going to guess who C is. Actually, it's a team of three: a writer, an experienced producer, and..."
"Who?" All three chorused.
"Hamlet?" "The actor himself?" "Davey's namesake?" They spoke over each other, and John just grinned and nodded. Rose then summed it up, "Oh, this is just meant to be!"
Two days later, Rose answered the much-anticipated knock on the door, admitting the winning team to the farmhouse. She introduced herself, shaking hands with Rusty and Steve, then turned to David. Her reaction may not have been quite the one the actor was looking for, though, as she simply stared for a moment, eyebrows raised as high as they'd go. "OK, this is weirding me out." She shook herself, then turned and led them down the hall, saying "We're gathered in the kitchen, as usual – this way." Then she hollered ahead, "He looks even more like you two in person!"
Sharing puzzled glances with his two companions, the actor stepped through the kitchen door – and stopped dead, gaping at not one, but two mirror images of himself standing at the other side of the large table. John and Mike returned the favor, staring back with equal astonishment. "Whoa," Mike offered.
"Wow," said David.
"Yeah," John agreed. "I think he's a bit younger, though," he slipped sideways to Mike.
"Really?" came the reply. "I thought he looked older, myself." The twins gave each other their drollest looks while the girls groaned.
"Tweedledee and Tweedledum, I presume?" put in Rusty.
"Oi!" Mike protested, but he was grinning as broad as the cat.
Ice broken, introductions were made all around. Rose plucked eighteen-month-old Davey out of his high chair and presented him to his namesake, explaining how they had seen his Hamlet and been gobsmacked at his resemblance to John and Mike, even in stage makeup – which also explained her strange reaction at the door. (Donna's twins were miraculously both down for their afternoon nap in the nursery.)
"You're serious?" David was unexpectedly touched. "You actually named him for me?" She nodded, grinning, and he shook his head. "Wow. Would've never expected that." He grinned at the toddler, squirming to get back to his lunch. "Good lad, knows what's important."
So the group settled down at the table to talk business over tacos and enchiladas (Rose was still in her Mexican culinary period). John was taking pains to make sure the television professionals understood his proprietary feelings about the characters they were proposing to bring to the broadcast audience, if not the reasons behind those feelings. Rusty, the writer, and David, in particular spoke at length about their understanding of Doctor Nobody's personality and history, though the conversation took some decidedly odd turns at times, as Rose or Donna, or both, contradicted the author himself about some points, informing him how the Doctor was viewed by other people. John looked quite uncomfortable, but ultimately conceded their authority, leaving the guests befuddled but pleased. Mike mostly stayed quiet, enjoying his brother's discomfort a bit more than might be polite.
Finally, over post-lunch margaritas, John came to the sudden, startling conclusion that he liked the trio – especially David – and trusted their vision. So he made the decision to come clean. "Come out back for a minute," he told them, picking up his margarita glass as he stood and motioning for them to bring theirs, as well. "I want to show you something."
He led them over to a corner of the garden, where, tucked into a nook between the back wall of the house and a large, overhanging tree, out of sight until they got right up to it, was a familiar blue wooden box. "The TARDIS!" cried David, delighted. "You actually had one made? But why is it blue, rather than green?"
"Because in our universe, they are blue. Or were." That remark netted him some strange looks, but was shrugged off. John pulled out his key and unlocked the door, stepping back and sweeping the visitors forward. "Go ahead. Take a look."
Glancing back at Mike and the girls, hanging back and unsuccessfully trying to hide their anticipatory grins, David stepped up and opened the door – and his jaw dropped (of course). He and the other two spent the next two minutes doing the typical, frenetic reaction, to the foursome's immense enjoyment – running in and out to check the dimensions.
Finally, they stopped, and David cornered John. "That's not possible. Not in real life."
"It is for a Time Lord."
John grinned at the nonplussed actor, watching as realization warred with disbelief on his so-familiar face. "Now you're getting it. I'm the Doctor. Truly. I've been writing bits of my own history."
David shook his head. "You can't have been. Not if they happened on Earth, as you wrote. Because they didn't. We'd know about them."
"You're right, you would – if they'd happened on this Earth." He sighed. "I realize that I have no proof to offer you on this, except for the TARDIS here. But here it is: we're from a parallel universe. We slipped into this one accidentally a couple of years ago, and we're hoping to get back in a couple more – we have to wait till certain conditions are right and the two worlds are aligned properly. Every story I wrote is true – it just happened in the other universe." He stared into the other's eyes for a moment, then sighed again. "Oh, all right." And out of his pocket he pulled his old stethoscope, handing it over. "Go ahead."
David knew what he meant; they'd mentioned the Doctor's two hearts over lunch. Slowly, slowly, as if afraid of the answer, he put the scope into his ears, and listened to either side of John's chest. The look on his face told the tale to the other two. He took a deep breath. "You're not human."
"Nope. Time Lord."
"You're the Doctor. You really are."
"Yup. Now you understand why I'm so concerned about how the Doctor is portrayed on TV – or anywhere else. You'd be playing me, David."
They stared at him for several seconds, then David took another deep breath. "Wait a second. If this is the TARDIS," and he hooked a thumb at it over his shoulder, "couldn't you take us for a ride in it somewhere? Or somewhen?"
John sighed again, very heavily. "I wish I could. I truly wish that. But you remember what I wrote about it in the first book? Where it draws its power? From the universe itself. And this one is on the wrong frequency. The TARDIS is almost dead. There's just enough power left in the batteries, if you will, for one jump – and that one must be back to our own universe. That's why we can't jump ahead to meet the moment, but have to wait for it to come around. I'm sorry, but I'm not wasting the power we need to get home to take you boys for a joyride, not even as proof."
Shaking his head, David caught sight of the other three again, and another bit hit him. "Lily and Debbie, right? But.. what about you?" he asked Mike. "You're not in the books. Are you from here?"
"No, I'm from there, too. I came along quite recently, actually – we haven't reached that bit in the books yet. It's a long story."
Rusty and Steve had been hanging back, both listening intently, but also continuing to gaze longingly back inside the TARDIS, visibly itching to start writing about it, and building a mockup of it, respectively. "I have so many questions..." Steve murmured.
David heard him and turned, and the three of them looked at each other, the same thought on all their minds. David turned back to John, facing him squarely and earnestly. "Sir, I'd be honored to portray you, if you'll allow me to. And I give you my solemn promise that I will be as truthful and accurate in that portrayal as I can."
Slowly, John smiled, and he held out his hand to shake the actor's. "All right then." The other five cheered, and Mike went for champagne, which fueled the long afternoon's – and evening's – torchlight exploration of the powered-down TARDIS.
Rusty had the last word as they were getting ready to leave – a very quiet one, to Donna and Rose. "So yonder Time Lord is leery of how every Tom, Dick and Harry writer might treat him, warping his personality and his stories?" They nodded. "Understandably so. Word to the wise, though – if he doesn't already know about them, don't ever tell him about fanfiction web sites!"