Disclaimer: As much as I'd like to, I don't own Doctor Who
Feedback: Of course
AN: Hope this chapter lives up to everyone's expectations; I've been looking forward to writing the confrontation that takes place here for quite some time...
The Legacy of Gallifrey
"Right then," the Doctor said, smiling as he finished recharging the last screwdriver and looked around at his other selves. "First order of business is for us to get out of here and find out where we are; once we've determined how our enemies are going to do what we've learned they're going to do-"
"Which is what, exactly?" Klein asked, looking sharply at the Doctor.
"And talking of questions, who are we actually dealing with here?" Claire asked, looking in confusion at the Doctors. "I mean, who could do something this... well, from what Alistair there told me, this whole 'several-of-you-in-one-place' thing should only hap[pen when things get really dangerous, so what are the stakes here?"
As each looked at his other selves for a moment, the Doctors debated the merits of answering their companions' questions versus the merits of silence, before nodding in agreement as the oldest Doctor resolved to answer the question.
"It's a very twisted alliance," the Doctor said, looking grimly over at his assembled friends. "In a nutshell, we're dealing with Rassilon, Omega, and Davros."
"Omega and Rassilon?" the Brigadier said, looking at the Doctors in confusion, as the names met with mixtures of horrified gaps and confused stares as those not already aware of their current enemies either recognised the names or wondered who they were. "I thought they were dead?"
"That's... complicated to explain right now; let's just say that they made it back and leave it at that," the Doctor said, looking over at his other selves. "And you all know that I can't tell you more about that, so don't ask."
"Is there... something about those two that we should know?" Claire asked.
"Basically, they created my peoples' society millennia ago," the Sixth Doctor explained. "Unfortunately, Omega was trapped in an anti-matter universe and went mad from centuries of isolation, and Rassilon..."
"He had certain ideas about our place in the universe that I didn't approve of," the Eighth Doctor said, before he looked over at the Doctor. "Was I-?"
"You weren't wrong," the Doctor said (Even if it hadn't happened to him personally, he'd seen what Rassilon would have done in the Time War if he hadn't done what he'd done to stop it thanks to Compassion; he would never accept that what Rassilon had been planning was the only way to end the war). "If you hadn't done that... well, things would have been worse; let's leave it at that."
"So... we're dealing with the two insane founders of your civilisation, and... Davros?" Ian asked, looking at the Doctors for confirmation. "Who's Davros?"
"The man who created the Daleks," the Fourth Doctor said, looking grimly over at his first human companion.
"Oh my... someone actually created those things on purpose?" Ian said, looking at the scarf-wearing Doctor incredulously. "I just assumed they stuck something that crude together because they were stuck for options; who'd make that thing on purpose?"
"Let's just say that Davros had some twisted ideas about universal peace and leave it at that; it's not really relevant to this situation," the Fifth Doctor said, before he looked over at his oldest present incarnation. "What I don't understand is how those three could ever work together; does he really think that he can control them?"
"He thought that he could control the Dark Matrix itself; compared to that, controlling three insane geniuses would be easy," the Seventh Doctor said grimly.
"And... why would my Doctor join them?" Rose asked. "Did they-?"
"They 'did' nothing to him," Serena said, looking scathingly at Rose. "The Doctor you arrived here with chose to side with our enemies of his own accord and his own free will; there's nothing controlling him, I assure you."
"No..." Rose protested, looking in shock at the Doctor, her head automatically shaking in denial of Serena's statement. "He wouldn't do that-"
"I went through a lot before I met you, Rose," the Doctor said, looking grimly at his previous companion. "It would take exceptional circumstances, I grant you, but if someone- anyone- had offered me the chance to undo what had happened to me before now, particularly when it had the support of four of the most intelligent people I've ever met- people who are also fully aware of the consequences of manipulating Time too much-, well..."
He sighed apologetically. "As much as I'd like to pretend otherwise, I was a very damaged individual at that point in my lives; I'd been through a great deal."
"What?" the Brigadier asked, looking in confusion at his friend. "What could possibly make you-?"
"That's something he'll have to tell you when I get him back," the Doctor said, turning his attention towards the door of the cell as he aimed his sonic screwdriver at it, smiling in satisfaction when it easily slid open; as expected, his enemies might have planned how to contain him, but they hadn't made any plans to accommodate what might happen if he managed to get some help. "Now then, all of you stay here and stay safe; I'm going to find myself."
"You?" the First Doctor said, looking pointedly at him. "Young man, if you think-"
"He's not going to want to be alone with them for any longer than he has to be; even if he wants to help them succeed, his guilt won't let him stay in the same room as them for long," the Doctor said, the haunted expression in his eyes as he looked at Martha making it obvious what he was thinking.
The idea that he was going to have to actually go up against himself- not the Valeyard, but a past incarnation of himself- because he objected to what he was about to do...
"Wait here," he said, shifting his position to address all of his companions and other selves in a solemn manner. "I'll be locking that door so that only me and me can unlock it from this side; we'll go over the situation when we're all here and not before. If I'm not back in an hour..."
He paused for a moment, lost in thought, before he turned around and walked out of the door before it closed behind him.
"So," Amy asked, smiling at the people around her after a moment's silence made it clear that nobody else was going to start speaking right now, "how did you all meet the Doctor?"
Walking through the corridors of the vast ship that his enemies had chosen as a home base, the Doctor wasn't sure if he should be disturbed or impressed. Under other circumstances, the fusion of technologies that had obviously been used to construct this facility would have been wonderful- two different races coming together to explore the possibilities available to them via cooperation that they could never have explored alone-, but considering who was working together and what they were trying to accomplish, his interest in that was virtually non-existent.
Besides, he had a more immediate task to occupy his attention right now; he had to find his immediate predecessor.
God... he'd known that the other him had problems since his self-analysis during his captivity on the Valiant, but the thought that he could go this far...
The sudden sensation of his ninth incarnation's mind a short distance away brought that train of thought to a halt, as the Doctor turned around to hurry down the corridor that led in the direction of his target. As he opened the door at the other end, he smiled in satisfaction at the sight of his ninth self, alone in a room as he grimly studied a computer screen before him with various other screens active around him, including one that looked like a communication terminal.
The younger Doctor might be working with their enemies to achieve the same goal, but the Doctor's guess had been correct; he evidently didn't get along with them well enough to spend too much time in the same room as them.
"I'm not quite-" the Ninth Doctor began as he turned around to look at the new arrival, only for his eyes to widen as he registered who was standing in his door. "You?"
"Yep," the Doctor replied, staring back at his past self with a grim smile. "Funny thing about cells; you should have remembered that we always find a way out of them."
"They're here, aren't they?" the Ninth Doctor asked.
"Of course they are," the Doctor said, reaching out to close the door behind him as he continued to stare at his other self, knowing who the man he'd been was referring to without the need for further clarification. "Did you think they wouldn't work out how to follow us?"
"The thought came to mind," the Ninth Doctor replied, as he stood up from his seat and walked over to stand in front of the Doctor. "I mean, Klein knew what to do when she took my TARDIS, and-"
"But you didn't mention it to them," the Doctor interjected, still staring at his past self. "The Valeyard not thinking of it I can understand- he always dismisses everything we do simply because he considers it a sign of how pathetic we are-, but why didn't you?"
"I've had other things on my mind-" the Ninth Doctor began.
"Don't give me that; I've been you, remember?" the Doctor said, glaring at the man in the leather jacket, the simple attire as much of an attempt to distance himself from his past as his recent actions. "You always tried to deny that you recognised your mistakes even after people drew them to your attention, and there's only one reason you wouldn't mention something like that if you thought this plan had a shot at succeeding; you just didn't really think that they could get here in time, did you?"
"What does that have to do with anything?" the Ninth Doctor asked, his lack of denial all that the Doctor needed to hear.
For one of the few times in his life, he didn't bother reflecting on the lack of purpose served by using violence to solve his problems; he just drew back his fist and punched, the unexpected nature of the attack sending his past self staggering back into the nearby desk more than the force of the blow.
"You underestimated them," the Doctor said, ignoring the shock of what he'd done- he'd argued with himself in the past, but it had never degenerated to the point where he'd wanted to do that to himself- as he glared at his previous incarnation, a bruise forming on the Ninth Doctor's face as he returned his future self's glare. "We have counted on them, time and time again, and you didn't believe-"
"Belief isn't going to save Gallifrey," the Ninth Doctor replied scathingly, rubbing his sore jaw as he stared back at his older self. "It's not pretty, and if there was another group to work with I'd be looking for them, but this is the only chance we've got-"
"To do what; help the Time Lords do everything we were trying to stop?" the Doctor spat. "We were outraged when we discovered that validium weapon they planted during the War, and now you're going to let them destroy two planets to save Skaro?"
"We have to save Gallifrey; I can worry about the Skaro thing later-" the Ninth Doctor began.
"No you can't!" the Doctor yelled, staring in frustration at his other self; he'd known that he was damaged, but he'd never expected himself to be this deluded. "We're talking about Skaro here;
"I can work out a way to avoid having to bring it back-!" the Ninth Doctor began.
"Don't even try and claim you can do that!" the Doctor interjected, glaring at his younger self in exasperation. "We're talking about a group of geniuses here; don't you think one of them would have disposed of Davros if there was a way to do this without him, or that Davros wouldn't have tried to kill them if he could work out the same? They need Davros's technology and Rassilon and Omega's genius to pull this off; the Valeyard brought them together, but they wouldn't stay together unless there was no other way to get what they want without the other one getting what they wanted! You can't work with these maniacs-!"
"But I have to try," the Ninth Doctor said, looking at his future self, his assertiveness replaced by an uncertain defensiveness. "If it's the only way to save them..."
He sighed for a moment, apparently lost for words to describe the hope that had surged through him after learning about the plan- a hope that the Doctor himself had briefly entertained before he reminded himself of the consequences of something like that arranged by his enemies-, before he looked firmly at the Doctor once again. "If I can just get Gallifrey back, I can serve as a moral-"
"You're deluding yourself!" the Doctor yelled, glaring in exasperation at his predecessor; how could he ever have been so stupidly desperate as to even consider this plan? "They'll never listen to anything you have to say if it doesn't obviously make them stronger; too many Time Lords would just blindly listen to Rassilon and Omega because they're Rassilon and Omega, we don't have the-!"
"I have to TRY!" the Ninth Doctor yelled, suddenly grabbing his future self by the coat and slamming him against the wall in a fit of rage. "I failed Gallifrey once, I can't fail it again-"
"The only person who ever failed Gallifrey is Rassilon and everyone who thought that following him was a good idea!" the Doctor retorted indignantly. "We did everything we could to stop them, but we have to accept that there are things we can't do, and you can't do this; you're the Doctor-!"
"What does that MEAN any more?" the Ninth Doctor replied, pain and rage dominating his face as he yelled at his other self, even as a sudden loss of tension suggested that he'd wanted to see this for years. "We failed to defeat the Daleks when we had the chance, we failed to save Gallifrey, we keep on losing companions, we've lost our original home, we've lost all of our family... and for what? To save the universe that made us do all that? I DON'T WANT TO BE ALONE ANY MORE!"
For a moment the two Doctors simply stared at each other in silence, no words passing between them as the Ninth Doctor trembled with grief and rage under the silent stare of his future self while the other Doctor remembered the feelings that had prompted such an outbreak.
I don't want to be alone any more...
That was what it came down to, in the end; in this life he was always aware of his solitude.
It had almost been easier when he'd been left without his memory after Gallifrey's destruction; during the century he'd spent waiting for Fitz, he'd grown used to the silence of his head, and even after he'd learned what he really was he'd been comfortable simply returning to life in the TARDIS, but with the restoration of his memory after the defeat of the Vore, coupled with his regeneration so shortly after the fact...
He'd essentially learned what he was missing and lost the century or so of psychological and physiological stability he'd acquired since he'd actually lost it; looking at his past self now, the Doctor was almost amazed that he hadn't been more unstable than he was.
Even if he had recovered somewhat with Rose to give him something to fight for, that didn't change the fact that he had experienced so much hardship at this point of his life...
"I know how you feel," he said simply, allowing the masks that he'd grown so used to wearing to slip as he looked at his other self, remembering the pain he'd never been able to express to anyone. "I thought that way myself once... thought that there was no way anyone else could understand what I went through... thought that there was nothing left for me now but an old ship that sometimes seems to be on the verge of falling apart and a universe that regards me as everything from a legend to a nightmare depending on their prespective..."
He sighed slightly as he looked at the other man, before his face softened with sympathy as he stared at the other Doctor. "But there's something I remembered that you've forgotten."
"What's that?" the Ninth Doctor asked.
"I'm not alone," the Doctor replied, a soft smile on his face as he looked at the Ninth Doctor. "As an old friend once told me... I have the largest family in the whole universe, with friends spreading out across the whole of time and space, reaching out from a battered old blue box to create familial bonds wherever I go and with whoever I meet, regardless of factors such as age, origin, background, or even species."
He relaxed his grip as he spoke, but left his hands on the other Doctor's shoulders, giving him a brief affectionate squeeze before he returned to his looser, more relaxed grip. "It's not always perfect, and there are things that they can't give me, but what family is perfect? What matters is that they're there for me, and they accept me and my faults, just as I accept them and their faults; complete acceptance isn't necessary so long as they're willing to try and understand us."
"But they can't... they don't know," the Ninth Doctor said, looking sadly back at the Doctor, his initial rage forgotten now that he'd actually voiced it. "There's so much they can't understand..."
"And that's always the way of it with families, really," the Doctor replied, remembering some of his more awkward meetings with Martha's family, to say nothing of a few of the dinners he'd had to attend with Jackie after his regeneration made him more open to the idea (Honestly, why did he seem to be finding companions with families more often these days?). "They exasperate you, frustrate you, push you to the point where you wish you didn't have to deal with them... and then they show you that they care by doing something for you that you can understand and appreciate, telling you that they can get you even if you they don't always show it."
He smiled solemnly at his other self. "Are you really going to risk the family you found out here, the family that accepted and understood you as who and what you were without asking for more from you than what you were willing to be, the family that never wanted you to be anything more than the Doctor who travels through time and space and sees the universe... for the family that always did nothing but drop you when you didn't do exactly what they wanted you to do with your life?"
The Ninth Doctor stared silently back at the other Doctor, the faintest tears in his eyes as he reflected on what had happened in the past and what he could and couldn't do to take action against it, but then he smiled and nodded firmly.
"We're the Doctor," he said at last, his voice hardening with every word he spoke. "Whatever else we do... we don't let others do what they think is 'right' if it means killing innocent people."
"Right," the Doctor said, removing his hands from the Ninth Doctor's shoulders as he smiled at the other man. "Well then; shall we go?"
There was still a lot to be done until their enemies were defeated, but they were united in their purpose once again.
Against four of their deadliest individual enemies, that would have to be enough...