Chapter 1: Memory
"So, basically, this whole thing is the end result of a lunar colony that was established about four billion two hundred and thirty three thousand years into your future. Earth's still around—bit crowded—but humanity has perfected the terraforming process, and… Rory?"
Rory blinked, looking stunned and more than a little dazed, and slowly focused on the Doctor's face. "… Yeah?"
The Doctor raised his eyebrows. "You alright?"
Rory stared around at the buzzing metropolis, complete with a little children's park that had purple grass and floating play equipment in neon colors that literally glowed. As he looked a woman passed by… except that she had thick poisonous looking green spikes where her face should have been. "… Oh, you know…" he said, still sounding a trifle vague.
The Doctor exchanged a half-amused, half exasperated glance with the lovely Miss Amy Pond, who was currently wearing a little gold and white sequined flapper dress from the early 20's, complete with long, matching beads. When he'd asked her about it, she'd just shrugged and looked sort of… flirtatious. Needless to say, he'd changed the subject. "Right. So… Terraforming process. You might have noticed that the plant life tends to be sort of purplish in color, which is actually a result of a chemical reaction that took place during the…" He paused, looking from Rory's still shell-shocked expression and Amy's impatiently tapping foot. "Oh, nevermind," he muttered, sounding more sullen than he would have liked. "Anything in particular that you want to see?"
"What about that antigravity restaurant?" Amy asked immediately, hazel eyes sparkling with excitement.
"…Maybe we should start with something a bit less interactive," the Doctor replied lightly, shooting a significant look at the still shell-shocked young man at her side, "This isn't exactly Renaissance-era Venice."
Amy made a face and elbowed Rory in the side. "Ow!" he said at once, and then spluttered, "I mean—yes. I'm fine. I—"
"Culture shock," the Doctor all but chirped, "Awful to experience, really fun to watch. Let's try… over there." Without waiting for a response, he strolled off toward what looked like a long line of fast-food restaurants. Behind him, he could hear Amy scolding Rory like a cross mother with a particularly naughty child.
Quite suddenly, he came to a dead stop.
Amy, who apparently had been too busy with Rory to be paying strict attention, ran right into his back, and he stumbled forward a step. He honestly barely even noticed. From very far away, he heard Amy ask, "Doctor? What's wrong?" Something was…
"Something's wrong," he said slowly, then drew in a deep breath of air, almost like he was attempting to catch a sent on the surprisingly clean, fresh wind. "… Do you feel it?" He paused, though not to wait for any sort of response. He was trying to put his finger on—
"Doctor…" Amy was starting to sound nervous.
Without looking at her, he swallowed. Whatever this was… "Don't you fell like… we shouldn't be here?" It wasn't a terrifying feeling, not like with the Angels, or the Daleks; it was just… disquieting.
"Should we go?" That was from Rory. He sounded hesitant, like he wasn't sure if that was even an option.
That snapped him out of it. "Oh, no," he replied, making an abrupt return to his normal, lighthearted calm, "…It's probably nothing." And even if it wasn't, it probably wasn't anything he couldn't handle.
Mickey Smith stumbled out of the TARDIS, followed by an unhealthy amount of billowing black smoke. Coughing, he leaned against an obliging wall. He was immediately followed by Rose, who was holding the sleeve of her pink cotton jacket over her mouth and nose in an attempt to filter the air a bit. From inside the machine came the sounds of struggling machinery and a very indignant man repeatedly saying things like, "That's impossible!" and "No, no, no, no, NONONO!"
A few seconds after that, the Doctor ran out after them, coughing almost as violently as Mickey was, his hair even more of a mess than it was usually, with his long brown coat only half on and smudged with what looked like soot. The expression on his face was one of intense frustration. "That—" Cough. "Was complete—" Cough cough.
"Rubbish," snapped Mickey, even more irritated than the Doctor was. "Rose, why do you—" Cough. "Love this so much? All I hear about is the travelin', and the 'beautiful views'. Oh, yeah. Some great life this is!"
"Stop it," Rose told him sharply, and then walked over to the Doctor, whose face was turning bright red with so much coughing. "Are you alrigh'?" she asked, her tone hesitant and gentle and… pitying. Her hand reached out to brush his shoulder.
He flinched away reflexively. "Fine." Suddenly he frowned, and it was much more thoughtful and much less irritable than it had been a second before. "… Where did we end up, anyway?" His eyes flicked over to the purple grass in the children's play area, and he blinked. "We're on Achilles 7."
If Rose had been hurt by his unwillingness to be touched, it didn't sound like it. "Where's that?"
He ran a hand through his hair and brought out his spectacles automatically as he leaned forward to examine a purple-leafed, blue-blossomed rose bush. "It's a moon. A terraformed one, obviously. Specifically, we're in a system that's… Do you know where Betelgeuse is?" He glanced from Rose to Mickey. Both of them looked blank. He fought against the urge to roll his eyes, and succeeded with extreme difficulty. "Well it's in a system that's just to the left of that. Come on," he added, sounding passably cheerful as he picked a direction and started walking, folding his glasses back into his pocket as he did. "Look, Rose! Cronkburgers!"
She hurried to catch up with him, though she didn't make her usual, almost automatic attempt to catch his hand in hers, and made a face. "Brilliant. Where are we goin'?"
"No idea," he replied honestly, maneuvering his other arm into the free sleeve of his brown coat, "But the TARDIS needs to cool off for a bit before we can try moving again."
"No idea," he repeated, sounding far too cheerful.
"… No idea?"
"Nope!" He stopped at one of those little street stalls, briefly picked up something that looked for all the world like a high-tech snow globe, then set it back down and continued. "Although I suppose that it could have been damaged by all of the time manipulation that was happening on that ship."
He could feel Rose studying his face. "… The one with Madame Du Pompadour?" she asked carefully.
And then he felt his face go carefully blank without any sort of conscious decision being made on his part. "… Yeah." And there it was again. The pity. He didn't want to look at her, because then he would see her feeling sorry for him, and—"The TARDIS is very sensitive to anomalies like that. What those clockwork dolls were doing—it wasn't supposed to happen. It's against the laws of space and time."
He paused. "Anyway, it shouldn't be much of a problem; we'll just… shop for a bit, wait for the TARDIS to fix itself, and then…" He shot her a grin. It was a little strained, but it was there. "Anywhere you want, Rose Tyler." She smiled back at him, then Mickey snorted irritably and both of their smiles brightened into things that were just barely holding back gales of laughter. "Something interesting has to be going on around here. Actually… I think I know just the thing."
The Doctor froze. Blonde. A flash of… No, just because somebody was blonde… and wearing a pink jacket… Next to—
His eyes widened, and he immediately spun around so that his back was toward the approaching trio. Unfortunately, this meant that both Amy and Rory got a very clear look at his utterly panic-stricken expression. Amy instantly went very still, looking almost as frightened as he did. "Doctor…?" Rory just looked puzzled, glancing from one paralyzed face to the other.
"I don't remember this," he muttered, his eyes darting about as though searching for some miraculous means of escape. "How can I not remember this? I don't remember this!" Finally, his eyes focused on Amy's face, and he reached forward to grasp her shoulders. "Amy. Listen very closely. I am your boyfriend." Amy's eyebrows shot up, and he quickly continued before she could do… anything. "Specifically, I'm Rory. If anybody asks, that's who I am. We're engaged. We're going to be very happy. Because I'm Rory. Got it?" Her eyes still very wide, she nodded. It was the kind of nod that you gave a crazy person to convince them that you understood, and that they incidentally didn't need to feed you to their goldfish as a result.
"Hold on," Rory began slowly, quiet anger in his voice, "What the hell is that supposed to—"
Rory looked like he wanted to shout, but instead he whispered. It was a rather violent sort of whisper, true, but still a whisper. "Then who am I supposed to be?"
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "You're clever; make something up!" It was entirely possible that the rapidly approaching threesome would simply pass them by. This whole thing was probably completely unnecessary. The fact that he couldn't remember visiting Achilles 7 with Rose and Mickey didn't have to be ominous; maybe he'd hit his head after he left… or something. They were probably going to pass right by, and—
"Hullo! Do you happen to know where the Cajalaria Antigravity Restaurant is?" The Doctor closed his eyes, let out a slow breath, and turned around. There he was, and there was Mickey, and there was…
"Sorry," Amy—that brilliant Amy Pond—replied calmly, "We're tourists ourselves." She hadn't noticed the similarities between That Doctor's outfit and what he'd been wearing when he'd first met her. Hopefully, she never would, and that lot would just swan off to meet Madame Du Pompadour, or whatever they were supposed to do next.
His younger self beamed, delighted. Had his smile really been that wide? He looked a bit… manic, didn't he? Rassilion, this was humbling. "Really? Brilliant! Where from? I'm the Doctor, by the way, and this is…" The Doctor flinched unconsciously as his two companions seemed to choke on the air they were breathing. Oooooh, no. Luckily, the other Doctor was too busy introducing Rose and Mickey to notice facial expressions. Rose, however, was not. The Doctor saw her eyes sharpen, and quickly turned his own down towards the ground. This was not going to end well, was it?
"I- I'm Amy," Amy informed them, sounding somewhat wooden, now, "And this is my fiancée, Rory." He felt her hand on his shoulder, and he glanced up at the three of them for a fraction of a second, flashing an equally brief wave. "And this is our friend… John Smith." The Doctor flinched again and groaned before he could stop himself. It wasn't her fault; she didn't know. He hadn't needed to go undercover while she'd been with him.
"Alright there, Rory?" his younger self asked, still sounding cheerfully and innocently interested. There was an undertone to it, though, that he knew all too well; regeneration number ten knew that something was up. He probably didn't know what was up, yet, but…
He flashed a brief, rather cool little smile without meeting those eerily familiar brown eyes. "Bit of a headache," he replied evenly.
Amy, who seemed to be at a bit of a loss without her usual, talkative Doctor, flashed a strained smile. "Right. Well… good luck with it."
"Likewise," That Doctor told her, sounding sincere. Amy turned and started walking in a seemingly random direction, and, after a nod from the real Rory, her 'boys' also turned around and followed her. The Doctor was just starting to relax, when—"Rory!" The real Rory, thankfully, paused but did not look back. The Doctor noted this, stopped, and glanced over his shoulder. The other Doctor had a curious, intense look in his eyes that did not go with the detached but friendly look on his face. The Doctor knew how it felt to look like that, but he'd never seen the expression from the outside. It was really, really weird, and he shivered unconsciously. "Nice bowtie."
The Doctor blinked, then smiled in spite of himself. "Yes, it is." Then he hurried after Amy and Rory. They would have to keep going until they hit an intersection, and then they could double back and find the TARDIS. They would leave, and his past self would never get to figure this one out. It was going to be fine… except for the part where he had to explain the whole 'regeneration' thing to Amy; he really wasn't looking forward to that. Maybe she wouldn't ask!
The odd, nervous group walked on, and Mickey crossed his arms. "What was that, then?" he asked gruffly, obviously trying not to sound like he much cared.
Rose looked up into her Doctor's face, her expression searching. "Trouble?"
The Doctor, who had been watching the retreating backs of the so-called tourists with a curiously intense expression, looked down at her, trying not to look as excited as he felt. This was big; he could tell. "Oh, yes."