Four and a Half Doctors: A flawed angel, a genius, a warrior, a demon, a madman. Five incarnations. Five versions of the same man. All trapped, in a universe that shouldn't exist.
This novella is already written! I will be posting a chapter every couple days as I edit them. If you like it, please review! Spoilers for pretty much everything Doctor Who ever up to the end of Series Five.
I don't own Doctor Who or Torchwood, but I worship those who do!
Chapter 1: And Everything Began to Go Wrong
"Oh, I don't know, Pond. I think the place has its charms," the Doctor said adjusting his bow tie.
"But what's the point of visiting Space Florida if you've already refused to go anywhere near the water?" Amy asked, giving him a little pout. "And I still think you're keeping something from me, Doctor. You're being far too nice. We haven't been attacked by any terrible creatures in weeks!"
She said it in jest, her tone light and teasing, but as had become more often lately, the Doctor seemed to freeze for a moment, his expression darkening before he regained his composure and forced a smile. And Amy thought once again about the ring in her pocket. He hadn't mentioned it had gone missing yet, and if anything, that worried her even more. But she could play cheerful with the best of them, and if that was what the Doctor needed at the moment, she would oblige.
"Amy," he said softly, and placed a hand on her shoulder, suddenly serious, his eyes searching her face for something she couldn't quite place.
But then the phone rang, and the moment was broken. He seemed relieved to have a reason to cross the console room away from her, but Amy trailed after him, nosy as ever.
"Hello!" he said in a bright, chipper tone.
"Hello, Sweetie," Amy heard distantly, from the phone.
A wide, genuine smile sneaked across his face. "Ah, if it isn't the indomitable River Song! ... I see... Right this minute? Well, no, I wasn't particularly busy at the moment, but- Ok, Ok, hold tight."
The same grin on his face, he started running around the center column, pulling levers and pressing buttons and generally acting a bit mad. But excited. Amy couldn't help but feel a twinge of jealousy. Not at River, but at what he and River had. She couldn't remember ever feeling that way before.
Couldn't quite remember...
"I'm afraid we're going to have to make a little detour before exploring the lovely beaches of Space Florida," the Doctor said, distracted. "It seems River has gotten herself into a bit of trouble. Again."
But unlike last time, he didn't seem at all displeased. In just a few minutes, they'd landed on a rather inhospitable planet.
"Not exactly sure what she's doing here," the Doctor muttered to himself, glancing at his watch as he opened the door. "We're several thousand years from the evolution of the human species."
A dark blur dashed past him into the TARDIS, slamming the door behind her. River Song, dressed in a snug black jumpsuit with a silver belt and holster, stood inches from the Doctor, her back pressed against the door, panting slightly. "Right. Doctor, I think we need to get out of here. Now."
He chuckled. "Right."
And then they were both at the console, chatting and laughing as they piloted the TARDIS into the vortex. Enjoying themselves immensely.
"So what sort of daring adventures were you up to this time?" Amy asked, watching them as she perched from the jump seat.
"Oh, nothing worth mentioning really," she said casually, but her eyes were watching the Doctor. "Except my vortex manipulator suddenly decided to malfunction, and well, let's just say the natives grew restless."
"And where, exactly, did you say you obtained that particular little piece of rubbish time travel technology?" the Doctor asked, his voice light, but he seemed to stare straight through River.
"Ah, but that would be telling, my love. And I know how you hate spoilers."
He sighed, but kept smiling, obviously charmed.
Then the lights flickered, and the universe began to swirl around them.
"What's happening, Doctor?" Amy cried out, struggling to make sense of things as reality seemed to warp right in front of her.
"We're being pulled in!" River shouted. "I can't compensate, the time differential's too great!"
"Just hang on, we're almost through," the Doctor called back, his voice strained.
And then things really turned strange.
The Doctor stood in front of the center column, arms crossed. Staring at nothing, really. Alone.
Living on borrowed time.
It had seemed a simple decision at the time, defiant and proud. Ignoring the Ood that called him to his death. But what had he done with his borrowed time? Drifted around an empty galaxy, exploring worlds that had never known sentient life, naming it on a whim. Saved a planet he knew should have been destroyed, simply to prove to himself that he still could. Purposely ignoring what the Red Carnivorous Maw would have one day meant to a few obscure solar systems several generations down the line. He'd decided, all on his own, that their history was unimportant in the long run. Simply because he could.
And now he longed for nothing more than home. For centuries now, for most of his adult life, only one place had ever felt like home to him. But what did he have waiting for him? Donna was lost, forever, and he could never forget the pleading, the accusation, in her eyes as he wiped her memory of everything she was. Of everything she had become. And he'd avoided Martha's calls for months, until he assumed she finally took the hint. Because what could he say to her, really? To the brave and honorable woman who had always sacrificed so much for him, who had fearlessly risked her life to save him, to save her entire planet. More than once. What could he say to her, when at the moment he felt like an absolute coward? Fearing for his life, for this one, flawed, broken incarnation, when she had looked madmen and monsters in the eye and laughed. And how could he avoid Jack, who right now understood more about sacrifice and suffering and terrible decisions than any other friend in the universe? When what Jack craved more than anything else was the Doctor's forgiveness, or absolution, or even his condemnation. After the Doctor had purposely made himself conspicuously unavailable when Jack needed him the most. Not that he would have ever asked for help.
Sarah had once told him he had the biggest family on Earth, and right now he felt that weighing upon him like a curse.
"So, Doctor," he said to himself and rubbed his hands over his face. "Where to next, on this doomed little irresponsible holiday of yours?"
Earth, then, he finally decided, because he could think of nowhere else he wanted to be. But not his Earth, not the timeline he'd cultivated for himself, full of friends and loved ones he felt he didn't quite deserve at the moment. Maybe something earlier, less civilized. He felt a slow grin creep across his face. England, but in the days of knights and jousting and courtly intrigue and lords and kings and queens.
He stepped up to the console and began lazily operating the controls, slipping back into the vortex with well-practiced ease. And then the TARDIS went mad, spinning, slipping through dimensions, tossed like a single leaf in a raging river. There was nothing the Doctor could do to stop it.
"Huh?" he replied, looking up from a panel of complicated circuitry and removing his glasses. "Coffee? Naw, no thanks, Ianto. Although, I could actually murder a cup of tea at the moment."
"Of course, sir," Ianto said with a slightly exasperated smile. He was rather fond of his reputation for making the best coffee in the world, so of course it had to be his luck that his boss only ever drank tea. Though Ianto did keep asking, hoping to catch him off guard one day.
"And Ianto, how long have we worked together?"
"Five weeks, sir, ever since I transferred from London."
He put a hand on his shoulder and gave him a wide, warm smile. "Then could you please stick to calling me John, like everyone else around here does? No sir, no Doctor, just… John. That's all I want to be at the moment."
Ianto had heard it before, but some part of him still rebelled. The tall, lanky man in the blue pinstriped suit, very attractive in a deep plum dress shirt and a dark blue tie, he couldn't help but notice, seemed so much more than everyone else around him. He was brilliant, that much was true, but everyone at Torchwood was brilliant. Genius didn't even begin to describe him. There was something ageless about him, something timeless and wonderful and terrifying all at once. And the name John Smith did not come close to describing him.
But he nodded, and made a note to himself to try harder. "Of course, Doctor. John."
"There ya go!" he said glibly, then turned back to the panel. "That wasn't so hard. You're a good man, Ianto. In any universe."
Rose strode into the room, and John turned back at the sound of her clipped steps. His eyes grew wide and warm, as they always did when Rose strode into a room. Rose made the John's face light up. And of course, she always softened around him as well. The former assistant director of Torchwood, who'd left for two years, only to show up at Cardiff to freelance on his own special project. Those two had been at it for half a decade, turning Torchwood 3 into their own private research lab. Not that anybody minded. Between them they'd probably developed half of Earth's defense systems, and stopped a dozen wars.
"Hello, Ma'am," John said with a smirk, and he gave her a flippant little two-fingered salute.
"Doctor Smith," Rose said, and stepped into the circle of mirrors.
"So it's all right when she does it," Ianto said with a chuckle, stepping away from Doctor Smith's special project.
"Well, I'm afraid my wife does retain certain privileges," he said as he took her hand.
"How far along are we?" Rose asked, peering into the open panel of the semi-organic mass in the center.
"Aw, she's still just a baby," he said and gave the bright blue lump an affectionate pat. "Aren't ya, girl? But, I dunno, maybe with a bit more rift energy, she should be ready for a little jump in a couple more weeks."
He put on his glasses again and returned to the panel, turning on his sonic screwdriver. Ianto was already halfway across the warehouse.
"Yeah... Just a couple minutes, at first, but still. That's just brill-"
As he reached the door, Ianto heard the most mysterious sound, and a flash of blue enveloped the room. By the time he turned back, the entire apparatus had disappeared. John and Rose along with it.
"The Time Lords overreact to everything," the Doctor told Romana in a wistful sort of voice. "Look at the way they treat me. I suspect one day, in a few hundred years from now, someone will meet me and say, 'Is that really the Doctor? How strange. He seemed such a nice old man.' "
Romana chuckled. "Only if you're very lucky, Doctor. Somehow I don't see you lasting that long."
"Oh, but that's a terrible thing to say," the Doctor said as he led the TARDIS into the vortex.
"That's all right," she said softly, moving close to him. "I happen to think you're rather nice as you are."
"Oh," he said, setting the TARDIS to drift as he turned to her, a mischievous glint in his eyes. "Is that so, Madam President?"
She smiled at him, and laid her hand on his. "Come now, I get quite enough of that on Gallifrey. And it's driving me mad. I can't tell you how... grateful... I am that you convinced me to join you on this little escapade."
The Doctor took her hand gently, and gave it a brief, tender kiss. "But the pleasure is all mine, Romana. As always."
Romana sighed, looking into his eyes, a blue-grey flecked with green this time. Rather pretty. She always liked his pretty incarnations. No one ever looked at her like that anymore, as though they saw a woman, an equal. Now, trapped in her own schemes and plots and struggles on Gallifrey, everyone looked at her as a force of nature, as something less and yet more than what she truly was. But the Doctor saw through everything. Could sense her, the real Romana under all the masks and pretenses forced upon her by a life on Gallifrey. A life spent in the ultimate echelons of authority among the most powerful beings in the universe.
And so she kissed him, to forget, and to remember who she was when they first met, the person he saw when he looked at her like that. Centuries worth of memories, all wrapped up in him. A hundred years could pass between them, had passed between them, but this would always feel so natural.
He pressed her against the console, his body against hers as his kisses turned urgent, frantic. As his hands began to roam over her body, she sensed his mind brushing against her, surprised at how quickly this incarnation lost control, when in his last body he'd been so guarded and calculating. No, this was a Doctor made for reacting to the world, not controlling it. And that only made her want him more. Made her want to ravish him, and make him whimper, to see that pretty face incoherent with pleasure.
But then the universe had to spoil it all by unraveling around them.
The Doctor considered the day to have gone rather marvelously so far. Especially after the previous evening's interminable discussions with Turlough regarding that unfortunate incident in Russia, and the Doctor's own thoughtless and foolhardy habit of keeping Turlough in the dark as to the true dangers of a given situation. The morning had begun as his lover awoke and graced him with a pleasant, pleasurable surprise. Not that the Doctor had been asleep, really, but he'd come to regard the long hours in bed pressed against Turlough's warm, supple body as a grateful luxury.
He then spent the next few hours baking and cooking as Turlough returned to his slumber. The Doctor couldn't remember a companion spending so much time sleeping, but then, he'd never traveled with a Trion before, and besides, what did that matter? They had a time machine. And only each other to worry about. He'd grown quite fond of the situation.
After a hearty breakfast, where they both behaved like perfect gentlemen, mostly, and managed to avoid any further arguments, they made their way to the console room to get started with their day.
"So?" Turlough finally asked, after the Doctor had made it around the center console twice, checking and rechecking the readings.
The Doctor had to smile. Turlough really did look quite adorable with his arms crossed feigning jaded disinterest. But those quizzical ice blue eyes remained fixed on the Doctor, giving Turlough away.
"So…" the Doctor began, sidling up next to Turlough. "I don't have any particular plans for today, so I was wondering what you would like to do."
Turlough shrugged, managing to look pleased and dismissive at the same time. "I found a few of my half-finished sketches from our last trip to the Eye of Orion," he replied, with a coy little smile.
Turlough really was a lovely artist, and his watercolors had a subtle grace that the Doctor found very relaxing. He kept the only painting Turlough had managed to finish during their first eventful holiday at the Eye of Orion hanging prominently in the room they'd shared for the past year and a half. Had it really only been so recently that they'd found each other? Already their time together had begun to seem too brief. And the Doctor was determined to savor every stolen moment he spent with his endearing ginger minx.
"I think that's a rather marvelous idea," he said, with a warm grin.
Turlough gave him a little peck on the cheek, chaste yet tantalizing. "Thanks," he said softly, then took his place on the other side of the console.
Together, they piloted the TARDIS deeper into the vortex, and everything began to go wrong.
Thanks so much for reading this opening chapter! I've already gotten started on the next increment, which I'll post very soon. Wanna read more? Give me those reviews!
And in case you were wondering where in the timeline these lovely Doctors are at the moment:
Eleven: Right after the Lodger, but before the Pandorica Opens.
Ten: After the Waters of Mars, but before the End of Time.
10.5/Meta-crisis/Handy/John: About 7 or 8 years after Journey's End, and 5 years after my awesome story that you should totally check out (shameless plug) called "Hello, Doctor. I'm the Doctor." It's on Teaspoon and an Open mind.
Eight: Immediately after Shada, a truly excellent Big Finish audio/BBC webcast adopted from a script by Douglas Addams! It's on YouTube for free. But there won't be any spoilers or references to it really, it's just a pretty keen story. And Eight's first line was written by Addams, I won't take credit. Oh, and for Romana, it's still relatively early in her presidency. Long before the Time War, or any of her other Big Finish stuff.
Five: Between Ressurection of the Daleks and Planet of Fire, specifically after the Big Finish audio Singularity, but the only reference was to the Doctor and Turlough having a fight about the Doctor being thoughtless and getting foolishly caught up in things. Which is really more of a character trait than a spoiler, heh heh.