Title- Beyond The Veil
Characters/Pairings- Doctors 1-13 (yes, 13), Susan, Jamie, Jo, Romana II, Turlough, Peri, Ace, Grace, Rose, Donna, River, and a pair of original companions
Summary- The Tenth Doctor discovers that his song isn't ending: it's just leaving to join in a greater melody... Oneshot of various pairings and much joy, because I have had it up to HERE with all the emo!Ten. Which, admittedly, I'm guilty of too, on occasion, but only when I'm writing something to FIX it!
A/N- There's a tiny reference to the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane in this, but you will still understand this every bit as well if you have no familiarity with those (incredibly epic and gorgeous and must-read-for-Whovians) books. I just love blending the Errantryverse and the Whoniverse because they mesh so well they might as well have been the same fandom.
Also- I have pegged Thomas Langley (remember Timothy Latimer from the Human Nature story arc?) as Doctor 13, so, yeah, that's who that is.
"We are not what you think we are,
We are golden..."
Apoptosis set in twenty minutes ago, and since then he has actually felt his cells dying. As he sets the TARDIS for a course away from Earth, he feels the regeneration taking hold. It's like fire rushing through his veins, familiar and hated, yet welcomed for the relief as the agony that has been wrapped around his bones for what feels like eternity now (but really, it has only been forty minutes or so). Even as the pain eases, though...
"I don't want to go," he chokes out.
And then he is gone, screaming at the dark as another man takes his place. Impossible though he knows it to be, he still clings to life, hoping that some unexpected miracle will come to him and he'll be able to stay. But it is impossible.
Then he is dragged out into the world again, feeling as though he has been stretched to breaking point and then snapped back into his regular shape.
His eyes pop open.
A disturbingly familiar face peered at him from a strange angle. A few seconds later, he realized that he was lying flat on his back, seemingly in some kind of field, if the blades of grass tickling at the back of his neck were any indication. He blinked, and his mind cleared.
"Hello, old man," said the curly-topped individual who used to be him. "They sent me to fetch you."
The Tenth Doctor had the surreal experience of being helped to his feet by the Sixth Doctor. "Where am I? What happened?"
"That's a rather difficult question, actually," Six said. "We're... well, we're between. You see, it turns out that after we- and by we, I mean us, you and me and the other parts of us- die, or regenerate, or whatever you want to call it, it's not an end, per se. We come here, to the realm of the Guardians. Welcome to Timeheart."
Impossible, was his first thought. Timeheart was just a story, a myth, not a real place. Except... it was. As he looked around, he could feel a soft, pleasant hum in the air. The two of them were standing alone in a field under an endless blue sky, and just beyond, the hills glowed with a subtle inner radiance. As he stared into the distance, the light grew brighter exponentially. The two Doctors stood side-by-side, gazing into the light, the Sixth wearing an expression of one who has been away from home for far too long, and the Tenth with a look of wonder and that childlike combination of fear and joy. The light grew brighter every second, not blinding, but rather increasing their ability to bear it as it grew, the shimmering curtain of reality the only thing between them and that radiance.
The veil parted, and the two stood at the bottom of a sparsely wooded hillside. The surrounding area resembled the world they had left, but it was somehow more real and everything around them glowed ever so softly, themselves included, and all the colours were more intense.
"We exist outside Time here," said the Sixth Doctor. "Everyone that has ever been or will ever be is here, all at once. It's confusing, but less so for us than for others. We're used to non-linear time. I must say, though, you took rather a long while getting here! Then again, I suppose that's to be expected. Your successor says you were fighting the change... I suppose it might have delayed your arrival."
The Tenth Doctor was still staring at the impossible beauty of everything around him. "So we're all here... all of 'us' at the same time?"
Six rolled his eyes. "If you want to look at it that way. Everyone's here, like I said. Everyone who was and everyone who will be. We're not sure how we all correspond to the universe as we know it, whether we leave and pop back when we're done there or if we just come here after death and the transcendental Time here makes things... well, it's strange. But good strange, I like to think." He waved a dismissive hand. "Most people are on a different level of Timeheart, but apparently someone higher up decided that we- you and I- are special. We can come and go between the levels, because really, they're all present together, but someone, some higher Power, decided that we ought to be given our own sort of place. Welcome home, Doctor."
As the Tenth Doctor's eyes slowly adjusted to the differences between seeing "reality" (such a pale universe he had come from, compared to reality as he was coming to understand it, seeing this hyper-real beauty around him), he became aware that they were not alone.
There was his First self, sitting on a tree stump with Susan by his side, pointing at a page in a book she was holding, apparently explaining something to her. And a little further up the hill sat the Second Doctor with Jamie, the pair of them apparently attempting a bagpipe/recorder duet and failing uproariously- though here, even the sour notes sounded beautiful because of their unbearable surrealism. Beyond the little wood, he could see his Third self, Jo by his side, peering through a telescope pointed up at the stars.
He turned, and at the very top of the hill, where the trees were sparse and the grass was thick and tall, he caught a glimpse of a colourful scarf. His Fourth self lay reclined in the grass, and there, next to him, was Romanadvoratrelundar. Her golden head rested on his shoulder, and his arm was around her. As the Tenth Doctor watched, his past self raised an arm and scribed an arc, presumably pointing out something in the sky. Romana looked up at him with a soft smile and twined her fingers with his; at the contact, he glanced down at her and flashed her a huge grin.
There, on the banks of a little stream, was his Fifth self, sitting with Turlough and the pair of them looking as though they were deep in discussion of something or other. Peri sat with them, but it was obvious that she wasn't really paying attention. She was looking at the Sixth Doctor beside him with a knowing smirk on her face.
Ace was there, playing chess with the Seventh Doctor, and very obviously losing, if the frustrated expression on her face was anything to go by. And the Eighth Doctor was sitting with Grace Holloway a few meters away from them, gesticulating wildly as he made a point. Grace laughed, and the Tenth Doctor marveled at how different she looked from when he had first met her. Her world-weary expression was gone, and the fine lines around her eyes had faded away. There was his Ninth self, sitting against a tree with Rose perched on his lap, wearing a content look that he couldn't ever remember having in life.
And there were others that he didn't recognize. The mysterious River Song was there, walking with a frighteningly young-looking Doctor in a tweed jacket, apparently engrossed in conversation.
"That's the one who came after you," Six said, noting the direction of Ten's gaze.
A tall, terribly skinny man with flaming red hair and a wildly contrasting green overcoat was poking at something in the dirt with a long stick, observed by a small young man who faded into his technicolour background without really disappearing.
"The ginger one is Twelve, and the one with him is Michael. Nephew of Tegan's, actually. Poor kid got killed by Omega. But then again, knowing what comes After, maybe that's not really so terrible," Six said. "And over there is Thirteen, and the violent young lady is called Inez."
The Last Doctor was a fair-haired man, small, but with ancient gray eyes that nonetheless sparkled with elation as he engaged in a fierce sparring match with his companion. Inez had long dark hair and her olive complexion was flushed as she leapt at the Doctor, pinning him to the ground with her heel at his throat. They held that stance for a moment, then both of them broke down laughing and Inez helped the Doctor to his feet.
"I though you said it was just us," Ten said, confused. "All the Doctors."
Six let out a low laugh. "Did you really think the Guardians would be that cruel? This is a reward, not a punishment. We wouldn't spend our whole life- lives? Not sure, we seem to be separate entities here- anyway, we wouldn't spend all that time ultimately alone and cut off from our people just to come here and stay alone. No. We've all got somebody here; each of us has somebody, that one particular friend we just can't leave for the rest of Timeheart to cherish without us. So, who's yours? Who's spending eternity with Doctor Number Ten?"
Anyone who had known him in life (though he was already starting to see that as a pale imitation, just standing here in the unending glow of the world beyond the veil) would have expected him to say Rose. In fact, he would have probably expected him to say Rose, for so many years while he wandered alone. But Rose had never really been his. She had belonged to another Doctor, and every second after his regeneration had been borrowed time. He'd known it even then.
Something had changed in him, though, in those last few years. He had discovered that there were humans who had the wisdom of Time Ladies, and women who shone like the sun even on the most ordinary of days just because that's who they were. He knew who was waiting for him here.
He turned, and there she was. Donna Noble with her hands on her hips and her red hair, like the rest of this Other-place, glowed with that inner radiance, so bright she seemed like living fire, and her expression seemed torn between that spitting rage that terrified him, and the expression of unbounded joy that had come to mean more to the Tenth incarnation of the Time Lord known as the Doctor than anything else in the world.
He never found out which side won out, because before she could make up her mind, he had run to her and grabbed her up in a fierce hug, holding on for dear life. She hugged back, and that was what Donna was good at, she was good at knowing exactly what he needed and making the bad things good and the good things incredible and saving him every second. The other Doctors and their various companions glanced at them, and they all shared a smile. Eleven had told them how hard the previous regeneration had had it, and all their multitudinous hearts had gone out to him. But that journey was ended now.
The Doctor had, at last, come home.