Doctor Who and the Threads of Time

Part Seven: St. Albans Space Bazaar, Late October 2518.

Having gotten the annoying time line-crossing Time Lady to flee off to whatever meddling she was bound to be up to, the post-War Doctor marched into the room where he was to meet one William J. Johns. Johns was, still, a merc. In this case the fact that the ex-morphine addict had remained a merc, at least part time, proved to be to the Doctor's advantage because the fellow was able to get his grubby paws on intel that other sources had not been able to turn up. What surprised 'Jon Smythe' was the fact that ex-docking pilot, Carolyn Fry, had stayed with Bill in the past few months, or rather nearly a year, since he'd left them on Helion Prime. He had little intention of hiding from them that he and Richard had been living here, in Blue Sun space, dating back to the vary day that the Hunter-Gratzner set off from Persephone. Although explaining his current state might take some doing...

The redhead was not in immediate view, but the blond ex-docking pilot rushed up to him and hugged both he and Jacob before he could put up any sort of resistance. Although she hated cryo with a passion, she'd come this way, on her claim money, with Johns, because Alliance shipping had paid off her debts to the Company when she sued them for how the maintenance on her previous ship had been handled. The New Meccan courts had listened to her, Johns, Imam, and young Ali and given them a very nice settlement for wrongful deaths and other hardships. On top of this she won a disability suit claiming that she could no longer work a Ghost run after the crash. Johns promised that once they settled down they'd never go into cryo again. That was the only reason she'd been able to get into the sleeper tube to begin with this time.

She stepped away from the Doctor, and looked over Jacob again, "Oh my God! Look at you!" the woman exclaimed to the boy, "Jack, you're growing like a weed."

"Hah, am not." Jacob replied, "Da just doesn't want you to see the baby bump, which is, ironically, huge."

"What?" Carolyn then took a long look at the Doctor himself, noticing his haggard appearance, this shortened hair (not that it had ever been long to begin with), and his swollen middle. "Doctor! Sit down before you fall down," she guided him into a chair then fussed over him, brushing her hands over his very short and fine hair (he'd pretty much given up on it growing in until after the babe was out of him, seeing as it was falling out faster than it was coming in) and pretty much acting like a mother hen on a favored chick. She ignored the annoyed expression much as Kaylee might. This made Jacob snicker.

The Doctor put up with this for as long as he could then quickly caught her hands, "'m fine, OK? It's not like I'm gonna have this baby for a few weeks yet, so stop fussin'." He looked about for Johns, sighed at the fact that the merc was not there and looked at Book, "Can you go find Johns for me please, Shepherd. He's got to be here close by." Carolyn got a hand free and put it on his swollen middle just to make sure it was in fact a baby in there and not a beach ball. She grinned at the kick she got for the trouble. "Oi, cut that out, child."

Book didn't want to go, but he had seen images of Marshal Johns and knew who he was. The Doctor was with friends so he figured the best thing to do was to locate the redheaded man so that the situation they were here to meet for could be taken care of. He'd personally feel much better once Jon was back on Serenity, where there were medical supplies that were set up to not produce any allergic reactions that might kill him. This in mind the priest agreed and left the room.

Fry was almost petting him, and definitely going into baby-talk as she cooed at his belly. He wagged a finger at Jacob and then reached a hand to him. The boy said, "Why to all women that realize you're – well, you know – go all funny?"

"It's a girl thing, Jack. How many guys do you think we see that are pregnant. Besides you should see how we treat each other," she replied to him as the Doctor moved her hand to another spot so that the babe would kick or punch elsewhere. She knelt down and got her other hand free. "How has your back been doing, having problems sleeping?"

Jon rolled his eyes, "I said 'I'm fine' which means – I'm fine. Except for Richard being gone and my being infected with the parasite still, and worried that it's going to get out of the tiny part of my brain it's corned in and move into the babe. Please stop fussing." She sighed and nodded. "What you been up to, Carolyn?"

She shook her head and bit her lip, "Not as much as you have been, clearly. You having a boy or a girl?"

"There's an overwhelming chance it's a boy, like ninety-nine-point-nine percent or so. But... I've not wanted to know for sure, and River keeps saying it's a girl. Rich told me he didn't care either way."

"Ah. Want my not-so-professional-opinion?"

He smiled at her, "OK, sure."

Carolyn closed her eyes and thought a moment. Then she looked up at him, "I'm seeing blond hair. But I couldn't tell you if it is a girl or a boy."

"How could it have blond hair if both Rich and Da have dark hair?" Jacob asked her.

"I don't know. You sure it's Rich's?"

The Doctor gave her an insulted expression, "Hey! Yes, I'm sure. I had blond hair in my first, my fifth, and my sixth regenerations. The color could pick up from there. And Amadak's Mum had dark ginger hair, so stop that, both of you," he teasingly stole the cap off his son's head, ruffled up his hair, which the lad had allowed to grow out again, and allowed the boy to snatch the cap back.

"OK," Carolyn said with a laugh. "I guess it's a good thing that we came as soon as we got the message, considering how far along you are. We stopped over at Lupus Five so Johns could pull the records and make contacts, ended up on CoalSack three to make an exchange of mechanics, because the files you asked for were psychically locked and couldn't leave the messenger's bio-field until delivery. Kovan security, what a pain in the ass, I swear."

"Exactly what does that mean?" Jacob asked.

Jon looked at him, "It means that only the person it's delivered to can open the files without wiping them. And I'm praying that nothing happens to make this already bad situation worse."

"It'll be fine. Johns wouldn't have let her stay up top if we hadn't heard the TARDIS arrive -"

At this the Doctor's head snapped up. He'd been so focused on Romana he'd forgotten about the other TARDIS. The expression he wore was horrified, "That wasn't me arriving. Well it was, but not now-me." Then he looked at Jacob. "Oh Rassilon, this is so bad..." Even with Carolyn knelt down in front of him he was on his feet and halfway to the door before either of the others reacted.

"What? Da? What?"Jon was keeping a one handed firm grip on his son's arm, dragging the boy with him. Carolyn hustled to catch up, determined to not let the fellow out of her sight. "Da! Talk to me!" Jacob was not fighting, but rather doing everything he could to keep up with the larger man.

"Romana is here to retrieve something from my second incarnation. If it is the time I remember, Jamie is with me. And the data files end up with him. I've got try and – get his help, I guess. Damn it."

"You mean there are two of you here?" Fry asked from behind him.

"Worse than that. There are two of Jack here. And I have no idea what sort temporal catastrophe might occur if they touch. Which means -" he looked at his son, "- NO touching the other version of me, Dong Ma? You've not been born yet, and so touching my other self could cause horrible rifts in reality." Their footsteps rang out in the hallway, although muffled by thin carpeting.

"Yea, I get it, da. Should I go back to Serenity and wait for you?"

"No," Thete was tempted to hug the boy to him. "I don't want the shifting time lines to tear you away from me either." This made the boy shudder and grip the Time Lord's hand tighter. He didn't want that any more than his da did. "On the plus side... with things shifting like they are maybe I can help myself find a way to keep your sire from dying, Jacob. Give you a real childhood."

The boy blinked, "You mean – Jamie, right?" The Doctor nodded. "But what about Rich?"

"I'm not giving up on Amadak, son. There's more than enough room in my heart and soul for both of them. There should be more than enough room in yours too." The Scottish piper would understand, likely with more ease than anyone else realized. In fact it was more than likely that Jamie would have been someone he told before starting the bonding process knowing where it could go and he'd have sought approval before completing even a blocked bond. And he'd missed the man like he missed his home. Perhaps it was because where- and when- ever Jamie had been when they were together, was home. But what to do about Romana?

He knew, in hindsight, what she'd done. Using the matrix to distill other possible parts of her personality, dangerous for even the most rock solid of psyches was downright horrifying when linked back to Morbius' House. A house that Romana's was derived from. It was said that the line between madness and genius was razor thin, with the most brilliant of minds just barely balanced on the edge. If he pushed the wrong way then his reasons for destroying his native society and all they had ever touched would shift from the 'enemy' to stopping a Tyrant of his own making. The universe would still burn. He'd still end up with this massive power. The Daleks would still be around to keep pestering him. He'd still be alone.

So he needed a third option. He needed to save her from her own foolishness. But could he make her listen? That was the problem. Romana could be quite stubborn at times, very sure of herself, prone to thinking she knew it all even when she knew quite little. But she was also very clever, and if he didn't do this just right she'd spot that he was making a new path, exercising a power they were not supposed to use, and toss a wrench into the works to stop him. Lucky for him, Time was shifting about her too, so even if she'd checked all the possible paths before leaving Gallifrey that didn't mean those routes were still valid now. He didn't remember how much he'd taught her about this illegal ability though. He'd need to be quite careful.

Just as the door was opening, William and Book met them at the lift, "I found Eve, in Cryo. Didn't I bet she would skip out on us? I had a feeling she might. But-" the redhead noticed the Doctor was there and cut himself off mid-thought, "- did you get the data file from her?" Jon gave the man a withering expression. For a second Bill looked confused, "No? Then who did she give it to?"

Carolyn slid over to his side, reading the increasing tension in the pregnant man's still too-lean form. She intended on making the marshal slow down before the Doctor gave into the urge to smash the nearest wall with Johns face, "How would he know? The Doctor has been with me waiting for you, Bill." The blond woman put a hand over his mouth before he could say anything else, "Did you check the ghost run that was boarding?"

He kissed her fingers then pulled back from her, "Yes. She's already on and hooked in. The captain said she asked for a cheaper box, not a shielded one because she'd made her drop, OK?"

He was getting tired of standing there holding the doors. He was annoyed at Johns for his stupidity, but on the other hand how was the fellow to know that he was not going to arrive by TARDIS? It hadn't been stated that he was coming on a normal spaceship after all. He pushed his rising feelings of anger down. "Don't worry about it. Just get in the lift," the Doctor ordered them. "I think I know what happened and I need to find the people that might have it."

It was then that Bill finally looked at the kilt clad man and really saw him. What stood out the most was the swell to his belly that the marshal just knew mean he was expecting. This popped up now and then as an odd quirk with certain populations that had a lot of contact with Elementals, but as far as he knew the Doctor didn't have those ties. He was staring, Johns knew, but he couldn't help it. Finally he stepped the small space with him, curiosity getting the better of his self-preservation, "How the hell did you end up pregnant?"

"William," Fry warned. "Don't start." She and Book both stepped into the lift too and the door closed.

"I'm just asking." the redhead said to her before turning back to the Doctor and pelting him with questions, "It's Richie's right? You two did follow through finally?" He didn't wait for the questions to be answered, "That's why you're freaked out that he's gone... He knocked you up and then got caught?"

"Shut. Up," Jon finally growled out at him. "For once, don't work overtime to piss me off. My temper is about at breaking point as it is." Both the kid and the priest tried to calm the pale, almost sickly looking, man down. "I'm fine. It's under control."

"Hey, hey... It's cool. Relax, huh?"

Even that annoyed the hell out of him. Just being in the same space with Bill was getting on his nerves. He allowed the calm feeling from Book's silent support and the firm grip from Jacob's hand in his own to steady him. He couldn't afford to go off on William right now because he was so close to being due and the Parasite was sure to take full advantage if he cracked even a little. The elevator doors opened at that point onto the main section of the station, and the Doctor marched out ignoring the marshal as best he could. Somehow he'd forgotten how irritating the man could be. He was not usually moved to violence, but this situation was nothing common. No, it was highly irregular, in almost every way. The sensation of Time trying to shift around him flowed over his skin like slithering snakes, and he was, because of the strained Bond, very much at the breaking point. And that was before he'd gotten into William's presence. At least Carolyn tempered it somewhat.

He scanned the level, looking for signs of – himself – and frowned. He didn't see what he was looking for right off the bat but he did see the two young women that he'd set free to shop here. Rose and Saritha had managed to acquire an alarming number of bags in the short while he'd cut them loose, and in addition to this were heading his way with Ice Planets in both hands. His glower deepened. Rose gave him a cheery expression, handed one of the frozen treats off to Jacob and then asked, "Want one?" He shook his head, "OK. Though it might cool you off. They have 'em with just flavored ice too."

His eyes are still on the bags. Whatever did they find to purchase? And how much did they get? He sure hoped that they steered clear of pink. "What did you do, buy an entire shop?" River fixes him with a mysterious but silly grin, managing, just, to not give into temptation to flirt with him. They have been becoming much closer, as part of her healing requires much more intimacy than either have hinted at to Simon. Usually though, Rose acts as a buffer, and at the moment Rose is flirting, so it's harder to not follow her example.

"Several, actually," the bottle blond teased. The situation makes the redheaded man raise an eyebrow, while Jacob shoots him a look that promises great harm if he dares to open his mouth and say even on smart-ass word about this. Rose catches the boy's eye and smiles at him, which he returns happily. She then focuses back on the Doctor and his two adult friends, "An' who is this?"

"William, Carolyn," the Doctor indicated. "This is Rose Tyler. She's a good friend." They all said their hellos and then he cut in, "Look, I'm in a bit of a hurry here. Saritha, Rose, luv, why don't you show my friends here back to the ship. Book, I'll be along in a moment. I've just got to find myself," he gave them a grin that was happy enough but a ghost of his former brilliance.

Rose handed off her bags to the Shepherd and her ice planet too, managing to convince him that she'll buy another for herself and that he can have that one, "Um... I'm staying with you."

River nodded at this in full agreement, "I will go back. You be careful." Her words were for the three of them. She then joined Book in leading Fry and Johns off to Serenity.

With this the Doctor was left with Rose and Jacob. The young lady and lad looked at each other, sharing a curious expression before the elder of the pair ventured to ask, "So – what do you look like?" Jacob, of course, knew, having seen the memories of his da's but Rose didn't know. She'd never met him, not even in the Doctor's head when they were attempting to kill the parasite last. Even though she knew about regeneration, having witnessed the Doctor's panic attacks that he couldn't right now for more than one reason, she'd never thought to pester him about how his other selves looked. Part of her was curious, of course. Part of her was terrified. What if she hated this other version of him? How awful would that be? She didn't think she could cope with it, if it ended up that she disliked his younger self.

"Shortish, dark hair. A bit frumpy, I suppose. Oh rather like an old pre-talkie movie star type - Charlie Chaplin - in a way. Like a 'hobo' I guess," Jon said. "There should be a young fellow in a kilt with me."

"It's really weird that you're talking about another version of you like this," Jacob said.

"Wait... Like black bowl cut hair, over sized frock coat, checkered pants that are just a bit baggy?" Rose grinned at his nod, "I saw you then, up top. Come on," she took the Doctor's other hand and led them to the stairs up. "You know it felt like you, but when I looked around I didn't see your buzzed head so I brushed it off. This happen often?"

"Well – I guess it occurs more often than not, it's not meant to, but with nine of me running about it is bound to happen. In this case though, I blame Romana."

"The blond in the tan jacket? She's still here too."

He nodded, "I have her time ring, and she's not getting it back until I've gotten her help on something. No I'm not telling you, Jacob."

The boy shrugged, "Can't blame me for trying. How do you eat this – thing?" He wiggled the frozen treat which was suspended from a stick and balanced on a bowl shaped cookie. It would make far more sense to just sell the things with a spoon he bet.

"Carefully," Rose replied with a snicker as she lead them through the crowd. Once more, most folks parted for them without noticing that they were doing so. She could hear the buzz in the back of her mind that indicated Jacob and Jon were communicating about something, but since they were touching she figured it was likely a low level brain-buffing or the Doctor trying to reassure himself that the boy wasn't going to disappear on him. She's not too surprised when Jacob blurts out something that has no relevance to their previous conversation at all.

"Siamas is what that'd be in Gaelic, ya?" Jacob asked, 'If I kept it, right?' Rose did hear the last mental question almost as though the boy feared, strongly, that his identity was going to be ripped away from him.

The Doctor glanced over at his son, "One of the possibilities, yes. Do you really want a name that matches the others?" The boy squeezed his hand. "Let's see what happens, huh? We don't know what Jamie's going to say or do yet. He might have some ideas about that."

"Wait... Jamie McCrimmon is here?" Rose said as she walked with them through the bazaar looking for the dark-haired version she knew she'd seen somewhere nearby, "Your long lost Jamie? How is seeing him again going to impact you?" Her concern flared through their complex weave of bonds and connections, just above the communication level he has with Jacob. She quickly tempered the emotion with a wave of it not being an emergency to keep the others party to the feelings from rushing their direction. "Gah. I still don't have this emotional sharing bit under control. I think I panicked Simon."

The Doctor grinned at her and added his own pulse of his still being just fine to the network, to further settle down Simeon and Inara who were both prone overreacting at times. Although the Companion had gotten to the point that she politely asked if she was needed most times. Unless there was pain involved. "If I can rework things to keep him with me, Rose, I will. It's not for me though. It would be for Jacob." He looked at the boy, "You deserve a better life than the one Romana tossed you into." he got a smile at this and once he's sure that the lad understood his reasoning he said to Rose, "I can't abide by either of the choices she left me with so I'm making a third one."

"But I thought things couldn't be changed," Rose tugged at him once and he ignored it. So she dug in her heels and tugged again until he stopped, "That there'd be awful paradoxes created, and rifts and stuff. Explain to me why this is different than those other situations you taught me and Saritha about." She'd been learning a great deal about things both from Verity and Saritha before the Doctor began even trying to brain-buff her. She knew it was altering her in ways that her mum might go spare about but given the situation, the fact that she was bonded to the TARDIS, the fact that she and Saritha were sharing more mental experiences than anyone but the Doctor and Verity knew about already, made her willing to risk it. Thus she was rather more time-aware than most humans, even more so than most of the Doctor's previous companions, although not as much so as a member of his species. That didn't stop her from trying to understand the differences however, and she really disliked when he wouldn't explain stuff to her properly.

The Doctor looked at her, "There's no time for this now." Her expression set stubbornly. He sighed. He knew this was a battle he'd lose because she was determined to judge if this was safe for herself no matter how much he stated it was. He considered for a moment how the situation felt to him and tried to come up with a way to describe it to her, "OK. Concentrate, Rose." She went from stubborn to intensely focused on his words. Unlike Ace and his Seventh self, he'd come right out and told her what he was after. He needed others to help anchor Time, to share in his task, to ease the strain on his soul. And he only had a few hundred years to do it before he was forced to become part of the fabric of Time as a last ditch effort. She'd agreed to help him, knowing how awesome a responsibility it was going to be and how much it would change her. Like Jamie she accepted this. "Can you feel the sensation of things slithering against your awareness, as though there's cool tendrils shivering against your mind?" Both she and Jacob nodded. "That is Time, shifting. It's in flux around us, and I'm keeping it stable right here and now. I could force it into a crystallized path, locking in everyone into what they've done before. But others have made changes. Yes just like when the eclipse happened and I saved Ali, Jacob. Now normally I wouldn't dare mess with this, but it's a close as I've come yet to the Time Lock on the events of the War. I can't directly change them, but I can influence others to re-examine their choices. Like a different path, but not a paradoxical one. I'm not stepping in at the moment of fate being decided here, but pushing at a point where time is already fluid. I've got to try."

Rose shook her head, "I still don't see the difference. But – I trust you, so I'll help where I can." They carefully took in the space, "That way, I just spotted a flash of his kilt." The blond began tugging the pregnant fellow and his son toward where she saw the other two men. As they cleared the crowd she felt the cold fingers in her own apply slight pressure. She looked up to see that they were being watched by a very alert young man in a predominantly red toned plaid. His blue-green eyes seemed fully locked on Jacob at the moment. One hand reached out an tugged on the dark, faintly patterned, coat covered shoulder. She felt the power between her Doctor and this other one as their eyes met. She and Jacob instinctively stepped in front of their version as though to protect him from himself.

"Remember, Jacob. No touching," he warned as he moved the boy back to his side and slightly behind him.

"Yes, da."

He hated to burden his younger self with this horror, and yet... of them all, this one would understand why he'd done it, no matter the reason. This had been an evil that had to be fought, and sometimes genocide was the only way. He'd tried with the enemy, and he'd faced the Cybermen, there would be many enemies that this particular self would serve as judge and jury to. He was, like his seventh self, one of the few that embraced what he was, doing as he knew he had to do. It was here that he could make his own different choice, revising some minor threads of his life to save some of those he cared for. He'd been mostly unaware as the smaller version of himself and his beloved Jamie cleared the distance. "I'd not expected to see – myself – here. I'm looking for a Time Lady going by the name 'Fred'. Perhaps you could help me find her?" the tramp-like little fellow asked.

At this he grinned, "Might be able to do you one better, there's a great deal going on. Have you by any chance gotten a package that was a psychically locked data storage device?"

"Could have done..." the younger version says, his eyes sweeping up and down and taking on the crafty look that often meant he had plans in plans forming. "I think we could help each other." Jamie was staring at the boy, still, unable to take his eyes off the child, knowing exactly who the boy was, almost by instinct. The kid stared right back at him, looking at him with such an unreadable expression so much like those the Doctor often wore that it was frightening on more than one level. The smaller Doctor looked over at the piper, then at the younger lad and put a hand on his own middle before glancing at his older self's very round state with a question on his face that was not the one he dared to ask, "What say you? Considering I've just left myself in Seville, and I don't know how many lives have passed..."

Rose's Doctor grinned, his brilliant smile that chased away shadows, a sight she'd not seen for months because of Rich being gone, "Oh I remember. Forgive the Jacket, eh? That's been a while for me, and I still can't figure out why I chose it."

The other version laughed, "I never saw the Jacket, but the waistcoat was quite bad enough. So is the kilt your normal choice or -?"

"Comfort. I'm not exactly in a normal state at the moment. You might consider it later."

This gained then a cheery clap and an answering grin, "Yes! Well. I will do. Jamie?"

"Eh?" the piper said as he forced his eyes off his son and onto his Thete.

"What do you think of my wearing a kilt later?"

"Oh... It'd be grand, Doctor. You could wear one now, if you wanted." The little fellow indicated the taller version with a gesture, "Oh! Aye. Um – wow," the piper looked floored for a moment then frowned, "I dinna feel you either, why?"

"Time is in flux, I suspect that the Bonds are being blocked by Verity until we come to an agreement as to what course will be taken," the older, quite pregnant version of the Doctor said. "I'm quite aware of the decisions and altered Bonds forged between the primary Triad. However, those connections have not propagated through the lives I've lived yet." He unbuttoned his cuff and slid the sleeve up his arm to reveal the dragon marking his arm. "However, some things have been appearing for quite some time, as though the decision you made was almost destined to happen."

The younger version hissed, "Is that a bio-data tag? Of all the nerve! How dare they?" He reaches out and catches the pale wrist in his hand to study the mark closer. "Ah, but there's the mark of the Sisterhood -"

In that touch passed a massive amount of information, willing exchange of knowledge about when, where, and what was going on, if nothing specific about the course to be taken. That still was in flux, apt to change because he could make his own decisions here. The younger's triad bond pulsed with the same power that rolled through the older's aura. and the pair of them knew that if they wanted to save Jamie they would need to bend the rules, "Which is rather more important then dwelling on the fact that the tag exists at all, really."

As the older moved his arm away and hid the mark once more the younger sighed, "And 'Fred?'"

"Not going anywhere," Rose says, "You've -" She pointed at her Doctor, "got her Time Ring."

"Splendid," the dark haired Doctor said, "You seem like a very nice young lady, Rose. Have you been with me for long?"

She shrugged, "'bout nineteen months, now." Her phone buzzed. "Oi, that would be my mum. I should take it, huh? It's been a year and a day." Rose smiled at the buzz cut Doctor, seeking approval. He nods to her. "I'll be, like – here." She pulled out her phone, "Um.. should I tell her we're in the States, Jon?"

"Should do."

Rose nods and steps away, "Hi, mum? Oh, it's a bit early here, is all -"

"Jon?"

"It's common, easy to remember," the older one says.

"Plain."

"Well, yes. That too. Folks don't tend to single it out so it's good if you're trying to blend in."

This the younger must concede, "Use it a lot then, have I?"

"Ah... Maybe. I'll tell you what you need to know, what the choices are, let you see for yourself, because I can't tell which threads are the past and which are potential pasts anymore."