Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who, and I'm sad about it every day.
A/N: This story takes place during the towing of the Earth back home at the end of the episode Journey's End and assumes that towing the Earth took a bit longer than was shown on screen. It was looked over by Whovian of a Thousand Words (thank you again) but since then I have made a few changes, so any errors are mine.
Towing the Earth
Donna Noble felt good. Better than good, great. Fantastic, brilliant, meravigliosa, molto bene, even a bit bellissima. See, she thought in Italian, I really get this stuff now. Temp from Chiswick, terrible marks in languages, had to use one of those cheap translation travel books every time she went to the Continent, and now she spoke the languages. All the languages. And fluently. And all that time when she thought the Doctor might be using the TARDIS to translate for him… She now realized he actually spoke those languages, all those languages, had all those languages in his head. And because they were in his head, they were now in hers. The DoctorDonna. Brilliant! Molto bene!
Having defeated Davros and the Daleks, they were currently using the TARDIS to tow the Earth back from the Medusa Cascade to where it belonged. And Donna understood it. How to fly the TARDIS, how to use it to tow the Earth, how to place the Earth in its exactly correct location once it was there so that it would be as if the Earth had never been moved in the first place. She understood it all. And it was absolutely brilliant.
An incredibly handsome man stepped up next to her and leaned on the nearby coral strut.
"Hello, beautiful," he grinned.
"Hello, yourself," Donna replied flirtatiously. Jack Harkness truly was very handsome. Not like that skinny, alien twig that she traveled with. Oh, the Doctor was all right, although she'd never tell him, don't need to stroke that ego any more than necessary, but Jack… He was built like a real man. What's more he was a real man. A human. From the future maybe, but a human. And not being human was always kind of a deal breaker where Donna was concerned.
"Jack," a familiar voice said warningly. Donna glanced up and saw it was her meta-crisis counterpart, the Doctor wearing the blue pinstriped suit. He stood leaning against one of the opposite coral struts, arms and ankles crossed, scowling at Jack.
"Oi, watch it, Time Boy," Donna ordered.
"Oi, you watch it, Earth Girl," he retorted, intentionally mimicking her exact tone and inflection. "You don't know where he's been."
"If you know it, I know it," she answered sharply back. "And you're not my brother."
The Doctor in blue cocked an eyebrow at her. With some of her human DNA floating through his body, maybe he sorta was.
"Okay, well, maybe you are, sorta. But you're not my mother," Donna corrected herself. "So stay out of it!"
The Doctor in blue looked stricken, realizing he was now sort of related to Donna's family. Donna was brilliant, always had been, and he had always liked and admired Wilf, her grandfather, but Sylvia… He inwardly shuddered. He'd rather be related to Jackie, and that was saying something.
Jack grinned as he watched the two of them banter. They were kinda cute together, in a sibling rivalry sort of way. It was odd to think of the Doctor with family. Odd, but good. Maybe this weird crisis regenerating thing would be good for him. He wondered just how alike the new Doctor was compared to the original and what their relationship was. Was he a copy, a clone? Or was he something else, more like a twin brother maybe? Either way, Jack wondered how much having a bit of Donna's DNA affected him, whether he'd be interested in going out for drinks later, or perhaps…
"Oi, watch it, Jack," Donna ordered. "Leave him alone."
"What! I didn't say anything!" Jack protested.
"You didn't have to. I saw how you were looking at him. I remember you looking at Rose that way. Got all his memories, remember?" She jerked her head toward the Doctor in question. "I don't think he's any more interested than the other one." And now, frankly, neither was she. If she was going to come in third place on Jack Harkness's list behind two skinny alien beanpoles, maybe she didn't want to be in the running.
Jack shrugged with another brilliant grin which almost made Donna waver. "Can't blame a guy for trying," he said with a wink. He wandered off in the vague direction of Martha Jones, who was being chatted up by Mickey Smith.
"So you traveled with the Doctor?" Mickey was saying.
"Yeah, for about two years," Martha answered, "but one of them didn't count because we weren't actually together most of that time and time was rewritten so technically the year never really existed."
Mickey scratched his head, puzzled. He had heard of a lot of weird things, first in knowing the Doctor, then in working for Torchwood in the parallel universe, but years that didn't exist was a new one. He was beginning to feel like the tin dog again.
"Don't sweat it, Mickey Mouse." Jack had come up to stand next to Martha. "It was weird even for those of us who lived it."
"Oh, you two know each other?" Martha asked curiously.
"Oh, yeah, Captain Cheesecake here and I go way back." Mickey answered.
"So did you travel with the Doctor then?" Martha asked.
"Yeah, a bit. Didn't he ever mention me?"
Martha shook her head and shrugged. "No. Mentioned Rose a lot, though."
"I'm not surprised." Mickey was philosophical. "He's always been hung up on her, even when she and I were dating."
Martha's eyes grew big. "Really? You dated her? And he still let you travel with him?"
"Yeah," Mickey nodded. "Was never quite sure why, though. Speaking of which…" He jerked his head toward the console. "Wonder how that's gonna work."
The three of them watched the scene unfolding across the room. The Doctor, the original Doctor in the brown pinstripes, was bouncing around the console, making adjustments to various gears, buttons and switches, while Rose stood nearby, watching him and trying to get his attention. If the three of them didn't know any better, it would have looked like the Doctor was ignoring Rose.
Meanwhile, Donna stood next to the new Doctor, the one dressed in blue. It was obvious to Jack, Martha, and Mickey that he was watching Rose. Staring at her, more like, and with more than casual interest. More like longing, Martha would have said.
"Now that's gonna be a mess and a half," Jack said.
"You said it," Martha agreed.
"Wonder what he's gonna do?" said Mickey, gesturing at brown pinstripes.
Jack's jaw tightened. "Well, whatever it is, I bet he's gonna screw it up."
"Without a doubt."
"So you are Rose's mother?" Sarah Jane Smith was asking Jackie Tyler. The two women had found themselves at loose ends and were standing against one wall, away from the noise and the chaos that was the rest of the console room.
"Yeah," Jackie responded. "And you used to travel with the Doctor?"
"Oh, yes," Sarah Jane nodded. "A long time ago. A long, long time ago. We only met again a couple of years back, when I was writing a story about a local school that was doing suspiciously well. As it happened, the Doctor, Rose, and Mickey were also investigating it at the time."
"So where are you from?" Jackie asked.
"Oh, Luke and I, Luke's my son, he and I live out on Bannerman Road in Ealing. Luke's only 14, and I'm kind of anxious to get back and check on him."
"Oh, I know what that's like. When Rose was traveling with the Doctor, she was always gone so much, I never knew where they'd be one minute to the next. The first time she went off with him they both swore they were only gone a day or so, but they were gone a year. I was worried sick, I was! Put posters everywhere saying she was missing. I thought her boyfriend, Mickey, had killed her. When she and the Doctor finally showed up, I slapped him into next week. A 'course, that wasn't this him, that was the previous one, but still."
"Really?" Sarah Jane's head was spinning. She didn't know whether she was more surprised by the fact that this woman had also known two regenerations of the Doctor, or the fact that she had slapped one of the most powerful men in the universe. Probably the slap, she thought. She had seen all types of aliens and monsters try to kill the Doctor, but she couldn't imagine a companion's mother slapping him.
"Course back then I thought he was a dirty old man, and I told him so, carting off my beautiful nineteen year old girl. Back then, had I realized he was an alien as well, I probably would have taken my cricket bat to him. They said that nothing was going on, but I could see the way that she looked at him. The way that they looked at each other. Even then, before he regenerated. And a 'course, it just got worse after he regenerated. They insisted nothing was going on, but the way they were all wrapped up with each other, hugging, holding hands, cuddling on my sofa watching Disney movies of all things, well, a mother knows. She just adored him, still does. And he always looked at her just the same way my Pete looked at me. Just about killed her when they were separated."
Sarah Jane's eyes widened. She might have misjudged the Doctor's relationship with Rose when they had met. Rose had seemed more than a bit jealous of her at first, and, to be fair, she'd been more than a bit jealous of Rose, but she truly hadn't thought that Rose's relationship with the Doctor was any different than her own. Sarah Jane had told Rose that a relationship with the Doctor could be "intense", and she had done her own fair share of handholding and of giving and receiving the occasional hug, but cuddling on the sofa watching a movie? And Disney no less? She had never done any such thing with either of the Doctors she had known. She couldn't even imagine it. Couldn't imagine him doing it with anyone, really. Perhaps Rose's relationship with the Doctor truly was different than hers had been. She might owe the girl, no, the woman, she thought, glancing over at Rose, an apology.
Rose, for her part, was trying to catch the Doctor's eye. They both stood by the console… well, she stood by the console, the Doctor, a blur of brown pinstripes, bounced around the console monitoring several displays and adjusting various controls. Once the towing of the earth had gotten underway, and the console only needed monitoring rather than continuous adjusting, the others had broken away into small groups, to chat, to renew old friendships and make new ones. She had watched with interest Jack flirting with Donna, and her flirting right back, and she saw her mum was getting to know Sarah Jane. But what really interested her was Mickey. He was in full chat up mode, talking to that girl Martha. Martha really was very pretty, and with them both having traveled with the Doctor, they instantly had something big in common. She wished him luck. He deserved to have someone in his life.
"Hello Rose," came a familiar voice from a location by her left ear. But the Doctor was standing on the opposite side of the console. She glanced down and saw a very familiar hand touching the console in front of him, the attached arm encased in blue pinstripes.
"Oh, hello," she turned and smiled up at him. "You gave me a start. For a second I thought…"
"For a second you thought I was him," he said.
"Well, you are very alike," she said. "If it weren't for the different colored suits, we'd probably be hard pressed to tell you apart. But I think I could, though."
"Really?" He was intrigued. "How's that?"
"Your voice," she answered. "It's the same, but somehow just a bit different, too."
"Good different or bad different?" He was hard pressed not to smile.
Rose laughed. "Just different," she responded. "Yours is just a tiny bit deeper, a tiny bit rougher than his. Nice, though."
The new Doctor grinned at her widely, pleased at the compliment.
The original Doctor watched Rose and the other Doctor, his other self, surreptitiously from across the console. What a mess. And it was his own fault. In a desperate attempt to avoid regenerating, he had allowed the energy to heal himself and thrown the rest of it, the energy that would have changed him, into the jar that held his spare hand. But Time Lords had had more little tricks than just regeneration. They had been able to transfer their consciousnesses to other locations, the Matrix on Gallifrey being a key one. The Master had repeatedly used this ability to steal bodies, to cheat death, when he had initially run out of regenerations. The ability to transfer one's consciousness was one of the reasons regeneration worked. The body fundamentally changed, but the inner man transferred to the new incarnation.
But no one had ever attempted to avoid regenerating as he had. Unwittingly, and completely accidentally, he had managed to throw more than just the energy into his hand. He had thrown a copy of his memories, his thought patterns, and most importantly, part of his consciousness, part of his soul if you believed in that sort of thing, into the jar along with the energy. The man in front of him was a sort of sideways regeneration. That man standing across the console from him, talking to his Rose and wearing his blue suit, was in a very real sense him.
And possibly a dangerous version at that, if the genocide of the Daleks was any indication. No one disagreed that the universe as a whole was a much better place without them, but the way that his other self destroyed them, after the Reality Bomb had already been stopped, showed a dangerous thought process he hadn't had since the War. It smacked of deciding to do what he wanted, regardless of right or wrong, with no thought to possible consequences. Almost a Time Lord Victorious type of mentality. And what frightened him was that if it was present in his other self, it was also present in him.
At the same time, the potential for emotional instability was present in his other self in equal measures. After the Time War, he had had terrible bouts of depression and despair. Trips to the Titanic and Krakatoa had not been coincidental. Rather, they had been unsuccessful attempts to end the pain. Nothing like an exploding volcano to prevent regeneration. Had he not met Rose while dealing with the Nestene Consciousness, he had had tentative plans to visit Vesuvius next. Only being with Rose had ultimately healed him, had shown him it was possible to go on living. Her compassion, her bravery, her sense of adventure had allowed him to see the universe anew. And then she risked her life for him, been willing to give her life for his when she had become Bad Wolf to return to him. In so many ways she had saved him.
The Doctor was convinced that only she would be able to heal the darkness that he believed was present within his other self.
Looking at them standing across the console from him, he knew what he had to do. But in order to do it, he needed to bury the rage, pain, and despair that were threatening to overwhelm him. But he had created this problem, the original Doctor thought; it was his responsibility to solve it.
The horrible irony of the situation was not lost on the Doctor. By attempting to prevent regeneration so he could stay in his current form with Rose, he had virtually assured that he'd never be with her at all.
"You two are so alike," Rose was saying to the blue clad Doctor, shaking her head in disbelief. "I tried asking him before. How are there two of you?"
"It was a meta-crisis regeneration, Rose. The regeneration energy was thrown into this hand," at this point he held up his blue-clad arm and wiggled the fingers of his right hand, "and then Donna touched the jar holding my hand and triggered the meta-crisis."
"So the regeneration energy plus Donna's touch triggered …" Rose was at a loss for words, so she gestured at him with her hands. "You, I guess, formed from the Doctor's old hand. Your hand now, I s'ppose." She tried to wrap her brain around the concepts. "So, was it kinda like cloning?"
"Weelll…" The Doctor in blue drew out the syllable. He gently tugged on his right ear and grimaced while he thought of how to explain the meta-crisis to her. "Yes and no. Mostly no. A clone is an identical, physical copy. Like a twin. There is no implication of a transfer of knowledge, consciousness, or identity with cloning, unless you are watching bad science fiction programming. The meta-crisis, on the other hand, was …"
"Excuse me, Rose, I need to speak to him." The Doctor in brown pinstripes jerked his head at his counterpart. He went and spoke to Donna and then headed out of the console room. Donna came and took his place monitoring the displays on the console.
"Oooh, someone might be in trouble," Rose teased.
The meta-crisis Doctor's face took on an expression of mock fear. "Wish me luck." He winked at her and headed out of the room.
The Doctor's bedroom was a rarely used room some distance from the console room. It currently had dark paneling, a queen sized bed and a burgundy duvet. The room was different than the last time the Doctor had entered it but he barely noticed. The TARDIS often changed the contents of his room when he hadn't used it for a while. The Doctor suspected she did it out of boredom, just as she often changed the location of the other rooms, sometimes even while they were occupied. His bedroom seemed to be one of her favorites to alter, possibly simply to annoy him. She seemed to do it more often when he had done, or was about to do, something stupid. He had stopped being bothered by the continual changes to the décor at some point in his fourth life because he so infrequently used the room for anything other than as a changing room and for its ensuite. He rarely used it for sleeping primarily because he so rarely slept. Although she occasionally changed its location, the TARDIS usually kept his room at a distance from the main rooms for the Doctor's privacy. Most of his companions over the centuries had never even seen its door.
Immediately upon entering the room, the Doctor walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. His counterpart in blue sauntered in, closing the door behind him and leaning against it, arms and ankles crossed.
"I'm sorry," the Doctor said from his position on the bed. "I'm so, so sorry."
"You're kicking me out." It wasn't a guess.
The Doctor's brown pinstriped jacket bunched as he lifted his arms and ran his hands through his hair in frustration. "Do you have any better ideas?"
"Yeah," said his counterpart from the door. "Don't kick me out." He paused and stood up, pulling down on his blue suit jacket to straighten it. "Okay, I get it. You can't have both Rose and me here. So where are you sending me? Earth?"
"What?" He was incredulous. "The parallel universe? Why on Earth, or should I say, why on Pete's World, would you send me there?"
The Doctor sitting on the bed took a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then let it out slowly. When he spoke, his voice was devoid of emotion. "I'm not sending you there. I'm sending you and Rose there."
"What?" The meta-crisis Doctor's voice was low and dangerous. "Why?"
"Because only one of us can be with her, and being part human only you can give her the life she deserves. She can't have it with me."
"But she doesn't realize I'm you. She just thinks of me as a clone of you. A copy."
"You'll have to convince her otherwise."
"Me?" Now blue clad arms were raised to allow hands to rake through thick, spiky hair, unconsciously mimicking the gesture his other self had just made. Mind racing, he began to pace back and forth across the room. "You need to be the one to tell her. You need to explain it to her. She won't believe it from me. And you need to tell her what you are planning."
"No," the Doctor said flatly.
"No?" The meta-crisis Doctor was incensed. He stopped pacing and stared at his other self. "You want me to do that, too?"
"No, absolutely not," the Doctor in brown pinstripes said sharply. "You can't tell her."
"What, you're just gonna show up there, open the TARDIS door, shove her out and say 'nice seeing you again, have a nice life'?"
The Doctor's jaw tightened, but he didn't say anything.
The blue clad Doctor's eyes widened in shock. "Oh, you were, weren't you? And to Rose?" He shook his head in disbelief. "I see that our sneaky, underhanded days didn't end with our seventh self. But to do that to Rose, of all people. We promised her we'd never do this to her."
The original Doctor jumped up and whirled on him, eyes flashing. "Do you think I want to do this?" he shouted angrily. "Really? Is that what you think? After having lost her and just found her again, do you really think I want to give her up? You of all people know better than that. She offered me forever, and if I could, that's how long I'd keep her. But I can't. I can't give her what she wants or needs in life. Sending her back to the parallel world with you is about what is ultimately best for Rose, and, frankly, what is best for you. You are unstable. You need her."
"And you don't?" The Doctor in blue stared at his other self. "And you think that if you talk to her she could get you to change your mind." This wasn't a guess either. Rose had always been able to get him to change his mind, sometimes unwisely. "So that's why you were ignoring her out in the console room. Well, like it or not, you still need to talk to her. What you are doing is unfair to her."
"She might be a little upset now, but it's for her own good," the Doctor in brown insisted.
"A little upset? You think she's going to be 'a little upset'? Are you mental? Did the meta-crisis unbalance you?" The new Doctor shook his head in disbelief at the arrogance his other self was capable of. Which he himself was capable of, considering they were, or had been until a few hours earlier, the same person. Well, there was nothing like seeing yourself as others saw you. "You are unbelievable. This is gonna go so pear-shaped. And then you're gonna swan off and I'm gonna have to pick up the pieces."
"What are you complaining about? At least you'll be with Rose. Don't you want her?"
The meta-crisis Doctor swore. "Of course I want her, you arse. You know I want her. I'm you. But she doesn't think I'm you. Not really. She wants you, not me, and you won't even talk to her."
In the console room, Mickey walked over to stand next to Rose who was still standing by the console.
"Hey, Rose, where's the Doctor?"
"Dunno," she said. "He and the other Doctor went off somewhere to talk. Why, did you need him?"
"Not really," was the answer. "Just some of us wanted to know about how much longer it's gonna be until the Earth is back where it belongs."
"Another half hour or so," Donna answered from the other side of the console. "Based the velocity, the mass of the planet, and the towing capacity of the TARDIS. You also have to factor in the relative motion of the solar system against the rotation of the galaxy. See, I really get this stuff now!" She beamed. "But we're getting close enough that I better go get those skinny boys in suits. Oi, Jack, come watch this monitor for a sec, will you? If it turns yellow, press this button. If it turns mauve…"
"Yeah, I know, we can all kiss our asses goodbye." Jack grinned at her, his perfect white teeth gleaming. Donna found herself wavering again in regards to Jack. She did really like that smile.
"Don't worry," he said. "I've done this before."
The Doctor wearing brown pinstripes walked across his bedroom, stopping when he reached a tall, locked wooden cupboard. He paused a moment, steeling himself, before he unlocked the door and stepped back.
"Take what you need. Unfortunately Pete's world is not on universal credit sticks. Just leave me something in case I get stranded somewhere."
The cupboard was filled with, among other things, the mementos of countless companions and hundreds of years of travel. Some of the items were things he had confiscated over the years; for example, the cupboard contained a particularly nasty knife of Leela's and a lethal formulation of Nitro-9 of Ace's. Others were simply items that had been cast off or forgotten. A schoolbook of Susan's. A barrette Romana wore before she regenerated. The jacket Rose had left in the console room before she had been lost at Canary Wharf. Buried deep behind everything else were his mementos of Gallifrey. Memory cubes of his family and of his Academy days. A book of Gallifreyan history. The Presidential seal inscribed with his name. The meta-crisis Doctor paused before he reached in and removed several velvet drawstring bags from the top shelf, shoving them deep into his jacket pocket before hurriedly closing the door and relocking it. "It's too bad we don't keep a spare sonic screwdriver handy."
"Always meant to make a spare," the Doctor said ruefully, rubbing the back of his neck. "Just never have seemed to get around to it. Always seem to have more important things to do. Is there anything else you need?" He felt guilty to be stranding his other self on a planet in a parallel universe, even if it was with Rose, if for no other reason he wouldn't be able to stop in and check on him. On the other hand, he didn't think he'd be able to bear seeing Rose with him.
"Dunno. It's been a long time since we've lived life on the slow path. I can't even begin to imagine what I might need."
A knock on the door startled them both. They turned as Donna popped her head in the door. "Oi, you two. You're needed front and center. We're getting close."
"You go ahead, I'll be out in a minute," the new Doctor said to his other self, who nodded in reply.
As the Doctor in brown left the room, the meta-crisis Doctor called to Donna. "Can I talk to you a sec?" he asked. He turned and sat on the edge of the bed, patting the spot next to him.
Donna took one look at him and knew instantly something was wrong. "Of course." She crossed to the bed and sat down next to him, putting her arm around him. He leaned heavily into her and put his hand on her knee.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
He sighed. "Do you know what he's planning to do?"
"About what, sweetheart?" For all her usual brashness, she was always very gentle with him when she knew he was hurting.
"About me. And about Rose."
Donna's eyes widened in shock as she listened to him outline the plans his other self had made. She drew a deep breath and let it out slowly, lost in thought.
"This is all gonna go pear-shaped, Donna," he said quietly. "I just know it. What am I gonna do?"
"Do you want me to talk to him?" she asked, rubbing his back.
"Donna, you know us better than almost anyone. Maybe even better than Rose did when she was with us. And now you have a copy of our mind. You know I'm bloody single minded when I'm doing something that I think needs to be done. Do you really think talking to him would make any difference?"
Donna considered. "But how do you feel about it? The being with Rose part, not the getting kicked out of the TARDIS part."
"Does that even need saying?" he asked her. "Donna, you know what I was like after I lost her. You were there. The day you got pulled into the TARDIS in your wedding dress… I had just finished saying goodbye to her. And now that you have our memories you can remember what it felt like, too."
"So, it's a good thing," she prompted gently. "Being with her again is gonna be a good thing."
At that he turned to her, smiling a truly genuine smile, not the manic grin he so often wore. "Oh yeah, it'll be a good thing."
"Good." Donna patted the hand that was still resting on her knee. "And you just tell her that, okay? You keep telling her how you feel and you talk to her about real things, important things, not just the daft nonsense that usually comes out of your mouth, and she'll eventually come around. She loves you. She just doesn't know it yet."
The meta-crisis Doctor sighed. "Donna Noble, what did I ever do to deserve you?"
"Not nearly enough, I reckon." She grinned at him, and drew him into a hug. As she held him, she felt his breathing get ragged.
"Oh, shh, shh, shh, shh," she breathed. "What's all this? What's all this?"
"Oh, Donna," he whispered. "What am I gonna do without you?"
"I love you, too, Time Boy."
Later, as the meta-crisis Doctor and Donna exited the corridor and entered the console room, the original Doctor was lining everyone up around the console again.
"Okay, Jack, back where you were, Martha…" He placed his hands gently on her shoulders and guided her into place. "Mickey, there, Rose, you can stay where you are. Jackie… oh, no, Jackie, not you. Just… stand back against the strut or something."
Jackie glared at him, which he ignored.
"Okay, everyone, almost there… Allons-y!" And with that, he flipped the switch in front of him.
With a shudder, the Earth resumed its orbit, its spin and trajectory identically matching what it had had before it had been stolen and sent across the galaxy. The occupants of the TARDIS cheered and hugged in celebration, as did the humans on the planet below. The two Doctors, outwardly exuding confidence, inwardly breathed sighs of relief.
As the original Doctor and Donna moved to land the TARDIS back on Earth, everyone else broke apart into groups again to say their farewells.
The Doctor in blue looked around. Rose and Mickey were in a corner, deep in conversation. Some distance away, Jack and Martha leaned against the wall, looking like nothing so much as people on the bus waiting for their stop. Which in a sense they were, if one wanted to consider the TARDIS a bus. He crossed to them.
"So," said Jack to him. "Off to travel through time and space with yourself? And yourself?" he joked, gesturing at the Doctor and Donna. They were both at the console, heads together, appearing to be whispering to one another.
"Nah," he said, plastering a false smile on his face. "I thought I'd explore some other options first. You know, go here and there, do this and that…"
Martha looked puzzled, but Jack became suspicious.
"Martha, will you excuse us for a sec," Jack said, dragging the new Doctor off. When they were a distance away from everyone else and not in danger of being overheard, Jack turned to him again. "Okay, Doc, what gives?" he said quietly.
"Nothing, Jack. Really," he assured him. "Really."
Jack stared at him, searching his face. "This is the Game Station all over again, isn't it? He's kicking you out. That son of a b…"
"No, Jack, it's not," he said, resigned. "Really, it's not. I don't have a history of getting on with myself very well. Had to work with myself several times. Happened with Time Lords occasionally, well, with me at any rate. One time, in fact, it was so bad my second and third selves almost came to blows."
Jack wasn't sure whether to believe him, but short of calling him a liar, he didn't know what to do.
No, actually he did.
"Listen, Doc, if you need anything, anything at all, a job, a place to stay…"
The new Doctor grinned lopsidedly, a genuine grin this time. "Thank you, Jack," he said sincerely, "but it's all been arranged. And … thanks… for everything. You're brilliant, you know. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Not even me," he said, with a jerk of his head at his other self.
Jack pulled him into a hug as the TARDIS materialized.
Sarah Jane said her goodbyes quickly, anxious to be back with her son. As she turned to go, to her surprise she was pulled into a hug by the new Doctor.
"Goodbye, Sarah Jane," he said softly. "It truly was wonderful to see you again."
With a rush, her mind returned to the one time she had been on Gallifrey, when she had been in the presence of four versions of the same man at once. She stared at him, wondering how similar this situation was.
She smiled and placed her hand on his cheek. "Goodbye, Doctor." As she walked out of the TARDIS, the original Doctor followed her.
Jack crossed over to Rose.
"See ya later, Rosie," he said, hugging her. "Now that you're back, don't be such a stranger."
"Bye, Jack. It's been great to see you."
As Jack strode out of the TARDIS, Martha hugged the meta-crisis Doctor, and if he held her a little more tightly than she expected, or a little longer than was strictly necessary, she didn't mention it.
As he watched Martha exit the door, to his surprise he saw Mickey follow her. He raised his eyebrows at Rose.
"He's staying here," Rose said simply.
She expects to stay as well, he thought to himself. This situation was so unfair to her. He wanted to tell her, to warn her what was coming, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. He looked away quickly, before she'd be able to see his guilty conscience reflected in his eyes.
The Doctor in brown pinstripes strode into the console room. "Just time for one last trip…" he said, and set the TARDIS in motion.
As the TARDIS flew through the void to Darlig Ulv Stranden in the parallel universe, the meta-crisis Doctor glanced around the console room. All of a sudden it struck him. This was his last trip in the TARDIS. And possibly his last trip off-world. Ever.
The thought of being trapped on a single planet, in a single time, was enough to make his stomach clench in anxiety. But the thought of losing the TARDIS was truly terrifying. He quickly fought off a wave of panic and buried it as deeply as he could.
He watched as the Time Rotor rose and fell, feeling the accompanying vibration through his red trainers. Its blue green glow lit the surrounding coral struts and shone on the faces of the TARDIS pilot and passengers. Running his hand along the console, caressing it, he sent a telepathic message of thanks and farewell, and he felt, rather than heard, the TARDIS hum in response. Oh, his TARDIS was beautiful.
But not his. If the TARDIS belonged to anyone, she really belonged to his other self.
The Rotor slowed as the TARDIS began to materialize. He swallowed nervously, glancing at Rose. Suddenly, he felt a hand grab his and squeeze. Donna.
And with the contact, his mind briefly brushed against hers. Oh, no. It was starting. Her mind was just beginning to reject his, was just beginning to burn. It might take a few minutes before she'd start displaying symptoms, but it wouldn't be long before her mind completely collapsed. Oh, Donna, he thought. I'm so, so sorry.
"Good luck, Time Boy," she whispered.
"Don't ever forget how brilliant you are, Donna," he said softly, squeezing her hand back.
And then the meta-crisis Doctor left the TARDIS for the final time, stepping onto the beach at Bad Wolf Bay.