I'm posting this a day early. I've got a lot of work to do on my thesis this upcoming week, so it might be awhile until I get another chapter posted, but please hang in there, because I WILL get it done. And honestly, I procrastinate at a championship level, so there is every possibility that working on my thesis will actually produce more fan fic writing. As always, reviews are appreciated!
"He has a TARDIS and a Paradox Machine," the Eleventh Doctor said in disbelief as he closed the TARDIS doors behind him. "And he found the TARDIS coral at Torchwood. How the hell did they get their hands on that?"
"You'd be surprised what they come across," said the Meta-Crisis Doctor. "I spent months going through their archives when I got to the parallel world. I'm guessing this world's Torchwood is where you got your TARDIS coral, Jack? I know you wouldn't have stolen it from this ship." Jack was trying hard not to look guilty.
"Hold on. Were you working for Torchwood?" the Eleventh Doctor asked the Meta-Crisis Doctor in surprise.
The Meta-Crisis Doctor walked over to the stairs and sat down. "Yes, well I had to do something for a year while we grew the TARDIS."
"Oh, that's golden," said Jack with a bitter laugh. "After the crap you gave me for it?"
The Meta-Crisis Doctor leaned back, resting his elbows on the step behind him and not looking the least bit bothered by Jacks charge. "They are a completely different Torchwood," he brushed off easily. "That Torchwood wasn't created to destroy me. And by the time I arrived, Rose had already done some amazing things there," he said proudly. "Also, it didn't hurt that they had a lot of the resources we needed for the new TARDIS." He sat back up and rested his arms on his knees. "So what now?" he asked, nodding his head back towards the door. "We can't just sit here and let the Valeyard run amok. He's going to keep stealing bodies while he tries to get yours."
"Well then let's think. Come up with a plan," the Eleventh Doctor said.
"Plan? We never plan things. Improvise, that's our style," the Meta-Crisis Doctor said.
"Yes, well, I don't like it either," the Eleventh Doctor admitted gruffly. "But we're sort of stuck in the TARDIS now, aren't we? We don't know where his TARDIS is yet. And we're working against someone as clever as we are. He knows how we think. Makes the situation a bit more complicated."
"You have a point. Plan it is, then," he conceded. "Well, before we do anything, we should get that energy detector running on the display. We might locate his TARDIS at least."
"Could you explain to me what happened out there? Who exactly is this guy?" Jack asked.
The Meta-Crisis Doctor sighed and looked towards his own TARDIS. "Would you?" he asked the Eleventh Doctor. "I'm going to go check on Rose. I said I'd let her know if anything happened. Do you mind?"
The Eleventh Doctor looked up distractedly. "No, no, not at all. We'll be here."
The Meta-Crisis Doctor stood and walked away, stopping just before entering his TARDIS. "You remember how…manipulative The Valeyard is? And how eager to kill?"
The Eleventh Doctor nodded and replied solemnly, "Yes. And after years stuck in humans, he seems worse for it now."
The Meta-Crisis Doctor nodded in agreement. "Could you call Wilf or Sylvia? Tell them to get themselves and Donna out of Britain for a while, and not to leave a trail." The Eleventh Doctor nodded. "And Jack, if you know how to reach Mickey and Martha, let them know, too?"
"Yeah, I have a number for them." Jack said.
"They'll all be alright, Doctor," the Eleventh Doctor told him. "The Valeyard isn't going to venture far from the rift. Not with us right here. He can't chance it. But we'll warn them, just the same."
The Meta-Crisis Doctor nodded his thanks and walked into his own TARDIS, gently shutting the doors behind him. He walked through the corridors and into the bedroom he shared with Rose. She was asleep on her side, half under the blankets, arm stretched out towards his side of the bed, where he would be lying if he were there with her. Quietly, he walked over, removing his suit jacket, tie, and trainers before lowering himself down, slipping under the blankets and facing her, gently lifting her arm and placing it over his waist as he scooted closer. Head propped up on his hand, he just watched her sleep for a few moments before leaning forward and placing a lingering kiss on her forehead. When he pulled back, her eyes fluttered open.
"Hello," he said.
"Hello," she smiled sleepily. "How's your head?"
He smiled back, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. "I'll live."
Rose could sense something was bothering him. "Is everything alright?"
He didn't answer. "You should go back to sleep," he told her instead, gently running his fingers through her hair. "It's only been about five hours. You could use a couple more."
"Did you figure anything out?" she asked, now clearly wide awake.
He nodded. "Yeah. We know who we are dealing with now. We spoke with him. He is a Time Lord. We've…met before, long ago. He's called The Valeyard. He is stuck in a human body, and he wants a Time Lord body now. A fully Time Lord body. And then…well."
"But how can he…be?"
"Long story. Long, long story. He's from this universe, but he was hiding in Pete's World with us, all this time. Had been there since just before Canary Wharf. The reason the universes connected, the reason we got pulled over, is because of him. He grew a TARDIS, too, and then he somehow ripped the universes open and melded them so he could cross over, and keep it fueled here."
"But you couldn't sense him. Neither of you could."
"No. Not until he wanted to communicate with us. He had a telepathic filter in place in his TARDIS." He looked worried all of the sudden and he clearly had more to say.
"What is it?" Rose urged him.
"There's more to it. This man…he's," he took a deep breath. "It's complicated. He diverges from my…well, no…from the other Doctor's future."
"Like a meta-crisis?" she asked.
"No, Rose," he replied firmly. "Not like a meta-crisis. He's not at all like me. He's…not a copy of the Doctor. He's an incarnation of just the…bad stuff."
She furrowed her brow. "How do you mean? Like an evil twin?"
"I suppose that's a way of looking at it. To be honest, we're not exactly sure how it happens, because it technically hasn't yet." He was silent for a moment, and moved his hand to her cheek. "Rose…I'm afraid," he admitted in a quiet voice. "In Pete's World…all traces of the Time War are gone. There are no more Time Lords, no Daleks, and even the Cybermen are all gone now. We've had adventures there; run into trouble, like always. But nothing like this. The Valeyard…Rose, in some ways he is the Doctor. Impossible to stop, because he knows what the Doctor would do." He sighed heavily. "I've told you about The Master." Rose nodded, lifting her hand to rest on his, and turning her head to place a brief kiss on his palm. "The Master was so afraid of the Valeyard that he helped me to bring him down before. And this time…The Master is the one who helped to bring him back. And they are so much alike. The things The Valeyard is capable of, everything he does…we haven't dealt with something so…wrong…in so long." He took a shuddering breath. "Rose…I'm just—" his breath caught, and he had to close his eyes and breath before continuing. "I'm so afraid of losing you again," he finally admitted, a few tears spilling over as he pulled her into him and buried his face in her shoulder.
Rose wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly, placing a kiss in his hair. "Hey, we'll be alright. You aren't going to lose me, and I'm not going to lose you" she said matter-of-factly. His only response was to hold her tighter. "Doctor, listen to me," she said, wriggling to loosen his hold on her and pushing back on his shoulder so that he was lying on his back, and she was half on top of him. She reached a hand up to his cheeks to wipe away a few tears. "We're going to make it through this, yeah? How could we not? You've faced him before, and won, right? Doesn't sound impossible to me. And now we've got two Doctors, and me and Jack! That's four against one. We've come through with much worse odds."
He stared at her for a few moments. "But we can walk away from this, Rose," he said suddenly. "Leave him to deal with it. It's him The Valeyard is after, a Time Lord with a full set of organs, with regenerations, with time. Not me. And it's not our universe anymore. We can just go. Just run."
She looked shocked, and then a bit angry, until she noticed the raw fear and guilt in his eyes. He didn't want to leave, but he was afraid not to. She shook her head slowly. "What, go to Marbella in 1989?" He looked in agreement to that. "No, we can't. That's not how we do things." He opened his mouth to protest, and she suddenly sat up and threw one leg over his waist, straddling him. "That's not the way we run," she said firmly, poking him in the chest. She took one of his hands in each of hers and pulled them up to her lips to kiss before settling them down above his heart, holding them there. "It's what youtaught me. How you made me better. You showed me how to be brave, how to do what's right when everyone else runs away." He looked resigned. "And it's not what you want to do. You want to protect me…but I know you. And you never want to run away.
"No. I don't," he admitted. "But I want to want it. I want to be able to just go flick a few switches and leave this all behind us. I would, if you asked me to." He sighed. "But you never would."
She shook her head. "Nope. That's not us. Not the Stuff of Legends." He smiled, and she leaned down and kissed him tenderly. "And I will thank you in advance for not trying to send me away this time."
He looked at her intensely, snaking his hands into her hair. "I promised you years ago that I never would again. I never could again. I can't live without you, Rose."
With her face still inches from his, she reached up and caressed his slightly stubbly cheek. "You'll never have to. I love you, Doctor. And we'll get through this, together." The last word was caught by his lips as he kissed her deeply. After a minute, she pulled back breathless and with a small smile. "Do you have some time?" she asked coyly.
"For you?" he asked, hands moving down her back and coming to rest on her hips. "For you, I have the rest of my life."
She smiled. "Good." And she began opening the buttons on his shirt. "Because the universes might need defending, but right now, I need you, my Doctor."
"So, Doctor," said Jack, sitting on the stairs that led underneath the Eleventh Doctor's console, watching him tinker. "Are you alright with all of this?"
The Eleventh Doctor looked up at Jack through his fringe. "The Valeyard trying to steal my body? Who would be alright with that?"
"No, I mean this," Jack said, motioning up to the other TARDIS. "Rose and your part human duplicate, here and married and ridiculously happy and parading it all in front of you."
The Eleventh Doctor looked away and shrugged. "Why shouldn't I be alright with it?"
"Because you're in love with Rose," Jack stated simply.
The Eleventh Doctor froze, looking back at him in shock, but quickly pushed all emotions from his face and continued working. "I never said that."
"No, I guess you didn't. But it would seem that the man who was your exact duplicate did, didn't he?" The Eleventh Doctor said nothing. "So, do you deny that you ever loved her?"
The Eleventh Doctor sighed and dropped the wires he held, rubbing his hand over the back of his head and looking irritated. "No. Of course not. I mean, obviously," he said, motioning to the other TARDIS. "But...it's been a long time. And I'm a different man now."
"And so what, you just stopped loving her because you regenerated?" Jack asked in disbelief. "I've known you for a long time now, Doctor. I knew you in the regeneration you met her in, and I could tell you loved her then. I knew you in the regeneration you lost her in, and I could tell you loved her deeply. You ached for her. And then, when she came back…for that little bit of time, you were a complete man again. And maybe I just met you in this regeneration, but after seeing all of that…I can't imagine you don't have feelings for her anymore."
The Eleventh Doctor's eyes were rimmed with tears, and he dropped both of his hands but kept looking at the wires in front of him. "Are you trying to make this difficult for me?"
"No," said Jack sympathetically. "I just don't think you should be burying all of this."
"I think we have bigger problems right now, Captain," he answered firmly, lifting his hands back to his work.
"Do we?" asked Jack, standing up and coming the rest of the way down the steps. "Because from what you've told me, this Valeyard is the product of your negative emotions. Is it really a good idea to feed this pain into something already so twisted?"
The Eleventh Doctor turned abruptly to look at Jack. "What do you want me to do, then, Jack?" he asked, nearly shouting. He took a deep breath, and when he spoke next, his voice was calmer. "I'm not saying I don't have any feelings for her anymore. But it's been longer for me than you realize, and I've had time to come to terms with…losing her." He wiped his eyes to keep the tears from falling. "I began accepting that I was losing her forever when I left them in the parallel world. And I've had other people in my life since then. And…and maybe…maybe a part of me does still wish I could have had what he has with her…but I know that I never could, because I have a different sort of life. I'd watch her grow old and die and I'd still be carrying on. And that would have been much more difficult than this. For me and for her. Maybe you can't understand that—" The Eleventh Doctor stopped when he realized what he'd just said. "I'm sorry." He sighed. "I suppose out of all the people in this universe, you might be the only one who can understand."
Jack walked up to him and placed a hand on his shoulder, giving it a squeeze. "Yeah, I can." He dropped his hand. "That's why I thought you might need to talk to me about it."
The Eleventh Doctor nodded. "Yeah." He was silent for a moment. "Hold these together, would you?" he asked, handing Jack a pair of wires. Jack took them and the Eleventh Doctor began fusing them with his sonic screwdriver. "It's odd, though," he said through the buzzing. "Because I still…care for her. But in just this past day, having them around…both of them…it's been nice. Really nice. I mean, I see that he's giving her the life I never could, and I'm…so grateful for that, I think. You see how happy she is with him?" he said in wonder. Jack nodded and smiled. "It's brilliant. Absolutely fantastic. Rose Tyler deserves to be that happy. That's what I wanted for her. And even having him here. It's nice having another Time Lord mind around again…you know, other than the one that's out there trying to assimilate me."
"So, even though it's a reminder of what you can't have…of what you lost…you enjoy having them here?" Jack asked.
The Eleventh Doctor thought for a moment. Then he smiled widely. "Yeah. I think I do."