DISCLAIMER: This is done for the love of other intellectual properties, not the challenge of them.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: To those who have read my Lock series the resemblance to the character of Lex is deliberate, and comes from my desire to try the character out in different worlds. I chose to have her as the Eleventh Doctor both because the character's established back story in the Lock ended up echoing the Doctor's in a way (and I created her before I got into DW), but also because as a femslash shipper if the man I know in the role can't play it then it's a short leap to ask why a man has to play the role at all. I will also say, David Tennant is my favorite Doctor. I'm not saying this to knock Matt Smith, or to pick a fight with his fans, or fans of any other Doctor, or the earlier run of the series. Just to say that Tennant, and RTD are what brought me to Who, and if you hated their stuff you should read this at your discretion. While I've made it mine their Whoverse was a HUGE inspiration. I must also give additional, and at this point perhaps perpetual thanks to Lisa Countryman for her beta work on this fic.
DEDICATION: I must dedicate this fic to DiNovia. When I first found femslash I found Star Trek: Voyager's Janeway/Seven of Nine, and I had no idea there was any other option. It was her page, and it's link to a list that's still home to me LONG after Voyager finished it's run, Voq Je Bang, that opened my mind to writing what I want to write, and letting those who found they enjoyed it enjoy it along with me while not worrying about the rest.
SPOILERS: Up to End of Time part two, otherwise I have been trying to get as up to date on canon as I can, but I will include an apology here, because it is so MASSIVE I can't promise anything. The fact that it almost seems gleefully ready to contradict itself is certainly not helping the matter.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To wyldchilde37[at]yahoo.com
By Dark Wyldchilde
Whenever the Doctor was asked about his regeneration he usually waved the question off with a seemingly off-hand comment about "a trick Time Lords can use to cheat death."
The truth, however, was that no one could cheat death, not even the Time Lords.
While regeneration was a magnificent trick, it was a trick they played on themselves. Yes their knowledge, their experiences, their very memories could pass on it was no more "them" than a book was its author, that spark, that life was gone and all that was left was a record that had been passed on.
When they regenerated, they died, and the Doctor was dying. He knew it even before he stepped into the chamber, before he pushed the button to save Wilfred and condemn himself. It was why he raged like he did- he could no more let Wilfred die in his place than he could stop being the Doctor.
It was the one thing that survived his regenerations even more than all that knowledge, all of those experiences, that compassion. Not just to "do no harm" as Earth doctor's liked to say, but to prevent harm everywhere, and everywhen he could.
Yet, he left that room, even after consigning himself to die, he went to collect his reward, and that was what it was, a reward. It was as if death itself was holding off, thanking him for keeping all of creation from sliding into oblivion's maw.
The reward was finished now. He had seen them all one last time, did his best to leave them safe, happy, taken care of, and now death had come to claim him.
"I don't want to go." He didn't, even now some part of him hung on, clung to that precious life that had seen and done so much.
In seeming response the Song of the Ood swelled inside him. The Song of the Very Universe filling his being, and taking him past any simple mortal shell, and he heard it.
That Song telling him that he didn't need to be afraid. That it wasn't that his song was being stopped, but another was being started. That his song, and their song, and all the Doctor's songs, just as all the songs of all the peoples of the entirety of creation were the same song. That in his rest he would sing it directly. That his pain was past, and his labors were done, and that it was time for his true reward.
A peace filled him, and as the Doctor was able to let go, the flames of regeneration burst forth to consume him and give birth to the next Doctor.
"That's not fair, regeneration isn't supposed to hurt." At least not in the aftermath. Of course it hurt as it was happening, but that was to be expected if all of one's cells were dying and being reborn, and truth be told this regeneration had packed a wallop.
Enough of a wallop that everything had went black. Now the Doctor was still laid out supine, but on a surface far more comfortable then the floor of the TARDIS. New fingers reached up and probed a new brow, finding a new lump that said that when things went black the newly formed head had managed to contact the controls of the TARDIS on the way to the floor.
Conscious recognition of the injury sped residual regeneration energies to the damaged area, and it mended itself instantly.
"Humm... skin's softer..." There was a small pause. "The voice is MUCH softer."
"Doctor? Doctor? Is that you? Can you hear me?"
New eyes blinked open, looking up into the face of Doctor Jones... or maybe Smith. That part was still unclear. "Hello, Martha." The smile "felt" different, but the tugging of the muscles was familiar as was the responding smile on Martha's face.
The relief on the woman's face was also apparent. "Are you all right?"
The Doctor's new face scrunched up. "I don't know." The Doctor started by reaching up and exploring the new body with grasping hands. "One head, more then one might have been okay, but I've seen those with less, and I have no desire to try it. Hair's longer... much longer..." The Doctor sat up. "Martha? Does my hair go down my entire back?"
Martha looked at the Doctor's back. "About so, yeah."
Even knowing it was physically impossible, the Doctor was trying to turn back far enough to see it directly. When it was obvious that wasn't going to happen the Doctor's physical exploration continued. "Two arms, wouldn't have minded a third, but I've learned to make due."
At that the Doctor climbed out of the bed in what was obviously a medical bay in some sort of military base. That thought caused those new eyes to look around the base, and back to Martha. "I thought you went independent?"
Martha smiled. "I did, but when the TARDIS was found embedded three feet deep in the ground, in an impact crater approximately nineteen feet wide and almost half as deep, and locked up tight, UNIT remembered I had a key and asked me to help."
The Doctor smiled. "Well thank you for that." Even as Martha smiled slightly, and shook her head as if to say it wasn't anything she needed to be thanked for, the Doctor interrupted. "Is the TARDIS okay?"
"There was some damage. It seemed your regeneration was a bit... energetic, and there are some things that were burned and broken."
The spot where the bump had been was touched a second time. "Right, but that's not a worry at the moment. Still, two legs..." The Doctor looked down to see bare legs, seeming now to realize the Doctor's old suit, coat, and trainers had been replaced by a simple, oversized button-down pajama top. "My legs are QUITE a bit longer... but they don't feel gangly like last time... do my feet look tiny to you?"
Before Martha could comment on the size of the Doctor's feet the commentary continued. "Still, got two of them, a solid, dependable number. One head, two arms, two legs, two breasts..." The Doctor had palmed and was squeezing the two new additions as there was a commotion at the door.
The familiar voice of Captain Jack Harkness was arguing. "Is it the Doctor? Is he in there?"
The familiar voice of Mickey Smith came back. "Yes, and no."
Jack's voice seemed to be getting angry. "This isn't the time for games, Mickey Mouse! Is the Doctor okay?"
Mickey's voice however seemed amused. "The Doctor is... fine."
That angered him even more and Jack pushed past Mickey. To find Martha Jones sitting on the bed as a blonde haired, blue-green eyed Goddess was standing above her fondling her own breasts.
"Doctor? Is that you?" Before the Doctor could reply, Jack felt the need to state the obvious. "You're a woman!?"
The Doctor, who was still palming her breasts looked down between her legs and realized the two new additions had been matched by a single subtraction.
"Well, this is new." Shaking her head, the Doctor suddenly deflated sitting back down on the bed next to Martha who had taken a seat to get out of the way of the Doctor's explorations.
The human doctor felt compelled to address the Time Lord's... Lady's sudden change in mood. "I'm sure it's a shock, but if it helps you're lovely."
The Doctor shook her head. "It's not that. It's just that I've regenerated ten times now, and I still haven't been ginger." Her shoulders slumped at this admission.
Mickey had entered the room behind Jack and now spoke. "Right, so you're okay with being a woman. You're just upset about your hair? That actually sounds like a woman."
He had started grinning at that and his wife gave him a playful glare in return. "Oi!"
Jack's smile was now his more trademarked one, as was his tone when he started speaking. "But you really are stunning, Doctor."
While the voice was new, the Doctor's response was an old reflex. "Stop it!" To which Jack just gave a grin the Doctor had now gotten across three regenerations.
The Doctor then continued, "But I have to disagree with you both." She stood up, arching her back, and put a hand on her stomach. Her other hand reaching behind her to give her bottom a quick pat. "I'm really... rather... hot."
That was followed by a teasing sort of grin the Doctor's old companions were unaccustomed to. "Which raises the question of who took me out of my old suit?"
Martha didn't know why she blushed. Changing a patient was something she had done countless times as a medical student. Still, the teasing grin the Doctor had been giving them got a sort of heat when Martha blushed and raised her hand, and Martha felt a surge of emotion, both achingly familiar as well as entirely new.
"No! No, no, no, no! More things change... but no! It's not happening again. We're married!"
That got Mickey a series of confused looks from everyone in the room and he gestured at the new Doctor angrily. "You! You were giving her a look."
The Doctor rolled her eyes. "A look?"
Mickey nodded angrily. "Yeah, a look. Like those looks you gave Rose... no, not like the looks you gave Rose, more like the looks HE gave Rose." With those words Mickey gestured at Jack.
To which Jack protested, but lightly. "Hey."
The Doctor shook her head. "I did no such thing."
Martha then protested. "Well, you kinda did."
The Doctor scrunched her brow in confusion as she looked at Martha, but Jack was the next to comment. "They're right, you sorta did give the look."
It was obvious the Doctor was getting frustrated, and she put her hands on her hips. "Looks? What are you all going on about? What look?"
Jack sighed. "THE look. The one you always were getting on my case about?"
The Doctor made a sound of protest. "I did no such thing! Yes, admittedly, she is quite lovely..."
Mickey interrupted. "Oi! You're doing it again!"
The Doctor took a breath to speak, stopped, a second, then leaned in to speak quietly to Martha. "Did I?"
Martha was a little flushed from the attention of the... person she still carried a bit of a torch for, and her face was split by a large smile. "A little, yeah."
She stood up straight. "Right, well I do apologize. While Martha is quite fetching..." The newly female Doctor seemed to have a girl's moment as she leaned in to touched Martha's dread locked locks "Love what you did with your hair..."
Martha's flustered state seemed to grow as she touched her own hair. "Thanks."
The Doctor then continued. "But I certainly respect that you are married."
Mickey seemed a little mollified, nodding almost to himself.
The Doctor scrunched her nose as she asked her next question. "I was actually wondering if you are a Jones, or if you are now Mrs. Smith?"
Mickey made a bit of an outraged grunt as he bristled again. When everyone gave him a look he shrunk back slightly. "Well, you used to call yourself John Smith when you needed a name."
The Doctor gave him a grin, and spoke softly and deliberately slow. "Yes, but that's an alias. You're the actual Smith."
Mickey nodded, obviously embarrassed at his outburst, but it was Martha that replied. "I kept Jones, since I've already built it up a bit."
The next look the Doctor gave was more warmth then heat, her expression showing her obvious pride in her former companion's accomplishments. "That you did."
Jack then joined in. "But I think it's safe to say you've kept your appreciation for beautiful female companions."
With that moment of tension gone the Doctor wandered over to find a full length mirror on the wall in the medical bay, interested in giving her new body a visual examination. As she replied her voice was obviously distracted. "I suppose so."
Jack was smiling, following behind, but his reply was cut off as the Doctor unbuttoned her pajama top and dropped it behind her. Seeming to want to see ALL of her new body.
A series of gasps erupted from the rest of the room, and the Doctor looked over her shoulder with a grin. "I know, smashing right? I mean if I got to be a girl this time around can't hurt to be a looker."
The Doctor turned back to admiring her new shape as Jack finally found his voice again. "Right..." Jack actually needed to clear his suddenly parched throat. "Right... but are there any NEW appreciations more unique to this form?"
The hopeful tone in the Captain's voice was obvious, but the Doctor seemed too wrapped up in appraising her new firm flesh, and her voice was distracted after seeming to take a moment to contemplate the question. "No, not really."
With her back turned the Doctor couldn't see it, but Mickey and Martha saw Jack's shoulders slump, and as Martha hurried forward to pick up the Doctor's discarded garment and drape it over her shoulders. She gave Jack a sympathetic look before speaking. "Yes, well as a girl I can tell you that we're traditionally expected to wear clothes."
The Doctor didn't protest as Martha draped the clothing over her shoulders, but took a second longer looking at her new, mostly naked self. "Of course, but it seems almost a waste covering up a body this lovely." She however then slid her arms into the sleeves and began buttoning it back up.
Jack's voice was clear, and obviously depressed. "Like throwing a tarp over a work of art."
The Doctor looked over her shoulder and smiled a smile laden of warmth and friendship, only friendship, and as she looked back to the mirror Jack walked over to the wall and started hitting his head against it.
The Doctor straightened her shoulders, inhaling and exhaling. "Right, but if I have to be dressed I may as well find something that suits the new me." She then looked over. "You alright, Jack?"
Captain Harkness stopped hitting his head against the wall. "Fine! I'm fine!"
The Doctor started walking to the door. "Well my wardrobe is in the TARDIS... even if it's all male."
Martha stepped closer. "I know I left a few things behind."
The Doctor got a sudden wide smile. "There was that black, sort of see-through top. I'd look fantastic in that top!"
Martha grinned. "That's the spirit!"
Jack sighed loudly before speaking. "See-through? You're killing me here." His head then tilted. "But I've died in far worse ways." He then made a sweeping motion "The TARDIS is this way."
The Doctor gave him a look. "How'd you know?"
Jack smiled. "The last time I saw you, Doctor, there was something in your eyes. So I teleported to the TARDIS, and the TARDIS was here."
As they were walking Mickey seemed reluctant to speak, but eventually found his voice. "So... what happened?" The Doctor arched her brows, obviously wanting the man to elaborate. "To make you regenerate."
Jack followed up with the obvious question. "Was it the Master? With six billion of him running around it wouldn't be surprising if one of them got lucky." The other three gave Jack an arched look at his choice of words and Jack gave a look of distaste. "I meant get "lucky" as in kill you!"
The Doctor actually paused briefly. "Did you change along with everyone else?"
That got a quick negative shake. "No, and while I had no interest in a bleached blonde mad man I found a lot of them having a great deal of interest in me."
The Doctor touched his elbow. "Are you all right?"
Jack looked at the casual touch for a stunned moment, and then put on his boyish grin. "Of course, you know me. I can't not be all right."
While the Doctor didn't look entirely convinced it seemed sufficient and the Doctor continued. "Well, we came to learn that the drumbeats he heard were not simply a sign of madness, but something that had been put in his head by the Time Lords at the end of the Time War so he could carry the link out and they could follow it out of the time lock."
Martha's voice was awed. "So that big orange planet, that was Gallifrey?"
The Doctor nodded, her expression mournful. "With six billion Masters the beat was amplified six billion times and they were able to send a White Point Star, a diamond unique to Gallifrey. The Master was able to use the physical item to make a physical link they were able to follow here to Earth."
Jack wasn't hiding his confusion, on his face, or in his voice. "And that's a bad thing?"
That mournful expression grew. "Yes. You're all familiar with what the Master was capable of at his worst, and you've all fought the Daleks. Now imagine that at war." They all seemed to blanch at the picture the Doctor was painting, but she didn't notice as she continued.
"Before the Time War, they were as I spoke, like I choose to remember them, but then came age after age of battle and bloodshed, horror and fire, against an enemy that was always willing to commit ever greater atrocities. They might not have been mad like the Master, but their madness was all the more horrible for its willfulness. When I finally ran, I wasn't running from the Daleks."
Mickey's voice was a touch above a whisper. "So they... killed you? The old you? The Time Lords?"
The Doctor shook her head. "No, I managed to destroy the machine the Master had built with the diamond and send them back to the time locked Time War... to send them back into Hell, but they were going to kill me for it, and the Master saved my life."
Everyone was shocked, and their expressions showed it, the Doctor noticed this, and nodded. "Partly it was the realization that the drum beats that had driven him mad were placed inside him deliberately, sent back through time so he could carry it forward to here and now so they could save themselves. I like to think that the fact that even then I shot the machine to sever the link rather than shoot him to sever the link in his head, that moved him to save me, and he did, hurling himself at the Time Lords, falling into Hell with them."
Jack then spoke in solemn, quiet tone.. "So how did you die?"
The Doctor almost smiled. "The machine that the Master used to imprint himself on the human race and later used to make the gate for the Time Lords had a nuclear vault. Normally controlled by one of two operators in separate booths all of the events had the vault overloading and ready to flood back into the active booth. The monitoring was kept constant because the only way an operator could get out was to press a button that locked their door and opened the others, and no I didn't step into the booth to save the normal operator. Wilfred, Donna's grandfather did that."
Martha then finished the tale. "And you took his place."
The Doctor simply nodded.
Mickey then picked up. "So when we saw you? When you kept that Sontaran from shooting us?"
Jack then spoke. "And Alonzo?"
The Doctor first simply nodded, pausing, and then spoke. "How is he by the way?"
Jack smiled, looking wistful. "A little lost, but happy to be alive." When that comment got small, teasing grins from the other three, Jack gave a small, lop sided smile. "Yes, I made sure he was happy to be alive, but he's good."
That got a nod from the Doctor, and they continued their trip to the TARDIS.
Only to find a dozen UNIT soldiers, with rifles in hand standing between them and the blue box. Number thirteen stood to the side, no rifle, but a pistol was on his hip, and one hand was on the grip while the other held a set of cuffs.
The Doctor was the first to speak, and did so in a bright voice. "Let me guess, you must be my new honor guard!"
Jack's voice was sorrowful next to her. "They're here for me."
The Doctor paused, her face growing concerned. "Listen, Jack. There are over a dozen of them. I know you have your... appetites, but even with your healing you're going to have trouble swallowing, and you'll probably end up walking funny for awhile."
Captain Harkness paused, as did everyone else, but Jack was the first to snap out of it and he did it with a large grin and a small bark of laughter. "No, they're here to arrest me."
That concerned expression on the Doctor's face became confused. "Whatever for?"
Jack's expression darkened, a mix of grief, and anger. "Saving the world."
The Doctor's confused expression grew. "That's a crime now? I'd imagine I'm in even more trouble than you then."
The dark expression remained on Jack's face, but a sardonic grin formed with it. "I didn't save the world FOR them, I saved it FROM them."
The man armed with only a pistol spoke up. "That's enough Captain!"
The Doctor shook her head. "No, no, I'd like to hear what he has to say."
The man stepped closer to Jack, starting to lift the cuffs. "It doesn't concern you, Miss."
The Doctor stepped between Jack and the one who seemed intent on cuffing Jack, her expression becoming intent, and her voice dropping to a quiet register made almost menacing by its dreadful softness. "Quite to the contrary. Even if you weren't arresting my friend I make threats to the Earth my business. Now, you can tell me what happened, or Jack can, but we're not going any further until I understand what is going on."
Jack's response carried a challenge in both his expression and his voice, and while he was speaking to the Doctor his eyes never left the man intent on arresting him. "I should have clarified. I didn't save the world as much as it's children. Children they were ransoming off."
Now the Doctor's eyes were locked on the same target as Jack's, even as she conversed with Jack. "In exchange for what?"
The officer interrupted by pulling his pistol and pointing it at Jack. "That is ENOUGH!"
Martha stepped in and started to speak, though Mickey was hovering next to her, seeming to want to spring into action, but knowing he couldn't against the dozen soldiers with assault rifles. "Listen! Let me call UNIT headquarters and we'll get this all sorted out!"
Jack shook his head, still staring at the man holding the gun, rather than the weapon pointed at his head. "Sorry, Martha, UNIT was in on it too, trading off Earth's children to protect themselves!"
"All right!" Despite now being young and pretty, the Doctor had not lost any of the tone of command that people had little choice but to obey. She took her voice back to that soft, yet somehow threatening register, her eyes still having yet to leave the nervous looking UNIT officer. "Start from the top, Jack, and tell me everything."
Captain Jack Harkness proceeded to do just that. Going all the way back to his part delivering the children to the 456 back in 1965 to using his own grandson to strike down the 456 some months ago.
The Doctor took a deep inhale, and then let out a soft exhale. "I'm sorry I wasn't here to help you, Jack. While I am always ready to defend the Earth I was dealing with a decision of my own and its ramifications planets and decades away from here."
Mickey was the one to voice a question most had. " Ramifications?"
The Doctor held her arms up above her head, seemingly to display herself, as if somehow the ramifications led to her regeneration, but she didn't elaborate as her voice dropped back to it's menacing purr. "BUT I would think that I shouldn't have to remind a species to protect its young."
She stepped closer to the UNIT commander and in spite of the fact that he was a tall, lean, built soldier in full fatigues with a side arm while she was a slip of a young woman in a night shirt, he took an involuntary step back. The man now sensing some hidden quality to the girl that was only now manifesting itself, and instinctively knowing to fear it.
"So tell me how did you chose the children you were going to offer up? Was it random, lots being drawn? Or..."
He interrupted, his voice starting to show signs of panic. "We had no choice."
The Doctor didn't show any acknowledgment of the interruption, her bare feet simply stepping closer. "Or did you get even more crass? Maybe sorting them out by race? Economic status? Perhaps offering up the weak, sickly, or slow?"
At this point she was taking a step forward almost with each word, and while the other dozen UNIT soldiers were still armed and ready, none moved to help their commander as he took step backward after step backward, and then he stumbled.
On the ground, he was now pale, and shaking as he found his voice again. "Who are you?"
That got a smile, a fierce smile, one that had no warmth, but rather a satisfaction that made everyone else there glad it wasn't directed at them. "You know me. Captain Jack Harkness, Mickey Smith, Martha Jones, the TARDIS... you know me."
The man's eyes grew wide, and his jaw dropped as the Doctor's voice was still soft, but now laden with an even harder edge. "Now say my name."
The commander actually shook his head, and skittered away, but when he saw the small blonde woman's still calm stride following him his hands and feet lost their purchase where he was using them to push away.
As he stopped she did as well.
"Say... my... name!"
He looked up, his voice a ragged, panicked whisper, but all the clearer for it. "The Doctor."
The tiny blonde titan nodded slowly. "You are now my messenger. You will go back to your masters and you will tell them I am watching. I am the Doctor, and I fight the monsters, no matter what form they take."
She then turned to the soldiers, and their step back was so in unison one might think they were on drill. "We are leaving."
Not only did they not make any moves to stop the Doctor or her company, but they parted before her when she deliberately led her friends right through the middle of them.
As the assembled group entered the TARDIS, the Doctor locked the doors behind them and strode to the console. The other three looked at each other in open jawed shock as the Doctor ran a gentle hand over the controls. Her voice still soft, but now incredibly tender, she said. "I know you're hurting, but Mummy needs one more hop, and then I'll repair you right as rain."
While common logic said it was simply the Doctor's fingers on the TARDIS controls that made the engine come to life the other three would swear to you that the gentle way she coaxed the vessel was what truly roused it.
It was just another thing that had the Doctor's three traveling companions, those who had thought they knew the Time Lord fairly well, questioning the depth and breadth of that knowledge.
Maybe it was just his nature, but Jack found his voice first. "I am SO turned on right now!"
The Doctor's shoulders shook with silent laughter.
Mickey found his voice next, but not the ability to fully use it. "You! You did! You just! And then they just! And the bloke on the ground! And you're in a nothing but a nightie!"
The Doctor was sliding from station to station, the TARDIS still shook but nowhere near as bad as they remembered.
Martha first found her wits as she moved to help stabilize the vessel and directed the other two men to do the same, and then she found her voice. "Doctor... I will not just say that was amazing, but rather you keep redefining my knowledge of the very word... amazing!"
The Doctor gave a grin, but didn't say a word until the TARDIS stopped, and stilled, the engine fading to a soft blue-green radiance. She remained silent until walking over and opening up the doors, outside they found themselves looking down on a field of smoldering ash and lava flows, all streaming from the volcano in the distance.
Jack recognized the place and spoke before the Doctor. "Pompeii?"
The Doctor nodded. "The day AFTER volcano day. Donna and I visited here yesterday... and we made it happen." The three looked at the Doctor sharply in question, and she nodded calmly in response. "There was a race, the Pyrovillia that had crashed to Pompeii and were infecting the people, slowly turning them into Pyrovilles. They were building an energy converter that would allow them to do so on a massive scale, and take over the Earth."
She continued speaking she walked out of the TARDIS, keeping her gaze focused on the devastation below, her companions followed in stunned silence. "Leaving me with the decision to leave it on, and let them boil away the oceans and turn humanity into a footnote in the Pyroville history, or shut it off and let Vesuvius erupt."
She then turned to Jack. "I brought us here for you Jack. I saved the world yet again, but I did so by sacrificing the lives of twenty thousand men, women, and children. I'm not so much seeking to make you feel better as to help you understand. Either way Pompeii was going to perish, in fire, but that doesn't absolve me of my responsibility, and I don't want it to. It had to be done, and I was the one who had to do it."
She then turned and walked back to the TARDIS. "But we don't need to stand out here and watch. I brought us here to perform repairs."
Jack was a step behind her. "Like on me."
The Doctor slowed, stopped, nodded, and to Jack's continuing shock pulled him into a hug. The woman came almost to Jack's chin as she squeezed him, and without even trying he inhaled her scent.
Just as quickly she nodded and stepped back. She then turned and walked back into the TARDIS, leaving her friends in yet another stunned silence.
As they followed, Martha was the first to find her voice this time. "You're physically affectionate now?"
The Doctor bent down to lift up one of the deck plates in the floor of the TARDIS as Mickey spoke. "Because you're a woman?"
The Doctor stared into air as she contemplated the question, taking a deep breath before speaking. "It's sort of one of those chicken and egg arguments. Have you seen photos of some of my earlier selves?" At their nods she continued. "Right, well they tended to be older men, tired old grumps. They still cared, but they were fresh from the Time War. The more I lived beyond that the younger I felt."
Jack didn't seem convinced. "That doesn't explain becoming a woman."
The Doctor smiled. "I confronted the Time Lords. I faced... my greatest fear. I finally put the Time War behind me. A change to just another variation on a theme would almost be trifling. The fact that I'm now a woman probably has a good deal to do with the fact that I had been so bottled up, so held back. Maybe it's my own mind trying to force itself to expand further than before."
Martha seemed the most fascinated by the discussion, while Mickey and Jack looked more stunned. "You're not sure?"
"It's not a science. It's more an art when we rebuild ourselves, and it's inspiration and intuition that guides it. I was as surprised as anyone."
Jack then spoke. "I think I get it. Before I met Rose and you, I was a conman, a grifter, I won't say petty because I was damn good at it. I wasn't a full villain, but I came closer than I really like to think about, but my time with you, traveling in the TARDIS, it changed me, made me better."
The Doctor smiled widely, holding up a hand, pointing. "YOU, made you better. We just helped."
Jack blushed a little at the compliment, but nodded to the Doctor's point.
Mickey then added to the conversation. "Right, so you adjusted to the surprise quickly enough."
The Doctor realized they were back on the topic of her new gender, but while that was new, her ability to pontificate was not. "That's because it was only new to my conscious mind. It's why I never have any trouble walking, and was even able to sword fight after my last regeneration..."
Jack laughed. "Back when you still had a sword to fight with."
The Doctor laughed softly, standing up after setting aside some tools, and gave Jack a light hit to the stomach with the back of her hand. She then looked around the burned, and broken main area of the TARDIS. "That's probably why the TARDIS was damaged so much. Normally my regeneration is just 'copying' biology rather then truly changing it."
She then shook her head. "BUT when I regenerate my subconscious knows it as 'me'. Reflexes, emotional responses, like my most recent self's rudeness."
Martha was taken a back. "So it's not just physical?"
The Doctor's new long blonde hair swayed as she shook her head. "No, even when I was just changing from one man into another my personality WOULD change. Sometimes it was more noticeable then others, but it was a definite change. So I am not the proverbial man trapped in a woman's body, I am a woman."
Jack got his look again. "And quite the woman."
The Doctor grinned, running her fingers through her own hair, holding it all up, and then letting it drop. "Thanks, like I said, won't hurt that my new self is a looker."
Jack then continued. "Speaking of looks..."
The Doctor rolled her eyes. "Again?"
Seeing where the conversation was headed Martha blushed and Mickey bristled.
Jack held up his hands in a pacifying gesture. "No, I mean I get it, you respect their marriage. I respect their marriage. While there are some marriages respecting them simply means you need a bigger bed, for these two that's just not the case." The pair in question blushed at the words.
Jack didn't pay it any heed as he kept speaking. "What I'm talking about is there were three people in that room. Mickey is handsome enough, and we all know I'm magnificent, but you only had eyes for Martha, and not the 'Just traveling companion eyes."
The Doctor gave a playfully cross look. "She's a married woman, and some of us CAN control ourselves!"
Jack was smiling, only one hand up this time. "I get that. You're not that kind of woman, BUT it was a woman that triggered... well the kind of expression I doubt the old you knew."
The Doctor laughed fondly. "I probably picked it up from you."
Jack wasn't arguing. "Quite possibly, but I mean that was almost more new than the breasts."
The Doctor gave a deliberate look down to her impressive bosom. "The fact that I had the look, or I had it for a woman?"
"Probably the look, from what I understand you've seemed to prefer traveling with beautiful young women for the most part."
The Doctor wasn't arguing and actually nodded the affirmative as she spoke. "Yes, but even with all those beautiful young women traveling companions I was always very... British."
Jack had a smile, but it was tinged with sadness. "And sometimes when someone is too... British. They need to learn how to relax, let loose, and play a game of naked hide and go seek."
The Doctor picked up on that... and Jack wondered how much the Doctor picked up on and simply ignored it because he had been too... British. The new Doctor however didn't seem so inclined. "I'm guessing that's part of what we are going to talk about after this is all resolved?"
Jack paused, seeming to want to argue, but then dropped his resistance and nodded. In almost all of his relationships he was the top. He considered it somewhere between a privilege, and an honor so he made sure never to abuse that trust, but not with the Doctor.
With the Doctor he was left feeling vulnerable, but yet protected. When with the Doctor it was as if the Time Lord... Lady could see through all his ego and bluster, past the pain that hid somewhere underneath them, and still leave him feeling welcome, accepted, even cared for.
Mickey was the first of the married couple to recover their voice. "Naked hide and go seek?"
Jack looked at Mickey shrugged. "I would think it was pretty self explanatory."
"Well I'm already with you on the black leather." Jack was smiling as the Doctor tried outfit after outfit. While her previous incarnations were all male they all had female companions who had left remnants of various outfits behind.
"I thought you would be." The Doctor's voice was obviously new, but that fondly exasperated tone was not, and it still could effect Jack like no other.
The fact that same individual was now a woman who was clad in body hugging black leather pants as she bent over at the waist to lace up knee high, flat soled boots in a similar black leather... well Jack loved the Doctor, and for Captain Jack Harkness love naturally led into lust. This new Doctor seemed geared to inspire both.
Yes lust could stand on it's own, but when it was inspired by love... Jack clamped down on that thought, not letting it open a wound that hadn't come anywhere near healing.
The repairs had come first, Mickey, Martha and Jack helping wherever they could, but just as often either taking directions from the Doctor or simply handing her supplies that she needed. They were done, and Mickey and Martha had retired to the quarters the woman had used in her time traveling with the Doctor.
Jack had quarters as well, but didn't feel all that tired yet so he stayed with the Doctor who was barely showing any signs of fatigue.
The first thing she did was take a shower to remove the sweat and grime that had accumulated as they had made repairs to the TARDIS. Jack had offered to shower with her, help her make sure she didn't miss anything on her new body, but he had been rebuffed with a smile, and a hand to his chest to hold him back that then shoved him gently away.
With the refusal he had gone to those quarters he had used when traveling with Rose and the Doctor and showered as well. Between the backpack he was carrying with him, and what he had left behind he had been able to stay in the World War Two style of clothing that had come to define Captain Jack Harkness as of late.
Looking for the Doctor he had found her in the wardrobe looking for the clothing that would come to define her. At least that's what he assumed after his brain stopped seizing as the woman wasn't even wearing a towel when he first came across her.
It seemed like the new Doctor was as comfortable with her body as Jack was with his. Whether that would be a wonderful development or yet another way the universe would torment him was still to be seen.
His mind came back to the here and now just in time to see the Doctor give her shapely new bum a little wiggle before standing up straight, and putting her hands on her hips.
The fact that she was still stripped to the waist was enough of a distraction that the Doctor had to speak to get his attention.
"What do you think?"
His response was instant. "Breath taking, awe inspiring, the sort of thing that has led men to create art AND go to war."
The Doctor smiled and rolled her eyes. "Thanks, but I meant the pants."
Jack tilted his head, smiled. "They're great. They seem to really suit the new you."
The Doctor shook with silent laughter as she started looking through the available blouses. Finding a white one she slipped it on and started buttoning it up. It was a sort of pirate/poet/peasant style blouse, and the Doctor had to comment. "Pirates, and peasants and poets, oh my. They should simply call it a 'P' person blouse." Once it was buttoned up all the way she put her hands on her hips and turned to address Jack. "And now?"
"You'll want a bra with that, especially in a colder climates. Go with the black, your breasts are already, "he paused and swallowed to cover a suddenly dry throat. "Gravity-defying, the bra will make them even more so, and the black under the thin white fabric will accent them all the more."
There was a long pause as the two stared at each other, and then Jack spoke again. "That I knew all that didn't really shock you did it?"
The Doctor shook her head, her voice light as she did grab the black brassier while unbuttoning the blouse. "No, not really."
Once the brassier was on, and the blouse tucked into the black leather pants the Doctor stood up straight for inspection. "How do I look?"
"Amazing." Jack was sincere, even as he beat down a fantasy the dashing, almost space pirate like outfit was inspiring. "Where will you fit your sonic screw driver?"
In unison they looked to the Doctor's cleavage, and then back to each other.
The Doctor shook her head. "Jack, have you seen all the things I can fit in my pockets? Remember? Bigger on the inside?"
Jack was looking at her with a speculative look. He then reached up and pulled another a long coat from the rack in that same well tended, shiny black leather. "Try this." The Doctor shrugged and slipped the coat on.
The pair moved over to the full length mirror, and Jack stood over the Doctor's shoulder as she looked herself up and down.
The Doctor was smiling. "I like it, it's a bit more daring then my old outfit choices, but I feel daring." She smiled, and gave the jacket a tug to settle it.
Jack however shrugged. "You pulled off black leather in your ninth incarnation. Now you're doing it with a smile, and breasts."
The Doctor laughed, turning around and patting Jack's cheek.
"Actually Jack, I'm glad we're alone. There was something I needed to tell you."
No matter how loaded that line could be the Doctor's expression became one that carried a seriousness saying the sentence and the situation were important.
Jack simply nodded and waited for the Doctor to continue.
"I wanted to apologize. It was wrong to leave you on Station 5. No matter what your state you had proven your friendship, and you deserved better then that."
Jack smiled, and shook his head. "That was lifetimes ago Doctor, for both of us."
She smiled and shook her head. "It was wrong Jack, I was wrong, and I needed to look you in the eye and say that." Which she was doing as she spoke.
The smile had vanished from his face, because while he wasn't unhappy he realized it was very much a serious talk. "And about me being 'wrong?"
She got a small, self-depreciating smile. "Wrong' is the wrong word... I'm over nine hundred years old Jack. Is that better because I can lose wrinkles or gain breasts? You are a good man, and no matter how long you live I know you are going to stay that good man, doing good things, and that's more than enough for me."
Captain Jack Harkness, former Time Agent, former con man , former mortal, blushed at the sincere praise, much harder than he could remember doing as an adult mortal, let alone in the centuries since. He was sure it was another thing this Doctor noticed, but in this case she chose not to mention it.
She then walked out into the main area of the TARDIS. The repair had also been a remodel, but perhaps the biggest part of the remodeling had been simply tidying up.
Jack had dated men, and he had dated women, and he had dated beings where the gender issue wasn't so clearly defined.
When it was, in most cases the women were usually much tidier than the men. It hadn't been a big deal for Jack. More a simple matter of whether or not he needed to use a coaster and the like, but the practice had been ingrained deeply enough, and this was certainly a woman's TARDIS.
The walls, floors and ceiling were now a clean white with the lights in light golden columns imbedded in the walls, reaching up to the ceiling. It had almost a Greco-Roman feel. Something that was accented by the central controls.
The metal floor plating had been replaced by what looked like glass, but was both heavier and stronger... Jack knew because he and Mickey had been the ones to fit the stuff into place. While Jack knew the TARDIS could do most of the repairs herself their efforts made it easier on the craft.
The central controls were still the circular base reaching up into the blue green column, but now it was almost like a pillar with the metal polished to an almost silvery white.
While there were some tools around the circular console the Doctor tossed out the old rubber mallets with a scowl, saying "Yes, hitting someone with a mallet might get them to do what you want, but it's unseemly. I'm going to trust the TARDIS to do what I ask of her."
The stairs were made of the same golden metal that made up the columns built into the walls that held the recessed lights, as were the rails that ran along them and circled the main area, but the taped down foam padding the previous Doctor's seemed content with had been replaced by stitched white padding that reminded Jack of the arm rests of a well appointed chair.
At first he thought the black leather might clash, but the coat went over a railing to the side much like her last incarnation was wont to do, and her black leather pants and boots made her already long legs appear even more... Jack gave himself a hard mental slap.
Yes this Doctor was perhaps the most physically appealing of their incarnations. Not to mention that her comfort with her appearance only accented that beauty. None of that changed that this Doctor was THE Doctor and was back to help an Earth that in all honesty probably didn't deserve it.
And while he damned himself as he did it Captain Jack Harkness fell in love with the Doctor all over again. She was walking a circle around the console, pushing this button, pulling that lever, her eyes distant, yet her steps sure as her brilliant mind was seeking to help the planet he had run away from.
He wondered how many Pompeii's there had been for the Doctor, how many Stevens, how much weight rested on those now slender shoulders.
It came out, he didn't mean it to, he didn't feel the tears starting to form in his eyes as he spoke, but it was a plaintive cry from that still broken, bleeding place in his soul where Steven, Ianto, Tosh, Owen, and too many others lived.
"How, how do you do it?"
Those new blue-green eyes looked up, met his, and even as he thought he could see eternity they softened in understanding.
She walked over silently and pulled him to sit by her on the steps. Putting an arm around Jack's shoulders she directed him to rest his head to her shoulder, and while the position was close, almost intimate in a way it wasn't the kind of intimacy Captain Jack Harkness was used to.
He closed his eyes and it was like he traveled time, like was a boy again on the Boeshane Peninsula, he could smell that clean air, carried... carried from... he felt his mind struggle to grasp the memory that was already starting to slip away.
Then he felt the Doctor rub her hand in small circles on his back, and he broke, he wept, he wept for the family he lost, the boy he was, he wept for all those lost since. He wept in ways he had once swore he would never do again, and his body shook from doing so.
As he stilled, feeling more exhausted than better he realized he had moved and his head was actually laying in the Doctor's lap as she finally spoke.
"You want to know how I do it? How I can keep fighting?"
Jack simply nodded where his head lay in her lap.
"I know it's considered rude to answer a question with a question, but I am going to ask you a question Jack, and I want you to really think about it before you answer."
He rolled to his back, looking up at her as he waited for the question.
"If I were to take the TARDIS back to London, to the Blitz, and make sure you didn't see Rose drifting by. Would you want me to? Don't worry about personal time lines and such. If I could get you back to be simply that mortal con man would you go? No worrying about the Earth, no worrying about anyone but Captain Jack, and those you may find yourself growing close to. You could live and die, conning a few, but doing no real harm, just living and dying... with a full head of distinguished gray hair of course."
Jack gave a small laugh to the Doctor's mention of his admitted vanity, and then he thought about the question. He didn't say take Rose off the rope, he said make sure he wouldn't see her drifting by. Rose... the Doctor hadn't known where she was. If he hadn't been there to see her and her nice butt floating by the girl's grip would have given out soon enough and she would have plunged to her death.
That alone was almost enough to settle it for him, but his mind went further. The nanogenes that Jack had released would have still been running mad, but he hadn't known that until Rose and the Doctor had made him aware. If he hadn't had them dragging him along to fix the mess he made he might not have even cared, simply running like he usually did back in those days.
The Doctor might have stopped them, probably would have stopped them, the Doctor being THE DOCTOR and all, but what would it have done to the man to have found Rose's broken and bloodied body?
Images started moving faster. Station 5 and the Daleks, what would have happened if he hadn't been there to give up his mortality to buy time for Rose to come back?
Then there was Torchwood. What would it have become if he hadn't been there to grab the reins after Canary Wharf? Owen would be alive, but alone, his heart having been killed by grief and loneliness. Gwen, she might have gotten out the easiest, simply remaining a constable, not knowing the incredible potential that was wasted. Tosh would also be alive, but still in prison.
Ianto, would he be alive? Would he have been killed trying to impress whoever would have taken control of Torchwood 3? Or would he have been killed by his cyberwoman girlfriend? Would he have been "upgraded"?
Would they have released Abaddon? Would anything have survived if they did and he hadn't been there to... shove himself down the demon's throat?
He blinked, his mind recalling the numbers of children the 456 were demanding, numbers they would have gotten. A calm came over him, it didn't lessen the pain, or the grief, but they were suddenly bearable.
His eyes met the Doctor and she smiled. "The question isn't how can I keep fighting, but how can I not? There are many in this universe that are content to work a normal job, watch the telly when they get home, maybe grab a few pints on the weekends, but I can't. I simply can't."
She took a breath. "I can't live a simple life, and when things go truly bad I can't simply wonder why 'someone' doesn't do 'something' like so many do. I can't not help, I can't not try to make things better when and were I can. There's no great mystery to it. It's simply not my nature to stand by the sidelines."
"But what about the rest? About those you lose along the way?"
Her smile grew sad. "You grieve, you weep, you let yourself feel their loss, and you do your best to remember them, to honor their memory. You might have trouble staying dead Jack, but if you could have laid down your life for any of them would you have?"
Jack actually sat up at that. "Of course."
The Doctor's smile was still sad. "I know Jack. My point is that you risk for them and they risk for you. I 'died' just recently to save Donna's grandfather, and while I didn't want to die I didn't have any doubts or questions when I stepped into that booth."
Her head shook slightly. "If anything it's a matter of honoring that same choice they made. I have had far too many die on my behalf Jack. I literally had a daughter step in front of a bullet meant for me, and while I would do anything to have had it me who was shot I see my life as that much more valuable for her sacrifice, and I am that much more determined to do good, to save lives, to make her proud."
"Right, I'm the Doctor, and I'm here to deliver the baby."
As the Doctor she had been in many hospitals over her many lives, and the one thing they almost always seemed to have in common was they were always busy. In some cases it might be one emergency or another, but just as often it was the simple fact that when tending to living beings one must keep a far closer eye.
Still, that, a friendly smile with several centuries of practice, a touch of more medical knowledge then perhaps any other being in the Universe, and a wave of psychic paper could get one where they needed to be.
The nurse was a doe eyed, pretty little thing with brown hair, lightly tanned skin, and a name tag reading "Baum". Though she was obviously used to responding to that voice of authority, much to the Doctor's surprise it was her smile that seemed to be having the most effect on the young nurse.
Much to the Doctor's continuing surprise the nurses responding smile was having it's own noticeable effect on her.
The nurse's smile was wide, even inviting as she looked down to her computer screen. "Do you mean the Jones family?"
The Doctor had to give herself a mental shake. "Mother has dark hair, cute little gap between her front teeth? Those Jones'?"
"Those would be the ones Doctor, room 113." The Doctor smiled and nodded, and turned to head down the hall, but the young nurse wasn't through with her. "It's rare for our hospital to allow another physician to practice here without a much longer procedure. You must be very good."
While she knew the young woman was referring to the Doctor making the psychic paper look like a special dispensation to deliver the baby, the woman's tone seemed to be referring to a great deal more, and the Doctor almost felt her eyes darken, and her own smile grow. "The mother insisted, said she wanted only me."
The nurse's smile had a similar heat. "I believe that." She then cleared her throat. "Was there anything else I can do for you Doctor?"
That question hung, and the Time Lady's brilliant mind provided a VERY long list of suggestions, and then played the spoil sport by reminding her that she was there for a reason, and she cleared her own throat. "No, no. That's fine. My own nurse is on her way and will be arriving right behind me."
The Doctor had taken her coat off and was carrying it folded over her arm when she entered the hospital, and the Doctor in her leather pants seemed to have an effect that Nurse Baum commented on, not seeming to realize the Doctor could hear her. "Lucky girl following a behind like that."
While the Doctor was enjoying this wonderful aspect of her new self she had to wonder how Jack got anything done, but there were things to get done, and as she entered the delivery room she got to work.
"All right Mister and Misses Jones, I'm the Doctor. This would be the part where I would ask how we were doing, but all things considered that question is absolute rubbish." Rhys and Gwen Williams looked at the Doctor wide eyed. Though Gwen had seen the Doctor it had been over the Sub-Wave Network and back when the Doctor was a man. So now she was as unaware as her husband.
So the Doctor had no trouble keeping control of the situation as she walked over and washed her hands. "Well, you're giving birth. You're excited, frightened, and in no small bit of physical pain. I don't need a medical degree to puzzle that out now do I?"
The pair laughed and she continued, moving to stand between Gwen's legs, but making no other moves towards the delivering mother. "That said is there anything that feels 'new', somehow different from previous contractions or false labor?"
Rhys answered that question. "Well now what kind of question is that? This isn't false labor? This is the real thing! Her water broke and everything!"
The Doctor smiled at the nervous father. "Actually the only real difference between false labors, and the real thing is the false labors didn't go all the way. They were to get your wife ready to deliver. They were... rehearsals, this is the big show."
Gwen reached over and squeezed her husband's hand. "No Doctor. It is a great deal of pain, but the kind I've been expecting."
The Doctor nodded as she smiled. "Right, now this would be the part where I would tell you to start your breathing, but that too is rubbish."
The pair stared at her again in shock and she smiled. "Well it is. You are squeezing a living being out of an opening that's far too tiny, and what's the big solution 'breathe'? It's ridiculous, sure it helps, a BIT, but it's like aspirin for an amputation. I've found laughter to be far more helpful. What do you think?"
The Doctor was giving a grin right at Gwen and Rhys and perhaps in spite of themselves they were returning it. Gwen was the one who spoke. "Perhaps, a bit."
The Doctor then put her hands on Gwen's knees. "That and I always prefer to make a little small talk before getting under a woman's skirt. Seems rude otherwise."
That got laughter from them both as the Doctor lifted up Gwen's gown to visually check the progress of her pregnancy.
Rhys was the one to speak up then, smiling as he did. "Hey now! Let's keep this professional."
The Doctor looked up briefly, and then back down, but was smiling the entire time. "Really? Most blokes seem to fancy the image of their lady with another. Are you saying you don't?"
The question hung, and soon found both women grinning and giving him arched brows. He then seemed to come to. "No, no, of course not!"
Gwen laughed. "Too late honey."
The Doctor was looking back between Gwen's legs as she spoke. "You don't seem that uncomfortable with the idea either."
The question hung again, and then it was Gwen's turn to get arched brows and grins. Rhys then being the one to speak. "Too late too honey."
The Doctor smiled as she worked. "Good, I'd hate to think I was the first woman between your legs."
Gwen was blushing on top of sweating, panting, and groaning in pain. "You are! It was a bit of a snog."
The Doctor looked over at the instruments Gwen was hooked up to. "I'm honored. So I'm guessing it was a bit of a snog and a grope then?"
Gwen's shock managed to cut through the haze of pain her delivery was causing. "How did you know?"
That got a smile. "Well a snog is just a snog, but if it's not 'just' a snog it tends to have some groping involved." The Doctor got a slightly concerned look on her face, and both parents noticed it, but she cut off their question. "No worries, your little darling just seems to need a little help finding their way out. So not only will I be between your legs, but you'll get to have my fingers inside you." With that the Doctor moved her hands into position and got them ready.
It was obvious Gwen was scared, but hid it behind humor. "You're making me feel so cheap. I made this lunk at least buy me dinner first."
Gwen bit down a cry as the Doctor slid her fingers inside and repositioned the baby. Her reply obviously distracted. "I have that effect on women."
Rhys then spoke up. "I just realized you haven't told us your name Doctor...?"
She was still flexing her arm, guiding the baby into position. "Just the Doctor."
With that she heard a metallic click that was all too familiar. As she pulled her hands away she found herself looking down the barrel of a pistol in Gwen's hands."There is only one 'Doctor' and he is a man."
The Doctor barely blinked at the brandished pistol. "First off, if you're going to want to have a pistol pointed at me can it NOT be in the hands of someone being buffeted by waves of hormones and suffering all sorts of involuntary muscular contractions?"
The couple seemed to acknowledge the logic of the Doctor's point with a blush, and the pistol was transferred to Rhys, though the man was obviously far less comfortable. "Secondly there have been ..." She actually paused a moment, seeming to count. "Thirteen total Doctor's at this point, though for the most part they exist one at a time."
Gwen looked annoyed. "Yes, but those are his regenerations..." She paused, her eyes getting wide. "You regenerated into a woman?"
The Doctor smiled, waving the fingers she had just had up inside of Gwen. "That would be me. Hello. If it helps I know Jack kept my old self's old severed hand in your Hub for a good long while."
Rhys interrupted, looking at Gwen. "Jack kept a severed hand in the Hub?" He then looked at the Doctor. "Your hand?"
The Doctor shrugged. "My old me's hand, and I grew a new one. It's fine."
"You're nutter, and you're not delivering my baby!"
Gwen reached out and grabbed his hand. "Rhys! Actually, the Doctor is quite literally the best possible person to deliver our baby." He looked over, unsure, and she continued. "Torchwood had numerous files on the Doctor, and he... she quite literally is one of the best, if not the best doctor out there. Certainly the best on Earth at the moment."
She then looked at the Doctor. "That doesn't explain why you're here though."
The Doctor smiled wistfully. "Honestly... I wanted to deliver the baby. Most of the time I'm patching up wounds, or curing diseases, trying to keep life from slipping away. It's far too rare when I get to bring a new life into the Universe."
Something about that seemed to touch the couple, and Rhys lowered the pistol. "Have you heard from Jack?"
The Doctor nodded. "He found me soon after my regeneration, and he told me what happened."
Gwen's voice dropped. "Is that why you weren't here? You were regenerating?"
The Doctor rolled her shoulders. "I was in the series of events that led to it."
Rhys interrupted. "And they were too important to come and help?"
Gwen reached out and squeezed Rhys' elbow. "Rhys, for the Doctor regeneration is kind of like death. So if she was in the series of events that led up to the 'death' of the Doctor I knew then... he would have been fighting for his life while we were fighting for ours."
The Doctor nodded. "That's the other reason I am here. I couldn't help then, but I want to help now."
Gwen shook her head, her voice hollow. "Help? How? What!? It's all over."
The Doctor shook her head, her voice gentle. "No Gwen, it's not. Yes, what was familiar is over, but you are as we speak bringing new life into the world. There's always new beginnings, new hope, and there is now."
Someone entered the room, and Rhys started to bring up the gun. The Doctor shouted. "Oi! Steady!"
The person was revealed to be Martha Jones, and Gwen recognized her immediately. "So you're involved in this too then?"
The other doctor nodded. "Yeah"
The Doctor met Gwen's eyes. Eyes still so very clear, even as she was going through labor. "There's still work to be done. The twenty first century IS when it all changes, it IS changing. The question now is if it changes for the better."
Jack, Martha, Mickey, and the Doctor all spoke in unison. "It's bigger on the inside."
Rhys was ducking his head out the door of the TARIDS and pulling it back in. "Yeah!"
Gwen was sitting in a wheelchair just inside the door, still cradling her blanket wrapped baby. "Right, and it's truly marvelous, but I wasn't comfortable with just us being exposed in that hospital. Now there's six of us and baby makes seven so I'd really rather have us somewhere else in space and time if that's all right."
The Doctor was the first to agree as she hurried to the TARDIS controls. "Quite right. Now I built a stabilized bassinet for the baby, and you should put the little darling inside so the normal bumping won't bother him. Mummy should also have the handbrakes engaged and at least one of our strapping chaps along side to make sure she doesn't shift in transit."
Once that was taken care of the Doctor started the TARDIS up and Rhys and Gwen got to experience the TARDIS in flight. Their new arrival however rested comfortably the entire time in a Time Lady designed bassinet.
Rhys was gripping the handles of his wife's wheelchair in white knuckled hands, standing stock still, looking about as if he expected the TARDIS to start bucking around again. "What? Right? We're stopped?"
The Doctor smiled at the new father. "We're stopped."
Rhys looked to the Doctor. "Where are we?"
Rhys was stunned. "Mars? Why are we on Mars?"
The Doctor smiled sadly. "It's a bit of a story. Let's all get some rest, and I'll explain after."
After everyone had retired and risen, and convinced the Doctor that the mother and father should be allowed to hold the baby as well, they started talking.
Martha was the first, and she seemed respectful of the sad smile the Doctor had yesterday. "You said you would explain why we were on Mars?"
The Doctor walked to the TARDIS doors and opened them wide, leaving Gwen and Rhys gawking at the surface of the red planet. She pulled Rhys back from walking outside before she started speaking. "The TARDIS protects us in here, but if you were to step outside you would need a space suit."
When Rhys stepped back she turned to the group. "In say forty years abouts there will be a mission here and a base will be built on this spot."
Jack then spoke up. "The Bowie Base One tragedy."
The Doctor nodded. "You'd remember because you are a fixed point in time, but history will record that two of their crew members survived because some fellow named the Doctor popped in and saved them."
Jack was stunned. "You changed the Bowie Base tragedy?"
The Doctor nodded once, her voice soft. "Yes, and I truly believe that Time, the Universe, or what have you killed the old me for it. The very events that led to you becoming a fixed point in time were caused by Daleks deliberately altering humanities time line, and do you remember what happened to them?"
Jack's voice was a little hollowed. "Dust, an entire fleet of them, nothing more then dust."
The Doctor then faced them all. "I could have altered the entire course of human destiny, and now I know that even with the death of my previous self I was let off light."
The Doctor's gentle hand reached out to caress the baby's cheek where he rested in his mother's arms, and she got a small smile on her face before she continued. "I will stand ready to defend humanity to the last of my regenerations, to my last drop of blood, to my last breath, but I can't do it all, and I shouldn't. I'll battle Daleks, Cybermen, or both at the same time, but I can't save you from yourselves. I can burn away Sontaran toxins from the atmosphere, but I can't make your leaders ready to sacrifice themselves instead of their children."
Jack then spoke, the natural leader taking his place. "That's our fight."
The Doctor nodded solemnly.
Mickey then spoke, his voice respectful, but also questioning. "Isn't this what Davros was on you about? Getting humans ready to fight?"
To their collective surprise the Doctor actually grinned. "The man also made a bomb to destroy EVERYTHING. I think I was having a rather thick day to take moral advice from such an individual. Your wife, Jack, and myself traveled to the very end of the universe, and the humans we found there were still struggling, still fighting, and it was inspiring Mickey. When facing quite literally the most impossible of odds they refused to give up."
Mickey then interrupted. "Then they threw in with the Master to come back in time and kill us all."
The Doctor nodded sadly. "And there is a point where one needs to accept their time has come. While it could be argued whether or not the Master actually gave those last humans a choice when he turned them into the Toclafane, in the end they embraced their role. I banished Gallifrey because they were willing to destroy the rest of the Universe to save themselves, much like Dalek Caan had to do with his own people, but that is not what we are talking about here."
She then paused. "Or maybe it is. Will humanity face it's fate with dignity, whatever it may be? Or will they scramble to avoid it? Offering up any and all to preserve themselves?"
"I can help with that, I will, and I wish to, but it is not my place to save you from yourselves." Looking around the Doctor was seeing her words having their desired effect, and she felt a swell of pride in these exemplary beings, these humans, who had honored her with their friendship.
"Then I would suggest we make ourselves comfortable and decide just how we're going to go about that."
As they moved to the main area around the TARDIS console the Doctor took the lead. "What you first need to do is define what it is you want to do."
Jack was the first to speak. "Make humanity ready for the future."
The Doctor was the first to counter that. "The future is always happening Jack, and that's not even counting the big wibbly, wobbly, timey, wimey ball."
The self-appointed Captain nodded. Then his long standing second in command Gwen spoke up. "Make a humanity that can face it with dignity?"
The Doctor smiled at her questioning tone. "That's the right direction, but you can't make people be good."
Her husband Rhys then spoke up. "Just give them another option. You let people have a better choice and chances are they'll take it."
The Doctor nodded sagely. "Precisely, there is a dark current to the affairs of Earth right now. A subtle whisper that doesn't even try to say what humanity should choose, but that they have no choice at all. Your people's destiny hangs in the balance, and the difference will be a great and bountiful humanity, or a bunch of sods sitting around watching Big Brother."
Mickey snorted. "Any idea on how to go about that?"
The Doctor seemed to be speaking off-handedly. "I would think your first priority would be a space to work from. A sort of base where you can be safe as you seek to set things more to right, as you counter those set to guide humanity asunder. Though with the enemies you are facing it should probably have access to it's own advanced technological resources. It wouldn't hurt if it were somehow mobile..."
Jack interrupted, his jaw hanging. "You're talking about Torchwood Four."
The Doctor grinned, and everyone first looked to her, and then to Jack as the man continued. "The biggest problem with Torchwoods one through three was that they were all wonderful resources, but immobile. It was thought that Torchwood needed a mobile platform to work from."
Martha interrupted. "Like the Valiant?"
Jack grinned. "Actually it probably inspired the Valiant, but they got even more ambitious. Torchwood Four is about the same size, and can fly like the Valiant, but it's engines can also take it right above the surface of the Earth, both land and sea. It also has environmental seals that can make it water tight for submersible travel, or it can use it's traditional engines to escape the Earth's orbit where it could engage a faster than light engine for space travel. It was designed to be a TRULY all terrain vehicle, BUT during it's maiden voyage an evacuation order sounded, and once the crew had evacuated it plunged into the sea and vanished, and was never seen again."
Jack's voice then became almost mocking as he locked eyes with the smirking Doctor. "They feared alien involvement, that some devious alien threat had stolen it for some nefarious purpose. They EVEN suspected their old enemy the Doctor."
The Doctor put her hand to her chest in feigned shock.
Everyone was starting to grin, but Mickey was the next to speak. "But no matter how good that Doctor might be, there would be no way a single individual could take control of such a massive vessel. I mean I'm sure it would take a small team at the very least."
Jack was nodding his head. "It would have only taken a small team of say five to six people to take control, issue the false evacuation order, and then get it the hell out of there, but more than that, Mickey, it would take someone highly placed in Torchwood that the computer would recognize as a ranking officer back when it was stolen. I was even a suspect, but they knew I was nowhere near it at that point in time."
Captain Harkness paused. "I really should have seen this coming." Everyone looked at him, and he grinned his boyish grin. "I'm one of the few beings in the Universe devious enough to not be caught by me."
"Would you PLEASE stop grinning like an idiot!" While the words were aggravated their tone was deliberately shushed as Rhys walked alongside Captain Jack Harkness down the hallway of the newly commissioned Torchwood Four.
Jack's grin just grew. "No, and enjoy yourself Rhys. You are literally pulling off the heist of the century." He then paused, his expression becoming distracted. "Or at least it will be since it's 1994 and we'll be stashing the ship some place nice and quiet until we go back for it in 2010. So it will be the Earth Heist of the 20th century. Once it's known that we took her we will literally go down in the history books."
Rhys rolled his eyes, his voice an aggravated whisper. "Perhaps, but I would rather not have the Rhys Williams entry read 'shot in the early stages of the heist' either."
Jack, as calm as could be then replied. "Then you really need to relax and not be so obvious."
Rhys quietly growled. "Look! Not all of us consider being shot to death a temporary inconvenience!"
Jack's expression then became serious, and he actually pulled Rhys to a stop in the hallway they were walking in. "Rhys, I promise you, if nothing else, you WILL get back to your wife, and your son."
The men's eyes met and Rhys nodded before starting to speak again, his voice still a whisper, but calm, more the tone of quiet conversation. "Can you go over the plan with me again?"
Jack smiled that almost excited grin again. "We are headed to the control room where my retinal scan will get access to the computer. We open the vents, and navigation, then signal Martha and Mickey who will fill the vents with the gaseous retcon the Doctor helped me cook up which will leave the crew nice, suggestible, and quick to forget any details like me, as we slip on gas masks and signal the evacuation order. At the same time in navigation the Doctor will input the coordinates to the section of sea floor current technology can't reach, and more advanced technology has no reason to, or record of, going to."
"Once the crew has evacuated you and I will order the ship to follow the course the Doctor set, and once it's safely lodged and put into a lock down we will hop back in the TARDIS, jump ahead sixteen years, and have ourselves a shiny, new super vessel to operate out of."
"Easy as that huh?"
Jack rolled his shoulders. "More or less."
"And why is this Doctor bird running around on her own while the rest of us are partnered up?"
Jack held up two fingers, and the dropped them when he started speaking. "Two reasons. Number one, neither she nor Martha was willing to clear Gwen for this sort of thing so soon after giving birth. Number two, she's the Doctor."
He was used to Rhys looking at him like he was crazy, and this was yet another time as the man started speaking, no longer aggravated, but simply skeptical. "She's the Doctor? That's enough for you lot? She's probably about a hundred pounds soaking wet, and didn't even take one of your stun guns when she set off."
"She doesn't like guns, and frankly doesn't really seem to need them."
Rhys shook his head. "So what? She'll flash them with the silly blue pen light of hers?"
Jack grinned. "It's a sonic screwdriver, and she can do more with it than you or I could even dream of." Jack exhaled. "Listen, Rhys, do you want me to tell you when I first fell in love with the Doctor?"
Rhys shook his head. "Considering the Doctor was likely a bloke at the time probably not." At Jack's aggravated look Rhys gave a reluctant nod. "Right, when?"
"I was with the Doctor and a woman named Rose Tyler at a place known as Station 5. Rose had been kidnapped by the Daleks and they told the Doctor that he would surrender or they would kill her. He said no. At first we all looked at him in shock, especially the Daleks, he repeated the word no, and then he said he was going to save Rose from the middle of the Dalek fleet, save the Earth, and wipe out every last Dalek there. While Rose ended up doing the actual wiping out of the Daleks the Doctor did just what he said he would."
He then stopped and looked Rhys square in the eye. "Not even twenty four hours ago I'm sure you and your wife were sure that the best you could hope for was survival." Seeing a dawning comprehension in Rhys' eyes Jack continued. "Back when the Earth was stolen, a man by the name of Davros accused the Doctor of turning his companions into weapons, but the guy was insane. All the Doctor did was teach us her philosophy."
Jack paused, making sure he had Rhys' undivided attention. "Never give up, Never give up, Never ever, ever, ever, ever,give up!"
There was a light coming to the man's eyes and Jack got that boyish grin again. "See, now you're starting to get it. Let's go."
Martha looked at her husband. "You seem remarkably calm about all this."
While Mickey's eyes were casting about looking for people who might cross their path, and places to hide from the same his voice was calm as he replied. "Why wouldn't I be?"
His wife shrugged. "Well, you were the one who encouraged me to leave UNIT."
Mickey smiled and pointed at his wife. "And I was right wasn't I?"
Martha nodded. "Yeah, I suppose. I mean if they could trade the Earth's kids off I probably didn't change a thing."
Mickey brought Martha to a stop by touching her shoulder. "Don't think of it like that. I'm sure there are plenty in it that are worth while." He grinned. "I mean you were and all, but here it's starting from scratch with people you KNOW are worth it... it's like getting a job working for some bloke you may know is good, but still having to work with and for jack asses verses starting your own business."
Martha's expression was more then a little maudlin. "Yeah, till this business gets filled with those jack assess as well."
Mickey was still smiling as he rolled his head. "Maybe, but right now we're seeing small scale. Battle threats to the Earth, alien or otherwise. It's not an organization as much as a bunch of friends doin what they've been doin, but doing it together."
Martha was smiling again. "Simple as that?"
Mickey nodded. "Simple as that. It's you brainy types that tend to make things overly complex."
They found the main air recyclers and both stopped suddenly, Martha having a little shocked gasp.
The man standing before them was a smiling soul in a black suit and tie with a red undershirt and a badge clipped to his lapel stating the name Ianto Jones. "Hello there Sir, Miss. Was there something you needed assistance with?"
Martha was still visibly stunned so Mickey was the first to recover his wits. "Right mate, just here to make sure the vents and all are working properly. They figure it's better to check them now than once we're underwater."
Ianto smiled brightly. "I would imagine so." He then stepped aside, and as Mickey stepped forward Ianto stepped back in, his smile gone and his face cold, he grabbed Mickey by the lapel and belt and drove him face first into the wall.
That pulled Martha out of her shock as she reached for her stun gun, but Ianto reached Mickey's first and Martha fell in a blue/white flash.
The cold expression then fell and Ianto Jones looked saddened. "Sorry."
The Doctor loved humans, she truly, truly did. She loved their energy, she loved their tenacity, and she truly, truly loved their curiosity. Even as she was using it against them.
It was an easy matter to get the storage cupboard to open outside the navigational center. Just a flash of the sonic screwdriver and the automatic door opened itself up, mysteriously to the pair inside the room.
While the Doctor wasn't literally reading their minds she didn't really need to. They first conferred between them wondering what happened. Then would come the explanation that it's a new ship, and undoubtedly just a crossed wire.
The Doctor smiled to herself, because it was just a cupboard, there's nothing threatening about a cupboard. Just like she wasn't reading their minds she wasn't trying to control them either, but she found herself projecting the idea that it was a cupboard, it was harmless, but they should still check it out.
They didn't disappoint her when one of them did, and as soon as the young man was inside a brief second flash caused the automatic door to shut and lock. His companion soon joined him, and they worked from both sides of the door to try to open it.
She was considering making her move inside the room, but the other man, boy really, on the outside of the door decided to be even more helpful and run for a someone from maintenance.
Yes, the Doctor loved humans, they tended to hate to admit they were confused, preferring to stamp the simplest label possible on a problem, and when that wasn't working they sought out an authority figure.
Slipping into the room the sonic screwdriver made quick work of the security protocols, and the Doctor couldn't help but wonder why an organization that was so determined to oppose her had so few methods to do so.
A quick shake of her head dispelled that thought, and she entered the coordinates into a directory Jack would know to look for, but no one else would even think of. Much like the coordinates themselves, Earth's sea floor would see less traffic over the next sixteen years than it's space ways so no one would ever find it.
The information was entered, and no one had returned yet. So after making sure there were no signs of her intrusion the Doctor slipped away and waited. When the man still locked inside the cupboard made another loud thump against the door she used the sonic screwdriver to open the door again and slipped away.
A simple problem, a simple solution. They wouldn't think much more of it than either leaving the door open, or posting a sign after closing it and having it looked at later. Of course there would be no later since the ship would no longer be in their possession, so the Doctor didn't imagine it mattered either way.
Rhys and Jack were in gas masks as they had already opened up the vents and the navigation systems. The retcon had reached all parts of the ship and the course the Doctor had set was right where it was supposed to be, and was now in the system and ready to be triggered.
Jack suddenly looked at Rhys and laughed and the other man looked offended. "Oi! What are you laughing about?"
Jack's laughter was still in his voice as he shook his head. "Long story, remind me to tell you about when I first met the Doctor."
Rhys didn't seem as amused as they heard a sound from behind them when a straggler entered the control room.
"I, I heard the evacuation order, but my head... seems fuzzy. Is it the air? Do I need a mask?"
The two men turned in unison, and froze the same way, not able to move as their old friend walked into the room, but showed no signs of recognizing them. "I said, do I need a mask? Is it the air?"
Jack's throat felt like it was closing up, but he still found enough of his voice. "No, no these..." He cleared his throat again. "These are just a precaution Mister.."
Ianto stepped closer to the pair. "Jones, Ianto Jones."
Jack stepped closer, his heart aching in his chest, tears wanting to come to his eyes. "But you do need to evacuate with the others."
Ianto stepped even closer. "Are you sure? You two could probably use some help."
Rhys had his voice back. "It's fine Sir. We're fine."
Then something in Ianto's eyes changed, and in a blink he was behind Rhys with one arm around the man's throat while his other hand held a silenced pistol that was pointed at Jack.
To his credit Jack had his hand on his gun, but it was still in his jacket.
Ianto gestured with the gun. "Please Jack! Don't!"
Jack growled, letting his hand fall away. "The you of this time is what, seven?"
Ianto shrugged. "There abouts."
Jack's voice finally deepened with grief. "How?"
Ianto's voice softened, obviously affected by his lover's pain. "I'm not sure how exactly. Just the price. I am sorry Jack, I'll see you in a bit."
With that the pain already constricting around Jack Harness' heart was compounded by a pair of bullets being pumped through it.
Rhys struggled for a moment in Ianto's grasp until the gun was put to his head, and Ianto yelled. "Stop struggling! This isn't about you, or Jack, or the any of the others, just stop struggling and I won't have to hurt you."
He kept the gun to Rhys head as he took the arm around the man's neck away to hit a few keys on the controls, which set the ship in motion along the course they planned. "I'll even let you have the bloody ship. I don't care about any of that, but I need the Doctor!"
Gwen's voice was downcast where she sat tied up with the others on the floor of the control room in Torchwood 4. "I'm sorry Doctor, he had Rhys, and I couldn't leave the baby alone in the TARDIS."
The Doctor smiled in the entrance of the control room. "Actually you could have. The bassinet I built could have kept an eye on the little treasure for a good year. It would even sing songs and tell stories to help his neurological development."
Ianto interrupted as he held a gun on the Doctor like he had been since the moment he saw her. "You haven't even named him yet?" Without seeming to realize it he looked over the small blanket wrapped bundle he had carefully arranged in one of the chairs in the control center.
Gwen then spoke. "We wanted to talk to Jack about that first."
Jack then spoke up, now back amongst the living, but tied up with them as well. "Jack Harkness Williams. I like it."
Gwen shook her head. "Actually, we were thinking of naming him Steven."
Jack's face tightened in pain all too easily remembered, but it was the Doctor who replied in a soothing, even tone. "Do you know the significance of the name Mister Jones?"
Ianto seemed to HAVE to reply, his voice getting deep and thick with emotion. "It's his grandson, the one use used to fight the 456, and who died in the process. I'm sorry, I truly am, but it's you or I and I won't die again!"
The Doctor shook her head. "If that was true you would have shot me the second I walked in that door. You don't want to do this."
Jack the added his voice to the Doctor's, but his tone was far more urgent. "Listen to her Ianto, you know this is wrong."
Ianto's face tightened. "I know it's wrong, but I won't die again." The hand on the gun tightened as he angrily pointed it at the Doctor.
"Then why didn't you gag them?" Ianto looked confused at the Doctor's question so she elaborated. "Your friends, your lover, you could have gagged them, blind folded them, you could have even met me out in the hall, but you decided to do this right in front of them? That tells me you don't want to do it at all. That you want to be stopped."
Ianto seemed to calm. "Maybe you're right Doctor. You being you I'd imagine you are, but if you know me so well then you can tell me if I'm willing to die again in your place."
The Doctor arched her brows. "And how is it you are going to die?"
Ianto had a brief almost-smile. "He brought me back, he can send me back."
"Are you sure?" The Doctor met the risen man's eyes. "Are you willing to kill on the word of someone who would turn you into their assassin?"
Ianto's expression wavered, and Rhys spoke up. "You willing to buy a second chance at another person's expense?"
Mickey then added in. "One that personally pulled you and the whole damn planet out of it?"
His wife Martha then spoke up. "That's not the dabbler I know."
Ianto looked to her, and then to Jack as Gwen spoke up. "That's not the man I mourned. That's Susie"
Ianto looked struck at the mention of their former colleague who had come back from the dead, nearly at the cost of Gwen's life.
Jack then spoke up. "That's not the man I still love."
The Doctor slipped in. "But that's not how it works. It's one thing to reanimate dead tissue, but to bring someone back, fully, it's not the sort of thing that has an on/off switch. I'd need to run some tests to be positive, but I've got a great deal of experience and I'm fairly certain."
Ianto's eyes were darting from person to person as the Doctor kept speaking. Or at least tried to as Ianto interrupted. "You're just saying that because you don't want to die."
The Doctor got a slight smile. "I certainly do not, but if this was purely about my own survival I wouldn't have entered the room like I did."
Ianto's eyes darted to his captives and the Doctor's smile grew. "Ianto, this isn't the first time I've had friends captured and used against me. I'm not saying I wouldn't have walked in, but I would have had one of my clever little plans at the ready."
His eyes narrowed behind the gun. "Isn't that what this is?"
She shook her head. "No, because I do not see you as an enemy to be beaten, but rather a soul to be saved."
Behind them Jack spoke up, but the direction his voice was coming from made it apparent he had gotten free and was standing up. "Please Ianto, give her the gun."
Ianto jumped back and the gun darted between the Doctor and Ianto's Captain. "How did you get free!?"
Jack got his arrogant smirk. "This isn't the first time you've tied me up Ianto." The smile slipped. "Now please, give her the gun."
The gun wavered and then dropped. Ianto reversed it so he was holding the silencer as he extended it to the Doctor. She gently took the weapon, and then all was silent, the moment hung, and hung, and then Ianto looked up confused.
The Doctor's voice was gentle. "You handed over the gun, still expecting to die."
"Which confirms that you are a soul worth saving. Don't worry Ianto. You're here, and I'm not planning on letting you leave. All that said I would like to run some examinations to confirm things."
Mickey, Rhys, Gwen, and who was likely to be called Steven were left in the control room to monitor the automated systems of Torchwood Four as they carried out the Doctor's programmed instructions.
Both of the doctor's, their patient Ianto, and his partner went down to the medical bay of the advanced vessel where Ianto was run through a series of tests. Including several that the Doctor had to upgrade the equipment to make.
The Doctor was looking at a computer screen reading the results. When she finally started speaking her voice was distracted. "Have you ever traveled time Ianto?"
Though the Doctor wasn't looking at him as she spoke he shook his head as he replied. "Never. Well, I mean besides now."
Doctor Martha Jones was looking through what appeared to be some sort of advanced form of microscope as she spoke. "His immune system is showing clear signs of time travel."
The Doctor nodded, still reading the results. "And I'm picking up temporal radiation levels almost on par with mine."
Ianto was sitting on an exam table, and Jack was standing next to him holding the man's hand. Ianto found himself squeezing the hand as he replied. "Is it dangerous?"
It was Jack who replied first. "Not at all. It's just a natural part of time travel, like getting wet when you go swimming." Jack then focused on the Doctor. "But you're saying he's drenched?"
The Doctor nodded. "To the bone. Which I believe confirms how it was done, but first I need to ask a question. You said 'he' brought you back. Was he about as tall as Jack, but maybe three quarters his weight, sort of long black hair, likely black clothing, and skin that didn't look like he needed sun, but actively avoided it?"
Ianto nodded wordlessly, his jaw slightly opened, and everyone in the room was showing similar expressions as they waited for the Doctor to continue.
"His name is the Mortician, and it appears he hasn't regenerated since I saw him last."
Martha then spoke. "Regenerated' so he's a..."
The Doctor finished the sentence. "A Time Lord Martha. The Mortician is a Time Lord. and one of the best and brightest of Gallifrey. He held that of all the mysteries of the universe, time, space, matter, and what have you, death was the greatest."
Jack then sighed. "And he doesn't like you?"
The Doctor shook her head. "He despises me."
Jack continued. "So what are we up against?"
"Think as brilliant as the Master, but more clever, better at improvising, thinking outside the box as you humans like to say. Sane, but utterly amoral, but hopefully he's just after me."
Jack was shaking his head. "No, we're not doing that again. Even if he hadn't tried to make Ianto his assassin you're not facing this guy alone."
The Doctor smiled fondly, reaching out to touch Jack's shoulder. "We might not have a choice, but thank you Jack."
Ianto interrupted. "You said you know how he brought me back?"
"Of course. Most think of death as a binary sort of thing with you either being alive or not, but it's a bit more complex. Even a beheading leaves the brain alive for several minutes, the internal organs take a good deal longer to finally stop, and the bodies residual electric charge often lingers even longer. Your death was a sort of poisoning so your remains were effectively intact."
Ianto interrupted again, his voice hollow. "Except for the decay."
Jack shook his head and pulled Ianto's hand to himself.
The Doctor gave a reluctant nod. "But what he did was basically take your remains back to an earlier point in their history, a point where they could be resuscitated. I don't know what all Jack told you about the Year the Never Happened and what the Master did to me on the Valiant, but he both radically aged my regeneration of the time, and then removed my ability to regenerate entirely. It's along those lines."
"Why didn't he just bring me fully back to life?"
The Doctor shook her head. "That requires another life to willingly give itself to bring the other person back."
Jack's voice was stunned as he spoke. "Doctor, did this Mortician wear a set of gloves... gauntlets, metal gauntlets, and carry a knife made of the same material?"
The Doctor's expression was curious. "He liked to say he held life in one hand and death in the other... the knife... well before the Time War his experiments were creepy, even ghoulish, but basically harmless. He would ask Time Lord volunteers who were ready to regenerate if he could hook them up to all sorts of sensors and equipment, he would study the life cycles of more mortal species, that sort of thing."
She pulled up a chair, and everyone found a seat as she kept speaking. "Then came the Time War. One of the earliest problems we had facing the Daleks was sheer numbers. With the Daleks growing their organic components, and building their shells they could produce troops at a phenomenal rate. A rate that giving birth to and training new Time Lord's couldn't touch."
By the look in her eyes it was obvious she was back there. "The Mortician came up with a solution. The Dalek shells were just machines, but they needed an organic interface to control them."
Ianto interrupted, his face pale, his breathing shallow. "I think I see where this is going."
The Doctor nodded sadly. "At first it was simple, the amount of Dalek left not even the level of a transplanted organ, more like using cadaver tissue to replace a ligament, but they were limited. A Time Lord could control a few, much like your armies are now using drones, except with the heavy armor and weapons of a Dalek."
"But as his experiments continued the Mortician came to realize that the more of the Dalek's remains that were used the less control and oversight they needed, and then he made his gloves, and his damnable dagger, and he found that if he killed the Dalek himself he could have absolute control of them, and have armies of animate dead at his command."
"It was his actions, and the Time Lord's acceptance of them that had me finally seeing we had become no better, and as Gallifrey burned he and I fought. I hurled his gauntlets and his knife into the Time Vortex and escaped, but by that point he had already injured me enough that I had to regenerate into the form you first met me in Jack."
Jack was the one to finish the thought. "And now he's back."
The Doctor agreed, her eyes distant. "And now he's back."
Ianto had regained some of his color. "You do seem to amass a great deal of enemies Miss."
She smiled. "I have a strong personal code, and a willingness to act on it. Turns out those villainous types hate that sort of thing."
"Martha Jones, you're a married woman!"
Martha didn't know how the Doctor knew she was there as the Doctor was laid out on her back on the floor of the TARDIS with her head underneath the console and her arms extended up into the same. She certainly didn't know how the Doctor knew she had felt a little flush of heat when her eyes wandered over the Doctor's new body.
It surprised her. Except for the almost requisite experiment in college she had never really been that attracted to women, but it was like that same confidence, charisma, brilliance and warmth had that pain that lingered behind her Time Lord's eyes removed, or at least greatly lessened, and then poured into the a frame that... exceeded that college experiment.
The fact that this Doctor had given her 'the look', and then had the class to apologize and make sure she didn't do it again... well Mickey himself knew he didn't have anything to worry about, but yes, Martha would look.
"You had wanted a copy of Torchwood 4's star charts?"
She could hear the smile in the Time Lady's voice. "Wonderful, just place them on the console."
"Can I ask what for? You never needed star charts before." As she spoke Martha took a seat on the small couch by the console. It was in the same spot, but now looking something like a loveseat in white and gold. Then as her mind provided the idea of it being a loveseat it put the Doctor's image with her own and Martha chided herself internally... she was turning into Jack.
"It's an upgrade for the TARDIS. I've been getting a bit tired of having to pop out every time I stop and asking when and where I am. So I had the idea of having the TARDIS take a stellar picture that I can use to estimate time and place."
Martha hunched forward. "Wouldn't you need the night sky so you can see the stars?"
The Doctor continued, still working on the wiring as she did so. "Ideally, but even things like the placement of the suns in relation to my position could give me things like time of day. It won't help much when I journey somewhere new for the first time, but I figure I'll add more charts as I go."
Doctor Jones contemplated that idea. "It's really a rather brilliant idea actually."
"Fitting since my last self had the notion, but never took the time to sit down and do it. I figured since Torchwood Four is being gone over to make sure the sixteen years didn't disturb anything it would be a good time to give the TARDIS a good and thorough once over while installing some upgrades."
The Doctor slid out from underneath and stood up. "The stellar pictures, setting the phone in the TARDIS and the mobile to the same number so I can carry the mobile with me, and wifi."
The got a laugh. "Wifi?"
The Doctor grinned in turn. "Well an enhanced wifi, but I figure it might do me some good to be able to interface with outside technology better."
A brow was arched. "And you'll finally start carrying a mobile?"
"Well I seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time in Earth's twenty-first century so I thought I should have it since every human over the age of twelve seems to have one at this point. So have Jack and Ianto been seen yet?"
Dark hair swayed as Martha shook her head. "Nope, seems the pair are still reconnecting." Her voice dropped, softened. "Can't blame them, I can't imagine."
The Doctor moved next to Martha and sat down. "So you're enjoying married life?"
The obvious thoughts of loosing her husband like Jack had lost Ianto were pushed aside and Martha got a smile. "Yeah. It's funny almost, while he knows he's no longer 'Mickey the Idiot' he kinda wears it like a badge of honor. He keeps me grounded."
The Doctor made herself comfortable. "Like you realized you needed most of all."
Martha shook her head. "Stop it!"
The Doctor grinned as she spoke, and Martha grinned as she listened. "What? We had some amazing journeys together Martha, and I'd like to think I came to know you fairly well. While you might have wanted your globe hopping pediatrician or my time hopping self that you found what you needed with a former mechanic turned defender of the Earth isn't surprising."
"Yeah, but you're just showing off."
That got a large arrogant grin. "That will never change."
"Then I suppose you'll be leaving soon." The note in Martha's voice was both sad and resigned.
The responding smile was just as sad. "Probably. That too hasn't changed, but I am keeping closer touch now. I truly wish to, but while I could spin some truthful words about wanting to try to find the Mortician before he finds me we both know I just have that wandering spirit."
The tone of the former companion was still sad, but calm. "Yeah, and you wouldn't be the Doctor otherwise. Not to mention who might suffer if you spent all your time here. As it is we got it taken care of here. We investigate alien threats, human threats like those dealing with the 456, and basically just try to keep the Earth spinning without letting the Big Brother types get too strong or turning into them ourselves."
Those... Martha's throat felt a little dry all of a sudden, kissable lips curled into a smile. "Of all the things you listed that last one is not even a worry for me. You are some of the most exemplary humans I've ever known, and I have no worries you'll do wonderfully."
"Thanks, but it's still huge."
The Doctor reached over and pat Martha's cheek. "Martha. I once defeated an army of Daleks, and an army of Cybermen, at the same time, with a set of 3D specs, my sonic screwdriver and what I found around me." She then leaned in and place a kiss on the forehead of the stunned Doctor Jones. "You'll be stellar. I have no doubts of that."
It took a moment for the shock to wear off, but then Martha grew serious, and met the Doctor's eyes with her own, and she could see her Doctor, in a way, but like she thought earlier, she couldn't see the pain like before. That didn't stop her however as she took a deep breath, knowing she needed to say what she was about to.
"Don't be alone too long." The Doctor looked ready to interrupt, to object, but Martha didn't let her. "I'm serious, no matter how brilliant you may be you are still a person. If you don't find someone you want to travel about with then pop back here and say hello. Even if you do find someone bring them back here so we can all say hello."
There still seemed to be some objections forming so Martha cut them off as well. "Right, of all those doctorates one was psychology right?" A nod. "Okay. Then you have to know any mind, no matter how great will go barking mad if isolated in a big blue box long enough, and not the good kind of barking mad we've come to expect."
That got a small laugh, and a reluctant nod. "All right Doctor Jones, all right."
Realizing she was on a roll Martha continued speaking as she stood up, pointing at the Doctor in a mock anger. "And don't you dare go sneaking off without saying good bye."
The Doctor held her hands up in surrender.
Martha turned and took a step towards the door. Then she paused for several long beats, her shoulders then showing the signs of a deep breath. Turning around she faced the Doctor again. "Can Jack die?"
The Doctor was still sitting, and braced her feet up on the console, staring at her knees. "You and I were there when the Face of Boe died, and we were there when Jack told us of his time as a poster boy called the Face of Boe. What you weren't there for was when Rose and I first went to New New York, and by the way as a woman I now know just how tacky that was of me to take you there." The two women shared a grin at that memory. "The Face of Boe was there as well and he was in a sort of hospice care at what was thought to be the end of his life."
She leaned forward, hugging her knees. "At the end of our adventure the Face of Boe told me that while he had grown tired of life I had given him a new way to see things and that we would meet one more time." The women's eyes met, and the Doctor nodded. "Whether or not they are connected I think that deep down Jack isn't ready to die, and that gift of life Rose gave him knows that. When Rose was the Bad Wolf entity she was able to shape reality with but a thought. I think that thought is echoing still, and the only way Jack will loose her 'gift' to him is when he no longer has a use for it. When it's no longer a gift."
The Doctor was in her now familiar leather pants, boots, and long coat with white billowy blouse. A blouse that was now a little tighter as she laced her hands, stretching them high above her head as she yawned. Keeping her hands laced she dropped them behind her back and made a little pleased sound as her vertebrae agreed to pop back into their normal position.
All the while oblivious to the open stares, and even awed smiles of many of the men, and several of the women of the tour group she had joined.
In nine hundred and seven years spread over eleven lifetimes no single period of definable time had felt longer then the last twenty minutes.
What was causing the time distortion was the history distortion by some pretty young girl about as old as Rose was when they first met who was insisting on rattling off "facts" about the various museum displays on the tour.
In this young woman's case however she seemed the exact opposite to the young Rose Tyler, dark skinned, with dark hair, she looked East Indian, but her smile was bright and pretty as she recited back the "facts" that the Doctor was sure she was told to memorize for the job.
Not only were the items "histories" often horribly incorrect, but several of them were hers! Of course they were her's several lifetimes ago, and not important enough for her previous selves to track them down... but there was a principle to it.
So instead she just bit her tongue. Not literally thankfully, because she would have bitten clear through at this point, but keeping her silence long enough to reach her objective.
While she had been in one place and time for longer then her memories of her past lives could recall it was bearing fruit, or at least what could grow into fruit.
The Torchwood Four vessel had reached the point of completing a full maiden voyage, without a band of time travelers making off with her. At the same time the Torchwood Four team had been becoming comfortable with the vast technical resources of their mobile home, items ranging from teleporters, to computers able to hack past most any computer security known to humanity.
They were also redeveloping more time-tested means such as making contact with old friends and letting them know that they were alive, and well, and not forgetting or forgiving the 456 conspirators.
Of course they were left trying to figure out who was as outraged as they were about the plans for Earth's children, and who was looking to trade the Torchwood Four team in for their own advancement, but that was so obvious they figured if little Steven had the ability to speak his first words would be agreeing not to trust too easily.
The Doctor had helped with that shake down cruise when she wasn't getting the TARDIS up to her new specifications, and now she was looking into a donation of artifacts by the Frobisher estate.
It had rocked the Doctor to her core when she had seen the picture of John Frobisher, because she would have sworn she had personally pulled the man from the fires of Pompeii.
Her hopes to wave it off as coincidence were dashed as she read the file and found the Frobishers traced their family back to Rome, as survivors of Pompeii.
The idea haunted the Doctor, and she felt a need to know if their family line had been saved by meeting one alien and ended by meeting another. After Torchwood Four's computer resources indicated that part of the museum donation included a marble carving of those ancient's ancestor's house gods those hinting whispers became an insistent voice.
When they reached the next display the words the Doctor heard turned that insistent voice into a certain roar.
"What kind of rubbish is this? That's a bloody police box!" More accurately than the young man was describing, it was a marble carving depicting a police box in the background with Donna Noble, and the Doctor's previous incarnation in the foreground.
The young tour guide tried to speak up. "I know what's depicted Sir, but..."
The young man interrupted. "And the bloke is in a suit!"
The guide didn't heed the interruption. "BUT the item has been carbon dated, and confirmed authentic."
That got a audible scoff, but before he could argue some more another man in the tour spoke. "Give it a rest fella. Look at some of the things that have happened here abouts. A police box in ancient Rome is fairly tame, and either way it's not like it was the girl's fault."
The tour guide smiled at the gentleman, and looked ready to continue the tour. "Thank you Sir... Miss? Are you okay Miss?"
It took a moment for the Doctor to realize the tour guide was talking to her, and another to realize the earlier realization had left her pale and disoriented. Partly from the shock, and partly considering the implications.
Coincidences did happen to someone who had lived centuries and traveled across time, but far too many coincidences across those centuries had turned out to be anything but. She looked back up to the carving, Donna Noble herself had been at the center of more than a few of those coincidences.
The Doctor realized that now the entire tour group was looking at her.
She put on a smile and shook her head. "I'm sorry. I've been battling a headache all morning. Is it all right if I find a bench and sit for a few and try to rejoin you later in the tour?"
The tour guide smiled widely and shook her head. "It's fine Miss. I'm here for your enjoyment. So just rest, and enjoy the museum at your leisure. If there is anything you need please find me."
The tour continued on without her, and as the Doctor's mind calmed that brilliant mass informed the Doctor that the young woman had been flirting with her.
The realization got a small laugh, and a shake of blonde locks. While the nature of regeneration had her physically used to her new form it was only now that she was getting out from the small group of friends that had found her early on that she was starting to appreciate it's full nature.
The Doctor walked closer to the display, and allowed her mind to travel back. There were the sweet memories of her travels with Donna, and the bitter memories. If anything it was a contest between Donna's tears when she realized what the Doctor would have to do to save her life, or the blank expression when the Doctor had said goodbye to Donna to no recognition on the woman's part.
Either way it was an awful, awful day, and the Doctor found herself suddenly wanting to sit.
As she sat her eyes were caught by another display. A display that spoke to her, literally. It said "Hello Sweetie" in Old High Gallifreyan.
Standing back up she saw it was a Home Box, a sort of flight recorder for space vessels, except that they weren't used by Time Lord vessels.
Which said that someone had carved a message in her people's ancient language into an item much younger.
The fact that said item was now in front of the Last of the Time Lords felt like one of those coincidences that likely wasn't.
Her earlier disorientation was gone. While she would take a closer look at the Frobisher line later, the mystery now in front of her now took up all of her attention.
For a brief moment the Doctor felt bad for her impulse, but the museum didn't have the means to open the box, and wouldn't manage to decipher Old High Gallifreyan before the Earth went supernova, more than that the very fact the museum had the Home Box seemed incidental as it was likely destined for her.
That and they had several items that were her's anyway. So she would take the box and call it a fair trade.
The first step was to disable the cameras. Not only did she not want to have the authorities looking for her, but the 456 conspirators were certain to have connections with said authorities and the Doctor didn't want to give them any clues as to what she was up to.
That was the first wave of the sonic screw driver. The second confirmed that there weren't any additional security devices on the item or its display.
There weren't and the Doctor told herself the theft was even more justified, it seemed to be meant for her, but the museum seemed ready to let anyone walk in and simply grab it.
With the security taken care of the Doctor gave a quick glance around, and once she saw no one was looking she slid the box into one of her jacket's pockets.
It didn't even make a bulge as she calmly strolled for the doors.
Before she made it to the doors the tour guide found her again.
"Are you feeling better Miss?"
The Doctor felt her smile grow, and she suddenly felt the need to apologize to Jack for all the times she criticized him when he got almost the exact same smile when meeting someone new. "Much, thank you. It was very informative. I'm hoping to return again soon."
The tour guide's answering smile grew even happier, as well as becoming down right inviting. "I sincerely hope you do." The Doctor's eyes joined her smile and the young lady seemed to realize she might have given more away. "WE... we hope you return soon."
The Doctor gave a fond laugh. "And when I do if there is anything I need I'll be sure to look you up."
With that the Doctor left a smiling, and blushing tour guide watching her go.
Back in the TARDIS the jacket that carried the box was on its traditional spot on the railing as she had the Home Box open and playing, and she saw a familiar face, Professor River Song. The Professor was cornered by guards, but was unphased as she spoke temporal coordinates.
The Doctor sighed. She didn't know much about the Professor, which was bad. The Professor knew a great deal about her, which was worse. Knowledge that the Professor was almost gleeful in teasing the Doctor with, making it that much worse.
To top it off however the Doctor was tormented by the fact that she HAD to save her so she could die in front of her younger self's eyes.
That was a dull ache. One that she had managed to place alongside the pain of her other lost companions. A pain that she turned into a sort of energy that drove her forward to be the hero they all seemed to see her as.
What was more noticeable was the fact that she not only had to save Professor River Song to preserve her for her ultimate fate, but the fact that along the way she and the Professor seemed to have a great deal of a life together... and the Doctor damned herself as she did it, but she was already feeling intrigued by the potential.
Not to mention that little Jack Harkness that had seemingly taken up residence in her mind seemed gleeful as it asked her how she could NOT want to find out how the Doctor and the Professor had put the hand cuffs to use.
As all those thoughts whirled through her head, her hands were entering the temporal coordinates and getting the TARDIS hurtling there.
"Who are you? Where's the Doctor?" For a woman who had just let herself be sucked out of an air lock River Song was remarkably composed, and already up and quizzing the Doctor on her identity. The Doctor was really very touched that the woman had hurled herself out and simply trusted the Doctor to be there, and again she wondered what the two of them had been to each other.
"I'm the Doctor."
River Song shook her head. "You're not the Doctor. The Doctor is a man. Are you that Romana?"
The archaeologist was up, and angry, and the Doctor stopped her by reaching up, grabbing the woman's hands and stepping close, meeting the increasingly angry woman's eyes with her own. "Professor River Song, I AM the Doctor."
"Professor? Why did you call me a professor?" The anger was quickly getting replaced by confusion.
The Doctor's voice was soft, but growing confused. "Because you are a professor?"
"I'm a doctor, Doctor River Song, doctor of archeology."
The Doctor caught up quickly, realizing the doctor had yet to become a professor. An honest enough mistake she realized she now had to be careful with "spoilers".
"Well, so am I. So it's something we have in common."
Doctor River Song frowned at the woman. "Clever, but I need the Doctor."
"You've got the Doctor."
The woman' pulled free. "Not A doctor, THE Doctor."
The Doctor dropped her hands to her sides. "You've got her."
Doctor River Song seemed ready to growl. "The Doctor is not a 'her'! Not until..."
The Doctor's eyes widened, and River Song visibly stopped speaking, obviously calming herself before she started speaking again.. "The Doctor is a man. Unless... did you regenerate... it's early, but early doesn't really apply to Time Lords does it?"
While she knew River Song knew enough about Time Lords to know any injuries that would have caused regeneration would have been healed by regeneration she still ran her hands over the Doctor, and it left the Doctor again wondering what they had shared/will share for the other woman to be so familiar.
Almost reluctantly the Doctor took hold of River Song's wandering hands. "It was radiation, and
it's all healed now."
"Radiation? That's what caused your last regeneration."
A sick feeling lodged itself in the Doctor's stomach. "River Song. I'm the Eleventh Doctor."
River Song broke free again. "No, no your not. The Eleventh Doctor is..."
The Eleventh Doctor interrupted, holding her hand at what she knew to be about the Mortician's height. "Is about yay high. Thin, very pale, with black hair to his shoulders?"
That sick look found it's way to River Song's face as the Doctor continued. "River Song. Did I ever tell you about a Time Lord called 'The Mortician?"
"You managed to kill him, to damage both his hearts so he couldn't regenerate, but not before he managed to hurt you enough so that you had to regenerate from your eighth life to your ninth."
The Doctor was shaking her head. "No, he survived, and managed to escape Gallifrey right around the time my tenth self regenerated into who I am now."
River Song's shoulders had been slumping, but then they suddenly straightened. "So you say, but it's just as possible you're an enemy of the Doctor's seeking to use me against him."
The Doctor scowled. "The problem is that my first, and so far only other encounter with you is one that you haven't had yet." She sighed. "I know you have a diary modeled after the TARDIS, and you like to taunt me with it's 'spoilers."
That seemed to drain some of the hostility from Doctor River Song's expression. "I don't suppose you could just take me to meet my later self, and she could confirm what you say?"
The Doctor felt a sick lurch, and fought to keep it from her voice. "That isn't possible."
It seemed that even if River Song wasn't sure this was her Doctor she could still read this Doctor and her own expression sickened. "Am I still around to talk to?"
"Yes, and I'm sure that later you knew this was coming, but it would still be a spoiler."
Doctor River Song seemed to accept that fact with the ease of a veteran time traveler. "Right, well there was one way I've always been able to recognize the Doctor."
Before the Doctor could even take the breath to ask how she found herself pulled into a kiss. A fierce, demanding, passionate kiss that quickly had both her hearts hammering in her chest where it was pressed to River Song's.
While there was that initial moment of shock as the kiss continued the Doctor found River Song's familiarity extended well beyond and was stoking passions the Doctor had thought dead lifetimes ago.
Soon her fingers were tangling in River Song's hair like River Song's were tangling in her own, and their tongues were batting, dancing in a rhythm that seemed unending. Even when the kiss broke it seemed only to pause as the Doctor found herself back against the controls of the TARDIS.
An impressive feat since they were much nearer the door when the kiss started, and would have had to cover almost a dozen feet to get where they now found themselves. The majority of her mind however was contemplating River Song's kiss swollen lips, and the streaks of lipstick that probably started out non-streaking, but wasn't able to withstand the onslaught.
Considering several streaks where the color the Doctor herself was wearing she figured she was in a similar state, and from the glow in River Song's eyes she was just as pleased as she started speaking in a husky voice. "I could always know the real you. Not just by kissing you, but by the way you would respond."
The archaeologist's smile grew wicked. "I always know what buttons to push." She then looked down, finding that she had ripped the buttons on the Doctor's blouse so she could palm the woman's breast through her bra. "Even if the controls have been reconfigured."
The Doctor gave a soft laugh, but lost the smile as River Song lost her's. "But that means I LET him fool me. Told myself good was fine, when I knew damn well it should have been great."
A brief rage gripped the Doctor as she knew that the Mortician had almost certainly made love to River Song using her name, but she knew dwelling on it would do little more then upset the other woman so she pushed it away and instead reached up to caress River Song's cheek. "So I pass?"
River not only smiled, but made a pleasured sound that was nearly a purr. "Most certainly." Her eyes then took the Doctor's disheveled state in, from mussed hair, to kiss swollen lips, to spread leather clad legs, to the torn open blouse with one breast showing the clear point of arousal through the almost gauzy black bra while the other point was pressing into River Song's palm as she squeezed the warm mass of the Doctor's, of her Doctor's breast.
She gave the breast another squeeze, and saw the Doctor's eyes widen as she groaned, and they both groaned. A passionate groan that seemed to echo as River Song managed to make the sighs, pants, and groans that wanted to come out turn into actual words.
"No matter how VERY much I want to continue on this train of thought when I sent 'you' the message it was because the Church vessel that had asked me to be there to identify 'you', the Byzantium, was crashing at the coordinates 'you' had sent."
The Doctor's hammering hearts were demanding her attention, but her incredible mind managed to free up some resources. "But you found the real me."
River Song smiled widely. "We always find each other."
With that the Doctor pounced on her, pulling the other woman in to fiercely kiss her again, and for may long moments River let her, but all too soon pushed the passionate Doctor back enough that they could use their mouths for verbal communication, rather then the non-verbal kind they had been enjoying.
When their lips were parted, but their foreheads rested together the Doctor looked left and right, and found they were on the opposite side of the TARDIS console from where she had initiated the kiss with River Song now having her own back against the console and both of the Doctor's hands squeezing her posterior..
River saw the expression and laughed a deep, rich sound. "We roll around a lot. Big beds, lot's of room."
The Doctor's voice was still breathless. "Isn't that a spoiler?"
The grin on River's face went from inviting to practically pornographic. "Is it?" Seeing she had the Time Lady ready to pounce on her again River Song laughed fondly, and looked regretful as she gently pushed the Doctor off of her.
"Doctor, there are lives at stake."
The Doctor's shoulders slumped, and then straightened, running her fingers through her hair to straighten it. An action that showed the Doctor's tone belly and firm breasts through the now open blouse in a way that seemed to have River Song ready to pounce herself.
The Doctor noticed and had a fond laugh herself, moving to the controls she set the TARDIS to follow the ship, the Byzantium, before she started fixing herself up. As she tried to straighten her blouse she laughed. "I'm going to need a new one."
River gave another almost pornographic look. "Are you sure? Just tuck it in so it's not open all the way. You have lovely breasts, and it's certainly not a crime to hint at them."
The Doctor grinned. "Behave Doctor River Song, we have lives to save."
River Song's expression cooled. "And a man to teach not to toy with a woman's affections."
While River Song had been in a black dress when the Doctor first picked her up she changed to a sort of camouflage fatigue after they set down next to the Byzantium.
She had also scowled as the Doctor put on a fresh, but identical blouse.
To which the Doctor had simply grinned. "Just think of it as another one you can rip off me."
To which River Song had kept an entirely straight face. "This may be another spoiler, but you've never broken a promise to me."
The grin remained as the Doctor replied. "And I don't intend to start now."
When they were coming in for a landing River Song surprised the Doctor yet another time as she asked to be allowed to take them in. Not only did she surprise the Doctor with the ability to fly the TARDIS, but she actually shocked the Doctor with the ability to fly the TARDIS better than her.
While her current self managed a smoother trip than any of her previous there was still a definite shake, but when River Song took the controls one would swear there was more than one operator flying.
She commented on it as they followed the Byzantium. "Your technique is the best I've seen it, but you're still a little rough, a little too eager. Maybe the TARDIS was waiting for a woman's touch."
The Doctor was smirking and rolling her eyes, detecting a slight double-meaning to the words as she replied in the same way. "I guess she was wanting an older woman."
River Song's eyes were twinkling. "Or perhaps that's something she picked up through your telepathic link? Though what do you mean "older"? You're well over eight centuries my senior."
The Doctor's expression was just as playful. "That's one way to look it. The other is that I'm just over a month old, and you are perhaps the most notorious cradle robber ever."
River Song looked profoundly disturbed at that as she brought the TARDIS in for a landing. "Let's not look at it that way, not ever, ever again."
The Doctor shrugged and nodded. "Shall we split the difference and say that I look as old as I feel?"
River Song pursed her lips in consideration, and then smiled. "Still making me a cradle robber, but not so distastefully so."
The TARDIS then came to a full stop and the Doctor looked around confusedly. Seeing this River spoke. "What's wrong?"
"What happened to the noise?"
The Doctor imitated the sort of wheezing sound the TARDIS made when materializing or dematerializing.
"That's the parking break."
The Doctor scrunched her nose. "The what?"
River Song sighed. "The parking break, the thing that keeps the TARDIS from wandering off. You always leave it on, and it is what was making that noise!"
It felt like a couple's argument, not an angry one, but one that felt like it was not new to River.
When the Doctor made her reply the near bristle River Song showed made her think that she'll say it again in their future. "I like the noise."
The light tone of their conversation died as soon as they left the TARDIS. The Byzantium had obviously crashed, and while it was likely salvageable it would not return to space under its own power.
The crew however seemed to be in better shape with no bodies or blood in, on, or around the ship, and a series of foot prints leading off into the distance.
They were on an immense asteroid that had an atmosphere, but not much of one. There was a chill in the air, but it felt more than physical. The sand underfoot was the white of the stone that seemed to make up the asteroid, but River Song found herself comparing both to the color of bleached bones.
A city was off in the distance, but looking at it River Song seemed to instinctively know there would be no signs of life within. The whole place was hollow, empty, dead, and while as a doctor of archeology she felt an obligation to unearthing the secrets of the past this place reminded her that some secrets were best left buried.
Looking to her Doctor she saw that same young face whose lips still seemed a little swollen from the passionate kisses the two had just shared, but looking at the other woman's eyes the Doctor suddenly looked ancient, and worried.
"When you look like that I know enough to be scared."
To her mounting fear the Doctor first simply nodded, those ancient eyes still locked on the dead city off in the distance. "Scared enough to wait for me in the TARDIS?"
There was a brief moment where River Song felt insulted, but looking closer she could see the Doctor was truly worried for her. That however made her next actions all the more certain as she stepped closer and took the Doctor's hand in her own and gave it a squeeze.
The Doctor smiled, but her eyes were sad, as if she seemed to know she couldn't get rid of River Song without heavy sedatives being involved, but yet thankful for the support the woman was giving her.
"My people called this place the Ebon Gate."
River Song interrupted. "For a race of scientists your people often sounded like mystics."
That got a shrug. "After a certain point it's more a matter of semantics anyway, but we didn't know the original name of the city, we just knew that they were conducting experiments with the Void."
"The Void? The nothing between dimensions?"
Another nod from the Doctor, and another pause before the Time Lady resumed speaking. "Yes, and it consumed them. Making them the first Meanwhiles and Neverweres, things that didn't exist, but could not be denied."
"The Void is a place of nothing, and when someone is placed within it without some sort of protection it is consumed, their life, their very essence of reality drained away. Usually simply annihilated, but sometimes managing to retain some sort of intelligence. Those are the Meanwhiles and Neverweres, and they retain enough of their minds to know what they lost, and they hunger to regain it, seeking to feed on living specimens of reality."
The Time Lady nodded. "Like you or I could swallow sand if we had some reason to want to we wouldn't get all that much from it. The kind of feeding they need, that momentarily makes them feel real again comes from living specimens."
River Song was confused. "But the Cybermen from Canary Wharf, I thought they walked across the Void?"
"And I can promise you that all those who set out didn't make it all the way to the other side, but to a Cyberman once they were lost they were irrelevant."
The archaeologist however knew there was much more to the story. "That still doesn't explain why you called this place the Black Gate."
Those ancient eyes met River Song's. "Because there is one. We believed that the entire civilization got pulled into it, at the heart of the city a gateway to the Void exists. For the longest time we knew to leave well enough alone, but then the Time War came, and we were in need of allies so we started playing with the Ebon Gate, and we found the Could've Been King. While the name sounds almost playful he was the ruler of the city before his people were dragged into the Void, and he was eager to ally with the Time Lords because whatever it was that dragged his people into the gate also kept them from simply coming back through."
The Doctor sighed, suddenly looking very, very tired. "No, they needed to be invited back. They needed people from reality to welcome them back in, and they were perfectly happy to teach the Time Lords how to bring them back. For our part we were happy to bring them, figuring that their feeding on Daleks was one of those win-win situations."
"Then came the Battle of Screaming Shadows. There had been far fewer Daleks than had been expected, but the Meanwhiles and Neverweres had been promised, and part of inviting them back includes promises made on both sides, and we were suddenly in breach of contract. After killing one tenth of the Time Lords that had been assigned to fight along side them the Time Lords gave them permission to make up the short fall on the natives of the planet."
The haunted tone as River Song replied showed that Doctor had painted the picture well enough. "So that was when the Time Lords stopped using them?"
The blonde's hair swayed around her head. "The lost civilians were labeled as unfortunate, but ultimately acceptable losses. The Meanwhiles and Neverweres were simply too powerful of allies to get rid of, and were still being fully employed at the end of the Time War. The problem is that with the link they have to the Void they could escape if someone on this end called to them THROUGH the Void."
River realized what was going on. "Someone like the Mortician, especially if he had all those Church troops there and waiting for them to feast on... and no I will not wait for you in the TARDIS."
They were walking through the city now. It was not the first ruined city that Doctor River Song had walked through, but that simply made all the differences more telling. No plants grew, none sprouted up through cracks on the pavement, or curled around buildings as nature always came to do once a city became abandoned.
Even the areas where living things were supposed to grow stood empty, the soil where living things would have once grown now that dead sand that they had first landed on.
No rodents or insects skittered out of their path as they walked the wide, empty avenues. Which confirmed to River Song that there was absolutely no life on this asteroid. Not the simple forms like insects, or rodents, or the simpler forms like fungi that such creatures would sustain themselves on.
It raised the question of the source of their breathable air, but River Song told herself the asteroid must pass some oxygen rich environment that it's gravity well allowed it to refresh it's atmosphere, or maybe that the Time Lords had installed some sort of system, because the idea that that Gate itself might be giving them a breathable atmosphere in hopes they would open it was a notion she didn't want to contemplate too deeply.
They stopped, and the Doctor took River Song's hands in her own. "Doctor River Song, from this point on I need you to do exactly what I say when I say it. The process of inviting the Meanwhiles and Neverweres is both incredibly intricate as well as incredibly dangerous. I know the methods, but any interruption could prove deadly for us both."
River Song simply nodded, speaking softly. "All right."
The Doctor looked unsure. "That even includes talking, if you need to say something put your hand on my forearm and squeeze, but do not speak unless I give you permission."
River Song nodded again, her voice still as soft. "All right Doctor." At the Doctor's continued unsure expression River Song actually smiled. "Doctor, I may tease you..." The Doctor arched her left brow as she smiled slightly, and River Song grinned. "All right I DO tease you with spoilers and such, but a good part of that is because your knowledge of me will quickly equal, and then surpass my knowledge of you, but I have absolute faith in you. I can, have, and will put my life in your hands without hesitation."
At the Doctor's stunned expression River Song just smiled, and squeezed the hands that were still grasping her own. Not saying another word until they found themselves approaching a cordon of Church soldiers.
Just as she promised before speaking River Song put her right hand on the Doctor's left forearm and gave a squeeze. The Doctor cast her eyes around wearily, but then nodded, and River Song sped up her pace so she was walking ahead of the Doctor.
As they drew closer they were seen, and it was obvious River Song was recognized.
Without missing a beat River Song walked up to the man who seemed to be in charge. "All right Father Octavian I managed to reach the Doctor, are we ready?"
The Church officer was quick on the uptake and realized something was wrong. "The Doctor is ahead Doctor River Song. We thought you were lost during the crash and he met us on the surface. He didn't take the news well, but said the reason he had called us here was too important. He led us here and told us to make a cordon."
"Didn't your men see the vessel that saved me?" Father Octavian shook his head and River Song sighed. "It was the TARDIS. Normal means weren't reaching the Doctor, I'm now wondering if this impostor was responsible for that. So I had to use unconventional means." As the Father glared at her she smirked. "Which required I access parts of the ship you don't normally make available for passengers, sorry about that by the way, but it allowed me to contact the real Doctor."
Father Octavian looked between the women. "And you sure THIS is the real Doctor?"
Doctor River Song looked at the Doctor, and found both women were sharing the same grin as the archaeologist looked back to the Church soldier. "Yes."
"We were under the impression the Doctor was a..."
At that point the Doctor interrupted, stepping closer as she entered the conversation. "A man? Yes, emphasis on was. You are aware I regenerate?" A nod. "I did, and I changed more than I ever had before. Now I would love to be able to discuss the matter more, but I would really like to meet the fellow that has helped himself to my good name, and I would greatly appreciate it if your men would stay here in case there's trouble."
The man looked unsure. "We've already followed the suggestions of one Doctor today, and it's looking like we were mislead."
River Song broke in without missing a beat. "Yes, but that was because I wasn't there to confirm the Doctor's identity."
The Father still wasn't convinced. "I was there when you spoke to him over the Byzantium's comm system."
While up to this point the Doctor knew that River Song was stitching together truth's, half truths, and all out deception her words suddenly rang very true. "And the bastard nearly had me convinced. In all honesty when I sent the message during the crash I thought I would be reaching him, but luckily I sent the message in a way I knew the Doctor would get it, even if I had the wrong person in mind."
Father Octavian's expression looked like he didn't want to believe, but still did in spite of himself, he then started nodding. "Something felt... off... wrong, and I don't just mean that he wasn't the Doctor. The man... well he creeped me out."
The Doctor took that almost as much of a confirmation as River Song's visual id. The Mortician was so obsessed with death that the living often could seemingly feel it. Whether it was a sort of psychic echo or just the Mortician dealing with the dead far more than he did with the living, it was a sort of aura he carried with him.
While River Song had a noticeable tightening around her shoulders at Father Octavian's words the Doctor knew they didn't have the time to discuss it. Instead she spoke to Father Octavian. "All the more reason for me to want your soldiers near."
"We could come with."
The Doctor shook her head. "If this person can impersonate a Time Lord he could easily have traps or other dangers laying in wait. I would rather go first, and make sure the way is safe before you would join us."
The Father's back straightened. "We are soldiers of the Church, miss, it's not our nature to hide from danger."
The Doctor smiled. "And I'm the Doctor, and it's my nature to save every life I possibly can. Please Father Octavian, I believe River Song has a means to communicate with you?" The two looked over and River Song nodded, and the Doctor continued. "All right, I give you my solemn vow that at the first sign I need your help I will have River Song on that and screaming for you to come help us, but until that point I really am the best person for this job."
The nod was reluctant, but the Doctor's smile was genuine as she took River Song's hand and pulled the woman to walk with her as they walked into the cordon and past it.
Once they were out of voice shot River Song spoke, after squeezing the Doctor's arm and getting a nod. "Wouldn't it have been safer to send them back to the Byzantium? Or even the TARDIS?"
The Doctor shook her head. "Unfortunately no. If we are right about them being here as an offering, any sign that they were trying to flee could unleash the Meanwhiles and Neverweres on them early. As it is I'm hoping to foul the negotiations, but with the Mortician being in there as long as he has been I have to assume they are in full swing."
"And why didn't you tell them about knowing who the Mortician was?"
"Because..." The Doctor sighed. "Because he was a recognized Time Lord, technically I was the one who went rogue. Because at the end of the Time War most everyone in it was a war criminal, and while I could say I didn't want to take the time to go into all of that it's more shame over it all."
River Song first squeezed the Doctor's hand, then pulled the Time Lady to a stop, cupping the woman's face. "Spoilers be damned, I know... almost everything about the Time War, and I know that if that horrible thing had a single hero it was you for stopping it."
She then kissed under each of her Doctor's eyes, then holding their gaze for several long moments until her Doctor nodded.
Her Doctor held that gaze further as she started speaking. "Before we get to him, do you need to talk?"
River Song shook her head. "We don't have the time."
"We'll make it."
"What is there to say? He fooled me. He tricked me into his bed, making me think he was you. I was stupid, but I was not forced."
The gaze continued as the Doctor replied. "I'm also guessing he told you he had regenerated about a month ago like I had?" At the responding nod the Doctor continued. "So you wouldn't have seen inconsistencies as something to be suspicious of like the Father. Rather you would have seen them as traits of the 'new' me. and that's not a coincidence. Combine that with the facts that he would have made sure to have memorized, and no one would blame you for the mistake."
"I'd blame me." At those words the Doctor leaned in and gave River Song a brief, but firm kiss, that started to become a little less brief. River Song continued speaking as she pulled back from it. "Now we are wasting time."
The Doctor nodded. "Your fault really." Seeing River getting riled up the Doctor grinned. "Being so kissable." She could then see River Song was getting ready to reply so she held up the finger of her left hand over her mouth as she took River's left hand with her right and pulling the archaeologist to follow her.
The look on River Song's face said she was well aware the Doctor was abusing their need for silence, but that she would do as she said, and remember the event for a time she hadn't promised to be quiet.
Even if dead, the city followed recognizable "rules" in its lay out. Namely a large central area where one would find things like a church or some centralized meeting area, some sort of staple resource like a store, and similar "main" buildings.
If the city were old enough then those buildings were built huddled together for protection against the dark outside the range of fire or lantern, but even cities that liked to call themselves "modern" seemed to follow roughly the same design, either because of tradition or simply ingrained practice. A sort of collective memory of when they huddled together around the fire in fear of the shadows that flickered at the edge of their vision.
As they approached that central area River Song felt a panic rising in her. That same primitive memory screaming at her to run. To run as far and as fast as her legs would carry her. That it wouldn't matter where as long as it was away.
Something else, something deeper however looked over her shoulder and saw her Doctor.
The Time Lady's presence calmed her, but as her Doctor stepped forward that calm was put to the test.
The Doctor put a gentle hand on River Song's shoulder and whispered in her ear. "Walk into the circle before me, but say nothing. I will be right behind you."
There was another fearful look over her shoulder, and those blue-green eyes met River Song's and offered to let her run, far and fast, and away. The problem was those eyes also told her that the Doctor wouldn't run. That with her or without her the Doctor would be entering that circle.
Realizing that gave River Song added strength, her back straightening, and the panic retreating to let dread take its place.
She however did as her Doctor asked and walked forward.
While most main areas in cities are called town "squares" this one was round, a circle as her Doctor called it, with the rest of the city radiating outward, like spokes on a wheel, making the whole city a circle of sorts.
As soon as that thought entered the archaeologist's mind it begged her to let it die, warning her that she wouldn't want to contemplate it further.
Stepping ever further she saw it, the Void. At the very center of the city it was ringed by flag stones, deliberate in its construction, but she couldn't call it a pit.
Pits have depth, even if it can not be seen, pits belong in this universe. What lay before her was a pool of atrocity. A pool that her senses could not deny, but her mind could not recognize, and the distortion was making her eyes hurt, her head ache, and her who body tremble.
"And we offer the beloved of our mutual foe the Doctor! River Song!"
The mention of her own name shook River Song from her contemplations, and she would have been grateful if it weren't for the implications.
Looking up she saw the Time Lord the Mortician. His black, well cut suit almost making him seem a part of the Void that lay just beyond where he stood at the edge of the circle. Even his jet black, shoulder length hair seeming an extension of the pool of midnight he stood before. The only color being his white undershirt, and the almost identically colored flesh of his face and hands.
A face that was twisted in a cruel, mocking smile, and while something in River Song told her she should be wanting to kill the man for seducing her, for making her think he was her Doctor the greater part of her mind was consumed by the idea they were offering her, making her a sacrifice like they planned to do with the Church soldiers!
Then her keen mind peeked past the panic and saw the woman standing next to the Mortician. Tan skinned, with red hair she was dressed in a style seeming inspired by Earth's Middle East with a sort of vest that seemed more wrapped around then slipped on with harem pants and slippers, all in shades of red and orange, and she was looking at the Mortician in a mix of shock and anger.
She then looked over River Song's shoulder, and her expression changed to fear, her voice whispering one word. "Doctor."
Even without turning around River Song knew the Doctor was there, but the woman's voice carried over her shoulder as the Doctor spoke in a loud, clear voice.
"Petitioner Mortician has acknowledged their chosen offering as belonging to the Doctor, and Petitioner Agna has acknowledged me as the Doctor, Petitioner Doctor is now seeking entrance."
The responding voice was hollow, empty, if the sight of the Void made River Song's eyes ache its voice seemed to surpass her ears and shake in her mind directly.
"Petitioner Doctor recognized." Even as hollow as the voice was, even as empty as it was River Song would swear there was something else there, rage.
The look the Agna gave the Mortician was one of pure anger while the look the Mortician gave the Doctor was one of hate, that masked a fear the other three people could plainly see.
The Doctor took a breath to speak, but Agna cut her off seamlessly. "With the addition of Petitioner Doctor I am requesting time to confer."
Again the non-voice spoke. "Granted."
Agna moved towards the Doctor and River Song, her hands up in a placating gesture. "You're mad. You have every right to be. As soon as I learned of the Mortician bringing your friend's man back to life to kill you I squashed that notion." She then threw an angry glare at the scowling Time Lord in question. "So of course the idiot decides to lure your loved one here as an offering, and use your good name to lure the rest."
The Mortician then spoke. "They hate the Doctor, I hate the Doctor. It seemed foolish not to use that to aid the negotiations."
Agna looked at the Mortician and scowled. "There is a reason we prefer it when you just play with dead things!"
Agna then looked to the Doctor and softened her expression. "Again, Doctor, you have every right to be angry, enraged even, but this is a new beginning. Rassilon is gone..."
The Mortician interrupted. "As is Gallifrey."
Agna glared at the Mortician. "With good reason! Destroying the Universe is no victory!"
Agna then looked to the Doctor, her voice and expression imploring. "And you've got a new beginning as well..." Her voice trailed off, and she gave the new female form of the Doctor an openly appraising look. "A VERY appealing new beginning. Can't the Gifted have a new beginning as well?"
While the Mortician bristled as the idea the Doctor simply gave a deliberate look into the Void.
Agna nodded at the silent reproach. "It's distasteful, I admit that, but you don't even know WHY we sought out the Meanwhiles and Neverweres." The Doctor's brows arched and Agna continued. "The Daleks. Some of them survived your battle with them in the Medusa Cascade and they WILL rebuild. They ALWAYS rebuild, but if we unleash the Meanwhiles and Neverweres on them they will NOT trouble the Universe again."
The Doctor stopped, looking over to River Song. While the woman looked afraid when she met the Doctor's eyes the fear receded, and the Doctor smiled. River managed a small smile of her own, which grew as the Doctor took off her coat and put it over the woman's shoulders.
Looking back the Mortician was smirking, but the look of contempt the Doctor gave him had him recoiling almost as if slapped. Agna saw all of this and gave the Mortician a disgusted look as well, but then she looked back as the Doctor stepped in front of her.
"No, it's wrong. They're wrong, and we were wrong for ever unleashing them. If you are right and Daleks escaped I will find them, and if necessary I will destroy every last one."
The Mortician interrupted. "IF? They're Daleks!"
The Doctor looked up. "And I've found Daleks capable of change, even mercy. Perhaps not as Davros designed them, but when given a chance to move past his plans for them..."
Agna looked skeptical. "Maybe, but can we take the chance?"
The Doctor looked sad. "How can we not? Killing just to be on the safe side? Ending a living being because they MAY become a threat? If one has to kill it should be done as the last possible option... in the end even the Master redeemed himself."
The other two looked surprised at that, but the Mortician violently shook his head. "Enough!" Agna turned, seeming to know what he was going to do, but not able to stop him before he raised his voice. "The conference is over!"
The Doctor's expression was mournful, but it hardened as she was the one next to speak, but as she did Agna had taken out a small, square red device and was typing away at it. "And Petitioner Mortician made an offering in bad faith! He used River Song to bring his chosen party here, but the last person his chosen agent contacted was me! I was brought here by his agent, but he still attempted an offering he identified as belonging to me!"
River Song's fear was replaced by a dark sort of glee as the Mortician and Agna realized that WAS what they did, and the both of them looked terrified at the realization as the Doctor kept speaking. "In exchange for revealing the bad faith I withdraw myself and all offerings brought here by MY name, and declare Petitioner Mortician and Petitioner Agna forfeit."
The Void itself was raising up, flooding into this world, moving like a sentient wave towards the two that had been declared forfeit. While the Doctor wasn't willing to turn away she deliberately turned River Song into her shoulder as she wrapped her arms around the archaeologist.
Both of them however looked as a sort of energy discharge sounded, and were able to see Agna and the Mortician run into some sort of portal.
The crawling nothing still squirmed, confused as it looked for it's victims, but the Doctor stopped it. "Petitioner Agna, and Petitioner Mortician are still forfeit, but it is not Petitioner Doctor's responsibility to gather them. With their escape I declare this negotiation over!"
"We know you Petitioner Doctor!"
The Time Lady was undeterred. "Return to the Nothing!"
"We remember you Doctor!"
The Doctor was unphased. "Return to your hunger!:"
"WE WILL REMEMBER YOU DOCTOR!"
While the Void still lay before them River Song felt that pain, that dull ache, that bone deep chill lessen. She imagined that whatever presence they had been speaking speaking to had retreated. Turning to the Doctor her brows were furrowed. "They remember you?"
The Doctor had moved to the gate that was still hanging in the air before them. "I Time Locked them along with the rest of the Time War River. While they might have been able to escape through the void most of those who could have made that happen are imprisoned with them. Two more are now unable to come anywhere near the Ebon Gate without being unmade."
River Song tried to make a joke. "So they get added to the list of your enemies?"
The Doctor managed a grin. "Yeah, while they would get bumped up over the size of their grudge the low odds of them ever returning means that they stay in about the same spot."
The Doctor then stepped closer to the portal. "All right. You need to have Father Octavian return to the Byzantium and send a distress signal. Have him leave the TARDIS here for me, but once help arrives they need to declare this asteroid under an indefinite quarantine. The Meanwhiles and Neverweres can't do much without being properly invited, but let's try to make sure no one else makes the mistake the Time Lords did and play with the gate."
While the physical non-presence of the void was still very disturbing to her River Song felt her confidence returning, and had her hands on her hips before she reached one of them to her belt to gab her radio and repeat the Doctor's instructions almost verbatim, but replacing the Gate with a viral weapon that shouldn't hurt them as long as they stayed away, but that she would be helping the Doctor contain.
It was obvious the Doctor was going to protest,and River Song didn't let her. "If they can go through then you can go through, and if you can go through I can go through."
There was a long moment as the two women glared at each other, but when the portal flickered like it was readying to collapse River Song gave the Doctor a arched, almost playful look. The Doctor frowned deeply.
Her last thought as they dove through the portal was that River Song seemed incredibly pleased at the title.
River Song was picking herself up, they were both laid out flat on the ground, but the ground was soft, with green grass, and air that was easy to breathe, it actually looked like they were in some kind of park. So she figured things couldn't be too bad, and then cursed herself for allowing that thought to invite the disaster to come.
Standing up she however tried to sound positive. "Well at least the environment is friendly enough. It actually LOOKS like Earth, England, 20th to 21st Century." Seeing the Doctor was still laying face down on the ground River Song started to look concerned. "Doctor?"
Without looking up the Doctor pointed up. Looking where the Doctor directed River Song's jaw dropped as she saw zeppelins passing gently by over head. "Zeppelins! Does this mean were on Pete's World?"
The Doctor sighed loudly, pulling herself up to sit on the grass. "I have to figure, Both because the fact that there is another 'me' here would give them a link to follow, as well as the fact I really don't want to consider the idea I've managed to drop into yet ANOTHER parallel dimension."
River Song sat down next to her on the grass. "I'm surprised Time Lords, even morally questionable ones would be willing to damage the dimensional barriers."
The Doctor hugged her knees, and brought her eyes to meet River Songs. "That's the thing, they didn't. That was an entirely stable passage."
The Doctor shook her head. "I haven't the slightest."
River made herself comfortable next to the Doctor. "Who are the 'Gifted'?"
The Doctor smiled, staring at her knees, her expression that sort of slightly unfocused that told River the Doctor was digging deep in her memory.
"While the Time Lords have always been brilliant, Rassilon started to fear we were stagnating. He feared that we had lost our creative spark so he designed a test that would seek out those who still had it and put all students through it."
River frowned, her voice delicate. "I had always thought you weren't the best student."
The Doctor let go of her knees, putting her palms out on the grass behind her and stretching out. "I wasn't."
As the Doctor smiled River Song interrupted. "Neither was Einstein."
That got a nod. "Exactly, it wasn't that I didn't 'get' it. I just found it so dreadfully dull."
The Doctor then decided to make herself comfortable and lay back on the grass. River Song did the same to the Doctor's right, but turned on her side to watch the Doctor as the Time Lady resumed speaking. "Any way while some scored better than others four blew the curve Rassilon himself had predicted. The Mortician, myself, Agna, and a fellow named Ikat. We became Rassilon's darlings, in private. He kept us in our normal classes, and our normal lives, but pressed us together."
The Doctor turned on her side to face River Song. "It didn't take a lot of work. Back then the idea of Rassilon taking a personal interest in you was quite the honor, but for the longest time all he asked of us was that we innovate, we dream. Really a sort of blue sky affair where Rassilon just wanted to see how good, good could be. Sometimes it was good, like Agna and I, we've always gotten along smashingly."
Seeing a knowing sort of eyebrow arch the Doctor hurried on. "And in our cases we provided help, or just encouragement. Other times it was like the Mortician and I, and we despised each other from the get go."
That got a nod. "I can imagine why. You dedicated to life, him devoted to death."
The Doctor nodded. "But still, back then it was more a mean spirited rivalry than attempts on my life. Then the Time War came."
As the Doctor continued to speak her voice grew somber. "The Time War came, and we were asked to trade our dreams for nightmares. I seemed best suited for battle, and so that was where I ended up. Watching our creations in action, repairing them when need be, and reporting on their effectiveness. The whole General bit just happening as I went."
The Doctor was growing visibly depressed, and River Song took the Doctor's right hand between her own. That got a sad smile in return as the Doctor continued speaking. "And it sickened me. Not just the horrors we unleashed, but the praise we received for doing so. All too quickly it went from doing our duty to the Universe, to wiping out every last Dalek there was, and the rest of the Gifted were happy to oblige, because while I was out there growing more and more disgusted they were well behind the lines reading the reports of myself and others. Treating all that horror and death as just another mental exercise, and basking in the praise of their fellow Time Lords."
"And now they're back."
The Doctor nodded, but said nothing.
"What do you think they're planning?"
The Doctor looked over. "Honestly I think they will simply seek to recreate the lifestyle to which they had become accustomed."
River opened her mouth and closed it once before finding her voice. "That doesn't seem like your normal enemies."
The Doctor yawned. "They're not. Odds are they have no plans to rule or to destroy. The problem is that they are utterly amoral and possessing three of the four keenest minds to come out of the Time War."
River frowned deeply. "When you put it that way..."
The Doctor sat up, and then stood up fully, helping River to her feet, and then accepting her jacket back after River slipped out of it. "When I put it that way I think it's time to get in touch with my masculine side."
River looked confused, and a little disturbed before her face lit up in realization. "Oh! You mean your meta-clone!"
The Doctor was putting her leather long coat on. After doing so she pulled out the sonic screw driver and gave it a flip in her grip. "But first I need to find an ATM to make a withdrawal."
The taxi let the pair off in front of the Canary Wharf building, and the Doctor stopped, giving the building a long once over. Looking over she saw River Song regarding her calmly, and the Doctor gave a little smile.
"It was a bit run down the last time I saw it, but I guess between Rose and the rest of the Tylers becoming defenders of the Earth they decided to fix it up, and that would be before my masculine side joined them."
River smiled. "It's strange to imagine you living, sleeping, working, or even spending an inordinate amount of time in a regular building."
The Doctor grinned. "Strange for you, terrifying for me. Well... let's go see how I'm handling it."
"Are we sure 'you' will be there?"
The Time Lady shrugged. "At the very least I have to imagine we'll find a Tyler, and they can put us on the right track."
Without another word the pair strode confidently into Canary Wharf, into the Torchwood Tower. There was a cute young woman with blonde hair in a sort of pixie cut and green eyes at the reception desk, and the Doctor gave her a wide smile, and got one in return. She also got a small smirk from River Song, but paid that no mind as she spoke to the receptionist.
The young woman was friendly, but already seeming a bit confused. "Hello."
The Doctor however kept smiling a she barreled on ahead. "Would you happen to know the time?"
The young woman's confusion grew. "It's 11:58."
The Doctor's smile never flickered. "Smashing, would you please tell Mister Tyler his Twelve O Clock is here?"
With that the Doctor turned and started walking for the elevator, but the young woman immediately protested. "Miss, I'm sorry, but you can't just head up there."
The Doctor however already had the sonic screwdriver up her sleeve with the end resting in her palm. She was able to trigger it with her pinky as she made the elevator doors open. "Sure I can, don't worry. Pete and I have haven't seen each other in ages." The Doctor laughed slightly. "We have a bit to catch up on."
The receptionist was rushing to catch up to them, but the doors had closed on the Doctor and River Song before she could.
Once the doors had closed River Song laughed softly. "A bit to catch up on?"
The Doctor deliberately cast her eyes down to her feminine form. "Quite a bit has happened since we saw each other last, yes."
River stopped laughing, but her smile seemed on the verge as she nodded. "Yes, like you've become a flirt."
The Doctor first looked outraged, then paused, nodding reluctantly. "It just seems to agree with this new mouth and this new body."
River Song's smile grew. "And it bothers you so."
That got a soft laugh out of the Doctor. "Terribly."
River Song's eyes were twinkling. "It's all right." She held up her hands. "I'm not wearing any ring."
Though that twinkle in her eyes seemed to shout the word "Yet."
No actual words were voiced however as the doors opened, to find half a dozen men pointing assault rifles at the pair, who smiled as the Doctor spoke.
"I haven't felt I TRULY entered Torchwood Tower unless someone has pointed a gun at me."
The riflemen were standing far enough back so that the two women could step out of the elevator, to find Pete Tyler standing behind them, as well as Rose and Jackie Tyler, and the male, human/Time Lord hybrid Doctor in the blue suit, trainers, and brown long coat..
Pete started to speak. "So you..."
The male Doctor interrupted, striding blithely, or possibly deliberately, the female Doctor knew it was hard for others to know, into the line of fire. "Professor River Song?"
As her male self stepped near them she corrected him. "Doctor."
He responded to the title. "Yes?"
The female Doctor shook her head. "She's a Doctor now."
Her male incarnation's eyes grew wide. "She is? And who are you exactly?"
She smiled. "I'm the Doctor."
The male Doctor was obviously becoming confused. "You're the Doctor? I thought you said she's the Doctor?"
The blonde Doctor shook her head. "No, she's a Doctor."
The all too familiar brow crinkled as the male Doctor grew more confused. "There's a difference?"
The Eleventh Doctor looked a little confused herself. "A fairly profound one."
The Tenth held up his hands. "So your the Doctor, she's A Doctor, and I'm the Doctor too?"
She shrugged. "You were the last time I saw you."
He exhaled. "Right, so how did she become a Doctor?"
Another shrug from the female Doctor. "The usual way I'd suppose."
He looked outraged. "You weren't there?"
The Eleventh Doctor scowled. "I can't be everywhere at once, nearly, but not always."
"So how do you know she's a Doctor?"
The female Doctor looked over at River Song. "She told me so."
The male Doctor looked at River Song. "And you just believed her?" He then amended to River Song. "No offense."
The obviously confused archaeologist nodded distractedly. "None taken."
He then looked back. "Is Donna all right?"
The Time Lady nodded. "Of course."
He then took in and released a deep breath. "Is that what saved her?"
The Time Lady again looked confused. "Is what, what saved her?"
He then looked at River Song again. "Her becoming a Doctor."
The Eleventh Doctor looked at her male self like he was daft. "Why would her becoming a Doctor have anything to do with Donna?"
Doctor River Song however finally puzzled it out, and as the male Doctor took a breath to begin explaining she shouted to interrupt both of the Time Lords. "ENOUGH!"
Once everyone was looking at her she first put her right hand on her own chest. "I am DOCTOR River Song, doctor of archeology. From my understanding you first met me after I become a professor."
The light went on in the male Doctor's eyes as River Song continued, putting her hand on the man's shoulder. "You are the human/Time Lord incarnation of the Tenth Doctor."
River Song then stepped over and put her hand on the female Doctor's back. "THIS is the Eleventh Doctor."
The tenth Doctor threw his hands up. "Why didn't you say that?"
The Eleventh shrugged. "I did."
The rifles were now put down, and the riflemen had been dismissed as everyone, save River Song, looked at the female Doctor curiously.
Her earlier, male self was looking up and down, moving nearer and closer. "I knew you seemed familiar, but you were also so different I wasn't able to quite recognize you."
Rose had now joined the conversation, speaking to her Doctor. "So you can change a lot more than your face when you regenerate?"
Her Doctor replied. "It's possible, but it's EXTREMELY rare."
Rose stepped even closer to the Eleventh Doctor. "She's really... I mean you're really quite... well gorgeous really." The companion's voice was both surprised and inquisitive.
The female Doctor gave the young woman a grin, more a "look" really, and Rose blushed. River Song seemed ready to laugh, while the male Doctor didn't seem at all amused. The rest of the room simply watched avidly as the situation continued to unfold.
He interrupted. "Right! So what happened exactly?"
The look, and even the smile slipped from the Eleventh's face. "Rassilon nearly broke the Time Lock."
All those watching the Tenth watched as his face fell and his color blanched. "Almost?"
The Eleventh nodded. "He failed. I stopped him, but Gallifrey nearly returned to the Universe."
She then proceeded to detail, the events that led to the passing of the fully Time Lord Tenth Doctor, and brought the Eleventh to their offices.
They had taken seats in a sort of lounge area and as the tale finished the Tenth Doctor exhaled and rubbed his hands up his face before running his fingers through his hair.. "And with both you and I existing in parallel dimensions the Gifted found a way to shift between worlds."
The Eleventh nodded. "That's the hope." At her younger incarnation's look she shook her head. "Then only these two dimensions are at risk. I don't like those three being able to hop between all of them."
That got an emphatic nod, but then he continued. "Still, the way you describe it Gallifrey didn't FULLY return. So they didn't either."
The Eleventh Doctor was following along, nodding. "There's got to be at least one paradox engine, probably one in either dimension, that's anchoring them."
Ten nodded. "We destroy both and they get banished back to Gallifrey."
Jackie then interrupted, looking to the Tenth Doctor, the man she knew. "You can turn yourself into a girl!?"
The whole room laughed softly at that and Jackie smiled, nodding. "Right, YOU can't, but you could back when you were her, and she was a man? There are fellas who don't want to be fellas that would pay a fortune for that secret."
The Eleventh Doctor rolled her eyes. "Yes, but the vast majority would be willing to pay much more for the ability to regenerate."
Jackie was nodding to that point as her husband Pete cut in. "Which actually brings up a good point. While I understand that regeneration is a biological feature of full Time lords there is going to be a great deal of Time Lord technology suddenly available."
Both Doctor's looked at each other, but that look had them both silently agreeing Ten would be the one to speak. "Not just Time Lord technology Pete. Time Lord technology from the end of the Time War. I know the Torchwood from her world is much like this one, gathering alien technology to protect humanity, but we are talking technology that ruined Gallifrey, and they knew how to use it."
The Eleventh stepped in seamlessly. "Giving humanity that kind of weapons technology would be like giving your son Tony a live hand grenade. While the Doctor and I use our genius to help, they are almost as smart, but utterly amoral and using all that brilliance to come up with ways to hurt."
Rose looked at both Doctor's with an arched, almost teasing look. "Almost?"
Her Doctor interrupted. "Yeah, we got out of the lab, they didn't."
Pete didn't look entirely convinced, but seemed to realize he couldn't really argue the point. "Okay, but how are we supposed to find them?"
River Song spoke up there. "Well the plan we disrupted was using an old resource of the Time Lords."
The Eleventh smiled at her. "And they're still learning. So odds are they will stick with the tried and true."
The Tenth shook his head. "BUT the Time Lord learning curve is quite steep, theirs even more so. I'll agree that they will have started with what was familiar with them, but the whole point of the Gifted was to innovate. So we'll start with the theory that they are trying to bring back one of the horrors of the Time War here, but if we don't catch them this time I wouldn't want to bank on them relying on their old bag of tricks for a second encounter."
The Doctor's shared a nod, but Pete was the one to speak. "Then let's get to work..." He looked between the two Doctor's. "We should come up with some way to refer to the two of you with out referring to the TWO of you."
The two Time Lord's shared a look, but Jackie interrupted. "Doctor and Girl Doctor."
The Girl Doctor however shook her head. "No, that makes me sound like a gynecologist."
River Song smiled. "Ten and Eleven seem the simplest." That got nods of agreement from both Time Lords and the rest of the room, but the two Time Lords were looking at River Song with almost an identical question in their eyes, wondering how many Doctor's she was familiar with to have a naming scheme at the ready. She just smiled her teasing grin. "Spoilers."
Their responding scowls were also very alike, but that just made her grin grow twice as much.
Pete then had another question. "So where should we start?"
River Song was the one to answer. "Well I can provide composites of the Mortician and Agna." She then looked to the two Doctors. "Can you two put together a composite of Ikat, at least when you last saw him, and send it to Pete?" At their nod River Song did as well. "Well we can start work on that, and making sure things like transportation are taken care of."
Now having a direction people started standing up. As they did River Song smiled and put a companionable arm around Rose's shoulders. "Not to mention I'm sure Rose and I should talk."
Rose looked to the grin on River Song's face to the look of apprehension on her Doctor's face and she got a grin matching River's, putting her arm around the other woman's waist.
Pete and Jackie just smiled at the proceedings and started to leave, but Eleven called after them. "If you have a Torchwood Four in this dimension it would be just about perfect."
He stopped short. "How do you know about Torchwood Four?"
River Song was the one to answer. "Peter, when dealing with the Doctor most of the time the Doctor will either already know, be in the process of learning, or heard of it, but decided it wasn't worth bothering with."
Pete didn't look comforted, but walked out of the lounge with River Song, Jackie, and his daughter.
It was the exit of Pete's daughter, still with River's arm over her shoulder, and her own arm around River's waist that Ten was watching.
Eleven grinned at the growing look of dread. "Bad feeling?"
He nodded. "Yeah."
Her grin grew. "Like when Rose and Sarah Jane bonded?"
Another nod. "Yeah."
He turned to look at the Time Lady. "Worse?"
She nodded. "Yeah, much worse."
He then shook himself. "So you and Doctor River Song?" Eleven deflated, nodding, but it was Ten who kept speaking. "Have you told her?"
Eleven shook her head, interrupting. "Our name? No, not yet." His left brow arched at her choice of words and she nodded. "Yes, yet." She sat back down, exhaling loudly she rubbed her face, drawing her hands up through her hair in a gesture he realized she must have retained from her last incarnation.
He sat back down as he realized she wasn't done speaking. "It hasn't happened yet, and I don't think she's already learned it. At this point I honestly think she learns it from me, from this me. I am already planning on showing her pictures of all my incarnations to this point."
"Of course what will truly be difficult is not giving her those pictures when you meet her for the first time."
Eleven nodded. "Maybe not. Did you see that insignia on her jacket?"
Ten nodded, his expression serious. "Yep. The Greek letter for Omega." The two paused, the silence heavy. "Right, well I should probably show you my lab."
The composite of Ikat was done and emailed to Pete five minutes after number Ten had fired up the main viewing screen in his laboratory.
While Eleven still wasn't comfortable with the notion of roots her Tenth self seemed to have set them down well enough. He even hinted that Rose was hinting about wanting a ring and a baby.
The sincere warmth in his voice at that notion kept her from teasing him, because she realized the two of them had a unique sort of tie that allowed them to share things they wouldn't or couldn't share with anyone else.
At the very least because of "spoilers".
Of course her Tenth self wasn't terribly comfortable with sharing as he still clung to the "always all right" expression he liked to use. The fact that she WAS him at one point however made it far easier for her to call it rubbish.
They both however preferred to work while talking, and had already tried, and so far failed to come up with any means to detect any paradox engines/working TARDISes. Their working theory was that each of the Gifted piloted their own TARDIS away from Gallifrey. It allowed for a paradox engine in each dimension while still giving them a TARDIS to travel time and space in.
While their resources might be less, they couldn't see them being much more, and both Doctors agreed that it would be better to assume the worst and plan for it without playing an unending game of "What if?"
Quite awhile later River Song, Pete, Jackie and Rose all walked back into the room, with Pete being the one to address the obviously frustrated Doctors.
Both shook their heads, but it was Ten who spoke. "Not a thing, frankly I'm beside myself."
There was a long moment of silence as everyone wondered if his choice of words was deliberate. A question that was answered by his wide grin.
Eleven looked as if she was in pain as she looked downcast and shook her head, softly muttering. "Please let him have got that from Donna's brain, please let him have got that from Donna's brain..."
Which only made Ten's grin grow.
Pete seemed to have a smile and a frown warring on his face. "So nothing yet?" At the Doctor's nods he exhaled. "Well I've got their composites out there,"
River Song interrupted him. "As people of interest, nothing more"
That got a nod from the two Time Lords.
Pete didn't look pleased at the interruption, but only showed it with his face while keeping it from his voice. "And we have Torchwood Four ready..."
Eleven perked up. "Torchwood Four!"
Pete nodded. "Is ready to launch when we know where to take her."
Eleven grinned, and everyone else in the room, familiar with the Doctor when having a breakthrough started smiling. "I stole Torchwood Four!"
Pete looked incredulous. "That's impossible! We were just there!"
Eleven shook her head. "No, no, no. Not YOUR Torchwood Four MY Torchwood Four."
Ten was grinning, rather enjoying watching the process from the other side. "Rather big wasn't it?"
Eleven nodded. "Huge!"
Ten looked ready to laugh. "So what did you do with it?"
"I hid it in 1994 so we could jump ahead to 2010 and use it then. Tucked it away on the most inconspicuous spot of the ocean floor big enough to hold it. No mineral or oil deposits, no interesting life, even the currents seemed to ignore the spot."
Ten nodded. "I think we were so busy trying to think like them..."
Eleven finished the sentence. "That we never considered they might think like us!"
River Song looked worried, looking from one Doctor to another. "You're finishing each others sentences?"
The two Doctor's looked surprised that they did, but then looked back to River and nodded while shrugging at the same time.
Eleven spoke. "Just the one..."
Ten then spoke. "So far."
The two Doctor's looked at each other and grinned, while River Song looked disturbed, not truly frightened, but disturbed.
Rose slipped in next to her, whispering. "Is that bad?"
River Song whispered back. "For us maybe. Normally Doctor's tend to squabble with themselves if you get more then one together."
The two Doctor's knew she was speaking the truth, and they looked to each other, obviously pondering. Whatever conclusion they reached they both seemed comfortable with it as they shrugged and Ten spoke.
"So where did you put it?"
Eleven smiled and pulled out her sonic screwdriver to point it at the screen. "There!"
A flash of the screwdriver had the computer reconfiguring to check that section of the ocean with all of the considerable resources that the Tenth Doctor had networked to the system.
While the rest of the room saw an immense blob of heat the two Doctor's paled, looked at each other, and ran almost in unison to the system to enter commands manually.
The rest of the room watched anxiously, but it was the Doctor's who spoke.
First Ten. "Oh Ikat..."
Then Eleven. "You damnable fool."
They then looked at each other, and Ten spoke. "Yes, that could get a little unnerving I suppose."
Pete then cut in. "What is it?"
Ten answered. "A Nightmare Child."
Eleven inhaled, and exhaled, her voice growing heavy. "Before the last Great Time War Ikat and I were notorious for challenging the Time Lord rule against Non-Interference. While I preferred a more hands-on approach in my interference, Ikat, saved millions of lives, hundreds of millions."
Ten interrupted. "Billions even."
Eleven nodded. "Perhaps, maybe even likely. For Ikat is the most gifted genetic engineer I have ever met. He cured diseases when even the Time Lords considered them incurable and simply sought to quarantine the infected. Whole planets, even whole species praised his name with every meal they had because they knew full well they would have starved without his engineered crops and cattle."
Her eyes were out of focus, lost in the memory, and she smiled. "And they weren't just effective. One planet was being ravaged by it's own short sightedness, drowning in it's own toxins. So when he created insects that fed on the pollutants he made them color coordinate with the floras natural colors."
Ten laughed, his eyes showing he was lost in the same memory.
Eleven's eyes focused for a moment, and then her smiled faded. "Then the war came, and Ikat went from curing diseases to creating them. The creatures, his pets, they went rabid. The Nightmare Child... the Nightmare Child is a monument to all Gallifrey lost... to all we GAVE UP."
The whole room was silent, unanimously honoring how much recounting the memory was hurting the Eleventh Doctor.
"The Nightmare Child is an organic battleship. Easily the size of Torchwood Four and well it's match in armor and armaments, but instead of traditional weapons and armor it generates bio-electricity and while it's hull is as strong as most any alloy it can heal itself in minutes. Whats worse though is that it's a massive storehouse of psychic energy that can be used to attack it's enemies minds directly if it isn't attacking directly with claws and jaws that can shred most anything."
She leaned back against a counter. "What's even worse though is how it was powered. During the war it was captured Daleks, but it feeds on living beings. It tortures them, putting their minds into a constant fight or flight response while keeping their bodies immobile so they can't flail around as it literally feeds on their fear psychically."
Rose's voice was small as she spoke. "Why?"
Her Doctor responded to her tone as he moved over to comfort her while he answered the question. "The Nightmare Child stores massive amounts of psychic energy, but it consumes just as much. The fight or flight state is about the only way a mind can generate enough energy to feed it."
The female Doctor interrupted. "And even then it takes multiple minds."
Ten simply nodded, his arms now around Rose.
Eleven then rubbed her face with her hands, running her fingers then up and through her hair. "It never lost a fight, was never truly challenged, and now we have to find a way to stop it."
Pete's voice was weak, obviously unsure. "Can you?"
Eleven response was instant. "Of course."
Ten actually found a smile. "We'll think of something."
Eleven matched his smile. "Always do."
And while the companions all wondered if the Doctor was truly that confident, or just putting on a brave front on their behalf it was working either way, and as they started out for Torchwood Four the fear that had been gripping their hearts as Eleven had described the Nightmare Child started to lift.
Torchwood Four was submerged, at what the Doctors were fairly sure was outside the sensing capacity of the Nightmare Child. They too couldn't sense it directly, but were still getting the satellite feeds they had first picked up at Torchwood Tower.
Ten and Eleven shared a long, unsure glance, before sharing a nod. The rest of the room noticed and they shared an unsure expression.
Noticing this Ten put on a smile. "No, no, it's all right. We have a plan."
Rose arched her brow. "A plan?"
Her Doctor nodded. "A good plan."
River however seemed to pick up something in his tone. "But not a great one."
The human/Time Lord hybrid rolled his shoulders as well as his expression. "No, not a great one, but it could hit very good if we're at all lucky. Still, if it were easy you wouldn't need one Doctor, never mind two."
The second Doctor looked to him. "You'll handle the explanation?"
He nodded. "Yeah, go get it ready."
Eleven slipped off.
Pete smiled as he looked to Ten with a bit of a grin. "Short straw?"
Ten gave a rueful smile. "Something like that. Right! The big problem with the Nightmare Child is, like we said, it's a living battleship. It has a Time Lord wired right into the Child itself to pilot it."
Rose's face was scrunched up in distaste. "You mean psychically right?" Her tone however said she already expected that to not be the answer.
The shake of Ten's head was confirming as much as he answered. "No, it's a sort of series spurs that exudes a anesthetic that makes sure the Time Lord feels no pain as it breaks the skin at a series of points along the spinal cord before releasing tendrils that physically interface with the Time Lord's nervous system."
His own expression was showing the same distaste as everyone. "Ghastly. I know, but virtually impossible to interrupt the command structure, BUT that also means that he, were assuming Ikat, is able to FEEL everyone in or on the Nightmare Child. Added to this is the Child has bone spurs and much larger tendrils deployable on the inside that have been able to pierce the hide of Daleks who made it in."
River Song was taking it all in. "So maybe a sort of anesthetic that would numb the sections we are in?"
Ten shook his head sadly. "Then he would feel that section going numb. There's nothing we can create that would guarantee that he wouldn't still be able to deploy the defenses in some fashion. They would certainly be sluggish, but even one hit would be fatal, and it get's worse."
He sighed, pausing, obviously reluctant to speak. "The inside of a Nightmare Child isn't just the inside of a living organism. The inside itself is one large sensory organ, able to feel even the minute disturbances caused by the hover system of a Dalek. For us our footfalls would be like an insect that crawled in an ear, or in our case got past the ear drum and started walking around inside our skull."
"The greatest danger however is that those senses are designed to tell the pilot everything possible about the intruders. So it could tell the difference between Dalek hover systems verses say those of another species while being able to differentiate how many Daleks had made it inside."
"For us the problem is that even a single drop of sweat would be more then enough DNA to tell Ikat the difference between say a fellow Time Lord, and a human intruder."
Rose interrupted. "We're not about to let you two go in there alone!"
River Song however suddenly looked both angry and suspicious, and when Ten's responding look was both guilty and resolute she ran for the door Eleven had went through several minutes earlier.
Pete figured it out, and said it softly. "It could probably also tell the difference between a Time Lord and a Time Lord/human hybrid."
Ten nodded sadly as River Song ran back into the room. "Send me too!"
That got a sad shake of the hybrid's head. "I wouldn't even if she hadn't made sure to make me promise not to."
She glared at him, but he paid it no heed, obviously expecting things to happen approximately as they did. "We need to prepare out here. While the Doctor will be seeking to destroy the Nightmare Child from within she may not be successful. Barring that she will seek to weaken it so that we can destroy it with Torchwood Four."
River Song was incredulous. "So not only did you send her in there alone, but you'll blow that thing up with her in it?"
The Doctor met her eyes. "I didn't send her anywhere. She came up with the plan, and asked me to keep the lot of you distracted while she used the teleporter to go over there. I would have went with, but as Pete realized, it would have destroyed any chance at stealth. I don't like this, I don't want to do this, but if you know me half as well as you say you do then you know the Doctor is all too often the one who has to do those things no one else will."
She scowled, but didn't argue, for his part the Doctor exhaled, and for a brief moment his eyes looked the 900 years that came before the Meta-Crisis that made him. Turning to the rest he started speaking. "Pete, if it comes down to a fight we will have to start it with more conventional weapons to crack the Nightmare Child's hide, which will then be immediately attacked by toxic warheads that the other Doctor and I prepared on the way here. That means that Torchwood will have to be ready for a clean up. The one plus being that no one or nothing has any interest in this stretch of ocean."
Pete nodded. "I didn't know what destroying this thing would entail, but I figured that some sort of clean up would be a distinct possibility. So I've got ships at the ready."
The Doctor gave a nod. "Excellent."
Pete then interrupted. "How will we know if the other Doctor failed and we have to attack?"
Both of the men gave River Song a look, but then did their best to ignore the fear and anger warring on the woman's face.
Ten then replied. "She will do her utmost to contact me with her mobile, or psychically either way if it is at all possible. Otherwise we'll wait and see if it moves to attack us, anyone else, or basically takes any provocative action. Honestly, I don't want this fight. Even if the other Doctor wasn't there."
The other Doctor, the female Doctor sighed sadly, and shook her head. She didn't realize it, but her sorrow even manifested physically as a tear that slipped down her cheek and fell to the floor.
The pale white flesh that made up the floor before curving upward to the ceiling like some massive intestine. Floor that absorbed that odd bit of moisture silently as the Doctor thought to herself that she was truly in the belly of the Beast, before her mind slipped into the past where that tear had emerged from.
She remembered some of her earliest adventures with Ikat. She remembered the sickening smell that would hang in the air of a planet as it's people died, a smell that would be replaced by blooming flowers and new life when Ikat was through.
The wailing of people dying of starvation, turned to laughter and song as they fed in Ikat's gardens, because the genetic engineer had never been content simply planting crops, but rather made gardens rich with color as well as life, nourishing the soul as well as the flesh.
Or the sight of a man who already dug his own grave and laid down inside it just waiting for the illness that was ravaging him, his family, his people, and his planet to claim him as well then vital, healed, weeping with joy literally prostrating himself as Ikat's feet.
Of course Ikat was always humble at the all too often lavish praise heaped at his feet, he had just wanted to see life flourish, but of the Time Lords Ikat was perhaps the most revered by people other then the Time Lords themselves.
A sad, near laugh escaped the Doctor's lips as she remembered Ikat telling her how her efforts battling the threats of the Universe may one day have her name eclipsing his. She had laughed then as well, saying that her efforts gained her as much infamy as praise.
Right now she would trade all that praise for infamy if she could ensure that Ikat would be remembered for all those lives he saved, for all the good he did rather then the battle ready tumor she now stood within.
Inside or out the Nightmare Child earned it name a whole other time from it's appearance.
In it's outline it was like any humanoid fetus, except it's hide had a sort in inset-like chitin while the head was enlarged with a large mass of bone for ramming that hung above a misshapen jaw filled with jagged teeth that could easily rend a starship's hull.
The Doctor shuddered as she remembered Davros command ship meeting such a fate.
The four limbs were all the same with multiple joints to allow a 360 degree range of motion with the fingers tipped with razor sharp claws that could rip through the strongest of alloys in moments.
Even Ikat's abilities could not make such a blasphemous congregation of genetic codes as were assembled for the Nightmare Child look anything but hideous.
Or perhaps they could?
It was that question that was what truly brought that lone tear to the Doctor's eye. The inescapable notion that one of her oldest companions, one of her dearest friends, a man she had spent countless hours lounging with in one of his gardens or another as he had her joining him in one nectar or another from yet another of his sweet tasting flowers, a man she still found herself wanting to talk through some of the deeper ramifications of her latest regeneration could have lost that love of beauty to the desire to make war.
When a membrane "door" up ahead opened of it's own accord the Doctor feared any hopes of stealth had been lost. When several doors in a row opened in sequence to herd her to what her memory guessed would be the control room she knew.
Stepping through that door she found herself in a perverse parody of those garden's she remembered. The walls reinforced by columns that looked like trees, but were made of bone, with barren branches and roots that sunk back into the reddish tissue that made up the walls, floor and ceiling.
There were blossoms as well, nerve clusters that carried information too and fro that ran alongside, or were often intertwined the larger cords that carried the psychic energy that made the monstrosity move.
Fronds even existed in this fleshy garden, many emitting the bio-luminescent light that made up the lighting inside the Child. They looked to sway in the breeze, but the air was still, and the Doctor knew they were sensors that tasted the air, keeping the controller, the "brain" of the Nightmare Child safe above all else.
She looked there next and she saw her friend, Ikat, his head reclined where he lay in a sort of captain's chair made of flesh and bone still topped by the brown hair kept styled, but not overly so. His face still looking as young as she remembered from this incarnation, but the healthy cast gone from his skin, now showing a pallor similar to the one the Doctor felt creeping over her own flesh.
While his hands were the same unhealthy white of his face the rest of his body was obscured by a single piece black body suit that covered him from just under his chin, to his wrists, to feet covered by soft boots that were built into the garment.
Intellectually she knew there would be openings in the back of the suit. Though whether they were tailored in or ripped by the spurs that would have sunk into Ikat's flesh to make him the pilot of the Nightmare Child was a question her emotions declined to answer.
That reclined head turned to look at her and speak in a voice that was all the more alien for the slight familiarity. "Hello Doctor."
She had to clear her throat of the horror and despair that had taken a place there. "Hello Ikat."
He smiled, and even pale and wan it was obviously sincere, even warm. "I was hoping you would find your way here."
Her left brow arched skeptically and he even laughed, gently. "Honest. I don't blame you for being skeptical however."
Ikat sighed and shook his head. "When we first made it to Earth, your Earth and managed to set up the paradox engines... I'm going to assume you figured that much out."
At her nod he continued. "We made the Mortician swear that he wouldn't go after you. We made him swear that he wouldn't go after you, and that he wouldn't send any of his reanimated minions after you. So what does he do? He figures out a way to resurrect your Captain friend's boyfriend and tricks him into thinking he has to kill you or he will die. That way neither the Mortician nor his servants went after you."
The Time Lord shook his head again. "What a jack ass. THEN when that plan doesn't work he still decides to get one over on you by seducing your... what are you and this River Song exactly?"
The Doctor shook her head. "Our time lines are running opposite to each other so I'm honestly not sure."
Ikat seemed to ponder the point a moment, and then discard it. "Well he seduces her, and then continues to pose as you to lure in a sacrifice for the Meanwhiles and Neverweres, and no I wasn't crazy about letting those things back into reality, any reality, but even you have to admit they are thorough."
When the Doctor was obviously not going to admit anything he sighed. "Honestly Doctor, we want to be friends."
The Doctor's posture relaxed slightly. "Agna said as much."
Ikat's grin grew sly. "Oh she wants to be more then friends with you."
That left brow arched again and Ikat laughed. "Ah come on Doc! You and her have been off and on for centuries, and we both know she doesn't have any gender-related hang ups. Agna seems QUITE eager to help you break in the new body, because knowing you I'm guessing you haven't taken the time to REALLY get to know your new self... to break any barriers."
The Doctor's eyes grew wide and she looked down between her legs. Ikat laughed a bit more gently. "Yep, you've heard the Time Ladies complain about a first time each time they regenerate. I'm guessing you haven't taken the time to check, but odds are... Still! I'm sure Agna would be gentle."
"Should I worry that is your interest in me as well?"
Ikat got a half grin. "You really ARE quite fetching, but my interest in your body is purely scientific. You have to realize Doc, the reason Rassilon first put us together was that he feared the Time Lords were stagnating. Regeneration was supposed to be more then a trick to cheat death, but rather a vessel we could use to let our minds encompass the universe."
"The Time Lords however, despite being able to regenerate into pretty much any living creature in the galaxy would regenerate the same way, over, and over again. They might not be able to look the SAME, but some had refined their ruts to the point that their regenerations would look like family members."
Ikat snickered. "Not even Rassilon, the guy who was so worried about our stagnation, could expand his consciousness so far that his regeneration would give him that fresh perspective like you now have. Doctor, you're a visionary."
Her expression wasn't anywhere near as amused. "I doubt the rest of Gallifrey would agree."
He shook his head. "You might be surprised. Putting The Moment, and your use of it aside, because stopping them from destroying the universe is the kind of thing I'm not about to argue was anything other then a good idea. Doctor, you have to know a good percentage of your critics were jealous of the freedom you TOOK, not asked for, TOOK."
Ikat sat up, and the Doctor was able to make out the veins the size of hoses that connected the spurs inside Ikat to the rest of the Nightmare Child , but Ikat showed no signs of acknowledging them as he continued. "You didn't ask for permission or beg for forgiveness, but lived your life on your own terms, and I know most of those static relics criticized you, not for breaking the rules, but for having the courage to do so when they did not."
His eyes met hers. "Doctor, you are the Gifted's proof of concept."
The Doctor sighed. "Fitting that it's nearly my last regeneration then."
"You're not sure?"
She shook her head. "No. Agna knew about the events of the Medusa Cascade so I'll assume you do as well."
He was nodding as she continued. "Part of the unfolding events included my Tenth regeneration being grievously wounded by a graze with a Dalek extermination beam. As the regeneration process started I used the initial energy to heal the injury, and then siphoned off the remainder into a genetically appropriate receptacle."
She shrugged. "My Tenth self's hand had been cut off within hours of regenerating so I was able to grow a new one. It had been found by Jack Harkness... and no, you can not meet him by the way, his condition can not, will not, and must not be replicated. Still, Jack found my hand, so it was in the TARDIS so I had it... handy." They both grinned at the unintentional pun.
Ikat then continued for her. "And one of your human companions must have touched it. With all that residual regeneration energy still inside it they would have provided a template and you've got yourself a human/Time Lord hybrid."
The Doctor had a small smile. "I should have realized you'd have no trouble working it out."
The man just grinned. "Yes you should have. How is your companion by the way? The part of the energy that would have flowed into them would be lethal unless drastic measures were taken."
That got a sorrowful expression from the Time Lady. "I had to wall off all memories she had of me."
That got a responding frown. "Well I was just thinking genetic alteration."
"Yeah, some modifications to the Chameleon Arch. Instead of making a Time Lord human..."
The Doctor interrupted. "A human could be made Time Lord!"
"It wouldn't be that simple normally, but this companion of yours would have the mental potential just fighting to come forth. All we would be doing is using the Arch to give her a mind that could handle it."
Her eyes were distant, contemplating what that could mean. She hadn't thought of it, wouldn't have thought of it, and still probably couldn't make it happen on her own, but Ikat... if he could make an abomination like the Nightmare Child then making a survivable Doctor Donna would be easy with his talents.
Knowledge that he continued to show. "BUT between the creation of a Time Lord/human and a human/Time Lord you figure it would have at least used one full regeneration, and with this being your eleventh you figure it's effectively your twelfth, and second to last."
She just nodded, solemn, resolute.
"I could check. Doctor, I could check for you. I could let you know for sure. It would be my honor my friend."
She was obviously unsure, but it was just as obvious that the desire to KNOW if this was nearly her last lifetime was very great. After a second's worth of eternity she nodded.
The smile he gave her in return tried to be comforting, but the effect was muted by the surroundings, and the effect they had on Ikat's appearance. As she was looking at him she suddenly felt a tendril that started at her chin, and then swiped up to her temple before pulling back.
The Doctor pulled away in shock, wiping at a residue that she could feel, but could also feel was harmless. "You LICKED me!"
Ikat laughed, actually laughed. "Well sorta, but I think you'll want to hear my results. As far as your cycles of regeneration Doctor, this is your third."
The other Time Lord smiled. "You've got a good ten regenerations a head of you Doctor. So assuming the hybrids took one, and your regeneration from your Tenth self used another something must have happened during your Ninth, but AFTER you fully regenerated into your Ninth incarnation."
The Doctor was no pacing, running her fingers through her hair. "Ninth, Ninth, the ninth Doctor... so much changed, so much Rose helped change... WAIT! Rose!"
She nodded. "Rose! She, Jack and I were stuck on Station Five when the Dalek Emperor and his fleet were about to attack. I had the TARDIS take her home, but she was right determined to come back and managed to crack open the heart of the TARDIS and absorb the Time Vortex! She came back, and used the energy to destroy the Emperor and the fleet!"
"Something I'll have to be sure to thank her for."
The Doctor waved off the interruption. "But holding the Vortex inside her was killing her. So I took it inside myself in order to put in back inside the TARDIS!"
Ikat's head was bobbing in the affirmative. "That would do it Doctor. While I'm guessing that was what killed your Ninth self the process of channeling that much energy would have easily recharged your regenerations. It would be the key to the Time Lord hybridization process."
The Doctor's left brow was raised again, and her agitated state cooled as she turned to look at the man she had once called friend.
He was smiling. "Think of it Doctor. We could start over. We could lift humanity up. With their raw potential combined with our capabilities there's no limit to what could be achieved. Earth would become New Gallifrey."
The Doctor schooled her expression to neutrality. "You're not the the first refugee of the Time War to thinking about recreating their home world here on Earth."
Ikat's smile grew. "You've thought about it too! Doctor! That's fantastic between the two of us..."
She shook her head with a friendly, but forced smile. "Oh, not me, but I was asked to consult." At his perplexed look she continued. "The Cult of Skaro. After I had defeated them at Canary Wharf they initiated an emergency temporal shift and ended up on Earth in the 1920s. First they tried to grow new Daleks, but their genetic engineering knowledge wasn't up to snuff."
"Still, they were the Cult of Skaro and their purpose was to imagine. Their imaginings had them asking why they were the last four Daleks, but humans could thrive all through out time and space. Their solution was to hybridize the humans with Daleks."
Ikat interrupted, incredulous. "And you helped them?"
The Doctor smiled, some sincere amusement at his tone. "Not right away. While they had been preparing unfortunates taken from the intelligent but destitute of that time period they needed a template. So their leader Dalek Sec forced a hybridization of himself and their human co-conspirator."
"That poor soul."
Ikat's words seemed sincere, and the Doctor felt a flash of hope that something of her friend remained. She didn't show it however as she kept speaking. "Nah, I met him once and he was a right bastard. Selling out his own for his own benefit. I figured it was that ruthlessness that had Sec picking him in the first place."
Ikat was laying back in his captain's chair of flesh and bone, nodding, his eyes distant. "Probably, forcing a hybridization of two intelligent species is risky. Any similarities they may have increase their odds of survival." His expression grew focused. "But that was the 1920's and Earth isn't New Skaro. So what happened?"
She shrugged. "In his hybrid form Sec was still the dominant personality, but he had humanity now. All those emotions that had been so carefully engineered out were suddenly put back in."
Ikat interrupted again. "Agna said you had found Daleks capable of change, and even mercy."
The Doctor smiled, and it was sincere. "And Sec was the first. I agreed to help because the humans they had prepared for hybridization had all of their individual personality wiped away..." She nodded to Ikat. "To ease the hybridization process, and because Sec wanted to make them MORE human."
Ikat was obviously stunned, and she nodded as she continued. "Yes, he wanted them more human, and he said that they would not seek to conquer. He wanted me to take them in the TARDIS to a new home where they could live in peace... how could I not help?"
Her expression darkened. "But there were still three other members of the Cult of Skaro and they hadn't had all those emotions put back in. They rebelled against Sec and reset the hybrids to be all Dalek. I managed to escape and introduce some Time Lord DNA into the mix. It led to questions, it led to rebellion, and you and I both know how Daleks deal with both of those things."
Ikat's eyes were distant. "Did they simply cut them down? Or did they have some sort of kill switch already built in?"
The Doctor wasn't surprised that Ikat knew how the Daleks would engineer. "One built in. A whole new species or human/Dalek/Time Lord hybrids made and lost in a single evening."
She could see him ready to argue and interrupted. "But we could do it right couldn't we? We could pick the best and brightest humans and gift them with Time Lord DNA. With the secrets we would unlock from the Meta-Crisis we could hybridize people without destroying their original personalities. Yes, that would create a sort of ruling class, but with us there to monitor them they wouldn't get out of hand, and as humanity was educated eventually ALL of them would be made into hybrids. They wouldn't be hybrids then, they would be a humanity that had all of their gifts as well as all of ours."
Ikat got a small, sardonic sort of grin. "So you're not one hundred percent behind the plan yet?"
She smiled a sad smile, sinking down to a crouch to meet Ikat eye to eye, but at an angle because she sank slightly lower then his seated profile. "There was another Dalek who I saw that was capable of change. Who in a strange sort of way was a peer to me. His name was Caan, he was the one member of the Cult of Skaro who managed to survive their plan in the 1920s." She got a small grin. "He was the one who managed to save Davros from your last Nightmare Child when I couldn't."
The Time Lords eyes widened. "He got inside the Time Lock! How?"
The Doctor smiled. "I can't see him doing it intentionally. Especially since it cost him a good deal of his mind, but you flip a coin enough times and eventually it will land on it's edge. Still, Caan had initiated an emergency temporal shift and managed to get inside the Time Lock, and get Davros out. That was how they came to be at the Medusa Cascade. As he did that however he saw the entirety of time, all of it."
Ikat's voice was hollow. "I'd imagine that's what cost him his mind."
The Doctor nodded. "And he helped to make sure that I would be there. Ikat, he engineered the destruction of the Daleks, the end of the Daleks. While I believe you that some may have escaped on that instinctive level I know they are fleeing to their own destruction. Caan saw all the Daleks had done, all they were, and in his own words he declared 'No more."
Ikat's voice was bordering on despair, and the Doctor realized he was seeing where she was going with her words. "I can see why you would see him as a peer. You had to do the same with us."
She sighed. "Davros had even come up with his own way to destroy all of creation except for the Medusa Cascade and the Daleks inside it."
The Doctor then stood. "Their time was done, and rather then allow themselves to fade they were ready to destroy the Universe that was ready to continue on without them."
That sardonic smile returned. "Are you talking about us or the Daleks?"
Her eyes were showing her deep sorrow. "Both."
Ikat stopped and started several times, seeming near tears. When he finally found his voice it was thick with that emotion. "It can't end like this Doctor."
She sank back to her haunches, taking his right hand between her own. "It has to Ikat. You should know better then anyone that there is a rhythm and pattern to life, and nothing good ever comes from going against it. Gallifrey is gone, the Time Lords are gone, we are all that's left. All we can do is attempt to honor that once honorable legacy."
Tears were now flowing from Ikat's eyes. "No Doctor..." Again he had several false starts. It took him forcing a deep, ragged inhale before he could speak again. "Doctor... " He punched the armrest of his chair. "Doctor... I know you have a good idea of how horrific the Nightmare Child is, but it's much worse."
Her expression grew concerned as he continued. "It's bad enough that I combined living things that had no business being combined. Or that this... THING literally feeds on misery... I used a ship full of human traffickers by the way, let their 'cargo' go and turned them into a power source, struck me like a sort of darkly poetic kind of choice. Anyway! This thing is grown for it's pilot, and once they are joined it's the pilots life energy, the Time Lord's remaining regenerations that provide that final bit of fuel, that spark that ignites the engine. The first one's pilot was a volunteer. You know that don't you Doctor? I would never force someone, never draft someone..."
She was nodding kindly, her own tears starting to flow as he kept speaking. "But, the rest of the pilot's lives are bound to the Nightmare Child. I..." He swallowed the emotion that was choking him. "I... I thought I could heal our world Doctor, rebuild it. I mean all the other worlds I helped, all those worlds we saved... to save all of them and not help Gallifrey..."
The two were crying openly, but the Doctor was silent. "Using the rest of my lives to make that happen. To give the Time Lords a legacy other then that madness that was our end... but you're right Doctor. Our time HAS past. The younger species must have their time rather then becoming extensions of our own."
He shook himself, his tears slowing, maybe even stopping as his voice cleared. "It's up to you Doctor. You need to live on. You ARE that visionary, you can give us that noble legacy. I know that amazing mind of yours is trying to come up with a way to save me Doctor... it's why you picked the name you did, but please trust me it's not happening. The Nightmare Child is now my body. This part you are talking to is more a user interface for others then 'me'."
"This Doctor." The hand's of that interface rose to gesture to the walls. "This is my Valeyard! You need to go Doctor, you need to flee!"
The Doctor finally spoke. "What will you do?"
He laughed a bitter sort of snort. "You know how I could give it the scent of it's target?" He pointed to a orifice on the wall. "I would feed it a sample, a scrap of flesh and it would know it's target anywhere." He gestured to the walls again. "All I have to do it feed it itself and it will consume its own flesh."
"Now Doctor, you need to go." There is a TARDIS at the heart of the child. It's converted to the paradox engine that we used to anchor ourselves in this dimension, but with my engineering you can switch it back in a matter of minutes. Please give it to the Doctor of this world. Tell him while I would have liked to have seen how his physiology had developed as a human/Time Lord hybrid, but more then that I know he's as much the friend I remember as you and I would have liked to have gotten to know him."
"I would also give you a gift Doctor if you will let me?"
She stepped closer and he reached out and touched her temple, and she collapsed. "I'm sorry Doctor, I know it's a lot, but it's all my knowledge, all my learning. Don't worry it's not 'me' I'm too bound to this abomination, but... I wanted to let my learning live on, and I know you will put it to good use."
The Doctor was holding her head as she got back up, groaning in pain, and squinting even at the feint light inside the Nightmare Child.
"Now please my friend. Flee this horror, and Doctor." She brought her eyes to his for what she knew would be the last time. "Let that you shed be the last ones you shed for me. Remember me well, and not as this."
The membrane door opened behind her, and the Doctor knew it was time, so she staggered out.
As she stumbled down the halls she knew what she was experiencing was similar to what almost killed Donna. Her mind was assimilating all the new data, but the key difference being that there was room in the Time Ladies mind that wasn't there in the mind of Doctor Donna... yet. Perhaps it was her own desire to see her friend again and have the friend able to recognize her, but the Doctor found herself understanding how she could alter the arch to make that happen.
Her mind was then pulled to her surroundings as she saw some of the internal measures trying to deploy, and then being retracted, or even battled by other defenses as Ikat battled his own darker impulses to give her time to flee.
Though she feared he might falter in his control she trusted her friend and ran through every door he opened. Even through that fear, and through the agony echoing in her head, and the sorrow knowing one of her oldest and dearest friends was about to kill himself if not actively doing so when she reached Ikat's TARDIS she was still able to laugh.
It was a tree, an ancient looking oak, branches in full bloom, but while that was what it's chameleon circuit was making it look like it was still a TARDIS and the door opened when she pushed on the trunk.
The theme continued inside with it appearing to be entirely made of wood with some surfaces even sprouting roots or branches.
Inside however the leaves were dead and dying, the roots and branches twisted and gnarled.
At the heart of the TARDIS where one would find calming blues or greens, or maybe soft whites or golden yellows was a pulsing red, a dark, dead heart at the center of the living mass.
That new knowledge directed her eyes to where the changes had been made to make the TARDIS into a paradox engine, and her feet carried her hands to those spots so she could begin working.
As she did so she looked a the scanner outside. The flesh showed signs of being torn and bleeding, but was now turning a purplish black as the Nightmare Child attacked itself on a cellular level, seeking to carry out it's core programming... to destroy.
The sickened pulse of the paradox engine didn't slow, but simply stopped, and a second later the soothing green light of a healthy TARDIS was bathing the Doctor as her hands flew over the controls and made the vessel dematerialize.
River Song was the first through the doors of Ikat's TARDIS the moment it materialized, but Ten was so close behind her he was practically beside her. The archaeologist had a fearsome looking energy pistol up and tracking, but upon seeing that her Time Lady was the only one present and seemingly in pain she ran over and put an arm around the Doctor.
The other Doctor ran over, and the two began examining Eleven for signs of injury, with River easing the obviously exhausted Doctor to the floor of the TARDIS. For her part Eleven shook her head, even as she leaned into River Song. "It's all right. I'm fine."
River Song immediately protested, her voice tense. "You don't look fine."
Eleven got a small grin. "If I were feeling better I'd act offended, but honestly, River, I'm okay. Ikat had a parting gift."
While Ten was making a visual inspection River Song was now running her free hand that wasn't supporting Eleven over Eleven, searching for signs of injury. "What did that bastard do to you? Did he infect you with something?"
She could see River was sincerely upset, and as she grabbed the other woman's searching hand, and as she did she detected a slight tremor to it. The Doctor gentled her voice. "Honestly River. I'm all right. I managed to get through to Ikat, to make him see just how far he had fallen."
Ten was the one who asked the requisite question. "So why isn't he here with you?"
Eleven pulled her knees up and rested her elbows on them. "I managed to get through to him. I got him to see how far he had fallen."
Ten then guessed the answer, or at least part of it. "And he had to stay behind to destroy the Nightmare Child?"
Eleven's shoulders slouched, and the arm River had over her shoulders became as comforting as it was supportive as the Time lady spoke. "He was the Child." She took a shaky breath, while River was understandably confused comprehension seemed to be dawning for her male counterpart.
"While he could grow that horrific combination, to animate it, to give it life, required the life of a Time Lord. The pilot's essence, their remaining regenerations were that spark that ignited that engine, bringing the Nightmare Child to life and forever bonding them to it."
The two Doctor's shared an expression of grief, but didn't voice it as the female incarnation continued. "But he didn't want his learning to go to waste. So he transferred it to me."
That got confused expressions from the other two as River asked the question. "How exactly?"
Eleven sighed. "Much like the meta-crisis that created you," she gave the hybrid Doctor a short nod "that was his great plan. He had hoped to turn humanity into a new race of Time Lords under our direction. He had hoped to turn Earth into New Gallifrey."
River looked skeptically as the two Doctor's expressions both said how awful they found that idea. "And that would be a bad thing?"
Ten was the one to answer. "Humanity needs to follow it's own destiny, not have ours grafted onto it. It would be no better then the Dalek or Pyroville plans to use humanity for the raw materials to recreate their own races."
River Song started to nod. "Not to mention what humanity would do with that kind of power."
Eleven nodded. "For all of our reputed wisdom the Time Lords showed that our time had ended. Our time had passed, and the universe belongs to the younger species now."
The archaeologist forced a smile. "You still have a place here however."
Both Doctors smiled as Ten spoke. "Of course, but it's like Britain. While the land remains, the Empire is gone, and as well it should be as other cultures need to be allowed to exist on their own."
Eleven completed the thought. "We can aid, but we shall not rule."
Ten then looked to Eleven. "And this TARDIS?"
She replied. "Is yours now. It had been a paradox engine, but with Ikat's gift of knowledge I had no trouble switching it back, and with him now gone it needs a Time Lord to bond with, but beyond that Ikat wanted you to know that while he was fascinated by the potential you represented, he also wished he could have just gotten to know you."
Seeing River's confused expression Eleven met her eyes. "A TARDIS needs to be bonded with a Time Lord yes, BUT even with regeneration Time Lords can be lost. If a Time Lord is lost, but their TARDIS is not that TARDIS can establish a new bond with a new Time Lord."
In this case that new Time Lord had gotten up and was now running a gentle hand over the wooden seeming console.
Eleven was looking at his back. "Don't worry, every Time Lord adjusts it's appearance to make it more suitable to them."
Ten didn't turn around as he spoke, his voice distracted. "Still, this is the last bit we have of him."
"But it's not how he wanted us to remember him."Ten looked over his shoulder as Eleven continued. "He called the Nightmare Child his Valeyard, and he didn't want to be remembered that way. He wanted you to have his TARDIS Doctor, and he would want you to make it yours. His gifts to you, and I were those remaining bright and beautiful parts of him, and how he wanted to be remembered, and in using them, making them our own we will honor him."
Ten's eyes were still locked on the main console. "And doing good with them."
Eleven smiled. "That's why he gave them to us in the first place."
There was a knock at the door, and the three people inside looked to see Pete Tyler and Rose Tyler standing at the door. Rose was the one to speak. "Everything all right in here?"
Ten looked over at her with a small, halfhearted smile. "Fine, fancy traveling in time and space again?"
Rose cast her eyes around the alien looking TARDIS and gave her Doctor a questioning look. He kept his smile. "A gift from an old friend."
Eleven had a slight contradiction, her strength returning to her voice as it returned to her body and she stood. "Not just time and space."
Ten turned to face her and arched a brow. Eleven smiled and looked up along the main column of the controls to a ring running around the top of the column. "That's how they travel dimensions. They came up with a way to use the RD in TARDIS."
Rose had moved to stand next to her Doctor and the couple shared a smile before she spoke. "Relative Dimension?"
Ten's jaw had dropped. "That's brilliant."
Eleven smiled as he continued, the hint obviously enough for him to at least work out the theory if not the practice. A theory he started to state. "The TARDIS is a sort of pocket dimension. A little slice of reality in and of itself. It's part of the reason we can travel time in comfort, it's why it's still bigger on the inside even when it looses power, because it's more the pocket dimension traveling with us in it then us traveling."
He saw the assembled humans were struggling and he circled his hands loosely in front of his face as he struggled to find the words, before gesturing emphatically as he found them. "All right, two other examples of time travel! The Time Agent's Vortex Manipulator, physically damaging, prone to break downs, and difficult to aim at the right point in time. The Dalek emergency temporal shift, drains their batteries about to nothing, and entirely random."
"A TARDIS on the other hand is not only a safe and efficient way to travel it protects it's passengers, translates alien languages AND can be used with pin point accuracy."
The assembled companions had a grin at the man's words, and even his female counterpart had a rueful sort of smile. His voice dropped as he continued, scratching at the back of his neck while looking away from everyone. "When it has the proper crew or I'm having a good day."
His voice shot back up. "Still! Point being you have a Relative Dimension in Eleven's world set to harmonize with this one in ours. Two dimensions, but artificial ones, so they have no boundaries, the two link up and bang! You've got a safe dimensional conduit. It's quite brilliant really." He then seemed distracted. "They must have used me to harmonize the first time... would have been a rougher passage, but was obviously enough for them to get a TARDIS here for Ikat to switch over to this universes energies."
Eleven smiled. "From what Ikat gave me I know it's a incredibly stripped down version of how the dimensional barriers were handled before, but they harmonized with the dimension itself, and since they all drew on the Eye of Harmony a TARDIS was already linked and could travel through bodily. The bad news is that isn't possible. The good news however is that the conduits can be created by either pilot and can have their entrance and exit points anywhere in the two dimensions the pilot may wish."
River spotted the obvious flaw. "But doesn't that mean the Mortician and Agna can keep us from getting back, just by shutting down the link on their end if nothing else."
River's Doctor shook her own head. "This TARDIS will have a record of when they made a portal back, and we will make our portal arrive seconds after theirs, but at my TARDIS. They'll still know we are back, but they won't have much they can do about it. After that we'll get to my TARDIS and I'll set her to be able to link up with Ten's TARDIS and we'll be able to pop in for tea any old time while severing the Gifted's link to this dimension!"
The two Doctors gave bright smiles in unison.
"Can you close it?" River had looked over at the Doctor as they spoke, and then back at what she was hoping the woman could close, the Ebon Gate. The two were back in their home dimension, and the Doctor's had elected to return them to approximately where they had left moments after Agna and the Mortician had.
The coordinates didn't relate to any known planet so the presumption was that they gated to the third, still functioning TARDIS, and while River and the Doctor could have followed right after the Doctor's had agreed that the two Time Lords would not have simply waited idly for the other two to arrive and that it would be better for the Doctor to recover her TARDIS and try to pick up their trail.
Their location was chosen because they hoped they wouldn't be seen popping in and out of reality with no visible means.
Right now however the Doctor's mind was contemplating River's question, and her voice was distracted as she replied. "I don't know. I hope to. It needs to be, but I'll have to be absolutely certain before I start messing with it."
River Song managed a smile, but it was obviously sad. "Well at least you now have someone you can consult with."
That got a fairly large smile from the Doctor. Not only could she and Ten step between each others dimensions, but they could communicate between them as well. Her smile then slipped, she might actually have a third person to consult if her hopes for the Chameleon Arch could restore Doctor Donna, but her memories of the Library told her that either it didn't work, she never had the chance to try it, or it did and River never knew.
While her hopes and fears for Doctor Donna explained her soured expression they didn't account for River's and the Doctor questioned. "Are you all right River?"
"I'm not going to be able to accompany you on this next leg of your journey Doctor."
The Doctor's curious gaze first focused on River Song, and then followed the archaeologist's eyes to where they watched Father Octavian approach.
The clergyman stopped a respectful distance, and saw the Doctor look worriedly at the cleric, then the Ebon Gate, and back again, and he shook his head. "Do not worry Doctor. I am the only one who has seen it, and the only one who will. I imagine that was the true threat you were protecting us from, and by it's nature I'm just as certain you told us it was a bio-weapon because this threat is far worse."
The Doctor's voice was both quiet and solemn. "And if people were to meddle with this gateway it WOULD cause untold suffering."
Father Octavian was nodding. "Your words simply confirm what my soul has already said."
The Doctor's face then twisted in confusion. "But why are you here? Even just the bio-weapon should have kept you away."
Father Octavian's eyes swept over to River Song, and the Doctor's followed them to find the woman looking away from them both. "Because Doctor River Song is my personal responsibility. I signed her out of Storm Cage because she was a known companion of the Doctor's, and the imposter had me nervous enough to want someone with her knowledge."
The Doctor was now focused on River Song. "Storm Cage? Why were you in Storm Cage?"
River's voice was sorrowful and she couldn't meet the Doctor's eyes. "I killed a man, a good man, one of the finest I'd ever known."
Octavian interrupted. "And I'm sorry Doctor, but I signed her out, and I had to make sure she returned. The others are waiting by the Byzantium, but there will be a prison ship as well as a rescue ship."
The Doctor reached out to touch River's shoulder and the woman looked away, her face darkening more with guilt. The Time Lady looked back to the cleric. "And the Gate?"
"Does not exist. I assisted the two of you in containing the bio-weapon and took River Song into custody. You explained that the bio-weapon was brought here because the asteroids conditions would give it an indefinite shelf lie and the quarantine should be the same."
The Doctor was nodding. "If you can actually get them to erase all records of how to get here and simply leave quarantine because that would actually be better, but either way that will do."
Sometime later the three were standing by the furrow that had been caused by the crash of the Byzantium, the vessel having been tractored back into space to be hauled back to a repair yard. Octavian and River Song were waiting for transport while the Father looked amazedly at the blue box the Doctor was claiming was her ship.
Even handcuffed River Song found a smile as the Doctor grinned and unlocked the door opening it stunned man's gaze. Both women spoke in unison. "It's bigger on the inside."
The Father actually stuck his head in, seeming as amazed by the white and gold decor as the obvious incongruity between the inside and outside. He then took a closer look at the Doctor, his expression paling, awed. "Thank you, thank you Righteous Lady."
The woman smiled and then stepped closer to River Song as the Father's communicator flashed they were ready for transport.
River Song's voice was soft, but she was smiling. "You, me, handcuffs. Must it always end this way?"
That got a fairly devious smile from the Doctor, but then she frowned at the handcuffs, and River saw it. "Don't worry Doctor. Our adventures are far from over."
With those obviously deliberately enigmatic words River Song and Father Octavian dematerialized.
The Doctor sighed and walked into the TARDIS, her jacket off and hurled over a railing. River Song, Doctor, Professor, willfully mysterious, and more then a little bit wicked she knew she would come to trust the woman more then any other being still in the Universe.
The woman's hands started to glide along the controls of her TARDIS, but in what was presumably the end with the Master she managed to connect with him as well.
Of course as a time traveler beginnings and ends were quite relative things. One needn't look any farther then River Song to see that. Her heart clutched at the memory from her past life as she watched the woman sacrifice herself for not just the Doctor personally, but for the life the two would share past that point.
She had a small laugh as she wondered if she would have to prove her identity like she did this time, but she imagined that while it may certainly come up this River Song didn't seem surprised by her being a woman, just that she had become a woman earlier then River Song had expected her to.
The Doctor shook it off. Between her self having to tell River Song what was necessary to keep the time lines intact, and the archaeologist's own disdain for spoilers it was useless to contemplate it too deeply.
Their time lines would cross when they crossed, and the only certainty to it would be that the Doctor would see River Song again.
More pressing was Agna and the Mortician. Crossing paths with them was just as certain, and a far greater concern.
Yet they too would appear when they appeared. Of course the Doctor would look for them, but being two of the finest minds Gallifrey ever produced meant it more likely they would find the Doctor on their schedule.
It would be up to her to simply do her best to survive their attentions while stopping their plans.
As she made the TARDIS start to dematerialize the familiar sound filled the air, soothing her, the parking break still on because she did in fact like the noise.
Return to Doctor Who/Torchwood Fiction
Return to Main Page