At first he doesn't give much thought to the boy-- after all, there are a billion billion cheeky brunettes in the universe. The likelihood that this boy is the same one he'd seen just last week meandering about the 51st century is... well, it's highly unlikely. It doesn't matter that they have the same blue eyes, the same gravity defying hair, and the same faint scar against the bronzed skin of his neck. Because there is no way that the two boys are the same.
And that's when he begins to see him more frequently. And it's really not just any cocky brunette with a bad taste in jumpers- it's the same one. And no matter when or where The Doctor sees him, he's always the same age. Oh, it differs a bit. On the Lost Moon of Poosh he's at least a couple days older than he'd been when the Doctor had seen him in The Land of Dragons. And several weeks later, when the Doctor's eating Squid Flambe' at a stall in Atlantica, the kid swims by- flipping his blue fins and giving a little laugh as the girl next to him tosses her little Crab Friend in the air. That time he'd been months younger than he'd been when the Doctor had spied him making friends with a curly haired girl in New New York.
He sees him everywhere, sees him chasing stars during the Blitz in 1941 and again not three days later in 2040 when the Polar Ice Caps are melting.
It drives him crazy, because for the life of him the Doctor really can't figure out what this kid is. He at least superficially resembles a human. So The Doctor stares and wonders but he never approaches, never initiates contact. He's entertained dozens of ideas, that perhaps the kid was a Time Lord who'd escaped or that maybe he is a future companion of the Doctor himself. The first theory he'd disproved during a well-placed collision in the corridors of Byzantium and the second he'd discarded on the basis that he'd never seen anyone even slightly resembling himself tottering along after the cocky little schmuck.
Briefly, during a particularly memorable trip to the Smoking Pits of Allysion he'd thought that maybe the kid was him. But no, over the years he'd worn some truly strange outfits but no incarnation of his would ever be caught dead in those ballooned trousers or those hideously large shoes.
The Doctor obsesses over the kid because he's curious and because the Tardis has gotten quiet over the last few years, without Donna's witty dialogue or Rose's bright laughter to brighten it's interior. He misses Jack and he misses Martha, but most of all he misses the familiar grip of a hand in his when he's running away.
So, as things often go in the world of The Doctor events line up. Things sync together by chance and there are two world hoppers in the same place at precisely the exact same second. There is a crash, an explosion and a mildly pleasing bout of fireworks before silence, two ships caught in the midst of the Orion Nebula without power.
This is how he meets Sora.
Turns out that Sora is a Keyblade Master. He's heard of them, these humans with the affinity for a key of light. A key made to lock and unlock the hearts of not just other humans- but of whole worlds.
Sora holds his tea like he's never drank the stuff in his life which is positively sinful, and when he sips at it he grimaces. The Doctor frowns at the brunette- close range this time, and up close, yes, he can tell the kid is human but...
"Bit crowded in there, ya?" he asks, nibbling idly at the edge of a biscuit he's procured for the occasion. The kid blinks at him, blue eyes wide in the dim light of the TARDIS and says- "What?"
The Doctor grins a bit, runs his hand through his hair- Donna had called it "Rumpling", he remembers with a fond smile- "Ah well, see, it's just my own head gets a bit crowded sometimes so I know what it's like, but you..." he pauses thoughtfully, one hand outstretched and inches from Sora's cheek.
Sora bats his hand away and scowls at him- "I what?" he asks, and oh yes, he sounds quite cross, veeeery different from the cheery boy he'd been having a conversation with a moment ago.
"It's just- there are five separate thought patterns in this room and only one of them is mine-" he regards the kid over his teacup and sighs, fiddles with the settings of his screwdriver to hide just how nervous this is making him.
"-Which means the other four are you."
He lets that thought sink in for a moment, notices the way Sora's eyes brighten in recognition rather than glaze with confusion. So the kid does know about them.
"And even beyond those four, there's the faintest of traces of others too. Little wisps of thought you'd never notice unless a Telepath told you." He abandons his tea and the biscuit, vaults over the banister he'd been leaning against. He can tinker with the controls and think at the same time. Plus it'll ease the awkward feeling that something isn't quite right, the same feeling he'd had around Jack.
Sora's still staring at him from across the room. His face is pale. There are two active patterns currently weaving about his brain and The Doctor thinks that the problem lies with those two patterns. They clash too much, too different. It's obvious they'd been taken from the same source but they hadn't meshed back together as well as someone had thought they should. He thrusts the Screwdriver up against the Control Panel- wonders aloud about those thoughts.
"See, there are only two active patterns. They're at the forefront of your brain so you must feel them. The other two are buried deep. It's... hard to explain." he pauses, pounds on the paneling and twists a small blue knob. He pulls the panel off and gags as he's assaulted by the smell of scorched wires, burnt rubber, and sizzling metal.
"Those other two aren't really important. Both of them are inactive- like they're in one long coma they probably won't wake up from. They're wisps of thought, similar to the Ghosties you've got floating around."
Sora's gaping at him, the tea and biscuits abandoned on the makeshift dining table before him. The Doctor smiles fondly at him. "That said- it's those two forbearing patterns that are potentially dangerous. Obviously one of them's you. But the other's someone else."
He gnaws at his lip and wonders if this is a smart idea.
"See, I can fix that."
Sora stands up abruptly, spilling tea all over the table. He mourns the books that the tea has ruined. They'd been terribly rare. Sora's voice is shrill when he opens his mouth, demands "How?" with an intake of breath. Something flickers in his eyes, a shadow of his previous expression. And oh, now that's interesting. It's already Sentient.
"It's not all that complicated. Created sometime during the 64th Century by one K. Adams Shrew. Awful name, great invention-" he eyes the furiously clenched fists and the narrowed eyes and thinks that it's extremely likely that he isn't talking to Sora anymore. He grins.
"So what's your name?"
Not-Sora bares his teeth in a snarl and he can't help but note that that particular look really doesn't mesh with Sora's cute, cocky boy face.
"Roxas," the other boy spits out through Sora's furiously gritted teeth- oh this one's going to be so much fun- "Now spit it out. I want to hear this."
Now The Doctor's used to dealing with violent people. He's used to dealing with people who want to destroy the world and creatures that want to eat children because there's a myth somewhere in the universe that a child's heart will make you powerful. This boy that's inside Sora- he's dangerous without truly being so. Furious in ways that's mostly just sad. He's got something hidden away- a tragedy or a loss. Maybe both.
"They created it to cure Multiple Personality Disorder. It draws the other personalities out and away from the core to either be eliminated or to be... well, created. It's a clever little machine. There are databanks stored hundreds of miles away with every possible genetic perfection. You could look any way you wanted. Have your own body." He eyes Roxas, Roxas who's got this far away look in his eyes like he's thinking of asking something that The Doctor's not going to enjoy answering.
"What if..." he starts, licks his lips and regards the Doctor with hollow eyes. "-What about my memory? Could it draw someone out of that? Create them based on memories alone?" And this poor kid, this Roxas looks so hopeful, so very sad that he doesn't even want to answer.
"No. It's about brain waves and chemistry and a whole lot of science-y stuff that hasn't even been created yet."
And just like that, the light goes out behind those eyes- and while the Doctor knows that he's still looking at Roxas, he feels like he's looking at those deadened, hollow personalities buried in the depths of Sora's heart. There are tears glittering at the corners of Roxas' eyes and the kid looks like he doesn't even know they're there.
"But-" he starts, already regretting what he's about to propose the slightest bit. Roxas looks up at him with sad blue eyes and The Doctor curses his hearts because he's always had a weakness for children in pain.
" But I have a Time Machine." he pauses and sees the moment that that message has sunken into Roxas (Sora's) little head.
"And I've got a way to get you a body of your own, and well, if you don't tell- maybe we could look for this person in your memories?" he bites his lip and is distracted momentarily when the TARDIS gives a great sigh and huffs back to life. The lights are coming on again when he looks back at Roxas, ready to whoop and holler until he's blue in the face-
Roxas is grinning at him, white teeth gleaming orange in the newly resurrected lights and blue eyes sparkling- it makes him look ten years younger and The Doctor has to smile himself.
"Whaddya say? Wanna come search the stars with me?"
And really, there's no universe, no alternate reality where Roxas could ever say no.
The Doctor stares at the design on the screen, at the bedhead blonde spikes and the cornflower blue eyes, the tanned skin, the soft line of a jaw and the point of the chin. He turns to Roxas, who's beaming at him with Sora's happy-go-lucky grin, reclining against the main console of the TARDIS like he owns the place. Beneath him the TARDIS gives a happy little purr. Traitor.
He hesitates, "Really? A whole cosmos of designs and this is what you go for? Roxas, sweetheart- you could have wings! Big flappy wings with some nice soft feathers! Only say the word." He waves his screwdriver threateningly. Roxas gives him this faint little half smile- beautiful in its authenticity and shakes his head.
"I want him to recognize me."
He sounds so love struck that The Doctor wants to smack him upside the head. Instead he just scoffs, mutters "I would have gone with the wings" under his breath. He takes a breath, presses a single button.
Roxas as Roxas is breathtaking. He thinks Axel will think so too.