When he finally came around, the Doctor did so very slowly. He focused on the steady hum of his TARDIS, albeit slightly off key to normal, and the gentle scent of time that drifted through her hallways. His hands moved before the rest of him, slowly fingering at the sheet underneath his naked back and then sweeping his hands left and right. Leela’s sigh, and her relieved call of his name coaxed movements of his eye lids, and although heavy, he slowly blinked them open.
Leela’s face was the first thing he saw. Beautiful though it was, her face was pale and gaunt with worry. Her long dark hair hung limply down over her face and ears, filthy with mud and smoke. He lifted his hand to push her hair behind her ear, and used that momentum to lift himself to a seat.
He let out a very long moan and dropped his face into his palm, lifting his knee to support his below. “Please tell me that whatever truck hit me ended up being hit by lightning and exploding.”
“Dalek,” Martha said kindly to him from the opposite side of the bed to Leela. There was relief in her voice. “And yes. It did end up exploding, courtesy of a sneaky Cerulean with a really big gun.”
“Be wary of sneaky Ceruleans,” he croaked hoarsely with a smile. “Especially those with really big guns.” He dropped his hand from his face and let if fall lazily in front of him, supported only by the elbow still resting on his knee. He looked to the bad beside him, and to his elder self In brown on his back and out of commission. “What happened to him?”
Martha’s eyes flicked up at him. “You don’t remember?” She shared a worried look with Leela before looking back at him. “And what he did for you?”
He lifted his hand again and pressed the butt of his palm into the small valley between his brows and the bridge of his nose. “I’m afraid my memory only goes as far back as making the decision to head back to the Arks…” His eyes widened suddenly as a swarm of something new flooded his mind. He breathed out very worriedly. “And as far forward as war, pain, death, and loss.” His other hand came up to press into his eyes. He moaned out, horrified. “And, oh Rassilon, please tell me I’m still unconscious and dreaming.”
“What’s wrong?” Martha asked him worriedly as she cupped her hands either side of his head and coaxed him to look at her. When he didn’t, she physically removed his hand from his eyes and held them down.
“Neural explosion of sorts,” he muttered with a slow shake in his head. “Nothing pleasant, but nothing particularly dangerous either – depending on how these thoughts and memories got in there.”
“I don’t understand,” she muttered.
“I have new thoughts and memories,” he said with a wince. “And experiences that I’m not yet old enough to have experienced.” He looked to the man on the other bed. “I’m feeling rather confident that these are his.”
Leela touched his knee to get his attention. She waited until he was looking at her before speaking. “I suspect you’re right,” she answered. “What he did…”
“What did he do?” he questioned, rising panic in his tone. “And why did he have to do it?”
“You were shot,” Martha began with a wince after a swallow. “By a Dalek. One of their new weapons.”
He shot her a fast look, only now noticing her hair littered with blood, and a smear of orange crimson in her hairline. Obviously she’d done little more than a quick wash of her face since returning o the TARDIS. He lifted his hand to flick off a dry fleck.
She looked upward, despite being unable to see, and nodded. Her eyes shifted back down to his. “You were hit in the back,” she said softly, the memory of it still clear and choking her voice. “I don’t know for sure exactly what your true injuries were, but they were enough to kill you.”
He watched a tear track down along her cheek, the trail it left behind making it clear that she was still dusty despite washing her face.
“You were gone,” she said with a shudder. “Dead, and you couldn’t regenerate. There was nothing any of us could do.”
“Except him,” Leela offered with a flick of her eyes toward the man on the other gurney. “He knew what to do.”
Martha bit her lip and looked behind her. There was a nod in her head when she looked back to him. “She’s right,” she agreed softly. ‘He knew exactly what to do.”
The Doctor let out a long breath and laid back down on the bed. His knee was still angled high underneath the sheet. “He gave me a regeneration,” he concluded.
“More like kick started your own with his regeneration energy,” Martha offered. “You both look exactly the same as before, and from what I saw on the field, every man who regenerated ended up as someone completely different.”
“We’re supposed to,” he said with a sigh. “So if he was kick-starting my Lindos production with his own, then he also needed to get into my head to make sure that there was enough left in me to complete the healing process.” He rolled his head to look at him. “Which is why my head is full of memories I have yet to experience.” He pressed the butts of his hands into his eyes again. “And I’m very sorry to say that I was quite correct in that I’d need a strong beverage before I went in there. So full of guilt and self loathing.”
“And,” Leela warned him softly. “Very likely his head is now full of your memories…” She let out a huff. “Memories that were gone and that you didn’t want him to see.”
He tore his hands from his eyes, staring widely at the ceiling. “Rassilon…”
“Before he passed out,” she warned. “He did mention your wife’s name. I would suggest that means he saw it all.”
He shook his head and threw back the sheet that covered him. Wearing only a pair of deep grey Boxer briefs not much longer than the lowest rise of his arse, he trotted toward the other bed. He felt the hit of a soft shirt hit his back, and a curse from Leela for him to have some propriety, but ignored it to hover over his elder self.
“Sorry to have to do this to you, old chum,” he murmured under his breath as he lifted his hands to touch fingers at his elder self’s temple. “But those don’t belong to you. At least, not right now… Not until I know why.”
A hand snapped up fast from the bed to snatch a firm hold of the Doctor’s wrist. Angry brown eyes flew open and a lip curled in a sneer. “Don’t you dare.”
“Doctor,” he warned with a wince at the firm hold on his wrist tightening. “You can’t see that.”
“Cant see what?” he sneered, finally releasing the man’s wrist with a shove as he shifted up to a seat on the bed. “That not only am I a husband and a father, but that you’re mated with a woman you don’t even meet until two incarnations from now.” He growled. “The woman I .. That I…” He growled in disgust at his inability to say it. “The woman who holds my hearts and who I thought was lost.”
His eye gave a tick as he flung his legs over the edge of the bed and stepped onto the floor. “No wonder you were so damn curious to know all about Rose Tyler,” he accused, laying a long lick at the roof of his mouth when saying her last name. “Why you wanted to poke and push me to crack.”
Eight’s eyes darkened. “I had my reasons for that.”
“Oh I bet you did,” he accused with a sneer and a tic in his head. “Wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to rip through reality to come after her, didn’t you?” He leaned forward, challenge and aggression in his eyes. His voice lowered to a dangerous purr. “Well guess what. I’m coming.”
Eight looked fairly unperturbed by the obvious threat. He looked upon his somewhat irrational older self with contempt in his eyes. “Then go right ahead, Doctor. Give it a try. Rip apart all of reality like a deranged love-sick fool. I’ll be waiting for you – oh, you bet I will.”
Ten’s eyes narrowed. A challenge of this nature, oh he was good to give them himself when he knew he’d be the victor, it meant that not everything was quite as hunky-dory as it seemed. So he wisely said nothing.
Eight, however, he wasn’t quite finished. “But you know who won’t be? Rose.” He looked at him with disgust. “She has no desire to see you, Doctor. Not this particular you, anyway.”
Fierceness evaporated almost immediately. “I’m sorry, what?”
Eight paced the room wearing only his deep grey boxer briefs, but stood as proud as the term Time Lord would suggest that he should. “Take a good look inside those memories you took from me, Doctor. Don’t just pick and choose the ones you like best. I want you to actually take a good long and hard look at Rose: How she was when she came to me. How she fought against me and my affection, and then ultimately how we fell in love.” He took a stride forward. “And when you’re done, I want you to ask yourself if you deserved her, as you were then, and as you are right now.”
Martha’s face was tight in pain for the man she travelled with. She looked to the younger version of him. “Doctor, really? Don’t be so cruel…”
“No,” Ten muttered gently. “Martha. He’s right.” He looked to both women with weakness in his eyes. “Would the two of you mind please giving us a moment?” He flicked his eyes to Eight and back. “He and I, we really do have some things to discuss.” His eyes then moved to lock onto his younger self. “And I suspect there are some questions you have as well that might be best not discussed in front of the ladies.”
Eight gave a nod. “As a matter of fact, yes. I most certainly do.”
They stood shoulder to shoulder, one man in a pinstriped suit, the other dressed only in his underwear, as the two ladies walked from the medbay of the older TARDIS ship. Once the door closed, they both turned to face each other nose to nose.
“First things first,” Ten gruffed out darkly. He took a step back and flicked his hand toward the bed. “For Rassilon’s sake, put on some clothes. “I really don’t need the ability to make comparisons.”
Eight sniffed with a smirk as he snatched a t-short off the bed and pulled it up over his head. “Compare away,” he murmured. “I’m confident in what I’ve got.”
“Which is Rose,” Ten breathed out. “My Rose Tyler.”
Eight paused pulling his shirt over his belly for just a moment. He wasn’t quite expecting to have to go into it all so quickly. He rather fancied a spar of words first. “Yes,” he admitted as he finally smoothed the shirt down over his belly. “For now, yes I do.”
“And she hates me.”
Eight folded his arms across his chest and shook his head. “Again, stop picking and choosing what you want to see. I think if you take a moment to actually filter through it all, then you’ll find that how she feels for you is very much the opposite.”
He leaned his rump against the edge of the mattress, crossing his legs at the ankle, and stuffing his hands into his pockets. There was a slight downward tilt to his head as his eyes traced a low cabinet door across the room. “She compared me to Jimmy Stone.” Those last two words were uttered with disgust – and emotion mirrored by the lift of his lip and the wince in his eye. “One of the very few Humans I’ve encountered that actually fit the description of a filthy unevolved ape.”
“From my understanding of him,” Eight concurred. “I agree with that assessment.” He looked to his elder. “I will also hope that, after your were told about that particular cretin, that you found a way to sneak into his timeline to kick his arse.”
“With thicker boots than my converse,” he confirmed with a snort kick of one foot that quickly found its way back to cross in front of the other ankle. “I did indeed, which is why I find that comparison so reprehensible.”
“But is it, though?” he asked with a tilt in his head. “I mean, yes. That fool was quite reprehensible, as are his actions. But were yours really so different.” He held up his hand. “And do remember, Doctor, that what you took from me, I also took from you.” He smiled. “Right now you and I – we’re the very same mind.”
“Which is rather terrifying,” he had to admit.
“For so many reasons,” Eight sighed. “By the stars, Doctor. What did you do? What did Rassilon do?”
He shook his head. “What we had to do, Doctor. What was necessary.” He looked away. “To end it.”
“She’s not there,” he remarked sadly. “For any of it.” He looked down. “Which is probably for the best, of course. She and our son, they shouldn’t be there.”
He nodded with agreement. Then he shook his head. “But where is she?” His eyes were wide and horribly confused. “I can’t see anything between right now, and in seven years from now, when you tear off from the Time Vaults on Gallifrey and meet Charley.”
Eight’s eyes briefly widened as that memory flashed in his mind – a relationship with another woman – one that was not his wife.
Ten’s hands lifted to fist at his hair. He let out a growl of frustration. “Why is it missing? Why can’t I see anything? Even a memory block will leak from time to time and give me something: Hope, fear, loss, anything.” He shook his head, his hands still in his hair. “But that whole period of time is a void. There’s nothing there. Nothing!”
“Gone completely,” Eight agreed with a crease in his brow. “Not blocked. Gone.”
“Impossible,” Ten seethed. “Noone has the telepathic power to do that. No matter how strong the block, there’s always residue left from any memory. Always.”
“At least you have it now,” Eight offered.
“But I won’t have her,” he concluded with a long sigh. He caught the look from his younger self and shrugged. “The gap spans almost ten years, Doctor. How many of those have you actually had with her?”
“Three,” he whispered.
He nodded. “Another seven unaccounted for.” He walked to the middle of the room, crossed his legs at the ankle, and spun himself in a twirl to sit on the floor.
Eight frowned. “What are you doing?”
“Concentrating,” he answered with a huff as he crossed his legs and pressed his elbows into his knees. He covered his face in his hands and blew out a long breath. “Trying to see if I can make sense of it.”
Eight shrugged and walked over to where he was seated. With a sigh, he dropped down onto the floor, his back to his elder self, and adopted the same seated position. “I don’t think we’re supposed to try.”
“Don’t tell me not to try.”
“I’m not. I’m saying that perhaps we aren’t supposed to.”
Ten actually laughed. “Since when do either of us do as we’re told?”
“Not even when we’re telling each other,” he agreed with his own soft laugh. He straightened up his back and leaned backward a little. It wasn’t too far of a lean before his back was pressed up against Ten’s. His elder self straightened up himself, and in a moment both men were back to back, and the cross of their knees shifted position. Both of them raised their knees to push themselves back more firmly against the other.
“I hate you,” Ten admitted quietly.
“But I’m really starting to hate myself more.”
Eight turned his head slightly, looking down his shoulder as though trying to look behind himself at the man muttering about self hatred. “And why’s that.”
“Now I can see how much I hurt her,” he acknowledged painfully. “What I did to her to drive her into your arms.”
“She put herself there,” he corrected. “You had nothing to do with it.”
“But she wouldn’t have run to you if I wasn’t being such a half-cocked git in the first place.” His head flicked to one side, meeting Eight’s cheek with his own. “My hearts beat for her, Doctor. I don’t understand why I did that to her. Why I lost my ability to treat her with any of the love and respect I had for her.” He huffed. “I always gave her just enough to keep her hoping, but never enough to make her stay. And now I don’t think she ever wants to see me again..”
“You never know,” he said softly. “It’s easy to say you never want to see someone again. Words are just words, right? But I think if she did get the chance to see you again, she’ll …”
“If she had to choose,” he interrupted.
“Well maybe you should use this newfound knowledge of yours and grow up a little. Figure out how to earn back what you lost.” He flicked his chin to the door. “Rassilon, man. If the way you treat Martha is anywhere near close to how you treated Rose, then///”
“I get it!” he barked out. “I’m not a nice person. Tends to happen when you’ve suffered trauma after trauma and loss after loss.” He huffed. “It’s not like you behave any better yourself, so stop with this incessant judging of my actions when you’ve been very guilty of…” He turned abruptly, rising up onto his knee to dig a knuckle into his younger self’s back. “I’m about to yell at you, so turn around.”
He did as asked and faced his elder self with a tired expression. “What is it?”
“You dare to judge me, when you’ve pulled the shittiest move of any one of us – and that’s saying something when you consider all of the irresponsible and irrational stuff we’ve done to now.”
He held up his hands. “ Look…”
“Don’t you tell me to look, Doctor,” he snapped in reply. “You took away my companion. One who – granted – was having a wee bit of an emotional crisis at the time…”
“Hardly wee,” he corrected. “But carry on.”
“And rather than being a gentleman and bringing her home to her correct timestream – and her appropriate Doctor – you took her to Gallifrey, set up a home, married her, and started a family.” He snarled. “And worse, you let me believe she was dead.”
“She didn’t want to go home,” he replied with a tired and quiet sigh. “To you, nor to London. But you already know all this,” he growled impatiently. “Stop trying to make excuses.” He lifted his eyes to the ceiling. He filtered through the memories on his own. “Tell me about Bad Wolf,” he managed finally.
“What about her?” He was clearly frustrated. “As you’ve already told me – look at my memories, yourself. It’s all there.”
Eight closed his eyes and searched. After a moment, he opened his eyes and let out a small hum. “Your ability to show her your love for her after the appearance of the Bad Wolf, correct?”
“Yeah,” he drawled. “After I regenerated.” He inhaled deeply, holding that breath for a long moment. “I took the energy in time from Rose – the power of the Bad Wolf – and sent it back into the TARDIS. As a result of all that power destroying all my cells, one at a time, I regenerated.”
“Have you ever wondered just why it was that the energy killed you, but it didn’t hurt Rose?”
Ten snorted. “If you’re about to tell me that she’s now some immortal being thanks to Bad Wolf, then I’ll punch you.” He thumbed at his nose. “I did check on that, by the way. No. Still Human.”
He hummed and shook his head. “Very, very much Human,” he confirmed. He then let out a long sigh. He had plenty of speculative thoughts in his mind about just what may have set this course in action, but nothing concrete enough to analyse it too closely. His head hung between his shoulders. “What I’ve seen, Doctor. Well I have to admit. I’m scared,”
“You get through it and survive,” Ten said with a sigh. “I’m living proof that you survive the war. Well, if you can call this surviving of course. Which I suppose it is. It’s certainly not living as much as existing.”
“I don’t want to forget her,” he said sadly. “Or our son. I don’t understand why it has to happen.”
“Probably has something to do with the fixed point,” he said with a slight lift in his cheek. “Something about it makes you have to hide her away, not only from the war, but from ourself, too.”
“If I send her away,” Eight admitted. “Then I’m sending her to you. I’m not locking her away anywhere.”
“Well, obviously you did,” Ten charged angrily. He tapped at his head. “Otherwise I’d remember it, wouldn’t I?”
“Again. I don’t have telepathic ability powerful enough to rip something like this from our heads where it can never be found.” He blew out a breath of annoyance that shifted quickly to apology. “But I do have the power to lock it away from you now.”
“I know,” he whispered with a wince.
He winced in an expression of apology, himself. “And you know that I have to take it away from you as well,” he warned him. “I can’t leave the knowledge of what’s coming in your mind. Although at least for you, not so hard a loss as it is for me.”
“You’re right,” he said.
Ten closed his eyes and leaned his head back against his elder’s head. “Just. Please don’t take it all away. Leave me with something, anything to give me hope.”
“Until I know why it is we can’t remember her, Doctor, what entity was able to take her from us like that, and Rassilon’s robes, it could be anything.” He cleared his throat with a cough against his fist. “Until we know for sure, I can’t leave you with anything.”
“how about If I promise you that I won’t come for her?”
That made him grin a wide smile. “You say that like you think I can trust you. Which we both know I can’t. What does Brax call us? Sneaky? Can’t be trusted?”
“Never have truer words been spoken,” he growled. He lifted his hand toward his younger self’’s temple. “Well. Best we get this over with, yeah? Neither of us will allow the other to remember, right?”
“Right,” he agreed. “Back to where we were, then.”
They couldn’t hear anything behind the closed door of the med bay, although both of them tried desperately to hear. So far they’d employed several methods to hear what went on behind closed doors, but alas, the TARDIS and her own sneaky ways refused to allow them to hear. They were about to give up completely when the door finally hissed open and both men appeared, safe, and unharmed.
Eight, who was still attired in his undergarments, had one brow raised high as he looked over two women doing their all to look as perfectly innocent as possible.
“Hear anything interesting?” he queried flatly.
“Nothing,” Leela admitted with a slump. “This TARDIS is as tricky as yours it, Doctor…”
“They’re the same TARDIS,” Ten mused with a smirk as he led the group on a walk toward the console room.
“I know that,” she managed to say without appearing too embarrassed. “Anyway. She wouldn’t let us listen in.”
Martha smiled. “So if the two of you would like to be real darlings, feel free to fill us in.”
Eight looked toward his older self. “I’ll let you field that one from your companion. Me…” He looked toward Leela. “I’m not saying a word about it.”
The console room of Ten’s ship made Eight’s hearts fall. As beautiful as she was, the old girl was definitely down to bare bones. “Oh, darling,” he breathed out affectionately as he stroked a column of coral. “I’m so sorry.”
“She’ll recover in time,” Ten suggested with a rock on the back of his heels. “For now, though, I love it. Who needs expensive makeup, contouring, highlighting and false lashes? This girl is perfectly beautiful a’la natural.”
“That she is,” Eight agreed with a smile to the ceiling. The smile fell and he looked down to his elder self. “When out TARDISes dematerialise, the memory blocks will take effect.”
“I know,” Ten said with a firm nod. “If I can give you anything at all, Doctor, then I say this: It will have an end, and you will survive. When it’s through you’ll meet the love of your lives…”
“And then I’ll lose her,” he added with a sad smirk. He shook his head. “What I have to look forward to as you.”
Ten leaned forward. “Then do whatever you can to make yourself better.” He tipped his head to Martha. “Having companions helps with that.” He smiled at her. “Especially when they’re brilliant.”
Eight put an arm across Martha’s shoulder and pressed an affectionate kiss to her forehead. He looked down at her with a tender smile. “Good bye Martha Jones. I look forward to meeting you in my future. Look after this fool, please.”
“I will, I promise. And you … you take care.” She looked to Leela as the Doctor walked to the door of the TARDIS. “You, are so awesome I don’t even know where to begin.”
“And you, Martha Jones,” she sang out with a wave as she followed. “Remember, Castration by knifepoint!”
Martha let out a long laugh as the door closed behind them, and the Doctor – her Doctor – set the coordinates for departure. Her voice softened to concern. “Doctor?”
“Is everything going to be okay, with him?”
“Of course it will,” he answered back very matter of factly. “Why wouldn’t it?”
“The Time War,” she questioned. “He knows about it now.”
“Oh, nah,” he drawled out, not looking up from the monitor. “Simple telepathic memory redaction. Easy peasy flick of the fingers piece of cake for us Time Lords. When he takes off, he won’t remember a thing.” His eyes widened. “Well. Except one little tiny piece of information that won’t threaten all of reality…”
“And, well. Serve him right, really.” He looked up to the rotor column, and not at Martha. “I don’t see why he should get off so easy.”
“What did you do?” Martha asked worriedly.
“I may have left a little piece in there,” he admitted, finally looking down at her. He held his thumb and second finger slightly apart and winced as though trying to focus. “Just a tiny little snippet. Microscopic, really. Nothing even to worry about.”
“Doctor?” her voice was not a warning. “What did you leave him with.”
His eyes shifted to hers. “I left him with the knowledge that his time with Rose now has a time limit on it. Like the sands through the hourglass….”
Martha’s eyes shot open wide. “That’s horrible?”
“No,” he argued softly as he flicked up the dematerialisation lever. “It’ll make him cherish every moment he has left.” He smiled as the column rose and fell, whined and wheezed. “That’s my girl, off we go, then. Allonsy!”
“Doctor,” Martha cried out in shock. “How could you do that to him?”
“I’m sorry?” he answered back with genuine confusion in his gaze. “Do what to who?”
“Him!” she yelped gesturing to the door with both hands.
He hook his head, and looked at the door with a brow lifted high on his forehead. “I’m sorry, Martha. Who?”
Eight and Leela stepped aboard his TARDIS. Behind him he heard the dematerialisation of the older TARDIS, and knew that for now, Rose was safe with him, and there’d be no threat of a sneaky Prydonian Time Lord breaking through the walls of reality to get to them.
He blew out a breath of relief and set coordinates for his own machine to take off. “Gad that’s over with. Straight to your home, Leela?”
She nodded. She then walked around the console and looked him straight in the eye. “What did you leave him with?” she asked him without hedging the topic.
“What makes you think I left him with anything.”
She tipped a shoulder up to her ear. “Because I know you. And I know that if it concerns Rose, you’ll have every plan in place to make sure she’s safe and taken care of.”
“I’ve sealed the memory of her,” he said. “As I should have done.”
He smiled on one side of his mouth. “But it’s not gone. Not completely. It’s just, locked away for now.”
“And how does she unlock it,” she asked him, knowing him far too well to have to question him any further about his intentions. “When they meet again?”
He lifted his eyes to hers. “What makes you think they will?”
“Because I can hear your heart breaking from here,” she said softly. “You think that one day she’ll have to return to Earth, and quite likely therefore to him.” She pressed her hand into his chest. “So how does she unlock his memories of her?”
“My name,” he answered her softly. “She only has to speak my name.” He flicked up the dematerialisation lever and looked up at the column as it rose up and down, whining and wheezing. There was a flicker in his mind and behind his eyes. He shook his head, looked toward Leela and offered her a look of apology.
“I’m very sorry Leela. What were we talking about again?”