The swirling child-like song and the lights from the box quickly faded out into nothing. There was a whir, a click, the sounds of shifting time, and then silence – save for the rapid beating of both of his hearts against his rib cage. The Doctor, still down on the ground and on his rear, looked around himself in a frantic search for the children – so many children – who had been taunting him only a moment ago.
A voice that he expected should have been in Leela’s dulcet tones but was in a much more masculine breath filtered in from the doorway.
“I’m sorry, but did you just say Bad Wolf?”
The Doctor looked up quickly, his mouth agape, toward the door. His breath drew in hard when he caught sight of a man slightly within a shadow, dressed in a brown pin-striped suit only half visible underneath a thick camel-coloured jacket. He had dirty Converse Chuck Taylor shoes on his feet, and a thick mop of brown hair spiked to within an inch of its life on his head. The expression on his face was a mix between surprise and utter heartbreak – with his nose scrunched up to lift a lip that revealed a set of white teeth perfect to speak through, but eyes that held several lifetimes of heartache.
Quite obvious who this fellow was.
“Hello, Doctor,” he muttered dispassionately as he moaned and hauled himself up to his feet.
The Doctor standing at the doorway didn’t return the greeting. Instead he stepped out of the shadow and approached without fear. His shoulders were hunched, and his gait purposeful. “I asked you a question,” he growled. “Did you just say: Bad Wolf?”
Eight brushed himself off: a flick at his shoulder, then his sleeve, and then a tug at his cuff. He levelled out his shoudlers and looked toward his elder self. “It wasn’t me that said it,” he answered tiredly. “Not that it was actually said, mind, more like sang – by a group of school children.”
“Yeah,” Ten breathed out with a look off to the side. “That’s what I was worried about.”
Eight tried his best to appear nonchalant, although his hearts drummed a rapid beat of worry inside his chest. “And why would that be worrying, Doctor?” He queried disinterestedly. “Are you afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”
Ten’s eyes flicked almost angrily toward his younger self. “No,” he breathed out. He then looked away. His voice was soft when he answered. “No, I’m not. Not anymore anyway.”
Eight did catch the sad faraway look that settled in his eyes before those eyes shifted. “I see.” He folded his arms across his chest. Time to change subjects. “And to what do I owe the honour – or more appropriately dishonour - of your visit?”
Ten scratched at his sideburn. A curl of unknowing lifted his entire top lip to show a full set of white teeth. “Yeah. Not quite sure about that, to be honest. Normally us being thrown together is because of some grand Time Lord design..” He let out a breath and spoke in a rather strangled voice. “And being that. Well. Not too sure they’d come for me in my current timeline.” He blew out a breath and rocked back onto his heels as his hands found their way into his trouser pockets. “Which means that we have to lay blame on the TARDIS, who really does seem to be playing games with me of late. Either that, or she has a thing for space ship. Just left a rather intense situation on another ship, actually.” His eyes widened with remembrance and he blew out a breath through puckered lips. “Not one I wish to revisit again any time soon.”
“You’ve obviously managed to upset the old girl,” Eight mused with a smirk. “Or she thinks that you need to be here, for some reason she won’t share.”
“Obviously,” he muttered in agreement. He flicked his eyes to those still questioning him from his younger self.
“But I expect that you already know,” Eight offered him flatly. He circled his wrist in the air. “And as we have been here before – well, you have…”
“You expect me to know,” Ten breathed out. He then shook his head. “No idea, I’m afraid. Probably due to timelines being out of synch, can’t quite remember this particular journey.”
Eight’s brows rose high. “No?”
Ten closed his eyes and scrunched up his face, no doubt trying to exaggerate the effort of trying to think for his younger self’s benefit. His face relaxed and he shrugged. “Nope. Not a second of it. Nada. Nyet… and all other words toward the negative.”
“Well that is disappointing,” Eight said with a sigh. “I was rather hoping that you being here meant that answers would be forthcoming quite quickly and we can be off again.” He rubbed at the tiredness in his neck. “Shame, really. I did have some plans for this evening that I would have appreciated being able to keep. As I have no doubt Leela did as well.”
Ten’s eyes widened. “Leela?” he asked with rising affection in his tone. He looked around and found his old companion looking toward him with surprise and not an ounce of recognition in her eyes. His face rapidly broke out into a grin. “Leela!” he cried out excitedly as he launched into a run toward her. He barely let the woman get out a peep of surprise before he had her in his arms and swung them both in a circle. “Oh, it’s been an age, hasn’t it?”
Catching Leela off guard perhaps wasn’t the greatest of the Doctor’s plans in life. Her peep, which shifted to a growl of threat, was a warning given only a half second before her arm flicked up and there was a blade at his throat.
“Who are you to be so familiar with me,” she thundered darkly. “Put me down before I slice open your throat.”
“I’d listen to her if I were you,” Eight warned with a roll in his eyes. “Being on a Dalek ship does tend to bring out the kill first-ask later mentality.”
Leela’s eyes were still dark and full of warning as the Tenth Doctor tried hard to calm her with only a look. “And I’d listen to him,” she cautioned.
The Tenth version of the Doctor gave a nod and set her feet on the ground. He held his hands up as high as his chest in surrender as he took a step back. “Yeah,” he drawled. “Sorry about that. I seem to have developed a hug first-ask later habit myself in this body.”
“So it would appear,” Eight muttered. He looked toward the doorway, where a young woman stood in wait. Her eyes were wide and curious, perhaps slightly frightened, but she didn’t appear to have any form of rising flight instinct in her posture. She was breathtaking to behold, really, a truly beautiful woman – typical of a companion chosen by any one of himself. He stepped forward with his hand outstretched in greeting. “Allow me to introduce myself,” he sang out with a smile.
For a brief moment the Tenth Doctor looked somewhat confused, but realisation suddenly dawned. Annoyance seemed to immediately flee from the face and posture of the man in brown. He broke out a wide smile and turned to hold his hand out toward the woman. “Oh yes. Right. Martha. I almost forgot that you were there.”
Her expression shifted to mild offence toward being forgotten about. She gave him a small smile and a shrug, but didn’t shift from her position. “Yes, well, you did seem otherwise occupied. It’s not exactly the first time.”
The Eighth Doctor frowned at his older self. “Do we make it a habit of forgetting about our companions, as we get older?”
“I do it once,” he huffed. “And you call it a habit. I’ll have you know that my companions are now, as they always have been, my most important concern.”
Eight nodded. “Obviously. That’s especially clear given that your current companion is still standing alone at the door that could quite likely open any moment now and have her accosted by Daleks.”
He cleared his throat with discomfort, but schooled his features more toward glee when he turned back and held out his hand again to her. “Martha Jones,” he sang happily. “Come here and meet some friends of mine. Well. I say friends, as in the plural form, but only one of them can actually be dropped into the category of actual friendship. The other, well. The other’s more of an annoyance, a reminder of time long passed.”
Martha stepped forward as requested but didn’t slip her hand into the waiting hand of the Doctor. She instead smoothed her hands over her hair with the other hand in an effort to make herself more presentable and gave the Eighth Doctor a smile. “Hello. I’m Martha. Companion of this rather rude individual.”
“Oi!” Ten blurted with offence.
She flashed him a brilliant white smile. “Deny it, Doctor, I dare you.”
He pulled at his ear and dipped his head guiltily. “Yeah. Well. Don’t want to lie to you…”
Eight’s eyes flicked between the two, noting their comfortable jesting and their friendly smiles. “Just companions, then?” he asked curiously, not meaning to imply anything, but unfortunately doing just that.
Martha’s eyes flashed wide at the question. “Well. More than that, I suppose. We’ve been through a lot, the Doctor and I. So.” She gave him a smile. “Best friends, right?”
The Tenth Doctor nodded, a roll in his eyes suggesting that he was analysing both question and answer. “Somewhere between the two at the very least.” He then looked down to his companion. “Martha, allow me to introduce you to a very good friend of mine.” He gestured toward Leela, who was trying her very best to seem disinterested, although was picking at the nail of her middle finger with the tip of her knife to prove she was ready to use it. “Leela. We travelled together, oh, a very long time ago.” His smile was full of affection.
Leela’s eyes widened with surprise as the introductions with her Doctor had not yet been finalised. She looked toward the Eighth version of the man with a look of question as to whether or not to comment on that. After receiving a shake of his head that told her not to mind it, she stepped forward and held out her hand to the newcomer. “Pleasure.”
Martha smiled a friendly grin as she shook eagerly at Leela’s hand. “A pleasure it is.” Her head tilted down to one side. “Maybe later you and I can trade stories – or you can give me hints on how best to deal with him?”
Leela found slight amusement in that, and although she was not one to trade any form of story about her time with the Doctor, she did offer one small piece of advice. “I have found that the threat of castration at knifepoint works rather effectively.”
Eight let out a laugh. “My dear girl, of all the threats you ever levered in my direction when we travelled together, castration was not one of them.”
Her eyes flashed innocently. “It would be effective, though, no?”
“I’ve got regenerations left at my disposal,” he jested back with a wink. “If a decent regenerative coma won’t work to repair whatever damage you could inflict, a full blown regeneration would.” He shrugged. “So. No. Not really effective at all.”
Martha frowned, unable to keep up with the conversation. “Please forgive my ignorance here, but regeneration?” She looked toward her Doctor. “Is he an alien?”
“Well,” he drawled out long. His breath filled his cheeks and he spoke on a bluster. “On this planet, we’re all aliens.” He shrugged. “But I know what you’re asking – alien compared to you – and yes. He is. Quite.” He looked to Leela. “She’s Human, like you. Ancestrally speaking, of course. I didn’t actually find her on Earth.
“And where are you from, then?” she asked the Eighth Doctor directly. “And I’m very sorry, but I didn’t catch your name.”
“I’m from Gallifrey,” he answered with a look toward his older self. “Like him.”
Martha’s whole face lit up brilliantly. She looked between both men. “Another Time Lord? Oh, Doctor! That’s wonderful, another…”
“Same Time Lord, actually,” he interrupted before she could let slip anything of importance. He looked toward Martha, but jutted his chin toward Eight. “He. Is me.” His face tightened up. “Ohhh, about 200 years ago, give or take.”
“And how many in between?” Eight queried, completely ignoring Martha’s gasp of disbelief and surprise.
“On my third since you,” he answered quietly. He inhaled. “It’s been quite a couple of centuries.”
Martha was still horribly confused. “I-I don’t understand. How can the both of you be the same man?” She held up her hand before either man could answer. “I get the time travel bit. No need to bring that bit up.”
“I take it you haven’t mentioned regenerations to her yet?” the Eight Doctor murmured under his breath.
Ten lifted a hand to pull at his earlobe. “Well. No. Not as yet,” he admitted. “The topic has never quite come up.”
Martha lifted her head. “What topic?”
“Regeneration,” the Eighth Doctor answered her quickly. “The thirteen lives of a Time Lord of Gallifrey.”
Martha’s expression turned from curious to confused. “Thirteen lives?” She looked toward the man at her side. “What? Like a cat?”
The Tenth Doctor pursed his lips at the comparison. Part of him simply wanted to run with that very simplistic option. The other part figured that wouldn’t be quite the apt description of regeneration considering his younger self – who looked remarkably different to him now – was in the same room.
“Well,” he drawled with another pull at his ear. “When Time Lords, ehm…”
“When Time Lords face death,” Eight cut in with a roll in his eye. “We go through a process known as regeneration. In this process, every cell in our body is rewritten and changed. We become a new man in quite the literal way.” He pointed a finger toward his elder self. “Which makes the fact that he and I are the same person very understandable, don’t you think?”
Martha’s eyes widened. “I wouldn’t say understandable,” she corrected softly. Her face and eyes lifted to her Doctor. “Sow hen you imply that he is you…?”
“Not an implication,” Ten corrected. “Fact. This man with the questionable dress sense – and really? A Bronte fan were you in that incarnation?”
“Better than dressing like our brother,” Eight snapped back sharply. “Really, I should take a photograph and show him. I’m sure the old boy will be more than chuffed to see that we’ve finally dressed in a manner that he’d actually approve of.”
Ten held at the lapels of his jacket and held them outward. “Two piece, not three.” He kicked out his foot. “Runners, not shiny leather.”
“Close enough.” He looked toward Martha with a soft and friendly smile. “So if you’ve managed to keep up, I am indeed the Doctor – a previous version of the man you currently travel with.” He held out his hand. “If you don’t mind me remarking, it is a pleasure to finally make introduction to you. Double the pleasure to meet someone as lovely as yourself.”
“Lovely as in appearance,” she came back with a smile as she stepped forward to take his hand in a friendly shake. “I’ll take that compliment, thank you, and then remind you with a wink that you don’t know me enough yet to make any assessments to who I am as a person.”
He dropped a light kiss to her knuckles, keeping his eyes on hers. “If you’re at my side, Martha, then I’m assured that you are brilliant.”
Leela was at his side in an instant. She very deliberately removed his hand from Martha’s, giving him a rather pointed look about as sharp as one of her knives. “Propriety,” she warned him. “Remember who waits for you on Gallifrey.”
Ten picked up that inference. “Oh?” he sang out. “And who might that be, then? And on Gallifrey?” His lips pursed out curiously. “Who would you leave behind?”
Eight fired him a glare, one that was full of indignance. “Yes, who would we leave, indeed?”
“Ahhhh,” he breathed out through an open mouth. “You appear to be making an accusation of sorts.” He shook his head. “Whichever one of us did whatever misdeed you want to assign blame to, just remember, it’s all of us doing it.”
“No,” he sighed inaudibly. “Just you.”
“Anyway,” the Tenth Doctor sang out with a clap of his hands that ended with him rubbing them together. “We’re here, on a Dalek ship, investigating just what they’re up to, and how to get rid of them.” He looked to his younger self. “Any ideas yet?”
Eight narrowed his eyes toward his younger self. “As you have obviously been through this scenario before, Doctor, I would expect the answers would come from you.”
Ten winced slightly and lifted a hand to rub at the back of his head. “Yeah. We already touched on that one. I don’t quite remember this bit,” he admitted with a chuckle. “Then again, it’s not like I was exceedingly good at remembering anything when I was you – great big memory gaps in my life as you. Still,” he blew out a breath. “Can’t have been too interesting, otherwise I might have.” He stepped away from Martha and walked toward Leela. “Take travelling again with you, for example. I don’t remember that, which is a shame as I hold very fond memories of our time together.”
Leela was obviously confused, but she took the compliment with a smile. “Everything I have is because of you, Doctor.”
A grin stretched wide. “Oh yes. A husband, a child. How is old Andred? Treating you and your child well, I hope.”
“Good,” he breathed out. “Good.” He looked back at his younger self, noting the irritated and somewhat offended expression of him. “Oh don’t be like that,” he dismissed with a flick of his hand. “You’ll get to be me and it won’t bother you in the slightest not to remember it all. Moving on as we always do.”
“Nice to know it’s so easy for you,” the Eighth Doctor answered on little more than a whisper. He shook off the offence and inhaled a deep and clearing breath. “So. You don’t remember any part of life as me on Gallifrey, then? Nothing at all?”
“Nope,” he answered with a shrug and a pop of the P. He circled the room, looking at the walls, the ceiling, the floor, anywhere but at his younger self. “Not a second of it. Was in an interesting visit?” He turned sharply with a smile. “Oh, I got it! This is during the Lungbarrow incident, right?” He let out a laugh that was more of an exhale. “Not a particularly delightful moment in my life, but an important one. I remember that.”
Lungbarrow was almost a lifetime ago for him. “Yeah,” he lied in a drawl. “Something like that.”
“How is old Innocet?”
“Regenerated,” he answered. “Married to the house.”
“Good,” he answered absently. “Good to hear.” His eyes fell onto a dusty looking wooden box in the middle of the floor. It was of crude construction, each small slat seated offset against its partner to reveal emptiness within it. “That’s odd,” he remarked with a single brow lifted. He dropped into a crouch and aimed his blue-tipped sonic screwdriver at it.
“Don’t touch it!” Leela yelped out loud in warning.
He looked up at her, fixing a look at her as he poked at the box with the tip of his screwdriver. “It’s just a harmless crate,” he advised her flatly. “Nothing to be scared of.”
She shot a terrified look toward her own Doctor. She felt further dread to see the deeply defeated expression of him as he looked at the box himself. “Doctor…?”
“The danger appears to have passed, Leela,” he managed on a quiet and husky voice. “Right now, it’s just a wooden box.”
The Tenth Doctor looked up at his younger self. “Previous to now it wasn’t?” he rose up to his feet and looked down suspiciously at it.
“It’s nothing for you to be concerned with,” he answered quietly. “And by all rights, it looks like…” He stopped and frowned toward his elder self. “Are you very certain you don’t remember? Not a single moment of this? You can’t remember a single thing from your life on Gallifrey?”
The Doctor gave a dark laugh. “It was hardly a life,” he countered. “There’s a reason we left, Doctor, or don’t you remember that?” He looked to him. “Nothing for us there back then.” He exhaled. “Certainly nothing for us now.”
“Our life together,” he clarified sadly, referring to Rose, but knowing that this new Doctor wouldn’t read it that way. “How can you not remember?”
“Our life,” he shot back with a derisive snort. “I remember enough, thank you. Not a single part of it worth retaining. And it certainly appears that this particular moment in your life is worth forgetting as well – seeing as I feel like I’m living this one for the first time, too.”
Martha looked between the two: One of them looking like he’d been kicked out into the snow with his hearts in his hands, the other steeled with indignance and annoyance at the questioning. She tilted her head at the younger Doctor. “Is there any reason why it’s so important to you that the Doctor should remember?”
Leela opened her mouth to answer that one in a firm and angry manner. The Doctor stopped her with a lift of his finger to request she say nothing.
“No reason,” he breathed out. “Obviously not one important to him.”
Ten flicked his eyes toward his younger self. The sadness in his posture could rival the sadness in his on any day. His voice softened to worry. “Something tells me that I’m missing something of very vital importance.”
“If you considered it such,” Eight murmured; his hearts falling into his stomach. “Then remembering it wouldn’t be such an obvious difficulty.”
The Tenth Doctor searched his memories of being his Eighth self. Nothing of real note stood out, and so he came to the only conclusion possible – that they were on the brink of war with the Daleks. Of course this would be important to him – so very important. Immediately he felt sorrow and sympathy toward his younger self, and the heatsache he was about to suffer.
“I can’t tell you what comes,” he advised him softly, a croak inside his voice. “And beyond this meeting, Doctor. What comes from here…” He looked around the room. “With the Daleks. This, I remember quite vividly, and will never forget.”
His reply was made so quietly that no one heard anything other than incoherent murmuring. “Obviously we’re talking about very different things.”
“What was that?” his elder self asked with a hand cupped around his ear in a far too condescending manner. “You’ll have to speak up. Getting older, hearing’s going. You know how it is.”
“I said,” he retorted in a louder voice. “I don’t wish to know what lies ahead anyway. Perhaps if you used a little less hair gel, you’d be able to hear me.”
“Not that I see how Gel affects one’s hearing, Doctor,” he smoothed back. “However, I will note that you do seem quite uncharacteristically snippy today. I take it not all is okay?”
“By Okay, you mean aside from bumping into myself – which never turns out well for anyone – and finding out that I’ve become some teased-hair pretty boy who has zero care and respect toward those who choose to travel with him. Who is clearly so far inside his own narcissism that he threw away the best thing to ever happen to him…”
Darkness crossed his features almost immediately. He rushed his younger self with a curl in his lip and a growl in his tone. He stopped short of grabbing his lapels and shaking him, but only because of a warning snort from Leela. “Just what do you mean by that?” he snarled. “I haven’t thrown anything away.”
“Haven’t you?” Eight asked coolly. “Think hard on that one a moment.” His eyes raked up and down with a glare of utter derision toward the man he would become. “You know what, never mind. Your loss is my gain…”
“Which will be your loss in time as well,” he shot back in reply. “Don’t you think for a second you’ve got what it takes to change your own future.” He moved in close with eyes narrowed in warning. “I was you once too, you know. Making the very same promises to myself.”
“How would you know?” he breathed out though a curled lip. “You can’t even remember.”
Leela let out a sigh of frustration. “When you two are finished comparing the size of your penises, may we get back on task and find out just why the Daleks have landed here, and how we will save the Askolians trapped in the Arks?”
The Tenth Doctor flicked a surprise look toward her. Aggression immediately fled toward curiosity. “I’m sorry, did you say that the Daleks have taken prisoners?”
Eight nodded. His voice was now somewhere closer to normal when he addressed his older self. “Gallifreyan forces have already tried to intervene. Romana sent in five battle capsules and three Genesis Ark capsules.” He exhaled. “Her intention was to hold back the Dalek fleet while evacuating as many of the Askolian peoples as possible for transportation to Ferrioum for sanctuary. Unfortunately, the forces were defeated before the Arks could be transported to safety.”
The Tenth Doctor pursed his lips and nodded his head slowly. “Was this something she discussed with us first? Or did she just go ahead and send in the troops.” He frowned. “I would expect that if she had any plans like this in mind, that she might reach out to us first.”
“If we were contactable,” he countered quietly.
“Which I assume we are, considering you’re here now obviously at her request.”
“We were otherwise indisposed,” he answered. “Romana had the respect not to interrupt to ask questions that were pointless by comparison.” He walked around him toward the doorway that would take them back out into the corridor. “She’s also perfectly capable at dealing with these pepperpots of death – being the only person in the entire universe to have a Dalek beg mercy.”
“That is true,” he agreed with a smile. The smile fell. “And so once whatever shiny thing it was that distracted us was no longer a distraction, she came to us with the news that there had been a bit of a snafu, and could we help out?”
Leela gruffed. “The shiny thing that you refer to, Doctor is…”
“Leela,” Eight growled with warning. “It’s not worth it, so just leave it. Please.” He touched the door with the palm of his hand. “We have other shiny things to focus on right now.”
Leela made a sound in the negative. “Before you go wandering out there, don’t we have the important issue of the weapon to deal with?” She waited for his perplexed eyes to find hers and pointed toward the box. “This thing?”
“It’s a box,” the Tenth Doctor said slowly. “A wooden box. Completely benign and not anything near being any form of weapon.” He shrugged. “Well, unless you want to throw it at someone. Then it could be classed as such. Not a very effective one mind, but it could give someone splinters which could be uncomfortable.”
Eight offered his companion a smile. “The danger from whatever was in that box has passed, Leela. I promise you that.”
“I’m not entirely sure I believe you.”
“Do you trust me?”
She nodded. “I do.”
“Then trust me on this.” He flicked his head toward the door. “Now come on,” he said with a warm smile. “Let’s continue on the path we had originally set, and …. And hope we don’t get hit with a Dalek ray.”
His Tenth self stepped up beside him. He caught the younger self’s look of question out of the corner of his eye, but didn’t look at him. Instead he merely smirked. “It goes without saying that I’m coming along as well.”
“I was worried you might say that.”
“Two Doctors are better than one, after all.”
Eight rolled his eyes to the ceiling and actually let out a laugh. “The universe just quivered at the possibility.” The door hissed open and both men stepped forward into an empty corridor. Eight stopped his elder self with the back of his hand against his chest. “Doctor. For the love of Rassilon, don’t forget your companion.”