The Tenth Doctor looked toward his younger self with an expression that held both pain and disbelief. He just poured his devastated hearts out about the lost love of his life, and this man was more interested in one hundred and fifty years of…
…Oh. Yes. Right. That would be a rather important item to seek clarity on. This man, this younger him, wasn’t in love with his precious Human woman. Rassilon, the man had never truly been in love, so it made sense that he could so easily gloss over that part of things – even if he did ask about her in the first place.
He made do with screwing up his face with annoyance as he shoved his grief back down into his gullet. “Forget I said that.”
Eight didn’t make eye contact with his elder self, instead he focused on the angle of a monitor and used a slap of his hand to shift it into a more desirable position for him. “Perhaps that’s why you don’t remember,” he remarked softly. “Because you give away too much…”
“That will change too much,” he finished with a nod, and he pulled his specatles from his pocket and slipped them onto his face. He leaned an elbow down onto the console in front of him and rested his chin on his fist as his right hand worked the controls. “Yeah” he little more than breathed out. “That’s it. Best if it’s forgotten.”
Silence fell with Ten focusing on the lines of communications, and Eight feigning his search of the schematics as his mind waded through a dozen questions formed from one simple little rant. With all of the potential scenarios of loss and heartache in his future, he saw at least one positive: That this man, this misguided fool who took his companion, his lover, for granted … He was as absolutely in love with Rose as he was right now.
…And her loss was destroying him.
He finally lifted his eyes to look at him. The spectacles did nothing to hide the redness in his eyes, or the tears marking his cheeks. The fact that he hadn’t even bothered to wipe them was telling, especially as he used the wrist of his sleeve to wipe at least his nose.
“She’s not dead,” Eight said finally. “Your Rose.”
Ten’s eyes flicked toward him, and it half killed Eight to see a complete lack of hope within them. “Just don’t,” he breathed out, not taking his chin from his fist. “She’s gone, Doctor. There’s nothing I can do to change that.” He looked back to his screen and let out a long breath. “Having a time machine means nothing when the time I need to go back to is locked.”
Interesting. He pressed both hands into the console and leaned down against straightened arms. “How do you mean?”
A light smile ticked up on one side of his mouth. “I’ve only encountered that once in all my lives,” he remarked with curiosity in his tone. “Where an entire time stream is locked to me. Oh, I’ve seen bits and pieces here and there that I can’t seem to get to. Mostly fixed points, of course, but some that are just .. locked.” He looked toward his younger self. “But until her – Rose – I’ve never seen an entire timeline locked in time.”
“I’m not sure I follow.”
He shrugged. “I’m not even sure that I do.” He finally lifted up off his hand. He adopted the same straight-arm lean that the man across from him was in. “It wasn’t something I actually knew about at the time,” he suggested with a sigh. “It wasn’t something I thought I’d ever need to do, really. But after we lost her – after my month-long search to find any sign of her…”
“A month?” Eight asked with a pinch in his eye.
He nodded. “An entire month, day and night, searching searing hot desert sands and battling those damn Crandinian storms.” He sighed sadly. “Nothing. No sign of her at all.”
Ten actually smiled at that and looked down to his hands. “Yeah, you will be, Doctor. Trust me when I say that.” He blew out a breath. “Anyway. In between meeting Donna, and having to go tell Jackie that I’d lost her only child.” His eyes lifted. “Jackie’s her mother.”
“I surmised as such.”
“Anyway.” He breathed out again, heartsache for the memory setting a wince on his face. “I tried to go back. Tried to see how I could change it. If I just missed something and could find a gap in time where I can swoop in with the TARDIS and rescue her before she succumbed to the storm. His brows lifted without his eyes widening, his chest grew with a deep inhale, and he seemed as confused as he was distraught. “I couldn’t. That time was locked to me. So I looked back down along our time together, where she was without me for moments here and there, and still, locked. Then I looked back along her entire timeline, jut for curiosity’s sake … there isn’t a single moment that I have access to.”
“I. See,,,” Eight drawled out long and slow, his mind quite unable to wrap around that particular quandary. “Not any point at all?”
He shook his head. “Not a second of it.” He blew out through puckered lips. “Her time with us was truly a one-off thing.”
“There’s usually a reason for that,” Eight offered after a swallow. “Her importance to one thing, one very specific thing.” He paused. “One changed decision in her past could affect her ability to be in the right place at the right time…”
Ten snorted. “She’s dead, Doctor,” he shot back angrily. “What possible mystical purpose can she serve to the universe if she’s dead?”
“Perhaps her death is important to where we need to end up?” he offered. “Her name being our strength to keep going.”
He shook his head. “Her death is making me careless,” he corrected him. “Half the time I don’t even want to carry on, and that … that .. makes me very dangerous.” He let out a breath and looked to Eight with pain in his eyes. “I’m so tired of losing everything and everyone, Doctor. So very tired of it.”
Eight nodded. “So if I’m understanding you, rather than serving her name and the love we have for her with honour by finding strength to continue, we’re insulting her memory by giving up.” He gave an exaggerated sigh of disappointment. “Oh yes indeed, what I have to look forward to as you.”
“Nice to see your unparalleled ability to empathise and be understanding toward the suffering of others is still nicely intact.”
“Sarcasm truly is the lowest for of wit,” Eight sighed out with a shake in his head. “I’m just trying to give you reason when you’re obviously unable to find it.”
“I want hope, not reason,” he argued softly. “Not reason. I’m done with reason. Reason can sod off.”
“I wish I could give you that,” he vowed honestly. “I truly wish I could.” His softness quickly shifted to indignance. “Because ending up like you – I’d rather not.”
“Little choice in it,” Ten breathed in reply. He then cleared his throat loudly. “But enough of that. Time to move on, am I right?” His brows rose high again, but this time his eyes widened with them. He blew out another breath, one of moving on, carrying on. “Like always.” He flicked his eyes back to Eight. “Anything there?”
He shook his head. He knew before they even started that he wasn’t going to get anything out of this investigation. Same craft two months ago … nothing then meant nothing now. “These ships are made to be unbreakable, Doctor. Only way to destroy it is to take it piece by piece.”
“Had a feeling you might say that.”
He didn’t look up, instead continued to look at the monitor. “Unless you speak the Kaled – which I am fairly certain we don’t - then this isn’t much help, either.”
“Would it help if we could?” he asked. “I mean to speak Kaled?”
The Doctor snorted. “Well, I know for a fact that neither you nor I can speak fluent Kaled,” he groused in reply. “We can decipher bits and pieces where necessary, but not send out a message that would be in anyway believable. But yes, it would help immensely.” He looked up at him, business now the expression across his face. “If we could send a message to the outlying ships from this battalion stating that there is no further need for them to be skulking about around here, then we can give ourselves some time to get rid of what’s already here, and fortify this planet and her neighbouring planets with forces from within this solar system.” He pressed his lips together for a second. “And perhaps some of the Kasterborean teams. From what I see here, they’re planning on using this as an outpost for something much, much bigger.”
He rubbed at his chin and looked through more streams of data, able to isolate and interpret large chunks of information to piece it all together. “If I know the Daleks, and I do, then they’re going to be setting up a network with each piece of it being vital to maintain their web of communications. Miss one piece of that…”
“Or have a way to intercept and manipulate anything outgoing from this outpost,” his younger self added with a growing smile. “Then we should be able to gain somewhat of an upper hand in knowing, and controlling some degree, what information is passed along from here.”
“That,” the Tenth Doctor drawled with a press of his tongue to the roof of his mouth. “Would certainly go a long way in helping out with today’s exercise, as well as putting a rather big dent in their plans going forward in the immediate future.”
“So it could work then?”
“Could?” Ten burst out with a laugh. “Doctor, if you have a way to be able to not only hijack this communication feed, have someone fluent in the language to not only interpret but be able to communicate in a manner exactly like the Dalek fleet, then yes. It wouldn’t only work, it would also give you the ability to hack into the Dalek casing and control their movements.” His eyes widened as he tipped a head to one side and blew out a breath through puckered lips. “Mind, the Daleks aren’t as dumb as we’d like to assume they are, and any interceptions of any of their systems would be noticed fairly quickly.”
“But not before we’ve been able to inflict as much damage as possible,” Eight said with a widening grin. He quickly moved around the console to join his younger self at the controls. He leaned down looked up at the monitor as his hands moved across the control panel. “If we can access their Voice Integrator, Projection System as well as their Space Telegraph unit, then we can route the system feeds toward the TARDIS’ Interstitial Antenna. Her Relational Information Systems can then be aligned with signals from Gallifrey, giving us almost complete control of this ship, it’s navigation, and it’s communication.” He stood up straight and slapped his palm on the console top. He looked to Ten with a grin. “Just like that.”
“Just like that,” Ten repeated with a matching smile. He held his hand up for a high-five, which was immediately slapped at hard, with a cheer to finish it off. “Brilliant!”. He purred out a deep and husky sound of self-pride. “Oh, we are clever, aren’t we?”
“Very much so.” Eight answered with a puff in his chest and a smile on his face. “Now,” he said with a clap of his hands. “We should get back to my TARDIS and make sure that her intercept of the Dalek transmissions is holding steady.” He looked at his older self. “Normally here is where I tell you to bugger off back into your own time, but I have a feeling that having you here is probably a good plan…”
“Just in case?” he ventured with a raised brow as he removed his glasses and tucked them into the breast pocket of his jacket.
“Indeed,” he answered on a low voice. “Just in case.” His face brightened. “So to my TARDIS, then?”
“To your TARDIS,” he repeated. “Allonsy!”
Eight’s face screwed up. “Allon-What?”
“It’s French,” he said with a shrug. “Means…”
“I know what it means,” he said with a sigh. “I just can’t believe you said it.”
Both men turned to walk toward their respective companions, both eager to explain just what level of brilliance they had achieved thus far. Both of them stopped, however, when the women approached them. Martha held a Dalek eyestalk in both of her hands, and Leela, with a slimy squid-like carcaaa hanging from one hand by a tentacle. Its body didn’t quite drag along the floor behind her, but the tips of the tentacles did, which left an oozing pathway of gross in her wake.
Eight’s eyes shot wide with horror. He pointed toward the carcass with a sneer in his top lip. “And just what is that?”
“Dinner,” Leela called out proudly as she flicked her hand to toss it at the Doctor’s feet. “For yourself, or for your wolves, I don’t care. It shouldn’t go to waste, though.”
“Yeah,” he drawled with disgust. “It doesn’t quite fit with my non-GMO diet. As for my pair of wolves, I’d much rather not, thank you.” He kept his eyes on the slimy sludge on the floor and slapped his tongue to the roof of his mouth a couple of times. “They’d eat me before they’d eat that.”
Ten’s disgust perfectly mirrored that of his younger self. He was thrilled that the gift of a kill from Leela wasn’t for him, but found himself looking up with concern. “Care to explain what happened?” He looked toward Martha, his eyes quickly scanning for any kind of injury. “And are you okay, Martha?”
“Fine,” she answered with a shrug as she propped up the rounded part of the eyestalk on her shoulder. She slouched on one hip. “I wouldn’t have been if it hadn’t been for Leela.”
“She’s quite correct,” Leela agreed. “While the two of you were having your little chat about, well,” she smirked. “Your emotional things. A Dalek happened upon the two of us. I didn’t feel the need to disturb you.” She looked toward her Doctor. “And as you had stated that a single Dalek was well within my control, I decided to. Well. Kill it.”
Martha looked to her Doctor with wide eyes of absolute awe. “She was magnificent, Doctor. I’ve never seen anything like it outside of Wonder Woman or Jackie Chan. Leela literally climbed the wall, held herself up there like a Tom Cruise star fish, and then just descended on it.” She walked closer to him. “Did you know, that there is a release hinge right at the very base of the head? One little flick with the knife, and it popped open!” She chuckled. “ Just like that.”
Leela had self pride in her posture and looked toward Martha. “Does this mean you’d like to take the next one we encounter?” She held over her knife. “You can use this one if you like. Don’t’ worry, I have more just like it.”
Martha was all smiles as she held up her hands and backed up a step or two. “Oh no. I don’t think I can manage it with that amount of class. I’m happy to watch and learn from you.”
Leela looked toward Ten. “I like her. She’s smart.” She turned on her heel to put her back to him. “Now treat her that way, yeah?” She flicked her hand toward her own Doctor. “Now, I heard that we’re heading back to the TARDIS, is that correct?”
“Perfect. I’ll take lead.” She dipped to one side to pick up the carcass.
“Leela, don’t, really,” Eight muttered. “It’s really, truly disgusting, and not something I want on my TARDIS.”
“I wasn’t going to take it to the TARDIS,” she answered with a shrug as she picked it up again. “I was going to put it somewhere so it isn’t found. It’s a long way back to the ship, Doctor, and it might be best for all of us if the Daleks didn’t find one of theirs murdered before we get there.”
“Good point,” he agreed as he slipped his hands into his trouser pockets and walked alongside both Martha and the Tenth Doctor. “I – uh – I’ll let you decide where to throw it then.”
Ten stared ahead of them as they exited the craft and stepped into the drakness of an Askolian night. He felt oddly safe although he could barely see six feet in front of him. “Who do you have that can speak Kaled?” he asked after a moment.
Eight smiled. “Surprised you can’t work it out,” he said with a smile. “Travelled with us in our 4th. Liked to constantly remind us that she was much, much, smarter than us…”
“Romana,” he breathed out with affection. “I have to admit, I didn’t even think of that – or of reaching out to anyone on Gallifrey for that matter.”
“I find that strange,” Eight remarked. “We do have a good support network there right now. Romana, Brax…” He looked up to Leela’s silhouette ahead of them. “Leela and Andred.”
“Yeah,” he breathed out sadly. “We did, didn’t we?”
“And we don’t now?”
He heard the worry inside his younger self’s voice, and opted for the lie. “Of course we do – I just tend to prefer to get things done on my own.”
“If that’s your preference,” he said with a shrug. “I prefer to use all of the tools at my disposal, and if Romana and Brax can help, then by Rassilon’s crest, I’ll ask them for it.”
Ten hummed in contemplation at his side. He considered the life of him back then, when he had Gallifrey in his rearview, and friends who were … well … who were just like him: Long lived, jaded, and adventurous. Rassilon he missed them all – even the ones he didn’t really like.
His eyes flicked up at the movement ahead as Leela let out a small shrill cry into the night and underhanded the carcass into the bushes. Her words from earlier then swam in his head. He Stopped short and looked at his younger self. “Hold on. You have wolves?”