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My Past Come Home. My Future Lead The Way.

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“So Fam! Of course once I bypass this simple hiccup it should all-“ the Doctor was cut off by the TARDIS lurching suddenly, and violently. The motion launching her away from the controls and onto the floor. An action that she was frantically quick to try and resolve, stumbling to her feet and grabbing tight onto the console before it could throw her off again with a loud call to her companions. “Sorry! Sorry! This is- this is sort of normal, hang on! Just need to get the stabilisers!”

“Doc!” Graham shouted across the console at her, pressed up against the console as the TARDIS began to lurch to the side once more. “Don’t you know how to fly this thing?”

“She’s just being a bit temperamental! Hang on! I’ve got it!” The Doctor reached out, one arm looped through the handrail at the outer edge of the console to hold herself close to it as the ships lurching changed direction.

Ryan was pressed up against on of the coral pillars around the console, his arms gripping on for dear life as the Doctor’s ship decided today was the day she wanted to get temperamental. Yaz was scrambling to keep a grip of the console with one hand as she reached out towards Ryan with the other, panic on her face.

“Ryan! Hold on!”

“Doctor!” Graham snapped again and she continued her stretch across the console with gritted teeth, cursing this new regeneration’s short arms. She was all but on top of the console before she managed to hit the needed button and the resulting lurch from the ship into stillness threw her back to the ground with a thump as the lights went out across her ship with a pitiful flicker. They came back on just a few seconds later but the phenomenon itself was enough to make her worry.

“Everyone alright?” She finally asked with a quiet groan of pain at the new bumps and bruises across her person at being tossed around, “Sorry about all that, the TARDIS can get a bit fussy and sometimes she refuses to co-operate with me and-“

“Who are you? What’s going on?” The Doctor’s eyes snapped across the console at the sound of a voice she hadn’t heard in near a millennia. Her eyes fell upon the redhead who was looking especially disheveled, miniskirt and all, and she was staring at the Doctor in that questioning way that meant that she was scared but was doing her best to hide it. The Doctor remembered being so proud of her when she spoke up looking like that. Facing her fears.

“Amelia Pond?” The Doctor’s voice sounded about as confused as she felt honestly in this moment and the Scot blinked back in equal confusion over this apparent stranger knowing her name.

“Do I know you?”

“Fish fingers and custard, Pond, fish fingers and custard.” The Doctors beamed at her and watched the realisation flash in the red head’s eyes as they widened in shock and disbelief.

“Doctor?”

“Okay! What was that? Felt like we just hit the mother load of turbulence!” Rory’s voice had both of their head’s snapping round to the doorway that led further into the TARDIS. The man didn’t see them at first, instead he paused in the doorway and looked out at the console room, his face the picture of utter confusion, “uhhh, Doctor? Did you redecorate while I was asleep? I was only sleeping for a few hours? How did...?”

“Rory! Hello! Both of you!” The Doctor tossed her arms around Amy who was still staring at her in shock but the woman appeared to have enough wits about herself to hold her back.

“Uhhh hi?” Rory looked to his wife who hadn’t looked away from the Doctor yet who finally pulled back, “do we know you? Where’s the Doctor?”

“Present! Sorry, something must have happened, little hiccup. Maybe our TARDIS’s collided or something? Or short range time teleport, who knows?” She paused and her eyes widened, “oh, that means the Fam should be with your version of me.”

“I’m sorry what?” Rory finally made it down the steps to his wife’s side and the Doctor darted forward to hug him quickly. The motion to which Rory just stood there, confused, for most of it.

“She’s the Doctor. I think somehow we’ve traveled to the Doctor in the future. Where... he’s a woman? Apparently?” Rory’s face went blank for a moment as his brain raced to catch up with the information and the Doctor grinned, pointing to Amy with a proud look thrown her way.

“100 points to the Scot.”

“Okay, great, thanks. How? Is my next question. You were a man?”

“And now I’m a woman. See we can regenerate when we’re dying and-“

“You died?!”

“Dying, keep up Pond. Anyway, when Time Lord’s are dying we can sort of cheat death. Regenerate but it changes every single cell in our body. There was always a chance of gender change. Not that that matters.”

“Right.” Rory finally seemed to react, shaking his head a little as his hands flailed for effect, “right sorry. So I’ve gone to sleep, got woken up by the TARDIS going crazy and now we’re in a future TARDIS with a future Doctor who’s also a woman? I’m getting this right?”

“Yup”

“Pretty much.” Amy muttered, then looked back to the Doctor who a still uneasy smile, “okay then Raggedy man- er, Woman, how do we get back to our own Doctor? And I’m assuming you want whoever you’re travelling with now back.”

“Would avoid any possible paradoxes yeah. As lovely as travelling with you both again would be.”

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“Blimey Doc! Call yourself a pilot, but I wouldn’t have called that driving anything spectacular.” Graham grumbled as he hauled himself back up onto his feet, both hands gripping the console to aid himself. Once up, he looked up expecting to see the Doctor across from him and instead froze, eyes widening, as he found that they were in a completely different room. It had a distinctly TARDIS ‘feel’ to it but it was much bigger than the console room that he was used to. Much brighter as well. Letting his eyes flicker around before they went down and he gaped at the fact that this was two floors. He’d been just about to ask for the Doctor, to see if she could explain when a voice had responded to his words, grumbling and distinctly male.

“Oi! I’ll have you know that I’m a great pilot, one of the best. One bumpy ride does not a bad pilot make – oh.” Both men locked eyes with one another, the stranger was leaning around the central column as his eyes raced over all three of them, utterly bewildered, “You’re not the Ponds.”

“Who’re you?” Yaz was quick to step forward, police training kicking in as she demanded an answer and put herself in front of her two friends. While she took control of the conversation to ask questions Graham moved to quickly help up his grandson who was still only halfway through the motion of hoisting himself back up onto his feet. “What’s going on? Where’s the Doctor?”

Graham spared another look around the room, feeling his heart skip a quick few beats as he realised that she was right and that the Doctor was not in the room with them. Instead they were here with man who seemed just as confused as they were. He was young looking, with floppy dark hair and green eyes which had focused mainly on Yaz as she’d stepped forward. He was dressed oddly, in a bow tie and a tweed jacket, like a man three or four times his age.

“I’m the Doctor. How did you get on board my TARDIS and where are my Ponds?” Those green eyes darkened considerably as he stepped away from the console towards Yaz. She almost took a step back as he advanced on her but held her resolve and stood her ground as he stopped in front of her.

“You’re not the Doctor. We know the Doctor. And we know the TARDIS, it doesn’t look like this.” This seemed to bewilder the man further.

“Course I’m the Doctor! This is my TARDIS. Why wouldn’t I be the Doctor?”

“Cause you’re a bloke!” Graham piped up this time, watching with no small internal amusement as the man’s head snapped downwards so he could look over his own body, as though affirming his gender to himself before he looked at Graham and gaped, aghast.

“Of course I’m a bloke! I’ve always been a bloke and-” he cut himself off, eyes going wide for a split second before he shouted suddenly, “Oh!” The three humans jumped in synch and he began gesticulating wildly, an excited grin spreading across his face as he bounded passed Yaz towards Graham, getting just a touch closer than Graham’s personal space really enjoyed, “You must travel with a future me? I thought I was on my last regeneration of this cycle but if you’re here and telling me I’m a woman when I’m with you then that must be it! Blimey, a woman. It’s about time, mind you, I’d thought it was never going to happen.”

He’d broken out in an grin, sitting a hand on both Graham and Ryan’s shoulder each, squeezing excitedly for a moment before he’d whirled around and raced back to his console to begin flipping some switches, giving the three humans a moment with each other. Yaz backed up until she was next to them again and they began a hushed conversation as they tried to help each other catch up.

“She did say she used to be bloke.” Ryan pointed out quietly.

“Yeah, but she’d said white haired Scotsman, not… Anyway, I’d thought she was pulling our legs with that.” Graham motioned over to the Doctor who glanced around to them with a smile, not even trying to hide that fact that he was listening in. However, he kept his mouth shut and gave them the moment to work through this on their own.

“Clearly she wasn’t” Yaz pointed out with a sigh, “Maybe she’s changed more than once? I wish she’d tell us these things, might be nice to one time go into situations like this actually having a clue of what was going on.” She’d grumbled the last part and then jumped with a soft yelp when the Doctor was suddenly next to her, his voice loud from the previously empty spot.

“White haired Scotsman? Interesting. Sorry, ears were burning. Also, in my defence in the future, I, me now, will have to forget all this to avoid messing with the timelines, so she wouldn’t have known this was going to happen. I’ll forget you once you’re gone, so that I won’t remember this when I actually meet you for the first time. Think of a Time Lord brain treating it sort of like a recycle bin, slots it in here until I can click and restore it once it’s safe for me to do so. This sort of thing doesn’t usually happen, normally companions don’t get,” he whirled his hands around in a messy circle, “swapped around like this, very abnormal. I would say our ships collided but that would’ve brought everyone on board rather than swap folks out. Hopefully this means the Ponds are with your future version of me.”

“Who’re the Ponds?”

“Amy and Rory, my companions. They travel with me, like you travel with your version of me. The woman me.” He said the last part a little giddily, like he was seconds away from giggling at the prospect of being a woman at some point in the future.

“Right, course.”

“So, what do I look like then? Am I ginger?”

“No, blonde.”

“Blonde?” The Doctor huffed quietly in disappointment before tossing a hand up flippantly, “That’s fine, I guess.” As he was speaking Yaz reached into her pocket for her phone and began scrolling through her pictures for the last picture she had in her folder that had the Doctor in it then turned it around for him to see. He all but snatched the phone from her hand, eyes running over the only blonde woman in the picture, stood between the three of them with her arms around two of their shoulders. “Huh.” He’d been about to toss the phone back when there was a sudden loud beeping from the console, and he twirled towards it quickly, forgetting for a moment the device in his hand. “Anything else?”

“I think it’s her first time as a woman, she still calls herself a man sometimes,” Ryan shrugged, the three of them following him closer to the console, “then corrects herself.”

“Understandable.” He called over from the other side of the console, nodding his head, before he craned his head around to look at them again, “what’re your names?”

“I’m Ryan, that’s my grandad Graham, and she’s Yaz.”

“Nice to meet you all.”

“So how are we here? And no with our Doctor, if you don’t think it was just TARDIS’s colliding in the night.” Yaz asked, smiling when the man audibly snorted at her choice of words.

“No idea.” He reached for the monitor, tugging it around to face him so he could read over the incoming data, “this’ll be her? Ah, wonderful, she has the Ponds. Co-ordinates to meet up incoming.” He turned as he waited, rounding the console so he could perch against it facing them with a friendly smile, “so, how long have you been traveling with her?”

“Just over a year now, I think,” Yaz said, “time works weird in the TARDIS, so who knows.”

“Good, good. Always good to see it with someone.” The console beeped again, and he moved back around to the screen. “Right! Well, here we go, let’s get things righted.” He began to input the co-ordinates and raced around the console setting up their flight path before he stopped, hand on the take-off lever as he threw another grin their way. “Geronimo!”

He pulled it down and with flourish, visibly showing off, and all the lights went out as the TARDIS plummeted, for the second time, into darkness. When they flickered back onto life again, the TARDIS giving a very pained sounding groan, the three future companions of his future self were no longer there, instead there stood a very confused and partially terrified looking redhead that definitely wasn’t Amy.

“Where am I?” she whirled around to look at him once she noticed he was there, and the Doctor could only gape in shock.

“Donna? What?”

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“Right.” The Doctor stepped back from the console, nudging the screen out of the way as she looked back to the Ponds, “that’s the co-ordinates sent, he’ll be there.”

“Bit weird, isn’t it? Gotta be, meeting a past or future version of yourself.” Amy asked with a slight tilt of her head and the Doctor beamed at her. For as concerned as she was about what had actually happened to bring them here, she was thrilled to have them here.

“It’s just a time travellers thing. There’s every chance that you could run into past or future versions of yourselves as well. As a Time Lord, it’s just an everyday hazard. Obviously one that you have to try very hard to avoid. And he’s just one, I’ve run into plenty of my past incarnations before. Not in this body yet, but in others. Certainly, when I was him.”

“That a spoiler Doctor?”

“Not at all Pond, I would never dare such a thing.” The two women threw each other teasing grins and it was Rory who finally coughed pointedly and motioned to the console.

“Shouldn’t we be heading to meet him? You said something about paradoxes. And the horrible, horrible possibilities that come alongside those?”

“You get a little leeway with them, but, you’re right.” She went quiet and moved to the console and the married couple shared a look. A matching one of concern and, like usual, Amy was the one who braved speaking up again.

“So how long has it been for you? Since us?”

“A long time.” Amy rolled her eyes at the cryptic answer and uncaringly pushed further.

“How long is a long time?”

“About a thousand years. Give or take. I sort of lost count after I hit two thousand, didn’t really seem important to keep measuring it after that point. I’m just old.” She gave a sad smile and both Ponds looked at her with shock on their faces. Amy surprised the Doctor again by darting forward to pull the Time Lord into a tight hug and when she leaned back again, she reached up to cup her face, giving her an uncharacteristically stoic look.

“Alright raggedy man- woman, whatever, you’re not alone?”

“No, got my Fam.”

“Good. God you’re old.”

“I do miss you though, both of you.”

“Really?”

“Course. You were my best mate, how could I not.” Amy smiled, her eyes getting watery, but she stepped back, letting her hands fall back to her sides as the Doctor moved away from her grip and focused on the console. “Now, come on, let’s get you two back where you belong.”

Both humans said nothing more as she began setting co-ordinates and preparing for take-off. She raced around her console, giving it her full energy and giving them a grin to even somewhat remember this her by. Their timelines would correct themselves once they were apart. The Ponds weren’t going to remember this her once they stepped back into their own version of the TARDIS.

“Ready? Hold on tight.” The three grinned at one another and the Doctor pulled the take-off lever down and promptly cast the TARDIS back into darkness as the ship powered down momentarily with an unhealthy sounding shudder. She glanced up at her ship, worry coursing through her veins, even after the lights came back up and the TARDIS went back to sounding like normal. “That’s really not supposed to happen. This isn’t good. Ponds, you alright?”

“Doctor?” When a high-pitched American panic sounded, rather than Amy’s calm Scottish voice, the Doctor’s head snapped up and she locked eyes with a face she hadn’t seen in even longer than the Ponds. Perpugilliam Brown gaped at her from the other side of the console from the exact spot Amy and Rory had been stood in just moments ago. Her big brown eyes glimmering in fear as they darted around this strange looking console room. “Where’s the Doctor? Where am I? Who are you?”

“Peri?” The Doctor’s brain was really struggling to come up with answers now as she tried think of an explanation for what was happening. It made zero sense for the TARDIS to power down like that when the take-off lever was pulled. Definitely hadn’t been a collision. One set of companions getting swapped was one thing. Those said companions getting swapped again with different companions was another thing entirely.

“How do you know my name?” Peri started backing up as the Doctor took some steps around the console towards her. Her back hit one of the arching pillars around the console and the Doctor was quick to hold out her hands in a reassuring gesture.

“Peri, it’s okay. It’s me. The Doctor!”  The fear gave way to confusion as the other woman’s face fell, eyes raking over the Doctor’s form in clear dubiousness.

“You can’t be the Doctor, you’re a woman, and he’s a man.”

“Yeah, well, going by your age I’d say that you’re with that me with the horrifying coat and the fashion sense to match. Do you remember how I changed? From cricket to ego maniac? I regenerated. Have a dozen times since then.”

“But you’re a woman.” Peri whimpered out again, “you can’t be, you can’t just change your gender. People can’t just do that.”

“When have I ever been people? Course I can.” The Doctor scoffed slightly, crossing her arms as she perched against the console just a bits away from the American who was still pressed up against the column, “You humans, so obsessed with the ideas of everything needing to be labelled and fixed. Gender’s not a fixed thing for Time Lords. You just are what you are. Simple as. You lot will eventually get on the same wavelength. Eventually.”

It seemed the dismissive nature of her words was enough to convince the human because Peri suddenly gave a small smile and a little absurd giggle burst free from her.

“You’re really the Doctor?” the Doctor smiled back, nodding her head. Then suddenly she had an armful of the American as Peri darted forward and threw her arms around her in a tight hug, “I can’t believe that you turned into a woman.” She pulled back to look her over then frowned, ultimately concerned, “what has even happened? How am I here?”

“Well, about that, I have no idea. Any chance you saw a Scottish ginger woman there before you got here? Or an older man from Sheffield? Or, I dunno, anyone else?”

“No. I was in the TARDIS with – well, you. The other you. Then he tried to take off and the lights went out when they came back on, I was here.”

“Great. Thank you, very not good.” She whirled away from Peri to look back at her console, searching over it as though it may give her the answers to this problem.

“What’s happening Doctor?”

“Like I said, I don’t really know Peri. My Fam disappeared, then got replaced by another set of companions that I’d had, Amy and Rory. Then you replaced them. So, something very, very bad is happening. At first, I’d just thought it was some kind of collision gone awry, but with you here, now I think it’s something more.”

The silence that followed was broken by music starting up from somewhere on the Doctor’s person. ‘Whoop, whoop. It’s the sound of the police’ played on repeat and they both stood, confused, for a split second before it clicked in the Doctor’s brain and she was frantic in trying to fish out her mobile phone. The personalised ring tone gave it away and the Doctor was beaming excitedly, a thrill of pride rushing through her as she smacked her own forehead as the information, that should have been obvious, came to her.

“Oh Yaz, you are brilliant. I forgot about the phones!” She quickly pressed the button to answer the phone and held it up to her ear, concern words rushing out. “Yaz? Are you okay?”

“Not Yaz I’m afraid, though I do like her. Brave. Must say, wasn’t expecting the accent. You’ve gone northern again.” It was odd, hearing one’s own voice from the past through the speaker of your own phone, but the Doctor’s life was odd in general, so this was anything but new, just a little jarring.

“Did you steal my companion’s phone?”

“She never took it back! Big difference” Her 11th self sounded offended at being accused of theft and she smirked and rolled her eyes. He paused then, hesitant as he spoke, “so… what are the chances that when you tried to take off the Ponds didn’t disappear and get replaced?”

“About as good as the chances are that the same didn’t happen for you with the Fam.”

“Well… this isn’t good.”

“No.” she paused, glancing up to Peri before her eyebrow quirked upwards and she asked, “who’d you get?”

“Donna. You?”

“Perpugillium Brown.” The Doctor smiled in amusement as Peri’s face scrunched up in clear displeasure over her full name being used and the Doctor over the phone let out a delighted sound.

“Well, tell her I said hi.”

“Can do. So, what happened with you then?”

“Tried to take off, lights went out, everything powered down for just a second and, bam, someone else there when everything fired back up again. You?”

“Same.” She paused to think, “someone needs the shields down to do something like this. So, power down the TARDIS, somehow, for just half a second, jumble things up and voila, mismatch of companions and some very confused Doctors. But what for?”

“Why not bring us along?”

“Maybe they know having more than one of us in one place is a bad idea? Jumble up the companions and keep us busy trying to hunt down the ones we’re actually travelling with while they do… whatever they’re doing.”

“You think this is all a big distraction?”

“Certainly seems that way. Is your power back up?”

“Running at full power, though I don’t know if I should risk a take off again.”

“Not that. Run a deep scan, I’m doing the same.” She set the phone to loudspeaker and sat it on a flat surface on the console so she could have her hands free to set about following her own instructions.

“It’s the vortex.” He countered her, but his voice also sounded a little more distant so she didn’t doubt that he had down the same with her in setting the phone down in order to do as she’d said, “nothing can be out there, that’s impossible.”

“And yet our friends are being swapped and something’s causing these power drains, just take a look.”

“I am. There’s nothing there. Just vortex stuff.” She frowned as her own scans came back the same, an uneasy feeling settling in her gut because none of this felt right. People and time were being displaced inside her ship which was meant to be immune to this stuff.

“Did you include non-biological anomalies in that scan?”

“What? Of course I did, what do you take me for?”

“Very easily distracted if I remember correctly.”

“I want my Ponds back. Nothing could distract me from that.” The silence that followed from her end of the line stretched on for just a split second too long and then she burst back into action.

“Alright, so, we can find nothing out there and according to the TARDIS there’s nothing internally the matter as well, other than lovely Peri over here being out of time. I don’t like not knowing what’s out there. If there’s even anything out there. Also, the Ponds are now stuck with him with the coat and I dread to think how he and Amy are gonna clash.”

“Might be down a life a little earlier than expected.”

“The Fam should be fine with sandshoes, right?”

“Oh yeah, loved making friends that one. Until we get this sorted though we’re gonna have a constant rotation of companions every time we try and take off. So, any ideas?” The two Time Lords fell silent for a moment, both wracking their brains for any kind of solution. It was her first who came up with an idea.

“Oh!” she stood upright suddenly, eyes wide, a plan slowly forming in her brain. It was mad. And horrible dangerous. And wasn’t going to be pleasant whatsoever. But it might help in the grand scheme of things.

“What?”

“I think I have a plan.”

“What is it?”

“Call you back.” She reached over and hung up on him then spun to Peri with wide, apologetic, eyes. “Peri Brown, I’m gonna need to try and take off again.”

“What? Why? I’ll get swapped around again though?”

“I know, and I’m sorry. But there’s someone in particular that I need here. They’re the only one that has something I can use to get somewhere that means I can maybe stop this all from happening. Wherever you end up, whoever’s there in the TARDIS, however it looks, it’ll be me. I might not have met you yet or it might have been over a thousand years since I last saw you but just explain what’s happening best you can. I should understand that something’s going wrong by now anyway.”

“Doctor, please. I-”

“Do you trust me, Peri?” she caught the woman’s eye and the two stared at one another, Peri’s shoulders eventually dropping as she heaved out a heavy sigh, then nodded.

“Yes.”

“Clever girl. I’m sorry though, I’d really rather get you back to your timeline safely myself, but I can’t do that unless I do this. You’ll be safe. I promise.”

“Don’t say that. You make that promise and that’s usually where we get hunted down by some kind of monster. Those words make sure that something goes wrong.” They smiled at one another and the Doctor put her hand on the take-off lever again, the co-ordinates from before still imputed. “Good luck Doctor.”

“Thank you, Peri.” She pulled the lever. The lights went out once again.

 

Chapter Text

The Doctor was trying really hard to not feel terrible about pulling the take-off lever again. At first Peri had been replaced with one Sarah Jane Smith. She’d taken the few minutes to explain to her, thrilled at having her here. Once she’d gotten over the initial shock of the Doctor being a woman Sarah had accepted her plan without much resistance, wishing her luck before the Doctor pulled the lever again and the same thing happened again. This time Sarah Jane was replaced by one Dodo Chaplet and Steven Taylor. The male immediately tugging Dodo behind him in a defensive gesture and the Doctor blinked, surprised for just a split second before she broke out in a grin with a soft laugh.

“Oh, hello. Sorry about this.” She reached for the take-off lever again and repeated the same process yet again. It happened about 9 more times, all different people from her past, sometimes individuals, sometimes the groups that they’d been in when travelling but all people that she missed dearly and felt awful about doing this too. It was just easier and faster to not take the time to explain because they’d be gone again just a moment later.

When Jo Grant finally got replaced by a familiar woman with wild blonde curls the Doctor all bud sagged in relief and finally stepped away from the take-off lever to greet her, hoping for the first time in her long life that she wouldn’t have to touch that damned lever again, not until this whole mess was sorted.

“River.” Her wife turned, locking eyes with her, confused for only a moment before they widened in realisation and River let out a laugh. Not a malicious one, just a bemused one and a grin spread across her face.

“Hello. Do I ask what’s going on?”

“I wouldn’t have a proper answer to give you, I’m not fully certain myself. But I’ve cycled through a lot of my companions to get you here. I need your vortex manipulator. I needed you here, you were my only hope.”

“I’m not the only one with a vortex manipulator to have travelled with you.” River pointed out with a smirk, hand already beginning to slowly remove the device from her wrist.

“I know that. But you’re the only one who travelled semi-full time. At least longer than either of them. Jack’s wasn’t prepped for more than one person back when he travelled with me full time, and everything after was just one-off trips. Missy didn’t have hers anymore once she was onboard. Only viable option, you were.”

“You romantic you.” River purred teasingly and the Doctor rolled her eyes with a pleased blush, holding out her hand for the device. Just as she was about to hand it over River paused, hand retracting just a fraction as her eyes flickered down to the Doctor’s hand then narrowed.

“River?”

“Ring?”

“Pardon?”

“Your ring. Wedding ring. Where is it?” River watched the Doctor’s expression become one of silent panic as her brain began to race to come up with an excuse as to why she didn’t have that ring somewhere on her person, holding back an amused smile as she raised an eyebrow.

“Ah, well, see. When I regenerated, smaller hands.” She lifted up both her hands, wiggling her fingers in example, “I assume it must have fallen off. Then the TARDIS went a little crazy and threw me out. Literally tipped upside down and I fell a few hundred feet down into 21st century Sheffield. It’s where I met my Fam. I haven’t been able to find it in the TARDIS, she changed since the last console design. So, I can only assume it went out the door with me and a mountain load of advanced physics theory papers and a lot of university marking that I never finished. And a couple random doodles.”

“So you lost your wedding ring? Is what you’re telling me?”

“Yeah… guess I am. I had just died, in my defence.” River finally cracked a smile, ducking her head as she laughed softly and rolled her eyes fondly at the pout on her wife’s face. She tossed the manipulator over to the Doctor who caught it against her chest, blinking in surprise at the laugh.

“As soon as you’ve sorted this, you better find it.”

“Yes dear.” The Doctor was two steps away from sounding sarcastic and River raised an eyebrow once more and the Time Lord flushed, sounding much more sincere when she spoke again next time, “right, yes. I promise.”

Her fingers fumbled as they set about redoing the buckles to strap the manipulator to her wrists and River stepped forward, a touch closer than she needed to be and brushed the Doctor’s other hand out of the way so she could take over and do it for her. She kept eye contact the best she could, only glancing down when the straps got fiddly.

“I assume you want me to stay here?”

“Only because I don’t want to leave the TARDIS undefended here in the vortex. If someone can do something to make her power down, I-” River sat a finger against her wife’s lips and smiled at her understandingly and nodded.

“She’ll be safe with me.” River’s finger moved until her thumb and pointer finger took gentle hold of the Doctor’s chin, she’d just started to lean in, just felt the Doctor’s breath softly against her mouth when the Doctor’s phone had gone off again.

Whoop whoop, it’s the sound of the police’ playing on repeat again until the Doctor pulled back and reached for the phone with a grumpy frown on her face. She lifted it to her ear and her tone was short as she spoke up.

“What?”

“I don’t appreciate being hung up on, you know.”

“Yeah, well I had to do some things, swap through some people till I found the right one.”

“Who’s that then?” River pressed up against her shoulder on the side with the phone, lips near the mic on the phone as she purred out her words.

“Hello sweetie.” There was a pause on the other end of the line.

“Oh, erm, hello. Why are you there?” Her 11th self stumbled out his words and the Doctor held in a laugh and continued as though River hadn’t just spoken.

“I need your spatial co-ordinates.”

“Sending them now.” He paused, “why?”

“When I say to do so, I need you to drop your shields.”

“Why?” he sounded mildly alarmed this time.

“Because if you don’t, I’ll become scattered atoms.” She sat the phone in the hand attached to the arm with the manipulator strapped to it and inputted the co-ordinates he’d sent to her TARDIS. “Ready.”

“This won’t be pleasant.” River told her, the Doctor’s hand resting over the activate button. She grimaced in response.

“When is anything I do? Wish me luck?”

“Don’t become atoms. Good luck.” The two shared smiles and the Doctor spoke again, addressing her former self over the phone.

“Drop your shields, now.” She pressed the button and promptly disappeared. Once she was gone River smiled, shaking her head fondly before she reached out a hand to stroke the console for a moment.

“Hello, dearie. Have you missed me? I bet it’s been a long while for you since you’ve seen me.”

><><><><><< 

Travel via Vortex Manipulator was rough. Travel via a Vortex Manipulator into a TARDIS was even worse. She’d landed, felt her atoms knitting back together (always a horrifying feeling), and promptly dropped to her hands and knees with a pained gasp. Her phone tumbled from her hand and she heard the mirroring thump echoed from somewhere to her left. Two sets of hands were on her in an instead, a gentle touch rubbing her back whilst the other gripped her shoulders.

“Doctor?” Donna Noble sounded worried to her left, “who is she?”

“Me.” Her 11th self turned his attention to her, frowning as she looked up to where he was crouched in front of her, “that was incredibly stupidly dangerous.”

“You would’ve done the same.” She countered and he relented easily with a shrug, pushing himself back to his feet and offering her a hand to help her up. She accepted it and he hoisted her to her feet. She shook her head, trying to clear away the last of the fuzziness in her brain from long range transport like that through time without casing. Hell.

She looked to her left as the hands that had been rubbing her back now moved to grip her arm and help keep her steady and she smiled, in open affection, at the red head next to her.

“Every time I think I’ve gotten over just how alien you really are,” Donna started with her own soft smile back, “you go and do something like this. Are you really him?”

“Yeah. Hello, Donna.”

“How’d you get here? I thought the TARDIS’s were acting funny.” She held up her wrist, pulling back her jacket sleeve to reveal the device strapped to it.

“Vortex manipulator. Poor man’s time travel but it does the job. Not pleasant in any way. But I’m here.”

“What’re you doing bringing River Song in?” her other self called from next to the console and she smirked at him with a coy shrug.

“We like her, a lot. So, don’t worry. She’s not a mystery to me. I know everything there is to know.” There was a pause and she grinned, “and I’m not telling you. Believe me, it was a fun rollercoaster into knowing. Sometimes literally. You’ll enjoy it.”

“Did you have more of a plan passed getting here?” bowtie asked, coming to a stop again in front of them and fiddling with the cuffs of his jacket, his eyes still running over her in intrigue.

“Course I do. It’s… I mean it’s part of a plan. More like an optimistic quarter of one but it’s still something. We should get a shift on though, the longer we spend with everything out of whack, the worse the mess is that has to be fixed.”

“You just assume I don’t have a plan as well?”

“Do you?” she raised an eyebrow at him, and he squirmed for a second before sighing.

“No. What do we need to do for yours?”

“We need to be able to scan the Vortex and surrounding areas from outside of it. Too much interference from within, especially if all of us are trapped inside of it all at once.”

“But there were only ever two species capable of that.” Bowtie pointed out and she nodded, he continued on in the same pressured tone, “only two species in the whole of time and space. One hates us and the other is dead.” He didn’t miss how she flinched at his words. He frowned but said nothing.

“Yeah. But, it’s fine. I have a friend who can help.” She’d said the words flippantly, already her hands were inputting new co-ordinates that she already knew.

“A friend?” she nodded, peering back up at him and he shrugged, “Is there a reason you came here first then, if you knew where to go?”

“If you wanna stay here they be my guest, I was being nice. Two heads are better than one, especially when they’re ours.” She smiled at him, bemused and he rolled his eyes but nodded.

“You make a good point.”

“Course I do, one and the same.”

“Extra good point.”

“Donna.” The Doctor looked to the redhead who’d been watching them, trying not to appear as lost as she felt, and the Doctor stepped towards her, hands sitting on her upper arms. “Look, I hate to ask you this. But the TARDIS can’t be left on its own in the Vortex.”

“You want me to stay here? On my own?” Donna’s eyes widened, “are you kidding me?”

“We can’t leave the TARDIS here undefended Donna.”

“And what am I supposed to do if someone does attack? Shout?”

“To be fair, if you were shouting at me, I wouldn’t attack.” Bowtie quipped from next to the console and Donna’s glare turned on him, utterly unimpressed.

“I’ll shout you in a minute you bloody Spaceman.”

“Donna.” The Doctor squeezed the woman’s upper arms again to capture her attention again, her tone soft and apologetic, “I don’t think that anything will actually happen, but we’d feel better having someone here watching over her. Also, the place we need to go to isn’t safe.” Donna continued to look frustrated and the Doctor frowned for just a moment before an idea came to her and she shoved her hand into her pocket to fish out her mobile. She held it out for the other woman to take, “here. Look for the contact Yaz. He has her phone.” She motioned her head towards her other self, “if anything happens, anything at all, you call, and we’ll come back.”

“I don’t like this.” Donna told her, but she reached for the phone regardless, then held it up, “you have a phone?”

“Yeah,” the Doctor beamed, “and I can do memes. Memes are fun.” Bowtie snorted audibly and the Doctor narrowed her eyes at him unamused, before hiding a smirk to Donna, lowering her voice to a whisper, “he starts it.” Donna cracked a smile and let out a soft noise of amusement, looking slightly more relaxed now that she had a way of contacting them for help.

“Alright, fine. I’m not happy about this.”

“And I’m not happy to do it. But desperate times Donna Noble.”

“I will need to get my Ponds back at some point.” Bowtie said, coming to a stop next to her with a tug on his coat’s lapels.

“And me, my fam.”

“Fam?” he’d scoffed, opening his mouth to, no doubt, begin making fun of her for it but she’d simply raised an eyebrow and spoke quickly before he could.

“You’ve used the term humany wumany, in serious context. More than once. I remember doing it.” She deadpanned to him and whatever he was going to say died on his tongue because Donna’s unimpressed expression killed it just as much.

“Right, Fam. Sounds great. Can’t wait to be saying it. Still make my point though.”

“Well, unless you wanna start jumping from TARDIS to TARDIS, I’d say we go with my plan. Hopefully it’ll get us out of here quicker. And save some more confusion in the long run.” She held up her arm, pushing up her coat sleeve so he was free to take hold of the device, “ready?”

“As I’ll ever be. Hate these things.” He grumbled softly but obligingly reached out a hand to hold onto the edge of it and the Doctor looked to Donna with a smile.

“We’ll be back before you know it.” Her counterpart tried to call out one more thing as she pressed the button, but the words got cut off as they disappeared from the TARDIS.

“Geroni-”

><>< 

“-mo!”

They’d both gasped in pain as they landed. The Doctor had stumbled, grabbing onto a half-destroyed wall to steady himself before he’d finally looked up to try and find his future self. His gaze instantly slid passed her, however, as he caught sight of a recognisable skyline behind her. It was decimated but he’d know it anywhere. He’d scrambled to his feet, frantically looking around, spinning in a fully circle a few times, in a minor panic, as he tried to look for any of the native lifeforms who might be out to kill them.

“Where are we? Are we where I think we are?” his voice was breathless, the words coming out fast and he watched as she got back to her feet and stretched, almost too calm for the environment they were in.

“Villengard, yeah”

“Who do we know here? It’s just ruin?”

“You don’t know him yet.” She told him, playfully flippant, “but I can introduce you just now. I just need a bargaining tool, but I have an upgrade back on the TARDIS that has his name on it, so long as he agrees to help.”

“Thought you said he was a friend?”

“Well, friendly. Ish. There’s every chance that he’ll help us out, every chance he might shoot us. Come on.” He frowned, watching for a moment as he took off further inward toward the city. He was the companion. That’s what was happening right now. Villengard. This place hadn’t been inhabited since the Time War, only things alive on it were dangerous. Wild and rabid and she was walking about like there was nothing to worry about. He caught up with her, walking at her side and keeping his eyes peeled for any movement.

“So, this place. Little more decimated since I last saw it, and that was during the war, so that’s saying something.”

“Yeah, well, we’d been called in to help with something, then had to escape again. Didn’t really think about the after affects at the time.”

“Called in to help?”

“Yeah.” She didn’t choose to elaborate, and he let out a huffy sigh, resigning himself to being at a disadvantage this whole time they were going to spend together. Sometimes he really hated himself. Herself. By Rassilon, this was going to be a whole new experience.

“So, who’s this person we’re going to meet?”

“He’s not a person, per say. Better you just see him, will take too long to properly explain. But he’s definitely one of a kind.”

“Is now really the best time to be enigmatic?”

“Take a look at where we are.” She grinned, spreading her arms wide for a moment, continuing to walk, “now’s the perfect time. Never say I can’t surprise myself”

He rolled his eyes and they continued walking in silence after that. The only sounds the occasional squelching of mud beneath their feet. He looked out into the distance, to a tall watchtower that seemed to be the only building in the city that hadn’t crumbled. Every so often he’d spot the remnants of what had probably been a Dalek once. What worried him more, however, was that the closer towards this tower they got the more fresh the dead Daleks were looking. They were spaced out, never more than one or two per street but they were all heading in the same direction that they were both heading in.

He thought of Amy and Rory for a moment, trapped back with his past self. His sixth self had been a lot. Very unique in a lot of ways. Sort of a total prat in a lot of others. Loud and brash. He tried to imagine Amy, loud and bold, herself interacting with that version of him without resorting to blows of some kind. It put a little smile on his face for a moment. Then his eyes drifted over this future version of himself and the smile wavered as thoughts drifted into the forefront of his mind, unwanted but he found himself unable to rid himself of them regardless.

 “I know I shouldn’t ask, and I know you won’t answer, but,” he started speaking quietly then paused, frowning at himself before his eyes rose to hers, pleading and desperate, “Amy and Rory, the Ponds… do they… are they happy?”

She understood immediately. He didn’t want to know how they left him. Just whether the circumstances surrounding it were happy. Whether or not they lived long full lives or were torn from him early. She frowned, trying to piece together an answer in her head that would answer him without really answering. The kind River would have given.

“I was you for the longest time. Longer than I was any of them. The Ponds grew old together, met their daughter. They loved and were loved back. Amy even wrote a book or two.” She watched the tension melt from his very being and he smiled at her, missing the guilty shine in her eyes once his back was turned. The Ponds lived long and happy lives together. He just wasn’t there to see most of it. She held back a tired sigh and continued walking after him. They rounded a corner and suddenly a blaster shot hit the wall in front of him and she grabbed onto the back of his coat and pulled him back harshly. There was a series of more shots, all aiming to try and hit them from around the corner. Once they stopped, she rushed out and held up her arms, calling up to the being in the watchtower ahead of them. “It’s me! The Doctor! Don’t fire!” As if to make a point there was one more pot shot that hit the ground right between her legs and she jumped back before glaring upwards, “Oi!”

There were no more shots after that, the tension in the air calming, and so she motioned to her past self to follow her and took off in a run towards the tower.

Chapter Text

The walk up the tower was tense. He’d recognised those blaster shots. But all rhyme and reason and logic were telling him that what he thought it was, was impossible. She still seemed strangely calm, if a bit more tense the higher up they got.

“What’s up there?” he asked finally, once they were about halfway up, his gaze staying on the square opening in the middle up the tower.

“The one thing that shouldn’t exist. And yet it does. May I present to you, a good Dalek.” She reached the stop of the stairs and stepped out in the archway into the room before she ducked with a squeak when another blast shot hit the wall next to her head. She pressed herself up against the wall next to the archway and called in, suddenly feeling like she was in a past life as she snapped, “oi! I come in peace.”

“I am not a good Dalek.”

“Yeah, got that.” She stepped back out from against the wall, eyes narrowed before she sighed and shot the Dalek a pleading look. “Look, we need your help and I’ve got a blaster upgrade that has your name on it if you do.”

“My weaponry is fully functional. I do not require an upgrade.” She grimaced for a second, then tried again.

“Oh, come on Rusty. How about a tune up? Keep you fighting fit to destroy all other Dalek kind.”

“I do not require assistance.” She scowled, going quiet for a moment. He looked between her and the Dalek, feeling desperation settling in his bones but he knew when to keep his mouth shut and let someone else do the talking. She eventually clenched her fists and let out a heavy breath through gritted teeth before her next words came out, quiet and slow.

“Fine. I’ll owe you a favour.” Rusty’s eye stalk slowly moved to look at her. Rainbow him continued, “but right now, all of me are stuck in the vortex, and if they don’t get out, that means they don’t get out to continue destroying the Daleks at every point in my timeline. You don’t help us now you allow all those Daleks to continue to exist.”

That made the Dalek pause. It’s eye stalk moving back and forth between the two before it landed one again on her and Rusty spoke again.

“I will assist.” The Doctor broke out in a grin that she quickly attempted to school into a more neutral expression and stepped towards the Dalek.

“We need you to do a scan, long range time on, through the vortex. We can’t find the problem from within and we can’t get the our TARDISs out of the vortex to scan it from the outside.” For a moment the Dalek went quiet, following out the task as soon as it was asked.

“Anomaly discovered.” Both Doctor’s leaped closer in wait for the information. He realised first that he’d just voluntarily leaped closer to a Dalek and so he’d taken a frantic step backwards and in doing so allowed the co-ordinates of said anomaly to be brought up to only her.

Whatever the co-ordinates were they made this future version of him go pale. She’d actually taken a stumbling step backwards, eyes wide with horror. He’d reached out for a split second, in case she might actually fall but she was quick to step out of his way, a hand moving for a moment like she was going to rest a hand over her mouth, as if in horror, before she let it drop quickly and schooled her expression back into something passive.

“Right.” She swallowed roughly, swiping a hand through the air so the projected image coming from Rusty’s eye stalk disappeared, “thank you. As soon as I get the TARDIS back, I’ll get you that upgrade anyway, you just tell me what you need from me then.” And then she spun on her heel and was out of the archway and all but racing down the stairs.

He lingered for a second, confused. Locked eyes with eye stalk with the Dalek then awkwardly pointing towards the exit.

“I’m gonna just… go.” Rusty said nothing, just watched as the Doctor backed out of the room and made his way down the stairs after her. He found her outside, sitting hunched on a broken half wall about ten feet away from the tower entrance. He stood for a moment, just watching her, “where is it? Where did the co-ordinates lead?”

“Nowhere.” Her tone sounded forcefully light and he openly scoffed and rolled his eyes.

“Please, when has that ever worked on yourself? Where is it?”

“You can’t know. Not yet.”

“I’ll have to forget anyways; you might as well tell me.”

“You can’t know.” The words came out more forceful this time, her head swivelling to him as she glared. It probably would’ve cowed even the most stubborn of their companions but seeing as this was technically his own face he simply frowned right back. Frustration growing at her refusal to tell him.

“We’re going to have to go, so you might as well tell me.” She went silent for a moment then pushed herself to her feet.

“We should go get my Fam, and the Ponds.” He made a face at the obvious deflection, not happy about it but he let out a sigh and chose to back down and simply threw her a questioning look. She sighed heavily and pushed a hand through her hair, holding it back from her face with one hand whilst the other pushed her jacket back and came to sit on her hip, “we’re going to need more than just us. Would rather we have folks there.”

“Why?”

“Cause it’s gonna be dangerous. And not all pleasant. And I’d rather you just see where we are when we get there, okay? Gimmie Yaz’s phone.”

“Why?” he asked again and that just gained him a muted aggravated sigh and she held out her hand.

“Cause otherwise we’re scattered atoms, need the shields down. We go there first; you can call the Ponds once we’re there.”

“That a promise?”

“Yeah.” He eyed her uneasily but reached into his inside pocket to fish the phone out from the spot next to the sonic that he’d put it into for safe keeping and sat in on her outstretched palm. Immediately she set about getting into the contacts and dialling Ryan’s number. It only rang once before Ryan’s voice came through the speaker, definitely sounding confused as he answered.

“Hello?”

“Ryan, it’s me.”

“Doctor!” the relief in his voice was instantaneous, “What happened? Where are you?”

“Some companions getting swapped around with my past selves, now I’m at the centre of the universe. Long story. I’ll explain it fully later. Can you put me on the phone?” There was a pause.

“What?” he was back to being confused again and she actually cracked a small amused smile at that.

“The bloke in the suit and Sandshoes, past version of me. Put him on the phone.”

“Oh, right.” She heard his voice get distant as he held out the phone and the muffled, “it’s the Doctor, she wants to speak with you.” Before her 10th self took hold of the phone and his voice came through the speaker.

“Hello?”

“We’re gonna need you to lower the shields in a second.”

“What? Why?”

“Cause otherwise, scattered atoms, twice over. And I need your co-ordinates. Travel via vortex manipulator is not fun.”

><><><>< 

They’d appeared near the doors, both reaching for the railings as they’d stumbled with groans of pain. The Doctor heard the humans on board as they’d raced towards his future version, the girl, Yaz, reached her first and sat her hands on her shoulders as the woman stood tall once more. He’d stood, reaching up to fix his bowtie before he stepped passed them. She’d been quick to brush the other woman off, giving gentle assurances that she was okay.

“So, blimey, actually, properly, a woman now.” His 10th self blinked at her, surprise in his eyes as he looked her over, drawing all of their attentions to him as he stood, perched against the console at the head of the ramp with his hands in his pockets, “finally happened then?” he sniffed suddenly with a little shrug, “about time I suppose. How’s Donna?”

“She’s on my TARDIS. She’s fine. We’ve got a way to contact her. Oh, speaking of.” He reached into his pocket to pull out Yaz’s phone and whistled sharply for the woman’s attention. The second she’d turned to him he’d tossed the mobile over to her, “that’s yours. Came in handy, thanks.”

“No problem.” Yaz slid it back into her jacket pocket and looked back to her version of the Doctor as she stepped passed her further into the console room. She’d paused in front of Graham and Ryan, giving both men reassuring pats on the shoulder before moving passed them as well. “So where were you two then?”

When her version of the Doctor didn’t answer, Yaz looked to him. He sighed, moving passed her up towards the console as well but answered in a light tone, “just visiting a friend for some information.”

“What friend?”

“I dunno, I haven’t met him yet. Or I hadn’t. He’s… well, unique. Probably gonna be an experience once I meet him for real.”

“It, not he.” The future Doctor piped up from next to the console.

“Fine, it.”

“What information?” his 10th self asked, still watching from his place leaning against the console. He was picking up on the tension between the other two, even if the humans weren’t quite yet.

“On where the signal is coming from that’s blocking our TARDISs from leaving the vortex.”

“Where is that then?”

“Dunno.” The man’s eyebrows furrowed, and the Doctor pointed to their future self, “ask her, cause she won’t say to me.”

“Better to just show you.” She answered cryptically.

The Doctor kept his eyes on her, doing his best to keep involved in the conversation happening between his younger self and his future self’s Fam. Yaz seemed to have a similar idea to him. She was not-so-subtly watching The Doctor as she cast them a side eyed glance and moved towards the other side of the console. He watched her push back her sleeve and lift the vortex manipulator up to view. He tensed, thinking for a moment that she was about to leave him behind, but instead she slid her sonic out of her inside pocket and began- well, he frowned, he wasn’t entirely sure what she was doing. Seemed like she was reprogramming it, but thing had already been fully programmed to take the wearer and co anywhere needed in the time and space of this universe. Once she was finished, she slid the sonic back into her pocket and stared down at the Vortex Manipulator like it held the reasons behind every misery in her life. His gaze slid across to meet Yaz’s eye and the two shared a knowing look before slowly rounding the console on opposite sides.

“Doctor?” Yaz’s soft question made the woman’s head snap around to her and she plastered a bright grin on her face in an instant as she turned to her.

“Hello.”

“You alright?”

“Course I am. What about you though? Getting swapped about like that, can’t have been all that great.”

“Didn’t feel a thing. We’re all fine. But are you?”

“Course, got myself a plan. I’ll get this fixed, we can go back to the TARDIS, our version of it at least.” She scrunched up her face a little, head tilting up to look around the room as she mumbled quietly, “grew out of the punk thing.” The Doctor let out a quiet snort of amusement at her words and she turned her head to him with a raised eyebrow, “You should try contacting the Ponds.”

“Yeah.” He hesitated for a split second, eyes running over her again in suspicion as he turned away to make a grab for the monitor in order to make the call through the internal TARDIS link. He caught her at the last second, her hand hovering over the activate button, like she wasn’t sure if she was actually going to press it. Then the hand moved down and he’d all but thrown himself at her to grab on before she could disappear without him. He heard Sandshoes doing the same and, it seemed, Yaz as well but he didn’t focus on them. Just focused on this future self and the way she seemed to panic, and the way she cried out for them not to but it was too late and they, all 4 of them, disappeared from the TARDIS.

“N-”

Chapter Text

“So, it’s good to know that being this much of a prat levels out in the centuries to come.” Rory couldn’t help his wince upon hearing his wife’s words. The tension ratcheted up by just another minor notch and the Doctor, this one with curls and a frankly appalling fashion sense, let out an offended scoff.

“Well I never,” he let out a follow-up few offended noises, eyes fixed on the ginger Scot who’d made herself at home perched on his console, “I hope that this future me doesn’t allow for this kind of offensive-”

“Allow?” Amy’s eyebrows shot up to her hairline and in a second, she was on her feet and Rory was quick to grab a hold of her arm before she did something she’d make them all regret and he stepped forward to address the other man in a firm voice.

“Alright! Now, 1. Don’t talk to my wife like that. 2. She isn’t the one that I’m stepping in to defend here, you are. You don’t piss off Amy; you’ll learn that the hard way.” The Doctor’s eyebrow raised, his gaze washing over him then Amy, and Rory sighed, “I think we’ve all gotten off on the wrong foot here. We don’t know what’s happened. We were with our version of you, he tried to take off, the lights went out and then we were with another Doctor. She had no idea what was going on either and-”

“She?” he sounded mildly surprised and Rory nodded, sharing a glance with his wife.

“Yeah, she.” Amy sniffed angrily, stepping forward once more and crossing her arms, “problem with that?”

“Of course not.” The Doctor scoffed at her words, as though what she’d said sounded utterly ridiculous to him, “if anything it’s a delight. Change, it’s about time I would think. I’ve been a man entirely too long by this point. Of course, I don’t wish to get rid of this body quite yet, I am rather fond of it after all.”

“Can’t see why.” Amy scoffed under her breath and the Doctor’s gaze snapped back to her once more, a frown of annoyance on his face and Rory could only let out a long suffering sigh and hope that one version of the Doctor figured this out so that they wouldn’t be stuck here for longer than was absolutely necessary.

><><><><>< 

 

“Would you look at that, I’ve not been grouped in with the rest of your little pets.” Missy’s grin and subsequent delight at not having been transported away with Bill and Nardole only made the Doctor roll his eyes before he looked back to the two humans who had replaced his companion and assistant just moments before. Tegan Jovanka and Vislor Turlough, two people he hadn’t seen in a very, very, long time, were both stood staring at the two Time Lords from the other side of the console with wide confused eyes. Turlough had his arm out, pressing Tegan behind him but the Australian was hesitant to go fully back, her eyes flickering nervously between he and Missy.

“Just, stay up there.” The Doctor pointed up to Missy who was stood leaning on the railing on the upper level. She rolled her eyes but threw her hands up in a mocking surrender and stepped back to begin walking the loop up above and left him to it. “Tegan, Turlough.” Both former companions took steps back as he stepped towards them and he held up his own hands in a placating manor. “It’s me, it’s the Doctor.”

“Come off it. You look completely different. No way you’re the same man.” Turlough scoffed but the Doctor let his eyes fix on the woman behind the other man and raised an eyebrow at her.

“Regeneration. It’s a hell of a thing. Remember, Tegan? Went from mad man with a scarf to wearing a stick of celery? Well, now I’m a slightly better-looking man with frankly magnificent eyebrows” he pointed upwards to his eyebrows in question, waggling them playfully and Tegan’s eyes widened just a fraction before she stepped forward, ignoring Turlough’s insistent arm trying to keep her back.

“Doctor?”

“Hello,” he smiled kindly at her, and the room went quiet for a moment as the two non-Time Lords worked to accept the new information.

“Oh, I remember you now.” Missy spoke up, breaking the, for once, comfortable silence and the Doctor tried not to visibly wince, gaze shooting to her and he sent her a very obvious glare for her to keep her mouth shut. She either didn’t notice or pretended not to, because her own gaze was fixed very completely on Tegan who looked back to her in confusion.

“Have we met?”

“Regeneration, it’s a hell of a thing.” She grinned, watching the complex list of emotions that flickered across Tegan’s face as she tried to figure it out, then the smile just widened as a hesitant realisation dawned and then righteous fury.

“You’re the Master? How-” her gaze snapped to the Doctor, “why is the Master on board?”

“Tegan, calm down.” The Doctor held up his hands to try and placate her, but she brushed him aside.

“Tell me!”

“I’m his prisoner.” Missy spoke up, leaning forward on the railings with a coy tilt of her head before pouting, “I’ve been a very naughty girl.”

“Well,” Turlough let out a low breath, trying to hide a little smirk and the Doctor scoffed in annoyance, pointing at the man while he answered.

“Don’t, not like that.” His point turned to Missy and he snapped, “and you, be a good prisoner and shut your mouth.” She stepped back from the railing with a mocking gesture of surrender before she mimed zipping her mouth shut. She sent Tegan another pleasant grin, menace hiding just below the surface of it as she simply walked over to one of the armchairs and grabbed a book at random from the pile next to it as she lowered herself into it.

“Tegan, who is she?” Turlough asked and she whirled around to him, voice snapping as she answered.

“She’s the Master. She killed my aunt; she was a he back then. She’s a Time Lord.”

“Time Lady, please. And your aunt did wander into my TARDIS, what was I supposed to do? Just let her walk away?” Missy piped up and the Doctor glared at her once more.

“She was just trying to get help!”

“It was breaking and entering, I had a legal right, you know. Have you never heard of the stand your ground law? I felt threatened.”

“I’ll show you threatening.” Tegan growled but both the Doctor and Turlough were quick to hold her back and the Doctor pointed up at Missy with a scowl.

“What did I just say?” She gave a huge eye roll but turned herself, so she was sitting sideways in the chair, her legs swung over the arm of the chair and she was facing away from them.

><><><>< 

 

 “I have express permission to kick your arse, tell me-” Bill could only watch, confusion stretched across her face as she looked between Nardole and this blonde man with celery strapped to his coat who was apparently the Doctor.

“Express permission from who?” the Doctor seemed utterly bemused, eyebrows raising at Nardole’s threat and the smaller man paused, eyes darting for a second as his realisation that the Doctor wouldn’t know who he was talking about anyway yet.

“Uhm.” He glanced to Bill who just thrust her hands up, unsure on what he wanted her to do about this situation he’d landed himself in, “oh forget it. You don’t know her yet.” Nardole scowled and the Doctor just watched the smaller man stomp away to the side, still looking pleasantly baffled. He looked to Bill, smiling kindly and she found it almost insane to imagine this man becoming her grumpy eyebrow Doctor. He was so young looking, and she knew that her version of the Doctor was a big softy inside, he usually wasn’t as open about it.

“Anyway, pleasure to meet you, what was the name again?”

“Bill. Bill Potts.”

“Lovely to meet you Bill Potts, now, since you seem the calmer of the two of you, wouldn’t you mind explaining to me what’s happened to bring you here?”

“I have literally zero idea.” She gave him an apologetic look, “we were on the TARDIS, the Doctor was taking us somewhere, as soon as he pulled the lever to take off, WHAM, the lights went off and then here we were.” She paused as a thought suddenly occurred to her and she looked around the room as thought expecting someone else to be there, her face dropping in confusion as she did so. The Doctor raised a concerned eyebrow and tried to follow her line of sight for a second before turning back to her.

“Bill? Is everything alright?”

“Where’s Missy?” she looked to Nardole who suddenly tensed in remembrance and spun back to the room, eyes darting about.

“Oh, for crying out- Did she get sent here with us? I didn’t see her here when we arrived?” he looked to the Doctor, eyes wide, “is there any way outside?”

“No.” the blonde man looked perplexed, “it’s the vortex outside, who’s Missy?”

“The Doctor’s old friend” Bill started only for Nardole to speak at the exact same time as her.

“The Doctor’s enemy.”

“Which one is it then?” the man raised an eyebrow looking between them and Nardole let out a long-suffering sigh and stomped back towards them with a shrug.

“Both, according to him.”

“Both?”

“Missy. Short for Mistress.” Nardole raised an eyebrow back, as though the answer should be obvious to the Time Lord and it still took him a few very confused seconds for it to click.

“Oh.” He paused and then frowned, “what was the Master doing on board the TARDIS.”

“Well, we did have her locked away in an impenetrable vault, but no,” Nardole rolled his eyes once more, drawing out the ‘no’ with a sardonic laugh, “that was too difficult. Lock her up and throw away the key, I say. But not the Doctor.”

“Be fair,” Bill jumped in, “she just mostly sits there and gives a running commentary. She seems scary but she hasn’t done anything.”

“Because she’s a prisoner, trying to prove that she’s ‘changing’. Just another trick of hers to be let free.” Nardole scoffed, shaking his head, then looked to the Doctor with narrowed eyes, pointing at him, “when you finally get around to that, please don’t let her get into your head like he has.”

“I’ll… I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Anyway, seems she wasn’t transported with us.”

“Maybe it just affects humans?” Bill suggested and Nardole fixed her this time with the unimpressed look.

“I’m not human Bill.”

“Neither is one of my companions, Turlough. Perhaps it just doesn’t affect Time Lords?” the Doctor suggested this time.

“You’ve got an alien companion?” Bill asked with a bright, curious, grin on her face.

“You’re all aliens to me.” He pointed out with a smile and she rolled her eyes good naturedly.

“You know what I mean. Nardole was built or whatever by the Doctor, or so he says. I’d always thought you mostly just took along humans.”

“I’ll take along people of any species, just so happens that most of my time is spent on Earth. I do so love it there, higher percentage of meeting humans there, I suppose.”

“Cool.” Bill grinned at him then frowned, “so, what do we do now? How do we get back to the Doctor? Or, I mean, our version of you.”

“First I’d like to find out what happened, then it would be simply a case of sending co-ordinates to meet up.”

Chapter Text

“-o!” the word finished tearing out of her throat as they finally landed. She fell back onto red sand and looked up in horror to the other men across from her who’d only just started to sit up. She looked passed them for a moment, looking up at the still burning remains of their former home and she began to panic. “You both shouldn’t be here. I need to get you out of here. Now.”

Both men’s eyebrows furrowed in worried concern over her panic. They pushed themselves to their feet, brushing the sand from their clothes and finally looked up. The horizon behind her wasn’t the city or the citadel. But it was one achingly familiar to them all the same. They both froze, confusion and wonder shining across both their faces and they both spun in tandem. She knew what they were expecting. What they were hoping for. That hope died on their faces but all she could see was the immediate slump of their shoulders as they took in the decimated remains of their home.

The Citadel of the Time Lords stood no more. The burning wreckage of it and the Cybership, that had been blown up the last time they were here, were still smoking. Telling her it hadn’t been overly long since she’d been here the last time.

“What…” her tenth self whirled around to her, eyes wide and desperate and rabid for an explanation, “how? How are we here? What is this?” When she didn’t answer, when she looked away from him, casting her eyes to the ground, he raised his voice yet again, the desperate tone rising, “Where are we?!”

“Where do you think?” she asked him coldly, her voice quiet as she pushed herself onto her feet, dusting off the sand that clung to her clothes.

“But this is impossible. Completely impossible. It’s time locked. Gallifrey is time locked. We shouldn’t be able to be here.”

“The Time War is time locked.” She pointed out, “this isn’t the time war. This is long after.”

“After?” both men’s heads whipped around to her, both confused and aghast, “what do you mean after? There is no after. Gallifrey was destroyed. We destroyed it. This is impossible.”

“Yeah well, we deal with a lot of impossible things, don’t we?”

“This isn’t one of them. This can’t be one of them.” He stepped forward, near towering over her and his words biting in fury but she didn’t move, unfeeling for his anger and confusion as she simply stared back and Yaz was finally the one to step in on her Doctor’s behalf, sitting a firm hand on the man’s chest to hold him back, trying to defuse the situation, her voice firm and leaving no space for argument.

“Alright, enough! All of you. I don’t understand what’s going on, but we came here for a reason. Let’s just get on with it and fix this.”

“Where was the signal coming from? Where on the planet?” Bowtie’s voice was strangely calm as he asked, his eyes back to looking out over the rubble and destruction and in response 10’s anger switched onto him.

“How are you so calm? That is our home!”

“You don’t think that I know that? But standing here yelling about it won’t fix anything.” He turned to Sandshoes, voice wavering just slightly in anger, but he took in a deep breath to calm himself and looked to his future self, jaw clenched tight, “where do we look?”

“I’d start down there.” She motioned her head down towards the smouldering ruins of the Citadel, “most of the undercity was still mostly intact, last I was here.”

“Last you were here?” Sandshoes seethed, the words bit out from gritted teeth and the two other Time Lords shared looks between one another in response.

“Where’d you wanna start?” Bowtie asked, acting as though the other man had said nothing.

“The main hall? I dunno. Let’s just look, maybe find something working down there to scan the planet with.” With that she turned and began making her way down the hill of red sand and towards the field of red grass that would lead them to the citadel. Yaz was quick to go after her, stepping hesitantly away from the sandshoes wearing Doctor who seemed frozen in place, watching her go. Their 11th self stopped next to the man, reaching up a hand for a moment as though to give his arm a reassuring pat but he stopped himself at the last minute, reaching up instead to fix his bowtie as he took in a heavy breath then turned to follow her. Their youngest self was the last to move, waiting for a few more moments to look out at the destruction ahead before he stiffly made his way after them.

“You were gonna leave without us.” Yaz kept her voice down as she walked at the Doctor’s side. For a second, she thought the other woman wasn’t going to answer her. She just kept staring ahead, her face blank of any emotion. Then she let out a heavy breath, her shoulders slumping and her eyes slid slowly around to Yaz.

“Yes. I’m sorry.” Yaz blinked, eyes running over the Doctor in surprise over how easily the apology had come from her mouth. Trying to get the Doctor to apologise or admit something over the last few months had been like pulling teeth. Hard work but worth it.

“You keep doing it. It’s not alright.” Her gaze moved back ahead to the Doctor’s home planet, her heart heavy in her chest once more at the sight of the destruction in sympathy for the Doctor, for all of them, “I thought you used the death particle? It’s why you sent us away.”

“I…” she hesitated, swallowing nervously as she cast her eyes to the ground, her shoulders rising to her ears and her head tilted forward until her hair fell forward, obscuring Yaz’s view of her face, “I couldn’t.” Her mind drifted back to her last memories of the last time she had stepped foot on this planet’s surface, of the choices she’d made and the consequences they’d bring.

><><><><><

“I definitely said no plus ones.” She’d paused at the top of the steps, staring down at him as he stood with his arms spread, a grin on his face, flanked on both sides by his new Cyber-Time Lord army. At once the Cybermen raised their arms, twelve weapons now fixed on her and the Master jumped mockingly, holding out a fake placating hand to the guards.

“Oh, well. Where I go, they go now.”

“Are you going to have them shoot me?” she asked, lifted her own arms wide as she made her way down the steps towards him.

“No, Doctor. As of now, I wish my enemies a long and healthy life, so they may witness my many triumphs because they will be legion.” Once she was at the bottom of the steps, she finally noted the affects the Cyberium seemed to be having on him. He was pale. Really pale. Unhealthily pale.

“You’re looking peaky.”

“Oh, yeah!” he giggled, and explained, “The Cyberium lives in me now, Doctor.” He leaned forward, playfully sitting his fingers against his dimples and she tried to school her expression into something unreadable but that just made him laugh anyway. “Yes, see,” he darted forward onto the raised platform that he’d trapped her on earlier, “I’ve been looking forward to seeing your face about that. I can feel it flowing around in me – the information, the strategy, the consciousness. It’s a beautiful thing. And look at us, I have broken you and created a new race! And now,” he paused, scratching the back of his head for a moment as he looked around, “well now I shall conquer… everything…” At once she stepped towards him and he flinched back, “oh!” then grinned mockingly.

“You think you’ve broken me?” his eyebrow raised at her words, he turned back to her, the smile falling from his mouth but it was clear from his face that he didn’t believe her denial of his words, “You’ll have to try harder than that. You’ve given me a gift.” She began to smirk at him as she watched him swallow nervously, eyes narrowing as he, this time, tried to school his expression into something unreadable, “of myself.” Her smile only grew, and his eyes widened, jaw clenching tight, “you think that could destroy me? You think that makes me lesser? It makes me more. I contain multitudes more than I ever thought or knew. You want me to be scared of it because you’re scared of everything. But I am so much more than you.”

“Wow. Oh.” He let out a breathy chuckle but was visibly shaken and trying to cover that fact up, “so why are we here?” She tried not to let her hands shake as she took a step back and reached for the detonator device with the death particle strapped to it to pull it from her pocket. He gasped, a delighted grin spreading across his face and it just made her feel sicker at the fact he was happy about this in anyway. It didn’t surprise her though, “Oh, good, very good. That’s why I left it for you. Wondered if you would… take out me, take out these life forms,” he spread his hands out, motioning to the ‘Cybermasters’ surrounding them, “all those bodies still in the vaults, every organic cellular life form on this planet…forever. And yourself.” He leaned forward mockingly, eyes wide, “you’d do that would you?”

“Yes. This time, yes.” She raised the detonator, her thumb sitting over the button and he leaned forward until his face was inches from it, eyes fixed on hers as he looked up.

“Go on then. You were the start of all of this, now finish it! Come on, come on! Come on!” he growled out the last one, gritting his teeth and glaring up at her expectantly. “Come on, come on! What have you got left anyway? You don’t even know your own life. Look how low I have brought you.” He began to smile, eyes flickering to her thumb, trembling over the detonation button just inches in front of his face before he looked back up at her, “I have won, Doctor. You may have made me, but I have destroyed you.” She took in a shaky breath and tried to keep the terror from her face as she realised that he was right, on some level he was completely right. She had no idea who she was. If she did this, she lost any chance of knowing. But she couldn’t let him escape. Not this time. “Become death. Become me. Come on, come on…!’

Become me.

She lowered the detonator. Ever the coward but she couldn’t do it. Couldn’t lower herself to that. Not even to save the universe from him. There was once upon a time that she wouldn’t have done this out of a friendship long ago but now it was pure and simple selfishness and cowardice that kept her from pushing the button. She didn’t want to die. Not without knowing who she was. And she couldn’t destroy her home like that. Not again. She might not have actually done it before, but she still remembered what it had felt like. What the grief had been like. She was already grieving the loss of her people. She didn’t want to add on the grief of destroying the planet as well. She turned her head away from him, unable to look her former friend in the eye any longer.

He stood back up, scowling at her, as though furious that she hadn’t gone through it, biting out his next words in barely controlled fury.

“For just a moment there, I thought maybe… argh!” he scoffed, turning away to head back to his creations, “Ah Doctor. The universe will suffer for your weakness, I’ll make sure of it.”

He scowled at her once more, reaching into his own pocket for his TCE and with a press of a button he and the metal creatures around him were swathed in a blue flickering light and in the blink of an eye they were gone. She stood there, hearts sinking in desperation, realisation dawning on her that she may have made one of the biggest mistakes of her life, no matter how relieved she felt over not dying. She may have just doomed the rest of the universe with her inability to act.

><><><><><><><>< 

“What did this?” Sandshoes asked as they continued walking, drawing her out of her memories and back to the horrific situation at hand. She paused, debating internally for a second over even telling them that but decided that it really couldn’t make it much worse if they did know. They just couldn’t know why.

“That’s a Cybership.” Bowtie pointed out the remnants of the ship that had collapsed throughout the city, smothering those remains further.

“It wasn’t the Cybermen.” She told them both stoically, “they came through, but after.”

“Then what?” Sandshoes snapped once more, and she went quiet again.

“Not what. Who.”

 “The Master. It was the Master.” This time it was Yaz who spoke up, tossing the blonde woman a confused look at her reluctance to properly explain.

“The Mas- Why?! Why would he do this? What would he gain from doing something like this?” they both looked horrified. If there was one thing they’d always remember about their childhood best friend, the same thing she did, it was that the Master had always been arrogantly proud of being a Time Lord. Though a renegade like herself, he clung to the infamy and prominence that came with being a member of their species. To the way people, lesser species, would look at them like they were some kind of ethereal beings. Something to look up to. Something to worship in some cases. It was never a thing the Doctor had taken to, finding it much more interesting to befriend than enslave and overcome. Much nicer to simply speak than to belittle. Though, whilst most Time Lords tended to ignore lesser species entirely, the Master had taken it a step further, stepping out into the universe to try and prove the Time Lord’s superiority.

Even now the Doctor could only imagine how his discovery of their origins had broken him. It was no excuse for his actions. No one should have died. Never. The news had hit her hard when she’d found out because she’d been so certain of who she was and what she’d come from. She’d been the antithesis of her species. She’d never thought she was special. More an outcast. The fact of the Timeless Child only confirmed that for her. More than once, since the last time she’d stepped foot on this planet’s surface, she’d wondered if she even qualified as a Time Lord at all. She wasn’t Gallifreyan according to the memories the Matrix had brought up.

That same news had hit the Master hard because he too had been certain of who he was. Of where his species had come from and of the pride that he’d always felt to be one. Regardless of anything they’d done to him. The drums, the calls to war that a coward like him hated. He was still a Time Lord. He was still the Master fighting on equal footing with his enemy the Doctor. Only now it wasn’t equal for him. She had a leg up, purely by being who she was, despite the fact that it wasn’t anything that could be helped or should be celebrated. This news had taken everything he’d loved about himself and their people and made them into abominations in the man’s mind. Twisting that image until it was just as hated and despised as the Doctor was to him. No wonder he no longer seemed scared to die. Everything he was made himself sick.

The Doctor almost responded with ‘retribution’ but at the last moment swallowed her words and shook her head instead, glancing down at her feet as her boots further crunched the red grass beneath them.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” he scoffed, incredulous.

“Yes.” She snapped, spinning on her heel to look at him, “because it’s the Master, and when have we ever understood how his mind works? He wants me to figure out the reason why, I don’t know where to start, I’m looking.”

She knew. She was still looking though. Every night when the Fam went to bed, she was searching for hints of her past. Sifting through her own memories for all those little comments made throughout her life that hadn’t seemed right at the time, but she’d just chalked up to time travel when perhaps they might have been something more instead. These past versions of her couldn’t know. Couldn’t find out about their past. Because they wouldn’t want to forget again. The Doctor never could resist a mystery, and none was more personal and tantalising than this. If she’d been told she had to forget once more after being told the truth, she couldn’t imagine that she would have had the resolve to do it. She knew it would be the same for them. So, they couldn’t find out about the Timeless Child. About the truth of the Doctor.

 “There was a matrix port in the central hall.” Bowtie pointed out softly, trying to interrupt the argument and get them back on track. She shuddered at the mention of the Time Lord supercomputer, memories of her paralysis and forced sessions within drawn to the forefront of her memory.

“It’s been destroyed. If we want to use it, we’ll have to use or fix it from below.”

“You don’t mean…” Sandshoes trailed off, face pale.

“Down to the Cloisters, yeah. We can access the Matrix from down there and use it to repair it up here.”

“It’s the Cloisters.” Sandshoes pointed out once more, his voice harsh and she whirled around to him, coming to an immediate stop and lifting her chin to look him in the eye, her expression cold.

“You haven’t gone through this yet, either of you. Are you gonna fight me on everything that I suggest here, or what?” Bowtie was the first to nod and look away, still quiet and withdrawn but something dark simmering in his eyes that he seemed to just barely have a grasp on. Sandshoes stared her down, fury in his eyes but she was no more scared of it than she was of going down in the underground of the Capital once again. Eventually the man relented, shoulders drooping and the fire in his eyes going out, doused by the water that began to linger in them as he turned to look away.

“What are the Cloisters?” Yaz asked quietly, after a few moments of silence that allowed some of the tension to evaporate from around them.

“It’s what houses the Matrix.” Bowtie explained, “and the Matrix is the sum of all Time Lord knowledge. When Time Lords died, their minds were housed inside the Matrix, like a massive supercomputer, storing the entire history of our species. But it’s patrolled by the Wraiths, or Sliders as they used to be called. They’re the memories of these Time Lords, used as guards and even once you manage to get down there it’s essentially a maze. Almost impossible to get out of. We went down once, when we were young.”

“Why would you do that?”

“It was a dare. We were still in the academy. Just young, hadn’t really thought it through.” Sandshoes told her with a shrug and Yaz barely bit back her smile, that explanation making probably the most sense of anything she could have heard in response to her question.

“We got lost down there for 3 days.” Her eyes flickered to her version of the Doctor when the woman turned to her, still walking, “didn’t feel like 3 days while we were down there but time moves differently when you’re down there.”

“How did you get out?”

“The Wraiths showed us the way. We weren’t trying to get into the Matrix, they could tell.”

“But you said we need to go down there and use it to fix the Matrix up above?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh. There’s no other way?”

“Most everything in the upper city has been destroyed. So, unless we want to search the entire planet on foot, we have to get down into the Cloisters and make our way through.”

 

Chapter Text

The Cloisters weren’t nice. Whilst Yaz could tell that the upper parts of the city had been beautiful once, before the destruction rained upon it, the parts down below were dark. Dingy and tucked away as though they were a place that was never meant to be seen. Covered in cobwebs and vines that seemed to stretch out to reach them as they passed.

“I thought this was a supercomputer storage. Why’s it so… this?”

“You weren’t meant to ever come down here. Not unless it was an emergency, and even then.” The Doctor told her, keeping a hand on her arm at all times, as though hesitant to let her walk alone down here. Sandshoes was behind them and Bowtie wandered on ahead, peering around corners as he searched for… something, “People only ever came down here to gain access to the Matrix, access that they couldn’t get up above. Everything was regulated up there, full access could be granted into everything down here if you could find it. But then you risked the Sliders. Creatures from across the universe have tried and failed. The Sliders are very good at what they do, the vines are alive.”

As if on cue to her words, as they rounded the next corner, Yaz caught sight of a Dalek stalk sticking out of a lump near the wall. The lump was shrouded in vines, Yaz would have missed it if the stalk hadn’t moved. Limping around to follow them. She took a step closer to the Doctor who tightened her grip momentarily in reassurance and tugged her on passed it. The Doctor behind them stopped to stare at it for a second but quickly caught up with them before they moved on.

“To be fair, they mostly sound out an alarm that was meant to alert the Time Lords up above. But the Wraiths sounding the Cloister Bells also kick start the other defences down here. They use the vines, file you away, but there are other things as well.” Sandshoes spoke up behind them and Yaz shivered at the ominous implications of his tone.

“What are the other things?”

“No idea.” His words came out forcibly casual as he stuck his hands into his pockets and shrugged, “we only ever came down here on a dare and I think the Wraiths could tell we were just a kid. That or the Time Lords up above could control them enough to give us a route out. We never found out. Not like we ever told anyone with authority that we came down here. We were reckless, not stupid.” Yaz couldn’t help but laugh at his words, the first bit of warmth filling her since they’d arrived on the planet. It was mad to think that these men were both the Doctor, but it didn’t not make sense at the same time. It was a different reality from what she was used to and she’d long since learned to just roll with the weird stuff when it came to the Doctor. Questioning it usually just led to a headache.

“Comforting.” She told him, completely sarcastic and he managed an apologetic half smile sent back to her. The Doctor up ahead rounded another corner after peering around it and Yaz had been going along with the Doctor holding on to her when she’d spotted something to her left that had made her pause. She’d tried at first to tug Yaz along but upon noticing that the human wasn’t looking to move she frowned and spoke up, eyes darting between her and the corner that her past self had moved around.

“Try not to linger down here Yaz, it’s not safe.” She’d given her arm one last nudge then had quickly moved ahead to the corner and disappeared around it in search of her bowtie wearing self. The Sandshoes wearing Doctor had walked until the corner then paused, looking back to Yaz with a grimace.

“Yaz, come on, we need to go.” Then he too disappeared around the bend, expecting her to follow. Yaz had stared at the near buried Cyberman, unable to not feel even a little bit of sympathy for it. They were evil but the Doctor had explained to them how most Cybermen had never meant to be what they become. How most of the time innocent people were forcibly converted and had their entire personalities wiped out. All emotions and thoughts and memories. Everything they’d been gone. It made her shudder, but she tore her eyes away finally to try and search out the Doctors once again.

She’d continued walking after them, turning the corner that they’d just gone around, when a tall body in robes suddenly slid right passed her and she jumped back with a squeak of fright. It stopped. She stared, heart pounding in her chest, as it turned slowly, robes barely moving, and its large decorative neck piece hid the face all the way until it was facing her. And its face looked like it was on a computer screen, flickering as it looked down at her.

“Uh, hi.” She tried weakly with a little waved of her hand but as soon as she spoke the face changed. Flickering into an expression of fury and its mouth opened like it was screaming and at once alarm bells began blaring and Yaz let out a bark of alarm as more of the same scream like blaring sounded out from the other wraiths that had been patrolling.

“Yaz?!” the Doctor called out to her and the resulting sound stole the Wraith’s attention from Yaz’s trembling figure as it whirled around. She didn’t hesitate to use the opportunity to bolt, trainers sliding across the dusty floor as she scrambled to get away from the Wraith as it turned back to her at her sudden movements. The vines that had been hanging limply against the walls and ceilings now seemed to come to life, stretching out towards her as she tried to run away. Her heart thundering in her chest and her senses all thrown off by the screeching alarms. She was disorientated, searching out the Doctor but finding nothing but the Sliders that made her have to quick change down a different path. It was this disorientation she’d blame when she’d stumbled around a corner, hand reaching out to the wall to stop herself from fully tipping over. She only realised her mistake when she felt the rough foliage of a vine as it constricted around her wrist.

“Doctor?!” Yaz’s alarm rang out across the labyrinth of corridors as the vines around her wrist held tight against her struggles. The blaring alarms of the Cloister bells were doing nothing to help sooth her in any way. Not that they were meant to, but she could feel her eardrums protesting at the piercing sound of them and she couldn’t even lift her hands to her ears to cover them. Suddenly a hand gripped at her shoulder and she couldn’t help the shriek she let out. She wasn’t normally a screamer. Normally she kept her head about her no matter what. She hated it down here. It was messing with her head.

“Yaz, relax, I’ve got it! Just hang on a minute.” The bowtie wearing Doctor was the one at her side, his sonic screwdriver in hand and pointed at the vines around her wrist whilst his other hand kept a steady, grounding, grip of her shoulder. The vine snapped and at once he grabbed hold of her hand and she was tugged into a full out run alongside of him through the winding maze. She trusted that he knew where he was going.

“Come on you two!” she heard her version of the Doctor call out, then heard the telltale shriek of the Sliders from behind them and the Doctor holding her hand just urged her to run faster. Eventually a light came into view further down the corridor they were in and Yaz spotted the Doctor, her Doctor, stood there, urging them to move faster. The Doctor holding her hand pushed her into the room first ahead of him and then leaped inside.

The door slid shut just in time, the Sliders’ screaming faces just inches from them before the patterned metal blocked them out. The Doctor’s hands dropped from the controls for the door. The Time Lord recovering from the run far easier than Yaz did, all three of them immediately heading to the Matrix central controls, flipping levers and switches and calling out instructions and readings to one another. It was circular, almost TARDIS console-like and the three of them were whirling around it at top speeds.

“We have to turn off the Sliders first, we can do all we want here but it’s not gonna mean anything if we can’t get back out of here. They’ll be surrounding us while we speak.” Sandshoes reminded them, stretching up to hit a switch on the panels up above their heads.

“And we gotta turn off the Cloister alarms. It’s just annoying now.” Bowtie huffed, stretching to push over a lever then press a button and the three of them let out matching sighs of relief as the blaring alarms came to a stop. “Right, we deal with powering down the Wraiths and then we work on finding whatever’s blocking the TARDIS. Simple as. Then we go back to our own time lines and forget this whole… thing.” he trailed off, eyes on his future self who was choosing to stare intently down at the holographic screen in front of her as she worked through a mountain of data for the off switch within for the Wraiths.

“Yeah.” She told him with a bitter smile, before she sighed heavily, swiping a hand across the screen and it disappeared after flashing white, “Wraiths are powered down. Now let’s look for the power source.” The two men in the room shared a look but both came to the same conclusion and let it go, continuing to work.

“Yaz? You alright?” Sandshoes called out to her, almost absently as he worked, his eyes not straying from the panel in front of him. He got no answer and at that the Doctor’s head lifted, shouting out to her companion as she searched her out.

“Yaz? Answer, we need one. Are you okay?” Yaz was hunched over against the wall next to the door, still struggling to catch her breath and the Doctor frowned, concerned. “Yaz?”

“You alright?” Sandshoes was the closest to her, stepping away from the console with a concerned frown and he sat a gentle hand on her shoulder, crouching a little to catch her eye. As he caught her eye, he gave her a worried but reassuring smile and raised a questioning eyebrow. “Yaz?”

“Yeah.” She managed to get out after a few more lungs full of breath, “we always run like that but… guess I was just scared too.” She told him once she had more control over her vocal capabilities and he nodded in understanding and turned back to the other two future versions of himself who were both hunched over the holographic images that had shown up. The Doctor seemingly content that her past version would take care of her companion while she focused on other things. “Those things, they were Time Lords?”

“They were the ghosts of Time Lords. Essentially, sort of.” He sighed, standing as she stood upright finally, “when Time Lords died, properly died, ran out of regenerations sort of died, their consciousness was uploaded to the Matrix, and anything they did, everything they learned, in their whole life, got uploaded. The Matrix is the sum of all Time Lord knowledge, quite literally. Time Lords can live for thousands of years,” he paused and shrugged, “granted, not all Time Lords were quite as well travelled as me, but they got around. We were taught about a lot of it back at the academy,” his eyes softened as a deep sorrow drifted into plain view of those brown eyes and Yaz frowned in an empathetic sadness right back to him. She reached out to touch his shoulder, trying to give some comfort but the minute her fingers touched him he pulled backwards with a heavy breath sucked in through his teeth and he shrugged, “but then we got to go out and see it ourselves, even disproved a lot of it. They tried uploading me once, a long time ago, didn’t work. I know too much, even for a computer like the Matrix.” He looked her over once more, “you’re good? If it’s any consolation I don’t think it was you. The Time Lords stored all kinds of nasty tricks down here in the Cloisters. Wouldn’t surprise me if there were emotional manipulators at work. Overwhelm you until you’re too confused to think straight.”

She nodded and he whirled around and headed back over to the console to join the other two as they worked. Yaz watched them, their murmurs between one another becoming little more than background noise as she focused on her heartbeat as it slowly levelled out into its normal rhythm. She had no idea why the Wraiths had affected her so much, maybe it was the chance that she’d almost been trapped by those vines, plugged into a computer and withering away until she died. She’d come closer to death in the past though. Perhaps it was because of where she was. Underground, beneath the ruins of the Doctor’s home, faced with the reality of death for Time Lords and she could only imagine her Doctor’s face flickering into those creatures faces. Her features patrolling the ruins of this once mighty civilisation whilst Yaz slowly withered away, watching that face she used to know. She shivered, forcing the images down and away as the Doctor let out a triumphant cry, all three Time Lords crowding around a holographic projection that popped up showing energy readings.

“It’s showing two drains on remaining power.” Yaz watched as the Doctor peered at the screen, her eyebrows drawing together in confusion as she read through the data.

“Two? Assuming one of them is our mystery jamming machine,” Sandshoes leaned over her shoulder to look through the readings on the screen, pulling his glasses from his pocket and sliding them on his face as he frowned, “then what’s the other? Because that is massive amounts of power. Ridiculous amounts of power. What’s it for?”

“It’s on our level.” Bowtie pointed out, head swivelling around on the side to have a look about, “somewhere underneath the city.”

“And the other?”

“Back in the upper city, look. So, we might as well take a look at the one down here first then.” Bowtie pushed a hand through his hair, pointing behind them and they nodded an affirmative. All three Time Lords brought out their sonics and pointed them at the screen, uploading the co-ordinates.

“Ooo, new sonic.” Sandshoes pointed down at it, a small smile finally on his face and she smiled back, waving it a little.

“Yeah, made it out of spoons.”

“Really? Nice.” she just grinned and got to her feet, holding the device out in front of her so the light at the front could act as a blinking beacon to guide them to the location of where the power drainage was coming from.

><><><><><>< 

The closer they got the more the dread began to settle further in her stomach as she realised what this was going to be. The Master’s words echoed back and forth in her mind, getting louder and louder closer they got towards the signal. ‘I did keep the bodies…’. They were walking towards the vaults beneath the city, the vines of the Cloisters slowly disappearing the further from the Matrix they got. She almost wished they could go back and just deal with the Sliders. Anything was going to be preferable to what she thought this was. The sonic’s beeping pointed them back to the vault’s opening as she tried to step past it, pleading internally for it to not lead in there or at least for what she thought was in there to not be there.

“What is all this?” Bowtie stepped in first and froze in the doorway, horror slipping into his gaze and he didn’t even try to hide it.

The vault had been changed into a massive conversion chamber. Some of the Cybermasters were powered down and standing in a line near the back of the room. Elsewhere there were bodies. Most covered with white sheets lying on cold tables. The few that were uncovered showed the remains of their people. There was a small girl to the left of them as they entered the room. She was so pale she was almost white. Cold to the touch and her little face stiller than it ever should have been.

The Doctor tried to pay the bodies no notice as she instead moved towards the Cybermen at the back of the room. Sandshoes moved towards the little girl, hand reaching out as though to touch her before he stopped himself and his hand rushed back to cover his mouth as he sucked in a shaky breath, his eyes watering as they darted around to room at the sheer mass of bodies inside of it. It stretched on. Some were in beds, others on the floor. All dead, all his people at one point. He almost wished that he had destroyed them in the Time War. It almost seemed kinder than this.

Bowtie Doctor spared the bodies a quick glance, jaw clenching once more but continued to walk past them all until he came to a stop next to his future self, both of them staring at the powered down Cybermen with their Gallifreyan inspired design. The headpieces a mockery of the Time Lords ancient garbs. Of their history.

“Why would he do this?” he asked her quietly, eyes not straying from the abominations in front of them, “you know why, but you’re not telling.”

“I can’t. I tell you why; you won’t want to forget. We’ve already forgotten for so long.” He frowned, turning finally to look at her but she didn’t elaborate further and turned to Yaz before he could ask her any more questions. “Yaz, come on, let’s start looking through this equipment, see if we can pick up anything with a signal to see if whatever’s jamming the TARDIS is in here.”

“You said you were here before. A last time.” Sandshoes spoke up, still staring down at the little girl and she could only sigh softly, her head hanging as her hands paused pulling open a panel in the mechanism in the wall, “were they here last time?”

“I don’t know.” The lie was evident, her voice hard, “I had a lot to do last time, I didn’t even think about it.”

“You didn’t even think?”

“Are you gonna do this the entire time that you’re here?” She snapped, “I feel guilty enough as is, I don’t need you layering it on, on top. I made mistakes, all of us have. I had nothing to do with what happened here. This was all him, I just wasn’t here to stop him. I had no idea that it had happened until he told me to check home. It was safe. Gallifrey was safe. Tucked away in a little bubble universe. No one else knew. Me and him were the only ones. I never would’ve imagined him doing something like this, ever, and neither could you.”

“Oh Doctor.” All four of them whirled around at the sound of a new voice in the room. The Doctor’s blood running cold at the familiarity of it. There, stood at the centre of the room was the Master. It wasn’t really him, more a near solid hologram that flickered every few seconds to let them know that he wasn’t really here. “Why would I have waited for you?” he paused, smirking at her, “mind you, maybe if I had, and you’d found out then, you’d have joined me.”

“Never.”

He rolled his eyes at her then allowed them to flicker around the other people in the room, “wasn’t expecting you to bring company, I pegged you as the lone wolf type at this point.” His eyes stopped on Yaz for a moment and he scowled, “I thought you would have left your little pets at home, the other two not want to come?”

“They’d back on the TARDIS, we’d never leave her.” Yaz snapped but the Doctor was quick to sit a hand on her arm and tug her back, a message for her to shut her mouth and the human did so with another glare thrown the Master’s way. He merely grinned.

“Hold on, I know you.” Bowtie piped up sounding immensely confused as he came to a stop in front of the Master’s projection, “we’ve met before- I know your face, I-” he trailed off as understanding dawned and he sighed heavily, “oh…”

“That’s my name.” the Master told him mockingly.

“But… you never said.”

“Wasn’t ready to reveal it yet. Besides, you were already so far back in my timeline, it just didn’t seem worth blowing my cover. Not when I was already laying down the groundwork.”

“A whole lifetime without you showing up. God, I loved it.” The Doctor muttered, mostly to herself but loud enough for him to hear and the man whirled around to her with a scowl on his face. Quickly though, he schooled his expression back into one of indifference.

“Did you enjoy your little carousel of pets, Doctor?”

“That was you?”

“Of course. I figured you would enjoy it. I needed some time to finish some things, lest you had detected me.”

“What are planning?”

“Like I’d tell you?”

“You always do.”

“Once I’m ready, yeah.” He smirked at her, infuriating her and her jaw clenched as she seethed out her next words.

“Where are you?” She stepped in close to the holographic image of the Master, her eyes narrowed and her voice near a hiss and he blinked at her, a slow smile spread across his face.

“Do you really want to know?” his voice lowered into a whisper, his eyes widening in an almost mocking way as his head tilted.

“Yes.”

“Fine then.” The hologram raised his hand and with a click of his fingers he disappeared. There was a moment of silence in the room. The four inside looking between one another in matching worried confusion. Then a familiar blue light began to shroud the Doctor and her eyes widened as she looked down at herself, watching the light begin to creep up her legs and up and up until it surrounded her. Her head snapped up, gaze locking with her 11th self and the man didn’t seem to even think about it as he reacted, reaching for her. As soon as his hand touched her the blue light spread, stretching across him until it enveloped them both and they were gone in the blink of an eye.

“Oh god.” Yaz cried out, staring at the spot that the other two Doctor’s had been stood in just moments ago. Then her head whirled around to this third Doctor, in a suit and Chuck Taylors and the man was too busy staring in horror at the room full of Cybermen who had all powered up, as though the teleport had woken them from whatever deep slumber they were in. The 10 at the back weren’t the only ones, however. Many of the white sheets, mostly the ones nearer the back, shifted as more, recently converted, Cybermen sat upright and all turned to look at them. She began backing up, her hand closing around the Time Lord’s arm. “Come on,” when he didn’t so much as shift, she looked to him and gave his arm another firm tug, raising her voice, “come on, Doctor!”

He seemed to startle into action, eyes tearing away from the metal creatures to look at her and the danger dawned on him as he grabbed hold of her hand and pulled her back towards the doorway they’d entered, right as the Cybermen inside raised their arms and started firing off shots towards them.

“Run!”

Chapter Text

“Yaz, run!” the rhythmic stomping of the Cybermasters was heard as the army marched after them, the firing of their blasters hitting the walls around them. They bolted through the vaults, back towards the Cloisters and Yaz noted that this time the vines stayed down. Unmoving as they passed them by. They even moved by one of the Sliders, but it was powered down, the face gone, and its body slumped. He pulled her back into the room with the Matrix, slamming his fist against the button that closed the door behind them and dropped her hand so he could race to the console. His hands flying across the buttons and levers and his gaze was fixed on one of the circular ports on the floor in the corner, flickering back to the screen in front of him every few seconds. An expression of intense concentration on his face.

“Doctor,” Yaz called to him as the door shook as metal fists slammed against it, “they’re gonna get in.”

“I know, hang on. Just need to do one last thing.” He pushed a hand through his hair and Yaz backed up until she was on the other side of the console from him, her eyes alight with an idea as she looked from the door to him.

“Can you turn the Sliders back on? Might buy us a little time?” his eyes snapped suddenly to her and an impressed grin slid across his face as he reached for a nearby lever.

“Oh, Yasmin Khan, I like you.” She grinned back at him and then winced as she heard the screams of the Sliders and the pounding fists against the doors stopped for a moment because the Cybermen outside had begun firing on the Wraiths coming after them. He sifted through a few more lines of code and the Matrix port in the corner of the room sparked into life and he let out a triumphant cry and grabbed a hold of her once more, tugging her towards it and standing her at the centre of the circle. He was fiddling with the small square panel attached to the platform the circle was on when a metal fist burst through the door. They both jumped and he rushed to stand next to her and pointed the sonic at the panel and, just as another fist burst through the door, the two disappeared in a flash.

><><><><><><><><><>< 

The Matrix port they teleported up to brought them out into the same main hall that Yaz had found the Doctor in the last time they were here. On the exact spot that she’d been lying. The Doctor next to her quickly pulled her from the platform, pointing his sonic at it until the platform sparked.

“That should hopefully buy us some time.” He slid the sonic back into his pocket and looked back to her, his eyes intensely staring into hers, “Yaz, before we go looking for the TARDIS jammer, and then for those two, I want to know what happened here. The last time you came here.”

“Why?”

“Because I need to know, what the Master has done, to figure out what his plan is now. Why Cybermen? Why the designs? None of this makes sense.” He let out a soft groan, running a hand over his face, “oh, I hate trying to solve mysteries with only half the information. Yaz, just tell me everything that happened when you were here.”

“We were chasing down the lone Cyberman. Me and Graham got stuck on the Cybership you saw outside with some other human survivors. The Doctor and Ryan went with others to the planet that was meant to lead to safety. Ko Sharmus, they called it, but it was actually just the bloke that was there, ushering the people through the boundary.”

“What do you mean the boundary?” the Doctor frowned, eyebrows furrowing as he tried to figure out what she meant and Yaz tried her best to explain, taking in a deep breath.

“It was how we got here the last time. It’s like a portal, from there to Gallifrey. I wasn’t there when he first showed the Doctor it. But Ryan said when Ko Sharmus showed them the boundary it showed Gallifrey, the Doctor was….” She trailed off, glancing up to him and his face told her he understood, “anyway, the Master came through, telling her to take his hand and that everything she knew was gonna change. I don’t know exactly; I just got the gist of it from Ryan. She refused at first, but he threatened to kill people and she agreed, and he pulled her through. We don’t know what happened in between because we were too busy trying to stop the Cybermen. By the time we went through the boundary after her, the Master had already done whatever had happened. We found her unconscious on the floor, right in here.” He reacted to that, head darting up from where he’d been leaning forward with his steepled hands over his mouth, chin resting on his thumbs sat beneath it. He gritted his teeth with a heavy sigh and pushed a hand through his hair, face scrunching up as he tried to think and put together the information given to him.

“He had her inside of the Matrix, but what for?” he looked back to Yaz, “did she tell you anything about what happened that day?”

“She never tells us anything. She just disappeared for 6 months and then showed up again. As far as we knew she had gone off to die when she sent us away.”

“Gone off to die?”

“To use the death particle. Kill the Master and the Cybermen he created.”

“Death particle?”

“The lone Cyberman was after something called the Cyberium. The Doctor said it was like a sentient A.I containing all Cyber knowledge. He also had this thing called a death particle inside of him. He was gonna use it to wipe out all organic life, that’s what the Doctor said. The Master shrunk the Cyberman, left his body on the floor, and took the Cyberium. He was using it to control those Cybermen of his, used it to help build them, I guess. The Doctor took it and the last explosive, one with no timer or delay, sent us away and we thought…. As far we knew for six months, she was dead.”

“Why six months?”

“What?”

“If she didn’t destroy Gallifrey with this death particle, why didn’t she come back to you immediately?”

“I mean, your driving has never been impeccable. That’s just what we assumed.” He made a face at her words and frowned, shaking his head.

“No, something else happened here. Not just the Master killing our people, cannibalising them into Cyber monstrosities, something more.”

“But what?”

“No idea. You would be in a better position than I am to know, and you don’t know anything cause she’s not telling. Something big. Something personal.” They stood in silence for a moment, both concerned over what had been happening and it was Yaz who took in a deep breath and tried to get them back on track first.

“We should go find the Doctor and… the other Doctor. Your future selves.”

“We should go find the jammer.” He countered, “they’re both me, they’ll be fine, but it could be more dangerous to leave the TARDIS stuck like that in the vortex. Plus, we might need a quick getaway.”

“How are you gonna get it here though? If you’re not on it? The Doctor’s still wearing that vortex thingy” he paused, deep in thought then motioned to her.

“You got your phone back; guess I just have to talk them through it.” Yaz’s face went blank for a second at the thought and he frowned, “what?”

“You wanna let Graham and Ryan try and fly the TARDIS?” she was fighting back a little smile and he raised an eyebrow.

“If I have to, sure.”

“It’s just, Graham can barely work his mobile phone. Ryan told me about when his nan bought a new microwave and Graham took 4 months to be able to work it properly.”

“And Ryan?”

“He has some co-ordination problems. But between them I’m sure they’d manage it.” He let out a slow heavy breath then shrugged.

“Right, well. Won’t have much of a choice. Let’s handle the jammer first.”

“How’s he even powering all this? Shouldn’t everything have stopped working? I mean this whole place has been razed to the ground. Why do the things that are intact still work?”

“I reckon,” he paused, eyes landing on a doorway near the bottom of the hall they were in and he raced towards it, a little grin spreading across his face as he exclaimed, “the Panopticon. Parliament of the Time Lords. In here, Yaz, is an Eye of Harmony. Not just any, the first.”

“What’s an eye of harmony?” she asked him, stepping in after him and her eyes widened at the enormous six-sided room. Each wall having a raised level filled with layers of seats that all looked down towards the centre of the room. The ceiling was huge, raised so high that Yaz could barely see the top, the sunlight from the two suns streaming in cast the room in a turquoise glow that made everything look like it shimmered. The rampway in front of them led down to the centre of the room and between each of the raised levels were the remnants of six black statues. Their heads had been blasted off. What had been clearly important relics, desecrated, like the rest of the planet. The Doctor stared up at these, frowning in both sadness but also confusion. He let out another annoyed groan, pushing a hand through his hair once more and turned to Yaz.

“I don’t understand why he would do this. Any of this. These statues are the founders of the Time Lords. And if there was one thing that the Master has always been it’s proud. Too proud. We were both renegades, but while I ran away from being a Time Lord, he was chased out. He was still proud of where he came from. Lorded his species over everything else. Looking down on every other civilisation out there as being lesser. None of this makes sense. None of it.”

“You said something about an Eye of Harmony.” She prompted after he fell once more into a brooding silence.

“Yeah. Right beneath the floor down here but I’d need the Rod of Rassilon to even open it.”

“But what is it?”

“Power. It was the first one ever made therefore the most powerful. It’s created by suspending time around an exploding star, while it’s becoming a black hole. Harnesses the potential energy of a collapse that will never occur. An Eye of Harmony is what’s powering the TARDIS. A dying star, at the centre of that ship, powering it for all of eternity. They say the one beneath this floor is so powerful it’s balanced only by the mass of Gallifrey itself. If you tried to move it, the whole planet would shatter, become anti-matter. It’s what powers the whole planet. They also say you could use it to bring every TARDIS is existence, in the whole of time and space, here all at once and it still wouldn’t scratch the surface of what this thing could do.”

“So, is it what’s trapping the TARDIS then?”

“Probably the power source behind it but not what’s actually doing the jamming. It’s more like petrol. We need to find the thing it’s fuelling.” He finally slid the sonic from its pocket inside his jacket and began flicking through its settings until it began searching for the other power source that was on this upper level with them. He’d just started leading them out another door when it slid open and two more Cybermen were suddenly there and he and Yaz scrambled backwards, him almost tripping over his own feet in his effort to get back, “Yaz, run!”

He scrambled to grab her hand and pulled her with him back up the ramp they’d run in through. The two Cybermen stomped after them, their footsteps heard ominously across the marble-esque flooring in the panopticon. He led her out, pausing momentarily at the hallway as he tried to decide which way to go but an idea seemed to come to him and he pulled her to the left and down towards a large entrance way that led to the outside. The bright sunlight from both suns momentarily blinding her and she threw her free hand up to her eyes as she squinted. He pulled her to a stop once outside, however, rather than heading down the large stairway right ahead of them. He tugged her to the side, pointing the sonic at the wall and a part of it slid open, revealing a panel in the wall with a bunch of buttons and a large lever. Then he turned and raced back to the doorway and pulled open a second panel on the chunky pieces of metal surrounding the entire door.

“What are you doing?” she yelled at him, “shouldn’t we run?”

“Just pull that lever when I tell you!” he called to her over his shoulder, hands frantically repairing the electrical defences of the outside entrance into the Panopticon’s building.

“Okay!” she called to him, hand already on the lever at the open panel in the wall and her focus darting about in search of the two Cybermen who they could hear getting closer and closer as the seconds ticked by. They came into view finally and Yaz called out, “Doctor! They’re here!”

“Just hang on!” he was fiddling with one last wire, fingers stumbling over the last plug in as his hearts raced at the two advancing enemies who raised their arms, and both clearly prepped to begin firing. He finally got it plugged in and stumbled backwards towards Yaz, “now!”

The Cybermen had just gotten into place beneath the arch when Yaz yanked down the lever and a bright electrical light covered both figures and the air around them until the Doctor reached up to make her turn it off and as soon as the light disappeared the Cybermen fell to the ground, still.

“Defences left over from the Time War, figured they’d probably keep some of it in place, just in case.” He leaned against the wall next to the control panel, both of them working on calming themselves down after all that excitement. It was Yaz who realised first, however, that the Cybermen hadn’t in fact stopped moving and she pushed at his side to get his attention.

“Doctor, the Cybermen, look!”

“What?” the word came out of his mouth, horrified as a familiar golden light began to shroud the two cybermen beneath their casing. Understanding hit him like a brick and he had to try very hard to not throw up. The rage was building in his gut once again, quickly stretching out across his entire being and he felt no mercy for the Master. Knew that if the man appeared in front of him now, he’d have no trouble killing him. A year of torture on Earth hadn’t been enough but this, this abomination to nature, was enough to make him not mind being the last of the Time Lords again. No longer an act of complete genocide. Now it would just be revenge. He’d never been an advocate for revenge, always felt there was a better way but right in this moment he couldn’t think of anything else.

“Come on.” Yaz grabbed his arm once again, pulling him in the opposite direction as the Cybermen began climbing back to their feet. Very much both alive and seemingly now unharmed. They ran, through the ruins of the citadel, running until the Doctor thought it safe enough to stop and allow Yaz a moment to catch her breath. She stumbled over as they stopped, crouched on her haunches with one arm around her torso and the other steadying her on the ground. “What was that?” she managed to gasp out between breaths, “how did they get back up?”

“He’s used the bodies of our people, kept the regeneration going somehow when he’s stuffed them in those metal suits. He’s made the Cybermen immortal.”

“So how do we stop them?”

“I don’t know. But we need to find that jammer.” He pulled the sonic out of his pocket once again and moved in a circle to try and find the direction it was coming from. Once he found it, he stood with it pointed that way for a second and then looked up in that direction and let out a tired sigh, “yeah, of course that’s where it is.”

“Where?”

><><><><><><><><><>< 

“The academy.” He told her finally; voice soft and sad once again as he stared ahead at the massive buildings ahead of them. It was like a campus. One really massive campus with seven different buildings. Six of them situated in a semi-circle around a smaller, more ornate, building at the centre. The one at the centre was the only one not in complete ruin.

“This is Time Lord school?”

“From the ages of eight to about a hundred, this was school, yeah.”

“That’s way too long to be in school.” Yaz scoffed softly in amusement under her breath.

“Goes by in a blink of an eye for a Time Lord.” They continued walking, him holding the sonic out in front of them as they were led by it towards the building at the centre. Yaz kept pace with him, her voice quiet as she spoke to keep the conversation going in order to keep him from falling into a broody silence again.

“Do you miss it?”

“Sort of. But I was terrible in school. Barely passed anything, scraped by I did.”

“What? You? Smartest person in the universe, and don’t take that to your ego, doesn’t need any bigger that.” He smiled at that one and shrugged.

“Just wasn’t a test person. What I’ve learned, I’ve learned through doing. 900 years of time and space to gain knowledge and see the universe. It does more than reading ever could.”

“Was never a school person either.”

“And yet you’re brilliant, see? School’s basically nothing in the end. What do you do when you’re not travelling?”

“Police officer. Probationary officer.”

“But that’s brilliant. Police officer. Yasmin Khan, protector of the people.” She grinned up at him as he sent her a wink and they both stopped in front of the still standing ornate doors of the building. He pushed at the door with the hand not holding the sonic and it slowly crept open with a creak.

“What is this place?”

“Initiation. We all started out here.” He pushed the door open for her and she stepped inside first. He peered over his shoulder before following her in.

><><><><><><><><>< 

“What is this?” Yaz asked him as they stepped into another expansive room that looked far too big for such a small building outside. Another marvel of Time Lord technology. It looked like it was outside. The sand beneath their feet making them sink slightly as they stepped further in. There was a giant circular structure ahead of them. The back was silver, inscribed with more Gallifreyan symbols that Yaz still didn’t understand. Behind it stood another machine, seemingly blocking out the front of it.

“The untampered schism.” He answered as they walked around to see the machine at the front.

“Which is?”

“It’s a gap, in the fabric of reality. If you look into it, you’d see the vortex, the whole of time and space laid out before you.” He paused, side eyeing her for a second, “just… don’t look into it, okay?”

“Yeah, I won’t. Can’t see it anyway. So, what’s it for?”

“It’s an initiation, of sorts. At 8 years old, as you enter the academy you look into it. You’re shown the raw magnitude of time and space and it’s apparently where you get your ability to regenerate. Exposure to the vortex but no one knows for sure if that’s true.”

“Is that the jammer?” she asked, eyes lingering on the machine in front of the schism.

“Seems to be.” He slid the sonic back into his pocket and approached it.

“Why would he have it here?”

“Payback maybe? Not against me, but when he took his initiation, he was sent mad. Drums in his head. Always the drums, four beats. It never stopped, for his whole life he said.”

“Surely that would drive you mad.” He raised an eyebrow at her, motioning in general around them and she realised quickly with a grimace, “right, course, it did.” She stepped in next to him at the machine, looking up at the complications of wires and buttons and levers that she would’ve never have been able to ever make sense of. “So how do we turn it off?”

“I just…” he reached up to one of the levers then hesitated before he pulled anything, frowning and Yaz raised an eyebrow at him.

“You do know how to turn it off right?”

“Yeah… course… no. No clue whatsoever. This is gonna be a guessing game.” He pulled at the lever he’d sat his hand on. Nothing happened so he shrugged and pulled a few more, pressing a couple of the buttons. The machine sparked before he could do anything more and the Doctor leaped back with yelp as the sparks risked near his hands. The small screen that had been showing the levels and stats suddenly started showing a repeated message scrolling across it. NOT SO FAST. DID YOU REALLY THINK IT WOULD BE AS SIMPLE AS AN OFF SWITCH? The Doctor frowned at it in confusion, unsure of what the Master meant. Then the beeping started. A steady rhythmic pulsing that only set him more on edge. It was loud, unstopping and the more he listened to it the more he worried. It sounded like…

“It’s a signal.” He pulled the sonic out from his pocket and began hitting buttons on the machine as he tried to cancel it out but it just sparked once more and the beeping got louder and the system locked him out and he thrust a hand into his hair, “it’s locked me out!”

“Doctor, what’s it doing?” Yaz asked him, her voice loud over the shrieking of the beeping signal that had started to speed up. Steadily picking up pace until it was a frantic call into the sky. Blinking lights that spelled out a pattern that he only now was beginning to realise what they meant, and his eyes widened, panic spreading out across his entire being like a bucket of ice water over his head.

“No.” the word came out first as a soft whimper, then louder in a shout as he slammed his fists against the machine, “no! Master you can’t! NO!”

“Doctor, what is it?” Yaz’s voice was firmer now, demanding an answer.

“He’s bringing them here. I can’t turn it off.”

“Bringing who here?”

“Me. Every me. All those versions of me trapped in the Vortex by this machine. It’s not letting them go, it’s dragging them to it. I can’t do anything to stop it.” He spun around to face her, “they’re gonna see a future none of them should ever see. They’re gonna see what Gallifrey becomes.”

Chapter Text

When the blue light dissipated, she met the Master’s eye in person and glared right back at him. His eyes quickly flickered to the man in a bowtie to her left who still had a hand on her arm. He dropped it once he saw the Master, his own eyes narrowing but in a much more confused fashion as the Master looked him up and down and scowled.

“Master,” the Doctor in the bowtie spoke up first, his voice confident but confused, his hand clutching his sonic screwdriver, but the Master did nothing but eye it up with an unimpressed eyebrow raise.

“Doctor. You know, you weren’t meant to be here. But I’m anything if not a fast adapter.” An evil grin spread across the other man’s face and in a flash he’d pulled out his TCE and with a press of a button the white rings that had paralysed the Doctor last time she was here were around her past self and the Master just giggled at their shock and visibly smothered panic, “come on Doctor,” He took a step closer to her, bringing the TCE in close to his chest as he got a little too close for comfort, “we both know this is just between this me and this you, don’t we. Besides,” he whirled away as the last two of the original twelve of his Cybermaster’s stepped from the shadows behind her and grabbed a hold of her, startling her into movement finally, “I can always have fun with him inside his mind.” He beamed, “you know, I can always be in two places at once.” He pointed a finger to his temple, a drawn-out cackle leaving him.

“So, what are you gonna do? Kill me?” she asked him in a dry tone, trying to rip her arm from the grip of one of the Cybermen but they held strong and she eventually gave up, realising that she’d only end up giving herself bruises if she tried for much longer.

“Oh Doctor, I’m- I’m not going to kill you.” He giggled, glancing at her in what seemed to be bemusement, “like I said before, I wish my enemies long lives so they can see all that I become. And, on another note, I’ve got a question for you.” He backed up towards the other end of the room, excitement shining through his every movement, like he couldn’t wait for something, “recognise this?”, The wall behind him became see through and behind it she saw a wooden chair with restraints attached to it. Above it hung what looked from a distance to be a chameleon arch, but she knew it wasn’t. She had no idea what it was, but it wouldn’t alter her DNA, she knew that. “You know, spending months here on Gallifrey, I’ve had some time to think. About me, about what I want, and about you also.” He pointed to her fleetingly, “Especially about the information we found in the Matrix. About what the Time lords did to you. Wiping your memories of your whole life before. And I got to wondering,” his smirk sent a shiver down her spine that she tried to suppress and keep her head tall despite the two Cybermen gripping her arms on either side, “how?” he shrugged, lifting his hands in a questioning manor, “how did they do it? And then,” he whirled around and began to pace back and forth, hands in constant motion in front of him while he spoke, “I wondered what they must have used. Because that’s too much mental blocking for even the most powerful telepath to handle. So, must have been done artificially. So, I set out looking.” His smirk slowly spread into a full out evil grin as he spun on his toes to face her once again and spread an arm out to the chair, “I found it, Doctor. Hidden away. But I knew it’d be here somewhere. Time Lords, so obsessed with holding power over people, even if the people don’t know that the power is even there.”

At the realisation of what he meant to do she couldn’t keep her panic back. Especially not when the Cybermen at her either side tightened their grips and began to bring her inside of the room with the chair.

“Master.” She pleaded, “no, don’t do this. I know we hate one another but you can’t do this.”

“I can do whatever I like. I’m the last Time Lord in existence.” He shrugged, watched as the Cybermen stuffed her onto the chair and ignored her flailing and fighting as they strapped her down onto it, “Rassilon only know what you actually are.” He suddenly shook his head quickly, letting out a huff of air, “anyway, I found this, figured… well, why not start again?” he beamed once more and her hearts continued to rocket in her chest as she fought against the restraints, eyes wide and staring at him, “the Doctor, made in the Master’s image. Of course, I’m not going to re-loom you, that’s weird even for me, but your mind wiped clean and you’d never even know.” He giggled, the sound manic and drawn out before he coughed himself back into seriousness, lifting his chin as he stared down at her, “what do you think? It’s a plan, right? Wipe out the Doctor without spilling a drop of blood. Usually not my style but I think it’ll be fun. I imagine that you’d approve if it was used on any other genocidal maniac.”

“I think you’re unhinged. Let me go, you can’t do this. You can’t do this!” he just laughed at her angered shouts to him and shrugged at her mockingly from behind the glass.

“Of course I can.” He shrugged, dropping back into a seat next to a large control panel set up, with different buttons and levers and screens set up that had begun monitoring her brain waves as soon as she was properly plugged in. Once she was secure the two Cybermen stood back and marched from the room with her and back onto the Master’s side, practically moulding in with the darkness around the edges of the room yet again, “tell you what, while I’m doing this to you, I’ll break you all over again in there.” He beamed, jabbing a thumb over his shoulder towards the bowtie wearing Doctor who was still frozen in place, able to watch but unable to move or speak or do anything to help, “all your memories are stored inside the Matrix now. You overwhelmed it with your entire life, but it stored most of it. Shall we give him a little hint at what’s to come? Just some peaks. Just at the good bits. He’ll have to forget anyway. Should I show him what really happens to his precious Ponds.” He pouted, his tone taking on a mocking tease before he giggled once again, “or about the idiot girl so devoted she’d throw herself into your timestream, but then you went and forgot about her. Or the precious Bill Potts, oh. Well, he’ll see.”

“You can’t do this!” she snarled at him, tugging uselessly at her restraints and the Master just rolled his eyes, leaning over in his seat to begin flicking up switches and she could hear the device strapped to her head powering up and her tone turned pleading again, “don’t do this. I swear to all that is- Don’t do this!”

“Can you hear something?” the Master asked mockingly to her past self, waving a hand near his ear with a too wide grin, “is everyone ready?! Well,” he drew the word out, extending it out with a mocking dramatic fashion as he leaped to his feet and reached for a lever right at the end of the panel, his gaze jumping between the two Doctors, “let’s begin!” He pulled the lever and the screaming from the Doctor strapped down began as a harsh buzzing sound filled the room and light sparks came from the device that had gone so long unused, “come on Doctor! Let’s see how long you last before you forget all your little pets, I bet the faces go first.” He giggled and pulled the lever down further, doubling the power with a childlike glee and her screams picked up in pitch and intensity.

Please! Please stop! You can’t do this!” the words came out garbled through the screams and he only shrugged her off with another laugh, holding a hand up to his ear, taunting her.

“What was that? Can’t quite make you out past all the screaming.” He watched her for a moment with a satisfied grin on his face then turned his attention finally to her past self. The man was watched his future self with tears in his eyes and a desperation on his face. “You next.” The Master told him, the man’s eyes flickering to him as he lifted the TCE, “Maybe I’ll go find the one in plimsoles and bring him in on this. He always was an open book. How I’d love to make him scream. But for now, you. Enjoy.” And with a press of a button he brought the man under the influence of the Matrix.

Chapter Text

The world around him shifted and moulded from the white nothingness of the Matrix base display into a familiar kitchen. One he hadn’t seen in a few months but one he recognised all the same. He sees himself at one side of the wooden table, still in his old self’s suit, torn up and grungy from regeneration and a crash landing, dipping fish fingers into custard in silence across from the small ginger girl sat on the other side of the table eating ice cream with a scoop from a large tub. The kitchen was a mess, the end result of a night filled with failed attempts to satisfy his wild post-regeneration cravings. The two of them were sat in an easy silence, both grinning at one another like children barely able to hold in giggles. It was a weird thing, to see yourself like you were a separate person. Even more so than simply seeing past or future versions of himself. This was his own face. Had he always looked that young?

He stepped in closer to inspect himself, knowing that neither could see him because this was simply like a movie playing out. A memory running its course. He knew, internally, that he should try and figure a way out of this, but he chose instead to take a second to himself and smile at Amy being so young. It wouldn’t hurt just to watch for a few minutes. The memory self lifted the bowl of custard to his lips and took a long drink of it, leaving himself with a custard moustache that little Amy grinned at as he wiped it away with the back of his hand.

“Funny.” She told him plainly with another little grin and the memory him smiled back and raised an eyebrow, seemingly pleased with that statement.

“Am I?” she nodded, “Good. Funny’s good. What’s your name?” With a more clear head than he’d had on the day the Doctor winced a little, realising how weird this would’ve looked to anyone else. Strange man alone in a house with a little girl who’d been left on her own. He hadn’t even asked her her name until he’d made her use up most of the food in the house.

“Amelia Pond.”

“Ah, that’s a brilliant name. Amelia Pond, like a name in a fairy tale. Are we in Scotland, Amelia?”

“No” little Amy huffed in annoyance and he couldn’t help but laugh softly, staring down at her with a swell of affection in his hearts, “We had to move to England. It’s rubbish.”

“So what about your mum and dad then? Are they upstairs? Thought we’d have woken them by now.”

“I don’t have a mum and dad. Just an aunt.”

“I don’t even have an aunt.”

“You’re lucky.”

“I know. So, your aunt, where’s she?”

“She’s out.”

“And she left you all alone?” the younger him exclaimed, sounding just as put out over that fact as the Doctor still felt about it now. Even he knew you don’t leave a small child home alone. Even if that child is as great as Amelia Pond.

“I’m not scared.”

“Course you’re not! You’re not scared of anything. Box falls out of the sky, man falls out of box, man eats fish custard, and look at you, just sitting there. So, you know what I think?”

“What?”

“Must be a hell of a scary crack in your wall.” They both smiled at one another again and then, rather than getting up and letting Amelia lead him upstairs to her room, they both froze. Like pressing pause on a video and he looked up when a voice suddenly spoke from across the other end of the table.

“Oh, how sweet.” The Master spoke in a mocking coo as he motioned between the memory versions of the Doctor and Amy, “you keep picking them younger, Doctor. People might ask questions.” His head tilted and he raised an eyebrow as he clearly thought of something, “would you have actually brought her with you at this age? After the last young one I would’ve thought you’d stick to the grown ups. At least with them you can somewhat blame it on them not listening. You get the kiddies then they just follow more blindly than anyone.” The other Time Lord bent in close to little Amelia, inspecting her closely and an unimpressed look spread across his face. His closeness to Amy, even in what was just a memory, set about a deep uneasiness in the Doctor’s gut. “They die, it’s always your fault.”

“You really think the Matrix will hold me?” the Doctor tried to taunt but the Master just rolled his eyes as he looked back up to him.

“Course not. But I think it’ll hold you long enough. And I know exactly how to keep you crippled mentally long enough to keep you in here. I’ve got a distinct advantage over you; I know your future. I’ve seen it, in fact. Spending my bored moments slugging through your memories left over in the Matrix from the last time I had her here. Finding the moments that really punch.” He looked back down to Amy, motioning to her as he grinned back up at the Doctor, “shall we see what becomes of little Amelia here?”

“No” the Doctor tried to start to argue but he barely got the word out before the world around him shifted and changed once again, momentarily stunning him and he took in the dark rooftop with a concerned frown. There was a giant neon sign above him, the words ‘Winter Quay’ in red giant letters above his head. Passed that there was the statue of liberty and its face was contorted into a snarl with teeth. It reminded him of the weeping angels. One of his hearts skipped a beat at the thought.

“You said we’d come back to life. Money where your mouth is this time.” The Doctor whirled around when he heard Amy’s voice behind him, her voice quivering but forceful and both his hearts skipped a beat this time when he saw both her and Rory standing on the edge of the building. Of the very tall building. Clutching at one another.

“Amy.” He whimpered, rushing towards them but his hands simply went through them when he momentarily forgot that it was a projection, that he couldn’t do anything to change anything about this.

“Amy, look-” Rory tried to protest but Amy just tugged him closer and cut him off, staring him in the eye.

“Shut up. Together, or not at all.”

What the hell are you doing?!” the version of him in this memory suddenly climbed up a ladder at the edge of the building, eyes wide and fury mixed with panic in his voice as he began to rush towards them. Amy didn’t even look at him as she answered.

“Changing the future. It’s called marriage.” Her and Rory shared a weak smile with one another and just as the future him was at a fingertips distance away they tipped to the side and off of the building and both that him and the real him were screaming over the edge of the building.

Amy! Amy!” It was River’s voice shouting over their screams that drew both of their attentions towards the energy flickering into existence behind them and began to spread.

“Doctor! What’s happening?”

“The paradox. It’s working!” the past him let out a startled, disbelieving laugh, a smile suddenly on his face, “the paradox is working!”

The white energy spread until it shrouded the entire picture and the Doctor threw his hands up to his eyes as it grew so bright that even with his superior biology, he couldn’t keep his eyes open. When he felt it safe to open them, he found himself in a graveyard. It was now daytime. His shoulders slumped in immediate relief when he spotted the Ponds but whatever conversation going on amongst them all had been put on mute as the Master was suddenly beside them, his hands clasped behind his back as he peered over them both. The memory still played out, his past self bounding over to hug the two of them and start trying to get them towards the TARDIS but the Master spoke up, the only thing heard despite four other people speaking in front of them.

“She really could’ve done better.” His lip was curled upwards in obvious distaste as he ran his eyes over Rory and then Amy. The Doctor bristled, annoyed on Rory’s behalf and he let that fact be known as he answered.

“He waited two thousand years for her, he gives her everything. They love each other.”

“He knew he couldn’t.” the Master countered then rolled his eyes, stepping through them towards him, their images flickering for a split second because of the motion, “you should keep watching Doctor, it’s about to get good. I did say this is how you lose them. And after you see what happens to your precious Ponds, we’ll see all about miss Clara Oswald and what you do to screw up her life as well.” The man grinned at him and then flickered out of existence, once again the sounds of the memory started back up, the Doctor’s eyes snapping back to Amy and Rory as his hearts started pounding in his chest once more.

“There’s a gravestone here for someone with the same name as me?” the Doctor saw the angel before either of them did, he cried out, the word useless as Amy was too busy staring down at the gravestone in bemusement.

“No!”

“What?” Amy asked and when she looked up, she got one last look at Rory before he vanished, leaving her with the angel stood there, its hand outstretched towards the spot Rory had vacated just moments before.

“Doctor!” she’d shouted out her panic, her horror, tears filling her eyes as she stared, wide eyed at the angel. His memory self rushed out of the TARDIS, racing towards her and River called out in question as she followed him out of the box.

“Where the hell did that come from?”

“It’s a survivor. Very weak, but keep your eyes on it!” River nodded, Amy’s voice turned pleading as she addressed the Doctor.

“Where’s Rory?”

“I’m sorry. Amelia, I’m so, so sorry.”

“No.” she shook her head, refusing to believe and his hearts broke for her, “No, we can just go and get him in the TARDIS. One more paradox.”

“Would rip New York apart.” His memory self informed her regretfully and she snapped this time, still refusing to take his words to heart as the tears began to slide down her face.

“No, that’s not true. I don’t believe you.”

“Mother, it’s true.” his head snapped to River, confused over her use of the term for Amy, his brain trying to put together an answer for it but his focus was more fixed on Amy right now as she started stepping towards the angel. The memory him reached for her, trying to pull her back but she shrugged him off harshly.

“Amy, what are you doing?”

“That gravestone, Rory’s, there’s room for one more name, isn’t there?” both he and the memory self seemed to realise at the same time what she was intending on doing and he could only watch the man, who was going to be him in who knows how long, beg and plead with her to not do it.

“What are you talking about? Back away from the Angel. Come back to the TARDIS. We’ll figure something out.”

“The angel,” she completely ignored his pleading, “would it send me back to the same time? To him?”

“I don’t know! Nobody knows.”

“But it’s my best shot yeah?”

“No!”

“Doctor, shut up!” River snapped at the man, her voice turning encouraging as she answered Amy, “yes! Yes it is!” his fury turned on the woman, for her encouragement of Amy to do something so reckless and dangerous.

“Amy!”

“Well, then. I just have to blink, right?”

“No!”

“It’ll be fine. I know it will. I’ll be with him, like I should be. Me and Rory together. Melody?” the unfamiliar name gave him pause but it surprised him more when River stepped forward, taking Amy’s outstretched hand towards her.

“Stop it! Just, just stop it!” the him watching this pleaded desperately, frantically begging for her not to go through with this but again she ignored him, giving the other woman a strict instruction despite the tears streaming down her face and the terror in her voice.

“You look after him. You be a good girl, and you look after him.” River nodded, leaning down to cup Amy’s hand with both of hers and press a kiss to the back of the woman’s hand before she stepped backwards.

“You are creating a fixed time. I will never be able to see you again!”

“I’ll be fine.” Amy reasoned with his begging, finally addressing him once again, “I’ll be with him.”

“Amy, please, just come back into the TARDIS. Come along, Pond, please.” He had his own tears in his eyes as he watched the exchange, knowing how this was going to end and feeling utterly helpless to stop this. He was going to have to forget this and live through it all again, only next time for real. It just shattered both his hearts.

“Raggedy man,” a broken sob escaped his mouth at her use of the childhood nickname, and Amy whirled around to face that him, as reassuring a smile as she could manage on her face, “goodbye!” The Angel, no longer being looked at rushed forward, its hand touching Amy’s back and she vanished, just like Rory had. Her name appeared on Rory’s gravestone and the memory him sank to his knees with a wail.

“No!”

The graveyard fell away into the unending blank whiteness of the Matrix and the Master smirked at him, at the clear grief on his face and at the tears in his eyes.

“This is fun.” He said that fact so nonchalantly that the Doctor felt the rather violent urge to sock him. It wasn’t an urge he felt all to often. Usually felt himself above such urges but he really, really badly wanted him to hurt. “I was going to wipe all of this, no sense leaving it sitting around but I can have fun with this for a while. Least until I’m done. Then it’s all gone. I’ll keep what’s useful. The rest can go. No point keeping hold of all of your little pets. They won’t be useful after you’ve forgotten all of them, anyway.”

“No-”

“Who’s next? Oh, yeah, the whiny one. Come on.”

Chapter Text

When they finally made it back towards the citadel the TARDISs had already arrived. The Doctor could see some of his past selves, already out of their TARDISs and all staring out at the destruction of their home with matching expressions of horror. His first self had sat down on a large boulder nearby, clutching at Susan’s hand which was sat on his shoulder, his cane resting against his knee. His fourth self had just dropped to sit on the ground, his back leaning against the doors of his TARDIS as he too stared out. He just looked blankly tired. The ends of his scarf draping into the red dirt. Sarah Jane had dropped down next to him, shoulder pressed up against his shoulder, glancing up at him, visibly worried and sad.

Nearer the other end of the line of ships, fourth in from the end, the door peaked open and Yaz took off in a jog towards the ship as Ryan and Graham stepped outside.

“Ryan! Graham!” the two men turned to her, relief on both their faces. As she passed by the door of the ship two down from his own opened up and an older looking man stuck his head out. He had thick eyebrows and white hair and it only took him a moment for his confusion to turn to horror as he looked out.

The Sandshoes wearing Doctor began to make his way towards Yaz and her friends, especially when Donna peered out of the doors of the TARDIS next to his own. He saw his ninth self step out of the ship one before, followed by an extremely confused looking Lucie Miller. The man stopped dead on the spot once he looked up, hand still on the doorway and he didn’t even blink as the Sandshoes wearing Doctor stepped passed him to reach Yaz and the others. Both Doctors looked around, however, when a familiar south London accented voice spoke up just a few feet away.

“Doctor?” Rose Tyler was stood in the doorway of their eight form’s TARDIS, confusion but relief clear on her face. She was clad in a hot pink hoodie and jeans and the Doctor couldn’t stop his hearts from thundering in response to seeing her. She wasn’t his Rose. Not yet. He watched as a very young looking, very mortal, Captain Jack Harkness stepped out behind her. Both of them looked out at the destruction before them, both bewildered and appalled.

“Rose?” the gruff Northern tone of his most recent past self spoke up and Rose whirled around to face him, relief truly crossing her face as she threw herself at him in a tight hug.

Yaz watched the Sandshoes wearing Doctor as he tensed. Eyes fixed on the blonde nearby like she might disappear if he so much as blinked. She watched as he swallowed, saw it as his eyes began to water and she heard the soft whisper he let out.

“Rose?”

“You alright?” Yaz asked him gently, reaching out a hand to touch his shoulder. The movement seemed to knock him out of whatever he was stuck in and he sucked in a watery sounding breath, turning fixedly towards them so his back was to the couple still embracing a few feet away. He brushed his eyes with the back of his hand and nodded.

“Fine.” Donna fixed him with a knowing look from the other side of the small circle they’d formed into and he tried to force a smile but it just came out looking more pained than anything else, “you alright?” he asked her softly and she nodded.

“Was just bored.” She lifted up the phone she’d been given earlier, “any idea where she is so I can give this back?”

“About that...”

“Where is she?” Graham asked, “Yaz said she’d been teleported away along with that version of you in the bowtie.”

“Yeah, and now we’ve got to find them and have no clues on where to start looking.”

“What’s happened?” they all looked around when the Doctor with the eyebrows was suddenly a part of the group, his voice rough and his gaze fixed on his past self who visibly straightened under the intense gaze.

“The Master, apparently. I don’t know why. Me and the one after me got brought here by the one after you. By accident. She hadn’t wanted anyone else coming. She knows more than she’s let on but now she and Bowtie have been snatched away, we don’t know where.” At the mention of the Master the Eyebrows Doctor’s gaze drifted to his TARDIS before snapping back to them at the mention of ‘she’.

“Finally happened? It’s about time.” The question came out lighter sounding than it probably should have before the seriousness took over again. “So, do you have any clue where he’s taken them?”

“No idea. Not like he left any hints.”

“There was always that message that he left the Doctor.” Graham spoke up and all eyes snapped to him at the mention and he frowned, looking to Yaz and Ryan for back up with this but they looked just as lost as everyone else. He heaved out a heavy sigh, raising an eyebrow at them both, “am I the only one that remembers anything amongst the three of us? And considering I’m the oldest, that’s a mighty-”

“Graham.” Yaz snapped and the older man fumbled back onto track with a quick nod.

“Right, sorry. Back months ago, after that mess with the Judoon and Captain… Jack?” he’d trailed off, eyes on the man in question stood with Rose and the other Doctor in front of the other TARDIS. The Doctor in Sandshoes followed his gaze and, after another quick glance to Rose, he looked back with a shake of his head.

“No, no, not yet. This is early days for Jack, he won’t have done anything with you lot yet.”

“Right. Well, right before the Doctor saw the Judoon were on Earth, the Doctor said she’d been trying to locate the Master. That she knew he was alive cause he’d left her a message. Wouldn’t let us see it, but it was definitely there.”

“Oh, why does she get more infuriating the more I fail to find out?” Sandshoes glanced around to Yaz with a raised eyebrow and she only shrugged.

“That’s nothing, mate, believe me.”

“I unfortunately believe you. Which one’s hers, then?” he asked, eyes casting around and they all turned when a female voice spoke up.

“This one.” River Song was stood in the doorway to the TARDIS right at the end of the line, one door pulled open as her upper half leaned out. Her eyes cast over the destroyed skyline in front of them, her expression heartbroken before she looked out to them and she looked to the Doctor with the Eyebrows with a soft smile, “hello sweetie.”

“River.” The Sandshoes Doctor looked between the two, clearly confused at the tone the older version of himself used. Yaz looked just as interested.

“What do you need with her TARDIS?” River asked finally, eyes glancing back to Sandshoes who’d spoken first. He nodded and she stepped back inside as he moved to gain access to the ship.

“Oh, she’s changed it,” Sandshoes glanced up, taking in the dark blues and golds of his future self’s chosen desktop, he made a face of clear dislike then looked back to River who was already stood at the console, “We’re looking for a message that might have been sent in the last year.” He reached the console, reaching out to begin the process to look when he realised River had already begun to sift through the data. He stared at her, confused as to how she would know how. “You… already know?” She peered up at him, a smirk on her face as she shrugged.

“Taught by the best.” When he started to smile, clearly getting a little smug, she continued, “nobody you’d know yet.” The smile fell away.

“By who?” she just grinned, and it was his future self who spoke up, making his own face at the new TARDIS design. He made his way up towards the console, leaning against one of the pillars in a circle around it.

“Doesn’t matter, find this message.” River flashed him a grin, the older looking man visibly barely keeping back his own smirk and she returned her attention to the monitor and all four of them looked up when the first message she found flickered to life just off to the side of the other side of the console. It wasn’t the Master. Captain Jack Harkness, the future one clearly and not the still mortal one still outside, stood his expression frustrated as he stared at a spot where the Doctor must have been stood when the message came through.

Really?” his sounded annoyed, eyebrows drawing together, “I break you out of Stormcage, and this is the thanks I get? You just run off and leave me behind again?” Yaz watched the three other people in the room tense. Their backs straightening and the mood souring even further. “Look, I don’t know where you’re going, who you’re going to, but just… be careful. If you won’t tell me what happened, how you got put in there, then tell someone else. Cause you’re clearly carrying around something big and you think you’re gonna shoulder this one on your own but clearly, you can’t.” there was a pause, Jack’s expression softening into something pity filled, “I heard about Gallifrey. There are some rumours flying around in quiet circles. Are they true?” He’d paused, clearly waiting for a response and he either didn’t hear something he liked or didn’t get a response at all because he sighed heavily, “Okay, don’t tell me. You’ll see me soon again. Don’t think you’ve gotten rid of me. I’ll see you again. Try not to change your face again between now and then. It’s getting confusing to keep track of.” Jack flashed a smile, clearly a forced one and the wink he gave was something softer.

His holographic message flickered to an end and the room was silent. Yaz was confused but as she looked around the room, she noticed that everyone else just looked grim. They all clearly understood something she didn’t and none of them looked happy about it.

“What?” she asked, eyes landing on the Sandshoes wearing Doctor, “what is it?”

“6 months,” he started quietly, eyes finally landing on her, a deep apologetic empathy in them, “you said she took six months to show up after you were last on Gallifrey?”

“Yeah? And? What does that all mean?”

“Stormcage.” River spoke up, her tone also gentle as she tried to explain and Yaz’s gaze moved to her, “is a prison. The most secure prison in the universe.” She paused and shrugged, “I escaped plenty, but I had my reasons and I was one of the more unimportant prisoners. But… if it were the Doctor…”

“What about it? I don’t understand.” Yaz was frustrated, dread sinking into her heart even despite the fact that she had no clue what they were on about.

“When was the last recorded usage of the TARDIS before the date that message was sent?” Eyebrows Doctor asked, his voice soft and River looked back to the screen and began to sift through the data. It took longer than Yaz expected, her frown deepening as River kept casting her quick little glances before looking back to the screen as they waited. When she finally got the answer the woman sighed heavily, head hanging for just a moment before she responded.

“725 years.”

“It wasn’t 6 months that she was gone for, not for her.” Sandshoes explained gently and understanding dawned on her. She sucked in a heavy, unsteady, breath, tears immediately gathering in her eyes.

“Oh.” It sunk in a little more and her breath hitched, “oh. She was… the Doctor was in prison for 700 years and she never said anything? Why didn’t she say?”

“You know that version of me better than I do,” Sandshoes started then shrugged, “which is ironic I know. But a lot seems to have changed between me being me and me by the time I’m her. She’s not the type to share, you said that already.”

“But that’s- that’s about her past, I understand that she doesn’t like to talk about it, but that’s 700 years in prison.” Her voice started to rise, anger creeping into her tone, “for crying out loud, that’s not nothing.”

“No, it’s not. And you can question her about that once we find her.” River tried, her voice trying to be soothing, an attempt to calm Yaz down but the human couldn’t help but feel more upset at it. She felt patronised, just a little, and that frustrated her more. She kept getting lied to. Or left out of the loop at the very least. It was impossible not to feel hurt. She’d learned more about the Doctor in just a few hours from her past selves than she had from the woman she’d travelled with for the past year and a half (the six months out, not counting).

“How could she just…” an aggravated sound tore its way through her throat and she thrust her hands into her hair, angrily tugging it out of the bun that was already half undone anyway from all the excitement of the day, “outer-space prat.” She snapped bitterly and watched River crack a small smile and turn back to the screen, leaving Yaz to redo her hair as the Doctor moved around to the screen with River, both of them looking down at it.

“Just have a look for something, hopefully within the year then before those 725 years.” River did as was asked and sure enough a message from exactly 10 months before hand showed up. She activated it and all three of them looked when the image of the Master showed up at the steps on the other side of the TARDIS.

Geo-activated. If you’re seeing this, you’ve been to Gallifrey. When I said someone did that, obviously I meant… I did.” His eyes were fixed on a figure that wasn’t there, glancing down at a spot in front of him that the Doctor had clearly occupied when this message was first received. River watched from at the screen, Yaz stepped out from next to the console to get a better look, Eyebrows Doctor watched from still next to the pillar and the Sandshoes wearing Doctor moved until he was stood in front of it, acting like he was in its line of sight as he listened, “I had to make them pay for what I discovered. They lied to us, the founding fathers of Gallifrey. Everything we were told was a lie. We are not who we think, you or I. The whole existence of our species built on the lie of the Timeless Child.

Both Doctors let out a gasp, suddenly crouched over and clutching their heads and Yaz darted to the Sandshoes Doctor, River’s gaze snapping to the older him in clear concern. They snapped back upright, eyes wide and unsure, visibly shaken. As Yaz reached the Sandshoes him he shrugged her off as the Master continued speaking.

Do you see it? It’s buried deep in all our memories. In our identity. I’d tell you more, but…” his face contorted as he leaned over, a cruel sneer on his face as he hissed out his final words, “but why would I make it easy for you? It wasn’t for me.” And with that the hologram flickered and disappeared. Silence fell heavy across the room and when both Doctors took too long to react, Yaz shared a worried look with River and the older woman spoke up, brave enough to break the silence with her question.

“The Timeless Child? What’s that?”

“I… I don’t know.” The expression on the Eyebrows Doctor’s face and the tone of his voice was one Yaz knew well from her own version of the Doctor and she sighed heavily, her own voice firm as she caught his eye.

“She does that, I know what you’re doing. You know something.” He grimaced for a moment but Sandshoes him relented faster than she’d ever thought possible when it came to the Doctor.

“I don’t know anything but… when he said that, in my head, I saw a child. A little girl. Dunno who she is.” He let out a heavy breath and rubbed his face with his hands before pushing his fingers through his hair, “oh, I’m opening up a mystery that I won’t get to solve for another 2000 years. This is… I should stop looking into this, this particular can of worms. There are other things to focus on.”

“Do you think the Doctor knows? My version of her, I mean.”

“Oh, definitely. I reckon it was more than just what happened to Gallifrey that was the reason she didn’t want us following her here. And you said he’d had her in the Matrix. He showed her, and she clearly didn’t like it, he didn’t.”

“Well, forgetting that bit just now, does that tell us anything about finding out where the Master is right now?” River asked, trying to get them back on track and to give the Doctors both something else to focus on that wasn’t whatever this information was that had shaken them both so badly.

“Nothing.”

“So how do we find him? How do we help your other selves? You know the Master, you told me he was your oldest friend. Don’t you know where he might go? How he would think?”

“Only the Master knows what’s happening inside the Master’s mind.” Sandshoes snapped bitterly, pushing a hand through his already unruly hair, only to pause, eyes darting to his future self with the eyebrows as the man took in a sharp breath and let it out slowly, “what?”

“I might be able to help with that.”

Chapter Text

Yaz was sat on the steps that led further into the TARDIS, her anger and irritation over the Doctor keeping more secrets still coursing through her. She’d decided to stay behind in the ship for a moment as the older Doctor had led Sandshoes out earlier, get a better grip on her thoughts and feelings. She’d been surprised when River had stayed on board with her. The other woman puttering about at the console, much like the Doctor always did and it was strange seeing someone else at that console. River seemed to know exactly how everything worked though.

“Is there a reason she doesn’t tell us things? We’ve travelled together for a year and a half, that’s not nothing.” She had been mostly speaking to herself, but River’s audible huff of amusement made her look up, the annoyance running through her veins racing faster as it focused on River. “What?”

“You think a year and a half is a drop in the ocean for someone who’s over 3000 years old?” River didn’t even look away from the monitor as she responded, her voice very blasé sounding and it just made Yaz flush more in anger as she finally turned her body to focus on the woman.

“Well how long did you travel with the Doctor then?” her tone was snappy, short. She didn’t appreciate being spoken down to, even if she was sure that wasn’t entirely what River was trying to do here. The woman finally looked over to her, an amused smirk on her face as she shrugged.

“An hour or so.” Her tone was teasing, that definitely wasn’t the truth but Yaz just frowned angrily at her, snapping back.

“So clearly you’d know so much better than me?”

“Did it ever cross your mind that I’m one of those secrets the Doctor has kept from you?” River raised an eyebrow and Yaz gaped for a moment, trying to regather her thoughts to reply to something like that and eventually she managed to splutter out a response.

“Come on then,” she pushed herself to her feet, “if you think you know the Doctor so well, who are you?”

“Have a look,” River had pushed the monitor towards Yaz with a confident smile but when Yaz looked down most of the information on screen had been redacted, disappearing behind black bars and the few photos that were there, showing River with a few different versions of the Doctor, didn’t explain anything either. At Yaz’s continued unimpressed confusion River frowned and pulled it back, then let out a heavy irritated sigh, “that man.” She grumbled under her breath with a shake of her head and then she looked back up to Yaz with a shrug, “I’m the wife.”

“The Doctor’s married?” Yaz stopped short at that information, staring at this woman and trying to come up with the image of anybody that the Doctor would actually be married to and this wasn’t what she’d come up with. She didn’t know what she’d come up with, actually. The thought of pairing the Doctor and marriage had just never connected in her mind. It was more of an alien concept than a little blue box that could traverse the whole of time and space.

“Oh, the Doctor’s been married lots of times, hardly ever on purpose, but I’m the wife.” It was a gloat but not a harsh one. Just one that stated a fact and Yaz imagined she probably would say it like that too if it were her.

“First 700 years in prison, then there’s a wife, plenty of other stuff as well, what else have I got to look forward to not finding out? Or finding out by mistake?” her tone went back to petty annoyance and River sighed softly to her.

“That’s the only secret I’m going to let slip of the Doctors. If that’s a shocking for you then you’re clearly not ready for the rest of them.” River stepped away from the console, turning the monitor off and Yaz was quick to try and stop her, frustration creeping back into her tone as she spoke once again.

“So, what are you saying? That I’m just supposed to live with her secrets?” River sighed heavily this time, fixing Yaz with a sad expression.

“It took twenty years for my husband to tell me his childhood nickname. What makes you think you’re entitled to any of those secrets? You didn’t need any of those secrets when you first agreed to run off with the Doctor, what’s changed?” River stopped at that, giving a light shrug and Yaz felt the frustration bubble away into helplessness. She’d thought she and the Doctor were close. “Everyone who’s travelled with the Doctor lives with the secrets. I’m not saying this to be cruel to you, but I want you to see, for the Doctor’s behalf, that nobody learns all the secrets. You know what the Doctor thinks you need to know. You’ll know things that other people out there could only imagine knowing. That the Doctor could be a woman at all is an alien concept, that the Doctor can change his face is terrifying to some. You’ve seen the Doctor’s home planet; you know who the Master is. You didn’t know the Doctor was married, you don’t know about the Time War, and you don’t know a great many other things that other people know. 3000 years leaves someone with a lot of secrets. I’m his wife and I still find him a stranger sometimes. There are secrets that no one else but the Doctor will ever know. He’ll take those to his grave; they will never know the light of day and will remain only in his head until that head is no more. The most you can do is be there and do your best to help, and if it gets to be too much you can leave and someone else will take your place and do their best and the cycle continues because if there’s one constant fact in this universe it’s that the Doctor should never be alone.”

><><><><>< 

“Why hello! Where are we then?” Missy beamed from her spot on the upper level of the TARDIS, leaning on the bannister with her arms spread, her grin only widened wickedly as the man in pinstripes followed the Doctor inside, “oh! More than one of you, all the more fun,” she tossed up a playful wave, “hiya.”

It was then she noticed the mood that filled the air around the two and she stood upright, stepping away from the bannister with a tilt of her head as she headed towards the stairway down. Eyebrows was pale, he looked shaken, like he’d just seen a ghost or something else equally as unpleasant. The pinstriped Doctor was staring at her, fury and confusion deep in those brown eyes as he looked between her and the other Doctor.

“She’s the Master?” Eyebrows nodded at the other man’s question and Missy scoffed bitterly.

“I’m right here, you know, you could just ask me.” She tossed a hand up, “men.” Then she beamed as he turned back to look at her.

“Why are you on board?”

“I’m his prisoner.” She leaned forward with a loud whisper, giggling a little, “he did have me all stashed away in an impenetrable vault, but being the soft touch that you’ve always been, you couldn’t bear to be away from me for long enough to go on an adventure. So,” she spread her arms out wide as she leaned back, “compromise. I’m stuck in here whilst he goes gallivanting across the universe with his little pets.”

“Prisoner?”

“I’m a changed woman, Doctor. Well, changing. I haven’t hurt a soul in over 70 years.” She paused and frowned, “of course for at least 69 years and 6 months of that I was in that impenetrable vault, but he’s had his little pets around me, uncuffed, and I’ve barely felt a need to slit their throats, so that has to count for something.”

“Prisoner?” he repeated, just as incredulous and looked to his future self this time for an answer.

“We’ve come to… an arrangement.” Eyebrows Doctor muttered quietly. The two men fell into a heavy silence, punctuated by something that she didn’t know about and they both were staring at her like she’d just committed some heinous act but she’d been inside this ship for 6 months and hadn’t stepped foot outside. When the silence got to be just a second too long to be comfortable, she spoke up again with a raised eyebrow.

“So, where are we?” the two men looked between one another and she decided to try her luck, “am I allowed to take a peek out there myself? I promise not to run off,” her tone turned teasing, just enough of a hint of challenge that she wanted him to worry, “cross my hearts.” She drew lines over the air above both her hearts and waited for his answer. There was a silent conversation between the two men, before her Eyebrows version of the Doctor took a single step back and made a sweeping arm motion to the door. “Oh goodie,” she resisted the urge to clasp her hands together in a mock display of delight, because she was genuinely glad to be able to take a step outside those doors into the universe once again. She decided to throw a mocking kiss his way, trying to hide her genuine smile behind derisive humour as she all but skipped to the door.

It only took stepping outside them to bring her good mood crumbling down around her. She froze right outside the doorway, the destroyed remains of her planet making her wish that she hadn’t left the ignorant safety that being stuck behind the TARDIS doors had provided her. She felt it as the two men came to a stop in the doorway behind her. She swallowed, trying to force down the grief that threatened to bubble up at the sight of her planet in ruin.

“What happened?” she asked, barely able to keep the wobble out of her voice, “who did this?” Fury was set alight in her veins. She knew she made a promise to try and be good, but this required retribution. She spotted the Cybership wreckage amongst the ruins and she was all but ready to hunt down her vortex manipulator, or to hijack the TARDIS right from under the Doctor’s nose. She doubted at this very second, he could blame her.

“You, apparently.” There was hesitation in the Sandshoe’s wearing Doctor’s voice and of course there was. She whirled to him, eyes wide and confused and angry and he straightened under the glare she fixed him with.

“What?”

“You will do this. A future you.” Eyebrows explained, his voice gentle but she could hear the edge of betrayal beneath the surface and she fixed her gaze on him, defiant and enraged.

“No.”

“Sorry?” his eyebrow raised, and she narrowed her eyes and snarled out her response.

“I would never do this!”

“Well clearly you have!” he snapped back, the hurt finally taking a visible edge and she snapped right back at him.

“I wouldn’t! Because this is my home, the Time Lords are my people. I have done a lot of bad things in my life, destroyed a lot of planets and killed millions, maybe billions, but those are other planets. Gallifrey is my home. I may be a lot of things, but I am proud of who I am and where I am from but right now, I am trying to be better. Actually trying. Kindness without reward. I would never want to do this, even if I wasn’t.” She pointed out towards the destruction that was the citadel, looking to it before her gaze moved passed the sandshoes version of him to the one she’d been dealing with for the last few years. With the eyebrows and the grumpy nature that hid a softness beneath that for the first time she didn’t feel the need to take advantage of. “I wouldn’t do this.”

“Maybe not right now, but you will in the future. Nothing either of us can do to really change that now, can we?” there was a tense moment of silence between the two as they realised where they now stood. She realised that all this work on trying to be good was for naught and he realised that he could never truly trust her.

“Well, what is it then? Why bring me out? To hold this over me?”

“The future you has two versions of us. The future one who’s been dealing with him, and the fop in the bowtie. We were hoping you’d know where to start looking.”

“Oh, I thought I was completely evil again. Now you want my help?” she scoffed bitterly.

“We need to find our other selves. The Master teleported them away. We were hoping you could help” Eyebrows spoke up, raising an eyebrow at her continued petulance, “kindness without reward, remember?” She faltered at that, glaring up at him before she finally relented and spoke, her words snippy and quick.

“What colour?” both men blinked, confused and she sighed with a large roll of her eyes and spoke again, her words slowed down and drawn out, like she was speaking to someone simple minded, “what colour was the teleport energy?”

“Blue.”

“Local range. They’ll still be on the planet. Of course, they could be anywhere on the planet, but they’ll still be on the planet.”

“But where would you go?”

“Well, that depends doesn’t it?”

“On what?” the Eyebrows Doctor asked, voice gruff, annoyed with the drawn-out game she seemed to be playing in making them have to ask questions.

“On whether or not he’s doing it for attention?” she smirked, fluttering her eyelashes in an exaggerated fashion up at him with a mocking pout to her words, “you know me, usually with you involved a lot of it is for show. Amp it up. Big scale. Massive production value.”

“Make your point.” She scowled at his snappish tone and rolled her eyes, crossing her arms with a heavy huff. He took the fun out of everything and she could use a little of that right now. Having been informed that she would decimate their home planet at some point in her future.

“Does he want to be found or not? If he wants to be found he’ll be hiding somewhere obvious, if he doesn’t, he’s had years to find some little closed off nook. What did he say?”

“Not much. But he’d left the future me a message. About why he did it. Didn’t explain anything but it was something about the founding fathers of Gallifrey lying to everyone about the history of the Time Lords.” Sandshoes spoke up, voice soft as he explained and she stared at him as she took in his words, trying to sift through her own memories to try and come up with something that might match up with that but she could find nothing.

“I would have suggested one of the towers of Canonicity or Likelihood. But those are both gone, it seems.” She said finally as she motioned out to the skyline ahead of them, in which the two towers that should have been standing at the North most edge of the Citadel were gone, crumbled into debris along with the rest of it.

“The Death Zone?” Sandshoes offered up and she fixed him with an unimpressed expression.

“That would take far too long to clear out and it’s almost not worth the effort if the rest of the planet is open to him. Keep up.” She paused for a moment, her chin resting on her fingers as she tried to think of where on the planet this future version of herself could be. “What exactly did he say about the founding fathers?”

“That they lied. About our history. About the whole existence of our species. In the Citadel he’s destroyed statues and monuments dedicated to them. The statues in the Panopticon have been desecrated.”

“So…” she stumbled momentarily over that image, then caught herself, angry with herself over the visible slip up and looked away from both the men with a huff, “so we think of something to do with that. There’s always Rassilon’s under passageways.” At their blank expressions she raised an eyebrow, “Oh, do I know something you don’t know?”

“Missy.” Eyebrows got snappy again and she sighed heavily.

“The underground passageways? Rassilon had them created underneath the city when he took power. He and the Omega apparently used them for experimentation when they first set about discovering the Eye of Harmony. They eventually managed to tunnel all the way from the mountain of Solitude to right under the Panopticon. Where the Eye of Harmony now rests. All his and the Omega’s hidden little experiments rest under there. I don’t think they were ever cleared away. Just sealed up. I imagine this future me’s had more than enough time to get in there. I almost can’t help but be buzzed at the prospect of what he’s found down there. If that is indeed where he is.”

Chapter Text

Amy. Amy, come on.” Yaz looked around at the call of a name and saw the red head as she made her way towards the TARDIS just after the one Yaz had stepped out of. A man walked after her, only glancing back once to the mess of colours wearing man they’d just been with as she headed down the line of TARDISs to one in particular. The redhead ended up pounding on the door to the ship 3 down from the end, the only one with the white ambulance symbol on the front.

“Doctor! Get out here!”

“You’re the Ponds?” Yaz asked, calling out to them as she made her way down from her Doctor’s TARDIS. They both whirled around to her, Amy’s frown deepening in confusion over this stranger knowing her, however, with one last glances to the TARDIS she turned and made her way over to Yaz with a nod.

“Yeah?”

“Yaz,” she tried to give a friendly smile, then motioned to Ryan and Graham who’d stepped into place to join them, “he’s Ryan, he’s Graham. I think yous were the ones who got swapped with us the first time around.”

“Her Fam?” Amy asked slowly, a little smile on her lips and Yaz rolled her eyes good naturedly at the Doctor’s choice of a team name.

“Yeah, that’s us.”

“So, where’s the Doctor?”

“You want the long answer or the short one?” Graham asked with a gentle smile and both the Ponds looked to him in confusion.

“Technically a lot of people here are different versions of the Doctor.” Ryan explained.

“But your version of him is gonna be the same place ours is.” Yaz continued for him.

“Got themselves nabbed by the Master.” Graham said and they looked more confused, interspersed with worry this time.

“Who’s the Master?” Rory asked and Yaz blinked in surprise. Surprise that they wouldn’t know. River’s words, frustrating as they may have been, rose to the forefront of her mind once again. ‘Nobody learns all the secrets. You know what the Doctor thinks you need to know. You’ll know things that other people out there could only imagine knowing.

“The Doctor said he was her oldest friend. Another Time Lord, like her.”

“The Doctor said he was the last Time Lord in existence. Did he not know that this… Master was alive?” Amy sounded perplexed and Yaz could only shrug, glancing around to the pinstripes wearing Doctor who definitely came before Amy’s version of the Doctor and he seemed to know the man was alive. Yaz’s illusions of the Doctor might have been shaken but there was really no reason for her to do the same to someone else. She was sure the Doctor could manage that in his own time. She paused at her own thought. That was bitter…

“Where are we?” Rory seemed to be finally realising where they were and what state the world around them was in.

“We’re on Gallifrey.” Rory just looked more confused, the word meaning nothing to him, but Amy’s face fell, horror seeping into her eyes and every expression as she turned out to the view across from them.

“Oh my god.”

“Amy?” Rory’s hand reached out to grip his wife’s arm, concern on his face over her reaction and Amy’s hand gripped his arm back, her grip tight, “what is it? Where is this place?”

“The Doctor’s home. He told me it was destroyed.”

“Yeah, all this was recent though.” Graham spoke up, voice a little hesitant and both the Ponds’ confusion turned to him for an explanation.

“What? No, cause he said that it was gone.”

“I think,” Yaz started slowly, “I think that the Doctor thought it was, but it wasn’t. And now it is. Cause the Master destroyed it. Now he’s used the rest of the Time Lord’s to create an army of Cybermen who can’t be killed. We’re uh… the Doctors’ that is, they’re coming up with a plan to try and save our two versions of them. We just gotta get through a city filled with Cybermen first.”

 

><><><><><><>< 

Bill glanced towards the collection of men that she was still trying to get her head around all being the Doctor, then towards the Time Lady who was stood leaning against the TARDIS doors with her head tilted back against it, her expression blank of anything. She frowned in concern, sent the Doctor one last glance, he didn’t notice, too busy putting together a plan with his other selves, and she made her way over. Her footsteps getting slightly more hesitant the closer she got.

“You alright?” Missy glanced just briefly to her, before rolling her eyes, her expression not shifting much except into a slight annoyance.

“Ugh, it’s you. Go bother someone else. Don’t make me make good on all those threats of a horrible death. I’m really not in the mood right now.”

“You say you wanna kill us, but I don’t think you do, you’ve been alone with me and Nardole plenty.” Bill tried to go for a light-hearted teasing tone. Missy let out a soft sigh, her voice still somewhat blank but more breezy this time as she replied.

“Waiting for the right moment. No point in killing you if he’s not around to see it. No fun if it doesn’t hurt in some way.”

“I don’t believe that.” Bill shook her head slightly and Missy’s head lifted at that, her eyebrow raising in question as her gaze finally turned away from the destruction of Gallifrey before them.

“No?”

“No. You’re part of this team, or whatever it is, now. Whether you like it or not.”

“That doesn’t mean that I have to like you.” Missy pointed out but Bill just smiled instead.

“You didn’t deny it though.” Missy sighed softly, shaking her head slightly in response but Bill could see the little smile she was fighting to keep from her face.

“Would you believe me if I did?” Bill shrugged and the two women fell into another heavy silence, Missy’s eyes drifting back out over the skyline ahead of them and her shoulders dropped once more.

“I’m sorry.” Bill’s voice seemingly startled her out of her thoughts, and she looked around to her, eyebrows drawn together in confusion. Bill continued, “I am sorry, about what’s happened. I can’t begin to imagine what you’re going through, and I’m sorry it happened.”

“Me too. Hasn’t happened yet, not for us anyway technically, but, thank you.” Her voice was soft, her expression seemingly genuinely thankful, then a façade of annoyance was back in place once again as Missy seemed to realise she’d pulled back the curtain just a little bit too much, “now, I did come over here to get away from annoying prying and questions, so if you didn’t mind Bill, go away. Or I really will chib you.” She went full Scottish on the last sentence and Bill raised an eyebrow at the use of slang.

“I knew you knew my name.” Bill smiled at her but acquiesced to the other woman’s request as she started to take steps back towards the Doctors, ignoring Missy’s hidden little smirk behind her back as she went. For all the ‘thing one & thing two’ jokes she made, Bill liked to think she didn’t fully hate her.

><><><><><><>< 

“What do you think has happened?” Tegan turned to the brunette beside her, both of them watching the collection of Doctors, their backs turned to the destruction behind them, “Tegan.” She explained with a hand held out for her to shake and a friendly smile when the woman turned her head to look at her.

“Sarah Jane Smith.” The two shook hands before looking back at the collection of men in front of them, “apparently it was another Time Lord who did it. I overheard them talking.” She paused with a frown of disgust, “how could anyone do this to their own home?”

“This other Time Lord wouldn’t have happened to be the Master now, was it?” Tegan’s tone was dry, accusing and Sarah lifted an eyebrow to her.

“I think so. You know him?”

“Her, now, apparently. Or maybe he again, who knows with Time Lords.”

“Her?” Sarah turned, her eyes wide, “they can change gender? Time Lords?”

“Apparently.” Tegan scoffed in near amusement, “I dunno. I can’t imagine it though. Last two of your species in existence and you hate one another. One destroyed the species, the other did everything to save the rest of the universe and couldn’t their own people. Poor Doctor.”

><><><><><><>< 

“Hello,” Donna sat herself down next to the young blonde girl, her voice gentle and the girl looked around at her, as though surprised that someone was talking to her.

“Hi,” she answered, her voice quiet, not quite shy but not 100% confident either. Donna smiled softly, internally in wonder over the fact that this woman who the Doctor was enamoured with, who he’d built up in Donna’s head as this near perfect being, was practically just a girl. So young.

“I’m Donna.”

“Rose.”                 

“Nice to meet you.” Finally.

“And you. Do you have any idea what’s going on? Where are we? Cause the Doctor won’t really say anything. He’s just got all broody.”

“We’re… I think we’re on the Doctor’s home planet. Something bad has happened to do with some future versions of the Doctor, so, they need to come up with a plan.” Rose’s eyes widened, then her face fell in confusion right after.

“The Doctor said his planet was destroyed.”

“I mean, it’s not looking all that put together.” Donna motioned out to the destruction around them and Rose shook her head softly.

“No, he said it was completely gone, ‘rocks and dust before its time’. That’s what he said.”

“Maybe he was wrong?” Donna shrugged, “I dunno. I think we’ve gotta just let them talk just now and figure out what’s happening, then we’ll find out.” She sat a gentle hand on the girl’s arm, rubbing up and down comfortingly for a moment and Rose seemingly relented, body visibly deflating somewhat, “it’ll all be alright.”

“I know it will, cause if they’re all different versions of the Doctor then everything will work out. Doctor always manages to fix things, and I’ll do whatever it takes to help. I’m sure you will too.”

“Course I will.” Donna paused for a moment, trying to come up with what to say next, then smiled, “you know I met the most future version of the Doctor?”

“Yeah?” Rose turned to her more, interest shining in her eyes as she tilted her head slightly, “what’s he like?”

“She.”

“Sorry?”

“What’s she like.”

“No way.” Rose’s eyes widened and she sat upright, shuffling closer, “the Doctor’s a woman?”

“I know, as if he couldn’t get more bloody alien like. They must be like slugs, being able to change genders like that.” Rose burst into laughter at that, a grin still on her face despite her confusion.

 

Chapter Text

With a snap of The Master’s fingers the Doctor was thrust into another memory, unable to gain his proverbial footing at all. It was like trying to climb up a steep slope, but the path was all gravel and he had very little chance of finding purchase on it. The first few of the next lot of memories flashed by quickly, seemingly multiple first meetings with his next companion needed to get through somewhat quickly.

It was him, standing in front of a Dalek chained up as it frantically denied the fact that it was a Dalek. That it was human and called Oswin.

Then he was brought elsewhere, to a street in what seemed to be the 1800s judging by the clothing worn by both himself and a brunette woman. He looked… rough. It occurred to him quickly that this was probably after losing the Ponds. The ache in his hearts worsened and he tried very hard not to focus too much on what was happening in front of him, but it was difficult not to. The woman was holding a tray of empty tankards, staring intently at a snowman in confusion as the matrix him walked past her. She spoke up to him.

“Did you make this snowman?”

“No.” he winced at the snap in the matrix him’s voice, at the clear want to be left alone.

“Well, who did? Because it wasn’t there a second ago. It just appeared, from nowhere.” That made that him pause, never able to turn down a mystery, and he walked back to begin examining it.

“Maybe it’s snow that fell before. Maybe it remembers how to make snowmen.”

The matrix altered around him yet again, the Victorian setting slipping away to a more 21st century setting. A park. Battered climbing frames and warped slides. Children were racing about, calling excitedly. The memory him was sat on one of the swings at a paint chipped pair of them, swinging dejectedly back and forth. A young girl raced over, climbing onto the swing at his side.

“Hello.”

“Hello.” That him looked up, raising an eyebrow at this little girl speaking to him.

“Why are you sitting at a swing?”

“Why shouldn’t I?”

“Because you’re old.”

Once again, he was ripped from that memory and thrust into another. It almost gave him motion sickness but seeing as this wasn’t actually happening and was all in his head it was a very strange feeling. Brain motion sickness. More like a motion blur.

He was standing outside a door of a very ordinary looking house on a normal looking street, hammering frantically against the door. When it finally pulled open the same woman from the street in Victorian London, the same little girl from the park but now grown up, was stood there, eyebrow raised in question.

“Hello.”

“Clara. Clara Oswald.”

“Hello.”

“Clara Oswin Oswald.”

“Just Clara Oswald. What was that middle one?” the memory him was beaming, dressed in what looked to be monks’ robes with his hair looking almost offendingly flat.

“Do you remember me?”

“No. Should I? Who are you?” He took a step in closer to her, into the house and seemingly turned to look into a mirror in the hallway.

“The Doctor. No? The Doctor?”

“Doctor who?” she asked, and he peered back to her briefly.

“No, just the Doctor.” Then he smiled, leaning back again and looking to her, “actually, could you ask me that again?”

“Could I what?”

“Could you ask me that question again?”

“Doctor who?”

“Okay, just once more.”

“Doctor who?”

“Oh, yeah.” He winced at himself, the matrix self taking a few steps backwards with a beam, “Do you know? I never realised how much I enjoy hearing that said out loud. Thank you.”

“Okay.” She looked at him like he was mad, a look that had been in place for pretty much this whole conversation. Then slammed the door closed in his face.

“Hey, no! Clara!”

“I really don’t know what you were thinking.” The Master appeared beside him, both of them watching this memory version of him hitting his palms against the glass, calling for the woman inside to come back out and talk to him, “even for you this is pitiful.”

“Must have a good reason. Seem to have met her enough times.” A thought suddenly occurred to him, the Master’s words from before stirring in his brain now that he was coherent enough, despite the grief still lingering around his hearts, to ask. “You said she jumped into my time stream?”

“Oh. Yes. What a bunch of brave little morons you tote about with you Doctor. I’m almost impressed, actually, that you manage to find that consistent a level of stupidity to follow you into the fray.”

“It’s bravery.” He snapped back and the Master just rolled his eyes, the matrix crumbling back into white blankness as he began to pace.

“It’s delusion. It’s you playing with their feelings until they think it’s love. Even I think that’s cold, the way you toy with them.”

“They’re my friends. Of course, I love them.”

“Oh, please.” The Master scoffed, “if you really cared about them, you’d stop bringing them along and getting them killed. They’re only lucky if they walk away with part of their life still intact. The parts you never get to touch.”

Before the Doctor could reply, before he could defend himself against the Master’s words – which struck a little too close for home than he was comfortable with- the other Time Lord disappeared and the whiteness warped into another memory.

He was in the TARDIS but something was wrong. It was a different console design for a start. Gone was his big glass floors and soft oranges, in now seemed blue and metallic colours, with an upper level around the edges and panels around the sides at the bottom. The centre console was gone, replaced with a bright white light with bolts of electricity bursting out and around it. His time stream. The panels around the edges and the walls had vines growing around and upon them, even across the doors that he could tell could not be opened because of them and the time stream.

He saw himself on the ground, visibly weak and in pain with Clara leaning over him. Gone was his beloved tweed coat, now he was apparently partial to a longer purple one, his hair mussy despite being slicked back. He saw River, stood off to the side, watching the two with a pained expression on her face.

“I have to go in there.” Clara was looking dead ahead, at the time stream and despite the fact that he didn’t even know her yet, his own hearts stuttered. It was so dangerous. So stupidly dangerous.

“Please,” the memory him on the ground pleaded with her, “please, no.”

“But this is what I’ve already done.” She looked down to him, clearly trying to look reassuring despite her fear, “You’ve already seen me do it. I’m the Impossible Girl, and this is why,” she looked back up, sitting back up on her knees, “if I step in there, what happens?”

“The time winds will tear you into a million pieces. A million versions of you, living and dying all over time and space, like echoes.” River was the one to speak, the him on the ground going quiet as his eyes shut over.

“But the echoes could save the Doctor, right?”

“But they won’t be you. The real you will die. They’ll just be copies.” River seemed to be pleading on his behalf this time, trying to convince her not to do it. Or maybe just explaining the proper consequences. Either way, they didn’t have the desired effect.

“But they’ll be real enough to save him.” He wanted to scream at her, wanted to plead with this girl to not throw her life away for him, not to put another death on his conscience. It wouldn’t matter. She couldn’t hear him. This was just a memory playing out like a video. Clara shrugged with a small smile, “It’s like my mum said. The souffle isn’t the souffle, the souffle is the recipe. It’s the only way to save him, isn’t it?” River nodded, face mournful and apologetic.

“The stars are going out.” Madame Vastra appeared to Clara’s right; her voice mournful. The Doctor looked to her in confusion over how she was there, “And Jenny and Strax are dead. There must be something we can do.” This seemed to strengthen Clara’s resolve. It seemed this was enough to spur her into action as she got to her feet, a brave smile on her face as she took a step towards his time stream.

“Well, how about that? I’m souffle girl after all.”

“No. Please.” The him on the floor mumbled, his eyes closed and body unmoving despite the pleading. Clara ignored the plea.

“If this works, get out of here as fast as you can. And spare me a thought now and then.” She began stepping closer, the him on the floor struggling to turn his head towards her, eyes forcefully opened.

“No, Clara.”

“In fact, you know what? Run.” She glanced back to him, tears gathering in her eyes as one ran down her cheek, “Run, you clever boy, and remember me.”

“No. Clara!” Memory him barely managed to lift his head from the ground but Clara ignored him and stepped inside the time stream, he shouted the next time, desperately, “Clara!”

“No!” he himself reached out, tears down his own cheeks, but he knew, fruitlessly, that there was nothing he could do at this point. Even if this wasn’t just a memory playing out in front of him. The figures melted away and he was left with the Master on the other side of the light in the console room, looking around with a mild look of disgust. “Stop showing me these. Why? Why show me them dying?”

“Because it’s fun? Do I need more of a reason than that?”

“What are you doing to me? Out there?” they both rounded the console slowly, staying at equal lengths away from one another, the Doctor only able to see the other man’s face obscured through the electric shots when they moved outwards.

“Changing the future of the universe. Moulding it in my image.” The Doctor’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion over the man’s words.

“What was that chair? What does it do?” he drew back on the brief memory of what had happened in the room between the Master and his future self while he was paralyzed in the Matrix holding coils.

“Nothing it hasn’t done before.” The Master grinned, clearly loving holding one over on him. Not that that was anything new in their relationship. The Doctor just glared, realising he probably wasn’t going to get anything fruitful from this conversation if he continued to push. This version of the Master liked to be vague. “Shall we continue with Miss Oswald’s story, Doctor?” the Master raised an eyebrow and the Doctor’s pacing came to a stop as he looked up at him in surprise.

“She survives this?”

“Yeah. But don’t get too excited. I’m not showing you how. You’ll have to wait for that bit.” The Master smirked and with a snap of his fingers he disappeared and the TARDIS around the Doctor melted away into the next memory.

Chapter Text

It was like drowning. It felt like she was drowning. And every time her head was brought back down under the water another memory faded. Another face got fuzzy. Another name didn’t sound so right to her anymore. The Doctor was terrified. It hurt.

She kept repeating her friends’ names. Desperate to keep them close. To not let them escape her crashing memory.

Ian Chesterton. Barbra Wright. Vicki. Steven Taylor. Katarina. Dodo Chaplet. Ben Jackson. Polly. Jamie McCrimmin. Victoria Waterfield. Zoe Herriot. Liz Shaw. Jo Grant. Sarah Jane Smith. Harry Sullivan. Leela. Romana. Adric. Nyssa. Tegan Jovanka. Vislor Turlough. Kamelion. Peri Brown. Mel Bush. Ace. Charley Pollard. C’rizz. Lucie Miller. Rose Tyler. Martha Jones. Donna Noble. Captain Jack Harkness. Amy Pond. Rory Williams. Clara Oswald. Bill Potts. Yasmin Khan. Ryan Sinclair. Graham O’Brian.

Ian Chesterton. Barbra Wright. Vicki. Steven Taylor. Katarina. Dodo Chaplet. Ben Jackson. Polly. Jamie McCrimmin….

The next name drifted out into the depths of the sea and she began to panic more. She could still see the girl’s face. Thank the gods. But her name escaped her. She continued her list. Terrified as more names began to escape her, floating out into the waters she was drowning in. Lost to the sea. The more she tried to hold on the more it hurt but she continued to fight, terrified of what it meant if it stopped hurting.

Suddenly the pain surged. Memories slipped away faster, the pain rushing into the spots they’d occupied like water through cracks and her panic doubled down, hearts going into a matching overdrive with each other. She could hear a distant beeping starting up and she couldn’t even spare a thought to it, too overcome with panic for her own mind and memories.

Then it stopped.

There was a dull ache that replaced it. The kind one got when the initial big pain was gone but you knew there was lasting damage there regardless. She was panting for breath, her throat hoarse from the screams. Her head hung forward. It took a moment before she could look up in confusion over why he’d stopped. She was thankful, but she knew him better than to think that he was showing mercy or changing his mind. He spoke up, his voice casual and mockingly positive.

“Need to take little pauses in between. Go too fast and apparently, I’ll completely fry your brain. For once, I don’t want you dead. So, I’m following the instructions.” He grinned at her, flipping through the pages of a withered and aged looking notebook. She was still struggling to catch her breath, force her way back to full consciousness as she loosened her grip around the arms of the chair. They creaked from the relaxation of pressure, her knuckles aching from their constant gripping before. Her eyes were on the notebook though, her voice croaky when she spoke up.

“What is that?”

“Oh,” his words were distracted, his focus on the book as he responded, almost absently, “found it when I found the chair. Instruction manual so to say. It seems they had a lot of failed attempts and close calls until they finally got it right. I’m following it to a T.” he smirked up at her, face contorting in a mock concern, “how are you feeling?”

“How do you think?” she deadpanned as sarcastically as she could manage.

“What’s missing? Hm?” he got up, stepping towards the glass between them, “anything started to slip away yet?” she just glared at him and he beamed in triumph, as though he’d won already, “anything you want to say to me, Doctor, before everything gets wiped away?”

“What did I do to make you hate me like this?”

“You just had to be you. Saviour of the universe who destroys it more often than not.” He rolled his eyes, “so important that-”

“I’m not important.” She cut him off, “I just travel and try to help and-”

“Stop it!” the Master snarled at her, a fist slamming against the glass, his temperament changing like a switch had been flipped, “I hate this. This insistence that you’re nothing. That you aren’t anything special, when you are! You always have been. Even way back at the Academy, it was obvious. And you ran from it. You always ran. Intentionally doing bad at tests, falling behind on work, sleeping through classes, when we all knew that you could have been at the top of the class without even trying! You put in more effort in trying to not put in effort! It’s infuriating. You actively sabotage yourself at every turn, you always have. And now with this! You run away again, like always. You learn that you are the very origin of our species and you decide that you’d rather bury your head in the sand!”

“I haven’t-”

“Have you even told your little friends about it? About everything that I told you?” He took her silence as the answer that it was and scowled. “You’d rather forget it ever happened. I know you. And now, I’m giving you what you want.” His hand moved back to the lever, “When you try and run from this Doctor, when you left, you decided that this was no more important than anything else you’ve ever run from, when this is the most important. You made it unimportant. And by that right it made me unimportant. It made all the deaths on Gallifrey unimportant. You stand at the very foundation of this species and you’d rather turn your back on them. You always have.”

“What do you want from me?” she snapped finally, fists clenching once more as she pulled at her restraints again, wrestling uselessly against the metal, “None of this was my fault. I was a child, back then. A lost child who was taken advantage of and used! And all those deaths on Gallifrey was on your head, don’t you dare put it on mine.”

“Of course it’s your fault! What I did was a mercy! A whole species stemming from the DNA of the Doctor. They should all have been culled from the start! No wonder as a species we’ve always been so defective.”

“Don’t pin your actions on me. Don’t use me as your excuse.”

“You killed them first.”

“And then I saved them! I carried that guilt with me for centuries! You speak as though you’re not one of them! If you truly believed what you said, you’d have killed yourself along with them. But you’re too much of a coward to really do that. What you did was unforgivable, and you have the gall to stand there, with me tied to this chair and you wiping my mind, and say that it was my fault? All those people who knew nothing. All those children, not even old enough to join the Academy, and you murdered them! This is on you.”

So be it.

The silence between them stretched on, the Master’s hands clearly itching to reach back over to the lever. As her heartbeats began to slow the Doctor realised that antagonising him while she was in this situation wasn’t the smartest of choices, but their millennia of friendship meant they knew exactly how to push one another’s buttons. Her eyes left him, drifting passed him to her past self who was still trapped in the paralysis coils of the Matrix, his face stuck in an expression of pain. She could just about make out the tear treads down his cheeks and she wondered what the Master was showing him. He had thousands of years to work with. He’d had more than enough time to look through and cherry pick the best moments.

“Do you think you’ll ever regret it?” her voice went soft as a thought occurred to her, softer than it should have been considering the circumstances and it caught him off guard, his hand pausing on the lever. He blinked, hand coming to sit on his lap once more as he deliberated over his answer, sinking back into his seat.

“Never.” Her shoulders slumped and the two of them stared at one another. Her head thumped back against the wall behind her, her hearts sinking in her chest, but she tried one last time. Her words a near whisper and as desperate as her pride and wounded brain would allow.

“Do you regret our friendship?” she was offering an olive branch. His face went expressionless, she watched it intently, waiting for what he had to say. Finally, his eyes began to water slightly, flickering back to hers and he seemed to take a great delight in snapping that branch in two as he leaned towards her.

Every day of my life.” His words were slow, drawn out to try and create the optimum amount of hurt from them. He took the two parts of the olive branch and stamped them into smithereens as he continued, a grin on his face, “I wish I’d never met you, Doctor. But we can’t change history, we both know that. The most I can do is shape the future as I want. My past has been shaped by you. Now I shall shape your future, it’s only fair.”

He watched her face, waiting with a sick glee for the hurt to spread. For the first twitch of her jaw as she would try to hold back tears at his words. For the watering of her eyes and the quiver in her cheeks. None of that came. Instead a dark blankness overcame her face as she stared back at him. Her eyes glazing over into something he couldn’t name but recognised intimately from all the time he’d spent around the Doctor and, for all he’d done in the past, it had never been directed at him. He couldn’t help the way his hearts gave a sudden twinge in fear. It was an expression that he’d heard could make entire armies turn and run. An expression that made unfeeling creatures like the Daleks think twice. An expression he’d always thought, somewhere in the back of his mind, perhaps never existed because he’d never seen it head on, and this was the Doctor. His idiot best friend from childhood. The same boy who cried when the Master had stepped on a beetle. The same one who had frolicked through red grass fields with him. Suddenly, with that look directed at him, he understood. He understood the fear that the Doctor’s mere name could inspire across the universe. He also understood that with his last words he may have destroyed any final lingering hopes she may have had of salvaging what they once were. The bond finally broken.

He was glad to have her secured to that chair.

To be doing what he was. He didn’t know what he might do if she escaped. He knew that there was nowhere in the universe he could go to hide from her now. To escape her wrath now he’d finally earned it.

She didn’t scream the next time he pulled the lever. A squeak left her, a sound muffled by her gritted teeth as she kept her eyes on his, near unblinking in that same glazed over way. That just made it all the scarier.

A beeping went off to his left and he took his eyes off of her in order to look down at the screens further back on the control unit he was sat at. He looked to the cameras in time to see a door swing open in a cloud of dust, and he scowled. They may have found the tunnels, but they stretched on for miles and miles. He still had time. And with everything he’d left in their way, he was confident he would have all the time in the universe to get this finished.

Chapter Text

They’d split off into smaller groups once they reached the passageways. Spreading out to cover more ground. It hadn’t taken long for them to realise just how far the corridors went and how much they split off into different directions. They’d also realised that there was something blocking their ability to mentally contact one another down there. They needed to find their future selves, find a way to stop whatever was blocking their ability to contact them mentally in order to find them and they also needed to figure out a way to stop these Cybermen the Master had created out of their people. It was an almost debilitating thought for both the Sandshoes wearing Doctor and his leather jacket clad younger self, both fresh from the Time War and their version of its ending as they were. They’d done the deed already, or so they’d thought, the memory of destroying Gallifrey and its people still fresh in their minds. This was just rubbing salt into the wound for them both. Not that it was a particularly pleasant one for the rest of them.

Ryan, Yaz and Graham decided to split into a group each, all of them being able to contact each other with their phones still. They handed the Doctor’s phone over to fourth group, to River Song who, being the only one of them capable of handling the spoilers on said phone without the time lines taking a beating, turned it over in her hand for a moment before smiling knowingly.

Yaz stuck with the Sandshoes Doctor and Eyebrows one. Their companions in Donna, Bill and Nardole coming along with them. The Ponds had chosen to stick with them, Amy apparently deciding that they must’ve had the best chance of finding both versions of the Doctor that had been taken.

Graham had been swept up in conversation with the youngest three versions of the Doctor, so he’d gone with them already, his phone in his pocket ready to give a ring should they run into any trouble. Ian and Barbara were with them, along with Susan, Jamie, Zoe and Jo.

Ryan hadn’t had much of a chance to choose before he was being manoeuvred down one of the passageways by the Doctor in the horrifyingly colourful outfit, the two versions of him beforehand following with a shared glance between one another. Their companions came along too, Sarah Jane, Tegan, Turlough and Peri.

The last group with River had the last three Doctors, the one wearing questions marks, the one in the cravat and the one in the leather jacket. Their companions as well, Ace, Lucie, Jack and Rose.

The first group had walked down the centre pathway, peering into the different rooms that they walked passed, the two Time Lords the main ones keeping their eyes peeled for any traps that the Master may have laid out for them. It was after about a half hour of walking that they finally saw anything. The rooms they’d peered into on the way to finding the first trap had looked cleared out. In a rushed way, like someone had wanted to get everything out but some minor things were still left behind. Scratches and other marks still marked the floors and walls where things had been ripped out of place.

“Alright, stand back.” Sandshoes sat an arm across in front of Yaz, stopping her from stepping forward. He grimaced down at the patterned flooring in front of them. It stood out obviously from the rest of the blank marble flooring that had spread throughout the rest of the passageways and rooms they’d peeked into on their way through. “Typical Master, overly complicated traps and all.”

“What is it?”

“Well, it’s a trap, that’s for sure.”

“Yeah, we got that,” Donna piped up from behind him next to Bill, “what does it do?” He sighed, casting her a look before relenting with a little shrug.

“I don’t… 100% know. It’ll do something.”

“Well, isn’t that helpful. Fish something out of those pockets of yours then, chuck it on it.”

“Oh, good idea.” He grinned at her and reached deep into his jacket pocket until he could fish out a little wind up mouse and gave it a chuck onto one of the middle rows of checkerboard on the floor. There was a split second where nothing happened. Just long enough that he wondered if anything was actually going to happen in the first place. Then a low crackling noise picked up and within seconds there was a flash of white light and the small wind up mouse was now dust on the floor. They’d all flinched back at the flash of light and blinked at the mouse remnants, all looking varying degrees of horrified. “Ah, it’s one of these.”

Just like the good old days, eh Doctor?” they all looked up as the Master’s voice came from across the room and a holographic figure of him stood with his hands clasped behind his back as he smirked at them. “A lot of this stuff was down here already, Rassilon was set in his ways about his traps.

Memories of the Death Zone arose in the Doctor’s mind. Both versions of him present and they both scowled at him.

“Where are you?” The Doctor with the Eyebrows questioned him but Yaz spoke up, all but cutting him off in an angry tone.

“Where’s the Doctor? What have you done to her?”

I haven’t done anything. Yet. At least not completely.

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Sandshoes asked. The Master just smirked, head tilting just slightly to the side, the movement taunting and the Doctor’s jaw clenched in frustration, “what are you doing to them?”

A trip down memory lane. For one at least.

“And the other?” There was a pause as the Master thought over his words, then another calm smile settled on his face.

Well… it’s definitely more of a tumble.” A grin spread across his face as he spread his arms, “hope you’re fast enough. Not sure how much longer she’s going to hold out.” There was a crackle, like an old sound system booting up, and seconds later the sound of screams came through. They were unmistakably the Doctor’s. Yaz let out a sound like she’d just been punched in the gut and the Doctor with the Eyebrows was the one to reach for her when she began storming forwards, forgetting the trap momentarily in her rage.

“What are you doing to her?” she yelled at him and his smirk spread out into a full out evil grin, clearly finding the outrage and worry on the other faces in the room amusing.

Like I said, more of a tumble.” With one last grin the hologram flickered out of existence and the screaming was cut off and a horrible silence followed.

“We need to find her.” Yaz’s tone turned pleading, any previous anger gone. Her frustrations with the Doctor could take a back seat until she was sure the other woman was going to be okay.

“We will.” The Sandshoes Doctor assured her, sitting a hand on her shoulder and stooping slightly to look her in the eye, “we’ll find both of them.” He looked to the Ponds who were both looking just as worried.

“Do you think he’s hurting him as well?” Amy asked, voice slightly wobbly.

“I don’t think so.” The Eyebrows Doctor said, voice hesitant but he sounded sure enough that the Ponds let out the breaths they’d been holding, “I more think he might just have him stuck somewhere out of the way. Talk of memory lane?”

“The Matrix?” Sandshoes supplied and the Eyebrows Doctor shrugged with a nod.

“I think so, yes.”

“What’s the Matrix?” Rory asked.

“Time Lord supercomputer. It uploads memories into it like data onto a hard drive. He could be showing him anything in there.” Sandshoes supplied.

“Doesn’t he have access to all of my version of you’s memories?” Yaz asked, “what if he shows him his future?”

“It’s fine. So many versions of us in one place, timelines are already fraying to keep everything straight. None of us will remember any of this.”

“So, what’s the trap?” Bill asked, after a beat of silence, finally getting them back on track. They all looked back to it.

“Some kind of pattern, you’ll need to walk across the squares in a particular order to avoid being vaporised. I’ve seen it used before.” Eyebrows told them, stepping to the edge of the patterned floor, “a long time ago.” Bill caught his arm before he took a step onto the first row of squares.

“Hey! What’re you doing?”

“Sir!” Nardole cried out his own objections and the Doctor turned to them with a hand thrown out towards the trap.

“Last time it didn’t affect the first three layers.”

“Right, and you think this one’s the same?” Bill’s voice was slightly squeaky.

“Might be, that’s why I’m checking.”

“Sir, surely it would be bad for your future self if you yourself end up dying here and now out of sheer stupidity?”

“Nardole?” the smaller man hesitated for a second before answering, his tone wary.

“Yes sir?”

“Do shut up.” Nardole’s face flattened out into something distinctly unimpressed and no one could make any other protest as the Scotsman took a quick step backwards onto the first line of squares. He visibly winced, eyes squeezed shut as his shoulders hunched up to his chin as he waited to see if he would be vaporised. When nothing happened after a few seconds his posture relaxed and he held his hands up with a grin towards everyone else who’d all tensed the second he stepped a foot onto it, “See! Fine.”

“I can’t believe you.” Bill hissed, “what if you’d died right now?”

“Then we all would have been very sad, me especially. It would have meant I made a very stupid decision. But I’m not dead and it all worked out. That just means I’m just very clever.”

“Do you just get more thick headed as you age or is it just the same and I haven’t noticed?” Donna asked, pretty much deadpan and the Sandshoes wearing Doctor tossed her an offended look.

“Oi.”

“Just asking.”

“Couldn’t you just chuck more things from your pockets onto the squares? Figure out which ones which?” Rory asked, Bill pointing to him in agreement of the common sense.

“Fine, give me your shoe.” Eyebrows Doctor raised an eyebrow at Rory who blinked in confusion, “I already used something of mine. Not ruining all my stuff. If you don’t wanna do it my way, then we’ll make it a group effort. Give me your stuff.” Rory gaped at him for a moment, glancing to his wife and the others to see if he was being serious. Bill just grimaced then looked back to the Doctor.

“I don’t carry anything with me, since learned better.” She sat her hands on her hips for a moment.

“Yeah, seconded. I’ve lost two phones travelling with you.” Rory grimaced.

“Well then, guess we’re going with my plan. Unless Nardole feels like pulling out some nuts and bolts for the greater good?” Nardole glared at him and the Doctor smirked and continued, “now, are you all going to let me figure this out for a moment or will you continue? We do appear to be on a time limit though.” The group fell silent almost immediately, watching the older man as he looked back across the chess board looking design on the ground, then up to search for the disintegrator beams, “Ah ha.” He beamed suddenly, taking the next step forward onto the next square one level up and two down. As his foot made contact with it there was a distant hissing noise, and everyone tensed, waiting for what would happen

Chapter Text

“Might I inquire as to what the version of myself that you’re acquainted with looks like? Not that I imagine there are many people hidden away down here but my other future self never gave an explanation of what either of these future self’s of mine look like.” The Doctor with the celery in his lapel stuck his hands in his pockets and smiled best he could. It was slightly forced, the grief from seeing his planet the way it was, the emptiness in his head where his people should be. Inside this pocket universe, as he’d been informed that they were in, he existed outside the natural laws of time. They were all stood in one moment. One, quiet, empty moment. He really thought it better to speak, not let the silence drag on in person as well as internally, he knew that his other selves would probably agree.

He glanced around at the colourful mess that he was apparently destined to become and made a face. He really seemed to be the most egotistical atrocious fellow. It just made the fact that he was him sting all the more.

“Well,” Ryan spoke up, rubbing his hands together momentarily, “the other Doctor was young looking, wore a bowtie. My version of you, she’s small-ish, blonde, wears a lot of rainbows.”

“She?” He blinked, more thrilled than surprised and he smiled, “ah, finally. It seems it’s going to take a while. It’s about time we got there.”

“You know, that’s exactly what I said.” The version of him in the awful coat spoke up, the girl he travelled with, Peri, spoke up next, her voice high pitched but happy sounding.

“She seemed nice enough, I only got to meet her for a few minutes.”

“When was this?” The monstrous coat Doctor asked, raising an eyebrow to her and she shrugged.

“The first time I got swapped around. She was the version of you I met.”

“I met her too while that happened.” Sarah Jane piped up, “she did seem nice.”

“Well, we can always appreciate that we’re still nice by that age.” The Doctor with the huge scarf spoke up, his hands stuffed in his pockets, “assuming that she is of a more advanced age.”

“She’s over 2400 years old, last she told us,” Ryan paused, mind flittering back to what Yaz had told Graham and him about the Doctor having spent centuries in prison, then corrected his statement, “but I think she might be older. It was a while ago.”

“A more advanced age indeed.” He sounded slightly taken aback, as if the mere thought of getting that old hadn’t occurred to him. The other two Doctors looked just as shaken.

“Over 2400 years old?” Tegan raised an eyebrow, “blimey, Doctor. I wasn’t aware anyone could get that old and still look young.”

“I’m over 600 years old Tegan.” The Doctor with the celery said and she blinked in surprise, making him smile softly, “Time Lords live a lot longer than humans. Your life span is quite short in the relative scheme of things.”

“Rather makes you all the more impressive, I think.” The Doctor with the scarf grinned at the collection of humans around him.

“Hold up.” Ryan came to a stop first, eyes casting about, and the others followed suit, “can you hear that?” The others fell into silence and, sure enough, somewhere nearby came the familiar heavy metallic footsteps of Cybermen. Tension began settling over the group and the Doctor with the celery was quick to hiss out words.

“Over there, quick.” He was pointing to a doorway that was open further up the hallway. There was a quick fumble to get every one inside but the door slid shut behind them and locked thanks to the sonic. A very different looking kind of sonic in the Celery stick wearing Doctor’s hand that Ryan couldn’t help but stare at. It was all so different and yet exactly the same. It was difficult to wrap his head around. They all remained silent, however, as they heard the stomps of the Cybermasters as they moved passed the door outside. Once they’d passed and began to move further down the corridors they all let out matching breaths of relief and Ryan turned finally to look around the room they’d hid in. At what he saw his eyes widened and he let out a low breath.

“Woah…”

><><><><><><><>< 

“Don’t you have any way of tracking her?” Graham asked, raising an eyebrow, “like, knowing when other Time Lords are about? Surely you have a special sense for knowing where another version of yourself is? So you don’t run into one another.”

“It’s not a radar.” The shaggy looking Doctor, who’d been toying with a recorder earlier, grimaced, “We would try and contact her mentally, but there is some kind of a block going on. Though whether that’s the Master or Rassilon’s doing is still to be discovered.”

“Who is Rassilon?”

“One of the founders of the Time Lords.” The opera cape wearing Doctor spoke up, “he, the Omega and the Other created the Time Lords, or so it’s said. I’ve long since learned to take those stories with a grain of salt.”

“Suppose.” Graham shrugged, giving a weak smile, “suppose it must be the same as trying to decipher ancient pictures, hieroglyphs and whatnot.”

“Not exactly. Having met two of the three, it’s easier to say neither are worthy of the praise they receive.”

“Well, I’m sure Alexander the Great probably wasn’t all that great but you know what they say, History’s written by the winners.” Graham shrugged with a small shake of his head. Having travelled with the Doctor for as long as he had now, he’d gotten to know just how true that statement really was. All the moments in history that he knew happened differently, but someone else had gotten there first.

“Wise words.” The youngest version of the Doctor, who was also, coincidentally, the oldest looking, spoke up. His words sounding impressed. He was lagging behind just slightly with his cane, Susan ever-present at his side, the girl quiet and withdrawn. The whole horrid day’s shock was still yet to work its way out of her system. The future destruction of their planet, the apparent cannibalisation of their people into Cybermen, and her grandfather(grandmother?)’s apparent danger at the hands of the perpetrator.

“Oh, thanks very much.” Graham smiled around at him, then turned back around to look where he was walking, “so, this mind jamming psychic machine thingy, any idea what it looks like?”

“Well, if the Master’s created it, it should be obvious to us what it is. However, if it’s Rassilon’s device then it may be slightly more difficult to pick it out.” The opera cape wearing Doctor said with a frown on his face, “all of this was constructed eons ago. Closer to the beginning of time than of any time that any of us would know of. Rassilon and the Omega delved into powers beyond which the average mind could think of.”

“Not that he’s saying we have an average mind” the recorder playing Doctor interrupted quickly and the opera cape wearing one fixed him with a raised eyebrow and an unimpressed look, muttering near under his breath.

“Not anymore anyway.” It got him the stink eye back but he merely smirked and Graham raised an eyebrow between the two. He wouldn’t have imagined so much arguing to happen between two men who were the same person. Especially the kind of bickering that was this… childish. It made his head hurt slightly to think of these three men all being younger than his version of the Doctor all combined.

“So, what exactly did Rassilon get up to then? How did you meet him? What sort of thing would he look to use to jam your mental signals?”

“It would have to be some kind of Psychic Interferometer Jamming Frequency Projector. Rassilon scoured the known universes for a way to create immortality for himself, that decent into madness eventually led to his tyranny which led to his inevitable downfall.” The youngest version of the Doctor explained, Susan this time deciding to speak up and continue his explanation.

“His body now lies within the Death Zone on Gallifrey, within its tomb. His mind through the Matrix. It’s forever but not probably how he expected.”

“How so?” Barbara asked.

“He was still too respected by the Time Lords for them to actually kill him. So, they separated him from his body, and allowed his mind to be uploaded to the Matrix where it could be consulted and, perhaps one day, put back into another body should he be needed, but that bit’s just hearsay.” The Opera Cape wearing Doctor elaborated.

“Yeah.” Graham muttered, keeping the information stored in his brain to ask his version of the Doctor about it later. Or maybe the pinstripes one if she didn’t feel like sharing.

“What about through here?” they all turned when Jo called out, the young woman pushing at a doorway that none of them had noticed before. It was the same colour of the smooth rock walls surrounding them. It was her version of the Doctor, the Opera Cape wearing one, who stepped forward first and ushered her backwards quickly whilst the door swung open. He was right to do so. Two green tipped silver spears fired from somewhere unknown down the hallway and hit the wall opposite the doorway opening so hard they embedded themselves into the stone.

“You know,” the Opera Cape wearing Doctor spoke up once the shock of what had just happened wore off, his arm still around Jo’s shoulders, “I think you might be right, well done Jo.”

Chapter Text

The Matrix reshaped itself around him and the Doctor tried to force himself to focus on anything other than it’s changing appearances. Tried to focus on escaping from this. On overloading the Matrix the same way he remembered doing in the past. His brain was too grief-stricken to really listen to him. He’d squeezed his eyes shut to try and concentrate but a deep Scottish voice speaking made him open them to see what memory had appeared.

“There are easier ways to steal a key, you know.” There was a man with alarming looking eyebrows glaring down at a young woman who was stood casually in front of him, her hands stuffed in her pockets as she shrugged. Clara was stood next to him, eyes wide as she too watched the other woman. There was a woman and a child sat on some stairs and another young man stood up just to the side of them.

“I don’t want your TARDIS. That’s not what this is about.” She shook her head and then looked to the young man stood up, “Rigsy, come here, I’ll remove your chronolock.”

“What is this, Ashildr?” the man with the eyebrows, who he was pretty sure was him going by how she’d brought up the TARDIS. ‘Blimey’ he thought, rounding the man while he had the chance, ‘those eyebrows… also I’m going to get old again. That’s going to suck’. “You can’t possibly think it’ll keep me here.

“It’s not a restraint. It’s a teleport bracelet.”

“What?” Clara stepped forward.

“I’ll give you time to say goodbye. Don’t worry. No-one will be hurt.”

“Where are you sending me?” The Matrix him with the eyebrows began to step forward but Ashildr didn’t react and just continued.

“I made a deal to protect the street. They take you; I take the key so you can’t be traced. I do as they tell me, and the street is safe.”

“They? Who are they?” Matrix him took another step forward.

“One more thing.” Ashildr seemed to smirk, “your confession dial.” The Doctor’s head snapped around to look at her so fast he thought he might have pulled something. He then looked quickly to his Matrix self’s face to see his reaction to this. Clara had moved forward to stand at his side. “They have other means of procuring it, but I understand it’s likely to be on your person. Please, no resistance. You’ve already lost.” Clara looked to that him with an accusatory look and the man glanced quickly to her with a grimace before looking back to Ashildr. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the circular device, holding it up for the younger woman to see. The real Doctor stepped forward to inspect it. He knew Gallifrey was to survive. He knew the Time Lords were to survive until the Master came but this was other tangible proof of their survival. The Matrix him held it out for her to take and she did so, “what is it?” she asked, turning it over in her hands.

“In your terms, my last will and testament.”

“How does it work?”

“I’ve no idea.” He held up his hands, stepping backwards with a slightly mocking edge to his voice.

“Well, thank you anyway.” She turned, storing the confession dial on a shelf before speaking again, “Rigsy, your neck.” She moved towards the young man who’d still been standing watching until this point. He was looking at Clara as Ashildr reached up to his neck.

“Clara, what are you playing at? The chronolock!” Ashildr dropped her hand as Rigsy turned to Clara. Clara turned around, her voice low and warning as she demanded.

“Take the teleport off him first.” Ashildr frowned but reached for Rigsy once again. He stopped her, reaching for her hands to push her away.

“I don’t have it, I’m telling you. Clara does!” In response Clara gathered up her hair at the back of her head and turned around, showing off the three numbers on the back of her neck. Ashildr’s expression turned horrified.

“No…” she stumbled forward towards Clara, “No, you didn’t.”

“Go on, then. Take it off.” Clara demanded once again and this time it was the Matrix him who reached for her to tug her round, his voice rough as he snapped at her, his own voice horrified as well.

“Clara, you didn’t..!” Clara dropped her hair and turned to him as he began to back away with wide eyes. Ashildr turned away and began to stalk away.

“I had no idea she’d do something so stupid.” Ashildr turned to look at the Matrix him, this time her face alight with fear and her eyes watering, “I swear, I never meant for anyone to get hurt.” She looked to Clara, “what were you thinking, sacrificing yourself?

“I wasn’t sacrificing anything!” Clara scoffed, clearly not understanding the severity of her actions and what the consequences would be. “It was strategy. Backup plan, to buy us more time.” She turned as the Matrix him stalked forward towards Rigsy.

“Who told you to give it to her?”

“Nobody did! I did! Rump said…” she snapped at that him as the man crowded Rigsy and her voice had him turning the desperate anger on her.

“What exactly did Rump say?”

“He said the death is locked in. You can pass it on, but…” she trailed off.

“But what?”

“But…” it seemed to be sinking in for her now and Ashildr was the one to finish the sentence.

“But you can’t cheat it altogether.” There was a shared moment of horrified silence in the room that was broken by a black raven in a cage cawing loudly somewhere outside. Rigsy jumped forward, his eyes wide.

“Clara, you didn’t tell me that! Give it back to me now.”

“She can’t.” Ashildr all but whispered the words, she locked eyes with Clara, her expression apologetic, “Clara, I made a contract with the Shade when I put the chronolock on Rigsy. I promised it a soul and only I can break that contract. When you took it from him, you changed the terms. You cut me out of the deal.”

“We can fix this, can’t we?” Clara whirled around to the Matrix him, her hand at the mark at the back of her neck and her expression scared, “We always fix it.”

“No.” he told her honestly, but quickly fixed his glare on Ashildr when Clara’s hope slid into fear, “but you can. Fix this. Fix it now.”

“It- it’s not possible. I can’t.” she looked panicked, regretful and the Doctor could feel his own hearts pounding as he watched his future self stalk forward, not ready to take no as an answer.

“Yes, it is, you can, and you will, or this street will be over. I’ll show you and all your funny little friends to the whole laughing world. I’ll bring UNIT, I’ll bring the Zygons. Give me a minute, I’ll bring the Daleks and the Cybermen.” He dragged her forcefully over to his companion, “You will save Clara, you will do it now, or I will rain hell on you for the rest of time.

“Doctor,” Clara pleaded softly with him, “stop talking like that.”

“You can’t!” Ashildr pleaded with him as he crowded her, getting in her face.

“I can do whatever the hell I like. You read the stories; you know who I am. And in all that time,” he waved a hand in front of her face, his voice a near snarl as he continued, “did you ever hear anything about anyone who stopped me?”

The real Doctor watched this exchange with bated breath, knowing that this would probably be fruitless but hoping uselessly that it wouldn’t end the way he thought it would. That the girl who’d been brave enough to throw herself into his timestream wasn’t about to be taken out by a case of a mistakenly broken contract.

“I know the Doctor.” Ashildr tried to talk him down, “the Doctor would never-”

“The Doctor is no longer here!” he broke out in a yell, voice echoing throughout the room as his rage hit a breaking point, “You are stuck with me. And I will end you, and everything you love.” His voice dropped to a warning hiss and the real Doctor watched it, finding it hard to watch his rage from the outside. He never even liked to think about his darker moments.

“Doctor,” Clara cried out, “for god’s sake, will you stop?”

“No!” He snapped back.

“I did this, do you hear me? I did this. This is my fault.” He finally turned on her, the rage coming with him.

“I don’t care.”

“Liar. You always care. Always have. Your reign of terror will end with the sight of the first crying child and you know it.” The real Doctor sucked in a heavy breath and felt his hearts break once more for this young woman who even on her death bed was trying to talk him down and have him show mercy. To let go of the rage. She was trying to save lives. It was admirable. He loved her for it the same way he’d loved all his friends for it. He was old enough to know even for him it never would have worked.

“No I don’t.” His tone was desperate, and Clara stepped closer to him, her voice softening.

“I do.” The two stared at one another, tears gathering in their eyes and Clara continued, her voice breaking as tears threatened but she had to get the words out, “Listen… if this is the last I ever see of you, please… not like this.” The fire seemed to dissipate at her pleading, the Doctor knew, long enough that it would only be gone until she was. There was the cawing again. Louder this time. The Matrix him began to pace. Clara looked to Ashildr, asking one last time, “Is there anything you can do?”

“I’m sorry,” Ashildr shook her head, her expression completely showing her remorseful feelings, “I’m truly sorry, I…”

“Time’s short.” Clara cut her off, “yes or no?”

“No.” The Matrix him had gone still and she turned to face him once more, clearly putting on a brave face for him as she spoke.

“Well, if Danny Pink can do it, so can I.”

“Do what?”

“Die Right. Die like I mean it. Face the raven.”

“No, this isn’t happening, this can’t be happening.”           

“Maybe this is what I wanted.” How was it that whenever this happened it always seemed to be his companions trying to comfort him rather than the other way around. Amy telling him that it would all be alright, making plans for River to be there for him afterwards. Now Clara, literally on her deathbed talking him down from his rage and telling him that it would be alright. It wasn’t right. “Maybe this is it. Maybe this is why I kept running. Maybe this is why I kept taking all those stupid risks. Kept pushing it.” His hearts broke for her. That was never a justification he wanted to hear from anyone.

“This is my fault.” Matrix him stepped forward; his voice soft as he looked down at her.

“This is my choice.”

“I let you get reckless.”

“Why? Why shouldn’t I be so reckless? You’re reckless all the bloody time! Why can’t I be like you?”

“Clara, there’s nothing special about me. I’m nothing but I’m less breakable than you. I should have taken care of you.”

“I never asked you to.”

“You shouldn’t have to ask.” The Raven cawed once more, and screams could be heard.

“Clara, if I’d known, I’d-” Rigsy tried to step in but she cut him off quickly.

“Don’t. Shut up.”

“But…”

“Really, Rigsy, shut up. If you feel guilty about this, even for one minute, I…” the cawing cut her off once more, this time it could be heard right outside and everyone in the room turned to look at it. Clara locked eyes with the Matrix him, “you.” She stepped towards him with purpose, steely determination swimming in her eyes behind the tears, “Now, you listen to me. You’re going to be alone now, and you’re very bad at that. You’re going to be furious and you’re going to be sad but listen to me. Don’t let this change you.” She cut him off once again as he tried to speak, not even letting him open his mouth, “No, listen. Whatever happens next… wherever she is sending you, I know what you’re capable of. You don’t be a warrior. Promise me. Be a Doctor.”

“What’s the point of being a Doctor if I can’t cure you?” his eyes were watering with tears and she just continued, holding eye contact with the same look in her eye.

“Heal yourself. You have to. You can’t let this turn you into a monster. So… I’m not asking you for a promise. I’m giving you an order. You will not insult my memory. There will be no revenge. I will die, and no one else, here or anywhere, will suffer.” The real Doctor had tears in his eyes once again. This woman knew him too well. Knew what she was doing to appeal to everything good in him. He just didn’t know if it would be enough.

“What about me?”

“If there was something I could do about that, I would. I guess we’re both just going to have to be brave.” The Matrix him seemed to stumble silently over his words for a second, the tears now at serious risk of spilling over as his eyes got red.

“Clara…” She reached up, pulling him into a hug to hide the tears as they began to run down her face.

“Everything you are about to say, I already know. Don’t do it now. We’ve already had enough bad timing.” The raven cawed once more, closer still and Clara pulled back, looking towards the window for it, visibly scared.

“Don’t run.” He told her, “stay with me.”

“Nah.” She shook her head, her features schooled into something strong for that him once again, “you stay here. In the end, everybody does this alone.”

“Clara-” he seemed to panic as he tried to protest but she simply continued.

“This is as brave as I know how to be.” She tried to smile and the Matrix him tried it back, “I know it’s going to hurt you, but… please… be a little proud of me.” She reached up, cupping his face with a heavy intake of breath. He took her hand, holding it between both of his and pressed a kiss to the back of it. “Goodbye Doctor.” She ripped her hand away as the raven cawed again and made her way outside. Both versions of the Doctor followed to watch from the doorway. The raven landed on a streetlight further down the street. People were running away. Clara stepped towards it and held her arms out, whispering something to herself that the Doctor couldn’t hear. The raven flew forward, disappearing into her and she let out a scream of pain, frozen in place from it. Once she finally stopped, it was only made worse by the black mist of the raven leaving her body and she dropped to the street. Dead.

The real Doctor tried to rush to her side, a few stray tears making their way down her cheeks but the Matrix him made his way inside and the world around him began to crumble away. He reached for her still form on the ground, crying out as she too started to disappear.

No. No!”

“It doesn’t end here for her.” He looked round, now on his knees, and looked up at the Master, confused. “She was a tenacious one, I give her that. Kept holding on. Weaselling her way back into being, through you. Annoying.”

“How?”

“It’s not nice, I think deep down you’d even prefer her being dead. Would’ve meant a lot less heartache for you.”

“It always does. It’s always worth it if I save them.” The Master rolled his eyes and he heard the man step backwards and didn’t even follow the motion, just kept staring forward at the spot Clara’s body had been occupying just seconds before.

“I won’t bother with all 4.5 billion years, we don’t have time for that, as much as I would love putting you through that once again.” That caught his attention and the Doctor’s head snapped around to look at him, but the man had already disappeared. 4.5 billion years… No way he actually lived that. God, he hoped he didn’t…

The Matrix warped once more, and he was brought out into what he thought was his old TARDIS desktop. The original one. The white one with the circle things on the walls. Clara had been watching something on the screen but quickly turned it off with a desperate gasp. She was dressed in the same clothes that she’d been wearing back in the street where she’d died. She whirled around as the doors opened and the eyebrows him and Ashildr walked in.

“You ok?” the Matrix him asked Clara who was turned with her back pressed up against the console and her body tense.

“Yeah.” She tried to assure him with a nod, “yeah, yeah. Just, you know, my pulse.” She reached down to sit her fingers over her pulse point on her wrist with a forcefully casual shrug.

“Yeah, we’ll fix that somehow. I promise. You remember Ashildr, of course.”

“Yeah, sure.” Clara’s eyed the other woman warily and the Matrix him raised an eyebrow.

“I thought you’d be more surprised to see her?”

“I was watching,” Clara admitted after a beat of awkward silence. She reached for a pair of sunglasses that were sitting on the console and took a few steps away. He watched his future self pick up what looked to be a neural block and the real Doctor felt his face scrunch up in pity for the woman as he pushed himself to his feet finally. “No. Doctor, whatever you’re about to do, don’t do it!”

“It won’t hurt,” the Matrix him turned to her, taking steps closer to her, holding out the neural block device, “It’ll be nothing. You’ll just pass out for a moment.”

“And then?” she asked, clearly distrustful.

“When you wake, you’ll be fine.”

“But?”

“Clara, just listen to me.”

“Just say it. Say it. Come on. Tell me.”

“When you wake up,” he raised his chin, clearly trying to remain firm in his heartbreaking decision, “you will have forgotten me. You’ll have forgotten we ever even met.”

“And why would I want that?”

“Because it’s the only way. That stuff in your head, the image of me, they could use it to find you.” He tried to take another step closer and she backed away once more then held up the sunglasses, holding them out for him.

“I, er… I used these.”

“On what?”

“That.”

“What did you do?”

“What do you think? Ashildr’s right, you see? We’re too alike.”

“Tell me what you did.”

“What else?” She snapped, “what else do you think I did? I reversed the polarity.”

“Push that button, Doctor, it will go off in your own face.” The real Doctor couldn’t help but be slightly impressed with her. Of course, she admitted the plan but she’d clearly learned some things from him.

“You were trying to trick me?” the man sounded a touch annoyed and she continued to snap back at him, just as angry.

“What were you trying to do to me?”

“I’m trying to keep you safe.”

“Why?” that made the Matrix him pause, confused as to why she was asking this, “Nobody’s ever safe. I’ve never asked you for that, ever. These have been the best years of my life. And they are mine. Tomorrow is promised to no one, Doctor, but I insist upon my past. I am entitled to that. It’s mine.” She continued to hold out the sunglasses as the Matrix him walked away.

“Oh, Clara Oswald. What am I doing? You’re right. You’re always…” he shrugged, stuffing his hands in his pockets as he turned to face her, “always right.”

“So what happens now? Hey? Me and you, what do we do now?”

“I’m not sure you managed to reverse the polarity. I’m not even sure that you can.” He held up the device, “it’ll do something… to one of us. Better than flipping a coin.”

“Doctor?”

“You an me… together. Look how far I went,” He motioned to the console, “for fear of losing you. This has to stop. One of us has to go.” The real Doctor wondered what had happened between then and now. He wondered all that had happened. He had a want to know but a strong desire to never find out. Out of fear of what he’d discover.

Clara smiled sadly at the Matrix Doctor and walked over until she was stood in front of him and she handed him the sunglasses which he slid into his pocket.

“You really don’t know which?”

“Let’s find out. Let’s do it like we’ve done everything else. Together.” He held out the neural block for them to both take a hold of either end of it.

“How about we just don’t?” Clara tried with a smile, the Matrix him raising an eyebrow, “why don’t we just… fly away somewhere?”

“Oh, that’d be great, wouldn’t it?” it was obvious neither meant it, just dreaming of an imaginary future where they’d both know one another forever. Something that they both knew couldn’t happen.

“God, yeah.” They both managed a smile at one another, and the future him’s voice was quiet as he spoke up next.

“Good luck, Clara.”

“Good luck, Doctor.” They both pressed down on the button of the neural block at the same time. “So what happens now?” Clara asked, letting go of the device to swing her hands at her sides.

“I suppose, we just… er… we just wait a minute, I suppose.”

“And one of us… one of us will… I don’t think I could ever forget you” She told him

“Clara, I don’t think you’re ever going to have to.” He watched his future self sway sideways, the neural block tumbling from his hands as he tried to use the console to prop himself up on unsteady feet.

“No,” Clara reached for him, her eyes wide and panicked.

“Run like hell.” The Matrix him told her and Clara’s eyes began to water as he slid down the console. She crouched with him, gripping his hand.

“What?”

“Run like hell, because you always need to. Laugh at everything, because it’s always funny.”

“No,” she snapped, her voice broken, “stop it. You’re saying goodbye, Don’t say goodbye!” She was close to crying this time, pleading with the him on the floor who just continued, holding eye contact with her as he struggled to stay awake.

“Never be cruel and never be cowardly. And if you ever are, always make amends.” He slumped to the floor properly, still holding his upper half upright.

“Stop it! Stop this. Stop it!” she snapped once more, shaking her head at him.

“Never eat pears. They’re too squishy and they always make your chin wet. That one’s quite important. Write it down.”

“I didn’t mean to do this. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. It’s okay,” he reassured her with a sad smile, “I went too far. I broke all my own rules. I became the Hybrid. This is right. I accept it.”

“I can’t.” she was crying now, tears streaming down her face, “There has to be something I can do.”

“Smile for me. Go on, Clara Oswald, one last time.”

“How could I smile?”

“It’s okay. Don’t you worry. I’ll remember it.” His voice was soft as he finally slumped onto the ground and the Matrix memory crumbled away.

Whatever happened next wasn’t to be remembered and the Doctor stared into the blankness with his own tears streaming down his cheeks. She’s alive though he tried to remind himself through the grief, you’ll forget her but she’s alive. It was better than her being dead, but he hated the thought of not being able to remember any of his friends. He hadn’t even met Clara Oswald yet, but he hated the thought of not remembering her. She’s alive. He reminded himself once again. She’s out there somewhere, alive.

“Just one left.” He whirled around to the Master, his fists clenching at his sides as he looked upon the man’s face.

“Let me out.” He demanded and the other Time Lord just smirked.

“No.”

“Let me out, now.”

No” The Master snarled suddenly, face scrunching up in anger, “you wouldn’t be in here if you’d just stayed away. Always interfering in business that doesn’t concern you. At least not yet. It’s being handled. You stay here, until I say otherwise.” He growled out his last words, “enjoy the next one.” Then flickered out of existence once more.