One day the, Doctor was sure, he was going to accumulate infinite knowledge of every single forest in every single world/parallel dimension/Syllarbarius III. (He’d also figure out why they all looked like somewhere in Britain.) Until that day came though, he — and the TARDIS — were lost in the woods.
Not that it was a particularly bad wood to wander vaguely around in. Sunlight dappled a forest floor scattered with wild flowers and bright orange mushrooms. It was warm and the sparse grass smelled heavenly. He had left his coat in the TARDIS, and after much consideration, his scarf as well — feeling much like a military man who had decided to go about unarmed for the day. He always did get too attached to his clothing.
His humming was tuneless and cheerful in the hopes of attracting native attention. By his calculations, he had about a forty-eight percent chance of being surrounded by primitives and taken to their leader within the next seven minutes. Instead, he broke through the trees into a small clearing caused by the fall of a truly giant tree at one end of it. Sheltered by its roots, a wall of small plants had grown up and no tree had yet taken root in the now free earth.
“Bzzzz. Bzzzz. Bzzzzzzzz.”
The Doctor followed the sound, wondering if he had somehow ended up on Earth again. The first buzz had come from a blue winged insect that looked vaguely like a cross between a dragonfly and a lizard. A gyno, the Doctor’s mind supplied. It was browsing the flowers on the wall with a happy industriousness. The second buzz had come from a little lower, and although the imitation had been excellent the Doctor was not as surprised as he should have been to see a little boy, roughly one or two Gallifreyan years old.
And Gallifreyan was definitely the term to apply since, while this wasn’t Gallifrey, this was one of her more popular get-away destinations. Or at least, it had been when he was young. All tourist traps now… and he was definitely getting old if he had actually had that last thought. He studied the boy before him. The child had crawled through the tall grass to return the favour. Intelligent face. A little on the chubby side. Big nose. He’d grow into that. Dark eyes. Eyes. Ey…
He stumbled back. The child was staring at him with a frown that was to become near permanent in later life.
“You little rascal,” said the Doctor, grinning widely. This scared the boy, though the only outward sign was that the frown became deeper. “Only you would be causing a temporal paradox at this age.” The Doctor straightened up and looked around, orienting himself on long forgotten memories. “The picnic is back that way.” He pointed to the left. “In case you might have been lost.”
There was no response from the child, but the Doctor wheeled about smartly, content to find the TARDIS and leave. There was no need to thank yourself, after all.~~~~~~~~~~
The Doctor only noted the band playing — Death Cab for Cutie, the signs said — as an afterthought. It was close enough to her time that Rose would know who they were and mock his lack of knowledge later. His focus was on the auditorium and the psychic intruders lurking in the midst of the crowd. Luckily, the two hours he had spent removing the first Nyn from Rose’s mind had given him the key to removing its six brothers. If he ever found them, that is.
Rose was on the other side of the room, which left him free to stop in his tracks and stare at the three figures seated on the edge of the crowd. The dark bowl cut was distinctive, as was Jamie’s kilt. He tilted his head and stared. How odd. He had never noticed before but all three of them had very similar hair cuts. Even Zoe, poor girl.
The earlier him turned away from the band and they stared at each other. The Doctor ran through the usual comments in his head. No doubt his overly large ears would be mocked, and perhaps a comment on his short hair. Or maybe the black leather would be the target of scorn. He would have a go at Two’s hair, or perhaps he would finally ask Jamie why the man was always standing so close to him. He smirked. No time for such indulgences though. Evil aliens and all that. The message got through and the other Doctor dismissed him from sight — and no doubt from his mind, since the Doctor had no memory of this meeting.
The Doctor turned to continue his search. Later, he would meditate and see if he couldn’t retrieve the often hazy recollections of his second incarnation. Until then, they had some monsters to defeat.~~~~~~~~~~
The streets of ancient Gallifrey were a lot like the streets of modern Gallifrey, the Doctor noted distractedly. This wasn’t surprising, as glaciers had more forward motion than the culture of the Time Lords. I might see Rassilon, thought the Doctor, ignoring the fact that he’d been rather annoyed when the Hand of Omega started following him like an eager puppy. He slipped through the streets wondering if this was what it was like to feel awe.
A tall figure in a clinging black cloak stepped into his path. The Doctor only just stopped in time. The deepening dusk hid everything except the hint of a chin, but he was being stared at. A wind swept through the street, sending the Doctor’s long white hair flying. He really should get a hat.
“Yes?” the Doctor asked. He nervously adjusted his coat then straightened to his full height. Shoulders back and chin high. His senses were on the edge.
“You’re… the Doctor,” the shadow said in a low voice.
“A pleasure,” he said. “And you are?”
“The other what?” snapped back the Doctor before his history could catch up with him.
The Doctor stared at the shadowy man in growing terror, words from countless history lessons and nursery rhymes pounding through his brain. But beneath it all was the plain, absurd thought that this was the first time he had ever realized just how annoying he could be.
“Doctor who?” he muttered, and looked up to find the Other gone and his path clear. Shaken and bemused, he continued.~~~~~~~~~~
The sensation of pins and needles should really be ranked much higher on the list of excruciating tortures, the Doctor thought when he woke up. His entire body was a mass of pain that swept in waves across his body every time he breathed. He struggled to sit up.
“You might want to stay lying down,” said Sarah Jane. He could smell a familiar hospital wing. “You had B-98 flu. We had a devil of a time synthesizing the extraction compound. I think Time Lord’s might be more susceptible, though the Doctor denies it.”
“Who?” he asked, his voice hoarse. Turning his head, he could see Sarah Jane as he would always remember her — a smart suit, hair framing her face, and looking ready to save the world one article at a time. Beyond her was another bed containing a figure with a head of curly white hair.
“The Doctor. Have you met? You are a Time Lord, aren’t you? We assumed because you both have two hearts and were affected by the flu…”
“Water, please?” The request bought him the time he needed to shunt some of the pain away from his nerves and focus on just what he should say during his unexpected sojourn in his own past. “I am a Time Lord, and I know the Doctor — that’s why I responded to the name.” He shut up then, remembering that he had a bad tendency to babble. Sarah Jane could be very incisive, so he should keep information to the bare minimum.
“Well,” she said. “I’m Sarah Jane Smith, and you’re on Earth in case you’re lost. The B-98’s been sweeping through the world and I’m afraid you got caught in the backlash. They brought you in from Kent. What’s your name?” He’d forgotten how fearless she was.
“I’m…” He hated aliases. John? Too common, and already in use by him in this era. Ulysses? That would give the game away when the other Doctor woke up. “Not sure.” Amnesia always worked and he’d had plenty of practice at it.
A groan interrupted them. Sarah Jane rushed to the other bed. The Doctor let his head flop back onto the pillow, ignoring the other conversation. He was worried. Granted, some of his previous regenerations had been pretty bumpy. The fourth one had been terrifying, and this last one: getting shot, and waking up in that morgue. It was enough to confuse anyone. But try as he might he couldn’t remember a B-98 flu. The fact that he couldn’t remember meeting himself was no problem since that was the nature of paradox, but the flu was important. It was a memorable event that had led to him meeting himself for the umpteenth time, and every instinct was telling him that someone had engineered this meeting.
“Fetch the Brigadier, my dear.” Sarah Jane rushed out and they were alone in the room.
No sense putting it off. The Doctor turned to look at his younger counterpart.
“You can’t remember?” The younger doctor’s voice was dripping scorn.
The Doctor felt rather sheepish. “You know how it is. Give yourself a name and you’re stuck with it for life.” He smiled, then frowned. “I have no memory of a B-98 Flu. Someone has initiated a temporal fracture.”
The other Doctor frowned. “To what purpose?”
“How should I know?” he said with a grin.
“I see my sense of humour hasn’t improved. I suspect we’ll need the Brigadier and UNITs help.”
“I’m fairly certain neither of us can walk yet,” said the Doctor. “Wake me when they arrive.” He drifted back into sleep. Something told him this was going to be an adventure he’d need to save up his energy for.~~~~~~~~~~
“You know, I didn’t come here during the seventh. I had good cause to. I always do, but I never came here.” If there was a slight slur to his speech it was only detectable to another Time Lord, and the bottle of pentatrope he was talking to didn’t care. “Probably because they never could get toast right the morning after.” He poured himself his tenth drink. One for each of him, though they were due another round soon.
Around his cushioned bar chair bustled the IDIC Bar. He had no idea what the initials stood for, but it was a well known fact that the IDIC was the galactic hotspot for interspecies dating. It was several centuries old, and the clientele changed but the bar itself didn’t. The Doctor came back because there was something really nice about being able to unerringly find his way to the loo while sloshed.
Another round and the pentatrope began to taste good and occasionally talk back. When it told him that Rose was still alive, he expressed his dislike for inanimate objects that stated the obvious and took his drink elsewhere in search of a better conversation partner. A light fixture, perhaps? Instead, what he spotted was a head of dirty blond hair over a young face. Oh, and the celery.
There are/were/will be laws about interfering in your own timeline. The Doctor contemplated them moodily for several seconds, and, as usual, found a way around them. He would be someone else. A human chatting up a Time Lord. There would be hints, but if number five was drinking for the reason he thought he was, the other Doctor wouldn’t notice. The death of a companion meant drinking enough to stop at least one heart.
“Do the question marks on your collar mean you’re a ‘man of mystery’?”
What? He couldn’t be expected to think of good pick up lines for himself, could he? Flirting is harder than it looks. Five (as he mentally labelled him) was staring. Oh, he had said that last bit out loud to the drink. Focus. He slid into the seat opposite Five. The other Time Lord wasn’t very happy about that but it was the price you paid for sitting at a table. Come to think of it, that was probably the last time he did sit at a table in this bar. Until now.
“Small universe. We don’t get many Time Lords in here.” He was channelling Jack. That was probably a bad sign. Five took a drink and stared into the distance, not even bothering to respond. Had he really looked that pathetic back then? “I’m free if you want to talk,” he heard himself say. Now that was a pick up line that might work on him. He always liked the sound of his own voice. Not that he wanted to succeed. At least he thought he didn’t. Better have another drink and see.
He made the opening gambit. “I’ve lost her,” he told Five after stealing a shot of cognac. “And the only thing I can do is wait for it to hurt less.”
“She’s still alive,” said Five. The Doctor wondered if it would be rude to yell at himself for stating the obvious. “It’s always depressing when they leave but when they die…”
“Death won’t stop you.”
“Thirteen times lucky,” said Five. A phrase from their school days.
“Five for silver,” he said without thinking of the consequences. Human nursery rhymes were fascinating. One for sorrow, two for joy… Luckily, Five was too drunk to notice the slip.
“Next time it will be me,” he muttered. “I will die before I see another Adric.”
“Good,” he said cheerfully. He would have written out a list of ‘things worth regenerating for’ long ago if it hadn’t been as simple as Five had just stated. Dying to save the universe was all well and good, but his companions made it worth living in. A body seemed a small price to pay for keeping them safe. “A toast to it then.” They clinked glasses and drank. “Your cognac is running low.”
“There’s more in my TA- room.” Five was pouting at the lack of alcohol. It was adorable.
“Mind if I join you?” the Doctor asked, playing his part.
“Yes, I do.” The glare sent his way looked more petulant than angry. It was one thing he always hated about young bodies, and yet here he was in one again.
“There will be others,” the Doctor said.
“I could say the same to you.” Five’s gaze had sharpened. There was a hint of understanding.
The Doctor panicked. He had underestimated himself. “And so you have. Good night.” He fled back to another chair and another bottle. This one was cognac. He addressed the bottle. “You know what they say, right? Talking to yourself’s the first sign of madness.” He grinned widely, and poured another round. It was a bad joke but it would have to do until he could find someone to share it with. He raised a toast to his companions. To Rose. To Adric. To…