Fandom(s): Doctor Who
Characters: The Doctor, the Doctor, a visitor
Word Count: 2549
Though he'd been stranded here on Earth and had hated every minute of it (or so he told himself), the Doctor had to admit to himself that driving through the English countryside in Bessie was one of his favourite activities in the universe. During his exile on this tiny planet, he had thought that maybe the freedom of the open-top yellow roadster, with the wind ripping through his curly white hair, was what appealed to him, but he found that he still enjoyed cruising amongst England's rolling hills even when he could be travelling the universe in the TARDIS. Thus, he wasn't opposed to bringing Sarah Jane back to Earth, to visit her Aunt Lavinia in Croydon, for example, any time she wanted. He'd drop her off, then find a remote county to explore, driving as far as he could. Getting lost would be the ultimate earthbound adventure, but alas, his perfect sense of direction failed him in this one way.
After hours of solitary communion with his second-favourite vehicle, the Doctor crested the last rise to spy two police boxes standing side-by-side, and he brought the antique car to a gentle stop. Since the second box was not of a design he’d travelled in previously, he wondered which future version of himself piloted the other. Glancing around, he spotted no other figures on the acres of farmland and he murmured to himself, “Must be inside.” There was nothing else to do but knock on the door of the strange TARDIS and find out what was important enough for some version of him to break the Laws of Time by coming to visit another self.
Parking Bessie next to his own capsule, the Doctor hopped out and, dusting his olive-green velvet jacket and adjusting his frilled cuffs, walked up to the other police box and rapped the rhythm of a Gallifreyan nursery rhyme on the door. A moment later, the door creaked open to reveal the face of a man with short, messy hair, who broke into an enthusiastic, toothy grin as he identified his caller.
"Ah, Doctor!" Stepping out of the TARDIS, this Doctor was thin and lanky, his brown pinstripe suit exaggerating his long lines. He glanced over at the roadster. "And Bessie! Brilliant!" He trotted over and stroked the fender of the antique motorcar, his eyes shining.
"Greetings, Doctor." The Doctor planted his fists on his hips. "Quite a surprise to meet you here."
The new Doctor was circling Bessie, inspecting every bit of her. "I should think so. I'd aimed for Llanfairfach. Was hoping to say hello to Jo."
"You've missed by quite a bit. Jo hasn't travelled with me in quite some time."
He rubbed the back of his neck with an embarrassed grimace. "My steering hasn’t improved much over the years. Perhaps I'll pop in for a visit with her soon then."
The white-haired Doctor was eyeing his future self with curiosity, concluding with a frown. "Is it so difficult to maintain dignity in appearance through regeneration?"
His pride stung, his visitor stared down at himself. "This suit is brilliant! I've never looked better!"
The Doctor puffed out his chest to emphasise his own immaculate clothing. "You certainly have." He gestured at his future self's outfit. "Early twenty-first century Earth fashion, I gather. Cotton, and oddly cut. Button up that collar, and tighten that tie! A four-in-hand knot is simply lazy. And what are those? Cloth plimsolls?"
Glancing down at his shoes with an offended frown, the Doctor responded with more animosity than his former self's taunts truly deserved. "What's wrong with them? They're high-top trainers. Very trendy! And comfortable for running." The Doctor sniffed, his nose wrinkling. "Besides, I've been much worse. Have you ever considered question marks as a fashion statement? You'll wear them for four incarnations." Striding off a few paces, he spun around, surveying the countryside. "I remember this! Yorkshire, north of... Helmsley, isn't it? Sarah must be visiting her aunt."
"Indeed she is."
“And you’re taking the time to wander with Bessie.” He shook a finger at his younger self. “Take advantage of it. We never make time to just enjoy ourselves, and we really should.”
“Come now, Doctor," he replied with a hint of amusement in his eyes. "You didn’t come here just to tell me to take more long drives in the countryside.”
"Could be." The pinstriped Doctor winked. "We really should learn to relax now and again."
"That would be more up to you than me. Unless you're truly trying to change your own past."
"Oh, no. I wouldn't change a moment of it. Well..." he drawled as he reconsidered his phrasing, "maybe a tiny Moment. Well, perhaps one great big one..."
The Doctor's speech faltered as a soft, rhythmic screeching erupted nearby, crescendoing as a ramshackle wooden hut materialised on the grass by the dirt road. After the familiar clunk of landing, the weathered door opened and out stepped a handsome man, his black hair streaked with white at the temples and his goatee neatly trimmed. His black suit was immaculate and closely tailored to his form, and sleek leather gloves covered his hands. Taking a moment to secure the door of his TARDIS, he nodded at each man. "Doctor. Doctor."
The white-haired Doctor sighed. "Master. I wondered when you might arrive."
"The signature of your TARDIS twice on this lonely English hill? I couldn't resist." The Master eyed the brown-haired Doctor up and down. "Trying to recapture your youth and innocence, Doctor?"
"And I see your sense of fashion hasn't improved,” the Master continued without skipping a beat.
The Doctor's jaw dropped, and he spun in place, his eyes to the heavens. "What is wrong with the way I dress?" He stopped and jammed his hands in his pockets. "I was going to say it was splendid seeing you again, Master, but I've changed my mind."
The Master smirked. "I couldn't say the same for you." His eyes flicked between the two Doctors before settling again on the unfamiliar figure. "You're not here for a good reason. Even after years of mistreatment by the High Council, the good Doctor wouldn't defy them and break the Laws of Time like this."
"It's no concern of yours." The velvet Doctor's tone was short and dismissive.
The Master ignored him and regarded the other Doctor with a supercilious air. "What are you here for? Hmm?"
The white-haired Doctor inhaled to launch an invective at his rival, but the brown-haired Doctor held his hand up to forestall his retort. "No need. This isn't a secret, and the timelines are out of sync, so he won't remember this once we've gone."
The Master crossed his arms with an air of suspicion. "You've not come for tea and a bit of a natter, then."
"Of course not. I've come here for help."
Shooting a glare at the Master before turning to his future self, the Doctor in the smoking jacket set his fists on his hips. "And what trouble have we gotten ourselves into now? Or are we doing the Time Lords' dirty work again?"
"Neither. Or both, depending on how you look at it." The pinstripe Doctor stuffed his hands into his trouser pockets and glanced at the Master for a brief moment explaining the situation. "The universe is burning, Doctor. The Last Great Time War, against the Daleks, and we're losing -"
"Losing?" The Master's brow furrowed in disbelief. "To the Daleks? How is that even possible?"
"Believe me, it is. I spent centuries fighting in it, across hundreds of worlds, and the Daleks are seemingly endless." The Doctor shook his head slowly, then rubbed the back of his neck. "The High Council is desperate. They plan to enact the Final Sanction. They'll destroy the time vortex and ascend to become beings of consciousness at the cost of the universe."
The other Doctor gasped, his eyes wide. "They wouldn't." He turned to gaze at the English countryside, trying to imagine all of it and the rest of the universe destroyed, sacrificed to the ambition of the Time Lords.
"And we won't survive it." The Master gazed at both Doctors, his eyes blazing. "Our people love neither of us enough to include us in their transcendence." His companions nodded in agreement.
"We've really only got one hope," continued the older Doctor, "to lock Gallifrey away in a pocket universe; the alternative is to destroy it and Skaro both. The TARDIS has been doing the calculations needed to do this." He turned to his younger self. "We need you to join us, all of us, to put this plan into action." He held up a small translucent cube, which the younger Doctor took from him and deposited in his pocket without looking at it.
"Of course." He tugged at his cuffs. "I'll be there. I'll do my part."
"And I." The Master stepped forward and held out a hand to the Doctor, silently requesting a cube.
"You?" The silver-haired Doctor frowned as the brunette Doctor puffed out a "What?"
The Master continued to hold his hand out. "Why should that surprise you? I have a TARDIS. I can assist."
Eyes narrowed, the pin-striped Doctor stepped around the Master and peered at him, suspicious. "What's your angle?"
The man in black retracted his hand and made a show of pulling his gloves on tighter. "The same as yours. To save Gallifrey."
The velvet Doctor snorted. "You mean, to save yourself."
Unperturbed, the Master gazed back at him with an air of utter reason. "In this particular situation, the two purposes go hand-in-hand."
The Doctor crossed his arms. "He's trying to interfere. Throw a spanner into the plan."
"I agree." The Doctor in pinstripes stepped back, then whirled around to stand next to his younger self.
The Master seemed genuinely surprised, his eyes flicking between the two Doctors. "Why would I do such a thing? It would only result in my death."
The pinstripe Doctor nodded as he tapped his chin. "That's true. Survival has always been one of his main motivations, hasn't it, Doctor?"
"You forget that you've had a bit more experience with him than I have." He kept a close watch on his adversary.
"True. But his other constant has been his need to foil everything we try to do."
The Master threw his hands up in frustration. "Gallifrey is my home, too, you might remember. Why won't either of you believe me that I want to help?"
"Because the word 'help' has never been a frequent component of your vocabulary, except to help yourself." The Doctor in velvet eyed the Master up and down. "Would you pass up the chance to destroy the entire universe? Especially when your own sabotage would be its downfall?"
The Master smiled in haughty amusement. "You mistake my intentions, Doctor. If the universe were destroyed, there would be nothing for me to rule."
The pinstriped Doctor smirked. "He's got a point. But!" He jammed his hands in his pocket and wandered a casual circle around the Master. "There's precedence for our scepticism. You’ve offered to help us before, and we turned you down then, multiple times. And we were right: you betrayed us in the end. Luckily, the Brigadier has a mean right hook."
"Lethbridge-Stewart knocked him out?" When the other Doctor grinned, his tongue peeking out between his teeth, the Doctor nodded with approval. "I wish I could tell him that. He would appreciate knowing that he will have both the opportunity and the satisfaction of a job well done."
Ignoring the two Doctors' delight as his expense, the Master regarded the lanky Doctor with an air of unconcern. "An event must precede another to be considered a precedent. Be that as it will be some day, I am sincere in my offer now."
Suddenly serious, the Doctor nodded. “I know you are.” He stuffed his hand in his trouser pocket and pulled out a cube, holding it out to the Master, who took it with one gloved hand. "The coordinates are on that."
The other Doctor's brow furrowed. "Are you sure about this?"
"Oh, yes. As you said, I've a bit more experience with him." He then spun to face the Master and wagged a finger at him. "Oh, and it isn't a promise. The war is time-locked and something has been letting us through to do this. I don't know if whatever it is will let you through, too."
Rolling his eyes, the Master sneered. "Do you ever stop dancing around like a hyperactive child?"
His mockery was met by an impish grin. “Oh, I only get worse with age.”
The Master snorted a laugh, then nodded. “Understood. I’ll be there, if I can.”
The pinstripe Doctor cleared his throat before continuing. "Thank you, Master. The more TARDISes we have, the more likely we'll succeed. We'll hopefully have twelve, but a thirteenth will be a big help."
Nodding a farewell, the Master stepped toward his TARDIS, then, pausing, turned back. "Doctor? May I ask you a question? Since I won't remember this anyway."
"You said you fought in the war, for hundreds of years." He rubbed the crystal with his thumb. "Where was I during all of that?"
The Doctor replied immediately, perhaps a little too fast. "You fought, too, longer than I did. The Time Lords called you back. They thought that given your...talents" - he emphasised the euphemism - "you would make the perfect warrior. And they were right. There were few Time Lords as effective as you."
The corner of the Master’s mouth curved in a smug smile. “I had thought as much.” His eyes flicked to the other Doctor. “You see, there are things that I will fight for, other than myself.” He spun with a flourish and walked to his TARDIS.
The white-haired Doctor waited until the Master’s TARDIS had dematerialised completely before addressing his future self. “There’s something you didn’t say.”
“There’s always something we don’t say, isn’t there?” The Doctor stared at the spot where the little hut had stood a half a minute before. “He fled. He ran away, hid himself at the end of the universe. That’s where I found him again, by chance.” He wagged a finger at his former self. “But he did fight, for hundreds of years. The High Council offered limitless regeneration cycles, and the Master ran through lives like water. A soldier is truly terrifying when he doesn’t care about his own death. And he was loyal until the end, until it became obvious we were going to lose."
He sniffed, pursing his lips for a moment. “But that’s how I know we can trust him now. We’ll battle him for all of our lives, and we’ll never see eye-to-eye, but I know that he’s willing to fight for Gallifrey. I just don’t know if he'll be able to join us there.”
“Well, we shall see." He nodded at the Doctor in pinstripes. "I, er, can't say this was a pleasure, Doctor, but it was certainly interesting. I shall see you there.”
“Yup-ah." The Doctor spun on his heel as his former self disappeared into his TARDIS. "One more to call," he murmured to himself, "for me, anyway, and then it’s time.”