Word count: 2650
The Chamber of Rebirth was by far the gaudiest room in the temple that the TARDIS crew had seen, designed to impress the congregation at their god's annual renewal. The marble walls were covered with gilded scrollwork that drew the eye to the two sterile white pods, connected by a thick cable, that stood inclined at the head of the room. After a brief inspection, the Doctor located the technicians' room, hidden behind a panel, where the cleritechs operated the controls for the device. Whilst the rest looked around, too afraid to touch anything, he checked through the mechanics and electronics, both visually and with the sonic screwdriver, ending with an impressed whistle.
"Tip-top shape, even after all this time." His fingers seemed to twitch with anticipation of working with the machine. "For all her faults and strange ways, the Rani always did the best work in designing and building her experiments."
David stood in the center of the main room, gazing at the two pods. Clutching the watch in one hand, he played with an ear with the other, jittering with nervous energy. "I suppose I do the classic sci-fi thing and lie in that thing there."
The Doctor hopped back through the opening and twirled between the two pods. "Yes. The new body is created here, and then your mind is transferred over. We'll want to open the watch just as the mind is moved. Too early, and you'll get part of me, which I expect you don't want. But we don't want the old body to die either. With the right timing, I should retain you as I return."
Amy gaped. "You don't know?"
"No. This history is still being created. I have no idea what happened until it happens, and then I remember it from both my viewpoint and David's." He massaged his temples with two fingers on each hand. "Disorientating, but fascinating!"
"Then it must have worked, because the Doctor's here," Rory commented, in an encouraging tone towards David. The Doctor threw a glance at David.
"No," David replied. "He's still a product of the alternate path. This could still fail, cementing the paradox and tearing reality apart."
Orsanal, who had been standing off to the side, not wanting to get in the way of something that was obviously important, strode up to the Doctor. "Wait. Are you saying that what you're doing is endangering my world?'
"Your world has been in danger since the moment they first arrived here."
Drawing himself up, the god planted himself firmly, his arms crossed. "I cannot let you do this. I am responsible for the lives of eight hundred million people! Go and destroy someone else's world!"
David sagged as the realisation of how many lives were at stake hit him. "He's right. I can't do that. I can't be responsible for anyone else's death. I've done that before, and I can't do it again." He started to tear at the cords of the watch when the Doctor dashed to him and yanked it out of his hands again.
"Stop that." He whirled back towards the god. "It doesn't matter. Even if we had anywhere else we could go to do this," and he gestured at the pods, "we've been here and any paradox will be just as destructive to your planet. The timelines have changed so much that if David opens that watch, it may still result in a paradox. There's no guarantee, no matter which path we take. So let's choose the path that will save one more life."
Orsanal glared at the Doctor, clenching his fists at his sides. They locked eyes for a full ten seconds before Orsanal whirled away. “Do whatever you want," he grunted. "It’s on your head.”
“It always is.” The Doctor trotted over to the left pod and pulled open its clear canopy. “This one, David. You get in here.”
David swallowed and nodded. He slipped off his long coat and tossed it to Rory. “Take care of that. He won’t be happy if anything happens to it.” Straightening his tie and smoothing down his blue jacket, he walked to the pod and handed the watch to the Doctor. He then stepped into the narrow chamber, lying back against the smooth plastic. “This is not comfortable.”
“No. I reckon it isn’t.” The Doctor untied the cords on the pocketwatch and, holding it tightly closed, beckoned Amy over. Giving her the device, he held her hands over it to keep it closed. “I’ll tell you when to open it, but watch just the same. When the second body is fully formed, open it up. Not before, not after.”
“Got it.” She stepped back so that she could keep an eye on both pods at the same time.
He turned back to David. “Okay. It’s time.” He closed and secured the canopy, then ducked through the opening into the control room. David closed his eyes, his breathing fast and shallow.
Emanating from the tiny room, the Doctor’s voice rang loud and harsh. “I’m starting this… now!”
For a moment, nothing happened. Then David began to tremble, screwing his face to keep his eyes tightly closed. A golden cloud of energy grew in the other pod, starting where the connection cable was attached, filling the chamber. The energy coalesced into a humanoid form, which slowly condensed into flesh, a copy of the man in the first pod. A final puff of energy from the cable connection sank into the new body and its eyes popped open, stunned and disorientated but blazing gold.
As the Doctor called, "Amy, now!" from the hidden room, Amy unclasped her hands and the watch fell open in her palms, disgorging a burst of gold that rushed for the body in the first pod. As soon as it absorbed in, the man screamed and writhed, clawing at the smooth plastic under his hands, but the agony was short-lived, abating in less than ten seconds, and he lay there under the glass, panting.
“Ohhh…” The man in the second pod groaned and shifted, then looked down at himself as the shine in his eyes shimmered away. Spots of colour rose on his cheeks. “Oh. Naked. I should have known.”
Rory dashed forward and, pulling open the canopy, offered him the coat. “Here.” As the man draped it over himself, the nurse inquired very softly, “David?”
“Yeah. Yeah. That’s me.” He gave his friend a tentative smile. “I’m still alive.”
Meanwhile, Amy opened the canopy of the first pod and stood back, staring at the dazed man lying there. “Doctor?”
The man’s eyes focused on her and he grinned. “Yes. I’m the Doctor. A pleasure to meet you, Amy Pond.” He leapt out of the pod and stumbled, catching Amy’s shoulder to steady himself. “Oo. Sorry. Not quite all there yet. Hold on just a mo'.” Swaying a little, he paused to collect himself.
As David sat up in his pod, the Doctor in tweed bounded out of the control room. “It worked! And no emerging paradox. Excellent!” He clapped and rubbed his hands together.
“Think you can stand?” Rory offered a hand to David, who nodded. Grasping his friend's hand, he gingerly stepped out of the pod, then turned his back on the group to put on the coat and button it up.
"I think I'm okay." He turned to Rory and, patting down his own body, inspected himself, both internally and externally. "I don't feel any different. Well, I feel like I did a minute ago, whatever I was then." His tongue flicked over his lips.
"Extraordinary," Orsanal murmured, his gazes flicking between the two identical men.
The quiet word caught their attention, and David's and the Doctor's eyes met for the first time. As David stood stunned and somewhat horrified, the Doctor's face broke into a delighted grin. "Oh yes!" he shouted, causing Amy to jump in shock, and punched the air. "Simply brilliant! I knew there was a way! I knew we could give you your life!" He bounded forward and, bowing, offered his hand to his doppelganger. "I am honoured to finally meet you properly, David."
David mechanically shook the Doctor's hand and opened his mouth to return the greeting, but no words came out. He snapped it shut with a pop, then coughed. "I'm sorry. This is mental beyond belief."
"Oh yes, it is. But you're alive." The Doctor winked. "It'll all get better from here. You're going to be magnificent!"
Taking leave of Orsanal and Cherel was more difficult than David would have thought. After being reassured that nothing untoward had happened and that the planet was safe, the god couldn't get rid of them fast enough, but the Doctor - the younger one - insisted on checking the replication device one last time. He wanted to ensure that they had not damaged it in any way, so that it would last as long as possible, and his older self followed him around, to “supervise", as he described it. In the meantime, Rory hovered by David, as if afraid the man would collapse at any moment. At first, he stood quietly, staring either at nothing or his own hands, but presently, the chaos of the two Time Lords, bickering back and forth, drew his attention, and they watched the whirlwind of activity in bemusement. Orsanal quietly stood in a corner, clearly unsure if he should have let them near his precious chamber in the first place, and Amy followed the Doctors around, fascinated by both her own friend and this new version of him.
As soon as the two of them declared the device to be in perfect condition, Orsanal began herding them back to the TARDIS. Despite the wondering stares from his subjects, who weren't used to seeing their god wandering the halls of his temple, he escorted them personally and refused all expressions of gratitudes and promises of reparations for his trouble. It wasn't long until he had packed all five of them into their strange blue box, and he pulled the door closed himself.
With his hands jammed in his pockets, the younger Doctor spun as he wandered toward the main console, taking in the unfamiliar layout of the control room. "You've changed up the place. Lovely!" He trotted up the stairs to inspect the new console.
The Doctor stopped in his tracks and stared at his predecessor. "You actually approve?"
"Well," he drawled, "I wouldn't choose this theme myself, but what's not to like? Nice flashy metal and glass everywhere. Trying to impress someone, I'd say." Winking at Amy, he moved to the old-fashioned typewriter and began punching keys. His successor moved up next to him to start prepping the other systems for take-off.
"So," Amy began, "what now? Where are we going?"
"To my TARDIS," the pinstriped Doctor replied as he reached across his successor to flip a blue toggle. "I've long needed to get on with my life, and this old girl will be happy to have that paradox circuit removed, at long last."
"What about me?" David wrapped the coat tighter around himself. "Where do I fit into all of this now?"
Leaving the console to his predecessor, the Doctor leapt down the stairs in front of David. "That's up to you now, isn't it? You've got the universe to choose from. What do you want?"
"I don't know. I can't stay on Earth, can I?"
"Why not? If that's where you want to be." The TARDIS shuddered as the time rotor began to pump, and everyone grabbed for something to steady themselves.
David thought about it. "No. It's not that. I mean, I'd like to stay there, but, I just don't belong there anymore. What would I do there? I'm not even from this Earth in the first place." He threw up his hands in frustration. "But it's not like I have any way of choosing anything else. I don't know anything about this universe!"
"You know a lot more about this universe than any other human," Amy pointed out.
"That counts for precious little. My knowledge comes from a programme on the telly. That's hardly scientific." He shrugged. "But I'm a Time Lord now, well, mostly. The most ignorant and helpless Time Lord ever."
The Doctor grasped David's shoulders. "Then learn. You want to truly be what you've become? I can teach you. I don't exactly have a curriculum, but I have a bit of experience in the field. Plenty of room for you here, and whilst we're doing it, we can start growing a TARDIS for you."
Gasping, David stepped back in astonishment. "What?"
"Of course. Your study and the cultivation of the TARDIS will take a while, years at least, but I am not having you live here forever. You'd cramp my style. So, what do you say?"
With an eager grin, David opened his mouth to accept the Doctor's offer, but a voice cut through the discussion before he could speak.
All eyes turned to the Doctor up on the console dais.
"That's not the best plan." He trotted down the stairs to join the other two Time Lords. "You, Doctor, are already on your own path and have your companions to look after. I, on the other hand, am nearing the end of my song and my TARDIS is empty.” He turned and addressed David directly. “If anyone should undertake the task of training you, it should be me."
The Doctor nodded his approval of the other Doctor's reasoning. "A good point. But it would mean maintaining the paradox. This never happened to you.”
“Then we’ll have to be extra careful.” He grinned at David. “Two Time Lords keeping an eye on it! What could go wrong?”
The actor slapped a hand over his eyes. “You're just inviting trouble.”
The bowtie Doctor shrugged. “It’s dangerous but it can be done, and a better path than what I’m offering, but I don't want to limit David's options." He turned to the actor. "You're welcome to choose to come with either of us, or find your own way, if you want. What do you think?"
David tugged on his ear as he looked first at the Doctor, then at his doppelganger, and then at Amy and Rory. "I... I've enjoyed the time I've had here, and you three are the only people I know in this universe. But," and he jerked a thumb at the pinstriped Doctor, "he's right. I shouldn't get in your way. On the other hand..." He turned to younger Doctor. "It would just be weird, seeing you every day."
"Nah! It won't be so bad.” The Doctor bobbed his head up and down. “I mean, yes, we've been the same person, shared our minds, and all that, but now, well, think of us as twin brothers. I'd like that. I haven't had a brother for a long time. Twins! It's perfectly natural. Nothing weird about that."
"There's everything weird about it! I came from you. You're not my brother. You're more like my dad." Horrified by his own words, he held up his hands like a shield between the two of them. "No, no, no! You are in no way my father!"
"No, I'm not your father. But I can be everything else. Brother, teacher, mentor, friend." The Doctor held out his hand. "Come with me."
David glanced at the hand and an amused smile curved his lips. "It's strange, being on the other side of that." He stepped forward and took the proffered hand. "Gladly."
The time rotor began to slow and the Doctor grasped David’s shoulder. "Sounds like we're arrived home."
"I'll go get my things. I don't have much, but I'd like to start out my new life wearing some decent clothes at least." Grinning at the group, David turned and disappeared into the corridor.