Series: Altered History
Genre: Doctor Who
Rating: T/M (dark Doctor, character death, extreme danger)
Summary: Eight does not want to answer a mysterious – and diverted – call to come to The Library, but Donna won't let him shirk his duty. Yet the dangers there echo ones from the past, and the Doctor has never been so close to sinking into his darkest elements. Never mind the time stalker he's barely missed meeting before. Or did he?
Disclaimer: Utterly not mine. Just talking things from canon, mixing in Big Finish stories, and a healthy dose of my imagination.
Dedication: cassikat, for getting me interested in the Eighth Doctor in the first place. tardis_mole for being an awesome beta. And bas_math_girl for encouraging me to continue the series and keep posting.
Author's Note: Started during NaNoWriMo when I suddenly found “Echos on Ood Sphere” finishing two chapters sooner than I expected (leaving one flashback bit out in the original draft), and to keep me going. I had to figure out on the fly what else I needed to write, and figured out later where the ideas would fit.
Once again, please make sure you've read the earlier installments: The Runaway Bride, Prophecies and Pompeii, and Echos on Ood Sphere. Otherwise you'll have no context for why Donna is travelling with Eight.
One other challenge for me was to ensure that I was not going overboard in my treatment of River Song. In full disclosure, she has rubbed me the wrong way since the first time I watched the Library episodes. I've made efforts in writing to make myself like her more, and I find that at a fundamental level she is someone I would not want to know or have in my life. (Even with the occasional instances where I almost want to root for her.) In this story I also hit upon what I feel is the biggest reason to not trust her, but... to quote her, “Spoilers”. Keep reading to find out. I have made some effort to include Big Finish info, but even that adds to the reasons I cannot like River. (Hey, no one will like every Doctor Who character. We can make an effort to accept that they exist, and that may be the best anyone can ask of us.)
And as always, a big thank you to tardis-mole for beta reading. You keep my historical info on track, and help me weed out those Americanisms that stand out like Six's coat in a sea of... any color. Never mind stop me when I need to be stopped on some tangent.
Chapter One / Chapter Two / Chapter Three
Altered History: Time Trials
Started November 3, 2018
Finished December 27, 2018
Chapter Four: Fish and Fights
December 24, 2005
Eight hoped that he would treat Jackie right once he became Ten. Because she was a treasure and didn't see it. He wondered how much was due to upbringing and how much was due to circumstances. Such as early widowhood and motherhood to a child who was problematic at best.
He hoped that he would find some proof that Rose Tyler and the Moment were not connected. Then he could accept what he had to do later in his lives with greater calm.
It was now quite dark, and no sign of Rose or Mickey had been heard. While he ran more thorough scans of his future self he had to refuse everything Jackie offered.
“What, not even tea?” she asked, throwing her hands up in the air on her coming in to announce she had made dinner. “This has to be the fifth time I've offered something.”
“Tea is good. Food, no,” he answered.
He turned to face her, sighing through his nose. “Jackie, there are strict rituals surrounding my people in interactions involving food. When one person offers food to a person they are not related to it can, depending on the circumstances, be a marriage proposal.”
Her face pinched. “Blimey, no! No offence, but you're... not my type.”
“Is that why the Doctor...” She hesitated to check that Rose was still out of the flat. She breathed a sigh of relief, yet still lowered her voice. “Sorry. This you, the Doctor,” she pointed towards the bed. “Is that why he refused to accept food from us? Rose admitted she offered to buy him fish n' chips and although she thought he said yes he didn't eat any of it.”
“He had to. Never mind that she's too young.”
“Well, thank god you're honourable. Not too many blokes wouldn't. Oh, the stories I could tell about that girl and the trouble she's been in. The number of times I've had to talk the authorities into not pressing charges beggars belief.”
He was not certain it was that big of a surprise, but he kept that thought to himself. “Has she been any better since she met him?”
“I thought you said-”
“Right now those answers might influence how I have to treat his symptoms. I've been warned to not take him away from here, but if I have to temporarily I will.”
Jackie thought a few seconds. “Well, she's more willing to put herself out there. Talks about doing the right thing, and sometimes even does. If someone else has a go at me she defends me.” She paused a few more seconds. “Hope it's not because she thinks that's her job, having a go at me.”
“By the way, what was that shuffling around noise I heard earlier? Didn't you already put up a Christmas tree?”
“Oh, another one was left on my door, so I brought it in. So much prettier. Thought Rose stopped by and left it. I had to move the old one into my room. No room anywhere else.”
Suddenly they could hear running outside, coming closer. Eight tensed.
Jackie groaned. “Rose. What is she up to?” she breathed as she walked into the living area.
Eight turned to focus on the latest scans of Eleven's brain activity. “Now what could trigger you to finish healing? It's like you're stuck.”
He heard Mickey and Rose burst into the flat. “Right, it's not safe, we've gota get out – where can we go?” Rose said, breathless.
“My mate Stan, he'll put us up,” Mickey answered, just as breathless.
“That's only two streets away,” he heard her muse. “What about Mo? Where's she living now?”
“What does it matter?” Jackie shouted. “And what's going on?! It's Christmas Eve! We're not going anywhere unless Dr. Smith says so! Now answer me!”
“Mum-” Rose cut herself off. “Where'd you get that tree? That's a new tree. Where'd you get it?”
“Well, I found it on the doorstep. I thought it was you!”
“How can it be me?!”
“Well, you went shopping, there was a ring at the door, and there it was!”
“No, that wasn't me,” Rose protested.
She sounded sincere. And her mother believed it, because her next words were, “Then who was it...?”
Then Eight heard a strange whirring sound, and three pairs of screams erupted from the living area before they piled into the bedroom. Mickey slammed the door behind them.
Eight stood. “What's going on?!”
“There was this Santa brass band, they attacked us!” Rose said. “Their horns blew fire and some sort of energy weapon!”
“And that tree out there just started spinning on its own, coming at us!” Mickey panted, stepping away from the door.
The noise outside grew louder, sounding vaguely like Jingle Bells but with added aggressive undertones.
Eight winced. “Oh, this will be a fun night.”
The door splintered open, forcing all to shield their faces from the debris. But the instant the spinning tree had cleared the doorway, Eight stood with his sonic in hand. A steady pulse from it and the tree stopped spinning. It crashed to the ground in a flattened pile of green plastic pine needles.
“There, that's that taken care of. Now, did these Santas follow you?”
“They were,” Mickey said. “I think we lost them.”
“Come with me,” Eight said, walking out of the room and scanning all-the-while. “That was powered by remote control. So what's controlling it?”
He was relieved that even Rose followed directions. Seemed her curiosity was stronger than her wish to stay by Eleven's side.
When he opened the door one sniff caught his attention. The wind was blowing just hard enough that he could pick up the faint whiff of alien life-signs. Stepping out to look over the railing, he saw three beings in Santa garb and masks. Sure enough, they aimed their horns at him.
“No, you don't!” he snapped, aiming the sonic.
Before it could pulse, the creatures backed away, lowering their weapons. Then they transmatted into nothing.
“Hmm, fascinating puzzle.” Eight lowered his sonic, but kept it at ready. “Creatures with teleportation capabilities, but they were not organic life forms. Where did they come from?”
Eight spun around at the sound of the unfamiliar voice. His eyes went huge. “How are you standing?!”
Eleven stood in the pyjamas Jackie had provided. Eight had chosen to change him – using the blankets to keep his future self's privacy intact – and hide the old clothes in his satchel, just for safekeeping access to the items kept inside. He had also put on the dressing gown left by Jackie, one Eight had wondered if it had belonged to the late Mr. Tyler. He stood stock still, looking steady and stern.
“Woke as you were all leaving. Anyway, they were just pilot fish.”
“What do you mean, 'just pilot fish'?” Mickey asked.
Before Eleven could answer, he gasped and collapsed to sitting.
Eight was at his side, helping him remain upright, before the others could move. “You woke too soon.”
“I'm still regenerating,” Eleven gasped. “I'm bursting with energy.” He released another exhale of golden energy.
“Wait,” Eight muttered. “What are those things?”
“You see?” Eleven continued, as if he had not heard the comment. “The pilot fish could smell it a million miles away. So they eliminate the defence, that's you lot, and they carry me off,” he explained to the Humans. “They could run their batteries on me for a couple of-ow!”
Jackie knelt on the other side, helping hold him upright. “Oh! Oh! Oh!”
“My head!” Eleven moaned in pain, hands moving to hold it. “I'm having a neuron implosion. I need...”
“What do you need?” Jackie asked.
“Jackie, let me,” Eight interrupted. “Would Contact help?” he asked Eleven.
“I need...” Eleven did not get any further.
“Painkillers?” Jackie suggested.
Eight shook his head. “Those could kill him. Doctor, shall we attempt Contact?”
Eleven struggled to take breaths through the pain. “I can't concentrate enough. You would learn things you're not supposed to know yet.”
“What, does that mean, 'not supposed to know yet?” asked Rose.
“I need you Humans to shut up,” Eleven snapped, barely avoiding a shout.
Jackie scoffed. “Oh, he hasn't changed that much, has he?”
“We haven't got much time,” Eleven interrupted, sticking his hands into the pockets. “If there's pilot fish, then-” He frowned as he drew an item out. “Why's there an apple in my dressing gown?!”
“Oh, that's Howard. Sorry,” Jackie said.
“Your husband?” Eight asked.
“Bloody hell, no. Howard's my boyfriend.”
“He keeps apples in his dressing gown?” Eight interrupted with a frown.
“He gets hungry,” Jackie protested.
“What, he gets hungry in his sleep?” Eleven asked, disbelieving.
“Argh!” Eleven cried before he could either carry on or change the subject, dropping the apple to the ground. “Brain collapsing. The pilot fish. The pilot fish mean that something, something, something is coming.” And he promptly sagged.
Eight caught him. “Jackie, help me.”
“No,” Rose protested. “I'm-”
“I said you were not to help. Touch him again while he's unconscious and I will summon UNIT against you.”
“What is your problem with me?!”
The truth could not be spoken, no matter how much he wanted to inquire if she wanted the answers in alphabetical order. If she was somehow not the Moment reincarnated, then she did not need to know yet. And if she was, then she might risk a poor reaction – for everyone around her. So he thought fast.
“I don't like teenagers who play at being adults. I knew one teenager who was already closer to being an adult than you were, and gave me as much lip. Only her anger was somewhat justified.”
Rose moved to slap him, but Mickey grabbed her wrist. “You're a gate-crasher! You're probably castrated, as well!”
Eight laughed. The force surprised him, but he had to savor this. “That is the silliest accusation ever leveled at me! Not to mention the most narrow-minded.”
“Why not?! He flirted-”
“Rose, don't take your anger out on him!” Mickey hissed, trying to draw her back inside. “He helped save us, and the Doctor needs all the help he can get. Now let's get inside before we all catch a cold.”
Given that Rose stopped fighting him and walked inside without prompting, she valued the health of the man she knew as the Doctor. Which suited Eight perfectly. Thus he and Jackie worked together to move the taller him back into the bedroom.
As they laid him on the bed, Jackie had questions. “What can we do? What does he need? What's wrong with his brain?”
“The regeneration must have been particularly violent. When that happens all sort of things can go haywire internally. This level of brainwave problems means he needs something to set them right.” He glanced back towards the outer areas and then lowered his voice. “Normally I would need to know everything, but some things might not be best for me to know. I've never been this hampered in how to help him.”
“Do you have nothing in that bag of yours?” she asked, equally quiet.
“There are a few things I can try, but I'm not sure what will work.”
“Some physician you are,” Rose scorned, stepping in with Mickey behind her.
Eight ignored her and focused on Mickey, all the while looking inside the bag for what he could use. “What's the computer for?”
“Going to do some research,” the young man answered. “Jackie, I'm using the phone line. Is that all right?”
“Yeah. Keep a count of it.” She sighed, head lifted as she went to turn on the TV in the other room. “Come on, Rose. Get out of the way. He's got medicines to try and it won't help the Doctor if you get keep insulting his friend.”
Rose's face was a storm fluctuating, but she looked at the much larger hurricane in the strange man's eyes and chose to not interfere. “Fine, but I'm staying right here.”
A while later, Eight had run every scan he could over Eleven's body. Jackie was in the other room, giving Eight the space he needed. Rose remained standing near Mickey, whose fingers flew across the laptop keyboard in his research. Although the young man had taken the time to hurry home, grab a bite to eat and then return,
Mickey paused and glanced at the time. “It's midnight. Christmas day. Any change?”
Eight shook his head. “He's worse. Just one heart beating. And that's an even bigger worry. With only one heart beating there will not be enough oxygen getting to his brain.”
From the other room they could hear the TV. “Scientists in charge of Britain's mission to Mars have re-established contact with the Guinevere One space probe. They're expecting the first transmission from the planet's surface in the next few minutes.”
“Yes, we are,” said another man's voice. “We're, we're back on schedule. We've received the signal from Guinevere One. The Mars landing would seem to be an unqualified success.”
“But is it true that you completely lost contact earlier tonight?” another man asked.
That got Eight's attention even as he focused on Eleven's dire condition.
“Yes, we had a bit of a scare,” the scientific person said. “Guinevere seemed to fall off the scope, but it, it was just a blip. Only disappeared for a few seconds. She is fine now, absolutely fine. We're getting the first pictures transmitted live any minute now. I'd better get back to it, thanks.”
“Here we go, pilot fish,” Mickey said, getting results. “Scavengers, like the Doctor said. Harmless. They're tiny. But the point is, the little fish swim alongside the big fish.”
Rose took her suspicious gaze off of Eight to look at the images Mickey found. “Do you mean like sharks?”
Mickey nodded. “Great big sharks. So, what the Doctor means is, we had them, now we get that.”
“Something is coming. How close?” Rose asked, a tremor cracking her voice.
“There's no way of telling, but the pilot fish don't swim far from their daddy.”
“A fair way of putting it,” Eight commented darkly.
“So, it's close?” she asked him.
“Funny sort of rocks,” they heard Jackie say.
Curious, and not sure what else to do for Eleven, Eight walked into the main area as he heard another voice say, “The first photographs.”
“That's not rocks,” Rose said, quiet.
The Newsreader continued, “This image is being transmitted via mission control, coming live from the depths of space on Christmas morning.”
The image was indeed not a rock at all. Instead the image of a red-eyed alien with a head like a goat's skull. It let out a series of growls and gurgles aimed at the probe.
“Oh, dear,” Eight murmured.
“What?” Jackie said, muting the TV. “You recognise that creature?”
“Another alien. You mentioned the 'daddy', Mickey? Well, you just saw one of them.”
“What are they?” Mickey asked before anyone else could.
“Sycorax. A warrior species from the outer reaches of the Sol System. If they're here then they mean to conquer the Earth. And we're down some key defences.”
He would not admit his fears then. Earth was screwed.
Chapter Five: Book of Song