It is London. 24 March 2007. I am at once my current age, somewhere around 2,890, and at equal times my tenth self at around 1,207 (though I believe I was still vain enough in my youth to believe that I should lie about my age). Oh, how foolish and immature I was.
"I didn't think you'd show your face here," my younger self, the one who still calls himself the Doctor, says.
My reply is simple. "I didn't think you'd recognize me. Neural memories, of course. Ripping out through the cosmos. My cosmos."
"How did you get here?" Oh, how impudent I was. How forceful, full of self-importance and valor. Oh, valor. Pity I never realized that caution is the better part of that "noble" trait.
"I hold the fabric of every reality. Every core of every computational moment in the whole of creation from its beginning to its end. I lived through your life once, before I went back and prevented it." What a complicated few years it has been. Since defeating my sixth self, I've had such a time taking care of the universe, finding the weapons I worked so hard to hide in my naieve youth. And now, finding myself again.
"Prevented it?" the Doctor, the one in the brown suit, looks horrified. "How could you...why would you do that?"
"Because, Doctor. I can." I call him 'the Doctor', because unless he is a fool (and unfortunately, if I remember correctly this incarnation could be quite the fool), he will recognize that I am no longer the Doctor. I have not been the Doctor in so long.
He begins to circle me. For such a young incarnation (not nearly as young as the next, but certainly still youthful), he does possess impossibly dark eyes. He's beginning to see the universe the way I see the universe. It is how I know he was the right Doctor to talk to. The other Doctors, they were at once too young, too brash, (and in the one directly before this one) too violent. I could never convince them, but I know I can convince him.
Oh, the things he has done. Or, more accurately, the things he might do. The tormented Cybermen and the Family of Blood. Burning the Master in the same manner as we both did poor Torvic. Placing the world on Martha Jones's shoulders, ripping Donna Noble's memory, tossing aside Rose Tyler. Even that idiotically adventurous Christina, leaving her to a world where she was forced to live as an outlaw. Oh, but this was a good incarnation for me.
I've arrived a little early, before that. He can give me his twisted and hypocritical ideals, use them for something important.
"What do you want?" he demands.
"I want you to join me," I say. "The universe is large enough that we could rule it. Together!"
The Doctor laughs. "What? Rule it with you? I've had better offers from the Master, and look where it got him. Dead in the heart of the TARDIS."
"Silenced, but not dead," I replied. By my later calculations, it was only a few months after I turned the Master's remains into Gallifrey that he was brought back to fight for them. I should've kept him in the TARDIS, cold and safe. Instead, they brought him back and broke him, perhaps more than he was.
Of course, saying any of this would possibly give the Doctor some impression that I care. It is important to note that I do not.
"What do you mean?" The look of worry in his eye is nothing short of comical. I consider laughing, and then reconsider. After all, it's hardly worth it to go so far off track.
"You, above all of my other selves, have the right sort of mindset to help me. To work with me." It is a speech I have delivered, verbatim, nine times prior. And each of those nine times I was rejected. But this time, I genuinely mean what I say. I think he could travel with me. And this one, he actually looks as if he is considering my words.
"Right now," I continue, "Right now you're preparing to go to answer a call from Mickey, yes? There, you'll join a school, pretend to be a physics professor. And then you'll uncover a machine. A God Machine, capable of doing everything that I can do now. In miniature, of course. You could advance yourself billions of times over by starting so early. Think about it, Doctor. Think about the power. Stop Wars, change the universe, and build the people that populate it."
He opens his mouth, then shuts it with a click. His mind is whirring, thinking, turning. I remember what it was like to think the way he did. He still has so much guilt (idiotic emotion that it is). He'll learn. I will help him. I will shape him, then he will shape the universe. His bubbling energy and my neverending knowledge will do so much.
His reply is calm. Too calm. "Hold that much power in your hands, Valeyard, and you'll destroy the universe. Corrupt it far more than you could ever repair. We're Time Lords, we have to protect the shape of the universe, not try to change it. I should know. You should know."
Oh, yes. I forgot. He's also a speech-maker, an internalizer. He lives to feed on his own angst. I loved being a lot of my incarnations, but I didn't love being him.
"Is that a 'no', then?" I snap.
"Ooooh, you're quick." He smiles, all smugness, now. A flip-flopper, a quick-changer, that's what he is.
He doesn't understand. He doesn't know what's happened to the others. "Then I will go myself," I say.
"I can't let you do that," he replies. "My future self or not, you're not getting a hold of that machine. In the hands of even a mildly unpleasant individual, chaos would ensue. But someone like you, Valeyard..."
He considers me carefully, and for some reason I feel the strangest impulse to take a step back. I don't, of course. Ridiculous notion.
"Someone like you could destroy the whole web of time. Cause millions of years worth of damage." He steps towards me. "I can't let you do that."
"Oh, Doctor, you can't stop me."
But he's about to try, I know. He's going to reach into his pocket, pull out that antiquated sonic screwdriver and try. And I'm going to have to erase him from existence. This is the way it works.
"Doctor, who's that?" A blonde girl comes out of the chip shop with two packs of chips. She looks rather like Ellie, I think. Her accent isn't too far off, either. Picking up lunch, is she? Oh, how terribly nice.
"Rose, stay back." The intensity in his voice isn't something I'm too detached to understand. After all, I was him once. I know his juvenile emotions.
"Rose Tyler," I say, smiling. "Born 27 April 1987 to mother, Jackie, and father, Pete."
I turn to Rose, who is still standing there, stunned. She's even still holding the bags of chips. "You failed at school, ran away with boys you shouldn't have. And, once you grew up, ran away with the bad little boy with the police box, isn't that right?"
"Leave her alone," he snaps, pointing a finger at me. What a tremendously silly position to take. It would require the most simple of moves to reach out and snap his finger back, temporarily disabiling him. And yet, he does it.
I know how to sort out my former selves. It's so easy.
"Who are you?" she says, trying for firmness to her voice and failing. She doesn't really perfect that tone until she's spent a few years fighting the universe on her own.
"I've known you for so long, Rose," I say. "You live an odd number of years, and then you die, in Wales, on a mission for Torchwood. Or perhaps you don't. Perhaps you die of old age with the clone-Doctor you never truly loved. Or you die in Liverpool, fighting off a mugger who wasn't even attacking you. Or...I want you to do me a favor, Rose. I want you to say 'ow.'"
"What?" she blinks. "Ow?"
"No, like this."
The knife twists just below Rose Tyler's breast. She doesn't scream, she doesn't even really struggle. Her eyes go wide and her jaw goes slack with surprise, then she falls limp in my arms. I have the strangest desire to hold her to me as the life ebbs from her body. I feel like I should, I feel like she deserves to be comforted.
I don't, of course. I drop her to the ground where the Doctor can fall and cling to her.
The Doctor screams. It's a pained scream, a broken scream. And, as a man who does not often scream when faced with all sorts of danger, it's actually quite fascinating to hear it.
I smile. I am not a man who often smiles, except when I see wonderfully terrible things. The Doctor should be pleased that he is in such a state to earn such a look.
"You have nothing holding you down, now, Doctor," I say. "Now, if you'll reconsider---"
It's the youthfulness. It's the impudence. It's the failure to remember that caution and valor should go hand-in-hand. That's all I can think as he springs from the ground to attack me. He's still reeling from the Time War, he's still angry and bitter and lonely. And some stupid part of him is also in love, and in watching the woman he loves be killed, he decides to do something painfully stupid.
I can feel the sharp pain as the knife buries itself in his left heart. It's an accident, of course, pure chance. But he cries out again, this time in anguish. A mouthful of blood is coughed onto me, staining my robes. I shove him away from me, thinking he is too disabled to attack. I retract the blade and he swings to punch. I thrust it into his right heart and he stills.
I've killed myself. I wish I could say it was the first time.
My hands are shaking. His body doesn't move. He should regenerate, now. I think about the long, dark hair and sunken eyes he will have. But no regeneration comes. One minute, five. My hands still shake.
Has the Web been altered so much he can no longer regenerate? Does that mean that I---
No. No, there's no point in asking that.
A crowd has started to gather. I remove the blade from the Doctor's chest and put a hand to his throat. His already cold skin is swiftly getting colder.
Such a waste.
I close my eyes and shift within the timeline. One of them will listen. One of them must.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 1,980, not including text from Doctor Who Unbound: He Jests At Scars
Special thanks to salvagestime for the inspiration and beta!