The Eighth Doctor froze.
"Oh... sweet Rassilon..."
"Doctor...?" Fitz said.
"Now?! They're doing it now?!"
Eighth gritted his teeth. "In a _minute_, Fitz..."
"Well, didn't see _that_ coming..." the Richard E. Grant Tenth observed. "Guess that settles _that_ question..."
"On the contrary," Compassion said. "It's only just started."
"What the crukking hell are you talking about?" Fitz demanded.
"Me, I'm afraid."
The newcomer stepped into This Time Round.
"Hold it a moment..." Fitz said, looking between the newcomer and the Richard E. Grant Tenth. "You're _him!_"
"Not in this continuity, I assure you." the newcomer said. "I am the official Ninth Doctor, as played by Richard E. Grant."
"...The fanboys are going to _hate_ this..." Compassion observed.
"Official?" Fitz said.
Ninth nodded "A six-part BBCi webcast, fully animated, with a script by Paul Cornell, beginning in mid-November. No regeneration scene - I've been established for some years by the time the story starts. _If_ the interest is great enough, they'll do more.
"It's been authorised at all levels of the BBC. This _is_ an official regeneration - so, if they wished, Big Finish, or BBC Books, could use the Ninth Doctor at the first available opportunity."
"What about us?" Fitz demanded. "We're number Eight's... so what happens to _us?!_"
The Ninth Doctor spread his hands. "As for that... I'm afraid I don't know."
"The fanboys are going to hate this." Compassion said again.
"A webcast?" Eighth murmured. "I had enough trouble with one TV Movie..."
Ninth winced. "I remember... That _was_ tough, wasn't it? Whether this will be the same..."
"So... what _does_ this mean for the tie-ins?"
Ninth heaved a sigh. "_That_ would appear to depend on how the webcast's received - at least for BF and the BBC. As for Marvel... I don't know."
Eighth sighed. "And I was just getting settled in, too. Ah well... Good luck, from one me to the next."
"Thank you." Ninth said. "Although, to be honest, I'll be happy - and surprised - to last as long as you have."
"Seven years..." Eighth murmured. "Yes, it _has_ been a long time..."
"I becomes Withnail..." Compassion said. "How very appropriate..."
"YOU!!" a voice shouted from the doorway.
Ninth turned. "Oh dear..."
The Rowan Atkinson Ninth stood in the doorway, jabbing a finger at the Richard E. Grant Ninth. "'Oh dear' yourself! We can't _both_ exist in the same continuity!"
"That doesn't stop _them_..." the Grant Ninth said, nodding to the First Doctor and the Cushing Doctor.
"You know very well that's not the same thing." the Atkinson Ninth said, as he stormed in. "We're _both_ number Nine."
The Grant Ninth nodded. "It's down to the audience which they accept. It always has been. And if they accept both of us - even though we contradict..."
"Hardly likely, is it?" the Atkinson Ninth said.
"Oh, I don't know." the Grant Ninth said. "You were on British terrestrial TV, while I'm on BBCi webcast. It's entirely possible more will know of _you_ than _me_..."
"True..." the Atkinson Ninth said. "But then again, I was a charity spoof Doctor. In the BBC's eyes, _you're_ the real thing - they can do whatever they want with you, even put you in the tie-ins."
"As I said..." Compassion said, smirking, "the fanboys are going to hate this."
"Or love it." Fitz noted. "Possibly both."
Eighth grinned. "When you put it like that, it _does_ sound like real 'Who', doesn't it?"
"Of course, _he's_ happy with this..." the Atkinson Ninth said, jerking a finger at the Grant Tenth.
The Grant Tenth raised an eyebrow. "I am?"
"Of course." the Atkinson Ninth said. "_This_ Ninth - the one played by _your_ actor - is about to get more broadcast time than I ever did."
"And more than _I_ did." the Grant Tenth said. "On the one hand... yours truly's lip-smackingly gorgeous actor is about to play a Ninth Doctor. On the other... yours truly is caught in _your_ position, since he and I can't both exist in a single timeline."
"I think I'm going crosseyed..." Fitz remarked.
The Grant Ninth chuckled. "My apologies, Fitz. Temporal physics always did do that to you... _does_ do that to you."
Fitz paused to think about this, then shook his head. "Forget it, I don't even want to know..."
"So you don't want to hear how you die at eighty years old of a heart attack in a week-long orgy with Trix, then?" the Grant Ninth said innocently.
"Hold on..." Fitz said, raising an eyebrow. "You said you didn't know what happened to me."
"Ah." the Grant Ninth said. "Yes."
"Shame, though..." Fitz remarked. "Sounds like a hell of a way to go."
"I'm sure - however you leave - it will be." the Grant Ninth told him.
"Yeah." Fitz said. "Not gonna be till at least... what, 2004's 'Halflife', though, is it? So we've still got a good few months in us, me _and_ him..."
"So did Seventh back when I started..." Eighth reminisced. "Yes, I _do_ still have some time in me after he comes on the scene. At _least_ up until 'Halflife' in the books, 'The Twilight Kingdom' in the audios, and 'The Curious Case of Spring-Heeled Jack' in the strip... pretty good going, if I do say so myself."
Fitz paused. "So... if they _do_ do Ninth Doctor adventures, are they _all_ going to do regeneration stories?"
The Eighth and the Grant Ninth's eyes twinkled.
"It seems..." Eighth said.
"...we'll just have to see, won't we?" the Grant Ninth said.
Fitz looked at the Eighth, the Atkinson Ninth, the Grant Ninth, the Grant Tenth, the Cushing Doctor, and the First Doctor, who all looked back at him.
"... A Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, please, Francois." Fitz said finally. "Something tells me I'm gonna need it."
The End (or The Beginning)
Disclaimer: 'Doctor Who', the Doctors, Fitz and Compassion all belong to the BBC. This Time Round was created by Tyler Dion.
Copyright 2003 Imran Inayat