The Slow Path, or Two and a Half Centuries in Two and a Half Days by Amy Wolf



Summary: AU from Girl in the Fireplace.
Rating: All Ages
Categories: Tenth Doctor
Characters: Madame de Pompadour, Mickey Smith, Rose Tyler, The Doctor (10th)
Genres: None
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2006.08.16
Updated: 2006.09.25


Index

Chapter 1: The first hours: Butterfly Romance
Chapter 2: Evening; Entanglements
Chapter 3: Morning; Dodging History
Chapter 4: Night: Doctor
Chapter 5: Day: Waiting
Chapter 6: Home


Chapter 1: The first hours: Butterfly Romance

Author's Notes: Historically accurate, to the best of my knowledge, except for the Time Lord. Features an opening scene from Girl in the Fireplace and a short quote from The Christmas Invasion. And the beds in Versailles really are weirdly tall.


“So here you are. My lonely angel. Stuck on the slow path with me.”

“Yep. The slow path. Here’s to the slow path.”

She giggles lightly and raises her glass in a toast. Then she sets down her glass. “Take my hand.”

He takes her hand, and follows her down the corridors of Versailles. He doesn’t tell her that he’s been here before, or after. In the past, when it was a hunting lodge. In the future, the night the royal family is placed under arrest. That he knows where she’s taking him.

Then she opens the door to the bedroom, and leads him inside. And she stands him in front of the ridiculously tall bed, as if waiting for him to do something.

And he hesitates. He’s almost certain that he knows where this is going, and he thinks he wants it. But in the back of his head something is whispering about history, something about interference, something very old and faded talks about family curses, and somewhere in his mind is a picture of Rose and the TARDIS on the bridge of the burnt-out spaceship, waiting.

Reinette cocks her head and looks thoughtful, as if reading his mind (he guesses, hopes that she can’t actually do that unless he’s trying to read hers). “You’re worrying about something. Your friends?”

“Yes.”

“Is there anything you can do for them?”

“No.”

“Then,” she says, “The best thing to do is put it out of your mind. Perhaps I can arrange a distraction.” She’s got a wicked smile, and he’s trying to think of a smart answer, but he’s finding it strangely difficult to focus.

She gives him a playful shove backwards. On to the bed. And while he’s still trying to think of something to say, she climbs on top of him, and helps him find a better use for his mouth.

There’s not much more to tell after that. Except he’s slightly more experienced at removing corset lacings than she is at handling zippers and ties.

-------------

Rose is still staring at the broken screen when Mickey dashes back into the room.

“I just finished checking,” he says. “They’re all broken.”

“All of them?” Rose asks, “Even the curtain?” A curtain can’t break, can it?

“The curtain, the mirror, the fireplace, all of them. Gone. He’s stuck out there, and we’re stuck in here.”

Rose shakes her head. “He’ll come back.”

“How’s he gonna do that, then?” Mickey asks. “The TARDIS is here, all the time windows are broken, and I may not have gotten top marks in history, but one thing I do know; eighteenth-century France, not a lot of time machines.”

She should tell him, she knows, that they can go. That there’s an emergency switch in the TARDIS. She made the Doctor show her where it was. She’s not being sent away again; if she’s going anywhere without the Doctor, it’ll be because she’s stranded somewhere.

Like now.

But if she tells Mickey, he’ll want to go home. They’ll pile into the TARDIS, she’ll throw the switch, and if the Doctor turns up, he’ll really be stranded.

And you, Rose Tyler, fat lot of good you were. You gave up on me.

And she owes him a little time.

-------------

“Rose!” He nearly jumps out of bed in excitement. “Oh brilliant, brilliant Rose. She’s bound to sort it out. She’s clever. She’s clever as anything.” He shakes his head. “I can’t believe it took me eleven days to think of that.”

Reinette turns from her dressing table and is staring at him. He hasn’t seen her properly upset yet, but he expects he’s about to. Perhaps it’s not a good idea to start shouting about how wonderful another woman is, while still lying in your lover’s bed. He needs to make a note of that.

She’s giving him a sharp bright-eyed stare, and on her lips is the beginning of a frown. “What about Rose?” she asks, in a voice almost worrisomely calm. “What will she figure out?”

“The TARDIS! She’ll use the emergency switch on the TARDIS! She made me show her where it was. It’ll take her back home. Back to England, in her time. That’s galaxies, and millennia closer than where she is now. All I have to do is wait around for the right year, cross the channel, and there we are!”

There’s a definite frown on Reinette’s face now. “You’re going to go meet her.” Her voice is chill. “You’re going to leave.”

He takes a long look at her face, and swallows. “Well, not for a long time.”

“How long?”

“Two and a half centuries?” He does a quick count on his fingers. “Well, nearly.”

The anger drains from her so quickly he half expects to see it land in a puddle on the floor. She smiles that slightly-too-perfect aristocratic smile and turns back to the mirror. “So I take it there’s no need to arrange passage just yet? I’d rather like to keep you to myself for a few more years.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” he says. “I’m free for the next couple centuries. As long as you’re willing to put up with me, I’m yours.”

-------------

“What are you doing?”

Mickey’s rummaging around. “Looking for another ice gun.”

“You mean the fire extinguisher?” She says it idly, but he looks hurt, like she’s insulted him somehow.

He tosses a bit of metal aside. “Look,” he says, “If I’m going to be stuck on a bleedin’ spaceship in the middle of nowhere, two and a half galaxies from home, chased by bleedin’ killer robots, I get to call it an ice gun.”

“It probably is, you know.”

“Is what?” He turns around.

“A bleedin’ spaceship.”

He pauses and stares at her. She waves her arms. “You know, what with the heart and all.”

It’s an awful joke, not funny in the least, but it’s been a long day, and for a moment they’re both trying to fight back a smile.

-------------

He’s standing by the wall at yet another royal function, sipping on yet another glass of champagne. It’s quite good. He’s forgotten just how enjoyable good French wine can be. He should really restock the TARDIS wine cellar once he gets back.

And since he’s not getting back for over two centuries, he should definitely write that down.

Reinette takes him by the hand, her cheeks flush with a rare natural blush, and leads him to a quiet corner. “What are you playing at with poor Jacques?”

“Poor Jacques? Spoiled-bloody-rotten Jacques is more like it. I was only having a bit of a joke. He comes swanning in, acting like he’s God’s gift to women, trying to make out like he’s seen everything there is to see. I only asked a few questions.”

“You were showing him up.” She gives him her best stern glare, but he’s stared down things that could eat a planet for breakfast, and her look doesn’t intimidate him one bit.

“Was not,” he answers. Okay, maybe a tiny bit.

She’s still glaring, but the corner of her mouth starts to quirk up a trace. “Really? All those questions about Turkey?”

“Kurdish peasants simply don’t dress like that!”

“Spoiling the story of his famous escape?”

“A completely inefficient way of going about it, too. Trust me, I was escaping from prisons when his whole bloody peninsula was just some boy suckling on a wolf’s teat, and there are better ways.”

“Picking on the poor man’s French?”

“He was playing games with you! Slipping in all those double entendres, and trying to excuse himself with that ‘oh, I’m still learning your language’ business. Thinks he’s so clever.” He snorts derisively.

Reinette is smiling now. “I think you’re jealous.”

“Me? Jealous?”

Reinette pokes him playfully. “Yes. You. Jealous.”

He sighs. “Well, maybe a bit. He does have a bit of a reputation, after all. And he did keep putting an arm around you.”

Reinette giggles lightly, and takes his hands in hers. “Jacques is a friend of mine. Nothing more. Now you,” she pauses and kisses him, “are going back to the party, and are going to be perfectly sweet and charming to everyone, even Jacques. And you don’t need to show off how much more talented, intelligent, or well-traveled you are. I don’t imagine anyone in the room could compare to you.”

“Well that’s unfair,” he replies, taking her hand. “You get to show off how beautiful, charming, and sophisticated you are, and no one in the palace has a hope of competing with you.”

As they head back she asks, “Why on Earth did you insist on introducing yourself as Jack Newhouse?”

“It was a joke. Jacques - Jack, Newhouse…Oh never mind," the Doctor shrugs. “I thought it was funny.”

-------------

“Oh, would you relax?” Rose snaps irritably.

“Relax? I’m trying to keep you safe.” Mickey waves the fire extinguisher. “Those robots could come back any minute.”

“They’re not coming back. The Doctor got rid of them.”

“Yeah, and he never makes mistakes.” Mickey aims the fire extinguisher at different points around the room.

“Go hide in the TARDIS, if you’re so frightened.” Rose sighs, and runs her hands through her hair.

“I’m not frightened!” Mickey sets the fire extinguisher down and sits down on a packing crate. After a moment he turns to Rose. “I’m hungry. Are you hungry?”

She shrugs. “I guess.”

“I’ll go fix us something.” He’s up like a jackrabbit, making for the TARDIS. “What do you want?”

“I don’t know,” says Rose. “Anything.” She turns to him. “Wait. No meat. Not…not while we’re on the ship.”

Mickey stops on the TARDIS threshold. “Yeah. I figured. Me neither.”

-------------



“And a little garden path, right along the side,” she says. “Here. What do you think?”

They’re in the garden of Versailles, just a little ways past the Grand Trianon, staring at a stretch of rolling lawn. Reinette is describing her latest project, a tiny chateau designed specially for the royal mistress.

Which, while she hasn’t been to bed with the king since 1750 (she says), is still officially her.

As a stranded time-traveller, and alien lover to the king’s mistress, he isn’t officially anything. Half the court thinks he really is Jack Newhouse from London (he has got to get his sense of humor under control), and the other half doesn’t talk about what they think.

The Doctor smiles at her, and circles the ground thoughtfully. He could do it, tell her what’s going to happen. That she’ll never see the palace built, that she’ll be dead in a couple years. That little Louis-Auguste, who was sailing one of his toy boats around the fountain yesterday, is going to see the monarchy destroyed. That his future wife is a vapid but charming Austrian countess who once gave the Doctor a first-rate set of lock picks in the very castle that Reinette hopes to have built. And that they are going to be executed in a public square, which he knows, because he stood and watched.

He could be quite the prophet of doom, if he felt like it. If he ever got the verb tenses worked out.

Reinette is staring at him curiously, and he realizes he’s been standing still for minutes on end. He makes himself smile, and takes a few steps.

“You’re worrying about something.” She walks over to him and takes him by the hand.

“More thinking, really.” He squeezes her hand.

She pulls his head down and kisses him. “Do I need to take you back to my room and arrange a distraction?” She’s developed a habit to cope with him brooding on this or that. It’s rarely anything she can understand (he won’t let her have another peek inside his head) and never anything either of them can change. So she distracts him. In the bedroom, occasionally the stable, and once in the Hall of Mirrors after midnight.

“No, finish telling me about your plan. I want to hear it. If I get too glum, you can always throw me to the ground and ravish me on the spot.”

“Tempting, Doctor.” She grins a lively, lascivious grin (a real one, one he’s never seen her use at court) and goes back to her plans.

He smiles and nods and tries not to think too much.

Petit Trianon. It hasn’t even been built yet, and he’s been there before.

It will be completed four years after Reinette’s death.

--------------

Rose finishes clearing up the dirty dishes, and walks back out of the TARDIS. “And what do you think you’re up to?”

Mickey jerks his head up from the computer console. “Just having a look. Seeing what I can do.” He slides the tangle of wires off his neck.

“What you can do?” Rose yells, “You’ll electrocute yourself! Stop playing with that!” She’s embarrassed to realize that she does sound like her mother when she yells.

“I’m not playing!” Mickey snaps. “I’m trying to find the navigation system.”

“Oh, so you think you can navigate a spaceship now? Have you gone completely daft?”

He throws down the wires. “Well, what else am I supposed to do? We’re trapped here, and he’s not coming back, Rose. He isn’t. If I can get this thing going, then maybe we can get…somewhere. Somewhere with people, at least.”

“We’re not trapped,” Rose sighs. She knows she should have spoken earlier, but it’s too much like giving up for her.

“Rose, he’s not coming back. He can’t. No time window, no TARDIS.”

Rose shakes her head. “There’s an emergency switch on the console. He showed it to me. All I have to do is pull, and we’re back. London, Powell Estates, 2006. Although I wouldn’t lay bets on which month.”

He’s staring at her, mouth open. “You didn’t tell me. We’ve been stuck here for flippin’ hours…”

“Cause I knew what you’d say. You’d want to up and leave, and I can’t. Not just like that. He could come back. You know he could. He always comes back at the last minute when it looks hopeless. I can’t just abandon him. I…” She turns away. “I’m all he’s got.”

She can practically feel Mickey’s eyes boring into the back of her head, but she doesn’t turn back to look at him.

“So,” Mickey says, after a very long silence, “How long are we gonna wait then?”

“I don’t know. As long as it takes.” Rose shakes her head.

“We can’t stay here forever. He’s a time traveler. If he’s got some trick up his sleeve, it’s not gonna take long. If he doesn’t come soon, he’s not coming.”

“I don’t know,” Rose repeats. “We’re waiting.”

-------------

She doesn’t start to cough for ages, and at first it’s just a cough. She doses herself with a tincture of opium, and carries on with work. Normally, he wouldn’t have let her take something like that. He’d have steered her away towards something far less dangerous and addictive. Even without the TARDIS, he can concoct a few simple cough remedies that are far safer and healthier.

They’re not quite as effective, though. They don’t treat pain. The cough would slow her down, she’d suffer more, and he knows how this is going to end. So he says nothing, and lets her take what she wants.

The royal physician is sent for, eventually. The day Reinette can’t muster the strength to finish dressing. She glares at him accusingly as he helps her back into bed.

“I’ll call a doctor,” he says.

She sniffs sarcastically.

When the physician comes, he doesn’t stay to hear the diagnosis. It’s selfish, he knows, but he can’t. Can’t face her as she hears the news. Can’t look her in the eye when she hears that she’s dying and knows that he knows.

He enters the room as the physician leaves. It’s every bit as bad as he thought. She’s staring at him with a very careful look.

“You knew,” she says. It isn’t a question.

He answers anyways, “Yes.”

“Can you do anything?” She’s trying very hard to keep the hope off her face. She almost succeeds.

“No.” He shakes his head. Because it’s almost certainly true.

“Could you have? If you’d begun sooner?”

He shakes his head, and she dissolves into tears. “You sacrificed your freedom to save me from the monsters, Doctor. It would be greedy of me to expect more miracles than I’ve had.”

He goes to the bed and puts his arms around her, trying to ignore the guilt in the back of his mind. Because it’s almost true that he can’t save her, and couldn’t have. He doesn’t have the equipment to produce streptomycin, even if he had the time. And keeping her alive in a time and place where history said she died would almost certainly damage time. There would be no point saving her life if they both got eaten by Reapers as a consequence. That wouldn’t be saving her at all.

But there’s a slim chance, a razor-thin chance that he could draft every goldsmith, and glassblower in Versailles, have the country scoured for the right kind of soil, and produce the medicine needed to save her. The king would provide. And this might bring the Reapers down, but it might not. He doesn’t know. It could work.

And he could watch history unravel as the cure for tuberculosis arrives centuries too early. The king would have the miracle that could heal the dying. The monarchy would be strengthened, delaying, perhaps even preventing the revolution. Millions would live who were expected to die. With the rise of resistant strains, millions would die who were expected to live. Whole new areas of science would be thrust upon humanity.

And his hope of standing outside the Powell Estates, watching a certain blonde step out of a certain blue box would vanish into the land of history that wasn’t. As would his freedom.

So he holds her until she stops crying, and tries to ignore the guilt.

-------------

Rose sits and stares at the broken mirror, and thinks, Now.

It doesn’t work.

She tries again, but it still doesn’t work.

She sits and thinks now, and now, and now, and Mickey’s shaking her awake. “You really want to sleep out here?” He smiles. “All these crates at things? Cause, call me crazy, but I figure a nice soft bed in the TARDIS would be more comfortable."

Rose yawns, “Yeah, I guess.” She stands up. “Didn’t realize I was dozing off until I did.” She turns to him, apologetically. “Sorry I was so snippy, today.”

Mickey shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. Killer robots, being stuck out in space, all of that. Bound to get a bit shirty.”

“And I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about the emergency switch.” She puts a hand on his arm.

“Yeah, well,” he shakes her hand off, and for a moment there’s a flash of anger in his eyes. “We’ll sort that out in the morning.”

-------------

Reinette is dead.

A tidy little man in a dusty black outfit is holding out papers and talking.

Reinette is dead.

The little man seems to think the papers are very important, that the Doctor needs to pay attention to them. He doesn’t seem to understand that Reinette is dead.

The Doctor explains, in as calm and as reasonable of a voice as he can manage, that none of this can possibly matter, since Reinette is dead. The little man nods and walks away.

Several days later, the food runs out, and various relatives turn up at the estate, arguing over who gets which property, and the servants ask for their wages, and the Doctor starts wondering if he has anywhere to live, and like magic, the little man is back.

The Doctor’s always been a bit vague about money, one of the results of traveling through time. One century a lump of gold is good money, the next it has to be stamped, a few centuries later it’s extremely valuable and requires documentation, and even if he were to pop back to Carthage and get a receipt, it wouldn’t be believed. Not to mention the centuries where no one cares much about gold and they look at you like you were trying to spend a lump of tungsten, and the Cyber-Wars, where it’s extremely valuable, and will get you arrested for hoarding essential munitions.

The situation with little bits of paper is worse.

He gets given things, instead. He collects items that belong to no one. He occasionally trades something he has to spare for something he wants. One time, completely by accident, after a long drunken card game, he managed to make quite a lot of money off of compound interest. Normal financial planning simply doesn’t apply to that sort of thing. So he’s never bothered.

Reinette, it turns out, was quite clever with money.

The little man explains a lot about inheritance and investments, and assets and accounts, and makes the Doctor sign any number of papers, with any number of names. There’s a Jack Newhouse there (he really has to stop making these jokes), a Jacques De L’Ange (although apparently he’s not the only one), John Smith, Antoine Poisson (he detects a touch of possessiveness in that one), Jean-Marc Cheminee (frankly, he thinks that’s a bit silly) and other forms where he’s simply the Doctor. The accountant says this is a code name for future recipients. This name, and a few select passwords, and they’ll be able to tap the investment funds.

She was clever, his Reinette. He’s set up for a century. She’s given him escape funds.

Back to index


Chapter 2: Evening; Entanglements

It’s 1787, and the Doctor’s stopped off for a cup of tea. It’s a fairly non-descript London coffeehouse, not too high end, and the man at the counter gave him a bit of a surprised look. Tea’s still considered an upper-class beverage, and between his anachronistic pinstripes (he’s never dressed to suit history before, and he sees no point in starting now), his not-quite-cockney accent, and his French gold, the staff can’t quite sort him out. He gives them a polite smile, and sits at a nice quiet corner table, out of the way.

The man next to him is sketching nervously. He’s frowning over the paper nervously, falling into fits of sketching, followed by frantic efforts to rub it out. From the stack of empty coffee-cups and the wadded-up scraps of paper on the table, he must have been at it for hours.

The Doctor watches, fascinated for a few minutes. Then he clears his throat. “I say, you wouldn’t know where I could find the sugar, would you?”

“No idea,” says the man. “I don’t take sugar.”

The Doctor leans in to see the man’s sketch. It’s a black man kneeling in chains. A small drawing, set in a circle. “Oh, I see,” the Doctor grins, “You’re an abolitionist, aren’t you?”

The man jerks his head up. “So what if I am? Are you going to accuse me bringing ruin on the finances of England? Regale me with tales of your cousin the plantation-owner, or your brother the sea captain, and how I would take the bread from their mouths? Or simply bid me a toast ‘Success to the Trade?” His eyes dart, nervously.

“No, but I would advise you to take it easy on the coffee.” The Doctor gives him a friendly slap on the back. “I’m a big fan of you lot. Admirer, I mean. I’m a big admirer. Humanity at its finest, you are. A tiny little gathering of ordinary people, going against a massive industry, armed with nothing but bits of paper. But what impressive paper!” He sits back. “And you really do need to slow down on the coffee. It’s one of the more harmless stimulants out there, but too much does make you a bit jumpy. I forgot about the sugar. You’re organizing a boycott, aren’t you?”

“A what?” The man raised his eyebrows.

“Never mind. Ask me again in one hundred years. You’re not buying sugar so the plantation owners don’t get the money to buy more slaves, right?”

“No, I just don’t care for the stuff. What are you on about?”

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing. In fact it’s probably for the best if you pretend you didn’t hear that. Forget this whole conversation. What are you drawing?” The Doctor leans in and stares intensely at the sketch.

“Master Wedgwood requested it. We’re to make a medallion. A symbol to make people aware of the horrors of slavery. I’m developing the design. But I haven’t decided on the final form.” The man pulls his arm protectively over the sketch.

And the Doctor’s knee deep in history. Because he’s seen this drawing before. It’s famous, the classic symbol of the abolitionist movement. A simple image; a black man kneeling in chains, with ‘Am I not a man and a brother?’ printed underneath.

Drawn by this twitchy little man in a London coffeehouse, the top of a pile of discarded sketches.

On the floor, there’s one of a slave standing upright, his arms struggling against his chains. The Doctor knows three different civil rights advocates who’d personally hug him for suggesting the man use that one instead.

He smiles, takes another sip of tea, and says, “Actually, I think it’s quite good.”

He got out of France to avoid the revolution. To keep from getting caught up in the history he doesn’t dare change. Perhaps he should get out of England as well.

-------------

Rose can’t sleep. She checks the time on her cell phone, but as usual when she’s on board the TARDIS, it refuses to say. Everywhere else in time and space she can pull it out and get the correct reading (she suspects jiggery-pokery was involved) but in the TARDIS, it’s always just blank.

Her wristwatch says two, which means either really bad insomia, or early afternoon. It would, at least, if she’d reset it when they’d arrived, which she didn’t.

Back home, when she had trouble sleeping, she always hated looking at the clock. Big glowing numbers reminding her that the had to be at work in six hours. But not having one is worse, oddly enough. It leaves her feeling disconnected, not knowing if it’s close to morning or midnight, if there’s any point still lying in bed, trying to make herself sleep, or if she should get up and…

And nothing. She’s got nothing to do but wait, and waiting sucks.

When she gets home, she has to be nicer to her mum. Stay for a bit. Maybe a few weeks.

She envisions a fortnight on the Powell Estates, being shown around to the neighbors, pretending she’s been to France. Being encouraged to get a real job. Introduced to Mrs. Miggen’s son, on holiday from university.

Maybe a few days, then.

She suppresses a laugh, realizing that she has been to France this time. For once she’ll be able to tell them something true.

Her stomach rumbles. She gets out of bed and makes her way to the kitchen, deciding to grab a snack.

The corridors are dimly lit, suggesting the TARDIS considers it to be night. The kitchen is farther than she remembers, suggesting the TARDIS is not in a good mood.

“You and me both, girl.” She pats the wall, then stops herself. “Did I just talk to the wall? Better watch myself, I’ll be stroking the console next.” She tugs on the kitchen door, which sticks. “No offense,” she mutters. It opens.

There’s a saucepan of hot cocoa on the stove, and for a moment she’s ready to apologize to the walls, when Mickey pops out from behind the fridge. “Couldn’t sleep either? Got some cocoa on. Been trying to remember my gran’s old recipe. Do you know if the Doctor has any rum?”

“Your gran used to put rum in the cocoa?”

“Just a splash.” Mickey opens a cabinet. “For flavor, she said. Mind you, she’d put a lot more in hers than she would in mine.”

Rose laughs. “I never would have believed it. Your old gran, terror of half the neighborhood, taking a nip on the sly.”

“Well, not much. A-ha! Found it.” He pulls of a dusty glass bottle, about half empty. “Looks odd. French. Saint James, 1820. It’s got an h in it. Think it’s any good?”

“Only one way to find out.” Rose smiles.

After a mug of cocoa, and a few sips of rum, Rose decides it’s midnight, and feels much more relaxed. Mickey keeps reminiscing about the old neighborhood, and when they grew up. She finds it a bit dull, but she feels she owes him, and after a bit more rum, they’re laughing and swapping stories, and she gives off one huge yawn, and goes back to bed.

And she can sleep.

-------------

It’s St. John’s Eve in New Orleans and the drums are wild. Crowds of dancers whirl about under torch light, mostly black and brown, with a few inquisitive whites scattered throughout. In the center is Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen and her snake, Zombi. She dances in her own space, and no quite dares intrude.

She stops, abruptly, and the drums go silent. She turns into the crowd, and points. “You! Yes, you. Le blanc. White man. Come wit me.” With a single finger she beckons.

The Doctor hesitates. He came to New Orleans to stay out of trouble. It’s a good city for vagabonds; French landowners from Haiti, fleeing the revolution. Aristocrats from France, fleeing the revolution there. American traders, gamblers, and outlaws, chasing fortunes down the Mississippi river. Sailors of all nationalities, and the occasional pirate, drawn by the trading port. Slaves, freed blacks, ‘coloreds’ (mixed-race people) and a few remaining bayou Indians.

In all that jumble of humanity, the Doctor didn’t expect anyone to notice him.

Marie Leveau the First is standing with her hand out, waiting for him to follow, and it’s becoming apparent that nothing will happen until he does. So he steps through the crowd (who part, awe-struck before him) and takes her waiting hand.

She smiles more knowingly than he’d like, and waves to the crowd. “All y’all keep dancing now. Me an dis man got business.” And amidst the hooting and hollering of the crowd, she leads him into the bayou.

“I should’ve guesses you’d be here, Doctor.” Marie grins at him. “Dis where we first met, remember?”

“Remember?” the Doctor asks. He’s never seen her before in his life. He’s only met the second Marie Laveau briefly, and that was in a different body. They didn’t get on.

“Oh, don’ tell me you forgot your little Marie, Doctor. I didn’ forget you, for all dat you look like a skinny blanc, dis time aroun’. How could I forget de man dat taught me every ‘ting I know? Here, hold dis.” She thrusts the yellow python into his arms. “What you call yourself at de moment?”

“Um, Smith,” the Doctor mutters, holding the snake. “John Smith.”

“Doctor John, again?” She gives him another smile. “I spose you come ta check up on your snakes.”

“My snakes?” The Doctor frowns. He hasn’t quite put his finger on the history of it, but he suspects he’s gotten tangled in his own timeline again. “This is going to sound unbelievable, but there’ s a good chance that you’ve met me before I met you.”

“Dat so?” Marie frowns. “You said somet’ing about dat, but I didn’ know. You tol’ me half of what you tol’ me was a lie. You also tol’ me dat you had a big wooden box that could travel in time.”

The Doctor sighs. It’s him. It’s definitely him. Furthermore, he has a nagging feeling he knows which Doctor John she’s talking about. And since he’s never spent a life as a fake Senegalese prince teaching Voodoo in nineteenth-century New Orleans, he seems to have learned his own future again. “Look, Madame”

“C’mon, Doctor, you can always call me Marie.”

“Marie,” he continues, “if I warned you about this, I must have warned you not to tell me anything out of my own future. I’ve already learned too much.”

She shrugs. “You come all dis way, you got ta see de snakes.”

He shakes his head.

She turns to him. “You know your way out of de bayou alone at night? Cause if you want me ta come wit’ you, you got ta see de snakes.”

He glances off into the swamp, contemplatively. In the dark, something howls. “Well, if you put it that way…”

The snakes are in a cottage, deep in the bayou. There’s a silver-looking one in a wicker cage, what appears to be an empty, an anachronistic plastic tank, and a jar that hisses.

Marie waves her hand. “Dis one in de cage, dat’s de first. I call her Isis.”

The Doctor leans in. Isis is a small silver snake, unpleasantly fluid. The serpentine head twists to face him, and he could swear she looks angry.

“Now dis boy,” Marie taps on the plastic tank, “he don’ give me dat much trouble. You got de box so I could see where he was, but he just sit dere.” She taps again, and a transparent shape, something like a gelatinous cobra rears up. Marie laughs. “He all fuss an noise, but I don’ t’ink he coul do a damn t’ing if I let him out.”

The Doctor reaches into his pocket and puts his glasses on. “I’ve never seen anything like this. What do you call it?”

“He all fuss and darkness, an in de end don’ do much, so I call him de Baron. But I t’ink he want a bigger title.” She picks up the clay jar and places it in the Doctor’s arms. “Dis is de dangerous one. I don’ let her out.”

The jar has an odd vibration, a low-pitched hum that comes not through the ears or the fingers, but neither, and both. There’s also some sort of energy, making the hairs on the back of his hand stand up. Whatever’s in there, it isn’t something that should be contained by clay. “Is it really a serpent?” he asks.

“De biggest,” Marie smiles. “You wanna know her name?”

She leans into his ear and whispers, “Pythia.”

He shoves the jar into her arms. “I have to go. I’ve seen too much.” He runs out into the bayou night, and doesn’t stop running until he hits New England, where mythical Time Lord goddesses from before history aren’t kept in jars.

Back to index


Chapter 3: Morning; Dodging History

He goes to Australia in 1860, when the money’s starting to run out. There’s a gold rush on, and fortunes to be picked up off the ground.

That’s not why he goes.

It’s near the end of the penal colony era, when convicts can be sent for transport. The British have been phasing it out for decades. There’s voluntary migrants now, millions of them, and it’s creating an absolute jumble where no one much cares who anyone was before they got off the boat, or what they’re doing there.

A handy situation for a time traveler, but also not why he goes.

He’s in Pennsylvania one day, trying to buy a horse, when he sees a pack of young men come streaming out of a tavern. They’re laughing and slapping hands, swapping stories over some girl (apparently as milkmaid), and he recognizes one.

Just barely. He couldn’t tell you the man’s name. The boy’s name, really, judging by the skinny adolescent frame. But the face, a few years older, under a uniform cap, is one he’s seen several centuries ago, on an alien world, in a fictitious war.

There’s a war coming to America, and that teenage farm boy who just passed him on the street, telling a stunningly dirty joke about goats, is going to be kidnapped by aliens for a warped and incessant war game, and he can’t interfere, because he already did.

Wars are particularly delicate points in history; a small action can tip the scale. Pulling a single thread in this war would unravel much of American history from here on out, and by extension, much of the world. And in the middle of a war, he can’t stay still. He never could. It might be a result of calling himself the Doctor, but when someone’s hurt, someone’s bleeding, he has to help things heal.

He quits horse-shopping, and books passage to Australia inside of a week. There’s not going to be any wars in Australia for quite a while, and relatively little history to wreck.

-----------

Rose is stalling, she knows. She went back to sleep twice, and lounged around in bed afterwards, until she was wide awake, and bored. Instead of her usual shower, she took the longest, steamiest, most luxuriant bath of her life. She used foam, bath oils, mineral salts, and the special tap with the odd pink water that smells so nice. Afterwards, she needed a shower to rinse all that off. And now she’s poking around her closet, rummaging around the back, and contemplating a quick trip to the wardrobe room for a different outfit.

She’s being deliberately slow. Not just being lazy, in the ordinary Sunday-morning way of having nothing in particular to do, but trying to put the day off. Because it’s morning, it’s been morning for hours, and as soon as she’s finished all the waking up-getting dressed business, she’ll have to talk to Mickey about going home.

She grabs a stretched-out old t-shirt, and a pair of workout pants, and makes herself get dressed. Then she heads out to the kitchen where she knows Mickey will be waiting.

He cooked. Just a fry-up, but he cooked. It’s all laid out on the table, with fruit juice (orange-colored, but if it’s from the TARDIS cupboards, she won’t presume) and toast soldiers. He’s already eaten half of his, but he stands up and pulls out a chair for her, smiling apologetically.

Which is really unfair, because if anyone needs to apologize, it’s her. She didn’t treat him right yesterday, she knows. Letting him think they’re stranded. Sulking, and not even letting him talk about going home.

But he’d want to go home; that’s the problem. Given half a chance, Mickey would throw the switch, and go back to the Powell Estates and fixing cars for a living and taking her down the pub every Friday night. He’d write losing the Doctor off as bad luck.

And she can’t leave the Doctor behind.

She stabs her fork into the bacon disconsolately. Mickey and the Doctor. And she can never do right by both.

--------------

He doesn’t want to impact history, or at least do as little as he can. At first, teaching seems ideal.

He’s a terrible teacher, he knows. No talent for the job. Something about the human learning process doesn’t work how he thinks. He’s only found one way of teaching humans, and he doesn’t even have any alien monsters to threaten his pupils with.

He’s terrible at teaching, but tremendously good at lecturing. He can hold forth, in detail, on everything under the sun. He can conjure up enough worlds in a grain of sand to give William Blake night sweats.

That, along with a nice suit, a respectable accent (by Australian standards), and a good knowledge of Latin, is enough to land him a situation as a private tutor to two boys; the sons of a newly-respectable family that made their fortune in gold. The father wants the boys to have a proper education, now that he has money to send them to university in England.

It doesn’t go too badly, but there’s one thing he’s forgotten to take into account; humans may be genetically incapable of learning what you tell them, but children listen.

-------------

“So,” says Mickey.

“Yeah,” Rose replies. That buys her nearly five minutes.

“Look.” He starts, and break off. She’s clearing the dishes, dropping them in the Doctor’s special dishwasher. It looks like a metal bin, but dishes dropped in there, no matter how dirty, will turn up clean and stacked in the appropriate cupboard, in a matter of minutes.

She has no idea how it works, but it’s her favorite TARDIS gadget. She’s been doing the washing-up for her mum since she was nine, and she hates it every time.

As she’s shoving the frying pan in, Mickey finally completes a sentence. “We can’t stay here forever.”

“We could, actually.” Rose shoves the glasses aside, and sets the pan down. “The rest of out lives, at least. There’s food to last for centuries, and we’d be quite safe in the TARDIS.”

“Rose.” Mickey puts his hand on her arm.

Rose pulls away. “I know.”

She closes the lid on the dishwasher. “It’s his ship, you know. We can’t just take it.”

“He told you about the emergency switch, didn’t he. He’d have wanted you to get back safe.”

Rose turns to Mickey. “He’s not dead. Don’t talk about him like he’s dead!” A tear drips down her nose. Embarrassed, she wipes roughly at her eyes and turns away.

Mickey puts a hand on her shoulder. “Are you gonna spend the rest of your life waiting for the Doctor to turn up, then?”

Rose shrugs, and takes a deep breath. “I don’t know. Maybe…a week?”

“Rose, he’s a time traveler. If he’d found a way back, even if it took him a week, or a year, then he’d have come back by now. Face it, he’s stuck. The Doctor isn’t coming back.”

Rose turns to face Mickey. “You don’t know how it is with the Doctor. Not really. You haven’t been traveling with him. When you think it’s hopeless, when you’re ready to give up, he does what you though no one could. Give him a few days.”

It takes a relationship to spot the you’re-being-completely-unreasonable sigh, but Rose has known Mickey for years. He sighs, with the tiniest trace of an eye roll, and digs the toe of his shoe against the floor. “If we waited a day or two, would that make you feel better?”

Rose nods. “Yeah. It would.”

“Fine. Today and tomorrow. If the Doctor hasn’t turned up tomorrow, we go home.”

Rose bites her lip, and nods in agreement.

Mickey and the Doctor. And she can never do right by both.

-------------

“Have you really met the Aborigines?” Eva leans forward, biting her lip in fascination.

“Funny,” says the Doctor, “I could have sworn the assignment was French, not being generally inquisitive.”

“Come on, Professor, please?”

It’s unnerving when she calls him Professor, but it’s far more plausible than ‘Doctor’ for a teacher. He sets the book down.

“I’ve met a few, yes. Some of the locals. Why?”

“It’s just so fascinating. They’re out there, all those people, and you never hear anything about them. I’ve seen a few blacks on the street, but you can’t really tell anything from that. They have their own language?”

“Languages,” he says. “Hundreds. If I indulge this, will you get back to work on irregular verbs?”

“Can you speak them?”

“A few,” he shrugs. “Maybe a dozen.” Eva’s eyes are bright with enthusiasm. It would be downright cruel to inflict irregular French verbs on her right now.

“Can you teach me?” She sits up straight at her desk for the first time he’s ever seen. “Just a bit? Please?”

“Your parents hired me to teach you French, not Warlpiri.”

“Warlpiri?” She mangles the pronunciation. “Is that what they speak?”

“Not here. I’ve traveled a bit. It’s mostly Kurnai dialects around here.”

“Kurnai,” she breathes.

He’s never had an enthusiastic student before. He’s not sure if he’s ever met an enthusiastic student. He’s been one though, just like Eva right now, bright with energy over all the wrong things, and bored stiff by what it’s good for him to know.

He used to hang about the Academy after class, long ago, and harass Azmael about artron energy. Looking how that turned out, he really shouldn’t be doing this.

“Irregular verbs are really memorization work. You don’t need a teacher for that. If you can manage that on your own in the evenings, we can spend the days doing something more interesting.”

Eva nods energetically. “Thank you, Professor. You’re the best!” She folds up the French grammar, and glances around the room. “Can we start now?”

-------------

“I told you not to play with that! You’ll electrocute yourself!”

Mickey jerks his head up defensively from the ship’s console. “I’ll be careful. I’m not stupid, you know.”

Rose sighs, “I never said you were. There’s a big difference between being clever with computers, and able to work a spaceship from three thousand years in the future.”

“I know,” Mickey pouts. “I’m not touching the engines, or anything. But this is just the control unit. Mostly electrical. I can manage electrical.”

“Why do you need to? I don’t want to see you touch the wrong thing and turn into a pile of dust.”

“I think I can get it working.”

Rose stares at him. “Why would you want to do that? I told you, if the Doctor doesn’t turn up, I throw the switch, we’re home.”

“I know.” He turns back to the console.

“What is it then? Don’t tell me you have some daft idea like inventing the spaceship.”

Mickey shakes his head. “No, I just wanted to see….”

“See what?”

“If I could send a message or something. A distress signal. Let people know the ship is here.” His hands trace over the console nervously.

“But why? Everyone here’s dead, and this ship is lost…” Rose breaks off. “Oh.”

“Yeah,” he nods. “I figure the people on here, they had families or something. And they’d want to know.” He stares at a screen. “Stupid idea, I know.”

“It’s not stupid!”

“No, it is.” He taps a button. “I mean me, Mickey bloody Smith, auto mechanic, trying to work a spaceship. I can change a muffler, I can set up a blog, so of course I can work anything. I can’t even figure out that thing.” He waves a hand at the TARDIS.

“The TARDIS is way more advanced than this. Really, if you want to keep trying…”

“Maybe.” He shrugs. “Nothing better to do. Course, it was easier, before.”

“It was?” Rose asks.

“Yeah. Everything was labeled in English. Now look at it. It’s gone all weird.”

Rose looks down, at the broken-lettered writing. Then she looks away.

“What?” Mickey asks.

“Nothing.” She turns back to the TARDIS. “I’ll fetch tea.”

It’s nothing, really. She should have expected it. But she hadn’t noticed, with just her and Mickey.

The translation system’s not working. The Doctor’s gone.

----------

This is a really bad idea. A spectacularly bad idea. If he’s lucky, he’ll be dismissed for this. If he’s not, he’ll be lynched.

“Ready?” He turns to Eva. She’s dressed relatively practically, in the faded cotton and sturdy boots she wears when going for a nature hike.

She stares out at the encampment. “It’s safe? You’re sure? They’re…friendly?”

“Quite friendly.” He smiles. “I’ve visited before. Don’t worry. I’ll just let them know you’re a friend of mine.” He holds out his hand.

Eva takes his hand and walks into the Aboriginal encampment.

----------

“Communication.” Mickey’s leaning through the TARDIS doorway, breathless with excitement. “Rose, come on!” He beckons her, and dashes off, shoes squeaking on the metal grill.

Rose drops her phone, and follows him. When she gets to the controls, he’s vibrating with excitement, pointing to a speaker grill that’s spouting gibberish. “Look, Rose,” he says, “I did it!”

Rose grins hugely. “Mickey Smith, starship engineer. Look at you.” She turns to face the speaker. “So, who is it?”

“Not a clue. Sounds like Germans with an American accent. Maybe it’s English after three thousand years.” He taps a toggle switch. “When I do this, they can hear me. Hello?”

The box spouts incomprehensible syllables.

“Look mate, I don’t have a bloody clue what you’re talking about, but I am glad to hear your voice. There’s a ship here, stranded. About two-and-a-half galaxies from Earth, I think. The whole crew’s dead.” He flicked the switch down.

The voices on the other end are shouting, frantic.

“Rose?” Mickey asks, “What’s the ship called? Is there a name, or a number on it anywhere?”

Rose looks around the console room. “I don’t see one. Let me look.” She steps around the TARDIS, and pauses. “Mickey?” she says, “I think we’ve got a name.”

“What is it then?” He flips the switch up.

“You’re not gonna believe this…”

----------

The letter arrives when he’s in New Zealand. It’s grubby and worn, and at least ten years old. It’s addressed rather hesitantly to Professor Chemin, and it takes him a while to realize that’s supposed to be him.

He opens the envelope without check the return address, to find a letter from Eva inside.

She’s well, it seems, and happy. It must be fifteen years since she saw him; when he was promptly sacked for taking a respectable white English girl to an Aboriginal camp.

She’s married now, to a cattle rancher called Sam, who’s not entirely respectable, or English. He lets her visit the local encampments, and she’s compiling a book on languages and customs. A small thing, for friends and relatives, and if he’ll write her with a permanent address, she’ll send him a copy.

He has an unpleasant suspicion about this, but he can’t think of any great nineteenth-century linguists called Eva, so he puts it aside.

The letter ends with the assurance that she’s happy, and he’s welcome to visit anytime he likes. There’s an assurance that he was a good teacher, and a slightly unsettling appeal for reassurance that he’d be proud of her.

He smiles, and tucks the letter away in his pocket, then pulls the envelope out to check the name. And laughs. Laughs ‘til the innkeeper stares at him.

Eva’s husband was definitely not English, and he suspects she’ll keep the language studies up. The letter is signed Mrs. Eva Jovanka.

Back to index


Chapter 4: Night: Doctor

By the twentieth century, he’s given up on avoiding history, and only worried about avoiding himself. He’s been here enough times that it would be easy to trip over his own timeline, and that would create…complications. Especially if he met himself before the war. He couldn’t, shouldn’t say anything about what’s ahead, because he knows he didn’t. He hopes he wouldn’t, but he doesn’t know.

Luckily, most of his time on twentieth-century Earth has been in Europe. It’s easier for someone of his appearance to blend, there. So if he just stays away from Europe, Tibet (running into K’Anpo Rinpoche wouldn’t be quite as bad, but very nearly) and the Chinese civil war, he should be out of his own way.

He goes to India in 1905, intending to stay a few years. It turns out to be only a few weeks. He’s there four days before a man trips and falls on him, nearly knocking him down. A policeman grabs the man (a day-laborer of some sort), and screams at him for crashing into the ‘sahib’ so carelessly. The Doctor manages to talk the officer out of it, but not before the poor man’s suffered a few truncheon-blows.

He has white skin (as the humans would call it), an English accent, and a respectable suit. In India, this obliges the locals to grovel at his feet. He can’t live like that.

He heads north, to Nepal, and climbs Everest just for swank. Nothing against Sir Edmund Hillary, and Tenzig Norgay (splendid chaps, the pair of them). They’ll still be the first humans to reach the summit.

But he can’t resist leaving a note. Just a short one, in a bottle, to see if anyone finds it.

As far as he knows, no one does.

------------

Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap.

The noise isn’t loud, but it wakes Rose out of a sound sleep. It doesn’t sound like it’s coming from anywhere inside her room. More like it’s coming through the walls. And it’s persistent.

Mickey?

Rose slides out of bed, and slips on a pair of fuzzy pink slippers. Last thing she’d seen he was alternately speaking very slowly to the men from the future, who persisted in gabbling incomprehensibly, and looking for a homing beacon he could press. She’d gone to bed, figuring he could let himself in when he got tired.

He must be up and fiddling with something.

Tap tap tap.

She steps out into the hallway, but there’s nobody there. She hadn’t expected there to be, really. It sounded more like it was coming through the wall behind her bed. The direction (she thinks) of the console room.

If Mickey’s fiddling with the TARDIS, the Doctor’s going to kill him.

Tap tap tap.

No, she reminds herself, she’ll have to kill him. The Doctor’s gone.

She dashes down the hall, slippers slapping on metal. As she reaches the console room, the lights come on fast, and she’s squinting from the brightness.

Nothing. No one.

Tap tap tap.

“Mickey?” she whispers. For a second it’s coming from everywhere, the tapping, then her ears focus, and it’s by the door.

Mickey must still be out there. Probably locked himself out. She doesn’t remember the Doctor ever giving him a key. It could have happened, but she doesn’t think (want) believe that to be true. Not Mickey. The Doctor doesn’t even like Mickey.

She reaches for the door handle, and something makes her pause. A feeling. Hairs on the back of her neck.

Tap tap tap.

She turns.

Mickey’s trainers are lying on the floor behind her. One under the console, and one next to the hat stand.

Back home he’d do the same thing. In his apartment. He’d kick his shoes off, and leave them lying anywhere. Under the table. Behind the television.

But he wouldn’t go wandering barefoot. Not this ship.

She turns back to the door.

Tap tap tap.

It’s locked. There’s a latch on the inside. She doesn’t know if he has a key (The Doctor wouldn’t just give him one, would he?), but anyone can lock it from the inside.

Mickey’s been good about locking his door ever since the policeman who was really a Slitheen came through.

She leans on the door and she listens.

Tap tap tap.

Something’s out there. Right outside.

The assembled hordes of Genghis Khan couldn’t get through those doors, and believe me, they’ve tried.

She’s suddenly really glad that the door’s locked, and nothing can come through from the outside unless it has a key.

-------------

He heads east, next, to Indochina. Trying to dodge the war. He’s entitled, he thinks, after all these years. All these wars. His poor TARDIS has an unfortunate tendency to wander into smoke-filled battlefields. If he’s stuck temporally, the least he can do is get a bit of freedom spatially.

So he goes into Indochina, finds a tiny, distant, jungle village, and opens a clinic. A small one, providing a few basic supplies. He’s had enough medical training that even without equipment he can do a lot. Oral rehydration therapy won’t even be in the experimental stage until nineteen sixty-four, and he can put together a passable solution with sugar or rice gruel, clean water, and salt. Which is lucky, since cholera hits the well once, dysentery never really goes away, and his ‘liter of sugar-water an hour’ prescription saves more than a few.

Of course it helps to add a bit of mashed banana for potassium. He’s always liked bananas, but he’s starting to develop a whole new appreciation for their benefits to human health. They’re one of the few fruits that grow plentifully year-round, serve as a good source of potassium, have a bit of vitamin C (extremely handy when the citrus fruits go out of season) and a good bit of carbohydrates, and can be cooked in an impressive variety of ways. For the poor and starving of Southeast Asia, the banana may be what’s keeping them alive.

(he saw in the irish potato famine, people clawing and scrabbling in the dirt, fighting like maniacs for every rotten blighted lump that could be boiled and mashed to keep their families alive, children like a rack of bones, abandoned and near death, knocking over grown men for a piece of raw potato which they’d choke down and then huddle with cramps for days because two bites of starch in your stomach feels like something, and you dream that you might live)

The clinic is cheating history, he knows, but he’s gotten very good at cheating history over the years. Spotting where there’s a little leeway, and where he’s likely to break the whole game. He’s careful about which patients he saves. If there’s a sense, even a vague suspicion that he could damage history, he leaves them to the care of the nurses, and lets fate take its course.

He’s very good at not thinking that he’s cheating for strangers the way he wouldn’t (couldn’t, couldn’t) cheat for Reinette.

After ten years, he leaves. There’s only so long one can stay in the same place without aging noticeably (although he’s starting to spot a few wrinkles around the eyes). One day he arranges a fake message from England calling him home, turns the building over to the nurses, who’ve gotten good enough to carry on themselves, and walks away.

But the whole thing’s so satisfying that he simply moves about two hundred miles away and starts again, as Doctor Newhouse, this time.

He can think of at least two Jacks he’s known who would laugh.

-------------

Mickey’s in his room, asleep on the bed. Stretched out face-down, still fully dressed, lying on top of the covers. He doesn’t stir when Rose opens the door, and she watches his breathing for a moment, just to make sure he’s alive.

He’s inside. That’s good. He’s safe. They’re both safe, as long as they stay in the TARDIS.

Something’s out there.

It’s not the Doctor. He has a key. He’d just unlock the door. Walk right in, probably manage to wake everybody up in some way that looked like an accident. Show off his special emergency TARDIS-caller, or the time machine he’d built out of old windowpanes and bits of clockwork robot.

So she’s safe. Mickey’s safe. The Doctor’s gone. And there’s something outside the TARDIS, tapping on the door.

She can still hear it from Mickey’s room, just barely.

She leans over the bed and shakes Mickey awake. “Get up,” she hisses. “There’s something outside.”

“What?” He rolls over and rubs his face.

“There’s something outside. It’s tapping on the door. There’s a scanner, but I don’t know how to work it. I need your help.”

Mickey groans. “It’s a dream. Go back to bed.” He turns, and pulls the pillow over his head.

She turns the light on, drags him upright, and explains again, as he’s blinking and wiping the sleep from his eyes. He manages to nod in all the right places, and she thinks he gets it, until he’s yawning barefoot in the console room, and asking her to explain again.

“That tapping. Can’t you hear it?” Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap. It’s driving her nuts.

He turns around slowly, and stops to stare at the door. “Yeah. What is it?”

“No idea. It’s coming from the door. Help me find the scanner button, so we can have a peek.”

He nods again, in earnest, and begins examining the buttons. It’s Rose who finds it in the end, though, and a screen pops out.

There’s a woman. In front of the door. Lying down, in a puddle of blood. She’s got a hand out, tapping on the door.

There’s no way that should be as loud as it is, Rose thinks, as she opens the lock. The TARDIS must have amplified it somehow. But then the door’s open, and she’s staring at the bleeding woman trying to think what to do.

“Rose,” Mickey calls, from the other side of the room. “What are you doing? Those robots could be out there!” He steps over to close the door. When he sees the bleeding woman, he stops.

Rose is already on her knees, reaching under the bleeding woman’s armpits to carry her inside. “There’s a room with some sort of medical device inside. Like a bed. Stick people on, and it fixes them. Most of the time, at least. If you grab her feet, we can get her there.” She looks up at Mickey. “Help me.”

-------------

The Japanese officer is holding a pistol to his head and screaming, and all he can think is that if he regenerates again, Rose will kill him. The officer shouts in his ear for the third time. “Surrender the American!”

“I’m not American,” he replies, in intentionally bad Japanese. “I’m English. A doctor.” He gets the grammar wrong, and lays the accent on thick. Making it sound like he barely speaks the language. If they have to explain slowly, they should calm down and he has a decent shot of making it out in one piece.

On the other hand, if he does get shot, the soldiers might be sufficiently distracted by the sight of him regenerating to leave everyone else here alone.

“There is an American pilot here. Not you!” The major with the pistol snaps as he sees the Doctor’s look of incomprehension. “You — English Doctor.” He pokes the Doctor in the chest with the pistol for emphasis. “In the jungle — American pilot. He came here. He left a trail. Blood. You give him to us, we will go. You don’t give him to us, we will shoot everyone and take him. Understand?”

The Doctor nods. The major already looks calmer. It’s hard to scream furiously while trying to think of simple sentences. “No Americans here,” the Doctor replies. “Many Malay patients. Many Malay nurses. One English doctor. No Americans. Maybe he die in jungle. Leopards out there. Eat wounded animals.”

“No,” says the major. “He was bleeding. He left a trail. He came here!” He shoves the Doctor into the wall. He presses the pistol against the Doctor’s head, and snaps, “You give him to me or you die.”

“A boy went to the plane. He want scrap metal. He cut his foot. He come here. I bandage, he go home. That’s the blood. No solider.”

The major pauses to consider this. Digging the pistol into the Doctor’s head for emphasis, he says, “We will search. You don’t move. The nurses don’t move. If we find him, we kill you.”

The Doctor nods as well as he can with his head jammed between a bamboo post and the gun. “Search. No American here.”

The major barks an order, and the guards fan out. It isn’t a very big clinic, just a larger version of the local bamboo houses, with a pump, an electrical generator, and cement floors, because they’re easy to sterilize. There’s four beds, a table, a cabinet for medical supplies, and a sink.

And a few sacks of rice stacked in the corner. But there’s a war on. Everyone who can afford it keeps extra rice. He needs to feed the patients, after all. Most of them are undernourished. So he collects tinned milk from some charity in Australia, he grows nutrient-rich fruit trees all over the grounds (including some truly impressive banana plants), and whenever rice is available, he buys as much as he can.

One of the Japanese soldiers begins poking at a sack with his rifle butt. After a minute, he fixes his bayonet and slashes the sack open, spilling rice all over the floor. Dita, the head nurse cries out. As the major turns to stare at her, she grabs a basket and starts collecting the spilt rice.

“Stop it!” shouts the major, in Japanese. “Malay pig!”

The Doctor says in Malaysian, “Stop, Dita. It’s only rice, it’s not worth getting shot over.” He nods at her. She stares at him for a moment, and drops the basket.

The major sighs. “We seek to uplift the people of Asia, and all we find are groveling peasants, down on their knees, crawling for a grain of rice. No ambition. No higher purpose.”

“My patients are hungry. Rice is hard to get.” The Doctor keeps his tone as mild as he can. He’s seen Dita save children dying of cholera, using nothing but persistence and rice gruel. She deserves better than to be called a pig by some gun-toting bully who’s probably never saved anyone in his life.

They all deserve better, though. Even the gun-toting bully deserves better, probably. This is the nature of war.

Fortunately, the major takes his comments lightly. “If we don’t find the American, we’ll send new rice. Two sacks for each that we spill. Courtesy of the Empire of Japan.”

The soldiers shift the sacks, poking them with their bayonets. Finding nothing, they slash the sack open in frustration, and give up.

“Nothing?” asks the major, “Then we move on. And send Doctor…” He turns towards the Doctor questioningly.

“Bowman. James Bowman.”

“Send Doctor Bowman eight sacks of rice. I’m sure the Malay woman can salvage the last one.” The major turns back. “Your Japanese improves rapidly, Doctor Bowman. I’ll remember you.”

The Doctor says nothing, just picks up a basket and joins Dita, his nurse, on the floor, scooping up grains of rice.

Later, when they’re sure the soldiers are gone, he pulls his sonic screwdriver from his pocket. Picking an invisible seam on the floor, he uses the screwdriver to loosen the sealant, revealing a square that lifts up. “You can come out now,” he says.

PFC Ben Holloway lifts the block, and emerges from the tunnel. “It’s safe?” he asked, a little hoarse.

“Safe as it’s going to get,” the Doctor replies.

Later, when Ben Holloway’s safely in American territory, the Doctor starts to wonder what he’s done. Did Grace get her burning desire to hold back death from her grandfather bleeding to death unaided in the Indonesian jungle? Was she inspired to study medicine after hearing about the mysterious doctor who saved her grandfather’s life? Or did she have other reasons, making all of this irrelevant?

He hasn’t broken history, he knows, but he may have altered it. And he’s not entirely sure of the consequences.

Then he starts to wonder if Grace came up with “Doctor Bowman, from London,” because of this incident, when he got the name from her, and he gets a headache and gives up.

Back to index


Chapter 5: Day: Waiting

Author's Notes: If you're not comfortable with multiple profanities, graphic violence, explicit sex, and horror, I'd advise you not to read any of the William Burroughs works mentioned here.

This actual story has one bad word.

Contains lyrics to the song Kashmir by Led Zeppelin


Nothing interesting happens in the nineteen-fifties. Not for the entire decade.

That’s not true. One thing does.

In nineteen-fifty six, the Doctor goes to a poetry reading in San Francisco. City Lights, a tiny hole-in-the-wall bookstore, at an awkward angle from a typically zig-zag San Francisco street. It’s in North Beach, just off Chinatown. One room, stuffed and stacked with paperbacks. And writers.

It’s beatniks this decade, and there’s a few black sweaters, but really, they’re wearing whatever’s cheap. Blue jeans, t-shirts, work-shirts and scuffed old shoes of all stripes.

(He has sneakers again, and he’s so glad. The old ones were lost nearly a century ago, and he can’t get used to boots. He liked boots once, but this body, and these feet, don’t.)

He smiles and stands in the back. A few people take him for a University professor, or a representative from a publishing house. Throughout the reading, they press papers into his hands, stories, poems, stray paragraphs of observation. He smiles and stuffs them in his pockets.

(Later, in a boarding-house room, he’ll take them and smooth them out one by one, reading them carefully. There’s nothing published, and nothing that’s supposed to be, but some of them are quite good. So he puts them in an old shoe box and keeps them for himself.)

Ginsberg reads, and it’s as good as he expects. Gary Snyder reads, and a few others as well. After, the Doctor goes up to deliver a handshake and a polite compliment, but in the ensuing crush of the crowd, someone grabs his wrist and literally drags him off, and by the time he manages to distangle himself, he’s outside, in the San Francisco night, with half the top writers of the Beat Generation, and a perplexed Jack Kerouac who lets go of his hand and says, “I thought you were Neal.”

Jack, of course, thinks it’s hysterically funny to have accidentally kidnapped an English professor, and they insist that he join them for a drink.

A drink turns into a few drinks, then a few bottles, and the hours fly past like smoke in the wind. They pass through bookstores, bars, and basements and it’s three A.M. with cups of strange bitter tea, listening to Jack Kerouac’s travel stories, and fending off the advances of a persistent Neal Cassady, who did show up after all, when a strange intense man looks at him and asks, “So, Professor Chemin, how do you like your tea?”

“It’s fine. I’m not used to this herbal stuff. More of a traditionalist. You wouldn’t have sugar, would you? And maybe a bit of lemon?”

Everyone in the room turns to stare at him, dead silent. He smiles apologetically. “Is that not how you drink tea in America? I know you all like your coffee.” There’s an odd feel to some of the words, like ‘tea’, ‘American’, and ‘coffee’, that alerts him something’s wrong.

Jack turns to the intense stranger, with shocked and angry eyes. “Bill, what did you give him?”

Bill. Perfect. He’s in a basement full of Beat poets, and he just drank strange tea from William Burroughs.

The Doctor’s read Burroughs, including Junky and The Yage Letters. And normally he would have know better than to drink any tea served by the man with the burning eyes who’s staring in unpleasantly naked fascination at him right now.

But he did. And now he’s not speaking English anymore.

That’s why words like ‘coffee’ and ‘American’ struck him as odd. Because they’re words they didn’t have on Gallifrey. He’s speaking a language nearly dead; practically dead, since he never uses it, and he’s the last.

“What did you give me?” he asks, and the words are unstoppably Gallifreyan. “What have you done?”

Burroughs is smiling. “An old shaman in Ecuador gave it to me, when I went looking for Yage. He said it revealed the masters of time and space. It made them speak their true names.”

“Oh, Bill,” Jack groans. “The masters of time and space? You doped him, and he’s babbling. You could have at least asked.”

Burroughs shakes his head. “He’d never had agreed. You think the rulers of the universe want us to know the truth?”

“There are no rulers of the universe,” says the Doctor. It’s in High Gallifreyan because of the tea, and nearly everyone ignores him. “It muddles along more or less on its own. There are plenty of beings that would claim leadership, and some impressive enough that you’d no doubt believe them, but they don’t rule. Can you understand me?” he asks, as Burroughs is smiling unnervingly.

“See, what did I tell you? He’s spilling his secrets. If we could get some kind of a recording device…”

“Recording device?” The Doctor laughs abruptly. “You don’t understand a word I’m saying. Perfect. This is perfect.” The rest of the room is staring at him worriedly. Even Neal Cassady has given up trying to grope him, and is sliding his chair back.

Burroughs isn’t afraid. He leans closer, with hungry excitement. “Come on, then tell me. Who are you really? What are you? What’s the secret of existence? Of life?”

“You are a fool,” the Doctor replies. “A dangerous fool, and if you keep giving this to people, you’re liable to get yourself killed.” He pours the remainder of the tea out on the floor. “This is either useless, if it only works on Time Lords, or extraordinarily dangerous. If you, somehow, managed to feed this to a Chronovore, or one of many worse things, you have literally no conception of what they might do to you.”

“Look, drop it.” Neal jumps in. “He needs to go sleep whatever you gave him off. I’ll take him somewhere and put him to bed..”

Ginsburg sniggers. Neal looks over and adds, “So he can sleep. Trust me, I’m hardly about to jump a guy who can’t tell me his own name.”

“Oh, I never do that!” the Doctor giggles. He’d like to know what’s in that tea, because everything’s suddenly intensely amusing.

“No!” Burroughs jumps up. “You have any how many people I had to give this to before it worked? He’s here now, and I’m getting some answers.” He leans in close to the Doctor’s face and says, “Tell me what’s really going on in the world. Tell me.”

The Doctor smiles sweetly, nods, and recites the ‘Talking Asshole’ routine out of Naked Lunch. Verbatim. In High Gallifreyan.

Jack laughs, Neal storms off, Ginsberg begins tapping his fingers like he’s counting syllables, and Burroughs digs up a pen and paper and begins scribbling bad phonetic approximations of the Doctor’s words.

The Doctor reaches the end of the story, puts his head on the table, and falls asleep.

He wakes up three days later, sitting on a beam atop the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s sunrise, and there’s a seagull soaring over the water. It dips, and its wings skim the waves, throwing off ripples of golden light.

Filled with a sudden sense of deja-vu, the Doctor reaches into his pocket and pulls out the first paper he finds.

It says: It dipped, and it’s wings skimmed the water, throwing off ripples of golden light. The Doctor…

But before he can finish reading, the wind carries it away, and it lands in the water of the bay.

The rest of the decade, however, is quite stunningly dull.

-------------

There are many comfortable places to sleep in the TARDIS. The chair in the corner of the medical bay is not one of them.

Rose wakes up with a crick in her neck, and the medical scanner beeping in her ear.

She sits up, stretches, and presses the button that’s glowing. The beeping stops, and a screen lights up with all sorts of incomprehensible writing. It’s quite pretty, sort of like a cross between runes done in cursive and Arabic, but there’s a woman possibly dying on the table, and pretty’s not what she needs right now.

“Damn it!” She slams her hand into the keyboard. “Not now. Not this translation rubbish. Not right now.”

She can only remember four buttons on the bloody thing; open, close, start, and stop. As the person in the TARDIS least likely to get horribly injured (when her competition was the Doctor and Jack; Mickey’s threatening to take the title), she’s learned those ones by heart. But the screen’s supposed to talk her through the rest, and right now she can’t read a word.

She takes a deep breath, “Look. I know you want us to help her, and I can’t do that if I can’t read the screen. So translate this for me. Just right now.” She pats awkwardly at the screen. “Please.”

Nothing happens for a moment. Then a button lights up. A small one, on the side of the screen. Rose presses it, and the words on the screen change. First to writing like the ship outside, and then to something that looks like cracks in stone. Finally it’s English, and she breathes a sigh of relief. “Thank you.”

The woman had severe blood-loss, and some nasty internal injuries, but they’re mostly healed. She’s missing a kidney and apparently an eye (somewhere under all the blood and rags), and half-starved. The machine’s asking if it should grow the eye and kidney back, or let her wake up and get food first.

Rose presses the ‘Wake up” spot on the screen. The machine retracts, and the woman climbs out, looking healthy, but tousled and frightened. There’s a ragged patch over one eye, that’s falling off to reveal a healed, but unpleasantly pink, eye socket. She gabbles something fast and incomprehensible at Rose.

“I’m sorry. I don’t understand you.” Rose holds up her hands and speaks in a slow calm voice. “Would you like some food?”

The woman stares at Rose, and asks another question, very slowly.

Rose repeats, “I don’t understand you. Do you want food?” She mimes eating, a bit hesitantly. The woman looks human, and the medical scanner didn’t mention anything about her being alien. But there’s a lot of things that look human, and they’re not all things you’d want to feed.

The woman mimes Rose’s gesture back, and repeats “Food?” Then she adds, “Kune. Food-Kune?”

Rose nods. “Yes. Kune. Come with me.” And she leads the woman to the TARDIS kitchen.

-------------

There’s only a limited amount of chances to hear Hendrix play, so he goes to Woodstock, again. Not a terribly good idea, but half a million people show up for the concert, and he’s unlikely to run into himself.

Himselves, he should say, because he’s been here twice.

Okay, this may be a genuinely bad idea, but it’s Hendrix. Plus, he’s bored. He’s been around the late twentieth century so much that there’s hardly anything for him to do.

He realizes this is a bad idea in the middle of Janis Joplin’s set. She’s halfway through “Summertime”, when in the crowd behind him he hears a familiar Scottish burr.

“Ya need tae relax, Zoe. Ya don’t sit around silent listening to music like this.”

“But it’s a classic! You don’t jump and shout during Mozart, or Shostakovich, or Janis Joplin. It’s just not done.”

And another voice. His own. “It’s cultural, Zoe. Remember when we went to the Globe theater and everyone threw peanut shells?”

Half a million people in the crowd, and he still manages to bump into himself.

The Doctor ducks through the crowd, squeezing past a couple of topless young women who manage to smear mud on his suit. The voices behind him fade in the distance, and for a moment he thinks he’s safe.

Until he hears another voice, up ahead. A different voice. Another Scottish burr.

“I don’t see why you’re complaining. You said you wanted to go somewhere fun.”

“Somewhere cool, Professor, not a pack of grotty old hippies.”

Despite himself, the Doctor laughs. Trust Ace to be so stunningly Ace.

He ducks off again, in a different direction, past what appears to be the same muddy young women, who enjoy letting him slide past a little too much, and finally makes it to the edge of the crowd. He leans against a post and catches his breath.

A pale, fragile-looking young woman with a daisy in her hair, looks over at him. “You look like you’ve been having fun.” She’s wearing jeans and an Indian-print top, and is surprisingly enough, British.

“I’m being plagued by Scotsmen, and my own past.” The Doctor looks up at the sky. “Don’t ask. Really, don’t.” He scratches at the back of his neck, where the hairs are standing on end. He always gets that when he meets himself. The two in the crowd, no doubt.

“No fear of that. I have to say, it takes a special kind of man to show up to Woodstock in a suit. And a strange kind of persistence to do it three times. Trust me, it’s more fun like this.”

“What?” He turns to look at the woman, but she’s gone.

-------------

When they get to the kitchen, Mickey yelps. The woman yelps back, and jumps.

“Relax, the pair of you. She needs some food. Mickey, see what you can dig up.” Rose turns back to the woman. “Calm down. He’s a friend. He’s bringing food. Kune, you know? Food.” Rose points to Mickey and mimes eating.

The woman points to Mickey and shrinks back in fear. “Kune? Ze Kune?” She makes for the door.

“No, wait!” Rose points to where Mickey’s rummaging through the cupboards. The woman steps forward, looking at all the food, and says something fast.

“So,” Mickey says, standing aside as the woman tears into a box of raw noodles and begins crunching on them. “She doesn’t speak English, then.”

“Not a word,” Rose says.

“This should be fun.”

-------------

He takes the record and the player up the stairs very slowly, and carefully. It’s in London, what he guesses to be his hundredth rented room. It’s a cold February, and the heat in his room’s erratic. At the moment, he can see his breath.

He sets the player up, carefully slides the album from his sleeve, puts the needle down (side two, track three), and lets the music play.

Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dreams.

It probably wasn’t a good idea to interfere like that.

Well, no. The interference was fully justified. He’s not the biggest expert on music history in the galaxy, but he’s fairly certain that the members of Led Zeppelin weren’t supposed to be eaten by a Rutan hiding in a recording studio in 1974. He’d have remembered something like that.

So interfering was perfectly reasonable in this case.

What wasn’t reasonable was stopping to talk afterwards.

I am a traveler in both Time and Space, to be where I have been

He didn’t tell them much, and almost nothing true. He’d just wanted to compliment them on their music, and maybe get an autograph for Rose.

Was Led Zeppelin still considered cool in the twenty-first century? He couldn’t remember.

But it’s utterly impossible to pop out of nowhere, disintegrate an alien shape-shifter, blow up a mixing board, and sit down for a nice chat about how much you like 'Fool in the Rain', without being expected to answer a few questions yourself.

So he’d lied (mostly), and explained a few things that he technically shouldn’t have, and now he’s trying to remember what the original lyrics to Kashmir actually were.

The album ends, and he hasn’t heard anything too alarming, so he puts it away. There’s probably nothing to worry about.

Provided Jack’s not a Led Zeppelin fan. Otherwise he’s going to be bloody furious that someone already used his identity to meet the band.

-------------

Mickey points the woman at the speaker on the console and says, “Here. Talk.”

She looks at him blankly.

“Talk.” He waves his hands. “Here.” He flips the speaker switch. “Hey, is anybody still on the line? We’ve found someone who speaks your language.”

The communicator crackles to life, and voice starts shouting. The woman shouts back, excitedly. Mickey steps back, next to Rose. “Looks like they got that sorted out.”

“Yeah,” Rose nods. “Best just let them get on with it, I suppose.”

They stand and watch for a moment. Then Mickey leans over and asks, “Any idea what they’re saying?”

“You’re asking me? I know one word.”

“Yeah, right.” Mickey shuffles his feet and looks down. “You know she’s the camera.”

“What?”

“The camera. I saw. The eye. It’s hers.” He stares at the floor.

“Are you sure?” Rose asks.

“I think so. It looks like the other one. And, you know.” He waves at his eye.

Rose looks at Mickey, who’s still not looking back. “Oh. God.” She hadn’t even thought! The eye, the kidney; it’s obvious when she looks at it. But she hadn’t even thought.

“Yeah.”

The one-eyed woman turns back, smiling, and shouts. Rose swallows down as sudden wave of nausea, and nods encouragingly.

“Zip,” the woman says.

“Zip?” Rose looks questioningly. She mimes a zipper being pulled down.

The woman shakes her head. “Zip.” She pushes her hand together and makes flying motions. She waves at the walls and ceiling all around them, then makes more flying motions.

“Ship?” Rose asks. She mimes the flying. “Ship?”

The woman’s eye goes wide. “Ship-Zip! Ship-Zip. A! Ship-zip!” Then she points at the communicator and makes the ship gesture. She mimes the little ship landing, and points again at the room around them.

“Ship come here?” Rose guesses. “That ship’s coming here?”

The woman looks up at her and nods, hesitantly. She then waves at the three of them, and makes the ship gesture. “I-zip. Ze-zip. Ya-Zip. A?” She nods enthusiastically.

Rose points. “Me, and Mickey,”

The woman interrupts, pointing. “Mickey?”

Rose nods. “Yes. Mickey.” She points at herself. “Rose.”

The woman nods and points at herself. “Mal.”

“Mal?” Rose asks. She thought that was a guy’s name.

The woman nods. “Mal.”

“Okay, Mal. Rose-Mickey zip here.” She points at the TARDIS.

Mal shakes her head. “En zip.” She adds an incomprehensible sentence.

“Yes, zip.” Rose waves Mal back to the TARDIS door. “Look. In there. Plenty of zip.”

“En, En.” Mal stepped out. She said something incomprehensible and argumentative, so Rose ignored it.

“Look,” Rose said. “Mal zip.” She pointed at the speaker. “Mickey, Rose zip.” She pointed at the TARDIS.

The woman began arguing again, so Rose shrugged and waved her back into the TARDIS. “Come on. We’ll see if we can do something about your eye before your friends get here.”

-------------


The last couple years are the hardest. He reads about the Auton invasion on the BBC News website. The whole thing is listed as a manufacturing defect in the plastic. Utter nonsense; he’s tempted to call UNIT and ask for a job helping them write cover stories.

Then he remembers what happens to UNIT, and he’s really tempted to call.

He doesn’t, of course. He doesn’t call Jackie Tyler either, and tell her that her daughter’s safe. He watches on the telly as various British politicians suffer mysterious weight gain, and doesn’t call anyone about that.

It’s a good lesson for him, he thinks. Learning how long a year really is.

He gets closer as time goes by. When Big Ben is hit by the fake spaceship, he’s in New York City, watching The Producers on Broadway. After they interrupt the show, he proceeds calmly to the box office, and collects a ticket for the next day. If he paid for a ticket, he wants to see them sing “Springtime for Hitler.” It’s the best part of the show.

When the Mayor of Cardiff vanishes during a simultaneous earthquake and electrical storm, he’s in a small Italian villa, helping the landlady prepare a pasta putanesca. He learns about events the next day from the television, and does call UNIT, on their anonymous tip line. Leaves a recorded message using the word Zachary, and Code 9, and every password he can remember. Just to make absolutely certain that the nuclear plant is canceled due to dangerous geological instability.

That Christmas, he’s in a small village in the Outer Hebrides. He deliberately picked somewhere tiny without any old castles or towers around for miles. Still, Christmas morning is spent watching the village try to talk six people off the church bell tower, and reassuring them that it will all be okay.

He goes to London after that, in lodgings where he pays by the week. When Deffry Vale School blows up, he’s delighted. Rose and Mickey should be turning up any day. He should have his ship back. It can all go back to normal.

Any day now.

After a week, he calls Jackie Tyler, to make sure he hasn’t missed them. So they don’t have to worry about him managing to meet up. Not because he’s bored sitting around a pokey little room wondering when Rose will turn up. Well, not just because he’s bored.

“Hello, Jackie? It’s me, the Doctor. Is Rose there? Just answer, don’t…”

“No, she’s not with me, but don’t worry..”

“She’s safe, she’s perfectly safe. If you’d just…”

“No, she didn’t get stranded somewhere. I did, actually. What happened was…”

“Of course it doesn’t make sense. You’ve hardly let me finish a…”

“Look, do you want me to explain or not?”

He eventually gets Jackie to be quiet. Relatively, quiet, at least. She does interrupt several times to verify that Rose can bring the TARDIS back, She agrees to call him the moment Rose turns up.

Before hanging up, she says one last thing, “You’re getting exactly what you deserve, you know. Having to wait with the rest of us for a change.”

Thinking back on the last couple years, he replies, “You may be right.”

He’s not sure if that has anything to do with her ringing him up two days later and inviting him round for tea.

Back to index


Chapter 6: Home

“I’m beginning to see why the Doctor does it,” Mickey whispers to Rose.

“Does what?” Rose is watching Mal (now with two complete eyes) attempt to explain things to the rescue ship. She keeps pointing to the TARDIS, and making dramatic gestures for something really big.

This is not a good sign.

“Scarpers when the cavalry shows up. I don’t fancy sitting around here and explaining do you?”

Rose watches for a moment. The woman looks happy, and the people who picked her up seem decent. Not like criminals or space pirates or anything.

Of course she has no idea of how space pirates actually look. All she can imagine is a laser eye patch and a robot parrot.

The idea makes her giggle, and Mal looks over to her.

“Don’t mind us,” Rose says. “We’ll just be…going, actually.”

The crew of the rescue ship look at each other in confusion. Mal frowns.

“Come, on Mickey. Let’s get in the TARDIS.” Rose turns and walks to the door. After a moment, Mickey follows.

Mal stares at them with a worried frown. She asks something that sounds like a question, and points at the crew.

“It’s alright,” Rose says. “We’re just going. Bye!” She waves and steps into the TARDIS. Mickey follows, closing the door.

“So, we really are going home, then?” he asks.

Home. Rose sighs. Living with her mum. Trying to get a job with her shop-girl resume, plus a brief stint as a dinner-lady at an exploding school.

No more Doctor. No more travel. No more saving people. Real life.

“Yeah.” She nods. She reaches for the switch on the console and pulls. The screen, which is still down, shows the whole crew jumping at the roar of the time rotor.

She smiles. She’s going to miss that noise. And annoying the Doctor by calling it the ‘uppy-downy bit’.

In about a minute, they’ve landed, and Mickey rushes to open the door. “We’re home! Safe!” He looks back at Rose. “Oh, cheer up. Look, there’s your mum!”

Rose steps out the door and sees her mum running down the street.

“Sweetheart! There you are! I’ve been waiting!” Jackie sweeps Rose up into a nearly overwhelming hug.

“Mum, mum, I’ve lost the Doctor.” Rose buries her face in her mother’s shoulder. She will not cry. Not in the middle of the street like this. Not until she’s sure she’s thought of everything, and there’s nothing she can do.

Then she’ll cry

“No you haven’t, sweetheart. I phoned him. He’s on his way.”

Maybe not, then. Rose lets go and stares her mother in the face. “What?”

“He got stranded back in history and had to wait for you lot to turn up. I rang him up from the flat the moment I heard this thing go off. He should be here any minute.”

Rose grabs her mother’s hands. “Mum, what are you talking about?”

So Jackie explains. And then again. Rose is about to ask for a third time when she sees a man walking down the street. A tall thin man, in brown.

It’s the Doctor, and for a moment he looks just the same.

With a shout of excitement, she runs forward, arms out. The Doctor runs too, and catches her up in a flying hug.

He’s swinging her around in his arms, and she’s laughing, and he says, “You have no idea how good it is to see you again.”

“I think I have an idea,” Rose replies, as he sets her down.

“No. You don’t.”

He holds out his hand, and she takes it, and they stroll back to where Mickey and her mum are waiting by the TARDIS.

“So, eighteenth century to twenty-first, that’s what, a good three hundred years? What did you get up to?”

“Oh, a little of this, a little of that. It was only two hundred and forty-seven years, really.”
“Hardly any time at all. You don’t look two hundred and forty-seven years old.” Up close he looks different. A little bit older. He’s got fine wrinkles around the eyes. And it’s not the same suit, as before, but a similar one in a darker shade.

Different, yes. But not enough for two hundred and forty-seven years.

“I shouldn’t look two hundred and forty-seven years old, I’m over eleven-hundred. So how long did you wait?” He’s watching out of the corner of his eye, in that way he thinks she can’t spot.

“Oh, two or three days. There was a survivor on the ship. We saved her life.”

“Did you now?” He looks her full in the face. “Good work.” He turns his head and stares at the TARDIS.

“The ship missed you,” Rose says.

He nods distantly. “And I missed her.” He walks up to the TARDIS and puts his hand on the door.

“Oi!” called Jackie. “You’re not ducking out already, are you? You promised a good week of my daughter staying home and not scaring me out of my wits.”

Rose turns to the Doctor. “You promised what?”

“Not my fault!” He throws up his hand. “She plied me with biscuits and jam!”

Rose laughs. “Well if you promise, you have to come too. No hiding out in the TARDIS. And you have to be nice to my mum.”

“For the entire week?” The Doctor pouts.

Rose folds her arm. “The entire week. You got me into this.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll be good. I’m beginning to feel certain sympathy for your mother.”

“What, you?”

He nods, and for a moment there’s a distant look in his eyes. “Yes. Waiting for someone can be very hard work.”

Rose opens her mouth to speak, but her mum grabs her by the wrist. “You’re all coming back to the flat for tea,” Jackie says. “No arguments.”

Rose nods. “Right, mum. No arguments here.”

Back to index



Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.

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