It was precisely two in the afternoon on a lovely spring day, when Mike heard a familiar grinding noise. He looked up from his laptop, it being Saturday, his homily unwritten, and looked outside into the backyard of the rectory, where a big blue police box faded into view with a thunk.
Mike hurried to the back door, and threw it open, only to find a short man with blondish-reddish curly hair in a multi-colored coat and a woman, with the air of an academic, who was about Mike's age. Smoke was pouring out of the TARDIS, which the man in the coat was fanning and spraying with an enormous brass fire extinguisher.
The woman wearily sat on a lawn chair, moving her substantial purse to her lap. "Doctor, you really should get the TARDIS serviced. That's the third break-down this week."
"There is nothing," the man's stentorian voice sounded, "I can't fix myself on the TARDIS. O ye of little faith..."
"Well I'm starting to feel like the widow's mite, if it's all the same," she responded. Seeing Mike, she picked herself off the chair and walked over to him. "I'm sorry, Father, but we seem to be having a spot of trouble. We shan't be long. I'm Evelyn Smythe, and this is the Doctor."
"No problem," Mike responded. "I'm Father Mike Dahl. The Doctor and I, we've met. Wait...He's the Doctor? Oh my God, Doctor! You've regenerated? What happened? Are you okay?"
The Doctor looked away from the gaping doors of the TARDIS, the smoke having died down. "Am I okay? Okay?! Why I've never been better. Fit as a fiddle, as they say. Last regeneration was some time ago, but thank you for asking, all the same. I don't believe we've met, however..."
"Wait...which one are you?" Mike asked, slowly grasping the situation.
"Which one am I? Why, I'm the original. The bona fide Doctor, the one and only..."
"No, Doctor, he means which regeneration are you on? Honestly!" Evelyn interjected.
"Oh that. This is my sixth incarnation." He twirled around. "Quite an improvement from the fifth, I must say."
"Oh God. I don't know you yet. Rather, you don't know me. Wait, you will know me. The one I met was your ninth regeneration, into your tenth."
"Oh dear," the Doctor said, closing and locking the TARDIS. "Then we've jumped time streams. And I'm afraid the TARDIS is out of commission for a few hours..."
"Well why don't you come in? I can at least manage water for tea," Mike offered.
"Splendid!" Evelyn responded. "If it's all right to go back into the TARDIS, I've got a lovely lemon cake I just made...hopefully it didn't hit the floor when we crashed. We can have ourselves a proper tea."
The Doctor followed Mike into the rectory kitchen, where Mike pulled out some sandwiches left over from a luncheon held a couple hours previously. "Sorry these are left-overs, but, trust me, you really don't want me cooking anything..."
"It's quite all right," the Doctor said. "No need to go to any trouble on our account. We're the ones inconveniencing you."
"Naw, really. I've known you half my life already," Mike responded.
Evelyn let herself in, carrying a cake pan. "Success! One lemon-poppyseed cake!"
"Ms. Smythe, you're wonderful," Mike said, finding a knife for it.
"Please, Father, just Evelyn."
"Fine, then, it's just Mike. So how'd you two meet? The Doctor's mentioned you, Evelyn, but not much more than that. I know you taught Tudor history..."
"Well, there was some trouble with a temporal nexus..." the Doctor began.
Afternoon turned to early evening. Sandwiches were nibbled, and tea was sipped. Finally the cake was consumed. As the shadows lengthened into night, the three of them felt as if they were old friends. Mike was amazed that while the man sitting in his kitchen was different, his essence was the same person he always knew.
"...And then you left me hanging!" the Doctor said, his voice booming.
"Well what was I supposed to do?" Evelyn asked. "I was being chased by half a dozen pygmy hippopotamuses from Zed Alpha Three..."
The Doctor addressed Mike directly, "She literally left me hanging. I was caught up in a trap set by a hunter. Suspended mid-air, lacking any of my natural decorum or dignity..."
"Oh, Doctor," Evelyn said, "Do look at the time. I'm afraid we've taken Mike's afternoon..."
"Really it's no trouble, I've enjoyed it," Mike said. "I need to go say Mass for the vigil, but you're more than welcome to stay."
"I thank you, Father Michael, but we've taken enough time. I'm afraid if we stay here too long, we could start damaging time lines. Shall we be off, Evelyn?" the Doctor said, standing up and helping Mike clear dishes.
The dishes were cleared, and the three of them processed back to the TARDIS, where Mike hugged them both, and the Doctor let Evelyn into the TARDIS. Quietly shutting the door behind her, the Doctor pulled Mike aside. They stood in silence for a few minutes, looking into the new night sky, as Mike and his Doctor did, when there was something weighing on the Doctor's mind.
"'And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born...'" Then the Doctor looked straight at Mike, his eyes haunted by darkness and shadow, a look Mike knew only far too well. "You needn't lie to me, Michael, for the sake of the time lines. I know there's a shadow on the horizon, faint whispers of a blasphemous orison of war. A war in heaven, for the sake of all creation. Am I correct?"
Mike looked at his shoes. He nodded, unable to meet the Doctor's eyes.
"I know it comes...What unspeakable horror must it have unleashed that my people are gone?"
Finally looking up, Mike said, "I'm sorry...Doctor, I can't answer that..."
"Of course. Quite right. I apologize for asking. And I apologize for my future self, who burdened you with the knowledge..."
"If it eases his pain, I'm happy to bear it," Mike responded, finding his confidence. "And...I hope I'm not overstepping what I can and can't say to you, but please forgive them. I know you just went on trial for your life, and God knows, you have every right to be angry with the other Time Lords. They've hurt you grievously, and you may go the rest of your life never forgetting that pain or their sins against you. Forgiveness is putting it aside so that it doesn't continue to affect your life--or theirs. When anger consumes us, then we become like those we most hate. Be at peace, Doctor."
The Doctor was silent. Finally, he said to Mike, cupping Mike's hands in his, "When I finally make your acquaintance, in my own time stream, I shall be honored to call you 'friend.'" Opening the door of the TARDIS, the Doctor stepped inside. Then he poked his head back out. "Pray for me, Father, that when the war comes I do not falter in my conviction to do what I must."
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