Romana found the Doctor on Earth, in London. It was roughly where she’d expected to find him — after all, he never could resist that little blue planet, or its little green country blessed with decent tea and cursed with more alien invasions than anyone should have to suffer — but the two-story dockyard motel revitalisation had somehow left behind was a shabbier bolt-hole than usual. Peeling mint paint, the scent of stale tobacco and burnt coffee physically lingering in the humid air, a cracked window overlooking a car park of dinged and rusted automotive carcasses. And in the corner, obscuring a watercolour landscape clearly courtesy the local pound shop, stood a tall blue box.
“She keeps trying to take me back to Gallifrey,” the Doctor muttered. His hair, near shoulder-length curls when Romana had last seen him, was now shaggily trimmed at the sides, as if he’d done it himself without looking in the mirror — or, knowing his sartorial skills, perhaps he had been.
“She’s locked me out, because she knows I don’t want to fight,” he continued. “And you know that too, Romana, or you wouldn’t be here.”
Romana knelt beside him on the slim mattress, knees sinking nearly to the bed frame with a multi-tonal creak. How long had he been here? As long as it took for him to realise he couldn’t convince the TARDIS to do anything other than take him to the battlefield, or make him the warrior his people needed him to be, she supposed. He’d always been an expert at … well, most things, but especially evading responsibility, a skill he’d tried to pass along to her but which she, in her characteristically direct way, had deliberately failed to acquire.
Thus she found herself in this pathetic motel, in a room smaller than the Citadel’s Presidential dressing-chamber, ready to make an equally pathetic plea for help if she must, because the Daleks drew closer to Gallifrey every day.
“You’re right,” she said. “I wouldn’t be here unless Gallifrey needed you.”
“Gallifrey has its share of generals and soldiers. It doesn’t need another one.”
“They’re Time Lords, not tacticians. They can see into the future, but they haven’t the imagination to get there. You do.”
“That’s my curse, I suppose. It drove me off Gallifrey in the first place, and now it’s what you need to survive.” A bitter laugh. “You and Leela are easily as good as I am. Why can’t you do this?”
“If the war were just on Gallifrey, or even confined to a single galaxy, we could. But it’s not, and we need help. We need your help.”
“What if I don’t want to help, Romana? What if I want to keep as far clear of this as possible?” Those blue eyes, pale as the molecules scattering light in Earth’s sky; the Doctor’s hand dropping to Romana’s knee, his fingers brushing her silk trousers. “What if you come with me?”
Her skin sparked where he touched her, warmth spreading from his fingertips to settle between Romana’s legs. She’d missed him on Gallifrey for so many reasons, but his regular appearance in her bed was one of them.
“I can’t leave,” she said, and covered his hand with her own, weaving her fingers through his. “You have no idea how far the Council has gone. There’s a faction trying to resurrect Rassilon.”
“But that’s ludicrous! He was a monster! I should know; most of me’s played the Game of Rassilon.”
“Come make your case to the Council, then. Perhaps you can finally convince them to see reason; they’ve stopped listening to me.”
“I’m sorry, Romana.”
“Perhaps it’s for the best. When they finally depose me, they’ll see for themselves what sort of a job it is.”
A crooked smile. “Now you see why I ran away from it so often.”
“Are you certain you won’t come back?”
“Yes,” he said. “For now, anyway.” His fingers slipped closer to Romana’s inner thigh. “But perhaps you’d consider staying here a little longer?”
Romana’s red silk tunic and trousers clung to her in the muggy air, and she welcomed the chance to remove them even if there hadn’t been another reason to do so. She stretched beside the Doctor, the bedsprings creaking an outline of her body; 119 coils, if she was counting correctly, each one of them protesting under even her minimal weight. How the Doctor slept on this, she had no idea, but then again, he’d never been much of a sleeper.
“This,” he murmured, “this is one thing I’ve missed about Gallifrey. It’s almost enough to convince me to come back.” His lips trailed across Romana’s collarbone, along the curve of her neck, pausing at her jawline. Hovering over her skin, a frustrating absence of touch prickling from Romana’s cheeks to well further down her body.
“Do you really think you’re so important that the Lord President of Gallifrey would fly to a backwater planet and debase herself by literally seducing you into supporting the war effort?” she said.
“You’re here.” His mouth finally covering hers, tongue slipping past her lips, fingers sifting through her hair. “And you’re in my bed. And you said Gallifrey needed me. What sort of conclusion do you expect me to draw?”
“You invited me into the bed, not the other way round,” Romana said. Her nails scraped the Doctor’s chest, lingered at his hipbone, drifting back and forth until she felt him shift against her, rubbing himself along her thigh. “So really, you simply took advantage of an opportunity, you scoundrel.”
“A scoundrel, eh? I’d be insulted if it weren’t true.” Another lingering kiss, his taste so familiar no matter what body he wore. “Besides,” he added, “I think you’d be insulted if I’d really expected this before I’d agree to help.”
“True.” She took his hand, drew it to her breast, sighed as he cupped it with his palm. She genuinely hadn’t come to Earth intending to sleep with him, but neither would she turn down the opportunity, especially since who knew whether it would come around again. So many years they’d spent as friends and lovers who complemented one another no matter how often they disagreed on the right course of action. The Doctor always was good at simply assuming he was right and ignoring anyone, especially those in charge, who stood in the way; and Romana, though she occasionally failed to admit it, had learned to take much the same tack.
This was only a problem when she was the one in power, and the Doctor the one who’d decided she was in the way.
His hand drifted past her curves to her centre, and Romana arched her back and gasped when he touched her. The rusty bed coils — thirty-nine of them, or possibly forty — squeaked at the motion.
“But will you?” she said. “Will you come back?” He’d kept rubbing against her thigh, and when she reached for him, he let loose a breath and leaned into her touch.
He closed his eyes and rolled on top of her, and Romana groaned when he slipped inside her body.
The bedsprings set the rhythm, each thrust ratcheting another notch, the streakily stained headboard banging against the wall. It would only be a matter of time before the neighbour, whoever they were — because there had to be a neighbour, a place as cheap as this — began to complain.
But that hadn’t happened yet, and until it did, Romana was going to concentrate fully on the Doctor: the wiry muscles in his back; the soft kisses and licks he lavished on Romana’s calf, draped across his shoulder; the tension where his body met hers, a low simmer now but rapidly increasing with each thrust. She refused to believe this would be their last time together, no matter whether he agreed to help Gallifrey, now or later. It frankly seemed almost impossible that there had been a time before she knew him, a time when she’d had to learn that her objectively stunning marks meant not just little to him, but little to the universe, and paled in comparison to a quick mind willing to make what looked like the most ridiculous leaps of faith. It still rankled her, albeit as a wry admission that her younger self had had so much to learn; the sort of thing one could only appreciate as a woman of a hundred years older.
And as that woman of a hundred years beyond her first meeting with the Doctor, she could likewise fully appreciate that a man of so many years beyond that knew how to twist his hips just so; had long since learned to stroke the back of Romana’s neck with a single finger as she drew close to the end; and most important, Romana knew that she would love him no matter whether he convinced himself he should be part of this awful war.
The springs switched to a higher register as the Doctor’s pace grew faster and more ragged, and the headboard thumped against the wall in time with the bed. Right on cue, there was a thumping on the wall and a muted “Oi! Keep it down!” Romana’s simmering nerves bubbled throughout her body now, and the Doctor’s eyes were squeezed shut, and her raised leg was quite honestly getting a bit sore, and the springs, always the springs, prickled at her back and creaked in parallel with the people above them —
— and if she had one last memory of him, if this were truly the last, no matter how much she’d pretend it couldn’t possibly be, it would be of him with those sea-blue eyes suddenly open and gazing down at her, and of her name escaping on his breath as he came and shuddered to a halt within her.
Noisy springs and irked neighbours aside, it was some time yet before they left the room. They were Time Lords, after all, and human notions of how long one should stay in bed with one’s lover were utterly irrelevant.
Also, there were plenty of snacks in the TARDIS.
When Romana had finally cleaned herself and dressed, she leant against the TARDIS and listened to what the old girl had to say. It had been months since they’d last spoken, not that one could ever call a conversation with the TARDIS a true “conversation” as such, but they did at least understand one another as much as it was possible for a Time Lord and a sentient, dimensionally transcendental being to do so.
“She’ll take you where you need to go,” Romana said. “Although I honestly don’t know if that’s Gallifrey.”
“It will be, I suspect,” the Doctor said. “Eventually.”
“Find me when she does.”
“Of course,” he said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
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