The Long Shadow by vegetables
It was very hard to drive a time machine back through a tear in space. Harder, in fact, than unscrambling an egg. But the Doctor unscrambled eggs for breakfast, and it wasn't so hard for her. She’d made the necessary adjustments on Bless’s machine, to send him home even without a pilotoon. He’d have lots to say when he got back– “a missionary with a mission!” the Doctor had said, and she'd laughed a lot even though no one had found it funny.
She was more tight-lipped about what she'd done to the shadows. All she’d say was that they'd been taken care of, and that it had been humane– and baboone, she'd said to Bless with a wink. Now the only shadows left were the natural ones, which faded to black as night fell upon Darwin's house.
That didn't explain everything, of course. Darwin had too many letters; rage was bursting through Late Victorian England. The Doctor said nothing about why that might be, because her suspicions had made her very afraid indeed.
But she hid her fears well as she stood with Darwin by his door, looking up at the emerging stars. Some way away Chris sat under a tree, grumpily shredding daisies with her nails.
“I was going to do it, you know,” Darwin said to the Doctor. “Sacrifice myself. And even as I was running to that shadow, I thought, 'I bet she won't bloody let me!’ It's not for other people to do things like that, oh no. It's only ever for you.”
"Should I have just waited, then?” said the Doctor. “Watched and done nothing, in the way a good Time Lord should? Is that what you’d have preferred, in the end?”
Darwin laughed. “Not at all! I’d be dead then, wouldn't I? But I'm still mad that you saved me, even though I'm glad you did. A bit of a mess, an old man’s brain,” he said. “I hope we sort that out, when we evolve into baboons.”
They both stared up at the blackness for a while.
“I don't have long left, do I?” said Darwin in the end.
“No,” said the Doctor. “I'm sorry.”
“And this… this is the last time we meet. Isn't it?”
“Oh, I don't know; never say never. I’ve lots of lives left to live, haven't I? But… I think so, yes.”
Darwin smiled sadly.
“Then… you’ve ruined my life, you know. Dragged me places I didn't want to go to see things that I wouldn't much care for. It's been exhausting and I don't know I wanted any of it; it's so far from the life that I should have led. I suppose what I'm trying to say is…”
He held out his hand to hers.
“...that you’ve been a good friend, Doctor.”
“Charles,” she said, nodding to him as she shook his hand.
“And Chris!” shouted Darwin, loud enough for the young girl to hear. Sighing, she dropped her ruined flowers to come over to the old man.
“I'm glad I met you,” said Darwin. “You remind me of someone who was very special to me.”
“Thank you,” said Chris. “I’ll tell my mother I met you. She likes you more than that other Charles, I think. You have better documentaries.”
“Ah, well, I shouldn't really know what those are. Our little secret, eh?” He winked. “That David Attenborough is good.”
“I think that's enough damage to the space-time continuum for one day,” said the Doctor. “C’mon, Chris. It’s time for you to get home.”
Darwin gave a jolly wave to them as they walked away, before he closed his door on them both for the last time.
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