The Ends of the Earth by vegetables
There was a red telephone box outside the hospital with no police box beside it. It felt smaller on its inside, like it had been designed for something thinner than a person. The Doctor fit within it as she dialled Judith, but only just: her giant coat filled up the space like some kind of fabric wrapping.
“It’s the Doctor, from upstairs!” she said brightly when she heard the phone pick up at the other end. “ I’m at your work!”
“Doctor!” said Judith’s voice, sounding alarmed. “How did you get my number?”
“I’m very clever!”
“That’s not an answer.”
“I went through your things. The point is, I’ve just met Doctor Clayton! And she’s me, just like we thought.”
“I see. And you definitely didn’t mention me, like we said?”
“Too busy being attacked. I’m trying to work out who by. And that’s why I’m calling, you see.”
The Doctor frowned.
“I was wondering,” she said. “Have you noticed anyone strange when working here? Not eccentric, or actually unwell. They’re different things. But anyone… who didn’t quite fit in. In a different way.”
There was silence on the line.
“People like me,” said the Doctor. “Or Doctor Clayton. But that’s fine. It’s people like me who we’re looking for.”
There was more silence. Finally, Judith spoke in a very small voice.
“You’ll think little of me,” she said. “But we know how people treat us. The staff who aren’t white. We’re always seen as less, even when they don’t say it out not loud. But that’s not true of Doctor Clayton. And – well – it’s not true of him, as well.”
“It’s probably nothing,” she said.
“But maybe it is,” said the Doctor.
“Maybe. I thought— that Porter. He’s just like her. People’re always saying you have to know your place; you can’t question that, not in a hospital. There’s the doctors and the nurses and the porters way below. But his place? It could be by the Queen of England, or above her. It doesn’t matter about his station, or the colour of his skin. He gets a respect the rest of us never would.”
“And you envy that,” said the Doctor.
“I know I shouldn’t,” said Judith.
She sighed, a hiss of static down the line.
“People wouldn’t give him half of what I get,” she said. “And all he does is lug things around. I’m saving lives.”
“He might be doing a fair bit more than that,” said the Doctor. “I wonder if he’s not really a porter at all.”
“You think so?”
“Honestly? A man who thinks highly of himself isn’t much of a lead. But it might be something.”
“You think he’s another one of you?” said Judith.
“Oh, no,” said the Doctor. “I think he might be a Lord of Time.”
“Right,” said Judith.
“I always knew it was quite an unusual hospital,” she added, weakly.
“You’re a star, Judith,” said the Doctor. “Your help’s just as good as your cooking.”
“Well. I do what I can.”
“Yeah,” said the Doctor. “And that’s all we can do, isn’t it?”
But she was glad Judith couldn’t see her face on this end of the line. Haunted. Concern mounting on her brow.
Because a part of her was starting to worry that maybe all they could do wasn’t going to be enough.
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