Tegan walked coatless out into a cold, rainy London, her vision blurred with tears and no idea what she was supposed to do next. She knew she’d made the right decision, but at the same time, she found it hard to believe he’d really gone without her.
She swallowed and thought that she would have to phone someone for help. Her grandfather, she thought. At least he never asked her too many questions.
It was then she realised she hadn’t even got her handbag.
She leant against the wall in impotent fury with herself and fought back tears.
“Excuse me, but I think this is yours.”
She turned with a scowl, not liking being caught like this. She didn’t exactly have anything she could have lost, so it was probably some weirdo. Great. All she needed right now.
A dark-haired, skinny young man in a pin-striped suit grinned at her widely. He was holding out her handbag.
She stared at him, nothing making sense in her head.
“You dropped it round the corner,” he said and she knew it was a lie.
Tegan swallowed. “You must have made a mistake.”
“No, no. It’s definitely yours,” he persisted. “I mean, it’s not mine, is it? And there’s no one else around. This place is deserted.”
She faced him unsteadily. There was only one person in the whole universe who had the means or the impossibly perfect bad timing to do something like this. She clenched her fists. “It’s you, isn’t it?”
“Well, yeah,” he admitted, shoving his hands in his pockets sheepishly. “I mean, who else would have your handbag lying around?”
She punched him.
He staggered back, clutching his nose. “Ow! Now that’s uncalled for!” His voice rose. “What did you want to go and do that for? I’ve been worrying all these years about leaving you out here with no money, no coat and -.”
“I can make a call,” she said through gritted teeth. “Reverse the charges. I don’t want to see you when I’ve only just left you in that warehouse. The whole thing was bad enough without this!”
He was slightly sulking. “Wasn’t much fun for me, either.” He checked his face again. “Hmm, you don’t hit as hard as Donna. That’s something. Why does everyone do that these days? Do you know how long I went without any of my friends doing that and now they’re all at it? What is it? Do I have a ‘Thump me, I'm Stupid’ sign on my back?”
She closed her eyes. “Look. Thanks for the handbag. Now will you go?”
“Thought you might want it,” he said airily. “I mean that’s where you human females keep all your bits and bobs, isn’t it? Useful things like money, keys, mobile -. No, that'd be anachronistic.”
She stared at him blankly.
“Right,” he said, clearing his throat. “Okay. It’s good to see you.”
Tegan said, “Why are you still here? When I said I was leaving, I didn’t mean for some future you to come and pester me about the whole thing two seconds later. And if you’re going to give me that bag back, will you get on and do it?”
“You don’t want a chat, then? We could catch up on old times.”
She made a choking sound and snatched at the bag.
“I’ll take that as a no.”
Tegan took a deep breath. “Do you want me to hit you again?”
“Not particularly, no. But, look, you’ve got to listen to me a minute. There’s something you should know.”
She looked back at him in confusion. “What?”
“No, that’s not true,” he reflected. “Just trust me on this. You need to hang around here a few minutes longer, talk to me and then you can go off and make your phone call. Well now you’ve got that thing back, you can pay for a taxi or whatever.”
Tegan narrowed her eyes. “I don’t need you to tell me that. What is this about?”
“You remember the old me?”
She nodded. Stupid, stupid question. She wasn’t ever going to forget him, however old she lived to be.
“Yeah. Of course you do. Well, I was a bit more cautious about messing up the timeline than I am now. Or, if I’m not being modest, I’ve got the whole thing down to a fine art now and I know exactly when to interfere and when to leave things alone. Back in the day I was a little more likely to turn up at the wrong moment.”
Tegan could have hit him again. “You clearly don’t know when to leave things alone. I told you. I had to go.”
“It stopped being fun,” he returned instantly, his mouth twisting around the words. “Yeah, I remember.”
She breathed out properly for the first time since she’d left the warehouse. “You’re not still bothered about that, are you?”
“What do you think?”
Tegan swallowed again. “Well, you’ve had your revenge, if that’s what you wanted.”
“I haven’t changed that much,” he said, offended. “Tegan, you should know that. Anyway, what do you mean by that? I brought you back your handbag. That’s not exactly vengeful, is it?”
She turned her head away. “I know it’s still you, but it’s not the same you. I wanted not to have to see that. I wanted to think of you, as you were, out there travelling around. I suppose that was stupid.”
“No,” he said, because he’d done similar things himself. “I’m sorry about that, Tegan, but you’ll understand in a minute. And, okay, I shouldn’t really have done this, but don’t you hate unhappy endings?”
She was still confused.
“Anyway, must dash,” he said, after a glance at his watch. He hugged her quickly, taking her by surprise. He’d certainly changed in some ways. Then he hesitated and added, “By the way, go see a doctor, won’t you? I mean, your everyday, medical sort of doctor. Get your head checked out.”
“My head -?”
He looked embarrassed. “Alien possession, bumps and what you have you. Best to be on the safe side. I’m only saying it because he’ll bottle out of that one.”
Then he headed off down the road, whistling. She stared after and almost wished she’d hit him a second time.
Then she put her face in her hands and cried. She’d left when she could keep one thing as she wanted and he’d ruined it all. She’d seen him die once before, and she was under no illusion that it was anything less than that.
“Tegan,” said an altogether far more familiar voice. He sounded uncertain for once. “Are you hurt?”
She lowered her hands. “It’s you.” Her voice shook.
“I’m sorry,” her Doctor said, taking a deep breath. “I realise this must be awkward for you, but it was the only place I knew to be sure of finding you — if I wasn’t too late.”
Tegan stopped then. His future incarnation had kept her talking until he turned up. That sort of manipulation was completely unfair and she didn’t expect it of him. “I hate you. Go away!”
“I’m not surprised,” he said ruefully. “I was going to bring you your handbag, but your room is a mess and I think Peri -.”
She held up her hands. “I don’t want to know. And you did bring me back my bag, thanks. Is that all you can think about?”
“No,” he said, catching hold of her. Then he stopped. “What do you mean, I brought you back your bag?”
Tegan said, “If you don’t stop talking about my stupid handbag and let me leave you, I’ll whack you with it.”
“I don’t know why I’m bothering,” he said tetchily. “Tegan, I respect your decision to leave me. Trust me, I haven’t come back to make things difficult for you, nor are there any alien monsters on my tail.”
She smiled slightly. “Well, that’s something.” At least it was really him, she thought.
There was a long silence, while he coughed and tried not to say whatever it was he had come to say.
“Oh, come on, spit it out, whatever it is, or go and leave me in peace!” she snapped.
He raised an eyebrow. “You don’t ever change, do you?”
“That’s a stupid thing to say,” she said, nettled. She shivered. She wasn’t wearing anything suitable for a wintry day like this.
The Doctor faced her. “Well, it’s only something that someone said — and I wondered -.”
“All right. Were you in love with me?” He finally came out with it and she looked genuinely shocked to hear him ask her the question. He supposed reluctantly that he did generally try to avoid conversations that might involve any messy emotions.
She stared and reddened. “Do you hate me?” she shot back. “You take all this trouble for something like that? I mean, what were you going to say if I said yes? Run away?”
“I thought we’d say goodbye properly, if that was the case,” he said and he was smiling at her. Her future self had laughed in his face, so he knew that the only reason she hadn’t given him an answer was because it was yes, after all. “I knew you were lying. I don’t blame you, though.”
Tegan tried to walk on. “Have I missed part of this conversation?”
“No, I’m just -.” He stopped her. “I wanted to make things up to you.”
“Well, thanks! Now, can you go?”
The Doctor grinned at her. “I told you. I came to say goodbye properly.”
“Properly?” she said suspiciously.
He leant forward and then hesitated, unsure quite how this kissing business was supposed to go, or if she would hit him when he tried. Maybe he was only being unkind, after all?
She saw the hesitation and a small smile crept onto her face and she caught him by the lapels and pulled him down toward her so that she could kiss him. After that, he found the whole thing was surprisingly easy. Really, it was a lot better than arguing, he reflected with some enthusiasm, and wished they’d tried this sooner.
“You do realise that doesn’t make it any easier, don’t you?” she asked eventually. “I really should have run out of that warehouse as fast as I could go, shouldn’t I?”
He hesitated. “Well, you could stay -.”
“Don’t,” she said hastily.
He walked alongside her down the rainy street. “I know. But I never asked before, so I thought perhaps I should.”
“Hell’s teeth, Doctor,” she said. “You’ve not seen me die or something, have you?”
He flushed. “Of course not.”
“I think it’s 'something' at the very least,” she said and shivered. “Sometimes I really do think I hate you.”
The Doctor said, “I think there’s a taxi over there. And I haven’t — I really haven’t. I promise.”
“Then, thanks,” she said. “Although if any more of you turn up, I will get violent.”
He looked puzzled. “Don’t worry. Even I shouldn’t be here, not really. But it seemed … the right thing to do.”
Tegan climbed into the taxi and closed her eyes so that she couldn’t look back.