Part Eight: Three (A Fine Romance)
Tegan wasn’t sure whether to be amused or annoyed when the third version of the Doctor appeared on her doorstep. When she’d stepped forward to greet him, he’d offered her a fatherly peck on the forehead, then spun her around and marched her toward the stairs.
“Hey, what gives?” she’d demanded, only instead of answering, he’d “requested” that she remain upstairs until he called for her. His peremptory manner was what annoyed her; his promise of a wonderful surprise was the only thing that mollified her, and the obvious gleam of anticipation in his eyes finally brought out the amusement. “Dress for dinner!” had been his last admonishment to her, and here she was, doing as he asked, just putting the finishing touches on her make-up when a discreet knock sounded at her dressing-room door.
“Coming!” she called out, then stood and examined herself critically in the mirror.
She’d chosen a floor-length gown of silver with violet trim that almost exactly matched the color of her old air hostess uniform. She wore matching violet shoes with wickedly sharp four-inch stiletto heels that still only brought the top of her head even with his patrician nose. She’d taken particular care with her hair, fussing with it until it had just the right touch of old-Hollywood glamour that she’d been striving for.
When she opened the door, he was waiting with a clear plastic packet in one hand, which almost — but not quite — diverted her from noticing the impeccable way he was dressed in black tie and tails. He bowed and presented the packet to her with a flourish and an appreciative gleam in his eyes that told her more than words how well she looked.
She finally allowed her gaze to leave his form as she took the packet into her hands, then gasped with surprise at the sight of its contents: a beautiful orchid, silvery-white with a delicate violet trim that made it appear as if it had been specifically designed to go with her dress. “How did you know?” she demanded as she fumbled the cover open and reached in with delicate fingers to lift the blossom to her nose.
She inhaled; the scent was heady but not overwhelming, floral with undertones of something she couldn’t quite describe–something spicy, exotic. Alien.
Not unlike the Doctor.
“I didn't,” he confessed with a devil-may-care grin that suited his features to a “T.”
“The flower itself knew,” he continued, nodding at the blossom before reaching out and placing it carefully on her wrist. “It's a Chameleon Orchid from Betazeryl Four in the Copernicus Cluster.” As if that explained anything. “Don't worry, it's not sentient or anything like that, just incredibly sensitive to its environment. It was black with white pistils up until I brought it from around my back,” he added with another one of those brilliant smiles.
Tegan smiled back as he extended his arm. She tossed the empty container over her shoulder in a decidedly unladylike manner, then availed herself of his arm and allowed him to escort her down the stairs.
Dinner was wonderful, served on the patio while loads of white candles floated and twinkled on the pool’s surface, along with a scattering of white-petaled flowers. This Doctor certainly knew how to put together a romantic evening. The roast was exquisitely prepared, flavored with something peppery but not overly spicy, so tender she could almost cut it with her fork. The veg was plain old carrots and potatoes, but the simplicity of the side dishes only enhanced the exotic flavor of the roast.
When she finished, she dropped her napkin on her lap and leaned back in her chair with a satisfied sigh. “That was super, thanks,” she said, smiling over at Three.
He returned the smile and offered a half-bow from his seated position. “Port and brandy in the library?” he asked with a twinkle in his eyes.
Tegan shook her head and rolled her eyes. “I’d have thought champagne and dancing in the ballroom,” she shot back.
He chuckled at her exaggerated indignation. “How about a compromise?” he suggested. “A moonlight drive in one of those vintage cars of yours.” He nodded in the direction of the detached garage, hidden from view by a line of trees but certainly within walking distance.
Not, however, in the heels she was currently sporting. “Only if we can change first,” she suggested. “Wouldn’t want to ruin a perfectly lovely pair of shoes crunching through the gravel.”
“Meet me in, hmm, ten minutes?” he offered as he rose from his seat and moved over to pull her chair out for her. Even if it was only a simple deck chair, she still felt as if he were helping her rise from a throne. She dimpled and nodded, allowing him to escort her back into the house as he’d escorted her outside, leaving him behind at the foot of the stairs.
When she made her way to the garage fifteen minutes later, it was to find that he, too, had donned more casual clothing, something well suited to the auto he’d chosen for their evening ride. He looked just as dashing in country tweeds and duster as he did in a tux, she decided, and hoped he approved of her choice of clothes as well.
She’d opted for a pair of comfortable jeans and loafers with a simple sweater just a shade darker than the lavender trim on her evening gown. Suspecting that he’d pick out one of the convertibles, she wore a matching scarf over her hair to complete the ensemble.
His gaze swept her from head to foot and back up again, stopping at her eyes. “Very nice,” was all he said as he handed into the passenger seat of the car. Once again her predictions had proven true; he was going to be the driver this evening, not her. She didn’t mind; it was kind of nice, being coddled like this, having someone else take charge of her life without it being a takeover of her life.
Not at all like what the Mara had once done to her, forcing choices on her against her will.
She quickly shunted that thought aside; where had it come from, for Heaven’s sake? She returned her attention to the man next to her, grinning up at him as he snapped on a pair of old-fashioned goggles, gunned the motor and took them out of the garage and into the night.
Tegan laughed in pure delight as Three drove around the curvy hillside trail with an expert hand on the steering wheel. “I miss this!” he shouted into the wind. “The TARDIS is, well, the TARDIS, but there’s nothing like your hand on the wheel and wind in your hair for pure riding enjoyment!”
“Unless it’s flying your own plane!” Tegan shouted back, still grinning. “Tomorrow it’ll be my turn to take you for a spin!”
“Deal,” was his prompt response, then there was no time and no breath left for talking as he took a hard turn on the “country lane” that meandered around the edges of her property. One branch of it ended at a small hill overlooking the “ocean”, and it was there he stopped.
“Tired already?” Tegan teased him, knowing full well he was just drawing out the enjoyable evening they’d been sharing.
“Just a bit of a rest before we take her back to that well-appointed garage my later self had the good sense to provide for you,” he replied with a smile.
Tegan unwound the scarf from her head, shaking her hair to decompress it a bit and scooting closer to the Doctor. He leaned his arm against the back of the seat and Tegan took it for an invitation, moving even closer and resting her head against his shoulder.
They simply sat there, looking out over the ocean, feeling the light breeze blow over them for several comfortable minutes. It was the Doctor who broke the silence first. “It’s a lovely view, even if the stars are a bit sparse.”
“I wanted it that way, so I wouldn’t ever forget why I was here,” Tegan said after another moment. “So I wouldn’t ever get so comfortable that I could think of this place as home rather than my own personal Elba. Even when I had you, my Doctor, I mean, hypnotize me so I wouldn’t remember in between visits, I still wanted to know I wasn’t on Earth.”
“Tricky thing, Gallifreyan hypnosis,” Three said with a slight frown. Before Tegan could ask her if he was disapproving of his future self’s use of it or Tegan’s requesting it in the first place, he shrugged. “Ah well, water over the dam. I’m just glad you decided not to continue that particular experiment.” With a sidelong glance at her, he added: “I much prefer you in the here and now.”
She wrinkled her nose at him, considered sticking out her tongue and deciding against it; he’d probably lecture her on what he would rightly consider childish behavior, and the one thing she never ever wanted him to do was think of her as a child. Any of “him.”
She’d given up on expecting anything other than sweet romance from this Doctor, so was pleasantly surprised when he turned to her with an impish gleam in his eyes and asked: “Tell me, Tegan, have you ever gone skinny dipping under the stars?” He cast a disparaging glance skyward. “Scanty though they may be?”
She responded to the challenge in his voice by rising from her seat, pulling her sweater over her head as she did so and dropping it deliberately on his upturned face. A sound suspiciously like a muffled laugh emerged from beneath the purple knit before his hand reached up and tossed it back her way.
She evaded the throw easily as she hopped over the side of the car and kicked off her shoes. “Race you!” she shouted over her shoulder as she ran down the hill directly toward the “ocean,” leaving a trail of clothing behind her, jeans and knickers, loafers and socks and bra.
She’d already dived into the chilly surf before he caught up with her, naked and shining in the paltry star-light, a delighted grin stretching from ear to ear as he joined her with a shout at the cold. “You could have warned me!” he spluttered when he resurfaced.
She couldn’t help it; she laughed at him, at the outraged expression on his face and exaggerated shivers. “Come on, Doc,” she scoffed when the laughter had subsided, batting his arm playfully. “Surely you’ve been colder.”
“And warmer,” he conceded, reaching out to take her in his arms. So much for frolicking in the surf. She allowed him to pull her closer. “Shall we do something to get warmer, Tegan?” he asked, his voice a husky breath against her ear as he slid his arms around her waist.
She responded with a kiss that did much to dispel the chill, hands clasped behind his neck, bodies touching along their disparate lengths and a rapidly heating part of his body making itself felt against her mid-section as the kiss deepened. He was a charmer, this version of the Doctor. “Lucky number Three,” she murmured against his throat as she trailed a line of kisses from his lips to collarbone, and felt his quick intake of breath as she lingered on a particularly sensitive spot.
“Lucky indeed,” he responded, sweeping her into his arms and carrying her out of the water. He strode hurriedly up the beach and slight incline to the car, where he stood her once again on her feet and rummaged in the boot for a blanket.
They made love under the stars, not her first time doing so but certainly the sweetest. He was gentle and gentlemanly, not always the same thing in Tegan’s experience, paying close attention to the sounds she was making, the way her body reacted, repeating touches and actions that seemed to pull the most responses out of her as hands and lips, teeth and tongue roamed her body in turn.
She tried to do the same for him, but he refused while at the same time making her feel as if she were the center of the universe to him. And perhaps, on this night, in this place, she was.
They drove back to the house at a slower pace than when they’d left, taking their time, just enjoying each other’s company. Tegan left him to unpack and fuss over the roadster while she went back to the house and jumped in a shower to rinse off the sand and salt water and bits of grass that had found their way into various creases and crevasses. When the Doctor joined her under the warm spray she smiled at him, helped scrub him down and dry him off as he did for her, then took him to her bed and held him in her arms as they both slept.
She dreamed of airplanes and flying. When they awoke in the morning, she took him for the promised flight, proud of her hard-earned piloting skills, trying not to miss her father as she always did when flying a plane on her own. He’d been the one to teach her, and even five years after his death she still missed him. She shyly offered the Doctor that information before they boarded her plane right after breakfast, and he nodded understandingly when she finished speaking.
“We all have those we’ve loved and lost,” he said, sounding wistful. Tegan realized that in such a long lifetime, any Time Lord would have lost many friends and companions, but it had to be especially true for the Doctor, living his life so far from home, among people who had such ephemeral life spans compared to his.
Adric couldn’t have been the first to die on his watch, so to speak, she thought, her throat aching with remembered loss. A loss this Doctor had yet to face, not for two more regenerations. She cleared her throat and changed the subject, determined not to cloud their last day together with such somber thoughts.
She managed to keep that resolve until he left her after dinner that evening. They made love a second time, this time while sharing an afternoon swim in the pool; she would always associate him with water, still and calm, cool and tugging with tides, salt and chlorine, as well as with speed. Fast cars, fast planes…fast women?
No, another “don’t go there” moment in her mind. She kissed him good-bye at the front door and watched as he entered his TARDIS and left her behind to dream about their time together and wait with eager anticipation the arrival of the next Doctor, whichever one it might be.