Right On Time

by Tripwire Alarm [Reviews - 2]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • Angst, Romance, Vignette

After all this time, naturally, she’s a bit more like mythology than a person. A photograph that’s so pasteled with time and too much sunlight you can only see the edges anymore, like trying to find a shape in a cloud. What you can’t quite remember you can make into anything. The way a memory begins to take on the hues of fiction, given enough time and retellings.

Legends and myths all have to get their start somewhere, whether born from necessity or fear. Sadness. Guilt.

At the time, thousands of sunsets ago now, he’d been a happy snowballing disaster while she was an artwork of humanity, built to the perfection of a universe constructed in vectors and mathematics, a golden ratio of rib cages and eyelashes, every proportion and curve in accordance with the golden mean, existing forever in the few fleeting years she’d had on an Earth he could still visit like trying to catch the perfect thirty seconds of sunset at a given longitude before it’s gone, lost and followed by a long gray twilight. It had been a long time since she was hidden away from him, just as he’d hidden this ten-quid note in a book about werewolves, intending to deliver it cleverly and ultimately running out of time. Ten quid he still owes her, and the Doctor is nothing if not a man of his word, if also an abuser of his privileges as a traveler in time, in more ways than he cares to atone for at present.

Most recently, he’s cowered in a half-dug grave with the hands of demise reaching for his throat, goading him to confess. A truth. One he’d never said aloud.

The truth. The truth is that the Doctor was in love once.

Once, a very long time ago in context to the non-linearity of his years as compared with how much time has passed on Earth since. All that’s left of it are his recollections. Artifacts in a living tomb, something dwindled and diminished as burning coals always must cool to black, dead pieces of the Earth’s heart. Once so white-hot in his memory, since the end of it all he’s only ever looked at them glancingly, like looking at the sun. Afterimages in his mind’s eye. The scars left by happiness.

And if it hadn’t been for the secret he’d known it was trying to pry loose from his jaw, in the sudden, heart-stopping mindless moment that his mind reeled, reaching for something swimming in the darkness of his regrets, a confession that might have spilled out might have been something he should have said on a windy beach. Twice. He’d been given a second chance at it, and failed. Because he had to. Not because he didn’t have a choice, but because he wanted the choice to be hers.

Still. Is there any urge more pitiful—more intense—than wanting a second chance?

It’s been a long twilight, but he has, at intervals, managed to find a thread of dwindling sun to curl into like a tired cat. There are only so many days left, now, that he hasn’t visited in some way. Even just to stand at a crosswalk on January 17, 2005 at 8:41 am to watch her go in for her morning shift at Henrik’s. He saves them, days like this, for when he needs them most. Days where it feels like he’s lost everything all over again, as if, given enough time, that isn’t something he should have learned to expect, statistically speaking.

Maybe it’s not healthy, but the pain is less these days. It’s faded with each new set of hearts and each passing century, turned more into the ache of old bones than the throb of a stitched incision.

In what’s almost a disguise, a lined face of an older man with eyebrows that yell even before he opens his mouth, he slips a dubiously obtained ten-pound note in a plain envelope into the cat flap of a familiar flat in South London’s Powell Estate, sometime before the snow is completely melted in 2006. It’s like he’s always tried to remind them: late, early; everything is relative. Linearity is boring and deadlines are for the uncreative.

And it’s only taken him a millennium or so, an entire sulking second childhood, a lifetime and a half and a new, freshly gaping wound in his memory, but he’s upheld his part of the bet right on time.

Call it an anomaly of time congruence, or irony, or even deja vu (which is just a silly human misunderstanding of some very simple brain chemistry), but standing alone in the snowy Powell Estate courtyard seems to be the only set of conditions he can exist in this place. Somewhere inside the flat, someone slams a door. Jackie or Rose, it could be either. Both of them were—are—the type to slam a door without noticing.

He only watches the warm yellow glow in the windows for a minute or two.