The October sun hung cold in the windows of the hospital the next morning, shining grey light on the Doctor’s coat, turning it dull. Everything was pallid at this point in 1962. The patients, the workers, the sky. A hospital was often a waiting room, and maybe the whole world was, too. A place strung out through anxiety and tedium. Somewhere you’d spend time endlessly, as you waited for an end to come.
Yaz had refused to come with her, and the Doctor had a feeling she knew why. Her friend had withdrawn into herself more and more since they’d spent some time in 2020. She could pretend that was because of the business with the statues, or from seeing a sea full of gods. But the Doctor knew Yaz better than that, even if she didn’t always know to be letting on.
Her mind was enormous, but Yaz somehow filled it up entirely. Up through the wood-panelled corridors of the hospital, past floors and rooms stinking of disinfectant. She was lost in thought all the way to the cancer wards, where she’d been told that Doctor Clayton would be.
Somehow, the Doctor’s former self was evading detection, but she didn’t seem to be trying very hard. Her black and white photo was there at the ward reception, the name DOCTOR CLAYTON in capital letters below. She looked out both solemnly and with a smile, a single black woman in a sea of white men. That was Doctors for you, though, wasn’t it? And maybe in more ways than one.
And she was just as easy to find when the Doctor entered the ward. Turning round, startled, the only conscious person in the room. On every bed was a frail and shrunken figure, barely living. She almost looked like she was watching over a morgue.
Her coat was white now, something like a medical doctor’s— but everything else about her was still the same. Her colourful shirt, her glasses. Her expression as she looked at this newcomer, mildly bemused.
“I’m sorry,” this Doctor said to her future self. “These aren’t visiting hours. We aren’t making exceptions in the circumstances, either. Hopefully we all have a few more hours left.”
“You’re not much for bedside manner,” said the Doctor.
“And you’re not much for fashion. Even in a decade like this.”
“You’re rude, aren’t you? I forgot that you were rude.”
The other Doctor laughed. “Was there a previous engagement I’ve forgotten?” she said. “Only I don’t remember having the pleasure.”
“Timestreams,” the Doctor said. “You won’t remember me. But if I stay here enough they should start to come into sync.”
The other Doctor frowned. “I am getting something,” she said, rubbing her temples. “A future version of me! So many colours. Not great at coats. A strangely unappealing personality.”
The Doctor now frowned as well.
“No,” she said, “that’s one of the other ones”—
“It was you!” said the other Doctor excitedly. “When I was human. And after I stopped being human! You were there.”
“Yeah,” said the Doctor. “And back then you were similarly complimentary."
“Well. I’m under some stress, as you can tell. Things have only gotten worse since I ran up and down this planet’s timestream. I’ve been camping out here for some time— but all sorts are attacking the hospital, hunting me down. There’ve been a fair number of... mishaps, let’s put it like that. But I’m still here.”
“Even without the monsters I’d be impressed,” said the Doctor. “A black woman doctor in 1962. You haven’t made it easy for yourself.”
The other Doctor grimaced.
“You can’t even imagine,” she said. “After this, I’ve a good mind to take it easy. Be a white man for a number of bodies. Maybe more than a score”—
She was cut off by an ominous clank of metal, then human screams rising in the distance.
“It’s the COPS!” the Doctor shouted.
Her other self boggled. “Not the Cosmic Ordinance”—
“Yeah,” said the Doctor. “Them.”
“Then it’s worse than I thought,” said the other Doctor. “I was sure the Division’s lackeys couldn’t track me. But the two of us together might be enough of a signal.”
“You’ve led them right to me,” she said.
“Not on purpose,” said the Doctor, slightly lamely.
“I’m remembering something else about you,” said the other Doctor.
“I found you annoying.”
“Oh,” the Doctor said.
Her holiday wasn’t turning out like she’d hoped it would at all.
“The scraping and clanging of long metal arms was getting louder. There were more screams from the corridors, then nurses and doctors running by…
...then two Doctors watched apprehensively as something between a policeman and a spider clanked into view, metal arms erupting from several points on its torso.
“Dubbledokil irt,” it said. “Sleefalirm.”
“I hope you’re able to handle yourself,” said the other Doctor as she picked up a scalpel from a nearby tray, holding it in a way that did not suggest a philosophy of pacifism and non-violence.
“More than you might think,” said the Doctor grimly, drawing her ray gun out to fight once more.
The other Doctor nodded. “You’re not only rainbows, I see.”
“Not at all,” the Doctor said. “You’re not sure if I’m qualified for the job? At least now I have the chance to prove it.”
The metal limbs of the COP were smashing into the roof as it rose its body into the air—
—and the two Doctors moved forward as one, and began to fight—