The day I met the Doctor was a day like any other. I had coffee and a scone for breakfast and I spent all evening and night with other researchers, reading musty books from musty shelves, learning all we could, trying to beat the sun as it awoke.
"Doctor, what are we ... doing here?" Martha asked, voice trailing off as she stepped out of the TARDIS, taking in the room around her, mouth drifting open, her eyes wide.
The Doctor and Martha were standing at the edge of a huge, round room with a high domed ceiling. Martha craned her neck, watching the blue and cream and gold. It reminded her of the Pantheon in Rome and she wondered what it looked like in the light of day, when the gold could sparkle off the glow of the sun streaming in through the many windows ringing the top of the room, above the hundreds of bookshelves. They lined all the walls of the room, sparking in different colours and sizes, all to be held and to be used. In the center of the room was a smaller circle of books, desks radiating off it like spokes on a wheel. The desks and tables were lit with the slight glow of small lamps and the soft sounds of pages turning and pens scrapping against paper. Gentle, scholarly murmurs could be heard above the smell of old books and ancient ink. Martha was astounded.
"Doctor ...? she said, eyes flicking over the people gathered in the center of the room.
"Beautiful isn't it? This is the Reading Room—ever been to the British Museum?" Martha nodded, glancing at him. "Well, you know The Queen Elizabeth II Court, the inner court? This is the building in the middle of that court, named after Elizabeth, obviously. Though she's not nearly as much fun as my Elizabeth was, definitely not when it came to ... Well, this place was used by the very smart for different kinds of research. You know Virginia Wolfe wrote here? And H.G. Wells, oh! And Vladimir Lenin, though he used a different name. Wouldn't have looked good for His Majesty's Government, to have Lenin hanging around in their favourite library. Also!" he added in a sense of absentminded importance, "The year is 1924, six years after the ending of the Great War and the beginning of the infamous Roaring Twenties. You know, I met Gertrude Stein here, once. Well, not here, but this year, just popped on over to Paris and ran into her—literally ran into her—at the market. Very long time ago. Oh! And Ernest Hemmingway ... and Picasso. He was very charming, and so was Alice! Oh, I adored her, just the kindest woman I ever met."
"Did he talk the way he wrote?" Martha asked distractedly, watching the ceiling and bookshelves, the researchers in the center of the room, her eyes moving to each subject, completely enraptured, not just by the rich and subtle feeling of the Reading Room, but because this was a place in her own history, something that she could directly relate to. Travelling through time was fun—travelling to the future, to somewhere alien, not even familiar enough sometimes to earn itself human words. But this room was just familiar enough to make Martha's head spin and her eyes wrap in a daze throughout the room.
"Did who talk the way he wrote?" The Doctor asked, wrinkling his nose.
"Hemmingway," Martha said, voice bouncing slightly in her throat.
"Ah!" The Doctor said. "Well, yes, he did, though he did become very passionate during a discussion with Ms. Stein on the subject of one of Picasso's lovers—there's a conversation I never knew I needed to hear." Martha didn't answer and the Doctor watched her, smiling slightly, enjoying seeing her in awe. She startled herself out of her rapture and the Doctor grinned, holding out his elbow for her to take. She smiled. "Shall we, Dr. Jones?"
He led her along the edge of the room until they were standing in front of a bookshelf on the emptiest side of the Reading Room. His tongue was caught between his teeth and he had the strangest expression on his face. He looked like an old dog who had finally learned a very new trick. The Doctor's eyes were fixed on a slender blond man with round, wire-framed glasses perched on his nose. The man wore a dark grey suit, a jacket slung over the back of his chair, though his waistcoat remained on and buttoned. The trousers and waistcoat held themselves tight to his form, making him seem tall and long-legged, even while sitting down. He was at a table far to the right of the room, positively buried underneath a mountain of large books, a notebook spread out in front of him, several fountain pens lined up nearly on his right side for easy access. Turning to look at the man, Martha leaned towards the Doctor.
"Who is he?" she asked softly, staring at him. The man was familiar in the strangest way—like she had known his hands and voice for years, but had never really seen his face. The feeling made her intensely uncomfortable, reminding her of times spent out of place and alone.
"Do you remember," The Doctor said, a far look on his face, "When I was John Smith and we got stuck in 1913?"
"Well, yeah," Martha said, frowning, looking at the boy again. She snapped her gaze to the Doctor and then to the boy, analyzing him. "That's not—" She looked at the Doctor, eyes wide.
"It is indeed. That, Martha Jones, is Timothy Latimer, the boy who could hear my fob watch, remember? He survived the war, and has gone on to be the foremost researcher in temporal physics, graduated Oxford, too, with a doctorate in physics and mathematics."
"He did all that ..." Martha said, watching the boy. "How old is he now? Twenty-eight? Poor kid still doesn't look a day over fifteen." She laughed slightly and the Doctor laughed with her, shrugging his shoulders. "Well," he said, "Maybe sixteen." The two of them started to laugh, leaning towards each other, braced up against one of the library shelves.
The researcher who sat nearest to them flashed them an irritated glance, but it went unnoticed by the two of them, who continued to giggle slightly under their breath, the Doctor pointing out various people around the room, indicating what they studied and what they were going to do in thirty or forty years. Martha brought up his comment about Queen Elizabeth, laughing incredulously when he mentioned that at one point, a very long time ago, he had accidentally married her. There were several ensuing comments about the 'Virgin Queen' and the possible lie behind this somewhat charming nickname.
A throat cleared in front of them and they looked up to see a young woman, no older than twenty-two or twenty-three, standing there with a bemused expression on her face, bright red lips twisted in a smirk. She was a small, unassuming woman who barely came up to Martha's chin even with her black high-heels, dressed in wide-legged white trousers and a white button-up blouse. Her red hair, cut into a severe bob at her jaw, playful grey eyes and spotting freckles were in stark contrast with one another. A beige cardigan fell, sweeping, down from thin shoulders to her calves. Her hands were planted firmly on her hips, head cocked to one side. A small book was clutched in her left hand.
"Ah," The Doctor said with a charming smile, "Are we in your way, Miss? I do apologize, we simply got distracted." His voice had adopted a lighter edge, the accent thin and proper, and Martha half-expected him to have half-moon-shaped glasses perched on his nose and a toupee perched on his head.
The girl laughed, a kind of rolling thunder that made Martha smile. "The faked accent is hardly necessary, sir, any one of us could tell that the two of you aren't from around here. How far away do you come from? Across the pond, across our galaxy?" She laughed again.
The Doctor looked at her in surprise, hands coming up to run through his hair. "Well, not too far—"
"Between the clear disregard for how to behave in a room of such intense and arduous study, the fact that you're obviously not researchers and your strange clothing, I'd wager you're definitely not from around here." Reaching casually behind the Doctor's head, she pulled a leather-bound book with gold lettering off the shelf with a satisfied hum. In the silence of the comfortable room, a grandfather clock struck two.
At his desk, buried under his books, Timothy Latimer continued to work away, though he paused to pick up and flip open his fob watch every few minutes, huffing under his breath as he did. "I saw the two of you watching Dr. Latimer. His work in temporal physics is unparalleled and completely fascinating. He has been studying the novels of H.G. Wells, and other fantastical novelists, in an attempt to discover what inspired these authors to consider time travel a possibility in our era. I believe he has a meeting with the Mr. Wells himself tomorrow at breakfast, quite a story, especially considering Mr. Wells hardly takes meetings with anyone of Timothy's sort. Did you know," she continued without a pause for breath, eyes still considering her book, "that half of the researchers here—who often researching topics as strange as Timothy's—think Timothy Latimer mad? They disrespect and disregard his work. Some believe him to be a fake and a liar, some believe him to be a madman and some—" she paused, looking the Doctor in the eyes with a steady, shocking gaze, "—envy him and the freedom he has with his madness—something they could never hope to achieve."
Martha and the Doctor stood there, and for a few moments the girl just read her book, but when Timothy Latimer flicked his fob watch open again she sighed and shook her head, closing her book with a pointed snap. "If you're here to see Tim, you better do it before I hit him over the head with something for flicking that bloody watch again. Come along, you two." She strode off towards Timothy, heels clicking lightly on the hardwood floor of the common area, smiling and stopping to speak to several of the people sitting at the desks on her way. Many of them laughed as she left, smiling and returning to their work with a renewed vigour not usually possessed by exhausted researchers in the wee hours of the morning. As they approached Timothy Latimer's table, she said in a rather loud voice for a Reading Room, "Tim, quit snapping that damn watch before I snap your bloody neck."
Several researchers around the room hushed her, clear irritation written across their faces. The man at the table next to Timothy gave her a look of disapproval and said with a condescending smile, "Perhaps you ought to lower your voice, my dear, especially considering that you are a lady."
Timothy looked up with a pointed glare at the man, the woman's face matching his own. "Really?" she asked, voice thick with sarcasm. "I had no idea that my voice was raised too loudly, and it obviously wasn't intentional." She gave the man a sweet smile and he tuned back to his books with a frown.
"Tim, your obsession with your fob watch is irritating and charming, darling but irritating," She said with a friendly grin as she flung herself into the seat next to Timothy. He jumped, smacking his hand against the desk as he did so, swearing under his breath.
"You'll live," she said cheerfully, shrugging her shoulders and crossing her feet up on his lap, her trousers falling down to her calves. Absentmindedly, he placed a hand on her ankle, still jotting notes down into his notebook. "Timothy," she sang under her breath, "You've got a visitor, darling. The Doctor's here to see you." He looked up, staring at Elizabeth's face in disbelief before flicking his eyes to the Doctor and Martha Jones. With a small, disbelieving laugh, he leapt up, reaching a hand towards the Doctor in greeting. "It's a pleasure to see you again, sir, and you, Martha." He shook both of their hands with a smile on his face, looking young. The Doctor smiled.
"Timothy Latimer!" he crowed. "You're a doctor, a proper doctor all because of a fob watch. I'm impressed—inventing an entire scientific field all by yourself, laughed at for your theories. You could've given up but no, had to go and challenge everybody, trust me, Tim, your work is going to be just fantastic, just absolutely fantastic."
"Well," Timothy said with a smile ("and a blush!" Elizabeth would insist later, giggling), "Technically I'm not a doctor at all, according to all the students of medicine I've ever encountered." He said this with enough emphasis to receive looks of disapproval from many of the researchers seated near them.
A man a few tables from them looked up and flashed Timothy a grin. "That's right, Mr. Latimer, you're just a madman with a degree, my friend, no matter what your flimsy piece of paper tells you."
"I'm not a madman—"
"Dr. Latimer," the old man scolded once more. "If you are so unaware of how to behave in a place of study, I daresay that you needn't be here at all. As for Dr. Mercer's comment about being a madman, I have never agreed with a sentiment more."
"Yes, my apologies, Mr. Lloyd," he said absently. Timothy opened his mouth to continue, before closing it with a pointed click, huffing his breath out of his nose. He glanced down at his work, frowning slightly, head tilted to the side in a vaguely lupine gesture.
"You'll never be properly mad, love, until you accept that it's what you do best," Elizabeth said with a smile. He gave her a soft look over the edge of his round glasses. Holding one of her hands in both of his, he raised it to his lips, grinning around the kiss. She smiled.
The Doctor and Martha exchanged a look. "How did you know I was the Doctor?" he asked, nodding his head towards Elizabeth, who grinned slyly, then winked. Her teeth were stark white against the red of her lipstick and for a moment she looked smeared in blood, dressed in a red uniform, a helmet covering her red hair, face devoid of any makeup but blood. She was covered in mud, crawling through it and blood as she skidded on hands and knees, blue and green lights flashing above her. Her gun was sleek and silver in colour, glowing blue against the dark of the mud and blood and sweat. Among the noises of screams and guns firing, there was the sound of a familiar crackling voice shouting 'Exterminate! Exterminate!' Martha blinked and the image was gone. She looked at the Doctor in bewilderment only to find him staring at the girl with the same intensity as her, looking stunned and awed and slightly terrified.
"But that ... that was the first battle of the Time War, that was Scaro, how could you—" His voice broke slightly, and Martha looked on in concern, holding his trench coat between her fingers. Elizabeth stared at the Doctor, discomfort clear on her young face. Martha wondered how old she really was, wondered how many years of battle and mayhem she had seen. Was she as ancient as the Doctor? Was she as terrifying? Could she be as fierce and as loving? The deep and loyal part of Martha doubted that it could ever be true, but the part of her that had put herself through medical school, the part that was logical, compassionate and smart as a whiplash knew that this woman could rival the Doctor's love for humanity, could challenge his fierce urge to protect and would best his sense of adventure with her own.
Elizabeth cleared her throat and set her jaw. She spoke, voice creaking slight, like her words were an old chest filled with secrets uncovered and untold.
"Well, years before the Time War, there was this group of Elders, who ... knew what was coming I suppose. The seer had warned them, warned them of the war to end all wars, the war that would end the universe. She warned that all Time Lords would perish, lost in the sands of time, forever." Elizabeth paused and took a deep breath. "They took the youngest of the soldiers, the Children, who had only just seen the Vortex for the first time, and sent us away, using a Chameleon Arch to hide us from the Daleks. Scattering us at random was not the best idea the Time Lords ever had. Because ... because we had no one to convince us that we were, in fact, aliens and the last of our kind, and so we believed ourselves to be mad. Many died, I think, from the dreams. The death and the destruction, the unending spiral of time and war that only a Time Lord's mind could survive. Without somebody to help them discover who they were ... I think I'm the only one of the Children left. Of course, I didn't know I was a Time Lord, and it took a lot to figure it out, to work out how and why, especially when I was raised with the values of the twentieth century woman and I could only think myself slightly crazy or completely and utterly insane." Martha chuckled and Timothy wrapped an arm around her, opening his mouth to continue.
"Doctor!" A voice shouted, erupting into the Reading Room. The sounds of guns firing split the air. "Where is the Time Lord? The murderer of a billion souls!" It came from a group of men and women in leather uniforms and guns strapped to backs and thighs and hips. They whirled about the library, forcing researchers to their knees, firing their guns into the air when they began to scream. The four of them, gathered by Timothy's desk, jumped and knelt with the rest of the researchers, the Doctor leaning near all of them, whispering under his breathe, "Twenty-fourth century bounty hunters after my head, which, well, isn't new there's a reason I never visit that particular century. The best thing we can do is pretend to be one of the many researchers, unless of course they have a—"
A machine of some kind dinged. "There is a Time Lord among us!"
"—a one of those," the Doctor finished mouth open and ducking above the desk to try and see the bounty hunters.
"Come out, come out, Doctor, and we won't hurt anyone in this library, hmm? How does that sound?"
Timothy and Elizabeth were looking at each other, seeming to have a silent conversation, corners of mouths and eyebrows twitching, eyes widening and squinting, until Timothy grabbed at her arm and shook his head violently, a pleading look on his face. Martha ignored their odd exchange in favour of speaking to the Doctor. "What do we do? They know you're here. What can we do?"
"No, they don't," Elizabeth said, mouth caught in a determined line, eyebrow raised and a mischievous light playing in her eyes. Timothy shook his head immediately, gripping her arms.
"Elizabeth, don't, I know what you're thinking, it's dangerous and completely out of the question, you can't! Lizzy ple—" But the woman wrenched herself out of his grip and stood, popping up into the bounty hunters' view.
"So!" She shouted, hands in her pockets and a wide, disturbing grin plastered on her face. "Who are all of you and what do you want with me?"
"Elizabeth!" Timothy whispered, trying to stand, but the Doctor and Martha grabbed his arms to hold him in place, ensuring that he didn't follow her.
"She's saving our skins, Timothy, wait," Martha said, giving him a beseeching look. Timothy glared, pulling out of her grip and turning to face Elizabeth, but not following after her.
Elizabeth was standing in front of the bounty hunters, hands in her pockets, completely at ease with the situation. Her chin was tilted upwards and she didn't move, staring down the nearest hunter—the leader—held her gun towards the other woman, clear threat in her stance and face.
There were a few moments of tense confrontation.
The hunter slowly lowered her gun.
"Good girl," Elizabeth said with a sour twist to her mouth and an amused look in her eyes. "Now order your companions to do the same, please."
The hunter smiled and gestured for the others gathered around her to lower their guns, and they did, dropping them onto the ground with small smiles and grunts. The Doctor frowned and Martha wondered what was going through his head—what did he think of this woman who was pretending to be him? Did he think her mad, or brave?
"Good, now that all the guns are gone, you're going to let all of the people in the library go and we're going to talk about something—more specifically, how you'll never kill me, because better and bigger and scarier things than you have tried, so how about we have that talk, now, shall we?" Her voice had a dangerous hum to it that made Timothy shiver and Martha hold her breath, caught in between an exhale of fear and an inhale of admiration. The hunters didn't move.
"I don't recognize this particular form, Doctor and I must say that I am loving the new look, it is really is a good one on you. First time as a woman? Learn anything new?" the leader asked, face and posture relaxed, save for her fingers drumming against her leg in a steady and anxious tick.
"Well, you know what they say about old dogs and new tricks, Alexandria," she replied with a smirk.
"Indeed I do, Doctor." She paused, eyebrow raised, grinning. "Did you happen to get yourself a new companion as well as a new body? Someone young and fresh for you to kill with your mishaps and adventures." As she said it, the hunter leaned forward, swiping her tongue around her teeth in a manner that made Timothy and the Doctor curl their lips in disgust.
"You're one to talk about murder, Alex darling, especially considering what you do for a living."
Alexandria looked unimpressed. "You murdered your entire species," she said flatly. A smirk wormed its way across Elizabeth's face, before she nodded and gave the hunter an overexagerrated expression of grief, eyebrows and mouth downturned dramatically.
"Oh yes, I forgot about that, must've slipped my mind—I'm not here to play games, Alex, let them go and then you and me will have that talk, won't we?" The Doctor's tone changed in the middle of her sentence, fierce with sudden intensity, taking a threatening step towards Alexandria, who gave a half-step of ground to the Time Lord before regaining her composure once more.
"Where's your new companion? Then we talk about letting the others go, hmm?" Alexandria asked, a waver in her voice.
"You don't get leverage," the Doctor sneered, bringing her face close to the hunter's, "You don't get to manipulate me or decide how this game is played, you can't beat me. This is my game and you won't win, Alex. So be a darling and let the others go."
"Your companion," Alexandria said, face inches from the Doctor's, both of them glaring at one another, faces twisted into frowning sneers of disgust. Martha watched the decision come across Timothy's face, watched him peal off his glasses and draw a hand across his eyes, standing up from behind the table, eyes fixed on the hunter, hands raised in surrender.
"Let them go, Alexandria," he said evenly, ignoring the Doctor's groan of frustration and muttered 'stupid humans', glaring mulishly at Timothy. Martha tugged on the boy's trouser leg.
"Timothy," Elizabeth growled, "What are you—"
"I'm saving the skins of everyone else in this Reading Room, Doctor," he said, gaze not straying from the hunter. Martha rolled her eyes at the wording. "Cheeky bugger, isn't he?" she muttered to the Doctor. He snorted.
"Get out, all of you, quickly," he ordered, raising his voice in order to be heard over the hum and twitch of the room. "Quickly." In a rush, the researchers in the room stood and scrambled towards the door. Dr. Mercer, partway out the door, a gun held to his back, turned to stare at Timothy.
"What are you going to do against them, Dr. Latimer? You can't win, they're mad, please you must see reason—"
"As you pointed out before this little interruption," he said, hands still raised in surrender. "I'm completely mad. Mad enough, in fact, to save your life, Dr. Mercer." Timothy flicked his eyes towards the other man, offering him a half-smile. "Go."
Dr. Mercer protested, but sudden urging from the bounty-hunter standing behind him had the man scurrying out of the Reading Room as if he had never protested in the first place.
"We can have that conversation now, can we not?" Timothy asked with a look of innocent curiosity pasted across his face. Elizabeth huffed and rolled her eyes. Alexandria gave Timothy an approving look.
"Get yourself a brave one, did you, Doctor?" she asked, locking eyes with Timothy, who placed his hands into the pockets of his waistcoat, flicking the fob watch absently.
"You have no idea, Alex," Timothy replied, smirking at the hunter, chin raised in defiance.
"Alex! A couple of the idiots decided to stay here," one of the hunters said, yanking Martha and the Doctor out of their hiding place with a self-satisfied laugh. Alexandria's eyes widened as she looked between Elizabeth and Timothy, and Martha and the Doctor.
"Now, there's a face I was expecting, eh, Alex?" the same man said, chuckling. "The Doctor's newest face." With a rude gesture towards the other bounty-hunter, Alexandria gave Elizabeth an accusing look.
"You lied to me? You lied to me? I asked for the Doctor!" she spat, eyeing her gun on the ground in front of her. "Not some human squib with an adrenaline addiction." Timothy smirked and gave the bounty-hunter a wink.
"Well," the Doctor said, coming up beside Elizabeth, "She didn't lie to you about all of it, now did you, Doctor?"
"That is correct, Doctor," Elizabeth said, smiling sweetly at the hunter. "You asked for a Time Lord, didn't you? I gave you a Time Lord, isn't that what you needed?"
"And you asked for a companion," Timothy said, slipping his hand into Elizabeth's with a smug smile. "I'm just not the kind of companion you were looking for, was I?"
"But I am," Martha nudged, stepping up beside the Doctor, "Not that it matters – same kind of leverage isn't it? The same manipulation you tried to pull on Elizabeth."
The hunters were beginning to look more and more anxious, eyes flicking to the guns they had dropped onto the floor, hands curling into belts and fists. Even Alexandria, who had remained sturdy through the threats of one Doctor, looked apprehensive at the thought of two Doctors and two companions. And the companions may have been nothing more than humans, but humans not only willing, but wanting to travel with a Time Lord were nothing short of a threat.
"After all," The Doctor said, "We've got a few similarities, Elizabeth and me, don't we, Lizzy?"
Elizabeth nodded sagely, catching the eyes of one of the hunters and giving him a wink. He blanched.
"I daresay we do—both Time Lords and both very much wanting to keep our precious Earth safe, hmm?" she said, spinning the Doctor's sonic screwdriver between her fingers, pointing it at Timothy in jest. He rolled his eyes and pushed at her arm so that it was aimed someplace else.
"And!" the Doctor added, interrupting Timothy with a look of playful scolding, wrapped his arm around Martha's shoulders, "We've both got humans to keep us out of trouble."
"And get you into it," Martha added with a laugh.
"They're both completely mad, there's another similarity for you, Alex," Timothy said, mimicking the posture of Martha and the Doctor. Elizabeth elbowed his ribs with rolled eyes.
"So," The Doctor said, "It seems that you've outdone yourselves this time, haven't you, Alexandria? You haven't just got one Doctor, you've got two, and are you really willing to try and take both of us away from our planet? Because I'd like you to just consider how badly how that's going to go for you."
"Especially," Timothy said, frowning in mocking consideration, "When you consider that you threatened Martha and I, just because you wanted the Doctors to, what? Surrender?" He smiled sweetly, "As if."
"Run along, now," the Doctor said, watching the bounty hunters with raised eyebrows, waiting. The Doctors looked as though they could've faced off against the bounty hunters for the rest of time, unending and stronger than the stars and the walls of the universe.
"We'll look after your guns for you," Martha added with a pinched smile.
The hunters leapt out of the room, leaving their guns—and their leader—alone with not one, but two doctors and their companions.
Alexandria stood in front of them, leather uniform seeming like a child playing dress up and her gun, limp in her left hand was a child's toy. With just a few words, she was a little girl in a world that was much too harsh for her to understand, never somewhere to play, only somewhere to ache.
"My mother is dying," she murmured, bringing her right hand up to her jaw and pressing down. Her face and form flickered, fading. She lost several inches of height, and her form became softer and thinner, truly just a little girl.
"Ah," The Doctor said with a surprised frown. "I'd like to say I saw that coming, but ..."
"I would as well," Elizabeth intoned, staring at the girl blankly.
"You need the money to ... what?" Martha asked, giving into the youth of the girl. "Get her medicine?"
Alexandria shook her head.
"On Earth," The Doctor explained lowly, "in the twenty-fourth century, they no longer use money as currency, they use a simple trade system. Her mother is likely starving without a means to exchange goods with others for food and water and other basic supplies—like clothing and books."
There were a few beats of silence before Elizabeth's voice, thick with irritation cut through the quiet.
"Go," she said. "Go earn a job, girl, and learn your lesson, please. You threatened to kill my closest friend because of your desperation, you threatened to kill me and a group of innocent civilians who you had no right to include in this debacle. Your desperation makes you dangerous, but above all, it makes you weak. Susceptible to the worst kinds of people. You, Alexandria, need to learn how to be a child again."
Meeting her eyes, Alexandria nodded slowly, letting go of her gun with a heavy release, raising herself up taller, until she was standing straight once more, the hint of a smile playing at the edges of her lips. Without a word, she left the Reading Room, not looking back towards back toward the Doctor and her companions.
"Well," The Doctor said into the ensuing silence, "That was dramatic, wasn't it?"
Martha gave him a look of impatient, the words well, obviously, written across her features in large, bold writing. She collapsed into one of the chairs, fingers skimming over the writing in front of her absently. "I want to know how the hell this all happened. I mean, I get the whole Chameleon Arch thing, seen that one first hand, but how did you get involved, Timothy? You've got nothing to do with all this."
Timothy and Elizabeth had identical looks of surprise and amusement written across their faces. "Well," he said slowly, shaking his head and palming at his eyes to gather his thoughts, "After we met and Elizabeth discovered my research, I told her the story of the madman who had hidden his soul inside of a fob watch to save himself and his friends. I told her how the watch had spoken to me, had communicated the man's lives and the adventures he had." Thomas laughed, looking at Elizabeth fondly. "She kept demanding to see the watch and when I finally showed it to her, she pulled an identical one out of her pocket, claiming that her father had given it to her, but that it was broken and so she never used it to check the time."
In a pub, down the street from the British Museum, a couple of eighteen and twenty-two, both students of separate universities in completely different fields, sat with ale in front of them, hers empty and his only a quarter drained. He gestured with bright eyes and noisy hands as they spoke about one of the least expected topics of conversation in a pub of this caliber: time travel.
"Mr. Wells brings a phenomenal amount of discovery in The Time Machine, and the entire book is about whether or not time travel is possible..." He had a scholarly voice on, refined and clear, a teacher speaking to a particularly bright pupil, not asking their language or complexity to withdraw on behalf of the student, because they knew that the student was more than capable. His companion, the young woman with her empty pint glass, watched him speak with a bemused expression on her face, waiting for him to finish illustrating his point.
"No," she replied, catching the bartender's eye with a nod to her pint glass, a smile on her freckled face.
"I beg your pardon?" the man asked, hands flat on the table, leaning forward unconsciously, eyes flicking over her face, a look of absurd bewilderment skipping across his features with a skittering anticipation. "Have you read this novel, Ms. Darcy, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Yes," she said, smirking at him around her glass, eyebrows raised over the brim.
"Then you can't argue that it is a phenomenal book about the possibilities of time travel," he dazed, a frown on his face.
"You are correct, Dr. Latimer, I cannot argue that it is a book of marvelous quality when it comes to the possibilities of time travel, however," she gestured for him to stay quiet as she spoke with more emphasis, "the first time you pointed out the work by H.G. Wells that we're currently considering, you asserted that the author brings 'a phenomenal amount of discovery in The Time Machine, and the entire book is about whether or not time travel is possible' did you not?"
"Well, yes," Timothy Latimer said, leaning forward more heavily onto the table, watching her with a look of deep respect, tinged with a flush of irritation (this would be a common expression for him to bear throughout the length of their companionship).
"The Time Machine does not wonder about the possibilities of time travel, in fact, it only briefly pauses to entertain whether or not time travel is possible. The narrator illustrates the story told by the time traveler, but questioning the time traveller about his travel is a habit that concerns the narrator for only a brief amount of time. Don't you understand, Dr. Latimer?"
She pushed herself up from her relaxed position against her chair and faced off against Timothy with a certainty that made him want to recoil in alarm. He did not. Ms. Darcy's face was alight with excitement, her mouth open just slightly, eyebrows raised and her eyes bright and wide, and Timothy found himself watching her avidly, transfixed.
"The novel is not of such quality because it wonders if time travel is possible, it knows time travel to be possible, and insists that the reader also know it to be true, elsewise they could never enjoy the book itself. H.G. Wells knew—at least for the duration of his writing this novel—that time travel was possible. It was the possibilities of that travel that he wanted to convince the readers of, Dr. Latimer." She paused, giving him an indulgent smile. "He wanted them to dream." With that, Elizabeth Darcy stood, thanked the bartender with a grin and a joke, and kissed Timothy Latimer, who was still seated, on the cheek. "I shall see you tomorrow in the Reading Room, I have no doubt."
"Ms. Darcy!" he said as he got to his feet, scrambling for his coat.
"Good evening, Dr. Latimer!" she called as she exited out the door of the pub.
Timothy looked at the bartender who was watching him with a giant grin cracking his blackened teeth and yellowed beard. "Aye," he said, a thick Scottish accent covering his words, a knowing look heavy on his face, "She's always like that."
"If there's anything I know, Doctor," Elizabeth said, eyebrow raised and her tongue in cheek, "It's how to recognize a wonderful madman."
"I have to wonder," the Doctor said, anger colouring is tone, "Why you never called for help? I would've heard you, Elizabeth. Why not look for others?"
"Doctor," Timothy scolded.
"The Chameleon Arch was active for too long," Her voice was strong, but for a sad, slight waver on the tip of her tongue. "Even though I looked in the watch, discovered that I was a Time Lord, I'm still physically human. I've got the memories, but nothing else really. I'm an echo, Doctor, not a complete Time Lord, no matter what I told Alexandria."
The Doctor opened his mouth to speak, his eyes wide and young and vulnerable, and Elizabeth cut him off with a fierce and angry hiss.
"Don't ask me, don't you dare ask me! I won't go and to ask that of me is not fair, not to you or Martha or me or any of us, please, Doctor," she said, voice hushed. "Don't ask me to come with you."
"Elizabeth—all of time and space at your fingertips! Everything that the Time Lords were made to see, you could see! That—that thing that just happened was just a taste! Just think of it: the two of us together, all over the stars. You could witness the birth of worlds that you haven't seen since the ending of the Time War, defeat the Daleks in 5145, and stop the Fifth World War from ever happening! We could go to all of Jack's stag parties, or help Torchwood along—we could help Mickey Smith with his homework! We could do everything, Elizabeth Darcy! What is worth more than all of that?" He shouted, moving towards her again, on the verge of tears. He looked in her eyes, searching her face and seeing years of adventure of an entirely different kind. The Doctor saw the day she and Timothy Latimer met, in a library, reaching for the same book and beginning to argue about who touched it first. He saw them expelled from said library as they both giggled, suggesting that a pub was a better place to finish their argument. He saw the second day they spent together—side-by-side in the library, hands and shoulders brushing. The Doctor saw their days to come, flashes of a small wedding in a small church, two silver fob watches on chains around their necks. He watched them as they laughed, slinging children across their laps, and then as they laughed once more, hands growing wrinkled, grandchildren across their knees. He saw them, sitting in wicker chairs on the porch of a large house in a small town, a tall man like a raggedy children's doll, sitting on their stairs, a small woman with brown hair and a red dress perched next to him, all four of them laughing hard enough to lean into one another, clutching their stomachs.
"Love?" he demanded. "Love isn't worth all of time and space, Elizabeth. It isn't worth it."
"Oh Doctor," Elizabeth murmured, "Love is the only thing that will ever be worth more than all of the stars." Timothy smiled at her, and leaned down, pressing his lips to hers firmly, pulling away with a laugh, pressing another to her temple, and holding her tight against him. She grinned. "I've got so much to do, Doctor! I've got to ensure that the women get their vote and their respect and that blacks get the same! I've got to make sure that my children grow up strong, fighting for what they believe in no matter the consequences. I have to make sure that they're kind, Doctor, in ways that the Time Lords never taught us to be. Receiving my doctorate, too, would be nice, and helping Timothy figure out how time travel on Earth will ever be possible. There are many, many things that I need to do in my life, Doctor, and putting up with a madman is one of them. That madman just isn't you. It's me." She grinned, glancing at Martha, who smiled back, nodding in approval.
"Yes, you are a madman," Timothy said, a faux considering look on his face, "Though I think I'm the one who has to put up with you, Lizzy, your own company isn't such a burden for you, is it?" Elizabeth gave him a surprised smile, the kind that doesn't get any processing at all, just gets thrown in, stubborn and stronger than the will of a madman.
"Well," she said, bringing up a hand into his waist coat pocket to flick open the fob watch, "I'm not the only madman, here, you'd have to be mad to try and handle me!"
"That's something I never intend to do," Timothy said, brushing his mouth against the top of her head.
The Doctor sighed, dragging a hand down his face, ruddy and puffy and exhausted. His eyes were red, and his mouth was set in a firm line. He looked at them with deep apology in his eyes, the face of a man with broken hope. "I'm so sorry, Elizabeth—and you, Timothy, I am so so sorry."
Timothy frowned. "You are forgiven, Doctor, always and completely forgiven, no matter how much time passes and how many people you lose. We will always forgive you." His words were so sincere that the Doctor gave a dry laugh, rubbing at his eyes, giving Elizabeth a watery smile.
"Go," she grinned, flashing a wink at Martha and bouncing with juvenile excitement. "Go be a Time Lord! Be lonely and wonderful and beautiful and afraid. Be ruthless and step too far, and take strong and kind humans with you so you can remember how beautiful the stars are, and that space isn't just your backyard. And next time you need someone to remind you how stunning the world can be, and how much you're worth, pop into London or wherever we are, and we'll help you remember. But not before then. The universe needs you, Doctor. So go and be needed." And with that Elizabeth Darcy sat down with her fiancé, both of them holding books like children in their laps. Timothy opened his mouth to speak, before shutting it and simply giving the Doctor a casual salute that was as unmilitary-like as it was possible to be while saluting a reluctant soldier. He gave Martha a warm smile—the last he would ever give her—and turned to scribble something down in his notebook.
The day she met the Doctor was unlike any other. But I suppose in some aspects it was exactly the same. She was fierce and completely alien in her ways, a habit I believe I must grow used to. Or, I suppose, I never will and I will live in constant state of confusion and admiration of her ways. She told him to come back if he ever wants to, but I doubt that he will. At least, not with the face we saw that day, and not in that body or with that smile or that well-cut suit. No, he'll be back later, with a younger, more ancient face, in 1954, to hear about my wife's favourite book, a children's novel written by a Scottish New Yorker with a fairy tale name. He will come back for my daughter's marriage to a Scotsman, and for the birth of my eldest granddaughter, Tabetha. And, of course, he would come back for my Tabetha's marriage to a man by the name of Augustus Pond, a round and funny kind of man with a solid laugh. It was for my great-granddaughter, however, that the Doctor broke his tradition. The next time I saw him, he brought, to the endless surprise and bemusement of my wife and I, a friend. A companion, as he called her, by the name of Clara Oswald. She was very kind, but sharpish and with a wit like a rainstorm—all consuming and joyful—that made the Doctor blush and my wife crow with laughter. When we asked why he had broken his habit with our great-granddaughter—a beautiful baby girl with rosy cheeks who bellowed without hesitation by the name of Amelia—the Doctor laughed and said "Good old Ponds!" in a curiously sad voice, despite the laughter that accompanied it. (Elizabeth and I would later remark that it was the expression we saw the most on his face, during all of our time of meeting and re-meeting the Doctor). Clara looked on in with a frozen smile, watching the Doctor with a look that turned down at the corners. Elizabeth asked him why his face had turned so sour and he had only assured us that our great-granddaughter and her child would be forever safe under his protection. Elizabeth asked what on Earth that meant with narrowed eyes, a smile playing on her beautiful face. The Doctor blushed and Clara laughed.
"Well," he said, "I, er, well I—" His hands moved incessantly while he spoke, nervous birds.
That was the last day we ever saw the Doctor. He pressed his hands—unwrinkled but far older than ours—to ours and stood like an awkward spider. The sound of the TARDIS was his final farewell.