"Twice as Bright"
STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Doctor Who belongs to the Beeb, and I'm not making any money from this.
The Doctor sat on a bench in Saint James's Park just watching the people. It was an unseasonably warm day for April in London. The skies were bright and sunny, and the park was full of young mothers pushing babies in prams, or sitting on benches knitting or reading books, glancing up every once in awhile at their children who played close by.
"Shall we stop here for a bit?" a female voice asked in what the Doctor recognized as an upper class accent, and he looked up to see a tall young woman steering a stroller close to the bench where he sat. She bent over to check her young charge, her short blonde hair partially obscuring her features. She was dressed simply, in blue jeans, a red sweater, and a long gray raincoat. "There you are, Patrick," she said in a satisfied tone. "All settled in." She sat down on the bench and suddenly seemed to notice it was occupied. "Oh, hello," she said, taking in his green velvet frock coat, gray cravat, and patterned waistcoat with a slight smile; clearly he wasn't the sort she was used to seeing in the park. The Doctor simply stared at her for a moment, not sure what to say.
"Your child?" he finally asked, indicating the sleeping toddler. Something in his tone suggested that he knew otherwise, and the woman frowned slightly.
"No, I'm his nanny." The Doctor nodded, and for some reason she seemed to feel the need to elaborate. "I look after him Mondays and Thursdays. His parents are American."
"You enjoy children." It wasn't a question.
"You can tell?" she asked, beaming. "When I get married, I'm going to have a whole house full!" He gave her a faint smile.
"I… I hope you do." His voice sounded wistful, and she put her head to one side, studying him.
"Do you have children?" she finally asked. He looked startled, as though he were unused to being asked personal questions.
"Yes," he finally answered. Under the scrutiny of her deep blue eyes, he elaborated. "A son." She smiled.
"How old?" He briefly debated telling her the truth but realized that if he did, she would think he was crazy and their conversation would come to an immediate end.
"He died," he told her. "He was quite young." It was a lie of omission; he didn't tell her that one hundred and twenty-five was young for his species.
"I'm so sorry," she murmured, her expressive eyes filled with compassion. "That must have been very difficult." He nodded.
"I can't imagine how you managed to cope," she continued, laying a gentle hand on his arm.
"Sometimes I wonder the same thing myself," he admitted candidly. They were silent for a moment.
"My sister has a little girl," she said after awhile. "And I don't know what I'd do if…" her voice trailed off, as if even speaking of such a dreadful possibility would make it come to pass.
"Best not to think of it," he told her, seeming to read her mind. She nodded.
"And what do you do?" she asked in an obvious bid to change the subject.
"I'm – " he almost said I'm a Time Lord, but caught himself in time. " – a doctor," he said instead. Her eyes widened.
"You're much smarter than I am!" she told him. "I didn't even get any O-levels!"
"It doesn't matter," he told her with a shrug. "I think you will go on to do great things." She laughed.
"Really?" He caught her gaze and held it.
"Oh yes." His tone was so certain that she laughed again.
"Are you one of those psychics?" she teased. "Going around predicting the future for lovelorn young girls?"
"Not exactly," he replied dryly, sounding rather amused by the idea.
"Oh, that's too bad," she said regretfully. "I was rather hoping you'd tell me that I'm going to marry Prince Andrew and be the Duchess of York!" His eyebrows came together in thought.
"Do you think that would be a happy life?" he asked, sounding very interested in her answer.
"It would be like a fairy tale," she said with a giggle. "The nanny and the Prince!"
"Fairy tales," he said slowly. "Where girls kiss princes and they become frogs." She frowned.
"Haven't you got that backwards?"
"Perhaps I have," he agreed, his casual tone somehow suggesting something deeper. From the stroller came little snuffling noises.
"You're awake!" she told the child brightly. He blinked up at her with sleep-fogged eyes. "Are you ready for some lunch? Shall we go home and see what's in the fridge?" She stood, turning her attention to the Doctor. "It was nice to meet you, Doctor," she said, smiling down at him and turning the stroller around in preparation for their departure.
"Likewise," he managed. As he watched her leave, he had a sudden urge to chase after her, to spirit her away in his TARDIS; he couldn't even begin to imagine what the High Council would do to him if he did. Instead, he stood and called out her name. She turned back, stunned.
"How did you know my name?" she asked, hurrying back to where he sat as fast as she could without spilling the toddler out of his stroller. He reached out and took her hand. "Your hand is freezing!" He nodded.
"My mother always said, cold hands, warm hearts," he told her with a smile. "She was human, you know, and about the same age as you are now when my father married her and took her back to his planet." The girl blinked. "She was quite lost, and no one could be bothered to help her adjust, to help her cope. She didn't know how to behave, how to speak, how to dress. People stared at her everywhere she went; she felt as though she were living under a microscope." He knew that he had to stop, that he was saying far too much… He took a deep breath. "Well, I didn't mean to ramble on like that… I only meant to tell you that my mother was full of little sayings like that. Would you like to hear another?" He put his other hand over hers, clasping her hand firmly between his, and gave her a penetrating stare. "Marry in haste, repent in leisure." Eyes wide, she nodded, and he released her hand. "All right." She steered the stroller around and turned to go once again.
"Goodbye, Doctor," she called out over her shoulder. He watched her maneuver the stroller down over the curb and into the crosswalk.
"How did I know your name?" he asked softly, as though she could still hear him. "In a few short months, everyone on this planet will know your name, Lady Diana." He stood watching her until she was swallowed up by the crowd of pedestrians, and he suddenly thought of another of his mother's sayings. "The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long."
He stood there for a long time, staring off in the direction where she'd gone. Then with a sigh, he turned and headed back to his TARDIS, for he was no longer in the mood for the park. It seemed as though a cloud had suddenly passed over his bright sunny day, and the skies had become gloomy and gray.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Though I seriously doubt that Princess Diana ever met a Time Lord in Saint James's Park, the rest of this story is factually accurate. For further information, try The Diana I Knew: Loving Memories of the Friendship Between an American Mother and Her Son's Nanny Who Became the Princess of Wales by Mary Robertson.