"When you run with the Doctor, it feels like it will never end. But, however hard you try, you can't run forever. Everybody knows that everybody dies, and nobody knows it like the Doctor. But I do think that all the skies of all the worlds might just turn dark if he ever, for one moment, accepts it. Some days are special. Some days are so, so blessed. Some days, nobody dies at all. Now and then, every once in a very long while, every day in a million days when the wind stands fair and the Doctor comes to call, everybody lives."
I wait for him. He usually gives me a date, a time. Each time I see him, he tells me a day to go to the cottage, and marks it down on the calendar that hangs above the radiator in the sitting room. Sometimes he gives them to me months in advance, at others I've only a few days or so to prepare.
The last time I saw him, he told me; make sure you're there. I don't know why he bothered saying this, it's not as if I'd pop out or anything. I live for those days; they remind me so much of what it was like before. In the days gone by, when I was with him for months on end. But that stopped soon enough.
Last time, he made sure I had it right. He told me he'd planned a 'special surprise', something that would 'knock my socks off'. He certainly did that the first time we met.
It's today. I'm sitting in the window seat of the cottage's main room, looking out of the window into the vast cornfields, a speck in the sea of gold.
I remember … I must have only been about fourteen years old. It was when we lived in the country just outside Juneau. My mother and father were investigating the Alaskan fuel sources with some of their colleagues, leaving the rest of us 'hangers on' to our own devices. Not wanting to be with the other scientists' children, most of whom would settle down on an afternoon to watch films, I snuck off to the forest to read Wuthering Heights or whatever novel-of-the-week it was. Perched in the crook of a yew tree, I saw a man striding through the long grass, muttering angrily, a peculiar blue box in the distance behind him. He looked up at me, sitting in my tree and smiled. He asked me my name, and his friendly smile spread. That was the first time he invited me to travel with him. He took me to all sorts of places … I was far too young to appreciate them. Just stops off at one or two planets, a couple of centuries, then back home so I could be safe with my family. But I appreciated him. He spoke to me like I was someone worth imparting wisdom on … But he told me I wasn't old enough yet.
The telescreen buzzes and I rush to it, flustered by the intrusion on my thoughts. It's Lux, wondering if I've got time to go over the reports for the expedition we're planning; it's to do with my work. "I'm sorry, now's not a good time. I've got company." The Doctor can't turn up, just to find me engrossed in my work. I know he's always sneered at it. Archaeology never quite matches up to his experiences of time …
I thought about him so much over the next few years – he got inside my head, crept under my skin. Not in the bad, infuriating way. Just in a way that made me think about him every time I wasn't absorbed in something else. I graduated from high school, with Honours in Chemistry, Biology, Ancient History and Classics. His scientific babble had spurred me on to learn more, eager to make myself worthy of his respect for when he came back for me. As for the other subjects … well, he'd shown me the past and I wanted more. The days when people drove cars and holidays were restricted to the crust of the Earth. When mankind had remained within its own galaxy and boundaries had only been poked from afar. When technology was non-existent and aliens not even thought of, let alone the curvature of our planet. Yes, he got under my skin and I wanted to learn so much more about Humanity's Past. I went on with my studies, to a degree in Archaeology at Oxford, England; the oldest university in the Universe.
I glance at the clock. It's only half past three. He said he'd be coming at five o'clock, but he's been early before. He's also been late. Once, when I was backpacking in North Africa with some friends from university, he told me to meet him in a café on the shores of Lake Tozeur. I waited for two whole weeks, my friends all left me to go on to Cairo. I gave him such a mouthful when he finally turned up. But I guess time like that is insignificant to him; in all of his thousand years, what difference does a fortnight make?
I was twenty-one the second time our paths crossed. I was working in the museum of New Toronto, and he was lording over the place, acting the hero. Men made of metal were striding through the city, wreaking havoc and committing crimes worse than killings. In my desperation to escape, I ended up locked in the crypt, crying and screaming for someone to get me out of there. He heard the banging and furore, and used what I thought was a magic wand to save me. Together, we helped the other survivors and quelled the plans of the Cybermen. I was so overjoyed to see him again, I forgot that I'd nearly died. We became companions, lovers ... I don't care what you call it. It doesn't fit into any of those dinky, convenient human stereotypes and I'm so glad for it. We're together, and that's all that's important.
After that, he seemed to think I was 'ready'. He took me on board that little blue ship, so much bigger on the inside, and we travelled to the stars. I saw so much – so many planets I could never have imagined, days long ago that had been forgotten by even the oldest professors at university. But everywhere we went, we were plagued. Death, destruction. All of our adventures seemed marred by a greater force.
But there were other ghosts following us, ones that worried me even more than the fatalities of those around us. The Doctor's memories swam in the atmosphere; a century, three thousand years ago, that I'd only learnt about from books. We never travelled there, it hurt him too much.
He told me about Donna Noble, the woman who gave her memory to save the world. Of Sarah Jane, a girl who waited for him longer than even I had. He told me about Martha, Mickey. All the people who'd followed him in a time in his life that seemed to change him into the man I now loved. The memory that scared me most was Rose: when he talked about her, his eyes filled with fire and rage and courage and longing. He'd look away, and could only return my gaze when he'd steadied his breathing and re-opened his eyes.
But the tales I loved best were those of Jack. He reminded me so much of my uncle, a man who disappeared just after my fifteenth birthday – a Time Agent, he'd been. Apparently one of his missions went wrong. The stories about Jack brought back so much of my uncle; his laughter, his teasing. But also his sorrow and loneliness – like the times when he'd talk about his and my father's other brother, Grey, or the way he'd always seemed such a burdened man.
When I travel with him, I feel like I'm flying. But it's so much more than that; it's something intangible, elusive, transcending everything that's happened to me before. I tried to psychoanalyse myself, tell myself it's just because he's giving me so much, or that it's some kind of Freudian reflex, seeing as how I never really got on with my father. But on the days when we don't even do anything, we just stay curled up together or go walking in the mountains – that's when I'm happiest. Because it's just him and me, and we might as well be the only people who ever existed. He looks down at me with his black, effervescent eyes and it's like he's staring right into my soul. He's so unhuman and the potent union we share is something ethereal.
I lost track of how long I travelled with him; just him and me, alone in the TARDIS. Friends came and went, but it was always just us who remained. But one day, he brought me back to Earth. The dangers were too great, he'd said. He'd lost people before and he wasn't going to lose me.
But his frequent visits are what keep me alive. The longest I've had to wait between meetings was two years, during which he regenerated. That was the second time I ever saw this happen. He told me that the first time we'd met, he'd been in his tenth incarnation. His brown eyes were soulful and he really was quite handsome. Then when we were travelling, he was poisoned by an enemy and regenerated into a slightly older looking man, with auburn hair and practically whiskers. He seemed bitterly disappointed he was only auburn … apparently he was dying to be ginger, no pun intended. That's the man who sticks out to me as my Doctor. In his longest absence, he regenerated once more. Older again, and with darker hair and even deeper eyes. But I knew he was still the same.
He asked me to marry him one year after I stopped travelling with him. He joked about how he needed to mark his territory, make sure I didn't run off – but I was thrilled. Unfortunately, we don't exactly share a conventional union; we've made love a mere handful of times, and we don't even live together properly. Even so, I wouldn't trade him in for anyone.
He's always the same, but always new. I'll never grow tired of him. The one constant in my life, whom I can wholly trust and love. The clock on the wall has reached five. It's time. I rush out into the cornfields, my eyes scanning the horizon for the TARDIS. The familiar whir sounds, and a rectangular blue box is apparating on the gravel drive leading up to our cottage, and the tall, dark man steps outside, buzzing with energy and humour.
Yes, it's time.
Well, what did you think? Still hate her?