She hadn't come early. He had the pot of tea ready especially, of course, because impeccable manners dictated that he should. Time seemed to slow down, as he considered what was about to happen.
Actually, now that he thought about it, he didn't know. What was about to happen? Would he simply drop dead at the appointed time? Unlikely – he knew Samara well enough to know that she had a sense of theatrics, hence the ghostly visitations.
Undoubtedly, it would be an interesting way to go. Not that that made him feel any better about the whole thing. After all, he had expected to live a lot longer than this.
Doesn't everyone? He realised that, in the end, his death had to come about sooner or later. Might as well be now.
And then, the scanner screen burst into life. The spring upon which it was suspended stretched, and the little television touched the floor, and static filled the screen.
"What on Earth?" he wondered. "Or Gallifrey for that matter?"
And then the screen switched to a view of a well, in a wood – a shadowy box visible behind the trees. The Doctor raised an eyebrow.
Something had definitely changed.
And then she climbed out of the well. He saw the hair, then the body, and then she appeared, walking slowly towards the screen. Then, just as she reached the screen, he felt the urge to back away, an urge he surrendered to. He figured he knew where this was going.
She climbed out of the screen, stumbling slightly, then stood up. He stood too, and picked up the cup of tea on his desk and drank.
"Well," he said. "Get on with it.
Then the hair parted, and she looked up at him…
And she was alive. Smiling, even. Her dark eyes warm.
"Goodbye," she said. And then, as he locked eyes, memories flooded his mind…
Rachel Keller looked carefully at the two figures, suspended in the well. A man, with long, unkempt hair, a beard, and sodden jacket and jumper, and Samara, definitely Samara – alive? Whole? Was it possible?
Then the man's eyes opened.
"Oh, hello," he said. "Is it that time already? I say, would you get us out of here, please?"
The Eighth Doctor looked around. There was no sign that Samara had ever been here.
The old temporal lock trance he had discovered, and used occasionally, had served Seven well; it locked all the cells of one's body into the state they were currently in. In Samara's case, alive and whole. The Doctor had then waited for thirty years for Rachel Keller to find them.
The Eighth Doctor smiled as the memories returned.
And then the adventure had just begun.
The Seventh Doctor, the man called Dark and Manipulative, smiled, as the little girl wondered around the TARDIS.
This was the one good deed he hoped redeemed him in his future's eyes.
"Where are we going?" the little girl asked, looking at the buttons in awe, amazed to even be alive. The Seventh Doctor considered the question, thought about all his grandiose plans.
And ignored them
"Somewhere fun," he promised.
And he hit the big red button.