It was 2001…
Babies were ugly. Wrinkly, pink, and ugly.
That was the only thing Miranda could think of as she looked at all the newborns laying in their incubators on the other side of the glass. Some of them were sleeping as the nurses ran to and fro between each of them, checking whatever it was nurses checked for. Some of them were crying.
But they were all pink and ugly. Miranda didn't understand why everyone was always making such a fuss about how cute they were.
"Is one of them yours?"
Startled, Miranda almost fell off the chair she stood on, but managed to catch herself on the glass. A nurse on the other side saw her and shook her head, Miranda assumed, at the fact that she had just put her bare hands on the otherwise spotless window. Miranda stuck her tongue out at the nurse, before turning to see who had spoken.
Standing at the window, next to the chair she stood on, was a funny looking man. He was short, wearing a tan jacket over a red waistcoat and a black and brown zigzagged patterned tie. He wore a white panama hat and was holding under his arm a black umbrella with a red handle shaped like a question mark. His eyes, wizened and tired looking, sparkled and he had a mischievous, though at the same time somehow sad smile on his face.
"Sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to startle you. Is one of them yours?"
Miranda raised an eyebrow. "Huh?"
The man gestured at the babies with his umbrella. His grin didn't falter. "The babies! Is one of them yours?"
Miranda scrunched up her nose in disgust. "Ew, no way. I'm only eight, mister!"
The man's smile broadened. "Of course you are. And it's Doctor, by the way, not mister."
"You don't look like a doctor. Doctor who?"
The man chuckled. "You know, that never gets old."
Miranda furrowed her brow. "You're weird."
"So I've been told. Now, tell me, if one of these children doesn't belong to you, what exactly are you doing here?"
Miranda sighed. "My mom had a baby."
"Oh, did she?" The man, the Doctor as he called himself, turned to look at the babies. "So one of these little tykes is your brother or sister then?"
Miranda sighed, turning away from the babies completely and slumping to a sitting position on the chair. "Sister. And no, she's not in there yet. She's still in the delivery room getting fawned over by Mom and Dad."
The Doctor turned to her, raising an eyebrow. "My, my. We don't exactly sound enthused by this."
Miranda crossed her arms. "Why should I be? Things were great before, with just me and Mom and Dad. Now this new baby comes along. It's totally going to change everything!"
"Aha." The Doctor nodded. "And we view change as a bad thing, do we?"
Miranda nodded vigorously. "New baby to love. To take care of and feed all the time. Babies need more attention than I do. Means I'm totally gonna get lost in the fold. I mean already my parents have completely forgotten about me. I snuck out of the room while they were gushing and came here. No one's come looking for me yet. No one's even said a word to me, 'til you came along."
"I see. And you've been out here for, what, a few hours?"
"Well…" Miranda looked down and shrugged. "Probably more like ten or fifteen minutes or so. But still!"
The Doctor took a seat in the chair next to Miranda's. "Now, I don't know if you're being exactly fair to your parents, my dear. Of course they're excited. They've just brought a new life into the world! They've made a new addition to the family. Their legacy just grew twice as big! It doesn't mean you're any less important."
"I guess." Miranda huffed. "It's still stupid. Things were fine before. The family didn't need a new addition. Change is dumb."
The Doctor shook his head. "Change isn't always dumb. Change is different and it can take some getting used to. But it's not always bad. Trust me; I've been through some pretty drastic changes in my lifetime. Six, to be exact." His gaze became far away for a moment. "And it won't be long now before I'm forced to go through another one, I suspect. I can tell when they're getting close. When my time is about to run out once again. I've always been able to. My goodness, I'm getting old…"
Miranda looked at him and tilted her head, her expression softening. She suddenly felt a bit guilty for being so selfish complaining about her sister. This man was clearly very sad about something. "I'm sorry. You don't look so old to me."
The Doctor's grin returned. "Why thank you! You're looking pretty young and peppy yourself! What's your name, girl?"
Miranda hesitated. She wasn't supposed to tell strangers her name, she knew that. But something about this man, this Doctor, radiated trust. She knew beyond a shadow of a doubt she could trust him, even if she didn't know why. "Um… Miranda. Miranda Valor."
"Miranda Valor!" The Doctor's eyes were sparkling again. "Now that is an excellent name! A name destined for adventure and greatness, don't you think?"
A small grin crept onto Miranda's face. She shrugged. "I guess so."
"Tell me Miranda, where are you from?"
"Here in town."
"I see. And which town is here?"
Miranda paused before answering. "You don't know where you are?"
"Not precisely, no." The Doctor removed his hat and scratched at his longish brown hair. "You see, my means of conveyance sort of… hiccupped… as I was passing through and I wound up here."
"Oh… kay." Miranda shook her head. This man was very strange. "Well, you're in Bellevue."
"Aha! Bellevue." The Doctor nodded, replacing his hat. "And Bellevue is where?"
Miranda tilted her head. "In Illinois?"
"Illinois! So, I'm in America then? How exciting! Early 21st century I take it?" The Doctor withdrew a pocket watch from his waistcoat and squinted at it. The pattern on the watch's cover struck Miranda. It was an intricate design of a figure eight.
"Uh, yeah." She said finally. "2001."
"Wonderful. Good year, 2001. Well… September will be a bit rocky…" The Doctor closed the pocket watch before returning it to his coat. "Tell, me, Miranda, how would you like to go on an adventure?"
Miranda's eyes lit up. "An adventure?"
The Doctor nodded. "Absolutely. Get away from all this nonsense with the baby and your parents. Just get away from all these things that have you so worried." Miranda didn't answer right away. The Doctor leaned toward her. "What if I told you it were possible for you to go anywhere you wanted at any time you wanted to? That I could put all of space and time at your disposal?"
Miranda looked up at him now, her eyes as wide as saucers. "Nuh-uh."
The Doctor chuckled. "It's true!"
Miranda crossed her arms. "How?"
"Ah, now, that remains my little secret until I have your answer, my dear. You said it yourself: no one would even notice you were gone. You wouldn't have to deal with your parents' fawning over your new sister. Wouldn't have to deal with the new addition to your family. With all the change. You could just be free. How does that sound?"
Miranda thought about it for a long moment. Finally, hesitantly, she spoke. "I dunno. I mean… I don't just want to, ya know… run away from home or anything. I don't want my parents to worry about me. This baby thing bugs me but…"
Miranda shrugged. "But, I dunno… my parents seem so happy right now with her. They didn't notice me sneaking out of the delivery room, but if I ran away from home and they got scared… well, that would ruin it! That wouldn't make things better. It'd make them worse. I don't want to make anyone sad. This stuff with the baby, I mean… I don't like it, but…"
"But it'll pass?"
Miranda shrugged. "Yeah, I guess it will."
The Doctor nodded. "Smart girl you are, Miranda." He stood, stretching. "Well, it's been nice chatting with you, but I'm afraid I really must be moving along now. I'm in the process of retrieving the last mortal remains of… of an old friend… and bringing them home."
Miranda looked up at him. "Your friend died?"
The sadness returned to the Doctor's eyes. "I'm afraid so."
The Doctor shrugged. "It's alright. We hadn't exactly been getting on well just recently. And his demise was of his own doing. It was lovely chatting with you, my dear."
"You too, mister… er, Doctor."
The Doctor turned on his heel and began walking down the hallway. Miranda stood back up on her chair to look at the babies again. They seemed a bit less ugly this time.
Miranda looked up. Down the hall a ways, the Doctor stood looking at her, his hands in his pockets. "You know… you never really gave me an answer. Would you care to go on an adventure?"
Miranda cocked her head. "I can't leave my parents. Not right now."
The Doctor shrugged. "Yes, I'm afraid now wouldn't exactly be an ideal time for me to take on a travelling companion either. As I said before, I'm in the middle of a task and on top of that… I'm afraid I'll be dealing with a certain amount of change myself soon. Things tend to get somewhat complicated when it comes to me and changes. However, after things have settled down a bit… would you like to?"
"Where would we go?"
"Anywhere. Anywhere at all. Anywhere you wanted to."
"Even Disney World?"
The Doctor laughed out loud at that. It wasn't a mocking laugh, but a hearty, jovial laugh. It made Miranda smile to see him laugh like that. "Of course. Even Disney World."
"Well… yeah. Yeah, that sounds like fun! But, my parents…"
The Doctor waved a hand dismissively. "They wouldn't even have to know, my dear. Trust me. We could go, we could have as much fun as we wanted, and when we were done I could bring you back and it'd be like you never even left."
Miranda looked at him for a moment before climbing off the chair and walking up to him, looking him straight in the eye. "You really mean all this, don't you?"
The Doctor nodded. "I really do. As a matter of fact, here; hold out your hand." Miranda did so, and the Doctor reached into his coat and withdrew something which he dropped into her open palm. It was a key. A small, simple, copper-colored key. "That's one of my spare keys. I only give those to full time travelling companions. I'm giving it to you as a promise that I will come back and the two of us will go on an adventure. Alright?"
Miranda looked at the key for a moment longer before nodding and looking back up. "Alright, Doctor."
The Doctor grinned at her and ruffled her hair. "Be a good girl now, Miranda. Watch out for Kylie and do as your parents say, alright?"
And with that the Doctor turned and walked down the corridor. A moment later, he'd gone through a door and was gone. Miranda turned her attention back to the key, before suddenly looking up again.
"Wait a sec… Kylie? Who's that?"
Miranda's eyes widened. This was a voice she recognized. She turned. "Dad?"
There, standing near the chair she'd been using to look at the babies, was her father. He looked relieved to see her. "There you are. Your mother and I were worried!"
Miranda shrugged. "I didn't go far. I just wanted to see the babies."
Her father walked up to her and held out a hand which she took and the two began wakling. "Well, that's okay. But next time say something first, alright? Besides, you didn't get to meet your new sister! Your mother and I even settled on a name while you were gone."
Miranda stopped walking. "Was it Kylie?"
Her father stopped walking too. "Wow. Yes. How'd you know that?"
Miranda shrugged and started walking again. "Lucky guess."
And that was that. Years went by and eventually Miranda came to think of the Doctor simply as nothing more than the strange but friendly man who'd cheered her up in the hospital by telling her stories about how he could magically have whisked her away to wherever she'd wanted to go.
But then, ten years later, he came back.
AN: Please, do let me know what you think of it. To be continued shortly!