Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor who.
Author's Note: Writing the doctor is difficult, but challenge accepted. This is an AU fic, by the way. More about Gatsby Goode's time period will be explained later on. Read, review, hopefully enjoy.
Prologue: Hello. I'm the Doctor. Basically…run.
Great and terrible things were happening all throughout time and space, as great and terrible things tend to do, without discrimination. These things were happening everywhere, but not within the 32nd Empire of England, at least not according to anyone of importance. In fact, everything was just as it should be, plain and dull, no out of the ordinary going ons. Except perhaps one very small thing, which didn't seem small at all in Gatsby Goode's opinion, because she was dying.
Death was a perfectly normal and expected event, of course. The strange, great, and terrible thing with Gatsby Goode, was that no one could explain why exactly she was dying, and this is where our story begins. Or ends. Time is fickle. More or less, this particular moment in time led to other moments in time that led to adventures Gatsby never dared, or never knew how to, dream possible.
An ordinary hallway with ordinary, if bordering on horrendous, wallpaper, and two absolutely, disgustingly ordinary parents concerned with their daughter's swiftly declining health. Mrs. Goode leaned against the wall, feeling faint, as another doctor confessed that he could not help their daughter, because he had no idea what ailed her in the first place.
"She's healthy in every way," the doctor whispered. "Every test has come back clean."
"But clearly there's something wrong," Mr. Goode insisted. His neatly trimmed, graying, mustache shook as it normally did when he was either angry or troubled, which he was normally one or the other, more than usual both. This was the twelfth doctor he'd called and he was becoming desperate, in the tempered way of a British Royale. He'd become so desperate, in fact, that he hadn't even read the morning paper. His wife was equally, if not more, distraught., to the point that she'd begun only brushing her hair 50 strokes a day, instead of the traditional 100, and it was beginning to show in the diminished shine of her golden locks.
The Goode family was falling to pieces and everyone knew. It was the talk of London. Whispered rumors of Gatsby Goode's odd illness spread through the Regales. Even the Anathemas, exiled in their underground tunnels, had heard of the girl's condition. Just the other day, an Anathema woman had boldly shown up at the Goode's front door. Wearing one of those abhorred crosses around her neck, she'd screamed bloody about "God's punishment", until the doorman had politely beat her away.
"God's punishment," Mr. Goode had scoffed, as he and his wife prepared for bed the night before. "Those people and their fantasies." Mrs. Goode had silently agreed. God's punishment indeed. Everyone in their right mind knew that such things as those didn't exist. Then again, the Anathemas weren't in their right mind, were they? Those poor fools still believed in the pretend things, those dangerous pretend things that had cost so many lives nearly two hundred years ago in the three Great Wars.
Memories of the Great Wars brought shivers to everyone. It had been a dark and awful time of chaos. Savage religious clans had gone to war with one another; Christians against Muslims against Jews against Hindus against the Zoroastrians. Eventually they had all wiped each other out. From then on it was unanimously, with the exception of the Anathemas who still believed in the pretend things, agreed that the world was better without all of those outdated ideas. Gods, other worlds, and unexplainable things just didn't exist.
So Mr. and Mrs. Goode knew that their daughter's illness must have an explanation. They just hadn't found the right doctor yet.
"If you can't help us," Mr. Goode said stoutly, "We'll just have to call someone else."
"Do what you like," the doctor replied, bristling at Mr. Goode's implied insult. "But I can assure you, no one will be able to find a single thing wrong with your daughter."
"Nothing wrong?" Mrs. Goode hissed. "Other than the fact that she's dying."
Removed from the hallway, on the other side of the door from the Goode's and their doctor, Gatsby was tired of eavesdropping on her parents' conversation. She sunk further into her over-fluffed pillows and stared at the ceiling. It was all she'd had to do for the past two months and, understandably, the ceiling had become rather boring, if it was even interesting to begin with.
Gatsby was restless, also understandable for a sixteen year old girl who had been sentenced to bed for nearly nine long weeks. She was tired of the doctors poking and prodding, tired of her parents talking about her in low voices they thought she couldn't hear, and most of all, she was tired of being sick. She wished that she could just die already and be done with it all.
Gatsby threw aside her blankets and clambered out of bed, though she'd been expressly forbidden not to. She tiptoed barefoot to her vanity. It had been a present for her seventh birthday from a great-aunt she'd never met and Gatsby was rather fond of it. The table itself was bland white with nothing to define it from any other vanity, but the wide, oval mirror had a frame engraved with fantastic painted flowers in every shade of purple; flowers that almost looked real. Gatsby had never seen a flower in her entire life. She'd been born and raised in the city, where everything and everyone was grey and dreary. Art wasn't allowed in the 32nd British Empire. It inspired too much belief in the pretend things. So the flowers of her vanity mirror were the prettiest things Gatsby had ever seen.
She looked at her reflection and it looked back. When she grew too bored of staring at the ceiling, she stared at herself, as there was nothing else in her bedroom of interest. There wasn't even a window she could look out of, and even if there had been, there would have been nothing outside of that window worth looking at. The Goode's lived in a most respectable part of the city, so everything was respectably unoriginal. Not that anyone knew what originality was, because they'd never encountered it before.
Yes, the Goode's were one of the more prominent families in Britain. Mr. Goode was some government official, but it wasn't clear what his job actually was, besides attending public functions and impressing everyone with his uninspired parleys. Still, he was proud of his useless position, the same that his father and grandfather and great-grandfather had held before him. Mrs. Goode was also from a well-to-do family of Regales. She didn't work, of course, so she spent her time as most government wives did, by doing absolutely nothing. She sat in the parlor all day, every day, conversing about nothing with other wives, and living quite a lackluster life that she was very proud of. Before the sudden illness, Gatsby had gone to school with other girls and boys of her station, where they'd learned the usual mathematics and history. And that was how a family was supposed to be in the 32nd British Empire.
Gatsby had never wanted more, because she wasn't aware that there was more, and it's impossible to want what doesn't exist. Except she'd had dreams as a child, dreams that she couldn't remember, but she sometimes overheard her parents whisper about. She knew they were troubled by those childhood dreams, but Gatsby was unconcerned. Why should she worry over things she couldn't remember? Since she was ten years old, she'd taken the same grey pills that her doctor and parents explained would help her sleep better. Gatsby had never had difficulty sleeping. Then again, she always took her grey pills and she never asked questions and she never dreamed.
In fact, dying was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to Gatsby Goode. Unfortunately the fun of dying wouldn't last for long.
"Now wait a moment! You can't go in there." Mr. Goode's voice was louder than it had ever been, but the man who stormed into Gatsby's bedroom seemed not to have heard him.
Gatsby leapt to her feet, startled. The man in her room was unexpected. Unexpected things just didn't happen and this particular man was the very definition of unexpected. He was the strangest thing Gatsby had ever seen. Her parents seemed to agree, judging by the way they stood in her doorway, all in a fluster. Gatsby had never seen her parents anything other than calm or angry, never shocked. The man, however, was unconcerned with Mr. and Mrs. Goode. He seemed only to notice Gatsby.
"Hello," he said brightly. And he smiled. Smiles weren't necessarily uncommon. The genuine happiness behind this man's smile though was another thing Gatsby had never seen.
"Hello?" Gatsby replied.
"Perfect, perfect!" The man clapped his hands together. "You can talk."
"Of course I can," Gatsby snapped. She was offended and confused. Who was this man that thought he could just barge into her death room with the outrageous belief that she might be unable to speak? It was downright rude.
"Who are you?" Gatsby and her mother asked.
"I'm the Doctor." The man smiled again. Actually, he had never stopped.
"A doctor?" Mr. Goode seemed a good deal less flustered. "Of course, you've heard about our daughter's condition from a colleague. Was it Kimmel, the useless thing?"
"Er, right. Kimmel, lovely man, absolute git." The man turned to Mr. and Mrs. Goode for the first time since he'd entered the room. "Sir and Madam, I'd like a moment with your daughter, alone."
Mr. and Mrs. Goode exchanged weary glances. They weren't sure about this man, but he claimed to be a doctor and there really wasn't anything odd about a doctor coming to see their sick daughter. Nothing odd at all.
"Well, I suppose-"
"Perfect," the Doctor said again, shooing Mr. and Mrs. Goode from the room, before they could have second thoughts, which they wouldn't have anyways. With the door closed firmly, the strange man turned back to Gatsby. She felt suddenly uncomfortable in her white nightgown. There was something about the way he looked at her…No, it was something about his eyes in general. This man had seen things, thousands of things, and for a moment, a very brief moment, Gatsby wondered what they were. Of course, she quickly brushed these silly thoughts away. He was just a doctor. Nothing odd.
"There isn't much time," the Doctor muttered, no longer talking to her exactly. He moved briskly towards Gatsby. She thought he would prod and poke her like the others; instead he went right past her to the vanity and began tapping the glass of the mirror. "Running on a tight schedule," he said, running his thin fingers along the flowered frame, "Planets and people to save."
"Pardon?" Gatsby was finding it increasingly hard to think that this man was nothing odd. He was quite the opposite, and his hair was funny. It stood up all over the place, as though he'd just been in a fight.
"Not important," the Doctor said. He walked around the vanity, out of Gatsby's view. She heard more thumping, and then a green glow poured around the mirror. She peeked around to see. The Doctor was holding some strange instrument against the back of her mirror, which proved to be the source of the light.
"What are you doing?" Gatsby asked. She was more than a little miffed. She glared at the man with all the impetuous and arrogant ferocity of a dying sixteen year old, who was suddenly no longer the center of attention.
"A little bit of this and some of that." His answer hardly satisfied Gatsby, but before she could go on, he tucked the foreign instrument into his coat pocket and turned his focus back to her. He folded his arms across the top of the mirror and rested his chin against them.
"What's your name?"
"Didn't Doctor Kimmel tell you?" The man waved his hand, as though swatting an invisible fly.
"Well, it doesn't count unless you tell me yourself. A name isn't a name if someone else is naming it for you."
"I…I…" She didn't quite know what to say, so she decided to say the obvious. "I'm Gatsby Goode."
"Gatsby Goode," the man repeated. "Lovely! I met Fitzgerald, you know. Funny chap."
"Fitzgerald, the author…" The Doctor took in her blank expression. "Well, that's certainly odd."
"I'll say," Gatsby snorted, but she wasn't thinking of this Fitzgerald person. "What's an author anyways?" It was the Doctor's turn to be surprised.
"What's an author?" he exclaimed. "They write books."
"Books?" Gatsby was convinced this man was either speaking another language or that he was just insane. Perhaps both. She backed away when the Doctor stepped towards her.
"It's alright," he assured. And for some reason, Gatsby believed him. Certainly he was mad, but she didn't think he was dangerous. Actually there was something about him that fascinated her, though she knew it shouldn't. Still, she let him place his hands on both of her cheeks. He was so close their noses brushed. Gatsby didn't dare breathe. The Doctor didn't share her discomfort. He looked into her eyes, looking for something, and he let go with another smile, having not found whatever it was.
"That's good," he said, backing away. "Gatsby Goode, that's very good indeed."
"Do you know what's wrong with me?" Her heart leapt. Could this crazy doctor be the one that made the world make sense again?
"You're fine. At least you will be." The man moved towards her bedroom door. Gatsby followed him only a few steps.
"But I'm dying," she argued. The Doctor stopped. He walked back to her, close again, but no longer smiling.
"Gatsby Goode," he said in a low voice. "I promise you won't die. Not yet."
"But I'm-" The man put a finger against her lips to silence her. His hands were warm. Gatsby was too shocked to react. She'd never been touched by a stranger like that. Apart from her parents, twelve doctors, and a childhood nanny, she'd never been touched by anyone at all, and by those people only very rarely.
"You're perfectly fine." The man walked away again. This time she didn't follow. She couldn't quite remember how to move. Then he opened the door and left the room.
A second later the Doctor popped his head back through the door.
"Almost forgot!" he said, slapping himself in the face. "Stay away from mirrors."
"Mirrors?" Gatsby muttered.
"No time to explain now. Very important though."
"I don't underst-"
"In exactly…lets see…" He looked towards the ceiling, calculation something. "Three years, yes, that's right. In exactly three years from today you'll see me again. I'll explain everything then, but I must be going now. There's a spaceship in Delta 3 Sector XCTX that's headed for a very nasty…" He took in her blank expression again. "Oh never mind. You don't even know what a book is."
The man closed the door for a second time. Gatsby waited. She counted down a whole minute before she felt it was safe to move again. She collapsed on her bed, for it seemed her legs would give out from under her soon anyways. Her head throbbed. What had just happened? She wasn't going to die, after all, but why not? Gatsby didn't even know whether or not she should believe the man. Then again, some part of her couldn't help it.
"Remember," The Doctor's face appeared around the door once more. "No mirrors."
"Wait!" Gatsby cried, as he went to leave for the third time. "Who are you really?" The man smiled. Gatsby decided that she was starting to like that smile.
"Like I said, I'm the Doctor." And this time when he closed the door, it didn't open again.
Great and terrible things were happening all throughout time and space, but Gatsby Goode didn't know about any of them. Not yet. She only knew that she wasn't going to die. Not yet.