The tea was cold and the book was worn, but the days stretched on forever. He knew better than most about the passage of Time and the slowness of the universe.

Sometime, Time was a rushing river, untamable by human or Timelord alike. This fast sort of Time took many forms. It was a girl with hair like fire and a sharp tongue to match. It was a sassy bride who knew too much and was forced to forget. It was a woman who believed when he could not. It was a girl, clutching his hand on the surface of a distant world, thinking that forever could really last. It was too many faces, too many beautiful moments, too many glorious companions all compressed into a tiny sliver of Time.

Because the time with them was never slow.

Slow Time was different. It was an old man in a young body who travelled too far for too long with too many regrets. It was loneliness in its rawest form. The guilt that weighed upon his hearts was a weight that dragged Time down with it.

And so here he sat.

The tea was cold, made ages ago. In the days filled with the Girl Who Waited and the Last Centurion, the porcelain cup would have fallen off the console as the blue box lurched across time and space. The cup would have shattered as the trio fled into the box, closely tailed by a number of very cross Sontarans. The cup would have been swept away in a jumble of adventures; bartered for information in Victorian England, sold as an artifact in 5028, used as a distraction to avoid battle with some unknown enemy...

But those days are gone. The tea sits still on the console of the machine that does not move, parked resolutely on a cloud. And he reads.

The book is faded, bleached by the sun. The pages are curling, damaged by tears shed long ago. The cover is ripped, harmed by its author who had attempted to wrestle the book out of the hands of the man who had read it far too many times. He no longer cries as he reads; time has stolen his tears and carved out his hearts, leaving nothing but emptiness that fills with sorrow. The book does him no good, but neither does his reality. In the pages, she is alive. She is pushing her glasses up from the tip of her nose. She is lounging on a gravestone, reading all the wrong words that will seal her fate. She is lying on the rock and commanding a story be read to her. In the book, it is not his fault.

In reality, the gravestone she is near is her own, and she is buried six feet under.

It is every bit his fault.

Sometimes, Time passes quickly. Sometimes there are people who help him see what his old eyes no longer can. They help his old hearts, so torn with misery, to feel the world once more. Sometimes, there is running and laughter and heroics.

And sometimes, there is nobody, and Time is slow, and he sits and reads the book that captures the death of his best friends.

But eventually...

The sun rises. The planets turn. The universe takes pity.

Sometimes, there is a phone call.

There is a one-word answer.

There is hope.


And Time speeds up once more.