==Epilogue: To Be Continued==
A man who has been in another world does not come back unchanged.
— C. S. Lewis, Perelandra
The seventies-something woman looked over the rims of her glasses at Beth, frowning slightly. "Then you came back to school? You could have been arrested."
Beth shrugged. "In which case, I would still have told them everything I just told you. I didn't have very many options." Go home and the police would come anyway; hide or run and she'd be alone, and she couldn't be alone. Especially not after all this.
The woman's green eyes assessed her. "You could have hidden yourself or run away."
Beth lifted her chin. "I don't run."
The corners of the woman's mouth lifted fractionally. "I believe you. Very well, Miss Lestrade, I believe we have all we need, only..." Her expression turned regretful. "You haven't explained what the Doctor did with your mind."
All the air in Beth's lungs was released in a shuddering exhale. She looked down at her shoes, murmuring, "He was protecting me."
Gently: "From what?"
She shivered. "From what he'd done with the Family... what he'd done with the girl who... who..." She choked and shook her head, unable to continue that thought. "He put her in mirrors—every mirror. A pocket dimension, he said, scattered throughout Time into every mirror, looking out into the world that she can never hurt again. And no one can see her... unless it's out of the corner of their eye." She looked up to meet the woman's gaze again, visibly disturbed now.
"Have you ever seen something out of the corner of your eye in a mirror?" Beth said quietly. "And then you turned to face it fully and there was nothing there? That's her."
The woman shivered perceptibly.
"I'm the only one who can't see her. The Doctor pushed at little places in my mind so that I would never see the girl in the mirror..." Beth stopped and swallowed the rising lump in her throat.
Quietly: "I'm so sorry." Beth believed the woman meant it; she seemed the kind of person who almost never apologised, who couldn't afford to regret or sympathise.
Beth took a shaky breath and nodded, very slowly. She wasn't sure that she would ever be all right. She and Chloe had grown up together, had done everything but the same classes and grades together, had confided in each other. For all the superficial differences, they had been "kindred spirits". She didn't know how she was supposed to move on from that. (She'd hoped, wildly, unrealistically, that the Doctor would let her come with him, let her move on by immersing herself in his world...)
"All right," continued the woman in a kind but firm tone, "time, I think, that you got home to your parents. We have your contact information and you have ours, and you know what information you're allowed to disclose to friends and family. Would you like a ride home?"
Beth nodded. "Part of the way at least, please." She could walk the distance if she tried, but that would really be a very long way on foot, and she was bone-tired. She would get out and walk the rest of the distance a little ways from home so that she could just cry, because she knew she needed to do that again, and soon.
The woman smiled gently. "Of course." She paged over an "Agent McIntire," and a redheaded woman in her thirties appeared a minute later.
Slumping in her chair, Beth zoned out briefly while the women talked. The whole experience of meeting an intelligence agency—especially one as obscure as UNIT—should have been surreal, but considering the experiences of the past forty-eight hours... Talking with "secret agents" ranked pretty low on the surreal list.
She shook the lead agent's hand and said goodbye, and the woman expressed her condolences once more, and Agent McIntire was leading her out to a sleek squad car, and she sank down in the passenger seat and closed her eyes. She was exhausted down to her very soul. She needed to shut herself off from the rest of the world if only for a few minutes.
"Sir," came a hushed young male voice, "was that..."
"Yes," said the woman, "she was."
"She's so young."
"She's as old as she ought to be, according to her file."
"Does she know..."
The woman sighed internally and turned a stern look upon her rookie. "Of course she doesn't. I didn't tell her, and no one else would."
The boy was taken aback. "But, sir!"
"Humans were never meant to know our own personal futures, and a Companion of the Doctor's is no exception."
Subdued: "Yes, sir."
UNIT's lead American operative turned back to the computer screen before her, studying the image of a slightly older Beth Lestrade. The Beth she'd met had indeed been young in every possible way, and yet she could see in her the traits that a Companion of the Doctor's needed to have. The woman had herself met the Doctor once, although, by her understanding, it was an older version of the Doctor than the one that had been teaching at this school. "Time can be rewritten. Sometimes."
And the blond woman who had been with him had added with a sad smile, "But not always."
Meeting a Companion when you knew what would happen to them was never easy. With a heavy sigh, the woman closed the file. Time to leave the past behind and focus on the future.
To Be Continued...
in Episode Seven: "Stolen"
Author's note from Sky:
Poor Beth, she's been through so much. And, ah, UNIT, how we love you. Yes, they showed up when they heard rumors of alien sightings, and Beth was the only one left who really knew what had happened. So what will happen to her in the future? Well, I think you know the party line... ;-) Oh yes, and please review! We'd love to hear what you thought of this episode overall!
And stay tuned, anyway, because we've got a very special TARDISode coming! In fact, you might even say it's rather... fantastic...