i’m a wonderin’ if she remembers me at all
Meg doesn’t remember first meeting the Doctor, though in her defense she was only two at the time. Her parents had just bought the house up north when the Doctor comes to visit, all autumnal scarf and wild curly hair. The house is in good condition, though old, and Alex and the Doctor spend hours reworking plumbing and electrical wiring. Kate, pregnant with twins, hangs sheets and blankets and quilts to dry in the late summer sun, the wind whipping through them as the sunlight dapples through the thick greenery on the trees.
The Doctor spends almost three days working in the old cold storage room which the Murrys want to convert into a lab for Kate. Meg spends hours with him, arranging the smaller stones that the Doctor is chipping or moving out of place with her small hands, like Legos. She builds whole skyscrapers, towers, cities. There are swirling constellations, stars she drops through her fingertips, suns and moons she places in patterns all along the floor, building with a singular attention unusual in a toddler.
The Doctor finishes fitting a water pipe, wiping his hands on an old tea towel, and comes to sit next to Meg on the floor. She looks up at him with a broad, guileless smile.
“Big, small, big, small, big,” she says, still smiling.
The Doctor smiles back, and points to himself. “Big.” Then he points to Meg, “Small.”
Meg giggles. She points to the small stones on the floor. “Big. Small. Big.”
The Doctor looks where Meg is pointing. She has arranged the stones in a linear pattern, ABABA, a larger stone next to a smaller stone next to a larger stone. The Doctor grins.
“Indeed, my young friend. Well done.” It is well done, the pattern of the universe stretched across the cool floor, from the hand of a child, small Meg Murry.
Kate Murry appears in the doorway. “Lunch time, Meggie.” Meg hops up and rushes at her mother’s legs, encompassing them in a hug.
Kate looks at the Doctor. “Soup and sandwiches if you’re hungry, Doctor,” she says, smiling.
“Quite,” the Doctor says, standing up. Meg holds out a small hand, and the Doctor takes it as they walk out into the kitchen together.
remember me to one who lives there
It had taken the Doctor a while to want to go back into a library, even with Donna. They'd eventually gotten around to spending a weekend in sixth-century Alexandria, and had cautiously spent an afternoon reading Justinian in the original Latin. Well, he had read Justinian in the original Latin. Donna had wandered down row after row of books, scrolls and papers, wide eyes capturing every organizational nuance and flow. She had missed her calling as a librarian, the Doctor had thought.
Now, though, he can't even look at his library on the TARDIS without remembering Donna's face on that kiosk and the Vashta Nerada killing River's crew, one by one. Or worse - that squat little moneylender attempting to grope Donna and getting slapped so hard he spun like a top. Oh, they'd laughed till their sides split. He misses Donna’s laugh.
Nine hundred and fifty years, and you'd think he'd get used to the feelings of abandonment and loneliness. Time never did make those things better; it couldn’t heal all wounds.
Although, really, if he is looking so miserable slumped on a bench outside Oxford Library that random strangers keep offering him money or food, well, it might be time for even a depressed Time Lord to pull it together. He's just about to return to the TARDIS for a cup of tea when a very pregnant woman sits down next to him.
"Sorry! Didn't mean to startle you. It's just that there's no more empty benches, and if I walk another step, my feet are going to come right off. Not that that's medically possible - my husband assures me that I'm just exaggerating." She laughs, but he watches her stick her legs out and flex her feet, circling them one way and then the other at the ankle.
She doesn't look a bit like Donna, or Martha, or Rose - actually, she reminds him of Sarah Jane - but she's got that smile that all of his Companions seem to share. Open and honest and showing a good deal of the heart she wears on her sleeve. She's wrapped in a warm pea coat, toting a shopping bag, and he scoots over to give her a little more room.
"Husband's a doctor, then? Well, I'm in good company. Sit as long as you like."
"Thank you, Doctor. Do you practice in Oxford? My husband gave a paper here not too long ago, over Thanksgiving. Calvin O'Keefe?"
He mentally runs through everyone he's met in London around the early seventies and hmmm, maybe. "Sounds a little familiar. What's his field of study?"
"Immunology. Technically we should be back in New Haven, but Calvin’s paper was such a hit he was asked to stay and study here for the semester. I wasn’t supposed to travel, but I missed him too much -- and I certainly won’t be having this baby without him! He and my brother Dennys are the 'real' doctors in the family. My mother and father have their PhDs in silly things like astrophysics and microbiology."
"Hmm, Dennys. Calvin. Astrophysics and microbiology and applied immunology. OH! You're not Meg Murry O'Keefe, are you? Alex and Kate Murry's daughter?" He can’t believe he didn’t recognize her earlier, though to give himself some grace, the last time he saw her in person she was a toddler. At her chagrined nod, he laughs.
"Blimey, you lot are brilliant! And I mean, coming from me, that's saying something, but you are. Your whole family. You're all brilliant and far too advanced for this silly little planet."
He'd love to tell her that it's her children - Polly and Rosy - who finish the work that Alex Murry started. Proving the existence of the fourth dimension and making it possible for Earthlings to travel in time and space. And it's she and Charles Wallace who use the full potential of the low-level psychic powers inborn in a tenth of the human population. He can feel Meg even now - tiny, fluttery human mind pushing at his. All of the Murrys are special, but Meg and her younger brother are in a class of their own. Whatsit was right about them.
"We're not stars, you know. That was something Whatsit told you so you'd understand better. An analogy, like the tesseract. We do try to be Teachers, but some of us, not naming any names here, fail rather spectacularly."
He expects her to gasp, protest that this isn't happening, he can't be talking about other planets and time and space. He expects this because she's human, and that's what humans do before they begin to understand. They deny. But Meg Murry O'Keefe, who, out of anyone in the entire human race, has the ability to understand what he's talking about, just quietly reaches over and slides her hand into his.
"I do not know everything; still, many things I understand."
"Goethe. Brilliant man. Bit of an oddball. Had a thing for peach turnovers."
"That wasn't what I meant." She bumps shoulders with him, playfully, and shakes her head with a rueful smile. "Mrs. Who said that to my little brother, Charles Wallace, the day we went to Camazotz. I've never forgotten it. Charles is a traveler, like you. It's something you all need to remember."
Oh yes, very much like Sarah Jane, indeed.
"What else would you tell your brother?" he asks, almost jumping when she squeezes his hand in hers, and her voice brushes softly into his mind.
That he is never alone.
in the brightness of my day
It’s not quite dawn when Meg gets up and slips out of bed. Calvin mumbles briefly and turns over, but he doesn’t wake up. She changes out of her nightdress and into a large t-shirt (an old one of Calvin’s, she loves the smell of him in the collar) and loose, linen capri pants before slipping out into the hall. She checks in on Polly, who has kicked all of the blankets off in her sleep. Meg pulls the blankets up and tucks them around Polly, knowing she’ll be cold come morning. Charles and Xan are also asleep in their room, Xan’s head barely visible above the blankets on his bed, Charles sniffling slightly in his sleep. She hopes he’s not coming down with a cold. Den has the room closest to the living area, the one he’ll soon be sharing with the baby in Meg’s belly. He, like Polly, has kicked all of his blankets off, but this time Meg arranges them neatly at the foot of the bed before brushing a kiss to his forehead. Unlike Polly, Den always runs hot, the only one of her children who looks flushed from just a few minutes swimming or playing outside. It used to worry her until she realized that was who Den was, a part of his make-up just like the blue eyes he got from Calvin or the stick-straight hair he got from her.
Meg pulls her hair up into an impromptu bun as she slips out the door. A contraction hits just as she closes the door softly behind her, and she has to lean against the door for a minute to catch her breath. She’s been having contractions on and off since the wee hours of the morning, but she knows from experience that it’s still early yet -- though the contractions are fairly regular they are still well-spaced, and her waters haven’t broken yet. Right now she longs for the beach, the feel of her feet in the warm water off of Gaea. She wants to feel the pull of the tide on the water, on the earth, the way she feels the pull of gravity, inevitability, on her body.
Warm orange light is just beginning at the edge of the horizon when she finally makes it down to the beach from the house. To her surprise, she’s not alone. A man in a suit is standing at the edge of the waves, water licking at his bare feet. He’s holding a blanket, looking at the sky. Meg can see the big, blue box a little way down the beach. She smiles.
The Doctor grins when Meg comes to stand next to him. He holds out the blanket. “I thought you might be cold.”
Meg grins back. “Thanks, but not yet.” The Doctor tucks the blanket under his arm as she starts to sway her hips gently in a circular motion, assisting gravity a bit in the work they are going to be doing today.
They stand in silence for a moment, the only sound the gentle lapping of the waves.
“Should I be worried that you’re here?” Meg finally asks, part teasing, part serious. She and the Doctor had gotten to know each other over supper in Oxford, but she’s not sure if his presence at this time and place is a good or bad omen.
The Doctor smiles at her again, and it’s genuine. Meg relaxes some. “Of course not. It’s a big day, that’s all.”
Meg’s body agrees, abdomen clenching as if in response. She breathes slowly until it is over. “Big as in ‘saving the world’ big?”
“Big as in meeting the new Murry-O’Keefe big,” the Doctor says. “Every new life is big.”
“That we agree on,” Meg says, swaying gently.
“Number five, that’s impressive,” the Doctor says.
Meg laughs. “I’m not so sure.”
The Doctor looks at her in surprise. “It’s sublime.”
“Sometimes it doesn’t seem that way,” Meg says.
“Is that what they say?”
Meg frowns. “Who is they?”
“The women Calvin works with.”
“Oh.” Meg’s frown deepens. “That they.”
“What? That he keeps the wife home barefoot and pregnant, little children running around, so he’s free to do as he likes?” The Doctor knows he’s right by the way Meg’s shoulders start to clench in a way that has nothing to do with the pain of labor. “Meg --” he starts.
Meg shrugs, looks at him. “Most of the time I can ignore it, but the truth is I can still be quite contrary when I feel like it.”
“Calvin --” the Doctor starts.
At the sound of her husband’s name, Meg smiles. “I don’t worry about Calvin.”
The Doctor nods. Good.
“As my mother once said of my father, I’m still a young woman and still quite in love with my husband.” Meg laughs, her hand coming down to her belly to rub small circles with her palm. “I think the results are quite obvious.”
Dawn is beginning to break, streaks of red and gold crossing the skyline.
“And to be honest, I love being pregnant,” Meg says quietly, as if this is a deep secret. Maybe it is, the Doctor thinks. He’s not sure many women would say that.
“It’s like . . . it reminds me of when Progo, Calvin and Mr. Jenkins and I were inside Charles Wallace’s mitochondria.” Meg’s gaze is on the sky, but the Doctor’s is on her. “Without the fear and urgency, of course. But it’s the same . . . feeling. Knowing that everything is interconnected, that I’m a whole galaxy to my baby, but that the child influences me as well. I can feel her smallest movement, and everything I do, down to the cellular level, goes toward her life. I -- it’s too hard to describe, but it’s . . . wonderful. Amazing. It’s the closest I’ve ever felt to another human being, even to Calvin. I want to do it as much as I can -- or as much as is practical, I suppose.” Meg stops, smiles up at the Doctor.
The Doctor reaches out, takes her hand, squeezes. They stand there together, holding hands, watching daylight break.
Later, when the sun is high in the sky, Calvin delivers his new daughter, and they name her after her mother.
in the darkness of my night
It’s quiet on Benne Seed Island. Meg is sitting on the porch swing waiting for Polly to return from wherever she is; she’s been even more independent since she went to Greece, but Meg doesn’t quite blame her. Polly is strong and smart, beautiful and wonderful, and Meg can’t begrudge her her own life, even if Meg misses her. Calvin went to bed an hour or so ago, and the other children are sleeping, or at least in their beds, though Meg knows it is possible Charles is still awake, reading by the light of a flashlight. She’ll know by the droop of his eyelids tomorrow at breakfast.
Meg was reading a novel, but she hasn’t been very interested in it; she long let it drop beside her on the swing, choosing to watch the darkness instead. The darkness is almost complete -- a cloudy night has obscured the moon and the stars. Meg’s not surprised when she hears footsteps on the porch steps, but she is surprised to see a bow-tied stranger standing in front of her instead of Polly.
“Meg,” the man says.
Meg’s frown deepens. She shifts a little deeper into herself, senses burning and fear, then relief and water . . . a pond?
“Doctor?” Meg ventures.
“Oh, sorry. I forgot . . . the last time . . . new suit,” the Doctor says.
“Indeed.” Meg smiles.
“Bowties are cool,” the Doctor says, pulling at his a little.
Meg lifts an eyebrow, but she’s still smiling. “Is this a social call?”
“No.” The Doctor’s voice is serious, and Meg feels a chill. The smile drops from her face. “I need your help.”
“What is it?” Meg asks.
“Cracks. There are cracks in the universe.”
Meg closes her eyes. After a moment she sees a girl’s bedroom, a crack in the wall. Then there’s a forest, and a red-haired woman crying. Bright light, a young man disappearing. When Meg opens her eyes, she sees the Doctor, face worried, half-hidden in the shadow of the night.
“Things are being extinguished from existence, as if they never were,” the Doctor says.
Meg meets his eyes. “Echthroi,” she says. “X-ing things from existence.”
The Doctor nods. “You’ve fought them before.”
Meg shivers before she can stop herself. “Yes. Of course.”
“So you’ll come with me?” The Doctor holds out a hand.
Meg looks up at the cloudy sky. “I can’t just leave,” she says. But it’s tempting.
“We’ll be back before anyone even knows you were gone. We can even come back to this very time and place.”
“Can we?” Meg asks. It’s a rhetorical question, but the Doctor wonders how much Meg really saw about his recent problems finding his way in time. Not that they were problems. Parking issues, really.
The Doctor decides confidence is the best way to proceed. “Yes, of course.”
Meg shifts on the swing. She thinks of what waits for her tonight, tomorrow. Polly coming home, a few words exchanged before they both go off to bed. Getting up early in the morning. Making lunches, cooking breakfast, feeding seven children and Calvin and herself. French toast, eggs, oatmeal, grapefruit. Homework done, backpacks stuffed, three different buses, Calvin to the lab. Then it’s just her and Rosy. Some light housework, maybe a trip to the grocer, always laundry. Keeping Rosy occupied -- paper, crayons, markers, books, playing outside, the beach, swimming. Rosy is in a finicky stage, easily bored; they are trying to break her of whining, a habit that came on quickly and is recurring, though neither Meg nor Calvin encourages it in any way. Buses return. Snacks, homework spread all over the table, Xan procrastinating, Dan rushing through his work even though he makes mistakes, mistakes he is too impatient to want to fix when Meg goes over his homework. Johnny with homework too easy for him, rushing through his reader to get to the books on the lower shelves of Calvin’s bookshelves. Children shouting, playing games, sometimes fighting, shooing them out of the house and down to the beach. Accidents, cuts, bruises, tears, antiseptic, bandages, kisses better. Toys on the floor, the furniture. Getting dinner started, sorting out homework, papers to sign. Calvin coming in for dinner, more chaos as the children greet him. Dinner, dishes, clean-up, more homework. Baths and showers, pajamas, stories read aloud. Everyone tucked in, if not asleep. A swim for herself. Sometimes out to the lab to help Calvin; sometimes to their bed with a book; sometimes to the porch to wait for one of the older children -- Polly, Charles. The next day, the same, and the day after that, and the day after that.
Maybe Rosy is only picking up on her mother’s feelings.
The Doctor cuts into her thoughts. “You’re a Namer, Meg. I need you.”
Meg thinks, shakes her head. “No, you don’t.”
“You’re the Doctor,” Meg says.
The Doctor briefly looks away, then shifts his gaze back to Meg. “I’m not infallible.”
“No one said you were,” Meg says, smiling. The Doctor frowns, which only makes Meg smile wider. “Except perhaps for you.”
The Doctor looks away again.
Meg holds out her hand. “Doctor.”
The Doctor hesitates, but takes Meg’s hand, sits down next to her on the swing.
“I want to,” Meg admits.
The Doctor brightens. “So come.”
“If I don’t come back . . .”
Meg looks at the Doctor, and it reminds him of a mother chastising her child. Maybe it is. “You can’t promise me that.”
“No,” the Doctor says. “But you’re brilliant, experienced, the Echthroi--”
Meg sighs. “I can’t.”
The Doctor looks away, disappointed.
“I’m doing my work here,” Meg finishes. “I . . . a Namer is supposed to know who and what a person or thing is, to their core, to help them become who they were meant to be.” She pauses. “And I have work to do Naming seven special people. Eight, if you count Calvin.” Meg tilts her head. “Maybe nine, if I count myself.” She squeezes the Doctor’s hand.
The Doctor looks at her, smiles. “Margaret Murry O’Keefe.”
Meg takes the Doctor’s face between her hands, eyes serious. “Doctor. You are the Doctor. I Name you the Doctor.”
The Doctor looks into her eyes, and nods.
she’s wearing a coat so warm
Meg’s sitting on a bench, waiting for one of Yale’s shuttles to take her to another part of campus. She’s a little worried since the shuttle is late, and she has a class to teach in forty minutes. It’s January, the second week of the new term, and the wind is flurrying snowflakes back and forth. Meg burrows a little deeper into her coat, fingers wiggling in her gloves down in her pockets. She’s already nervous, anxious that her students resent being taught by a doctoral student and not a real professor; being late won’t help matters. The graduate fellowship is necessary to keep working on her dissertation, but two years from the precipice of fifty finds Meg a little intimidated by the youth of her students. Intimidated, but also annoyed with the willfulness youth brings with it, the excuses for not studying for exams, dubious reasons for late work, and the irritating classroom behavior. A teacher, Meg has decided, she is not. When she tells this to Calvin, he kisses her and says, “Meg, I give you your faults. They are your gifts.”
Meg is considering giving up on the shuttle and trying to walk it when someone sits on the bench beside her. He accidentally sits on part of her coat, and Meg shifts slightly to free it.
“Sorry, sorry,” the man says. “So sorry. Can you tell me, does this shuttle stop at the library?”
Meg looks up into a familiar face, though he isn’t looking at her yet. “Doctor!” she says.
The Doctor turns to look at her. “Meg Murry O’Keefe! Fancy meeting you here.”
Meg smiles. “You’re younger than the last time I saw you.”
The Doctor touches his cheek with bare fingers thoughtfully, then grins. “I don’t get that very often, so thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Meg pulls her hands out of her pockets and starts to pull off her gloves. When she’s done, she tries to hand them to the Doctor.
“Meg, I’m not going to take your gloves.”
“I have pockets,” she says.
“So do I.”
Meg looks the Doctor’s coat up and down. “I’m not sure that coat is warm enough.”
“It’s plenty warm,” the Doctor huffs, as if offended. He looks down at the gloves Meg is still holding out to him. “Keep your gloves.”
Meg gives him a look, but starts putting the gloves back on. “Yes, the main library is a stop on this shuttle.”
“Thank you. For both the directions and the offer.” The Doctor bumps his shoulder against Meg’s and smiles. “It’s been a long time since someone has tried to mother me.”
Meg smiles back. “Old habits die hard.”
“Current habits, too.” The Doctor and Meg grin conspiratorially.
“What brings you this way, Doctor?” Meg asks.
The Doctor waves a hand vaguely. “There’s a thing . . . some lizards . . . it’s complicated. What about you?”
“Finishing my doctorate,” Meg says.
“Oh, good for you!” the Doctor exclaims.
“Thanks,” Meg says, a note of self-deprecation in her voice.
“No, really, good for you! That’s brilliant!” The Doctor looks immensely pleased.
“Thanks. Though if I’m late for my class, I’m not sure how brilliantly this will turn out,” Meg says as the shuttle finally rounds a corner down the street and begins to head toward them.
The Doctor practically beams. “See there? Nothing to worry about.”
Meg takes the Doctor’s hand and gives it a brief squeeze as the shuttle pulls up. “It was nice to see you again, Doctor.”
“You, too, Doctor,” the Doctor says as the doors open and they climb aboard.
many times i’ve often prayed
Polly had fretted, but Meg had insisted on going out to the star watching rock. She might be nearly eighty, but she isn’t frail, perfectly capable of walking across the grounds and the orchard by herself. Besides, it is summer, and though night has fallen it is plenty warm. What was once Sandy and Dennys’ garden is still lush and full, tended by her daughter Peggy, who lives at the house full time with her family. The rest of the Murrys and O’Keefes come and go from the old farmhouse; it’s home to everyone, whether they live there or not. The stars are still visible in the sky; this land isn’t quite as far into the rural countryside as it once was, the city and suburbs slowly encroaching on it, but it is still far enough from the city lights that the stars shine brightly, the moon high and full in the sky.
When she reaches the star gazing rock Meg settles herself, back on the rock so she can look up at the stars. She misses Charles Wallace fiercely for a moment. He’s traveling, and Meg doesn’t know where; it used to be that their bond would tell Meg that Charles Wallace was well, and that was enough. Their bond is still strong, so Meg knows that Charles Wallace is safe wherever he is, but lately that hasn’t been enough for Meg. She wants Charles Wallace with her, next to her, so that she can hold his hand and touch his face. He comes to visit more often now, but increasingly it’s not often enough for Meg. Charles Wallace’s bond with other worlds has gotten stronger with age while hers seems to weaken, at least to Meg. The weakness isn’t through the body, but through her heart, which Meg feels is as fragile as spun glass since Calvin left, died, gone to a cancer that threw his body so out of balance with the universe that he had to leave this world in order to regain himself.
She misses Calvin with her whole being, and it has left her less tethered to the universe as a whole as a result. Polly and Peggy, Xan and Johnny, all of her children keep her as strong as they can, which is strong indeed. But they’re not Calvin.
Meg is watching a shooting star circle the sky when the Doctor appears beside her, stretched out next to her on the star gazing rock.
“Doctor!” Meg says, suddenly pleased. She tucks a wisp of grey hair behind her ear and smiles, suddenly feeling like she’s sixteen again.
The Doctor grins. “Meg,” he says, crossing his Converse-covered feet at the ankle. “Although it is good to see you, I’m not the Doctor. I was sent in the guise of a Traveler you would recognize.”
“I never thought I’d say this, but I don’t think I want to go on an adventure just now.”
“But Meg,” the Traveler-Who-Is-Not-The-Doctor says, “it’s time for the greatest adventure of all.”
Meg takes a breath. “Calvin will be there?”
“Calvin, and your parents, and someday maybe even the Doctor himself.”
Meg smiles. “I’m ready.”
The Traveler says, “Take my hand,” and Meg does.