“I can’t believe this is happening!” Bill exclaimed. “Not a bad disbelief, mind. I just wasn’t even gonna ask you, and now you’re coming with me to two parades.”
She watched the Doctor walk around the TARDIS console and pull down his favorite lever. Bill knew it was his favorite because he always paused dramatically before pulling it, even when nothing dramatic was going on.
He looked up at her after. “You weren’t going to ask me?” He sounded offended.
“Most people don’t think about asking their professors to come with them to Pride,” she informed him. “Anyway, Shireen and Harry were already going with me to the Bristol one. I wasn’t even planning to go to London’s.”
She hadn’t known how to explain sneaking away for that weekend trip to Moira. Of course, her foster mum had wanted to know why her tutor was holding a lesson on the weekend, but Bill had told her that the Doctor probably didn’t even realize it was the weekend anyway.
“Why do you want to go to London Pride?” She asked. “How’d you even know it was today?”
They landed with a slight thump, and Bill wondered if the Doctor was even planning to answer her. He joined her at the doors, and at last said, “I said I’d meet a friend.”
Then he donned his sunglasses — painted rainbow just for the occasion — and led her out into the crowd.
It was loud and bright and amazing, so much bigger than Bristol. Bill had nearly been overwhelmed when she’d worked up the courage to go to the parade there last year, and she felt more than a little overwhelmed now. But in the good way.
“So, where’s your friend?” She had to practically shout to be heard over all the noise.
“Not sure. We didn’t agree on a meeting place,” the Doctor replied. “But the TARDIS should have parked us near. Ah, there they are. Sarah!”
Near the edge of a knot of people stood an older white woman. She looked pleasantly out of place in a collared shirt and vest, smiling about at everything. She turned at the Doctor’s shout and watched their approach curiously.
“Can I help you?”
“What, don’t recognize me?” The Doctor asked, lifting his shades with a finger before letting them fall back into place. “Well, you wouldn’t, would you?”
“Oh, Doctor,” said the woman, her confusion giving way to a warm look. “Back to the old grey model, are we?”
“Well, some people like it, don’t they?” The Doctor grinned and pulled the woman into a tight hug, nearly lifting her feet from the ground. “How are you, my Sarah Jane?”
“Oh, fine. Perfectly fine.” Once she’d been released, the woman gestured to Bill. “Well, aren’t you going to introduce us?”
“Right. This is my student, Bill. Bill Potts. I teach at a university now.”
“Really? Settled back down on Earth and everything. Next thing I’ll hear the Master’s back in town.”
The Doctor coughed into his hand, which caused Bill to remember to stick out her hand to shake. “It’s great meeting you. He likes being all secretive about his past, but it can’t be so bad if you’re his friend and you’re here, can it?”
“Well, I wasn’t sure I’d come this year,” Sarah Jane admitted. “I didn’t want to cramp his style — oh, that’s Luke, my son. He’s around somewhere. Luke!”
A boy around her age pulled away from the crowd, holding hands with another boy with deep brown skin and his hair in a loose bun. “Yeah, mum?”
“The Doctor’s here, new face and all. And he’s brought a companion! This is Bill.”
Luke smiled and shook her hand. “Nice to meet you.”
The boy at his side did the same. “I’m Sanjay. Luke and I met at University.”
“And you’re dating?”
Sanjay grinned. “Been for over five years now.”
Bill found herself beaming from ear to ear. “That’s so brilliant. Wish I was that lucky.”
“I’m sure it’s only a matter of time,” Luke told her. He had a sort of assurance about him, as though he was certain everything would turn out fine no matter what it was about.
“So, are we ready to march?” The Doctor asked. She was pretty sure he was only barely refraining from rubbing his hands together in excitement.
Bill looked round at him. “Er, don’t you have to sign up for that?”
“I highly doubt that’s going to stop him,” said Sarah Jane with a rather knowing smile. Sure enough, the Doctor turned and began weaving through the crowd towards the parade route. “Come on, then!”
Bill found herself in the middle of the group, just barely keeping her tutor’s flaming-penguin arse in sight. At last, they broke out into an open space, which just happened to be the parade route.
The Doctor turned to walk backwards so he could beckon them on. “What are you waiting for? It’s a march!”
People on the sidelines were waving and cheering, and it took Bill a moment to realize they were waving and cheering at them. At her . It was one thing for Shireen and the others at University to know, but a whole other thing to be out here in the open and cheered on, celebrated.
It was utterly freeing.
“Sir? Sir, are you all part of a group?” What was probably an event organizer had come jogging up alongside the Doctor. Bill faltered in her step slightly, sure they’d just earned themselves a world of trouble.
“I’m the President of the World,” the Doctor said, waving the psychic paper in the man’s face. “This is my group.”
“Oh.” The organizer blinked. “My mistake, sir. So sorry.”
“President of the World?” Sarah Jane echoed as he wandered away. “What a load of nonsense. When did that happen?”
“While you weren’t looking.” He grinned back at Bill. “Think they’ll let me play at the concert?”
“We’ll have to double back for your guitar first,” she called back. Bill didn’t think she’d mind the walk. She could wander up and down this route and through the crowds all day and not get enough.
Luke leaned to the side to kiss Sanjay’s cheek. That got a big cheer from the people lining the route. Bill pumped both fists into the air, and that got another one.
This was what it was all about. Not sneaking around or playing word games with Moira. She felt safe here. She felt herself here. A part of her never wanted to go back, even if she knew they had to. She had classes and her job, the Doctor had his Vault.
But for now she let that all fade away, basking in the sounds of tens of thousands of people who shouted and cheered and laughed as one, even just for one single day. She took Sarah Jane’s hand in one of hers and Sanjay’s in the other and marched to the beat of whatever drum the Doctor seemed to be following, and she felt nothing but pride.
When they finally returned to the TARDIS, it had been draped in streamers and sprayed with glitter every color of the rainbow. They left it on.