It was unlike any noise I had ever heard before. The rhythmic breaths of machinery sounded from the front garden, just below the window of the bedroom I was staying in, waking me from my light slumber. I sprang from the bed, pulling on my dressing gown as I raced down the stairs of my friend’s home to investigate.
“Amy!” A panicked man called as my bare feet came into contact with the ground floor. “Amy!”
I unlocked the front door with haste to either assist or confront the stranger who was looking for my friend at such an ungodly hour. But it seemed that as I was pulling the door open, the stranger was pushing from the outside to get in urgently, resulting in him flying over the threshold and landing on the hallway floor with me acting as a cushion to his fall.
“Amy?” He quizzed again with a raised head, greeting me with his green eyes.
“No!” I groaned from beneath him. “Do I look like Amy?”
“I am terribly sorry madam.” The man said delicately and sincerely while helping me to my feet. “Where is she? I’ve only been gone ten minutes.”
“You’re the Doctor, aren’t you?” I remarked while smoothing down my nightdress.
He paused for a moment, as though scanning my thoughts for how I could have known. “Have we met before?”
“A strange man with a funny bow tie and a blue box?” I said, peering around him to catch a better glimpse of the blue police box in the garden.
“Hey, bow ties are cool.” He interjected.
“I think I would have known if I’d met you before. Amy told me all about you, Doctor. I remember her telling me all about your first visit the next morning on the playground. And I must say, I was quite upset that I didn’t get to see you on your last visit to Leadworth.”
“Last visit?” He trailed off. “That was only today.”
“The Atraxi was last year.” I corrected him which forced him into silence.
“Damn! I do apologise. I’m still... I’m still getting the hang of the new model.” The Doctor muttered while pacing and running a hand through his brown floppy fringe.
“Amy will be back from her holiday at the end of the week.” I explained. “I’m only housesitting.”
The Doctor paused all of his movements and stared at me with furrowed eyebrows. “Housesitting?” He questioned like he was trying out a new word in his mouth. “Is that something you humans do?”
“Well... Yeah, I guess so.” I huffed, holding my arms across my chest in defence as I realised how pathetic I must have seemed in comparison of the magnificent things he had seen. “Look, it’s two in the morning.” I noted, “You can either do things the long way around and wait here or hop in your little machine there and come back in a few days.”
“No, you’re absolutely right.” The Doctor agreed, rubbing the back of his neck as he turned to leave. “I’m sorry for waking you.”
It was at that moment that something inside me switched. Just the sight of the Doctor, a stranger to me, leaving was enough to create an emptiness within my chest. He was Amy’s raggedy doctor but whether it was his mysterious past or dashing looks, I wanted him to stay just a little longer. “Unless I could interest you in some tea.” I called down the path making him freeze and turn back with a crooked smile on his lips. “Or something stronger?”
“What’s your name?” He questioned inquisitively.
“Tess,” I replied nervously, “Tess Leonard.”
The Doctor sat patiently at the kitchen table while the kettle boiled and I prepared us a small plate of biscuits to accompany our mugs of tea. From behind me, I could sense his eyes darting all over the kitchen, taking in all the human objects of the home life.
“You know,” he began casually, “the last time I was sat at this table, I was eating-”
“Fish fingers and custard.” I finished for him before passing his hot mug across to him and sitting in the opposite chair. “Amy told me. Made me try it once as well.” A little giggle escaped me at that memory.
“So you and Amy then, how far back do you go? A long time I presume?”
“I was her first friend in England.” I explained with a custard cream between my fingers. “Suppose you could say I was shy as a kid and she was new so we sort of clung onto each other. Been best mates ever since.” I couldn’t yet bring myself to meet the eyes of the Doctor in such a confronting moment resembling a dinner date without knowing the truth: before I got too caught up in his charming eyes that had seen so much. There was something about this enigma of a man that made me feel dissected and vulnerable in the most wonderful of ways. “Is it true that you’re an alien?”
He seemed a bit taken aback by my forwardness, or dumb courage, and leant back into the wooden chair where his tweed jacket was hung on the back. “Yes.” He admitted, a concerned look on his face perhaps at how I would receive this.
“You don’t look like one.” I noted before smiling into my tea on my lips.
“What were you expecting? Green skin and six arms?” He exclaimed and bit down into a jammie dodger causing himself to mumble around his next sentence. “Which, by the way, do exist.”
“Well, yeah.” I smirked, enjoying how easy it was to tease this man. “I thought my first alien encounter would be exciting and dangerous like in the films. Not sat drinking tea and eating biscuits in my best friend’s kitchen.”
“Hey,” he punctuated with his index finger released from the handle of his mug pointed at me, “I can be exciting and dangerous when I need to be.” The Doctor leant forward on his elbows. “Preferably, never the latter except when necessary but danger tends to find me. And exciting, well I aim to be that every chance I get.” There was a pause as he took several large gulps of tea, never breaking eye contact with me from across the table.
“So it’s true that you travel across the universe? In that little blue box?” I asked before a drink of tea.
The Doctor resumed his leaning position on the table top, a dark mischief in his eyes. “Amy really did tell you everything, didn’t she?” He questioned in a way that made me second-guess my own sanity. “And you believed her?”
“Of course I did!” I replied back with the blatant truth. “As kids, you were a game. You were her imaginary friend that we’d play with and make up stories about. You were the only interesting thing to ever happen in this village.” I sighed, noticing a smug smile appear on the Doctor’s face. “But that’s all you were: a game. Now here you are in the flesh and still the only interesting thing in this village.”
The Doctor’s smile began to arch upward into a slight grin. “Are you sure we’ve never met before?”
“We’ve never met before.” I reaffirmed, arms folded across my chest in frustration. Amy's doctor fell into the same category as Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy in that logic made you stop believing in them after a certain age. But while the other myths had faded into mundane folklore, the Doctor was one story we all secretly took into adulthood. And I was frustrated that after years of forcing myself to denounce his existence, he could just show up in the middle of the night and still be charming.
“Funny, I feel like we have.” The Doctor’s gaze held mine in a vice as though scanning my eyes for any possible encounters we may have had though he must have known he’d find none.
“Anyway, I must be off.” He announced, rising from his seat and pulling his jacket on. “Things to do, people to see, civilisations to...save.”
“Will you come back?” I asked, almost begged, as I shot up from my chair and followed him down the hall.
“I expect so.” The Doctor answered when he stopped at the front door. “Besides, I promised Amy ten minutes. I probably shouldn’t keep her waiting any longer. Thank you, Tess, for the tea and biscuits.” He then cupped my cheeks which sent butterflies to my gut and kissed the air on either side of my face leaving me stunned before swiftly departing.
“Promise me that I’ll see you at the end of the week.” I called to him, pausing only to slip on some shoes before chasing him down the garden path to his blue box. “You won’t run off again without saying hello first?”
“Now why would I do that?” He smirked and unlocked the police box and stepped inside, revealing its golden contents.
I couldn’t believe my eyes as I peered inside, spotting the Doctor dancing around a round console in the centre of the large room. Surely, he left the door open so that I’d follow him. I took a cautious step inside the box and marvelled at the bright colours and the impossibility of its physics...which made no sense. I scurried out again and stared in disbelief, making sure to inspect every inch of the exterior. But it was just a police box on the outside. Were all spaceships like this? “It’s bigger on the inside.” I observed, stroking the wooden panels at the back of the box.
“Is it?” The Doctor questioned sarcastically, poking his head out of the door. “I’d never noticed.”
“So, this can go anywhere in the universe?” I queried and ran to join him at the console.
“Anywhere in time and space.” The Doctor smiled down at me with eyes glistening with excitement, clearly enjoying the childlike wonder on my face. “Tess Leonard, how would you feel about going on a little adventure with me?”
They were the words I had been dreaming of hearing since I was seven years old. But now that I was hearing them with my own ears, the list of what ifs began running through my mind. “But... I have work in the morning.” I stated, knowing it was only my timid nature talking.
“Tess, the Tardis is a time machine as well as a spaceship. You can be gone for weeks and come back five minutes after you left. What do you say?”
I looked up at those green eyes of his and his devilishly handsome face and found my answer there. “Take me away, raggedy man.”