“Traded her in for a younger model, I see,” said Professor Rumford with a sniff. “Typical man!”
Romana sat down in the armchair. “Yes, only it was more the other way around.”
The Doctor beamed at her. “Never mind, Professor. The thing is, we’ve found something else lurking in the seemingly innocent English countryside and what we would really like is some tea and a bit of your invaluable expertise.”
“What was I thinking?” she smiled back. Then she frowned, and looked back at Romana. “And what was your name, dear?”
“Oh, this one’s Romana, too,” said the Doctor airily, waving his hat around. “Saves worrying about these things, I always find.”
She sighed. “I still don’t understand half of what you’re talking about, Doctor.”
“Correction,” K9 piped up. “Suggest less than 50% of the Doctor Master’s conversation is of value.”
The Doctor dropped his hat. “Well, that’s a nice thing for a faithful hound to say -”
“Suggest exact figure is 34.56723% -”
Romana wrinkled her nose. “Really? Would you say so, K9? To be fair, I would have made it around 38% - on a good day.”
Amelia shook her head. “As far as I can see, you’re all fluent in gibberish. Now – tea?”
“Tea,” said the Doctor, “would be wonderful. And we may be quite round the twist, I agree, but we would very much like to hear your opinion on that Bronze Age affair down at the end of the meadow back there.”
“It appears to be a genuine find,” she said. “Although, the trouble is, it wasn’t here last time.”
He and Romana exchanged a glance.
“That was rather what we thought,” said Romana.
The Doctor grinned at her, but it took in Amelia, too. “Fun, isn’t it?”
She’s a walking contradiction. Everything she says doesn’t add up, and she knows she infuriates him. She sees when he smiles at Nyssa for being the logical one, but he’s not so logical himself, if he’d only admit it.
She didn’t want to come on board. Who’d want to lose their job, their Auntie, half the universe and be abducted by a passing alien all in one day? He wants her to go, he says. The thing is, underneath all her bluster, there isn’t much she wouldn’t do for him. When she met him, that day, even though she thought everybody was crazy and she wanted to go home, thank you very much, she saw that he was trying to save them from the maniac who killed her Auntie Vanessa. She staked a lot on trusting him for that, and didn’t even ask to leave again until he’d been brought back to his new self – the self she sometimes feels as if she’s responsible for, in a way that maddens him.
He wanted her to stay, and she does remember that. He tried to talk her round. He couldn’t understand the smallness of a mind that, on being offered the universe, asked for Heathrow. She doesn’t understand herself half the time, but she’s got all the right instincts. She lies for him, puts her life on the line, has a faith in him that maybe isn’t always justified, except it is in the ways that count. He can’t quite lose her, ignore her, or do without her.
Love? With the Doctor? It’s not very likely, is it? All she knows is she doesn’t want to see him die, or see him less than he is, because the universe would be a darker place, somewhere she doesn’t want to live. She doesn’t say these things. She says he’s a walking disaster and a broken clock keeps better time than he does.
She’s a walking contradiction, mouth-on-legs, wanting only what she can’t have, only staying when he doesn’t want her around.
Not like this, he says, and, he can’t find what else it is that he’s supposed to say or do that will stop her. Not here, not now. Not like this. He doesn’t quite look at Turlough, because he has a feeling he would have done better. They always leave, but not like this.
The Doctor is her whole world, or the Doctor and the TARDIS and its crew. She doesn’t have a world to call her own.
Nyssa is logical, and she knows sometimes that can be a weakness, not a strength, but it’s also why she finds it easier to see that despite so many changes, this is still the stranger who took her under her wing when her father died.
Her father – she closes her eyes to that thought, and the places that it leads her to.
He gives her back a purpose: he’s the Doctor, making things better where he can, holding back the darkness of the universe, stopping those who destroy, turning back the fatal entropy. She finds that her own training can work for that end, too, and that’s why she leaves. She stays in the darkness, where she can mend things in her own way, in a place that needs her help.
He must travel on, because the whole universe needs him, and there will be other orphans to shelter from the storm. She doesn’t need sheltering any longer. He’s taught her all she needs to know, and there was an inner strength that was always hers.
He recognises that, but also the danger she’s facing. The fledgling flies the coop again, and he’s never ready for it, no matter how he lies, but he nevertheless takes pride in how she’s grown: “You’re a very brave person.” She is.
The thing about the two of them – all of it – it all comes back to the one fact: he died for her. I mean, okay, right, he’s standing around talking – and, boy, can he talk – but it’s what happened. She doesn’t forget. It doesn’t mean she lets him get away with everything, but it ties them together in ways she doesn’t want to examine too closely.
It was only a bit of fun – she wanted to travel, have adventures, preferably with a cute guy. He seemed to be the solution she was looking for, and so she grabbed at the opportunity, and him.
What happened after; how far he would go for a girl who was nothing to him, was something she couldn’t shake off. And now, sometimes it doesn’t feel like fun at all, and they barely ever manage to get to somewhere you’d want to go on holiday, and he isn’t exactly what you’d call a cute guy, she isn’t sure she doesn’t prefer things this way. Hard to explain, but he’s the Doctor. When it comes to it, he never lets her down, not ever.
He might correct her pronunciation of everything, burn the salad, wear the most ridiculous outfit she’s ever seen in her life, indulge in unpredictable mood swings, but it doesn’t take too much to draw out what lies underneath the bluster, and it’s a challenge she kind of likes, crazy as that sounds.
So it’s a bit of a shock when he runs away and leaves her.
She doesn’t have the answer to that, and she’s mad about it, mad as fire: she wants to see him, so they can have the biggest row of their lives, but underneath it all, she knows there is an answer. He’s the Doctor, and he wouldn’t do that to anyone, let alone to her.
He ought to find her, but it’s one of those things he hides at the back of his mind, and busies himself, only promising one day. For once, he’s scared of what he might find. This way, he can believe she’s alive.
“I still don’t see why we can’t blow it all up.”
He looked up at Ace, who never did understand archaeology. It called for patience, and there were times when he’d been lacking in that, too. He rested his chin on his hands. “There’s the inconvenient point that it might also destroy what we’re looking for, which is, may I remind you, rather fragile!”
“And I don’t know why you’re going to such lengths to hide things from that batty old Professor if you think she’s so great.”
He smiled. “Well, the trouble is I haven’t met her yet, and she certainly didn’t mention this last time – can’t be too careful with the web of time.”
“All the more reason for me to speed things up with a little Nitro 9-”
The Doctor turned his head abruptly as what looked like a round, metallic golf ball appeared in the middle of the site. “Ace.”
He grinned. “Now, that you can blow up!”
He watched her go, crawling about to the side, with his own target in sight, somehow getting earth smudges on his white suit and his face. He’d always been something of an anarchist himself. Sometimes, merely an arsonist, (although for one whole regeneration, he’d lectured his friends on the dangers of explosions as caused by stupid military buffoons, while quite ignoring those that were caused in laboratories in pursuit of science).
Not, of course, that he didn’t prefer the subtler approach. Sometimes he was so subtle these days, he didn’t have a clue what he was up to, which was awkward, although he’d get used to it - he'd probably overtake himself sometime if he wasn't careful.
Talking of which, he was pretty sure there was at least one Sontaran loose about the dig somewhere, and he wanted a word with it. If Professor Rumford found the alien first, he dreaded to think what might happen. She’d probably try to peel it.
He’s reminded, though, with Ace, although things have changed since those days, of when he was young and irresponsible and thought burning Rome was a grand joke.
There had been another partner in crime back then, a substitute granddaughter, another galactic orphan, who’d shared his glee at innocent pursuits like arson, and poison, and outwitting the enemy.
She’d become a legend in her own right.
And thinking about it, he rather wonders what Ace will become. He’s got his ideas, of course, but he has a feeling both she and the universe will surprise him, in that way they both have.
He arrives one day and leaves the next, her world turned upside down. She’s lost her job, her boyfriend, she has half a suspicion that maybe she might even have lost her life for a bit back there.
That should be a bad thing, right?
Somehow it isn’t. Somehow, she knows things have changed for the better, and she knows what she wants and where she’s going to.
He does, too, and she wonders about him, on his improbable travels that she can’t even imagine because she turned him down. But, despite his mystification that someone would choose only one place, and one time, they both understand how important it is to save a life. More important than anything in the universe.
And, every day, she’s going to find more and more new ways to do that. Sometimes it might break her heart a bit when it fails, although that’s not something you acknowledge, because you get too used to it, but life is full of crap.
It’s also, she’s found, full of inexplicable marvels and other sorts of Doctors, and things she never, ever dreamt of because they were way, way too ridiculous.
It’s a good thing.
He laughs, too. It seems to be how this spot of post-regenerative trauma has left him, if you can call it that, when he’s dancing with the joy of life – and tea, and books, and surprises in every corner. It would have been fun to explore the universe with her, but there will be somebody else, and they will be splendid, too. He’s certain of it.
There is no one in the universe like the Doctor.
She loves him with every fibre of her being, but this isn’t a sentimental fairy tale, with a prince and a princess, and a happy ending. This is a mixed up glorious story that began when everything should have ended, when two runaways in search of adventure collided aboard an airship. One of them, of course, was fallible and human, and short-lived, and the other was an alien beyond her understanding, who was who-knew-how-old and claimed to have played Tiddlywinks with the Tsarina. To be fair, it was the sort of thing he would do.
When she was young, she always planned to have adventures, and not be a proper young lady – how awfully boring that always sounded – but there was a vague idea as she grew up that she might meet someone who was also terribly exciting – then, that she might even have met him. Then came the Doctor, and he was far more exciting than she could have imagined, but not like that.
She’d die for him, though it might be the one thing he’d never forgive her for. It isn’t how things should be, that her life is so bound up in this one other person, even someone as wonderful and magical and strange as the Doctor, she knows that, but it’s a bit hard to change things now: they’re trapped. She can’t go back, and maybe neither of them want to go forward. He’s the only thing she has left.
She knows, of course, that something is wrong, and that it’s her, and what he did. She knows, but she doesn’t quite dare to ask him, and he is busy pretending he hasn’t noticed anything, but the look in those blue, blue eyes of his is growing more and more troubled; he tries not to let her see. They trust each other absolutely, put their lives in each others hands, but even while they run from danger, there is a darkness they won’t talk about.
They are best friends, that’s all. They are best friends, and it’s all that matters.
He doesn’t know what happens, when she leaves. Maybe the whirligig of time has brought in its revenges after all, or maybe this is a tale that’s not quite yet told.
“Now, Romana, dear,” said Professor Rumford, who looked more wizened than ever, but it didn’t stop her hurrying about beside the remains of the fort wall. “What happened to that other Doctor?”
She smiled. “Oh, that’s a long story.”
“She traded me in for a younger model,” the Doctor put in, lounging about in the buttercup and daisy sprinkled grass.
Romana shrugged. “Or it was the other way around.”
“Strange markings these, down here, Amelia,” he commented, bouncing back to his feet. “Have you ever seen anything like them?”
She sighed. “No, I haven’t. Are they from Outer Space as well?”
“It seems very likely,” said Romana. She glanced at the Doctor.
He looked back at her. “Well? Are you going to make an official report and send for the Chancellery guards?”
“No,” she said. “It’s more fun this way.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Madam President?”
“Not today,” she said. “And this time, do try not to turn the whole universe upside down merely to indulge your misplaced sense of philanthropy.”
He sobered. “I’m afraid that’s one resolution I seem to find terribly hard to keep lately. You haven’t got any sinister political agenda up your sleeves, have you? And talking of sleeves, what is that you’re wearing?”
“I’m on holiday,” she reminded him with a pout. “You said it would be good for me. By the way, Doctor, I can’t help but notice that you seem to be travelling alone again. That didn’t have anything to do with this sudden desire to ensure I had a break from signing official documents, did it?”
He sighed. “Of course not.”
“I like your friends, you know,” she said. “I always have. For someone with such dreadful taste in almost everything else, you do have a knack for it.”
He grinned. “Yes. Mind you, I’m not so sure about yours, these days.”
“You see,” she said, ignoring the last comment, because she had her own reservations about most of the Capitol, but there wasn’t much one could say when one was part of the establishment, “the universe is full of quite marvellous people, as well as the other sort. You ought to remember that.”
He paused. “I ought to be saying that to you. Most people are, if you stop and look at them.”
“Of course, you’re pretty marvellous yourself,” she added.
She sighed. “You are supposed to return the compliment.”
“Oh – I thought that went without saying.”
She paused, as he turned and scoured the horizon. “What are you doing now?”
“I’ve decided, you’re quite right, people are marvellous – and I’m going to kiss Professor Rumford to prove it!”
Romana didn’t blink. “If you want to, although she might not like it, you know.”
“Even better. Maybe it’ll cure me. I never used to do this sort of thing very much.”
She raised her eyebrows and reflected on things she could have reminded him of, but to be fair, he was getting on these days, and that was several lifetimes ago. “K9 was right,” she decided. “Although, personally, these days, I think I’d put it at 30% at the very most.”
She, of course, always made perfect sense. Always.
The Doctor, who was in every way different now, and in all the ways that counted still the same, reached out his hand to Amy Pond. And he smiled, a smile that started small and grew into one that was wide, and infectious.
They broke his hearts, these mortals, but that was the fun, wasn’t it?
The universe is full of horrors, full of wonders, work to be done, tea getting cold, and some quite, quite marvellous people, like an unexplored galaxy of stars in the darkness of space.