It was just another day in the TARDIS, if such a thing was possible. Clara was back in her time for a few days, and the Doctor was hesitant to use his usual shortcut to get back to her. The TARDIS had been more lively with her around, of course, but the Doctor was starting to feel the beginnings of the all-too-familiar guilt set in. The misadventure on the Russian submarine had reminded him that Clara had a life before him. Who was he, madman in a box or not, to take that away? Of course the initial wonder had blinded him to this, why wouldn't it? He had always loved a mystery. And that's what she was: a mystery. A girl who could die twice and not remember it? Impossible! Mysterious and wonderful and brilliant and...
No, no, no! It was thoughts like those that took away his Ponds. Don't get too close, he reminded himself, she'll just end up like the rest of them.
He needed to get away; to think. There was a great place on Windoffim, now that he thought about it. Quiet winds, a bright green sky... Yes, a trip to Windoffim would do him nicely.
With a twirl and his usual finesse, the Doctor started flipping switches and the central column began its colorful dance. "Come on, old girl," he said, twisting the final knobs. "Let's take a break, hmm? Oh!" He was knocked back unexpectedly and landed with an 'oomph' on his back.
Quickly leaping to his feet, he checked the readings, circles and lines swirling in ways only he could understand. "No, no! Come on, sexy, you have pull yourself out of this! We're being sucked in by some external force!"
The TARDIS let out a low moan.
"Well, it's too late now," the Doctor accepted with a straightening of his bow tie. "Come on, then. Geronimo!"
He released a lever and grabbed onto the railing, and, with a high whine and the familiar whoosh, the TARDIS and her Thief swirled into an unknown dimension.
Atticus Dylan-Attie, for short-grabbed her alarm clock with a gasp. "7:30?! I'm going to be late!" Throwing on her jeans and a blue t-shirt that read 'THIS COULD BE A BIT MORE SONIC,' she snatched her bag and ran out the door.
The college student was more than used to oversleeping, especially after an overnight Biology cram session/Doctor Who marathon. After all, today was Impossible Astronaut Day, so it was her obligation-no, her duty-to watch every episode that concerned the Silence and River Song. At least, that was what she told herself before she crashed at five o'clock.
She was barely paying attention, running as fast as she could to the nearby campus, when she slammed into a tall, very solid mass.
"Oh, sorry!" she apologized quickly. "I didn't see you-" She looked up to meet her victim's eyes-was it natural for someone to be that tall?-and promptly forgot everything she was saying. Imagining this was probably what it was like when you found the Silence, she finally stuttered out a "Uh... um... hello."
The man looked at her apprehensively. "Are you all right?"
How many times had she imagined that voice? How many times had she cried with that voice, laughed with it, dreamed of the places it could take her?
She shook her head firmly. Get a hold of yourself, Attie! She scolded herself for being such a crazed fangirl. This isn't the Doctor, it's just Matt Smith... in his Doctor suit... looking just as breathtakingly handsome and British as he does on-screen. Yep, totally worth missing Biology for. "Yeah," she said. "Yeah, I'm fine. Are you here for a convention? For Impossible Astronaut Day? If nobody told me about it," she joked, "I'll kill 'em."
"No, no." He said with a stern shake of his head. "There'll be no killing. But Impossible Astronaut Day? And what convention?"
Now it was Attie's turn to look at him strangely. "You? Matt Smith? Play the Eleventh Doctor on the BBC's hit TV show 'Doctor Who?' Alien Time Lord, not a Martian? Geronimo? Fish fingers and custard? Bow ties are cool? Damn you, Steven Moffat? Ring any cloister bells?"
The man-Matt, she decided, since that was how Attie and her friends referred to him-ran his hand through his hair with a look of confusion on his face. He studied her for a second before pulling out something from his inner coat pocket. When Attie heard the familiar buzz and saw a green light, she gave a short, fangirl-esque squeal.
"Oooh, Matt, are you going to sonic me?" she teased.
Choosing to ignore that comment, he swiped her a couple of times and checked the reading. "Well, you're human. No psychic aptitude, no rouge DNA strands. Perfectly normal. So here's my question," he continued, leaning down and in so that his forehead nearly touched hers, "Where and when am I, and how do you know so much?"
Attie figured this was either an extremely elaborate and mean prank-her friends all knew how much she wished the Doctor was real-or some sort of actor-y exercise Matt did to get into character for events. She had to admit, he was rather convincing. If she ignored the signs of normal life all around them, she could almost imagine...
"Well," she said, deciding to play along, "This is Earth, as I guess you figured out. Original Earth, not New Earth or Earth 2.0 or anything like that. It's April 23rd, 2013, also known as Impossible Astronaut Day to those in the know. Since it's the day after you 'died,'" With this she formed air quotes, "At Lake Silencio-best plot twist ever, by the way, with that robot, had me in tears-everybody who's celebrating wears tally marks on their arms to remember the Silence. See?" She held up her own arms, nearly black with Sharpie marks, to illustrate. "Not real, of course, since the Silence don't actually exist in this universe... am I rambling? I do that quite a bit."
Matt smiled. "People tell me I do, too. What do you mean, 'this universe?'"
"Well, they're real in the Doctor's universe, aren't they? Nasty little buggers. But they don't exist in this one, this boring, old, alien-free universe. Nothing remotely extra-terrestrial or supernatural happens here. Time must have to compensate for that, thus the Doctor Who universe-the Whoniverse, if you will-must exist, or at least something like it. Who's to say our TV shows aren't just peeks into other universes without us even knowing? Oh, look," she groaned, "Now I've got you freaked out because I've actually thought this through."
"No," he said, face still uncomfortably close. "I've just never thought of that. And I always think of stuff." He leaned back and Attie caught a whiff of leather, old books, and motor oil. It was an odd but not unpleasant combination.
"It's funny," he continued, rocking back on his heels. "I've been plenty of places, but I've never had my own show on the telly. 'Course, been on air plenty of times-most people don't realize Neil Armstrong had to have a stunt double for half the stuff he did on the moon-buuuuuuut that's not the same."
Attie looked at him curiously. That didn't sound like the Doctor he played... "Matt?" she asked, "Are you all right?"
"All right?" he said incredulously. His eyebrow cocked and a slightly manic look-'controlled chaos,' she thought-entered his eyes. "All right? Of course I'm all right. Why do you keep calling me Matt?"
"Because that's your name. Do we have to go over this again? Matt Smith? You play the Eleventh Doctor?"
"I've gone by a lot of names, but Matt isn't one of them. Now, John Smith is one I use. And the Eleventh Doctor? As far I know, I'm still ten regenerations old. Lemme see..."
"No, no, no!"
Atticus gave a start. Who was that? She looked back to Matt-or, she supposed, the Doctor, since he insisted he wasn't Matt Smith-and realized the outburst came from him. He was hitting his head with the heel of his palm, an expression Attie recognized solely as Eleven's. She noticed with a furrowing of her brow that the Doctor's voice had been changing as he talked, becoming more and more like the Doctor that had left her in 'The End of Time'. A sudden return to his current voice startled her. "Doctor?" She asked hesitantly.
His brow was furrowed in an expression of evident frustration and his eyes were dark. "It must be the Time Stream," he muttered through clenched teeth. "It's so different here I'm unraveling."
"Yes, yes, do keep up!" he said, obviously exasperated. "Time Lord, Time DNA. My body can't recognize the Time here, so it's not sure when it's at."
"So it's like you're... degenerating."
"Yes! No. But if it helps, yes." He suddenly straightened up, eyes serious, voice now with a hint of a Northern accent. "We have to find the TARDIS. Come on."
He stalked off to a nearby alley, leaving Attie standing on the sidewalk alone.
"Hey!" she called. "Wait up!"
"And that," the Doctor finished, "Is why you never park the TARDIS in a Ferris wheel."
They were standing in a near-empty fairground looking at the Doctor's only means back to his own universe slowly turn.
"At least it's empty," the Doctor said, trying to see the bright side as his hand twitched. It was the only sign of his rapidly deteriorating state, and Attie was starting to worry. On the way to the TARDIS, he had nearly stolen a celery stalk, stating that was a "useful vegetable to have around."
"You know, Doctor," Attie said, "I somehow thought you'd be better at parking her after a thousand years or so."
They watched the wheel rotate in relative silence, the only noise being the Doctor's occasional mutterings as he tried to keep track of who he was. He was just about to ask his assistant if she would care for a Jelly Baby when-
"Oh, my," he said. "That doesn't look good."
"The wheel is falling!" someone yelled, and to their amazement, Attie and the Doctor watched the ride start to tilt side to side.
"Not good!" the Doctor panicked. "Very not good!"
Attie rushed up to the controls to the ride, grabbing a lever and pulling it down hard. "I used to operate one of these in high school," she called, "But I'm going to have to hold this until everyone leaves! Go on, she's right there! You have to get yourself fixed!"
The Doctor hesitated, not wanting to leave her. "But-"
Sparing her one last look, he ran to the wheel. The machine was still swaying a bit, but he gritted his teeth and began to climb up the side to the TARDIS in the very top car. With one last grunt, he swung up into the car.
Atticus gave a whoop of celebration. "YES!"
The Doctor rushed into his ship and closed the door with a final clunk. Attie grinned as the all-too-familiar vwoomp, vwoomp of the TARDIS filled the air. "Good," she said with an air of finality. But then her grin faded. That was the Doctor. The real, live, actual Doctor. He was actually there. And she had just... let him go.
"Well, then," she said, "Crap."
It took about 30 minutes for the repairmen and city officials to get there, and Attie's arm was on fire. They said something about 'acts of valor' and 'metal of honor,' but all Attie could think about was that impossible, bluest-blue box and how she had let it get away.
The next morning, Attie woke with aching muscles and tangled hair. She pushed back her covers and yawned. Had yesterday been a dream? It certainly felt like it. She rose, preparing for another day of school, until-
Vwoomp, vwoomp, vwoomp.
Her head shot up and she gasped as a blue box materialized in her kitchen.
"Ah, hello!" a voice said, and the Doctor's head popped out the door, wearing a ridiculous grin. "Thanks for helping me earlier. I don't believe we've been formally introduced. I'm the Doctor."
"Yes," Attie said quietly. There was a very peculiar ringing in her ears. "Yes, I know. Are you feeling better?"
"The TARDIS is helping some, but I still need to get back to my... 'Whoniverse.'" There was a pause. "So? What's your name?"
"Atticus. Atticus Dylan. Attie, for short."
His grin got even wider, if that was even possible. "Atticus Dylan. Like a name from a fairy tale. Well, Atticus Dylan, would you like to come with me?"
"Come with you?" she forced out. "Like in the TARDIS?"
"All of time and space, at her fingertips."
"Once we get back to your dimension, you mean."
His face fell a degree. "Yes, well, technicalities. What'dya say? Come with Clara and me."
Attie couldn't help it; a few tears fell down her cheeks. "You have no idea how long I've waited to hear that. But, Doctor, I couldn't."
His grin faded altogether. "Well, then, I guess if you don't want to, then..."
"No, Doctor, listen," Attie pleaded. "I want to. Oh, god, I want to. But I can't do that. To you. If you react this badly to my time, who's to say I won't do the same in yours? I don't really care about leaving this," she said, gesturing to her small apartment. "I don't have many friends; my family couldn't care less if I disappeared... I just don't want you to hurt. I don't want you thinking anything that could happen to me was your fault, 'cause you always blame yourself."
The Doctor smiled a bit. "It's strange having someone know you better than you know yourself. If that's really what you want..."
"It is," she said, before she could change her mind.
"It's been a pleasure, Attie. And guess what?"
"What?" she asked, tears now streaming freely down her face.
He gave a radiant smile, the kind only reserved for companions, the kind that took Attie's breath away. "You've been brilliant. You've been...fantastic."
With that, he re-entered the TARDIS and disappeared as quickly as he came.