Disclaimer: Doctor Who belongs to the Beeb, l all I have is my Microsoft Word and an overactive imagination...
With more than a touch of asperity, the doctor took off his glasses, slipped them into his jacket, and cleared his throat. Romana rolled her eyes, but managed to bite her tongue. “Well, It’s really quite simple, Donna,” The Doctor said, his voice smug, as he took a step forward. “It’s sort of…it’s kind of… it’s…it’s…like when a body catches a virus.”
“Except not really,” Romana added, not able to help herself. “But it’s a good analogy,” she added swiftly, as she saw the look on his face. “Sorry, Doctor, do carry on.”
“Thank you, well, as I was saying, the universe has a cold—“
“Well, more like a flu,” Romana offered. She was only trying to be helpful. Mind you, at least he wasn’t spouting that ‘timey wimey’ drivel again; good to know he had broken at last one bad habit, over the regenerations.
“Oh, all right, a flu, then,” the Doctor sighed, giving her a pointed look. “Happy now?”
Romana grinned, she’d always rather enjoyed winding the Doctor up; it was so very entertaining. “But of course, Doctor.” Donna sniggered, and Romana winked at her.
”Yes, well, fine,” he muttered. “As I was saying, the universe has a flu, and it’s trying to expel the foreign material in the only way it knows how, causing shivers—”
“That would be when the TARDIS started to shake,” Romana piped up.
“A high temperature,” the Doctor said, daring her to interrupt him with a glare, “and a runny nose—”
“That would be when the Doctor disappeared down the buffers,” Romana said with aplomb, grinning at his scowl.
“Stop, stop, I can’t take this!” Donna said suddenly, as she broke into laughter. “You’re like a matching pair – two know-it-alls, for the price of one!” The Doctor and Romana looked at each other.
“Well, don’t look at me,” she said. “I’m the same as I ever was.”
The Doctor smirked. “I wouldn’t bet on it,” he said. “I remember your first personality, remember?”
“I don’t know what you mean, I’m sure,” Romana sniffed. “Just because I made a few…minor adjustments.”
“I see,” he drawled. “Well, if that’s what you wish to call it…”
“If you two are finished trying to out Timelord each other,” Donna huffed, as she got her breath under control. “Maybe you could actually do something, like fix this temporal ent…ent… thing-gummy before the Doctor turns into a pumpkin, or a snot, or wherever this bloody analogy is going!”
“She’s right,” Romana observed.
The Doctor pulled a face. “It happens,” he said, as he turned to the console. “Right, Romana, if you will…?”
“Inputting data,” she said. She studied the console and pulled the appropriate lever.
“Buffers online,” the Doctor affirmed, as he reached over the monitor and adjusted the co-ordinates controls. “Setting the re-alignment sequence…now!”
“Well, that is a bit disappointing,” the Doctor said.
“Give it a few moments,” Romana suggested. “She’s not as young as she used to be, you know.”
“Who is?” he said, distractedly, as he patted the console.
“Well, me, for one,” she observed lightly.
He let out a surprised laugh. “You made a joke!” he said, half accusingly. “Quite funny, too.”
“It has been known, Doctor,” she said dryly.
His face fell. “Right, sorry, I didn’t mean to… well… you know.”
The funny thing was, she did. “That’s all right Doctor, you never were the smoothest of conversationalists.”
“Hey!” he said, before a strange expression crossed his face. “Oh, I. remember this feeling…not pleasant…positively horrid, actually.” His legs buckled, and he leaned against the console.
“It’s starting,” Romana said.
“Think so,” he said. “No, scratch that, it’s definitely happening…Romana?”
“You know, don’t you?” The TARDIS trembled.
“Know what, Doctor?” she asked softly. He gave her the Look and, for this once, she actually felt it. For the first time, she saw the Doctor she knew so well in his eyes. The sheer belief in himself, along with his belief in others; his unswerving conviction that the universe could be a better place, if only it was given a little push…by him, of course.
“The database,” he said harshly. “You looked.”
Romana considered denying it for an instant, but it was rather foolish of her to consider it. What the TARDIS knew, he knew. “Yes, I read it,” she said eventually; the ship grumbled, like an echo to her words.
For a moment, he said nothing. “I am so sorry, Romana.”
Romana blinked; what could she say to that? It seemed too simple a phrase, compared to what she read in his face, and sensed through the now uneven shielding of his mind. “You had no choice, Doctor.”
“Didn’t I?” he asked softly. “Then why do I have so many regrets?” He held onto the console as the convulsions took hold, and Romana couldn’t help herself, she winced. He looked in so much pain “Good-bye, Romana,” he said, as his face began to blur.
“Good bye, Doctor.” The TARDIS shuddered and began to contract, the light brightening as the ceiling descended to it’s more familiar dimensions. The Doctor fell to the grating, and Donna stepped forward, Romana put out a restraining hand. “Leave him,” she said quietly. “You don’t want to become tangled up in the timelines again.”
“But what’s the matter with him? Is it supposed to hurt like this?”
Romana closed her eyes. “I think so, yes.”
And then Donna began to fade, like the last vestiges of the future TARDIS, and Romana found herself standing in a white, bright room…. her home.
“Romana?” the Doctor whispered.
She hurried forward, grabbing his reaching arm. “Doctor? Do you feel all right?”
“Yes,” he said. “I think so; what happened?”
“Temporal anomaly, all fixed now,” she said.
“Indeed,” he said. “Splendid, but why is it I can’t remember anything?”
“Conflicting timelines, I think, Doctor,” Romana said. “Can’t have your present self having a peek at your future self, it would seem.” Although she now suspected there might be more to it than that.
“Really? How strange,” he murmured, as he patted himself down. “Well, I seem to have survived the experience intact.”
Romana smiled up at him, as she studied his craggy face. The bright, inquisitive eyes, and the deeply etched smile lines, were still all there, just as they should be. He may be a little rough around the edges, and have a tendency to get easily distracted - although that didn’t ever seem to change – but he was still her Doctor; the one she intended to remember, and never forget.
Her mind flitted back to the eyes she had left behind, only a few seconds before, and she wondered why she felt that there was more she should have done for him. She had this uncomfortable feeling there was something she had missed, something she should have finished, or said…
“Doctor?” She caught his hand, and he looked at her, startled.
She hesitated. ”You do know that I care for you, Doctor? That you’re my dearest friend?”
His face gentled into a smile. “But of course, Romana, and you’re mine,” he said, squeezing her hand.
“Well, that’s all right then,” she said. “But could you do me a favour, Doctor?”
“Why anything, Romana,” he said, his face becoming puzzled once more.
“Don’t forget that…” She struggled to come up with the right phrasing. It was a fine line: too much, and she’d upset the timeline; too little, and… Again, she saw his dark, sad eyes in her mind. “Just don’t forget that I’m your friend, Doctor, and…always will be. That there is nothing to forgive.”
“Romana, is something wrong?”
“Just promise me, Doctor.”
The Doctor tilted his head, and looked at her intently, but still smiled. “But of course, Romana, I promise.”
Romana nodded, satisfied. Perhaps she couldn’t help the Doctor, when the time came, but at least he’d remember she’d cared.
It was the best that she could do.
Author’s Note: And that’s it, c’est finis; a bittersweet ending, I know, but what other way could it really be?
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