Fandom(s): Doctor Who
Characters: Tenth Doctor, Donna Noble, Nerys
Summary: The Doctor investigates one of the most serious time anomalies he's ever encountered, right here on Earth.
Word Count (chapter): 1235
One thing that travelling across the breadth of space and time taught you, the Doctor liked to tell himself, was how to cope with anything. He’d hundreds of years of experience in the field, escaping dungeons, thwarting power-mad dictators, outwitting dastardly traps, and dismantling oppressive governments. The one thing it didn’t teach you, however, was how to survive forced inactivity.
It took all of the Doctor’s willpower to not mutter “Boredboredboredboredbored” under his breath as he sat in the waiting room of the maternity ward of Chiswick Hospital. Though Nerys had known Matthew’s birthdate and that he’d been born late at night, she hadn’t known when Donna had arrived at hospital. She did know, however, that human mothers’ first labours were often long, so the Doctor took her advice of arriving no later than noon, settling in what became his favourite chair as the late morning shifts began arriving.
In the five hours he’d been here, he’d already read three times through the two thick novels he’d brought with him and all of the medical pamphlets and outdated magazines the ward had to offer. He couldn’t wander off and miss the arrival of either the expectant mother or the Time Lord hunting her, so he’d tried to work off his excess energy by ranging about the room, drawing black looks from the other visitors until a nurse came out to insist that he either relax in a seat or grab a bite in the canteen. He’d reluctantly pulled out one of his books and settled back down to read it for the fourth time.
It certainly was possible that the Time Lord - Doctor was starting to think of him as “Murray” simply to have a name to call him - wasn’t going to appear at this event. It satisfied the criteria that was both public and an easily pinpointed date, but predicting his moves was more of an art than a science. Nerys had correctly predicted two of the events that Murray would target after the wedding, Donna’s father’s funeral and the time she and her mother got rear-ended on Chiswick High Road right in front of the Sainsbury Local, but the Doctor had stood all night outside the social where Donna’d had her eighteenth birthday party with nary a hiccough in the timeline.
Braving the censure of the other people in the room, the Doctor jumped up from his seat, stuffed his book back in his pocket, and stalked out into the corridor for the eighth time so far. A quick glance in both directions confirmed that though the hospital was as busy as ever, neither of his concerns, Donna nor Murray, were present.
With a sigh, he paced off on his now-habitual circuit around the wing, taking the opportunity to thoroughly assess each person he passed to gauge if they might be the Time Lord wearing a different face after a forced regeneration. At their last meeting, as he’d raced off after “taking evidence photos” of the collision, the Doctor had managed to corner him and almost got hold of the device before the man slipped away. After that near miss, Murray would certainly take steps to protect himself, but was this crazed plan of his worth wasted regenerations? The Doctor was afraid it might.
On his fifth lap, a familiar voice berating an orderly for pushing her too slowly - “At this rate, baby’s gonna pop out ready for sixth form, sunshine!” - caught his attention, and he flattened against the wall as his extratemporal companion wheeled passed him, her husband desperately trying to calm both her and himself as he trotted beside her.
Just as the trio reached the maternity ward, the door opened and Murray, garbed in scrubs with a hospital ID clipped on the shirt and carrying what looked like a large PDA, stepped out. The Doctor didn’t have time to react: after glancing around to verify that the Doctor was present and watching, Murray leant in to ask Donna a question, then tapped a few buttons on the device in his hand, and the now-familiar vertigo struck the Doctor. Ignoring the haze in his head, the Doctor pushed off the wall to spring after him, skirting around a gurney parked on the side, and collided with a nurse wheeling a machine to the lift.
“Sorry! Sorry!” he blurted, grabbing her shoulders to steady her as he saw the Time Lord wave the orderly pushing Donna through the ward door then flash a smug smirk at his pursuer before he strode off.
“I’m fine, sir,” the nurse replied. “No harm done.”
“Excellent,” he said and bobbed a quick nod. “Sorry, must dash.” He stepped around her and sprinted down the corridor, but the man had already disappeared through a door near the nurse’s station.
The small office the Doctor stepped into was practical and clean, obviously a consultation room as evidenced by the pair of comfortable guest chairs arrayed in front of the large desk and the two large bookcases of medical literature. Murray was nowhere to be seen. The Doctor glanced around the room a second time then, crossing his arms, leant back against the door.
“I will catch you, you know, one of these times.”
The Time Lord’s voice emanated from no particular direction. “Perhaps. You came close last time, but you haven’t managed it yet.”
“I see you’ve abandoned the photography angle.”
“Yes. I’d become too predictable, hadn’t I? I suppose I should thank you for encouraging me to improve my methods. I think you’ll find it a lot more difficult to figure out when I’ll strike and how.”
“You know, this thing you’re doing, all of this tinkering with Donna’s life,” the Doctor began in an obviously futile attempt to talk Murray into abandoning his schemes, “it’s not accomplishing anything. It’s not going to change anything I did during the war, and it’s not going to bring our people and Gallifrey back. All you’re doing is gaining some perverse pleasure from watching me suffer. You’re a Time Lord. You’re better than this.”
“I’m not doing this solely for that pleasure, Doctor. Oh, if you only knew. You’d be surprised what the chaos gun can do.”
“It can’t break the time lock. It can’t change anything that happened in the war.”
“It doesn’t need to. It’s doing just fine as it is.”
The Doctor’s jaw clenched, and he growled, “Stop this. Do what you want with me. Just leave Donna out of this.”
“I don’t think so, Doctor. Gallifrey has allowed you too much latitude to do whatever you wanted, to break the Laws of Time and to impose your version of morality on the universe. It’s time someone rectified that. Someone needs to show you just what it’s like to be the one being meddled with, and as I’m the only Time Lord left, that burden falls on me.” The clunk of the spooling of a time rotor filled the room, then he spoke once more as the grind crescendoed. “I have my work to do. I am sure I shall see you again.” The bookcase nearer the door began to fade, and winked out as the whine of the rotor trailed off.
The Doctor leant back against the door and stared at the empty wall where the bookcase had stood moments before. After a half a minute, he licked his lips, nodded, then turned and slipped out.