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a dusty shelf

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There’s a book of a vastly different make than the other’s on the shelf behind the Doctor that seems to call to Lucie. She sets down her tea and glances at the Doctor, who seems to be completely lost in their own story while sketching out another page of butterflies they’d just seen during their post-lunch jaunt around the butterfly garden. Deciding that they are distracted enough for her to nose around, she wanders over to the book in question. If Lucie weren’t so used to the organized chaos of the shelves, she probably wouldn’t have noticed it at all. It seems to be placed very carefully, just out of sight enough to be hidden, but on a high enough shelf to be a focal point on the wall. As Lucie approaches, she realizes that the area around the book is completely devoid of dust. Something that cannot be said for the rest of the shelves. Curious to know what book has so thoroughly captured the Doctor’s inconsistent attention span, she reaches for the book.

In the blink of an eye, the Doctor is upon her, hackles raised. They snatch the book from her (with more care than Lucie thought possible, given the fervor of their rancor) and slide the book back into it’s space, criticizing her for her endless snooping.

“Not everything is a mystery for you to solve.” they grumble, already running out of unexpected steam.

Normally, Lucie would be quick to snap back, but she takes one look at them and knows better. All of the times they’ve bit back a name or paused themself mid-sentence as if trying to rewrite their own history by omission seem to finally be coming to a head.

They’ve turned away from her with an over dramatic pivot (later she gives them a hard time about this), allowing her one last look at the title written across the spine, Memoirs of an Edwardian Adventuress.

There’s only a beat of stillness before Lucie is on their heels, not crowding or intruding, but simply just being present. So much of the Doctor’s existence relies on this nebulous, non-linear concept of time that, by some confusing notion, is meant to place Timelords above humans and the like. But it’s come to Lucie’s attention that sometimes, just sometimes, humanity has the upperhand. While the Doctor finds themself living past, present and future memories all at once, Lucie is able to experience it moment by moment. She can see the toll time is taking on them in the square of their shoulder and the stiffness of their stride. Lucie lives in the present and hopes that the Doctor will allow her to be a grounding force.

“Doctor…”

“Leave it.” They mumble.

“Doctor-”

“I said-”

“Oh, I know damn well what you said,” she mimicks. “But when has being all standoffish ever solved your problems?

“Well,” They attempt.

“Doctor,” comes her warning.

Their shoulders sag and they mindlessly flicks a switch that Lucie is almost certain is more for decoration than functionality.

“An Edwardian Adventuress, she was. And for a while she,” They stop short.

“For a while, she was everything. Everything in the whole universe. More than that, actually,” They force a small laugh.

Just like that the flood gates have been opened.

Lucie perches against the the edge of the console, hands folded in her lap, listening, nodding, chuckling as the Doctor unloads their thoughts upon the control panel, still fidgeting with that same switch. Intermittently, they take long breaks. Long enough that Lucie almost thinks they’ve exhausted themself of words, but then they start off on another anecdote of who she was, of what she was. To them.

Lucie can read between the lines. They never say it, but she knows. She can hear it in their voice. So when they finish, when they really finish, she just wraps her arms around them, holding them close, pulling them back into the present.

The Doctor never cries- not fully, anyways. They both adamantly stand by this. But Lucie’s never forgotten the feeling of their quiet, trembling body pressed firmly against her.