idk this was inevitable for me i guess
i’ve lumped 9 and 10 into the same chapter
andromache does whip out a knife and does draw blood, but there's no fighting or violent scenes
title is from Mumford and Sons’s Hopeless Wanderer
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Nine - Krakatoa - 950
It's not the eruption, but it's one that will still be marked down in history.
He’s not sure why he’s ended up there because he’s already seen the Big One. Last week he had stood on the same shore and watched history take place before his eyes, drawn to the sight of destruction in a way that made his hearts ache and eyes water.
He had seen Gallifrey burn, with his old eyes. Now his new ones looked for newer, brighter sights.
But today it had been a little itch running down his fingers, and it hadn’t shifted. Something within had made him turn the dial back on the years and fling his little TARDIS into the past, back to the same patch of Earth.
The police box touches down on the beach with an ear-splitting wail as the craggy silhouette of Krakatoa looms up over the horizon behind him. When the Doctor steps out, he does so gingerly, boots sinking into the dry sand closer to the treeline and he shoots a dubious look over his shoulder. It rises out of the trees, looking for all intents and purposes a silent mountain on an uninhabited island.
Then he turns his back on it, while he can, and walks his way across the shoreline.
The whole morning passes as every other had before it, right up until a rumble shakes the ground and then it begins, with a thick plume of smoke rises into the sky. It sends alarm racing through his veins and his uncertainty fills the air closer to the ground as ash begins to fall like snow, dusting the trees he passes under. The plume chugs on upwards with foul-smelling smoke puffing out more and more, threatening to blot out the sun, and the Doctor makes his way back down to the water, berating himself for ever landing on the shore.
There are fixed events, like this one, where he can only observe. But he knows how history goes, the volcano erupts, the event is recorded for the history books, and life goes on.
It's as simple as that.
Which is odd, even for him, because he finds himself listening to the soft crash of the waves on the sand while walking back and forth instead of turning back and heading to his TARDIS.
As if to answer his unspoken question, the itch along his fingers returns; there's something keeping him there.
The ground begins to shudder again, and the Fire Mountain rings true to its name. Rocks and fireballs are thrown up into the sky, yet he still can't put his finger on it, find the why , which is irritating, and he supposes he's now the sort of person who gets irritated easily.
Wrestling with the prickly edges of his new personality, the Doctor tries his best to distract himself by walking back across the shoreline with his boots sinking into the wet sand as he goes. His new black leather jacket, recently fished out from the TARDIS wardrobe, sticks to his neck uncomfortably from the thick humidity in the air. His walking takes him further down the shore and right up to the water’s edge again, where the lapping water rises to wet the hems of his jeans.
A voice calls out, and he turns his head towards the sound. He spots a trio of young fishermen running towards a boat hauled up on the sand which he hadn’t spotted before. Their voices are raised in panic but they move swiftly, loading up whatever few supplies they had gathered on land.
And that’s when he sees it ; the thing that's twisted up in the timeline of this event like a beating heart of its own.
Or rather her. A tall, pale woman with dark hair.
She’s not exactly what he was expecting, not when she was dressed like a simple traveller, but she chases the coughing fishermen off the sand, acting more like a fleet commander overseeing a retreat.
Even as she turns and her gaze brushes over his solitary figure in the distance, he can feel the fierceness of her intentions wash over him. If he didn't have his own way out, he thinks he'd trust her enough to throw himself into the water and clamber onto the boat himself.
With the heat of the sun beating down on his head and neck, and the thick smell of volcanic gas in the air, it makes it hard to focus. But the Doctor exhales heavily, trying to look past the weighted twist in the timelines that trail around her. To his surprise, there is no easy way of finding the end or the beginning, and it makes him draw closer, without thinking, in a heady mix of curiosity and confusion, because she is helping.
From the distance, the Doctor only manages to catch snippets of her warnings.
She keeps up a stream of shouts until the fishermen pile in and shove off from the shore, sending their boat bobbing into the darkening waters. He can just about make out her voice as it cuts across the way, catching a snippet of her telling them to leave, to escape, because she’s seen this before; “You won’t survive the Fire Mountain! Go, if you want to live!”
As if to make the point clear, the ground shakes violently, and any notion of returning to shore is quickly dispelled. The quake leaves the Doctor swaying on the spot although he finds his balance quickly, attention still on the woman who also shifts her weight to catch her balance just as the earth stills again.
Although she doesn’t look wrong in the temporal sense, she clearly is out of place. The island itself was uninhabited, and the fishermen had made the wrong pit-stop for supplies, but she hadn’t been in the same crew, or made any move to join them on the water.
There's a satisfied look on her face when she sees the boat sail out across the water. He can see it when he squints, and he understands , because he’s felt it himself a countless number of times. And when she turns away from the water and he's able to see her unobscured, he also sees the double-sided axe strapped to her back.
Now that’s different, he thinks, feet stumbling forward on the lumpy sand and his breath catches on the smoky air.
It is an anachronism of sorts, carried forwards beyond its own time, which makes it as uncomfortable to look at in the same way popcorn gets stuck between teeth during a good bit of a film. Gritty and sharp, it belongs elsewhere , quite like his police box shaped TARDIS sitting behind the tree line.
The blade gleams under the meagre light filtering through the ash clouds to wink its secret at him.
There's only two of them left on the sand, and the Doctor keeps moving towards her, curiosity burning behind his eyes. He knows he’s caught her attention too, if only by being the sole person remaining on the shore in the shadow of a soon-to-be erupting volcano.
But then his sonic bleeps madly in his pocket with the imminent warning to leave before the fixed event takes place. By the time he fishes it out and looks up, she's gone. Either lost to the wind or having dove eel-quick into the sea to be pulled into the boat, or disappeared into the forest.
With a useless reluctance, the Doctor heads back to the TARDIS to wander on, accompanied by the lingering image of the fierce looking woman and the odd disturbance in the timeline around her.
Ten - Cochin- 1227
It's late in the day and the last of the boat builders and dock workers were wrapping up any repairs or preparation for the morning. Nets were shaken out for a final time and then folded up. Behind them, the Doctor steps quickly, brown coat melting into the shadows as he moves closer to the end of the line of market stalls and smaller pitches by the water.
It was a good city to visit. Loud, vibrant, excellent seafood dishes, what better way to pass the time while Donna visits her mum and Wilf for the weekend?
And he had been happily wandering about in holiday-mode with a pocketful of fresh rambutans, right up until he saw a familiar-looking face and felt a little bit of his stomach drop out, like when the TARDIS swerves a handful of galaxies at the speed of a hundred millennia and has him dangling off the edge of the console wishing he had sorted out seatbelts or something .
As dusk turns to twilight, he trails after the woman for a few streets before taking a bit of initiative to suddenly cut across her path. It causes her to skid to a halt and the abrupt move sends muddy water over the tops of his trainers.
Under the moonlight he can see the severe frown cutting across her furrowed brow.
"It's you!" The Doctor exclaims, feeling a rare burst of incredulity, leaning in to look at her face. "It's definitely you, I remember the axe! Krakatoa!"
His time for reminiscing is cut short when she drags him backwards into a portside alley with an unusual display of strength. Before he even realises what's happening, there's a knife pressed to his throat. "Whoa, whoa!"
He shuts his eyes, waits for a moment, and then reopens them, letting them adjust to the lack of light. She’s a carbon copy of the woman on the beach as Krakatoa erupted hundreds of years ago. The only difference was that her dark hair had been shorn to her shoulders.
That was it.
No grey hairs, no wrinkles, nothing to suggest anything to bridge the time between then and now.
The Doctor briefly entertains the possibility that this woman is a direct descendent of that woman, only he dismisses the idea as soon as it sparks. It’s not someone else. Not with her timeline rippling back further than he could see.
It makes his eyes water and his nose itch just to try and track the golden light back past the vanishing point again. A heady confusion descends when he tries to follow the lines back and makes him dizzy until she gives him a little shake that rattles his teeth.
"Explain yourself." The woman demands with a hand fisted into the front of his coat, "We don't dream of you."
If there was any lingering doubt, that had sent it packing. She was every inch as commanding as the woman who chased off the fishermen from the island.
His hand inches slowly up his coat to gently press his fingers against her wrist. "Not a Time Lord, but still…"
By then, her impatience had clearly reached the end of whatever tether she had reeled out, and the Doctor lets out a yelp when her knife slowly cuts into his skin at the base of his throat.
"Ow, owwww!" He winces, feels the blood drip onto his shirt collar and senses if he wants to keep himself mostly unscathed, it would help to start talking. "Listen, listen! I'm not from around here. And when I say here …I'm talking about a very large area."
She snorts, but remains silent. Her eyes are fixed on his neck as the blood continues to trickle down and tickle at his skin, and he takes her silence as permission to continue.
"I'm not like you. I’m not human. I travel through time.” He waits to see how it lands, but again, she doesn't waver. “I was at Krakatoa, and then I carried on travelling."
"Not human,” she repeats eventually. "You wear strange clothes and speak with an accent I haven't yet heard. But you bleed."
The Doctor tips his head sideways, tugs at her hand to press it flat against his racing pulse in his neck, going double time, and then drops it to either side of his chest. "Two hearts. Time Lord."
A look of wonder flashes across the woman's face. It burns bright and consumes her wariness for a split second, and when he sees the curiosity glinting deep in her eyes, he relaxes a fraction, because that's understandable.
"A Lord of Time." She loosens her grip on the knife, then takes a step back which allows him to breathe out. "I've not heard that title before."
"Well…" He tilts his head to the side. "I've had a lot of names over the years."
Her response is as blunt as the rest of their conversation, but he can see the hint of a smile turning up the corner of her mouth. "So have I."
"I'm the Doctor."
With that he stretches out a hand slowly, as if she hadn't already held a knife to his throat, and waits.
Slowly, she tips toward ever so slightly and then clasps at his arm in an age-old greeting that feels as much out of place as his own suit and tie. He feels the weight of her timeline press up against his, and finds that she is Earth-bound, tied to the turning planet under their feet, just as much as his is forever strung out between the stars.
"Andromache of Scythia."
Although it's too late for any dock workers to wander past, the air is still thick with the day's heat and the Doctor plucks at his collar to loosen it, until he just yanks out the tie and stuffs it into his pocket. He swipes at the trickle of blood working its way down his neck and shrugs.
She studies his half-hearted grin before backing away a little. "What does it mean, Time Lord ?"
Even with the new distance between them, she’s cautious enough to position herself to block the entrance of the alleyway. After a quick glance at her, he deems the relaxation in her stance at a great enough odds with a repeat of her lunging at him again, and so he hoists himself onto the closest barrel for a better seat.
"I travel through time. I get into trouble, get out of trouble, cause a bit of trouble." His grin returns despite himself but doesn't receive any real reaction from her. "And I help, where I can. Back then, I saw you warning those men on the beach, telling them to get into their boat."
"I've seen fire mountains, volcanos, explode. The air chokes, the land is smothered, and it's hard to survive afterwards if you manage to escape the fire. I saw their boat land on shore, for supplies , even with the smoke rising into the air. They didn’t know they needed to leave."
Although the knife remains in her hand, she slowly drops it to her side and her expression turns indecipherable. There’s a question caught between her thoughts, and he waits patiently for her to voice it.
"How old are you, Time Lord?"
It's his turn to be silent.
He looks at her, really looks. The dizzy feeling returns. Disconcerted by it, he swallows, unable to see the full extent of it from such a narrow view. But he looks, and he looks long enough to be able to see how her timeline extends back through the years in a dazzling pattern that's woven through time. For a single person, a solitary living, breathing human, it's too vast; more days than the waves of the Arabian sea he can hear knocking against boat hulls on the other side of the alley.
The Doctor blinks and finally answers, "Nine hundred of your human years. Give or take. I don't spend them all in order. Not like you do."
Andromache shakes her head slowly and then inexplicably sighs as she tucks the knife away into her belt.
At his question, she lifts her head long enough to give him a hard smile, and suddenly he wonders which one of them was looking for answers. It’s enough to make him nervous in his unknowing. He catches a glint of white when she steps a little bit closer and flashes her teeth in a mockery of a smile.
"I have walked this earth for a long time. I don’t remember how old I am.”
The Doctor's eyes widen and his feet stall against the side of the barrel. It takes him a good few moments to run through things, to try to match it up with any anomalies he knows of. She’s not even like Jack, who makes him feel like a leaden ball’s just dropped inside his stomach. Her timeline is unnaturally long in a more natural manner, not created, but still with purpose behind it.
Lacking the how, he also comes up short with the why , which is still brilliantly interesting even if it isn't helpful. He coughs to clear his throat, "You said that you didn't dream of me? What's that mean?"
"There's been others, who cannot stay dead, and we dream of each other until we meet." Andromache glances over her shoulder at the quiet harbour. "One has since past."
Although she doesn't elaborate, he sees the grief in her eyes and understands enough of secrets that are too fiercely guarded to share with strangers. "I'm sorry."
"It was some time ago. We have learned that nothing that lives, lives forever."
The Doctor nods, "It's what we do with that time, that makes it worthwhile."
She wrinkles her nose at that, and then laughs at him. "Nine hundred years, you say? You are still young."
He tries to feel affronted by it, feels a little snap of prickliness at how casually she said it. It makes him almost want to argue back. Only there’s something in the tired roll of her eyes that makes him bite his tongue. Because despite his long years and losing his home planet and finding the will to move on after the Time War, there's a big difference between stretching out an existence across the entirety of time and space and living on the slow path. It is an unending, relentless existence that offers change in some ways, but nothing of the comfort that his TARDIS provides as he leaves one place for another.
For all of his loneliness, he still has a piece of home and an escape. Even his regenerations offer him new life, change, new beginnings.
To remain unchanging against the steady tick of passing time, to feel each acute grain of those sands pass by while remaining as stuck as a rock, somehow unweathered, he almost feels those walls closing in around him just from standing in her presence.
It makes him want to turn and run.
He has to clear his throat again before he can ask, "So, how does it work?"
"My wounds heal. I don't age. I've been called a monster, a demon, an angel, a god, and everything in between."
"Do you mind if I…" The Doctor reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out his sonic screwdriver.
In a flash, Andromache draws the knife in a straight slice across her palm before holding it up. The cut is deep and her blood spills down her wrist and forearm to drip onto the alley floor.
"No, no, no, no!" In a panic, he jumps off the barrel and takes her hand into his, searching his pockets for his tie to try and staunch the bleeding.
And then the flow of blood slows. The wound begins to knit itself together until the awful split melts away into unharmed skim. He swipes at the dripping blood still covering her palm and then runs the sonic over it, frowning when it comes back with no results.
Eventually, he pockets the sonic and finds his words again. "You didn't have to do that."
"I know." Andromache wipes her arm on her trousers and leans against the side of the alley. She crosses her arms to look back at him, as though she could pick him apart with just her gaze. "I take it this isn't something you've seen in your nine hundred years?"
"No, not for a human." He admits with a frown, “And believe me, I’ve seen my fair share of the unusual and strange.”
She nods back with an easy acceptance, knowing there’s nothing more he can offer her. They stand in silence for a moment, and he feels her blood begin to dry on his palms.
“It is late. I must meet my companions-”
“What do you do?” The question flies out of his mouth, circling back from her off-handed comment. He can think of a dozen instances where someone with a unique talent had taken it and used it with unhelpful intentions, and he can’t help but ask the question. Twice, he’s come across her now, and if he left without knowing, he’d feel the guilt of it sooner or later down the line.
“We have been hired to guard a caravan of travellers. They are looking to make a new home, but the journey is long, and they are mostly families in search of a new life. They require protection we can provide.”
“Ah, I see.” He comments, and his grin returns, because he really does.
Andromache turns to walk away, but just before she rounds the corner, she looks back with a thoughtful gleam in her eye and says, "Physician, if we happen to cross paths again, I'd be interested to know if you've found any answers."
not that anyone’s asking, but if you want my small headcanon on why Andy calls him Physician even after her introduces himself as the Doctor, it’s to do with the fact that she knows all the languages and I feel like the TARDIS’ translation gets a little frazzled about what translation works best for her ;)
The Eleventh Doctor meets Andromache
hiii! to all of you!! hope you like reading this chapter
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Eleven - Constantinople - 1713
The Doctor paces around the walkway and absently presses buttons as the TARDIS hums back consoling.
There’s an immutable restlessness enveloping him, and he finds it hard to sit still in the console room now that Amy and Rory are gone. It's not the quiet in the room that bothers him. It's that their absence is so loud, so deafening, so big of a gap in his life now.
It's always the same, the way his hearts ache when his friends leave.
"Earth?" He asks aloud eventually and the lights on the panel flicker back at him. "Where? When?"
He gives up a grin to the time rotor and bounds back around to drag the screen across. Although it squeaks loudly, it only adds to the musicality of this age-old dance. He slides sliders, flips levers, and releases the brakes. Suddenly, there's a cacophony of sounds as the time rotor gets going and the scanner’s screen shows a myriad of twisting timelines spanning across Earth history.
Between the lurching, a small alarm pings off and the TARDIS wheels sideways meaning he has to cling onto the console or risk sliding right off the platform. “What is that?”
He hauls himself back to twist at a dial, feels the swing of the TARDIS correct itself, and then reaches out a hand to pull at the screen. “Oh, now that’s interesting. Who’d have thought you’d be around?”
The Doctor follows the trail through the time vortex, lands, and finds her easily enough, seated at a table inside one of the many squares within the bustling Grand Bazaar. Constantinople is a thriving city at this point in time, a heady thrum of humanity. Around him there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people hawking their wares to locals and travellers alike. Each and every one of them going about their everyday lives in that ordinary human way. It’s easy to get lost in the flow of it all.
As he skirts around a fountain spraying cool mist into the air, the Doctor straightens his bowtie and smoothes down his hair. Once he’s satisfied with his appearance, he beelines right for the seating area of an outdoor cafe. He parks himself down opposite the solitary woman who stiffens but makes no move to leave her table.
She does, however, glare at him with some confusion.
"Hello, Andromache! It must be, ooh, maybe a hundred and twenty-three years since we last saw each other? But how time flies!” His fingers twitch an excited wave at her.
The familiar frown of her face doesn’t lessen. For all intents and purposes, it looks like it's been chipped out of marble. And he knows that there’s a good many statues scattered around history that bear a striking resemblance to her, a smattering of mentions of a warrior woman with the same name or something thereabouts, but they are few and far between, and it’s not like he’s had the time to connect the dots properly between his own adventures.
But he can’t help but comment on it, “And I gather you had a whale of a time in the Renaissance! Good travel tip, from moi!"
After a few silent moments of merely staring at him as the words sink in and then she asks, "Doctor?"
Her frown fades slowly and a wry grin lifts her lips. “I saw that Galileo had a few sketches of your blue box.”
“Oh, he’s always wanted to have a sneak peek inside. Every second Thursday I drop by for tea, and he’s always coming up with some way to try and distract me for long enough.”
“I spent a good weekend in North Italy in...oh must have been 1584? Saw a brilliant masquerade. And I got taught the Canario by Cesare Negri himself-”
“Il Trombone?” Andromache’s grin falls as she snorts. “I was at the Duke of Joyeuse’s wedding, saw the first ballet.”
The Doctor pauses, frowns, and then snaps his fingers. “Wait, I’ve heard of it. Five hours long. Wasn’t it dull?”
“Not when the wine flows like the Volga.” Her eyes narrow, and her confusion returns. “You look different.”
“I do. Improvement?”
He plucks at his own cheeks, eliciting a tired smile from her and despite the years between them, she seems visibly older, no, more aged. It lies in her eyes, old eyes like his, and there's a fathomless sorrow trapped within them that he can't linger too long on, for fear of ripping open his own wounds.
After all, like recognises like.
“But underneath it all, I’m still me.” The Doctor says it brightly, like the amount of emphasis laid onto the words could make them mean exactly what he wants them to mean.
There's a rustle of fabric, quite possibly a knife being stowed away again, and then Andromache leans back in her chair to turn her full attention on him. “It’s different. But how have you changed your face, again?”
He leans in to whisper, “It’s a Time Lord thing. A trick, of sorts. It comes with a cost. It changes everything about me. But enough about me, how are you?”
"I'm changed again too.”
She takes in a deep breath, and then picks up her tea to slowly sip at it. Her eyes pass over the crowds behind him, flicking sideways as a particularly loud merchant cries out about his textiles, “The finest in all of Constantinople, you’d be mad not to look!”
He waits, and eventually she speaks again. “I have lost...someone dear to me. Someone who meant more to me than anything in existence."
Then she lets out a hollow laugh, “Everything I’ve ever done, and I couldn’t save her. I was a god once, I commanded armies. I could part legions of soldiers with my own hands...And I knelt there in chains and I heard her screaming, and there was nothing I could do.”
The Doctor reaches out a hand across the table, but hers remain tucked around her tea glass, so he taps the surface gently and pulls back. "I'm so sorry, Andromache."
“Sometimes,” her voice drops to a whisper, “I still wish for the impossible. I pray to names I have long stopped believing in.”
He almost lets the words run away from him there and then, in the corner of the square, timelines be damned, "I circle the stars. I see breathtaking wonders that come and go once in a million years. You've spent your time here on earth, seen frontiers fall under your feet, explored every inch of history as its written and rewritten before your eyes. Why not come with me, and see something new. All of time, all of space, your choice."
She might have even considered it.
But there’s another set of words that sits on the tip of his tongue too; that her timeline is weighted more heavily than anything he's ever seen before.
And he knows that if he tries to prise her from the set path she's already been on course for a millennia, it would send ripples of shock through the timelines in possibly unfathomable ways. Despite everything, Andromache of Scythia was intrinsically human at the end of it, and all the more important for it. He could no more move her than shift the Himalayas with his bare hands.
So he keeps his mouth shut, until he finds something he can say, “I’ve lost people too. I’ve ranted and raved at the universe. Tried to find the loopholes in time paradoxes. I’ve burnt up stars, and watched the gap between universes seal up, and I’ve had to let it be. Sometimes, the worst thing of all is standing still.”
“I hate it.” Andromache whispers.
“It comes with the territory, and even though I’m trying not to think of it, Amelia and Rory Pond, they might have broken my hearts.” The Doctor sighs, “We move forward, because we have to. Because we can’t go back.”
Eventually, she tilts her head up to ask, “Not even you, Time Lord? Your title implies more.”
“No, not even me. There are some things we have to learn to live with. No matter the guilt or heartbreak.” He trades her small smile for another tired one, and then claps his hands together. “Tell me, Andromache, how long have you been knocking around here for?”
“Constantinople? About five years. My family...we’ve spent a long time in the north before coming southwards. They said I needed a change of scenery. I found it harder to argue as time went on. But answer this question of mine, when did you learn Pecheneg?”
The Doctor’s mouth drops and then his smile returns, broader than before. When he leans forward, he’s gleeful at the thought of being tested. “You were switching languages, weren’t you?”
“Pecheneg, Dardani, and Azeri. You have travelled, Physician. But you speak without knowing. How is that?”
“It’s a little knack of mine, helpful trick. Saves the headache of learning grammar. Besides, what’s a past participle when you can literally pop back to last week?”
Andromache hums back, unconvinced, and finishes off her tea. “Your accent’s still off.”
"Oh, hang on."
When he freezes mid-thought, Andromache’s eyes quickly dart around her surroundings, taking in the people milling in the square behind, the other patrons in the cafe, even the windows of the buildings around them. It startles him as she shifts in her chair, suddenly tense and ready to strike as if she’s expecting an attack. It clicks to him, her corner spot at the cafe, the subdued blue of her dress, even the nondescript cut of her hair, everything about her is set to blend into the surroundings of the city.
She hides because she must.
He sees his mistake immediately and slows his movements as he pulls out a garishly bright, red fez. Then he jams it onto his head. "My accent might be off, but I've got the right hat. Like a local, right?” It squashes his hair into his face, and he struggles to bat it out of his eyes while scrunching up his nose.
Her alertness gives way to bewilderment which then dissolves into a bark of a laugh.
Once Andromache’s shoulders stop shaking, she shakes her head. “No, you’re not a local until you’ve tried Gülbahar’s baklava. Come on, I’ll show you around.”
“Great!” The Doctor stands as she does, and he leans across to confide in her while his fez slides further down his forehead. “You know, I’d get completely lost if I was left to my own devices. I haven’t been here since thirteen thousand and eighty-five!”
sometimes, 'yesterday' was a long day and all you need is to hang out with a friend and not be miserable together :)
I can't figure out how to hyperlink here, keeps changing it to a no follow link, but if you go to the Canary Dance wiki page and click through on the first reconstruction video - you can get an idea of what Eleven was doing on his Italian getaway weekend, dude's got the same energy. Also, the 5 hour ballet at the wedding was a real thing too.
Twelve - Chicago - 1933
(ft the boysss)
it took me ages to edit this for no real reason other than the fact that i had written the first line as ‘It is a very crispy October 21st in Chicago’ and i couldn’t face it again.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Twelve - Chicago - 1933
The air is crisp in Chicago on October 21st and the Doctor walks along at a leisurely pace through the crowds milling around on the Expo grounds. He’s there for a reason, of course, but it’s easy to get lost in the excitement that ebbs and flows around him, spilling over between the buildings containing the glittering highlights and vision of a century of progress and scientific achievement.
"Now there's a familiar face, Andromache of Scythia."
She stands in the shadow of a cream and red tiled building with the corner curved to mimic a rolling wave wrapped around it and greenery threatening to spill over from the rooftop garden. Alert as ever, she half-turns to face him as he makes his way across the quieter walkway she stood on.
Once more, he’s unfamiliar to her but his smile only curls up further when he sees that familiar wariness that wraps itself around her, at least for a few more moments. But he also knows her better now, and in turn, the precautions she takes. So the Doctor puts it down to a sign of the times and keeps the easy smile on his face as he approaches where she’s stood with her equally well-dressed companions, suited and booted to the nines. They pick up on her stance too, even if they haven’t turned to look in his direction yet.
It’s a razor-sharp gaze that tracks him as he goes. Yet now that she’s facing him fully, hard eyes appraising him, he looks on the brighter side of things and takes it as a chance to show off his new face.
"Marvellous celebration of achievements here. Art is a wonderful thing, to be able to create, after times of sorrows."
She tips her head in agreement, but he registers how her hands coil into fists from underneath the plain sleeves of her burgundy jacket. Her trousers are plain, black and neatly pressed, while the collar of her shirt is embroidered with neat horseshoes. It's a simple embellishment that suits her.
"I’ve come looking for you specifically, Andromache. I had some free time on my hands, I’ve been lecturing bright young minds. And one of the perks of the job is access to a number of archives and databases. Although, Professor doesn’t have the same ring to it as titles go." The Doctor waggles his eyebrows, waiting for the penny to drop.
At the mention of her name again, her three companions finally turn to face him but Andromache’s glare remains; he thinks it might be the velvet lining of his suit or lack of fez.
"It doesn't have the same ring to it, no matter the time," he repeats slowly.
There’s a minute flash of recognition in her eyes, "Doctor?"
He throws his arms up in a silent cheer, lets the Scottish burr roll out of his mouth. "The very same. Just a few more changes along the way."
Nicolo di Genova lets out a startled laugh, and Yusuf al-Kaysani relaxes enough to slump against his husband, before reaching out a hand and clapping the Doctor on the shoulder. The third man; a tall blond with a distrust around the eyes that couldn’t all have been picked up from Andromache’s lead, was seemingly a new addition to the trio.
Her confusion lingers as she takes in the Doctor’s new appearance. "You look older."
"Oh, but I'm young at heart."
Andromache snorts and just like that things click into place again, just as they do with every meeting, and she makes introductions between himself and a Sebastien le Livre, the newest of their family whom they had found in the aftermath of Napoleon’s march into Russia.
“A what? Time Lord?” Sebastien frowns, staring openly at the Doctor.
Andromache only smiles, “I’ll explain later. I think, Doctor, we have some catching up to do.”
“We do indeed.” The Doctor nods back, spinning on his heel to point towards the closest building, housing the newest automobiles in all their chrome-shined glory. “Shall we take in the sights?”
“Anything we should keep an eye out for?” Nicolo gestures vaguely at the building, “Any...unusual visitors?”
“Oh no, should be all fine and dandy.” With a wave of his hand, the Doctor gestures for them to take the lead, and so the trio do. “We’ll meet you inside!”
Their last meeting in old-colonial Boston had spanned several hours not entirely by choice, but he and Andromache had passed the time by exchanging a handful of stories. Over their history of brief run-ins, they had become more than just temporally-staggered acquaintances, until it felt more like a friendly catch up and a resumption of whatever conversation they had left off from whenever they’d next meet.
Now, as they fall back into step with each other with her boots clicking against the new pavement, he asks how things have been.
Even with the relative quietness around them, she speaks carefully, softly. With one eye on the occasional passer-by, she tells him how her team, her family have been fighting in revolutions and wars. That just in the last decade people have sighed, and mourned, wept themselves dry, and called it the war to end all wars.
"That's poetic of you." The Doctor remarks, but can't bring himself to smile. "The Great War. Yes, there's quite a few of those, I'm afraid."
She doesn't bat an eye at the grave tone of his voice, and he wonders if he were a human, maybe there'd be a chill running down his spine.
After all, she's seen it all before.
"I told you I had a reason for coming here. I’ve had some spare time on my hands and between learning how to play an electric guitar backwards and teaching Robin Hood how to swashbuckle, I've also managed to track your timeline back.”
He had spent several evenings distracting himself from marking essays by diving deep into any references of an Andromache of Scythia throughout time. He focussed on her documented linear history and the little references she had worked into their conversations, searching backwards rather than forwards, however tempting it was. It was handy that he had managed to grab a few references of her face, although those had petered out the further back he trawled.
“What does that mean?”
“It means…” The Doctor knocks his arm against hers, “I've found out how old you are."
Andromache freezes mid-step and then plants both feet on the ground. “How?”
“I’ve got more tricks up my sleeve than the ones they used to make the Zephyr dash. Ah. Will make. But the real question here is, do you want to know?"
She inhales sharply, as if she's bracing herself. "Yes."
"Your timeline...stretches back six thousand, six hundred and forty-five years. If you want to get technical about it, you were born on a Tuesday. And factoring in calendar changes and leap years, I’m eighty percent sure your birthday is the twenty-second of August." The Doctor pauses, taking in her silence and the unfathomable expression now slapped across her face.
Slowly, Andromache shakes her head, feeling the full weight of her years with this new information. "Thank you."
"Does it help, to know?"
She considers it, tipping her head back to look at the cloudy sky, "I don't know."
"Hasn't done much for me. Although I am catching up to you, I'm the grand old age of two thousand and seven."
"Really? You don't look a day over seventy." Then Andromache starts walking again back towards the building entrance at a brisk pace which threatens to leave him behind, forcing him to jog to catch up.
The Doctor harrumphs as the cool autumnal breeze tosses his grey hair. "I know a jibe when I see one. Now, how about I return the very delightful favour of introducing me to the best baklava in Constantinople, and I can tell you all about the unmissable attractions at this exposition?”
"Deal!" She sticks her hands in her jacket pockets. “Let’s go. Oh, and I saw Josephine Baker sing at the Champs-Élysées last year."
"She's got a long road ahead of her, and not just for singing." The Doctor nods thoughtfully, "And I suppose, if you're still around here in 1938, get yourself a radio in time for the end of October. There's a radio play you'll want to listen to live."
They catch up to the others inside and take a wander through the halls with all the shiny, fresh off the factory floor cars enticing young men and women down to the Expo in their droves. The rest of the morning passes in a whirlwind of revving engines, good humour, and obtuse bets, with the Doctor having to fish out his wallet more than once and calculate a reasonable exchange rate to pay up in currency that'll never be used.
Then they all make their way back outdoors to head down towards the waterfront, and in their dawdling, find a space closer towards the trees undisturbed by picnickers or playing children. Yusuf takes a look around before leaning against the side of the tree. "So, where's your box?"
"That-a-ways." The Doctor points, towards the back end of the furthest buildings. "Didn't want to have it considered as modern art. But speaking of, I should be heading off. I've got a bit of a schedule, and if I'm late, I'll only get the mick taken out of me."
Nicolo crosses his arms, "Who's going to do that?"
"Oh, young people these days." He raises his bushy eyebrows at Andromache with a view for mock-sympathy before gesturing at the rest of her family. "You know what it's like."
"Yeah, I do l. They think they're funny."
"But we are funny, boss." Yusuf pretends to complain while Sebastien's eyes flick back and forth, confusion still rife.
"But before I do go, Yusuf, do you remember last time we were talking about the Star Poet?"
"How could I forget?" Yusuf pushes off from the tree, shoes crunching fallen leaves underfoot, and the movement covers the Doctor from the sight of a couple walking arm in arm down the nearby path between the trees.
With a wry grin, his hand dips into his inside pocket and he draws out a long, wrapped scroll. "As promised, one translated Arcateenian romantic epic. It comes with a little bit of nifty technology, because I picked it up from the museum shop. Don't you just love a museum shop? Buttons and pens, and maps that have been printed new but with that old-fashioned cursive script...oh and tea towels!"
Yusuf accepts the scroll and only laughs at the long-winded nature of the Time Lord's words. "Technology?"
"Yes, it's apt, isn't it?" The Doctor remarks, looking on at the Expo behind them. "It translates the text so that it can be read in your native tongue."
"Oh. Oh?" His dark eyes widen with delight, "But how will that work?"
"Don't worry, if it works for Gallifreyan, it'll work for you. And for you, Nicolo di Genoa..."
The Doctor turns and dips his hand back into his pocket to pull out a small vial filled with deflated spheres coloured in the same vividly rich shades of plum and orange that regal sunsets. "Freeze dried berries from Arcturius 9. Best batch this millennium, but a little goes a long way. They go well with chocolate."
“I see your team still prefers modern languages, Andromache?” When she rolls her eyes, the Doctor turns to Sebastien and with a prod to his shoulder promises, “Next time."
"Yeah?" Sebastien remarks dubiously.
"I don't come empty handed when meeting friends. All you gotta do is stay on the don't-endanger-the-planet list."
"That's rich coming from a man with a velvet-lined coat flying around in a blue box." Andromache quips, resting her chin on Yusuf’s shoulder.
With a shrug, Sebastien turns to Nicolo, who only smothers a laugh behind his hand. "Someone's really got to explain this to me."
“What about Andy?” Yusuf asks between holding up the scroll to the light and trying to glimpse a peek at the words tucked inside.
Andromache grins back at him. “I’ve been given my gift already.”
The time comes for the Doctor says his farewells under the rust-orange and pale yellow leafy shade of the trees, and he exchanges his "safe travels" for "until next time" and makes his way back towards his TARDIS, leaving them to the slow path once more.
Even as he turns to look over his shoulder, there's no denying it, he can feel the marks they've left on the time-space around them. They weigh down the errant corners of history with their existence, and their oh so very human actions, like rocks on a picnic blanket.
Steeped in the flow of time, he can feel that Andromache's three companions are exactly like her; they're burning golden straight along the timeline, and isn’t that a sight to see.
The Zephyr was a train and one of the biggest crowd drawers for the Expo.
The radio play the Doctor mentions is War of the Worlds.
“One-time trip offer, Andy. In the TARDIS. Come on, you can’t say it isn’t tempting.”
Hi to everyone who's made it to this final chapter, it got away from me, especially for the ending, but hey, what's a Time Lord in a TARDIS for?
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Thirteen - Sheffield - 2020
The Doctor lands the TARDIS in Sheffield and rolls out her shoulders. Her friends file out of the TARDIS and offer their invitations for her to tag along with them, but she makes her own excuses and informs them she's already got plans, thank you very much.
Which is true, in a way.
Waving them off with strict instructions on when to be back, she’s left in the comforting quietness of the TARDIS’ console room. The Doctor breathes in the empty space of it all for a moment and then sets about rifling through the glove compartment under the console to find her old pager.
A few taps later and she sonics off a message into the ether.
To her surprise, it bleeps back just a few minutes later: Lucky I'm around. Station. 3 hours.
The Doctor locks up the TARDIS and wanders through the city to pass the time. It's an enjoyable walk that takes her through the town centre and market, and then up past the cathedral. She stops by a sandwich shop, loops back through the botanical gardens to take a look at the blooming cacti, and then heads over to the train station just in time to see the boards turn over in the main hall and direct her onto the right platform.
While her boots clomp quickly down the staircase, there’s a mass of people disembarking flooding back past in their rush for the exit. So, the Doctor hangs back to the side, letting them all pass, and slowly the platform clears. It leaves only one other woman standing there in a battered leather jacket with her backpack at her feet.
The sight of her is jarring.
Not because of the modern clothing, but because there's a squeezing of the timeline that crams itself onto the platform between them. It feels like when she had first caught sight of Andromache, at the foot of Krakatoa; a pinch in the fabric of spacetime that twists differently to everything else around it, left instead of right, up instead of down, while still being perfectly impossible, all in the right place.
Doing her best to breathe past it, the Doctor waves to greet her old friend. "Andromache of Scythia."
"I go by Andy these days." Andromache takes off her sunglasses as the Doctor walks over, then tips her head sideways and takes in the Time Lord's new appearance. "New face, again."
The Time Lord gives a spin, letting her blue coat flare out around her knees. "What do you think?"
"I like the hair." Andy gives an approving nod as she shoulders her backpack. "I've got a few hours before my train back, but what brings you to Sheffield?"
"Oh, it's a weekend stopover for my lot. They're all from around here, so it makes drop-offs easy. Where did you train it up from?"
The curiosity in her face makes Andy grin. "Suburb outside of London. Surrey. Things are changing, for us, for the world. Everything seems to move quicker nowadays, don’t you think?"
It's less of a gripe than she means it to be, even if her lips twist when she says it, and the Doctor knocks her elbow against hers. "And some things remain the same. Like you."
But when Andy turns to look at her, she can see the human bite her tongue. “Not exactly. And I’ve not come here looking for answers from you. It doesn’t work like that, does it? But something has changed...and I'm not healing anymore. However it works, it’s stopped for me. At some point, I'm going to die."
“Oh.” The Doctor drags the sound out.
It clicks into place now, the difference of the weight in the timeline around her had shifted. The hold had loosened, in a way, so far as she could figure it out. Which was still an effort and a half with the sheer timey-wimeyness that still threatened to bring about a monster of a headache if she looked at Andy for too long.
And if Andy's hesitation in telling her was a ripple on the ocean of her overall acceptance and understanding of her almost-immortal situation, it only hints to the deep currents underneath.
"That old chestnut. It's different, isn't it?" The Doctor clicks her tongue sympathetically. "Hard to get your head around?"
"You can say that again. But what do you know of if, Time Lord? You only change your face."
The Doctor tugs at Andy's hand and pulls her down to sit on the bench by the stairs before she starts speaking. "Not quite. I've done a few miles in those mortal shoes. I even pulled off a nifty trick once, turned myself human and got so, so close to dying."
Shaking her head, the Time Lord looking down at her hands. "For so many people, counting time is an exercise. You wake up, you have your hours, you do things, and then the day is over. You sleep. You wake up again, and it starts all over."
There’s not much equivalence between the two of them, Andy’s lived on the slow path for eons, the Doctor’s flown here and there and everywhere in between. But Andy stares at her, watches as she leans forward and tucks her hands close together over her own. She gives a little squeeze as she listens closely.
"With every day you know time's passing. You’ve seen it happen. Each breath, every tick of the clock, sunrise, sunset, all that time is going somewhere. It pushes people forward, onwards. It wears away mountains, boils up seas, makes people late for work. And I know you know that."
The Doctor’s lip curls up into a crooked smile, quite similar to her previous face, but there’s no hint of the heavy Scottish accent. Instead, she sounds more settled, accent matching her surroundings in a way that hadn’t previously. There’s an optimistic contentedness in her slouch that Andy unconsciously finds herself mirroring too.
"You inch forward a bit. A day, a week, a month, it all adds up. I'm a Time Lord. I, of all people, know something about what's gone on. I can taste it, it makes my scalp itch." The Doctor steadfastly ignores the dubious look she’s thrown, and continues on, "Andy, the very nature of time itself, that vast unstoppable, unimpedable force, is something that you've been a part of, for such a long time. It's hard letting go of it, the idea that it belonged to you, and you to it."
After a moment, Andy nods half in agreement, and half for the sake of it, like she already knows but her heart's taking a little longer to catch up to the realisation of things she won't be around to see or experience.
“People, is what it comes down to. We keep each other going, Andy. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that.”
It baffles the Doctor when Andy shuts her eyes tight and huffs out a laugh, pulled back out of her thoughts.
“I’ve heard something along those lines recently.”
“Oh, what the hell,” Andy mutters under her breath. “It’s not like I can have these chats with anyone else.”
After collecting her thoughts and running her hands through her hair, Andy leans back against the cold metal of the bench and explains a recent late night run in with a Parisian woman working in a pharmacy who helped patch her back up in more than one way, without pressing for answers or forcing her to explain the shattered truth she could clearly see in her eyes.
Beside her, the Doctor listens.
A smile slowly creeps up on the Time Lord’s face, looking on at how this woman had spent her years walking across the world, and somehow made all four corners of it her home.
It was dead easy for the Doctor to touchdown in the middle of disaster and claim the title defender of Earth, but she was suddenly acutely aware she was sitting across someone who had put in the long slog of it and all the consequences it brought, how it could break a heart to love something for an inordinate amount of time and suddenly realise you have to let go.
“Wise words.” She nods after Andy finishes, sitting a little more comfortably on the bench now that she had shared her story, and unburdened herself. “I guess, in the end we just have to trust it’ll work out in time, hold onto that little hope.”
“I have more news for you, Doc. There’s a new immortal with us, her name is Nile. Brand new, and she’s already been through a lot. We’re helping her find her feet...I think you’d like her.”
The Doctor kicks her legs out in excitement, and she cracks another grin that Andy can’t help but return. “Come on, I’ve found a decent sandwich place. I wouldn’t mind going back for seconds if you’re up for it? We can have a proper good catch up.”
The Doctor turns a thought over in her head while they walk back down to the train station.
It’s one that’s floated its way over to her before.
One that she’s had to throw out entirely in the past. But now that things are the way they are, it’s made a comeback. Even as Andy lists off her top ten concerts over the past century, she’s only half listening, and almost trips over the curb to land flat on the tram lines. Luckily, Andy’s strong grip around her arm keeps the Doctor from landing ungraciously on her face and they make their way down the rest of the hill without another incident.
“Sorry! Listen, I’ve got an idea...and I think you might like it.”
Cars zip past as they stand at the traffic crossing and wait for the lights to turn. Andy looks over the road at the train station's automatic doors sliding open as people filter through and waves a hand. “I can’t be late for my train. I know it doesn’t make much difference for you, space hopping about, but we’re flying out in the morning for a job.”
“But I’ll keep it short. Promise.” The Doctor drags her finger in the shape of a cross over both coat lapels and pulls her away from the green man flashing on crossing. “One-time trip offer, Andy. In the TARDIS. Come on, you can’t say it isn’t tempting.”
She gets a look of pure disbelief from the woman in return.
“You’ve never mentioned this before?”
“Well, you’re not earth-bound in the same way now. Don’t get me wrong, you’re a fixed event spliced straight across human history, and so deeply embedded into the timelines in ways I can’t begin to figure out.”
The Doctor flings her hand out to make the point clear. And then she shrugs with a little gleam returning to her eyes. “But, things have changed. I wouldn’t offer if it weren’t possible.”
“One trip. You’ll be back in time to catch the train in-”
Andy drags the toe of her boot across the pavement, thinking it over. Then she answers, “Twenty minutes.”
“Twenty minutes.” The Doctor says earnestly, “All the time in the world!”
“Twenty minutes, huh?” Andy taps at her watch and then tilts it so the Doctor can see the face and the hands which have moved a lot further than that.
“Come on, as if you could rush this?”
It’s a fair point, and her eyes follow the flick of the Doctor’s hand, gesturing out to the Earth suspended in the inky blackness of space beneath them. The TARDIS had been set in a loose anticlockwise orbit so that they’d get to see the rotation.
Andy takes a sip of her vodka then hands the bottle back. “Probably not.” She acquiesces after a long moment, still feeling breathless at the sight.
“Is it anything like you’ve imagined?” The Doctor nudges her, crossing her feet at the foot of the ramp.
There had been a few moments of hanging onto the railing by the door until Andy had felt secure in the Time Lord’s assurances that the TARDIS wouldn’t suddenly spin or fling them out into the vacuum of space. She had spent a minute just staring out at the sight before finally sinking down to the floor and let her feet dangle out of the open doorway.
“It’s...more. Way more.”
The Doctor takes a swig out of the bottle and winces at the taste. “This is too old.”
“Speak for yourself. I’ve got bottles older in a basement near Volgograd from when it was a fortress.”
“Yeah… don’t think you should try drinking any of them!”
“Probably not.” Andy manages to tear her eyes away from the Earth to flash a toothy grin, but it doesn’t take her long to turn back. “Sometimes I feel so goddam old, but this is humbling. Not because I never thought I’d see anything like it, but because it’s beautiful.”
“Another twenty minutes?” The Doctor asks, passing the bottle back to her.
Andy nods, “Yeah, another twenty minutes.”
Time flies as it does.
Eventually, Andy rolls back up to her feet with some show of reluctance and the Doctor follows, shutting the doors. They walk back up the ramp and then the Time Lord begins jogging around the console getting the machine prepared to take off. The haphazard movements give Andy good cause to step out of her way, and she concentrates on tucking both the backpack straps over her shoulders so as not to have to reach for it when the TARDIS was inevitably flown sideways or backwards.
Even though the Doctor moves around the machine with a well-honed precision, she still asks, “Is the trip back going to be as bumpy as it was to get here?”
“Are you knocking my driving skills?”
“I think you’re going to knock an asteroid...or something.”
The Doctor sticks her tongue out in response while cranking a winch around and around. The lights flicker for a second and then the time rotor lights up. But instead of starting up the time rotor fully, her hands hover over the console.
“Listen, Andy. I’ve had another thought. A brilliant thought. You’re going to love this-”
Andy shakes her head. “As amazing as this has been, I really do need to go. My family are waiting for me.”
“I know, yes. You’re right. I did say, twenty minutes and you’d be back in time to catch your train.” The Doctor nods gravely, stuffing the errant idea back into a tiny box in her mind and forces her hands to resume their work across the console.
And then she crumbles again like a well-dunked biscuit.
“But what’s the harm, eh? It’s more like a minor hop than a detour. You’ll still be back in time for your train. I did promise.” Her movements become more stilted, and she comes to a halt on the opposite side of the console, leans out and says, “I mean...time travel, with a Time Lord. If not now, when?”
A brief flurry of reluctance crosses Andy’s face. It crunches up her brows and her wariness is clear. Silently, the Doctor waits for her reply, knowing that if Andy agrees, they’ll go.
And if Andy doesn’t, then she’d be flying them back to Sheffield, and that’d be that.
But Andy thinks it over.
She blinks slowly, then nods.
The promise of time travel is too much to walk away from. In a lifetime spanning six millennia, she couldn't have had more than a handful of regrets, all the time in the world to do anything she wanted, but turning down a real jaunt in the TARDIS would have almost certainly be on top of her list if she had decided on going back now.
The Doctor grins back in relief. “You won't regret it. Here we go, hold on tight!"
The TARDIS lands with a thump that jars Andy's knees and travels straight up her spine in an uncomfortable way. She clicks her jaw shut and waits for the vibrations along her bones to still before asking, "Are you even qualified to drive this thing?"
"Do you mean technically? Or legally? Or officially? Or temporally?"
Still arm-deep in the tangle of wires and motherboards strewn across the console, the Doctor continues working. She leans up against something with a stethoscope jammed into her ears as she twiddles a dial slowly. Her tongue pokes out from the side of her mouth while she listens in concentration.
"Never mind." Andy shucks off her backpack and heads to the doors, hand on the handle to pull it open and step out. "So, where are we?"
The Doctor sprints past, coat flying out behind her in a blur of garbled warnings. "Hang on! Hang on!" She slams her hands on the doors to keep them firmly shut before turning around, putting herself between the wood and Andy, who's taken aback by the rashness.
"What is it?" She stares back at the wholly serious expression on the Time Lord's face that she’s not seen since she caught a passing glimpse on Krakatoa.
"So, before these can open, I need to tell you something that's a massively important condition of coming here. Which is, we need to stay inside the TARDIS."
The disbelief on Andy's face is stark and her blue eyes turn flinty. "You brought me wherever here is... to stand in the doorway of your box?"
"I need you to promise. It's important."
Andy levels a stare at her, rolls her eyes, and then simply sighs. "Fine. I promise."
"I mean it. You can’t wander off here in case, well, you could literally run into yourself.”
The stillness in the air dissolves and the Doctor loosens up her hands plastered across the doors. When she steps sideways, Andy tips her head closer to the doors as a new sound arises from beyond the seemingly normal wooden barrier that had separated them from the vacuum of space, and now from their new surroundings. It’s a familiar sound but she can't name it. Instead she presses her ear right up against the door and makes it out to be a rumbling noise that seems to be getting louder.
“With a timeline as long as yours, we probably wouldn’t even get Reapers. The planet might just, I dunno, explode.” The Doctor chuckles nervously at her as she walks back up the ramp and taps at the screen. “No! Ignore me, it’ll be fine. Just... stand here and watch. Any moment now.”
Still pressed up against the door, Andy shuts her eyes, and tries to pin down the approaching noise, a thumping, thrumming that suddenly makes her jerk back in surprise as she finally does recognise it.
At the same time, an alarm bleeps out from the console, and the Doctor sprints back down to her and yanks the doors open.
Daylight streams into the TARDIS, and even though a logical part of Andy’s mind is expecting to see something else than the sight of the Earth suspended in the blackness of space, she's still not prepared for what has replaced it. Looking out on the vast expanse of the plains stretching out before her, her knees feel weak as she finally sees what's making the rumbling noise as a small pack of horses race across grass with their thundering hooves carrying them at breakneck speed.
Her lips part and her eyes widen in surprise, and she leans out of the doorway to watch them as they ride past.
"My mother is in the middle, my sisters, there and there. I-" She raises a trembling hand to point at the faces that had faded out of her memories over time, no matter how hard she had tried to hold on to them.
Those same scattered memories rush back in a flood and all the lost fragments swirling around her head. It’s not everything, but it’s more than she’s had in living memory, even as she tried to capture the sight before her in her mind’s eye.
"Didn't know you'd ever see them again?" The Doctor rests her hand on her shoulder as tears begin to fall.
Andy tips her head sideways and lets out a watery chuckle.
She’s silent for a long time, merely watching as they ride off across the plains. It's a fleeting moment in a lifetime of fleeting moments, but even then, it takes her breath away. Eventually she gathers her composure again, wiping at her face while she looks on at the empty landscape.
"You brought me back home."
The Doctor leans back against the railing and knocks her boot against the door. It swings shut with a creak, and then she moves closer to sling her arm over Andy's shoulder as they walk back up to the console.
"One of them.” The Doctor pulls a level and the sound of metal clanking and gears grinding starts up from under their feet. "Come on, Andromache of Scythia, you've got a train to catch, and your family are waiting for you."
Hope you liked reading!