The Doctor and The Doctor
by Kaija Gallucci
“We can’t do this.”
“I needed to.”
“Is this the first time?”
“No. The first time for you, as far as you know.”
The man in the pinstripe suit pushed his glasses up to his face. He tried looking out the window but silver streaking rain obscured the view. That’s why he’d been reading the newspaper, why he put on the spectacles he wore begrudgingly to do so, because there’d been nothing else to see.
The café was empty but for the two of them and a single girl behind a counter. The computer mouse idly clicked every minute or so from where she was stationed at the cash register. She gave them no mind.
“How do I know it’s you?”
“That is to say, you?”
The face behind the glasses twisted a bit, annoyed.
“Yes, so you say.”
The other man bit his lip as if afraid to speak. He picked up his teacup and sipped, though the contents were no longer hot. The back of his hand pressed against his mouth. A kiss of moisture appeared there.
I’ve done this before. It should be easier.
It wasn’t. He didn’t care.
He leaned over the small table between them, standing a little, letting his tall frame close the gap with ease. The man with the glasses went rigid, but didn’t shrink back. His hair smelled of the rain. A single word was whispered to him. It was a name, his own. They shared it, this secret name, the name that came before the one they’d chose to wield like sword and shield throughout space and time.
The man with the glasses said nothing. His hand covered his mouth. His face was flushed scarlet.
“You’ve done that each time,” said the other man without meaning to.
He did the gesture to mirror him. He smiled behind his palm.
The man with the glasses dropped his arm and looked away. His lenses were foggy from the dampness in the room.
“Drink your tea. It will warm you.”
He took two gulps and finished it. The cup clattered loudly as he slammed it back into the saucer. The girl at the counter cleared her throat. He uttered an apology, his face getting redder.
He shut his eyes.
“Doctor,” he said, testing it.
“Yes, Doctor,” said the other.
The confirmation made his teeth grit.
“Why are you here?”
“To see you.”
The Doctor with his eyes closed shuddered.
Had he been this frightened before? thought the other.
“How far back am I?” he asked out loud. “Where’s Rose?”
The face of the Doctor with the glasses twisted. The other Doctor didn’t need an answer, but was given one anyway.
“Gone,” he said and pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. “I’ve been wandering. This seemed as good a time and place as any of the others.”
“I remember, now. The TARDIS is two blocks away, beside a butcher shop with a smiling pig’s face for a mascot. I stared at that for a while, trying to figure out how anyone could justify the smiling.”
“Oh, god,” whispered the Doctor.
The other Doctor adjusted his bowtie, staring at his younger self with abandon since he still held his face in his hands. He had a standard necktie tucked into his jacket. The pinstripe suit was under a trench coat. Under the table were the bright red sneakers of which The Doctor had been so fond.
When he looked up, he found the Doctor glaring at him from behind his glasses.
“There was a little girl,” blurted the Doctor with the bowtie. “I told her I’d come back for her. I haven’t, though. I mean, I’m going to, but, you know, I don’t know if I can.”
“Don’t tell me any more.”
“Any more of anything?”
The Doctor in the bowtie waited. He whistled, then drummed his fingers on the table, then counted the number of chairs in the room. The total was sixteen.
“I’m only one regeneration away from you,” the bowtied Doctor announced. “I’m what comes next.”
“Are you mad?” hissed the Doctor in glasses. It was clear he wanted to shout, but wouldn’t. He had even pushed his teacup away to keep from jostling it again and offending the counter girl. “Don’t tell me that. Don’t tell me anything. You’re breaking all the rules.”
“But I’ve already told you. I’ve told you five times. Or was it four? I can’t remember. I keep going back to before I’ve told you. I couldn’t tell you why. It’s better, I guess. You’d didn’t remember it the first time, as you should have, since I would go back and tell you now. And maybe before now. But you didn’t know then. I don’t remember it happening to me, but by now, I should have.”
The Doctor with the glasses plunged his fingers into his hair. He held his head again and stared at the table.
“It’s not like we’ve never met ourselves before.”
“Never on purpose,” said the Doctor with the glasses.
The other Doctor pressed his mouth into a line.
“There are no rules,” he said. “Not for us. They’d only get in the way.”
He crossed his arms and slouched back into his chair.
“I will be the you that you will become. This is the face that will become yours when you… pass on. You will eventually take our time-bending, space-traveling Police Box and see yourself sitting in a café. You’ll be waiting, actually, for yourself. You will watch yourself come in and order a cup of tea, then sit with the paper. You will wonder if you should do it again, to speak with yourself, because it is wrong, and do it anyway.”
The Doctor with the glasses looked at him again. His brown eyes looked out from a face that seemed older than the one his older self would wear. The regeneration was strange like that. His other self was frightened.
“I did it because I was lonely.”
“Lonely? When you can go anywhere, at any time, and find anyone to talk to? Instead, you chose to go back in time and speak to yourself, breaking vows, and promises, and simple common sense in the process? I suppose that is rather lonely.”
It was cruel, but the Doctor with the bowtie thought it was only fair. Being here was cruel, too.
“I didn’t want to see just anyone.”
“Well, apparently so. I can’t believe the TARDIS let you cross your own timeline. The power needed is tremendous. How’d you do it? No wait, don’t tell me. You’re not going to tell me something crucial, are you? You’d better not.”
The Doctor with the bowtie shook his head. He’d said too much, too quickly, and now the Doctor with the glasses was angry with him.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly. He sipped his cold tea to keep from tasting tears at the back of his throat.
“Why me?” asked the other. He voice had softened. “Why the me now? Why not other ‘us’es.”
“Because you’re lonely, too.”
The Doctor with the bowtie hesitated, then took the hands of the other Doctor and held them. The Doctor with the glasses closed his cold fingers instinctively around those of his self yet to come, then stiffened and pulled away.
“We shouldn’t. That just makes it worse.”
The Doctor with the bowtie stood again, leaned, and pressed both hands against the chest of the Doctor with the glasses. His other self gasped. The rise of his chest with air felt like touching a small miracle.
“Two hearts,” he said to Doctor in glasses. “Two engines moving you. Two chambers to fill with blood and love.”
The Doctor in the bowtie towered over him. His warm hands pressed hard against his ribcage. The Doctor in glasses stood up and the other Doctor let him. He didn’t move his hands, though.
Reaching, the Doctor in glasses touched the Doctor in the bowtie. He started there, the bowtie, as if touching the fabric was easier. Then he let three fingers find the heartbeats of his other self. They pulsed ecstatically.
Then he pushed away the other Doctor’s hands.
“I’ve botched it,” said the Doctor with the bowtie. He rubbed the back of his head as if embarrassed. “I should go.”
He went back to the table where he’d been sitting before joining himself. A fez of red velvet was there. He put it on, throwing his head back to make sure the tassel would fall away from his eyes.
“I’m sorry about this,” he said to the Doctor in the glasses, who now was simply standing with his arms at his sides. “I’d tell you to act surprised when I come back, but you will be, because I will go back to before right now. I might get it right this time.”
The Doctor in the glasses watched the Doctor in the bowtie and fez tuck his chair in, then tip the girl at the counter with a five-pound note and what appeared to be a handful of red jelly babies.
“Well, goodbye, then,” he said. He paused, reached over and readjusted the necktie of his younger self. It had gone askew. Then he tilted his fez in his direction. “Cool, isn’t it?” he said, then ducked out the door.
Through the windows, the Doctor in the glasses watched the Doctor in the bowtie pull up the collar of his jacket against the rain and step off into the street. He disappeared between the sheets of raindrops. The Doctor with the glasses stepped toward the door when the girl behind the counter spoke, jarring him.
“You know that fellow?” she asked.
She was chewing on one of the jelly babies, her jaw working like that of a cow.
The Doctor found his fist pressing between his hearts. They raced as fast as those he’d just touched.
“I suppose I knew him. Or will,” he said.
“Right,” said the girl, rolling her eyes. She then resumed clicking.
The Doctor fished a ten-pound note out of his pockets and slapped it on the counter. He scooped up one of the jelly babies and tossed it in his mouth.
“Now we’re even,” he said, smiling.
He made his way through the rain back to the TARDIS. He paused outside the butcher shop and stared at the cartoon pig’s face grinning, totters pointing at the words “Best Bits You’ll Ever Buy!”
“Is a bit strange, isn’t it?” he said to no one.
He tipped an invisible hat to the glass. Then he took out his keys, unlocked the blue box, and shut himself inside.