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‘What d’you mean?’

‘Louis is a big fan of the ladies. He had fourteen mistresses. One glimpse of Mademoiselle Pond and he’ll turn the "Ooh la la" right up to eleven.  I’ll have to stay for a bit of a chinwag and a pain au chocolat – can’t just grab the phone and run – but there won’t be any hanging about.’

‘Look, if you really don’t want to see the guy can’t you just zero right in on the phone? Dodge him completely?’

‘Well, I could but it doesn’t feel right, somehow, taking it without him knowing – even though its mine. Or, for that matter, saying, ‘Can’t stop, got a planet to save!’ Louis might be high up on the TARDIS’s Bore-O-Meter – check it out, it’s by the ketchup dispenser. Henry VII’s No. 1 – but he treated me with nothing but kindness. He doesn’t deserve that. Need to say hi.’ The Doctor clicked his fingers and pointed at the console phone. ‘And if there’s any trouble I’ll be in touch.’  

The engines thumped into silence as the TARDIS landed.

‘Well,’ Amy purred, ‘it’s a pity I don’t get to tease the big fellah. I'd have liked to see him try his moves on me. Not many of us can put that on our CVs…’

25 minutes later

The TARDIS burst open. Amy looked up to see the Doctor being helped inside by two young men in gold and scarlet livery, his body limp, head hanging low. She threw her paperback on to her seat and raced down from the dais. ‘What is it? What’s happened?’

The men didn’t hear her. They were wide eyed, stunned. Amy knew that reaction – the TARDIS effect. She waved. ‘Hi there..? Is he OK?’ The men turned to her. As one made to speak the Doctor raised his head, clearly awakening. ‘Ah, Pond!’ he said, his face lighting up. ‘Good to see you; amazingly good!’

His words fell into and against each other. ‘Back home!’ he went on, with a flourish. ‘Back with Pond. Parvellous Mond!’ He paused and then spoke more deliberately. ‘Marvellous – Pond.’

‘Right, OK, you’re hammered… Well, thank God that’s all it is...’  You, mister, she thought, are in trouble tomorrow.  

Pitching suddenly, the Doctor righted himself, his head weaving. ‘Yes! Damn that Bouis Lourbon, making me all blurry wurry..! … Louis Bourbon, I mean… Need my bed… So! So cheers, fellas! Thanks! Thanks for everything! And you, Pond, thanks for being you! So, so grateful!’

‘Yeah, guys, nice one,’ Amy said, shutting the door. She began to lead the way across the floor. ‘Follow me. Thanks again for – ’

‘Anyway, so, mission accom – com…Sorted!’ The Doctor patted his right hand jacket pocket. ‘Got the phone. It’s been got. And now onwards and upwards! – and sideways, probably. To binfinity and eyond…Beyond!’

‘OK, cool. Let’s get you upstairs.’

They moved towards the console stairs but as he reached for the banister rail the Doctor’s arm fell short. He stopped, studying the staircase closely, pointing. ‘No, steps… Not ready for you yet. But you won’t beat me. Nah, you won’t.’ Throwing back his head, he said, ‘Stairs! Fear me! I’m a Lime Tord from the pla – ’ The Doctor wobbled but his escorts held him firm.

‘Easy now,’ Amy said, ‘and we need to get you a pint of water and a couple of aspirins.’

He hiccupped. ‘And a lamb bekab.’

8.4 hours (and a lamb kebab) later

‘Morning, Amy.’

She looked up from the scanner screen. The Doctor – sallow, his voice scratchy and hair sticking out, his quiff collapsed – was walking, very stiffly, down from the upper reaches of the TARDIS.

Amy switched off the inter-galactic news feed and swallowed the last of her toast. This, she thought, is going to be fun. ‘Morning. Well, look what the Space/Time vortex dragged in! So, what went on last night? You’ve always said – categorically – smugly – that you don’t drink.’

‘Very funny,’ he replied, laughing in spite of himself. ‘And, FYI, I don’t. Well, me doesn’t drink. My other selves sometimes used to – I mean, I once spent a night on the tiles in New York with Jack London that led to us being banned from the place for life.’ He reached the console. ‘But it’s not for me. Tastes revolting; turns your tongue all rubbery band-y. And convinces your legs they can walk properly when they can’t.’

‘Tell that to your hair,’ Amy said. ‘We’ll have to start calling you the booze lord.’

‘Ha ha!’ The Doctor took out his sonic screwdriver, aiming it at his head. As Amy heard it buzz, his hair started to move, straightening, the fringe inching up into its normal quiff.

‘Nearly there..?’

‘Yeah, done. That’s really cool. I didn’t know the sonic could do that.’

‘Much like her owner she’s programmed to save the universe in style,’ he said, turning off the device and slipping it into his pocket. ‘One problem solved, then. The supernova in my frontal lobes, however, will take longer to deal with.’

‘So why are you so ruined if you say you weren’t drinking? Having said that, I couldn’t smell any on you, which I did think was odd...’

‘I only remember a couple of things till about ten minutes ago… Louis didn’t make a fuss about the phone. I thought he might want to keep it in case he thought the Daleks might come back and needed me. But I’d forgotten that as far as he’s concerned the ones he met were the only ones.’ The Doctor paused. ‘He doesn’t know what we know. Anyway, he offered me a drink. I told him I didn’t so he gave me this strawberry cordial and then my legs went on their holidays. Turns out that strawberries have the same effect on me as alcohol does on you lot – like immediately – and that punnet knocked me for six… Could probably knock up something in the lab to reverse the reaction if I was ever in a situation where I really, really had to drink – have to think about that one...’ He shut his eyes, wincing again. ‘Blimey… Blimey..! If it weren’t such a massive and appalling waste of regeneration energy I’d give myself a new head…’

‘Alright, no more teasing,’ Amy said.

‘Thanks.’

‘I can’t believe you’ve never had a strawberry before – given how long you’ve been around.’

‘I have – all the other versions of me were fine with them,’ the Doctor replied, opening his eyes. ‘Sometimes the ‘different bodies, different rules’ rule applies even to me.’

‘I’d have thought Louis would have offered you a bed for the night when he saw the state you were in. He had a couple of his guys escort you back.’

‘Oh yes… I remember now, he did, didn’t he? And I remember he did say I could crash at his, but I suddenly felt… I don’t know… Vulnerable. Being so out of control, I s’pose. Really needed to get home.’ The Doctor grimaced suddenly and yawned. ‘And I think I need more sleep… And then – I promise – Space Florida, here we come.’

‘Cool, whatever.’ Given the hold-ups, Amy had a feeling that this was going to be one of those situations where they didn’t arrive where promised. But, truthfully, she really didn’t mind. Those trips were always much more exciting. ‘I was looking it up while you were out,’ she went on. ‘Sounds amazing. We really should check out their oxygen sealed under water roller-coster.’

‘Yeah, absolutely. So, I’m off for forty winks…’ The Doctor started slowly back up the stairs.

‘OK. So, should I give you a shout or – Oh my God, what is that?’ Something was appearing by the doors, a shifting white shadow. Points of light bobbed around it and a hum rose up, as though a fingertip traced the rim of a crystal glass.

The Doctor turned. ‘Well,’ he said, bounding back to the console, ‘now, that sound is certainly familiar. If he’s who I think he is he’s called the White Guardian.’

His voice had suddenly smoothed out, Amy could hear. It was faster, running as wild as usual. Weirdly, his skin was starting to bloom. The prospect of adventure, she realized, had burned off the hangover. ‘Wow. Was not expecting that…’

‘You know him?’

‘What? Er, no…’

The hum faded and the lights about the shadow blinked away as it solidified, sharpened. An old man appeared. He was washed in a silvery haze, dressed in white robes and a skull cap both stitched and hemmed with pearls. Amy studied him. There was iron certainty in his gaze, a rich, ultimate confidence, the sense that he could do anything. It was a little unnerving, such power and will.

The old man began to walk towards them.

‘What is he? Guardian of what?’

‘Well, he, you see, is not a he,’ the Doctor said. ‘He’ is only the shape that one half of the forces of cosmic balance – the good half, the one who’d see old ladies across the road – use when they need help. There’s an opposite number who’s behind all sorts of goings-on going off, that’ll be why this one’s here. Oh, this is seriously awesome! Hmm…His costume’s a bit different to last time…’

‘So what went on back then?’

‘An inter-galactic conspiracy. Biggest ever. Massive, brain boggling stuff, timey wimey x 10. Could’ve done with an extra brain and Stephens Fry and Hawking to help me work it all out: Temporal parabolas snapped, the causal nexus ruptured, the shattering of History’s every moment! And, an accident with a deck chair, and even more dashing around than I’m used to.’

Amy grinned. ‘Bring it on.’

‘My friend,’ the White Guardian said slowly, stopping just short of the console stairs. ‘Creation, once more, is in need of you.’

‘Wa-heyyy! Indeed, Pond, bring it on!’ the Doctor said. He clapped his hands together. ‘Let’s ’ave it!’ He twirled to the edge of the dais, plucking Amy after him. ‘Bonjour! Wilkommen, bien-ven-ue! So, Guardian, what can Team TARDIS do for you..?’

written by
JACK LAWRENCE
copyright 2015
 
artwork by
COLIN JOHN
copyright 2015
 
         

artwork by ANDY LAMBERT
used with permission
 
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