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he silence in the TARDIS control room was suffocating. The Doctor was once again alone with his thoughts. His latest companion was spending some much deserved time back home. Whenever he was lonely, the Doctor's thoughts inevitably turned to River.

He had only recently taken her to see the Singing Towers of Darillium, given her the sonic screwdriver just like she had said and kissed her goodbye. But he knew it would not be the last time he saw her, for there was still one more loose end to tie up: he had yet to tell her his name. He could not be sure exactly when in her timeline this was supposed to happen, but he knew the day was fast approaching for him. Ever since Amy and Rory's final encounter with the Weeping Angels, he had been careful about divulging too much information to River, so he was not looking forward to revealing his greatest secret.

He decided it was time to accept his destiny and set the coordinates for the Stormcage Containment Facility. The TARDIS materialized at the end of a long cellblock. The Doctor emerged and walked stealthily until he came to River's cell. He found her scribbling furiously in her diary.

'Hello, sweetie!' the Doctor said cheerfully. River jumped up in surprise.

'Oh, you scared me half to death!' she said breathlessly. She looked at the Doctor in a way that made him feel uneasy.

'I see you're updating your diary,' he said.

'Yes,' she replied. 'Spoilers, of course.'

'Of course,' he repeated. Normally, he did not enquire further. But given that he knew the inevitable was coming he felt he needed a push in the right direction. 'Visit any planets recently?'

'Why do you want to know?' she asked.

'Well, it's just that I don't like the idea of you being stuck in your cell all day with nothing to do. I know it's part of our agreement but I think getting out every now and then is what makes life worth living for you.'

'It does indeed. But you shouldn't worry about me, dear. You just go off and have your own adventures.'

'Can't you give me one tiny hint about what you've been up to?'

She became cross. 'Listen,' she said testily. 'You know I can't tell you anything about your own future. That's how it's been between us since… well, whenever we first meet, I suppose.'

'That's in your future.'

'Right,’ she said with a sigh. 'It's not like I want to keep secrets from you. I mean, the minute I got back from Trenza-' She clapped a hand over her mouth.

'Trenzalore?' the Doctor said. River was silent. He nodded. 'I see. Well, I suppose I should be on my way, then.'

'You're sure you don't want to stay just a little bit longer?' she asked hesitantly.

'No, you know me. I have places to go and… people to see." He turned and headed back towards the TARDIS.

'Yes,' River said wistfully. 'I know.'

Trenzalore. The name had haunted the Doctor ever since Dorium had told him of the prophecy: "On the fields of Trenzalore at the fall of the Eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked—one that must never be answered. And Silence must fall when the question is asked." And now he knew for sure that River had been there. If he were interpreting the prophecy correctly, it meant the Silence would no longer be a threat. But it also meant the end of his current incarnation. While he had lived in this body for hundreds of years, he was not entirely sure he was ready to give it up. Regeneration had always been a gamble for him and he could not assume that he would prefer the new body to the old one.

The most confusing aspect of the prophecy was that the Doctor could not shake the feeling that he had heard the name Trenzalore somewhere before. Sometimes, if he closed his eyes and concentrated hard enough, he saw flashes of what appeared to be a grassy field with figures dotted throughout the landscape. He tried to make out what they looked like, but it was as if his memory was being blocked. With only these blurry visions to go on, the Doctor could not rule out the possibility that he had visited Trenzalore at some point in his past.

His ruminations were interrupted by a distress signal on the TARDIS monitor. He checked the coordinates and found it was coming from England in the early 21st century.

'What else is new?' he muttered. He landed the TARDIS and stepped outside. It was a clear night, which meant he had no trouble seeing the building he had landed next to: the old UNIT headquarters. It was boarded up and looked ready for demolition but there was no doubt. He was standing right in front of the laboratory where he and Jo had worked endless hours trying to defeat the Master's plans. He turned his head to the right and saw the garage where he had kept Bessie. What ever happened to the old girl? Sold for scrap, most likely. So many memories.

'I thought you'd appreciate meeting me at your old stomping grounds,' a voice from behind him said. The Doctor turned around and saw Captain Jack Harkness walking towards him.

'Jack!' the Doctor exclaimed. 'It's been…'

'Ages?' Jack said with a grin. He stopped walking abruptly. 'Wait a minute. I have to make sure you really are the Doctor. Tell me something only he would know.'

The Doctor thought a moment. 'Are you my mummy?' he said. Jack laughed.

'I guess you really haven't changed a bit. Are you alone?'

'Yes, for the moment. How are things with you? Torchwood’s still going strong?'

'Those days are over, Doctor. I'm striking out on my own. I have to say I'm actually kind of surprised you're here.'

'What do you mean? I always come when I'm called.'

'Well, I mean the bow tie-wearing you. To be honest, I was expecting-' Before Jack could finish his sentence, he and the Doctor became distracted by a familiar noise. They both looked at the TARDIS and were shocked to see a nearly identical police box materialize next to it. The doors of this new vessel opened and out stepped a skinny man wearing a pinstripe suit with a long brown coat.

'Jack!' the Doctor exclaimed. 'It's been ages!' He looked at his future self and smiled. 'Who's your friend here?'

~ ~ ~

 
 
artwork by ANDY LAMBERT
used with permission
 
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