The wind began to get stronger, howling around them, whipping up the sand and blowing Elle’s long dark hair into her face.
“Where are you going?” asked the Doctor.
“I don’t know! It doesn’t matter does it? Nothing we do here seems to matter or make sense.”
“Just wait! Stop a moment, you’re just babbling. There’s no point in you just wandering off.”
“Well where am I supposed to go?” she asked on the verge of tears. “You’ve never even explained who you are. How do I know you’re not some homicidal maniac, playing with my mind?”
She turned away from him.
“Look, I’m no threat to you. I only want to help and get back to my ship. Come on…you can trust me, I’m the Doctor,” he replied with a grin, holding his arms out wide in a gesture of honesty.
“Alright,” Elle answered, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. She glanced back up at him, the corners of her mouth showing the beginnings of a smile. “I suppose you’re all I’ve got at the moment.”
“It will be fine. We will work something out in the end. We just need to gather our resources.”
He held out his hand, she took it.
“What do you mean?”
“You remember someone following you, asking questions, right?”
“I keep seeing reminders of the past. There has to be a reason. This can’t be real.”
“Do your friends have a habit of dying then?”
“That’s not the point.”
“But what could it be? Who and frankly why would anyone make this…this reality?”
The sky began to darken as the grey clouds gathered. Elle could feel the atmosphere change, it was close, almost claustrophobic. In the distance she could see the fog rolling across the sea. She laid a hand on his shoulder.
“We have to get to some shelter,” said the Doctor..
“I’m not going back there!”
Elle pulled away from him and ran further up the cliff blinking the rain from her eyes as she went.
“Wait! Come back! There’s nothing that way,” he called out as he followed her.
“I think I can see a house in the distance,” she replied.
“I can’t see any house.”
“It’s not too much further,” shouted Elle, stumbling along in the now muddy incline.
She was getting dangerously near the edge.
“Elle come back! It’s not safe!”
There was a rumble of thunder, followed by a flash of blinding lighting and a piercing scream.
The Doctor ran over to the cliff edge, dropped to his knees and peered over, fearing the worst.
“Doctor! Help me,” she cried from where she hung, clinging to a rapidly bending branch.
The rain was beating down making her grip slippery. Down the bottom of the cliffs the rocks and sea below could not be seen, obscured by an impossible fog.
“That’s what I’m doing,” she gasped frustrated, as the branch moved ominously.
The Doctor lay down and stretched out his hand.
“Take my hand!”
Elle reached out and he grabbed her left hand.
“Now the other one!”
“I can’t-, I can’t let go! I’ll fall!”
“You can let go. Just take my hand, trust me. I won’t let go!”
There was a rumble of thunder and a flash of lightening. He blinked and shook his head to get the water from his eyes.
“Take it,” he pleaded. “Take my hand before you fall! Trust me.”
“Whatever happens I-,” she stretched up with the other hand but missed. She screamed. “Don’t let me go!”
The Doctor went to grab her wrist but he skidded forward, his front covered in mud. He tried to dig his toes into the ground.
“You’re pulling me off the cliff. I’ll just-,”
“Just hold on!”
“I can’t! Don’t let me fall! Please,” she sobbed.
“Give me a moment.”
“He’s behind you!”
The Doctor felt a whoosh of air as something heavy just missed his head.
“Look,” said the Doctor hoping to reason with or at least delay his attacker. “Can’t we talk about it? I’m sure we can come to some agreement.”
“Doctor, I can’t hold on any longer!”
“Yes, you can!”
Suddenly something connected with the side of his head, and he inadvertently let go. Elle let out a piercing scream as she fell. He scrabbled forward on his hands and knees to see her figure disappearing into the fog below.
He tried to get to his feet, scrabbling in the mud only to be hit once again by the assailant. The Doctor yelled in anger and frustration as he kicked out. There was a thud as the assailant fell to the floor.
“What to you want?”
It only took a minute for them both to recover. The guy came at him again. He held his arm up to defend himself from the blows. The Doctor staggered back, his foot slipped, he wobbled on one foot for a moment. As he started to fall he grabbed hold of the assailant’s mask. It came away revealing the attackers identity.
“You,” the Doctor exclaimed as he fell off the cliff. He had recognised who it was and as he was engulfed in the fog he began to hear voices.
The Doctor stood on the end of the pier, leaning over the rail looking down into the swirling dirty green maelstrom that was the sea. The rain struck him like bullets, soaking his skin and clothes. Remembering their first meeting he shivered involuntarily, as the water ran down his back. He pulled up his jacket collar, the wind ruffling his auburn curls. There was sorrow in his eyes as he looked up, gazing out into the hazy distance. The Doctor reached into his pocket and pulled out the photo, unfolded it, smoothing it down. The photograph was covered with deep lines where he had folded and unfolded it so many times before. The picture was faded with age, he peered at it closely. It showed a young woman in a plain blue dress, with bright green eyes and long dark hair. She was smiling, happy. Before his mistake and the subsequent accident which put her in so much peril.
Turning on his heels the Doctor headed back across the slippery wood planks to where the TARDIS rested, somehow looking like it belonged there. The repairs he had made should have settled by now and he could get on with fixing the mess he had made. He had ruined her life and now he had to do the right thing and make it all better.
The Doctor stood in front of the shop window watching the events unfold in its reflection. Across the road she met him outside the café. The couple sat down at the silver coloured tables and prepared to order their drinks. Her boyfriend was a half shaved, scruffy kind of man, with a hair style of the dragged through a hedge backwards school. She was dressed in a light summer dress and her hair was tied back loosely in a bun. The Doctor heard her laugh as it floated across to him. For a moment he felt a jolt of jealousy. They would have something he never could, a normal life. He sighed sadly. Then he spun round and headed across the busy road, keeping his head down, miraculously avoiding being hit by the cars. The couple sat there not paying attention to anyone else. The Doctor strolled over to the table and tapped her on the shoulder.
“Excuse me,” he asked.
She turned her head to look at him, brushing her fringe from her face. Their eyes met. A connection. Recognition. He smiled, and she returned his smile. She still looked the same as when they first met.
“Elle Hope? That’s your name isn’t it?”
“Doctor? It is you,” she exclaimed. “I-,”
“We finally meet in the flesh, properly.”
“I thought…I thought it had been a dream.”
“It was, but this is for real.”
“Do you know this guy?” exclaimed the man who shared her table, her boyfriend.
“Yes, Karl,” Elle smiled, her eyes still on the Doctor. “Once, a couple of years ago we met. It was an…experience.”
“Oh, I see,” he grumbled.
“What exactly did happen back then? Was it a lucid dream or something more real?” asked Elle.
“It was a plain of reality…we connected. Two minds meeting across the galaxy.”
“Sounded rather far fetched to me.” Her mouth turned up at the corners. “But it all felt so vivid back then and when you turned up at the hospital I had to believe it.”
Elle glanced over at Karl, he didn’t look too happy and she realized what this must sound like to him.
“Did the police catch your attacker?” asked the Doctor.
“No,” she replied. “I never did find out why it all happened.”
“I think I know,” he held his hand out. “Come with me, and I’ll explain.”
“Are you going to go with him?” demanded Karl.
“What about me?”
“You can come as well,” said the Doctor.
“No, you go,” he said with a frown. “I’ll join you in a minute.”
“Ok,” replied Elle, a little disconcerted by his lack of interest.
The Doctor sat down on the bench, the TARDIS stood behind them as if on guard. Elle perched on the edge of the bench, nervously.
“It’s alright,” said the Doctor. “You know you’re safe with me. You have seen what I do.”
“I know, but it was in that weird reality. It’s so strange to meet you in the flesh. You said you knew why the accident happened?”
“Well I’m afraid it was…my fault.”
“Yes. I might have left something in your brain that one of my enemies wanted,” the Doctor avoided her gaze, sheepishly. “And that’s why we connect.”
“You mean I see your life in my dreams because you put something in my head?”
“Can you remove it?”
“Do you want me to?”
“Not really. It’s rather comforting…but could you remove it?”
“No. Not without causing brain damage and quite a lot of memory loss.”
“Oh,” she exclaimed. “Its only been a year since I came out of the coma. I don’t want to go through that again.”
“I find your life comforting too,” he said suddenly, smiling. “The normality is a novelty for me.”
“You can see my life?” Elle was a little surprised by this. She had assumed it was a one way thing. “How much of my life do you see?”
“It’s ok, I’m a gentleman. I don’t see anything private. It’s strange though to think it’s not just my imagination.”
“I know it’s a bit odd, witnessing each others lives in our dreams…but I’ve got used to it.”
“So have I.” He glanced down at the ground. “I’m sorry for messing your life up.”
“You didn’t spoil it, it was already spoilt, and you just made it more interesting.” Elle noticed his agitated state. “Are you alright?”
He took her dainty hand in both of his.
“I want to ask you a question. You don’t have to answer straight away-,”
“Are you planning on proposing?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“No,” replied the Doctor, instantly snatching his hands away and getting to his feet. “I have a job opportunity for you. You see there’s an opening for travelling companion in the TARDIS.”
He dug his hands deep into his jacket pocket, and nervously ground down a piece of grass with the heel of his shoe.
“Do you want to come travelling with me?”
“No? What do you mean no? This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” he exclaimed, puzzled. “Are you sure you don’t want to come?”
“Do I smell or something? Because this is becoming a habit, you know,” he waggled his finger at her.
“Pretty young ladies keep turning me down. I used to have them clambering to travel across space and time with me, now they would rather stay at home and watch TV.”
“It’s not like that-,”
“Well what is it like then? Tell me.”
“I don’t need to go off travelling in your blue box. I can just close my eyes and there I am. Doctor, I’ve seen your life. I’ve seen the monsters, robots and alien beings cursing your name. I saw what happened to all your companions. I know the dangers and the excitement. I don’t need to risk my life in order to witness them.”
“Are you sure? There’s nothing quite like experiencing the universe for real.”
“You need me Doctor, but not with you. You need me here, leading a normal life.”
They looked at each other, with an expression of mutual understanding.
“You’re right,” the Doctor sighed. “I was being selfish. I’m sorry.”
“That’s ok, we all make mistakes and it appears Time Lords especially so,” she smiled, and offered him her hand. “Goodbye Doctor.”
“I think it’s for the best, don’t you? Anyway, Karl will be wondering where I’ve got to.”
The Doctor grasped her hand and shook it firmly.
“Goodbye Elle.” He grinned. “I’ll come back and see if you’ve changed your mind some time in the future.”
In a blink of the eye he disappeared into the battered old blue police box. Elle watched, waving goodbye, as in a cacophonous symphony the TARDIS faded from existence.
The Doctor didn’t return. Elle assumed he was too busy. Her dreams were certainly full to the brim with adventure. He wasn’t dead. She would have known if it was that. Maybe he had forgotten about her, maybe he no longer slept and so didn’t dream of her life. She hoped that the reason he didn’t come was because he knew she wouldn’t go. Not now.
The Doctor, dressed in a black velvet morning suit stood facing the gravestone, a single white lily in his hand. He read the inscription, ‘To sleep, perchance to dream’, and uttered a silent amen to whatever higher being was out there, listening. He had discovered that Elle had died only ten years after he left her standing there by the bench. The police report said it was an accident. Asphyxiation caused by a gas leak from a faulty fire, but he knew better. They had returned to take what they failed to the first time, and it was his entire fault. He should have come back and stopped them or at the least removed the device from her brain. She may have lost her memories but she would have made new ones. Whereas now there was no chance.
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “I didn’t mean for this to happen.”
Kneeling down, the Doctor laid the flower on the grave. Then with a sigh he stood up, and walked away heading back to the TARDIS. Now he would dream no more.