Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

The TARDIS was travelling through the Vortex, heading, so The Doctor promised, to a lovely planet called Lyria which had golden beaches with cafes and bars right down on the sand that sold long cool multi-coloured drinks with pieces of fruit and in them and bendy straws and paper umbrellas.

Amy and Rory were prepared to end up anywhere but the place with the sunshine, sand and drinks with paper umbrellas, including Antarctica. They knew The Doctor and they knew the TARDIS.

They both had ways of passing the time on vortex journeys. On this occasion they were listening to music from the TARDIS’s extensive hard-drive library and playing a very complex board game that The Doctor had found in his junk room. It was three dimensional, with four different levels on which to move the pieces which stuck to the board with anti-gravity pads on their bases and once they had worked out the complicated rules they had become compulsive players of the Andraxian Game of Life.

“You know,” The Doctor told them as he did something complicated under the console. “The game is taken very seriously on Andraxia. Grand Masters are treated like celebrities. Mind you, in the global championships… what happens to the losers….”

Rory and Amy decided not to ask what happened to the losers, but they thought it might be a good idea if this game turned out to be a draw.

“Mind you,” Rory said with a sly grin. “I’ve always thought Total Wipeout would be a more interesting show if they put piranhas in the water.”

“No you didn’t,” Amy responded. “That’s a horrible idea. What sort of people would watch a show like that, where people actually died if they lost.”

The Doctor listened to their chatter as he adjusted the thermal couplings under the TARDIS and thought briefly about the Gamestation where, in the far future, humans would run exactly those kind of shows and viewers were so conditioned to not questioning what they were seeing that they would accept the horror of it all without protest.

The Andraxian Game of Life was nothing like as bad as that, really. The Grand Masters won face and fortune, the losers were stripped of property and money and had to work as household slaves for a term of years. It was a gamble with wealth and status, not life itself. Granted, the losers probably didn’t see it that way. But they volunteered to risk all, not like the people on the Gamestation who were yanked away from their homes and families without warning.

The Doctor stopped thinking about that. It was a long time ago now, a lifetime, literally, for him.

He jammed the temporal coils back into their sockets and used the sonic screwdriver to secure them. Or at least he thought he did. Later he realised that the sonic was set to reverse the polarity of the Magnum Phasic Breaker that he had been repairing before.

He yelped as a massive jolt of temporal energy reverberated back at him. It was as painful as putting a wet finger into a plug socket and then some. He heard Rory and Amy yelling in concern and through a haze of blue static light he saw Rory bending over him just before he passed out.

The next thing he knew, somebody was giving him mouth to mouth resuscitation. For one very surreal moment he thought of Captain Jack Harkness. There had never actually been a situation when Jack was with him when he had needed resuscitation, but if there had been, he had no doubt that the dashing Time Agent would have fallen over himself to administer it.

But Jack was a long way off in another time and another place. It had to be Rory. He was a nurse. He knew how to do that sort of thing. Besides, he would never let Amy do it. He was just that little bit possessive about her when it came to things like that.

He opened his eyes and stared at his own face looking down at him.

“What!” he exclaimed.

“You’re ok,” his own voice told him. “Well, obviously you are, since I’m here. You had to be ok. Otherwise I wouldn’t be, and I’m fine apart from the thumping headache. I suppose you’ve got the same headache.”

“Don’t ask me,” Rory’s voice said from somewhere near here. “I’m just a nurse. None of this was in my training.”

The Doctor sat up and looked around. Everything was perfectly normal in the console room, except there were two of him. He was looking at himself kneeling beside himself with an expression nearly as daft as the one he was sure he had on his own face.

“What happened? Who are you? How did you get here?” he asked.

“Asking multiple questions is a Human habit,” his doppelganger responded. “But as far as I know, I did something stupid with the sonic screwdriver and caused a temporal reverberation that knocked me out and created a time anomaly that enabled me to exist at the same time as you. That’s questions one and three. Obviously the answer to question two is, I’m you, but from exactly seventeen seconds into your future.”

“Seventeen seconds?”

“I knew you were going to say that, of course, because I belong to seventeen seconds into the future. So I know what you’re going to say and do. For instance I fully expected you to jump to your feet and run all the way around the console scanning it with the sonic screwdriver.”

The future Doctor stayed on the floor while the other one jumped up on his feet and ran all the way around the console scanning it with the sonic screwdriver. When his earlier self had completed that circuit and returned to him, he stood up and grasped his wrist. He pushed up his sleeve to reveal his wristwatch. The earlier Doctor looked at it then at his own watch.

“Seventeen seconds difference.”

“You’re me… and I’m me. Why doesn’t the Blinovitch Uncertainty Principle come into effect? You touched me. I touched me. I kissed myself. That’s completely impossible.”

“I had time to initiate a dampener before I gave you CPR,” the later Doctor explained. “Inside the TARDIS we’re safe. Outside, we might turn the universe outside if we have physical contact with each other.”

Amy and Rory had watched and listened to that part of the conversation in stunned silence. Now they decided it was time to step in with some questions of their own.

“There are two of you now?” Amy asked. “You’re both real. Neither of you are flesh avatars or robot copies or holograms? Yes, I know, we were listening. But just to confirm, you’re both you.”

“I’m The Doctor,” said The Doctor. “And so is he.”

“And so am I,” The Doctor added.

“And you’ve moved around so now we don’t know which one is which,” Rory complained. “Which is the real Doctor?”

“They both are,” Amy pointed out. “That’s what they’ve been telling us. But you’re right. We need to know which one….”

“Knows exactly what you’re going to say before you say it,” said The Doctor. “That’s me. Rory is about to say we’re identical and he can’t tell which of us is which.”

Rory didn’t say anything.

“You’ve got to say it, now,” the other Doctor told him. “Otherwise it’s a paradox. Only a mild one, just enough to give us both a headache. But he heard you say it, so you have to say it.”

Rory sighed.

“You’re identical. I can’t tell which of you is which,” he said with a bored monotone. “Ok, to avoid that sort of thing happening again, maybe you’d better not tell us what we’re about to say or do before we do it.”

“I agree, though I would just like to say in advance that I know neither of you are as silly as that.”

“Unless it’s something really stupid,” Amy said. “Like ‘I wonder if this gun is loaded. I think I’ll put it to my head and pull the trigger to find out.’”

“Neither of you are as silly as that,” the earlier Doctor pointed out just for good measure.

“All right,” Rory said. “So what are we going to do about this situation? We can’t have two of you about the place.”

“Can’t we?” Amy asked.

“Why can’t we?” the earlier Doctor asked. “Twice the cleverness, twice the bow tie coolness, twice the Doctorness.”

“No, I’m afraid we can’t,” the later one answered. “And you know perfectly well why. You were thinking about it while you were doing all that bow tie coolness blather. Of course, bow ties ARE cool, but two Doctors isn’t. It’s dangerous. We’ve got to do something about it, and you know what that something is as much as I do. And I’m sorry, Amy and Rory. It wasn’t intentional.”

“Will you both stop talking to yourself as if we’re not here,” Amy demanded. “Intentional or not, it’s annoying.”

“Why is it dangerous having two of you… and not just annoying and frustrating?” Rory asked. “And what is the something you have to do and why are you both looking so miserable about it?”

“It’s dangerous because we’re not twice the Doctorness, we’re the same amount of Doctorness and we’re draining each other’s mental energy every moment we’re together,” one of The Doctor’s explained. “It’s not as dangerous as the Blinovitch Effect, which is just too catastrophic to contemplate, but it’s bad for me. I could end up with a neural implosion that turns my brain to mush.”

“That’s bad enough,” Rory concluded. “What about our other questions?”

What had to be the later Doctor had already moved around the console and was setting a new destination.

“Why do I get the feeling that we’re not going to get those drinks with umbrellas any time soon?” Rory sighed.

“We’re going to the planet Laiko,” The Doctor said. “It is the closest planet to the magnetic centre of the universe. There is a rather special clock there.”


Rory waited for further information, but none was forthcoming – at least not anything relating to clocks.

“It’s got a controlled climate,” the earlier Doctor told them. “You don’t need to wear anything you wouldn’t wear on a British summer’s day.”

“Rainmacs and umbrellas then,” Amy noted wryly.

From space Laiko looked like an old fashioned gobstopper with dapples of rainbow colours on a dull white surface, except for one part of it that appeared to be under a huge glass dome. As the TARDIS approached that landmark they could see that it wasn’t just a bubble of glass, it was something like the Crystal Palace times a thousand with panes of glass in a lattice structure.

“Laikas Sventykla,” the later Doctor said. Rory and Amy heard the words automatically translated into English as ‘Temple of Time’, but they appreciated the sounds of the original words, too.

“I hope they don’t worship Time LORDS in there,” Rory said. “With two of them that would be seriously annoying.”

“No, this isn’t one of the Gallifreyan dominions,” The Doctor assured him. “It is simply a place where Time is revered.”

“Ok,” the earlier Doctor said. “We have to be very clear about this. Out there is the real universe, where two of us existing REALLY is dangerous, especially near the magnetic centre. The paradox could radiate out through time and space undoing all existence. So it is VERY important that we don’t get close to each other.”

“So we’re going to have to wear these,” the later Doctor said, extracting something from the receptacle on the ‘Fabrication’ section of the console while his earlier self completed the materialisation and put the TARDIS into parking mode. The something was, in fact, two somethings, two metallic wristbands. He passed one to his other self and slipped one on his own wrist. “Electronic handcuffs with the polarity reversed. Usually they give out a nasty electric shock if the prisoner gets further than five feet from the guard. But reversed they’ll give us both a shock if we get closer than that.”

“Nasty,” Rory said. “Have your people never heard of the Geneva Convention, humane treatment of prisoners, that sort of thing?”

“No,” The Doctor replied. “And if they had, our people would have dismissed the idea as nothing to do with us. Anyway, Rory, you stick by me, and Amy, you stick by me, the other me. That way nobody feels left behind. I’ll lead the way.”

“I’ll lead the way,” the later Doctor said. “I know what’s coming through your eyes and I can warn you if there’s trouble.”

“Are we expecting trouble?” Amy asked. “I thought this was a temple.”

Neither Doctor answered that question. Amy decided to let it pass, for now.

“Seventeen seconds!” Rory commented as they stepped out of the TARDIS door. “What use are seventeen seconds? If he was ten minutes ahead or something it would be all right. But seventeen seconds….”

“It’s long enough to stop his other self making a dangerous mistake,” Amy replied. She wasn’t sure why she had thought about that, but it seemed to make a sort of sense to her and she stuck with the theory as they stepped out into the Temple of Time.

“Wow,” Rory said looking up at the ceiling high above. A pale turquoise sky with a small yellow sun high in it was visible through the thousands of panes of glass. It was the most spectacular ceiling he had ever seen, stretching for what had to be miles.

“Wow,” Amy said looking around at the thousands of clocks that surrounded them. They were arranged along wide aisles in semi circles, according to size, with tiny silver trinkets with working clock faces standing on glass plinths in front of beautifully crafted carriage clocks and clocks set into coloured glass fish shapes and all sorts of clocks that might sit on the mantelpiece of a drawing room. Then there were larger clocks, the sort that might be in the office of a business where time was important, wall clocks of all sorts mounted on stands, and behind them grandfather clocks and various sorts of free standing clocks that would only be found in very big, grand rooms where there was room for them.

All the clocks told different times.

Some of the clocks couldn’t possibly be set to tell the same time because they had different hours on them. One had eleven hours, one fifteen, another had only four hours and one hand.

“I never thought of that before,” Amy said. “Earth has twenty four hours in the day, but that’s because it takes that long to rotate. Other planets are different sizes. So….”

“On Gallifrey there were twenty-six hours in the day,” The Doctor said. “It took me a long time to get used to how humans cope with shorter days. The four hour one is from Gol-Mescala. They actually have a day that is exactly the same length as Earth, to the very nano-second. But they measure it differently. Those hours are actually more like six Earth hours long. They have no need to mark time in any smaller units than that.”

The two Earth born people whose lives had been governed by time for as long as they could remember, if only for when their pre-school television programmes were broadcast, couldn’t get their heads around that idea, so they decided not to worry about it.

“The really odd thing is that these clocks are all working, but there are no ticks, and no alarms or chimes going off,” Rory pointed out. “The noise in this place should be deafening.”

“Every clock, from the smallest to the largest is surrounded by a sound dampener,” The Doctor explained. Rory and Amy had stopped worrying about which one spoke by now. “Only the Great Clock is allowed to tick, and that is as silent as a whisper and as loud as the Big Bang itself.”

“How can it be….” Amy began then decided she didn’t want to know.

“What’s THAT noise then?” Rory asked. There was something that was very much like clockwork, a whirring, clicking noise that was coming closer. Then they stared at the little man who moved towards them. He was no more than a metre tall. He had two feet, but they didn’t move. They were fused together like a cheap clockwork toy. Instead he had to be moving on wheels like that clockwork toy that had already come to mind. He was wearing a hooded robe like a little monk, but that, too, looked like a plastic moulded object. Only the pink round face that peeped out from the cowl looked real and alive.

“Good day to you, Timekeeper,” said The Doctor who was standing with Rory. “We are pilgrims who wish to see the Great Clock.”

“You must first complete the Great Winding,” the little man said. “Follow me.”

“The Great Winding?” Rory and Amy looked at each other, then at the Doctors. “All right, which one of you is going to explain?”

“It is a task that those wishing to look upon the Great Clock must complete,” Amy’s Doctor answered. “It’s not dangerous, just a bit of a nuisance. I think what they had in mind was to actually wind the pilgrims up.”

Rory’s Doctor agreed with him.

They followed the little Timekeeper along the aisle between more fantastic clocks, including marvellously elaborate ones and plain ones, and fun clocks with pictures of Mickey Mouse on the dials. They came presently to what looked like the entrance to a maze made of tall sheets of metal. The Timekeeper nodded his head within his cowl and raised one of his arms with a whirring sound. He was only jointed at the shoulder and his fingers were fused together, but they were fused in a pointing gesture. They were clearly meant to enter the maze.

Rory and his Doctor went first, followed by Amy and hers. Inside they turned immediately to the right and walked along a path that curved inwards. The walls were reflective which made it all really surreal because it looked as if there were four Doctors, now, two of them curiously distorted by the curve of the metal.

“This isn’t a maze,” Rory noted after they had walked for quite some time. “There are no exits. It just keeps going round and round.”

“We’re walking in circles?” Amy asked.

“No,” her Doctor said. “We’re walking in a spiral, towards the middle. This is part of the wind up.”

“It’s a coil,” Amy guessed. “Like in a clock or a watch. A coiled spring.”

“And it’s winding up,” Rory added. They had completed at least one circuit by now and were in the second, smaller, part of the spiral. There was a curious grinding noise all around them and the outside walls shuddered slightly. Rory looked down at the floor and noticed scratches in it. “The coil is winding. The outside wall has closed in.”

“We need to keep walking,” The Doctor said. “Once the winding has begun, it will continue until the coil is fully wound.”

“With us in the middle?” Amy asked.

“In the middle is better than being in any other part of it,” The Doctor pointed out. “We can’t run. We must wind evenly.”

“WHY must we?” Rory asked. “Who made these rules?”

“The GREAT Timekeeper,” The Doctor replied.

“And who’s he when he’s at home?”

“Actually, it’s a she,” The other Doctor said. “A lady watches over the march of Time in the universe, if you believe that sort of thing.”

“I’m prepared to believe anything these days,” Amy said. “Except that anyone watches over anything in this universe. There’s way too much chaos in it for anyone to have been keeping an eye on it.”

“You know, I don’t like the look of this,” Rory said after a while. “I don’t like the sound of it, either. Does anyone else think the path is getting narrower the further in we get, and those grinding noises are louder.”

“Keep moving at a steady pace,” The Doctor told her. “The coil winds as we move. It won’t catch up with us. It will just feel like it is.”

“Have you done this before, then?” Amy asked.

“Once, a long time ago, I had to buy some time.”

That was another cryptic comment that Amy and Rory decided they weren’t going to get The Doctor to expand upon. They just kept walking around in ever decreasing circles, aware that the wall on the outside was getting thicker as the paths they had walked along were squeezed out by the tightening coil.

Soon they were in a very small circle and when they looked back they could see the path vanishing as the coil tightened.

“Doctor, are you SURE?” Amy asked.

“Yes,” he replied. “We’re here, in the middle. Get ready to jump.”

“Jump on what? At what?” she asked. Then The Doctor jumped and caught hold of a giant cog that turned above their heads. There were holes in the cog every few feet, wide enough for a reasonably sized person to fit through. The Doctor fitted through it and reached his hand down. Amy grabbed his hand and he hauled her up. She saw as she was being pulled through the hole that the cog was sliding down a central screw little by little, fitting neatly into the space in the middle of the coiled spring….

The space where Rory and the other Doctor were still standing.

Rory jumped next, while there was still room to stand up. But The Doctor was running out of time. The cog was getting lower each time it turned. Amy sighed with relief when his head popped through one of the holes and he hauled himself through.

But the ordeal wasn’t over, yet. The cog slowed and came to a standstill as the coil wound tight. Then it reversed. It began to move around again and rise up the central screw.

And above them was another cog that went at least halfway across the cog they were all perched on. They obviously had to get onto the other cog while they were close together otherwise they would have to go right back down again and wait to come back up.

The Doctor and Rory jumped first from one cog to the other, while there was still a foot of clearance between them. Then Amy and The Doctor jumped when there was only an inch or two. They had made it to the next step.

But as this cog turned and rose on yet another central screw, they saw the next obstacle. There was yet another cog turning around and around at the top, but it had a vertical cog turning on its edge. It rolled back and forwards blocking the path they would need to take if they were to get to that next step on their journey.

They had to plan their jump carefully, and there wasn’t much time. The cog would descend again very quickly.

Amy, Rory and one Doctor managed it. The other missed his chance and when the way was clear again the cog had started to descend.

Rory didn’t hesitate. He ran to grab The Doctor’s hand and haul him up. The vertical cog rolled into the iron teeth inches from his foot, but he had made it.

“What kind of nutty idea is this?” Rory asked as they sat and gathered their breath on a relatively safe piece of the Winding. “We could have been mashed and minced by those things. It’s like the Fun House without the fun.”

“Duck,” The Doctor said. It had to be the later version, because everyone did and narrowly missed the sweeping second hand of a clock face that the cog had risen towards. “When it comes around again, jump on. That’s our way off here.”

They didn’t quite know what he meant until the second hand came around again and they noticed handholds partway up. Rory and one Doctor grabbed and were swept up and around. Amy watched with The Doctor as they jumped off at the twelve o’clock and disappeared from view.

“Ready,” The Doctor told her.

“No, I’m not,” she responded. “I’m wearing a skirt.”

“I promise not to look. Neither will the other me.”

“That’s not the point,” Amy said. But there was no choice. She had to grab the handholds with The Doctor and hold on tight as she was lifted up into the air. It was a frightening experience, not made any better by the fact that she looked down when she was swinging right out over the whole strange contraption they had climbed up. She saw the coiled spring and the cogs moving up and down like the insides of a huge, huge clock.

Then Rory was grabbing her legs. She let go of the handhold and slid into his arms. He was waiting at the edge of a narrow tunnel entrance formed by the figure ‘I’ in the middle of XII that marked twelve on the huge clockface. There was a short passage before a set of steps that went down again.

“We’re going down, after all the effort to go up?” Rory questioned.

“Like I said, I think they just want to ‘wind us up’.” The Doctor said. “Nearly there, now.”

“Nearly where?” Amy asked.

“At the GREAT CLOCK,” the other Doctor told her. “The clock that not only measures time, but IS time.”

Both Doctors obviously knew what they were talking about, but Amy and Rory weren’t so sure. They walked down the dark stairway carefully, keeping the Doctors a good five feet apart from each other.

Then they emerged into the light again. When they stopped blinking and looked around they were impressed. It was an impressive sight, after all.

They were still under the huge lattice ceiling, but the ‘face’ of the Great Clock hung above them. It had to be a quarter of a mile wide. There were numerals going up to a hundred around the edge and no less than eight hands, the thinnest of them visibly moving, others moving only slowly, if at all.

“Millennia, centuries, years, days, hours, minutes, seconds, nano-seconds,” The Doctor said. “The Great Clock measures out time for the whole universe.”

Beneath the clock face a series of pendulums swung. They varied in size and speed. The very largest didn’t look as if it was moving at all. The smallest was so fast it was fuzzy.

“Those keep the time regulated,” The Doctor explained, “Millennia, centuries, years… you get the picture.”


“We won’t need these, now,” The Doctor said, slipping the electronic handcuff off his wrist. “All this time floating around neutralises the Blinovitch effect.”

The other one did the same. Rory took the cuffs and put them in his pocket. He thought they might be needed again some time.

“Now what?”

“Now we ask Time for a favour,” The Doctor said.

“We beg for a boon from her,” the other one added. “Time is a strict lady. She likes order. She abhors people who waste time.”

“Is this a Lord of Time come to my domain?” asked a voice so sweet it was almost unbearable. It was like somebody running a wet finger around the rim of a glass. And yet it was a compelling voice, impossible not to listen to. Amy and Rory looked around for the source of it and saw a woman walking towards them. She was dressed in white and her face shone like diffused white light. She was beautiful in the same way her voice was, almost too beautiful to bear.

“I am the last Lord of Time,” The Doctor replied. “Except… there are, as you see, two of us at present. Our personal time is out of joint.”

“Yes, I see. You are a jarring note in the symphony of Time itself. But then, your people always have been. The ripples in causality are quieter now, but I feel them, still. You do no harm, so I tolerate you. But time should not be used in such a way.

The Doctor, both of him, looked like a boy being ticked off by a parent for some mischief. Amy wondered about that. She always thought that Time Lords were about the most important people in the universe. To find somebody who considered herself a greater authority than The Doctor was surprising and rather reassuring. He wasn’t free to do as he pleased. Even he had rules and somebody who would call him to account if he broke them.

“Lady, I promise that I will not cause any more ripples than necessary to ensure that causality is not interfered with,” The Doctor told her. “But, please, will you help us?”

“The last time you were here you bought time,” the Lady said. “It was purchased at a price few would be willing to pay. Your sacrifice was for the sake of another being, not for your own purpose.”

“Yes,” The Doctor said. “This time, it is for my own need. But I do not wish to buy time. I have some to give.”

“Seventeen seconds,” the Lady noted. “To be held on your account in case it is needed in the future.”


“Very well. You know what to do.”

Both Doctors nodded. Then one moved towards the second smallest of the pendulums. Amy gave a cry and stepped towards him, despite a warning from the Lady not to interfere.

“You’re leaving us?” she said. “You’re doing something that means there will only be the one of you again?”

“Yes, but I’m not leaving you. I’ll always be with you. I always have. I always will be. You, of all people, Amy, who waited for me for so long, know that.”

“I know, but… it was good having you both.”

She hugged him tightly and planted a small kiss on his cheek.

“Will it hurt you?”


“Ok. Go on, then. But I don’t want to look.”

She went back to Rory who held her as she turned her face away. He looked for her as The Doctor approached the pendulum and reached out his arm. Something like sparks flew from his hand. There might have been seventeen of them. Rory forgot to count, because while it was happening, The Doctor turned gradually more transparent until he was barely there.

Then he was gone.

He heard the other Doctor gasp softly, not exactly in pain, but as if he had felt something in his soul.

“Seventeen seconds,” the Lady said, stepping closer and pressing something into The Doctor’s hand. “Credited to your account.”

“Thank you, Lady,” he answered. Then she disappeared in an eyeblink. They were alone with just the sound of the swinging pendulums and a ticking that Rory and Amy realised had been there all along but they hadn’t noticed.

The tick of the universe. Time passing by.

“She hates people who waste it,” The Doctor reminded them. “We’re done here, now.”

“How do we get out?” Rory asked. “Not back through all that rigmarole again? I don’t think I could do it twice.”

Then a door opened. The remarkable thing was that it hadn’t been there before. There wasn’t a wall for it to be in. The door just opened in empty air. One of the little Timekeepers – it might have been the same one they met earlier – beckoned to them with his stiff armed gesture. They followed him through the door and emerged near the TARDIS.

“Thank you,” The Doctor said. “Our business here is done. Peace upon you, friend.”

The Timekeeper bowed stiffly and then turned and whirred away. The Doctor looked around once at the peculiarly beautiful place.

“I can still hear ticking,” Rory said.

“Now you’ve heard the tick of the universe, you’ll always hear it if you want to,” The Doctor told him. “Mostly you won’t want to. After a while, it makes tinnitus seem pleasant in comparison. But now and again, it helps to know that Time goes by at the same speed no matter what else is happening to you, and even the most unendurable and the most endless of tasks will end in Time.”

That was deep, even for The Doctor. Rory wasn’t sure he completely understood. He was glad to find that he didn’t hear the ticking inside the TARDIS, though.

“Doctor,” Amy said when they were in flight. “Was that… I mean… we weren’t dreaming. We really did meet Time… Time is a really beautiful woman… a goddess type of thing.”

“She can be,” The Doctor replied. “People… beings… across the universe have pondered the meaning of everything. They ask questions like ‘when did time begin’ and ‘where does time come from’. And enough of those beings came to the same kind of conclusion that something real and tangible came into being by the power of their belief. It’s like religion in reverse. Instead of a God creating all Beings, the Beings created a Goddess who measures time and keeps it constant.”

“So we visited something that only exists because millions… billions of people… believe it does.”

“What next?” Rory asked. “The North Pole to see Father Christmas?”

“Father Christmas doesn’t live in the North Pole,” The Doctor replied. “Besides, I thought you two wanted sunny beaches and drinks with umbrellas in them.”

“Sunny beaches,” Amy decided. “And get us there, this time. No detours and time wasting. You know SHE doesn’t like time wasting.”

Rory grinned.

“Now I get why Time is a Lady!” He and The Doctor shared a male chauvinist kind of smile while Amy glared at them. The Doctor set their course for the planet with the sunny beaches then came to her with a conciliatory smile. He pressed something in her hand.

“Seventeen seconds,” he said. “On my account. I’m a Time Lord. I have plenty of time. You keep it in case you need it, one day.”

Amy looked at what he had given her. It looked like a very intricately detailed charm from a charm bracelet, a very tiny egg-timer with a very few sand grains inside, enclosed in a silver frame.

She didn’t count them, but she made a guess that there were seventeen grains of sand.

Seventeen seconds.

“What use are seventeen seconds?” Rory asked as Amy fixed the egg-timer to the same silver chain she always wore with an ‘A’ for Amy on it.

“You asked that already,” The Doctor said to him. “Amy got the answer right.”

“Long enough to stop a dangerous mistake,” Amy said, paraphrasing herself. “You mean…. But how would I use it if I wanted to?”

“If the need arises, you’ll know,” The Doctor assured her. “Now… Lyria, sunshine, beaches, long fruity colourful drinks, bendy straws.”

“I’ll dig out the rainmacs,” Rory said, because he knew The Doctor and he knew the TARDIS only too well.