They write about her cleverness, about her valor, about all of the things she sacrificed and all the lives she saved and all of the terrible things she's done, they don't get it quite right.
The Doctor knows this because the Doctor knows Elizabeth I.
He meets her in the forest.
She's wearing a dark red cloak with the hood up to guard her from the snow, and her ginger hair pokes out, wild and free, from the sides. She peers around the side of the cloak and her eyes are grey as the sky.
His first thought, after the bit about her eyes and hair, is that she's really quite tall. Significantly taller than he'd expected she would be. Of course, when she steps around the tree, he sees she's actually on a horse, so he's sort of glad he didn't mention that aloud.
"What are you doing here?" she asks. Her voice is low and husky, despite her obvious youth.
He stammers his response, looking around the dark forest behind himself, then back to her. Doesn't she see it? She's not blind, she must see the wrongness of the forest.
"You don't know me," he finds himself saying. "I expected you might already."
"Are you implying that I may have invited you?" she asks, her voice touched by amusement. "I have heard a great many excuses for such trespassing, but you will have been the first to accuse me."
Oh, dear. At this point in the timeline, she likes him. He feels immediately worried. He felt like he'd missed out on some enormous chunk of his life when he first met her, but now, at this point in time, that chunk of life is now.
"I mean," he says, stepping around and in front of her horse. "Look around your forest. What do you see?"
She arches a pale eyebrow and doesn't look away from him. He realizes she has one hand on her dagger. Oh, of course. Strange man in her forest approaching her horse. Why wouldn't she be worried about his intentions?
"I'm only here to help," he says, holding up his hands.
"What is wrong with my forest?" she asks.
He looks back to her. "It's infected," he says.
,and the infection spreads far out along the treeline. It's a streak of blackness among the green and white of the forest. Elizabeth can't see it at first, but the Doctor imagines that no one can see it. Well, no one apart from himself, of course.
"You have to look beyond what you expect," he says.
"If I began expecting anything, I'd have been dead a long time ago, I imagine," she says.
They've been traveling along this path for a few hours, now, and the Doctor has come to the unfortunate conclusion that no, Elizabeth I does not fancy him, as he originally suspected. Which is actually pretty unfortunate, in his opinion, because he finds her utterly enthralling. She's got a quick wit, an intelligent mind, and she's unconditionally brave. Even now, traveling alone with a stranger along a forest infected with thick, black tentacles, she doesn't falter. She'll make an excellent Queen, one day.
It's only been a few hours, of course. He's not in love with her or anything. Which is, really, for the best. After all, he knows she will hate him one day, though he hasn't the foggiest idea how, at this point.
"How far does it spread?" she asks.
He shrugs. "Probably most of this side of the country. Fortunately, rootings like this have a source. Cut it out at the source and we can probably neutralize the infection."
She nods. "Good. We shall find them and eliminate them." A gust of wind blows her ginger hair about, and the Doctor is tempted to tuck a lock behind her ear. She's lowered herself from the horse and is, actually, within arm's reach. He doesn't, of course. She may not be Queen yet, but one day she will be.
"Starstruck, Doctor," he mutters to himself. "Stop that."
"What was that?" she asks, looking back to him.
"Nothing," he calls in return. "Nothing! We'll find it. Allons-y!"
except when the Doctor tugs the arrow out of the side of the tentacle that's wrapped itself around his leg. He can feel some poison sink into his skin, but his body quickly neutralizes it. She wouldn't have been so lucky.
"It didn't attack me," she says, her normally calm voice shaking. "D-Doctor, it didn't---"
"I know," he replies, struggling to get to his feet.
Their savior is a tall man on a large black horse. Long, dark hair and wide, pointed ears. Oh, yes, and green skin, which immediately puts him into the 'not human' category.
Elizabeth, to her credit, doesn't scream. She doesn't even shake, she just stands there, regarding the man before them like she's addressing a diplomat from a foreign nation. Which, the Doctor figures, is exactly what she's doing.
"I am Bodrik," he says. "Now, quickly
The Doctor is not at all jealous.
Granted, he's sitting on the opposite side of the fire from Elizabeth and Bodrik, who have been talking and laughing for the last hour without paying him any mind at all, but he's not jealous. He's certainly not bored out of his mind.
Elizabeth, as history proved, is a brilliant conversationalist. Wit as sparkling as champagne and an intellect that could probably be a challenge for even the Doctor. Bodrik, for all his rough appearance, is an excellent match for her. He knows when to laugh and knows when to sit quietly and listen. She talks about her country, about her family and her sister, and talks about fear of exile and home arrest. She's very, very young, really. Too young to have lived the life she lives alone.
And for all her wit and brilliance, she is utterly uninterested in the Doctor. Bodrik has completely enamored her.
So, no. The Doctor is not jealous. Though
"It's back!" he calls, racing towards her makeshift tent. "Bess, it's---"
He pulls back the cover to her tent, expecting to find her a) alone, b) dressed, and c) not in an embarrassing situation. None of which, it appeared, were true in this case.
Because, well, in the tent was the future Queen of Great Britain and an alien poacher from Beetlejuse en flagrante. On a list of things the Doctor never expected to see…
"Get out of here!" Bodrik grunted.
The Doctor leapt back from the tent and very nearly fell back onto the ground. Well, he wished he could've said that was the first time something like that had happened. His impulsive nature and inability to knock made embarrassments frequent.
"So much for the Virgin Queen," he mutters, heading back to his own tent. He has a funny feeling this isn't going to endear himself to her at all.
"I think you know," the Doctor says, looking over to Bodrik.
"What do you mean?" Bodrik asks, his voice breathless as he looks out to the prison ship.
"You know who they're here for," the Doctor explains. "You've always known."
"What are you implying, Doctor?" Elizabeth demands, slipping her hand into the alien poacher's.
"I saw the prison tattoo," he says to Elizabeth. "On his---" the Doctor clears his throat. "That is, when you two were---"
"I couldn't tell you," Bodrik says to Elizabeth, his voice suddenly desperate and full of emotion. "I couldn't. They will kill me, Bess, they'll kill me this time."
"Then you can not go," Elizabeth says. "I will not let them."
"You can't stop them," the Doctor says. "I couldn't even stop them, and I'm a genius."
"Your prattling will stop," Elizabeth says, sharply
The Doctor takes a step towards the lovers and looks down to Elizabeth with nothing but pity on his face.
"If he stays with you, then those guards will destroy all of England," he says. "They'll blow up the whole island to get to him, and kill everyone here."
"But we could get away," she says. "We could go into your box and---"
"Elizabeth," the Doctor says, firmly. "Your name will sit in history no matter what you decide today. It's part of Time."
"What does that have to---"
"You asked me before why you couldn't be hurt by the forest," he says. "It's not because they were kind or courteous. It's because they recognized you. They knew who you were, and they know you don't die here. Your story doesn't end here." He looks up to Bodrik. "But yours does."
Bodrik stands up straighter, and Elizabeth stands in front of him, protectively.
"I won't let you take him," she says.
"This whole island, Elizabeth," the Doctor says. "Every person here is counting on you. Counting on you like they could never count on your sister."
Elizabeth's expression doesn't change, but the Doctor can swear he sees her face harden with his words.
"In this moment, there's no succession, no family placement. Right now, you are Queen, Elizabeth." He takes a breath. "Save your country."
She does not cry. Her face just stays stiff and sad, and he imagines that she has buried so much of her hurt that she can't possibly release any of it.
"I am indebted to you," she says, coldly.
"No," he says, "You don't---"
"And so, I shall spare you now."
He starts. "I'm sorry?"
She turns her head to face him. "I spare you now. Go into your box and never come back. If I ever see you again, I shall have your head removed from its shoulders."
"Never say my name again," she says. "And never come back."
Her words are final, and without hesitation, she rears up her horse and starts off into the forest.
Off into history.
In forty years, she would see him again and proclaim him her sworn enemy. He always thought that once he knew why, he'd at least know what she was stupidly blaming him for.
Now he knows.
He blames himself, too.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Word Count: 1,708