He almost walks past the angel without noticing, distracted by the figs he’s eating and the need to step carefully; street-cleaners are a long way in the future. But he happens to turn his head at just the right moment to see an older man across the street startle, and to catch a glimpse of power and glory and wings.
Then he blinks and the street is again void of anything more spectacular than sweaty humanity, although his curiosity would have him abandon his figs and slip after the man now stumbling away from him toward what’s either the center or edge of town (the narrowness of the winding streets would baffle even the keenest sense of direction).
But even as the figs fall from his grasp, there comes a shout and the rumble of a sudden camel stampede. By the time he remembers the possibility of something more (or less) than human, he’s in another part of the city, convincing a couple of guardsmen of his harmlessness.
He prefers the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to the twenty-second, but mostly because of aesthetics. The majority of the century was spent rehashing and exaggerating the fashions and fads of the previous one hundred and fifty years, with an inexplicable fondness for avocado green, burnt orange, and purple. Fifteen minutes in the wrong place and decade, and you’re guaranteed an instantaneous migraine.
Unfortunately, there’s a doohickey made for only a couple of years after 2183 that can be retrofitted for the TARDIS, and the next closest equivalent can be found only in a determined and perpetual war zone. (He’d tried for a cease-fire once, and wound up needing to repair more than just the doohickey .)
This is why he winds up at a garage-sale equivalent in 2193, the year good taste made a comeback, digging somewhat frantically through a bioplas box full of biolube-streaked widgets with something akin to frustration. He’s so intent on the contents of the box that he doesn’t even pause when someone speaks to him.
“What do you seek?” the (male-ish) being asks, tone incurious.
“A B-Niner Twin Hook Space/Time converter,” he says, then sighs and stops to wipe his hands off on his coat. “But there aren’t any.”
“Are you certain?”
And even as he opens his mouth to protest that yes, he’s certain, he’s always certain, and besides, he’s dug through the box five times and found nothing worth tuppence, the being reaches a very human-looking hand into the box and produces exactly what was looked for, in factory-new condition. Which is received with the kind of awe usually reserved for pieces of fine art (and some that look like used tissues; as has already been established, human aesthetics are often inexplicable).
“How did you— Where—?” He can’t decide how to finish the question, too distracted by the perfection of what he’s been handed. But when he finally looks up, there’s no one there except a little old cat-lady sorting out baby clothes.
(The doohickey lasts practically forever, unlike its jury-rigged predecessors—another thing that would be inexplicable, if he ever noticed.)
The kitchens are a wreck from the any-landing-you-can-stumble-away-from-is-a-g
Usually he’d have been off by now, as cleaning-up is Something Other People Do, but there was pie and how could he turn that down? He’s sitting outside as a compromise, though, in the scant shadow cast by the ship, and that’s the only reason he notices when the angel walks by.
He almost doesn’t; the sun here sits large and hot and bright in the sky, so that the angel almost blends in. For a moment the Doctor stares at his last sprongful of pie as though that will tell him why the air suddenly hangs heavy with being, existence momentarily more certain than it should be.
The pie offers no explanation, so he looks up just in time to see someone disembark from the ship and disappear in a shuddering of reality, and the Doctor springs to his feet, sprong and maybe-hat and remnants of pie falling forgotten to the ground.
When he runs back inside, no one knows what he’s talking about; there are no missing passengers or crew, and no possibility of stowaways, as the Doctor himself had proven.
But then, five minutes earlier he would have also said there wasn’t any possibility of angels. Not here, not anymore.
It’s odd, being rescuee instead of rescuer. He would marvel at the strangeness of it—has it really been so many years? Has he been alone for so long?—but all his wonder is spent on the being that minutes ago kept him from being summarily executed as a pickpocket.
“I don’t believe it,” he says, putting on his brainy specs so as to better peer through them (sometimes the universe makes more sense inside a frame). The object of his scrutiny is an apparently unassuming human, slightly sunburnt and very rumpled. Apparently.
The Doctor can practically feel the power and single-mindedness pouring off ‘Ralph’, the purity of intent and impartiality of judgment.
“You are free to go,” Ralph repeats, unfazed by the intensity with which he is being studied, the gradual narrowing of the space between his body and the Doctor’s; he stands solidly, as though he knows they will not actually touch. “Belief, in this instance, makes no difference.”
“No, no, it’s not that,” the Doctor breathes, something like hope or euphoria creeping up out of his lungs. “You’re an angel! And you’re here. I thought the last of your kind disappeared, oh, millennia ago.”
“We were merely called Home,” the angel (Raphael, perhaps? It would fit better with angelic sensibility than ‘Ralph’) corrects him.
“Then what are you doing here, now?” the Doctor asks, knowing he most likely won’t receive an answer.
“My Father’s will,” he’s told, which, to be fair, is more than he’d expected.
“This is not your fight,” he’s told by an angel nearly drained of strength, though not of will; spread wings bar him from fully seeing the battle that goes on in a trash-strewn empty lot. But he can feel doom weighing heavily on each second, the shrinking probability that there will be anything past the present moment, and everything in him screams that his place is there, with the humans struggling to keep the future alive.
“None of them ever are,” he says and makes a run for it.