PG, gen. Daniel and the Doctor.
They dimmed the lights near closing time. A genteel English way
of saying hurry the hell up or we’ll kick you out, or at least Daniel
thought, letting his feet drag in a perverse attempt to move slower. Around him,
he heard footsteps quicken as people moved on, and saw a mother chasing a small
child out of the Sainsbury African collections. He watched her go
dispassionately. There was no hurry. There was never any hurry these days, and
besides, the rain was coming down hard enough to be heard on the roof.
“Ah, the enthusiasm of the young,” said a quiet voice nearby. Daniel looked up
sharply. The speaker was a man he hadn’t seen before, edging out from behind a
glass case. He was looking directly at Daniel, and pointing to the child
effortlessly evading its mother in an attempt to look at just one more
“Do I know you?” he asked uncertainly, wondering if the British Museum
out-of-hours was the latest gay-and-bi pick-up joint and he’d just missed the
“In the wider sense, in that every scholar is kin to another, then yes. In the
more immediate sense of have we ever met, then the answer is no.” The man smiled
and unconsciously smoothed his hair back behind his ears. He looked like every
classic stereotype of an Edwardian dandy that Daniel had ever read about, what
with the velvet frockcoat and long, face-framing hair.
“Oh,” he said after a minute. “Okay. Um, I’m Daniel. Daniel Jackson.”
“Ah!” The man’s face lit up. “Then perhaps our kinship is closer than I thought.
You’re an archaeologist, yes? You were quite well-known some years ago for your
insights on cross-cultural pollination. That is if you are who I think you are.”
“Yeah,” said Daniel, surprised and a little unnerved. “Yes, that’s me.” And
because he couldn’t help himself, he asked: “You’ve read my papers?”
“Yes, I have. I was intrigued. You have a remarkable mind, Dr. Jackson.”
Daniel smiled a little. “Thank you. I’m afraid you’ve got the advantage on me.”
“Ah, yes, I’m sorry. I’m generally known as the Doctor.”
Daniel frowned. “Just...”
“Just the Doctor.” The man smiled back at him, and Daniel noticed he had
unusually bright eyes, reflecting the spotlights in the glass cases like those
of a cat. “What brings you here, Dr. Jackson? More research?”
“Ah, no.” Daniel took off his glasses and wiped them, almost reflexively. “I’m
here for, well, I suppose you could call it pleasure. I won’t be in London much
“The same is true for me.” The Doctor began to walk around the closest glass
case, which contained a piece of ancient tribal jewellery or some such thing;
Daniel had a private disdain for museum cards laid on in public museums as
dumbing-down for the masses. But the Doctor seemed to be studying it avidly
enough. “I remember when they were making that,” he said lightly. “A good job
they did of it, too.”
Daniel smiled to himself; he supposed his new friend must have some sort of
scholarly connections after all. It wasn’t unheard of, after all, for replicas
to be on display with the real artefacts locked up safe in the vaults without
the public being any the wiser. “A confirmed fake, then?” he said.
The Doctor looked honestly startled. “What? Oh, heavens, no! Certainly not.
Ex Africa semper aliquid novi, as they say.”
Even after a minute of thinking about it, Daniel didn’t ask the obvious
question. Instead, he inspected the man once again, looking him up and down for
signs of lunacy. There were none there, beyond the slight taste towards
eccentricity, the obvious trappings of the academic. “You speak Latin?” he asked
after a minute.
“In a manner of speaking.” The Doctor looked thoughtful. “I used to speak Latin
vulgaris – cattus instead of feles, you know what I mean. The
language of Pliny and Seneca is generally beyond me. I met Seneca at a party
once. Terrible man for mixing his metaphors.”
Daniel stared. “You met Seneca?”
“In passing. Is ancient Rome your particular area of interest, then?”
“Uh, no. I specialise in, um, Egypt. My parents were Egyptologists and I was
born in Cairo.” Daniel briefly wondered why he was telling a stranger this, and
then reasoned that he had too many secrets to keep already.
“A fine place to welcome you into this world,” the Doctor said. “It would seem
that you, too, are ex Africa.”
Daniel laughed suddenly. “I never thought about it like that. Yeah, I guess I
“I’d be proud of it, if I were you,” the Doctor said, grinning. “Whoever you are
now, you came from somewhere beautiful. Now I rather think we ought to be going,
unless you want to be locked in with the antiquities overnight.”
Surprising himself, Daniel followed him as he led the way towards the doors.
“There’s a ghost story or two about this place,” the Doctor was saying as they
went. “The ghost of an Egyptian mummy who haunts the old British Museum station,
that sort of thing. I don’t believe a word of it, although there were some funny
goings-on around 1941. I do hope the staff aren’t too upset at our tardiness.”
They did attract some glares, which the Doctor defused simply by smiling, and
were able to leave the museum unchallenged. “Doctor,” said Daniel, looking
around at the dripping street as they emerged, “are you here often?”
“Not really,” the Doctor said. “And yet, I think we’ll meet again, Daniel
Jackson. A very good night to you.”
He walked quickly away, blurring and disappearing into the evening rain. Daniel
watched the Doctor go before leaving himself, step by step through the
streetlight-reflecting puddles and running gutters to Holborn.
On an Underground train rattling through the darkness, he dreamed of the desert.