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Out Of Africa
aliquid novi
by Raven

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 thing.

“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 memo.

“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 longer.”

“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 am.”

“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.


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