They ran for the TARDIS, more or less. Every once and a while, someone would stop, and ask why they were running until they all ended up with the word ‘RUN
’ written across their hands in pen.
“What are we running from?” Rory asked once they were all inside.
“I have no idea,” the Doctor said, closing the door and flipping the lock. “But I know it’s something, and I know it’s impossible to remember properly.”
“And it’s a threat,” Canton added.
“Either that or it made a very persuasive argument in favor of marathon training,” the Doctor replied. “Think, think, think, think- everyone empty your pockets. All of you, now.”
Amy, River, and Rory obeyed without hesitation, and Canton wasn’t far behind. They pooled their things out on the floor and crouched around it like a bunch of teenagers playing spin the bottle. The Doctor picked up his notepad first, and thumbed through it, before tossing in back in the pile. Then he took a circular thing Canton would have pegged as a fancy paperweight, and presses down on the stone in the center. For a brief moment, silhouettes resolved themselves in the air above it: three figures, two with giant packs and one with a hat. River snatched it back and the picture disappeared.
“Spoilers, sweetie,” River said, tucking it back in her pocket. “Whatever we’re looking for, it isn’t there.”
His picked up some kind of pink rectangle thing, slid it open, then jumped back.
“Ah!” he cried, rearing back. “Well, there’s a face even a mother couldn’t love.”
They all craned around to see what he’d found, and then-
Nothing. He couldn’t remember a damn thing, until everyone had their belongings back in place and the Doctor was strolling out of the TARDIS into a room full of armed Secret Service agents. He turned right around and closed the doors, and there was the dull thud of bullets hitting them.
“Okay,” Canton said, in the calm voice he used to use for situations like one of his agents finding a bomb under their car. “Whatever it is, they’re giving orders to shoot on sight.”
“To the Secret Service,” the Doctor confirmed. “In the White House, no less, which is a bit troubling, as the President lives there, and could almost certainly be under their control as well.”
There were many worst-case scenarios that Canton thought of at that moment, but what came out was. “My God. They could start a nuclear war.”
“Or round up whatever kind of citizens they didn’t like in interment camps as a security risk,” the Doctor said. “Or invade other countries. Or-” he looked at Amy. “Or they could go to the moon.”
“But why?” Amy asked.
“Good question!” the Doctor said, holding out his hand. After a moment, Amy started, and handed him the pink thing back. “But I’ve got a better one: how do we find that out?”
He couldn’t remember what came next anymore. He could remember remembering, kind of. He thought he dreamt about it, sometimes, but it was always gone again before he could reach for his notepad to write it down.
The next memory that was solid and real in his mind was holding a gun at the Doctor’s head. He had his hands up, and looked worried.
“You have to remember,” he hissed. “To play
the bad agent, not be
the bad agent.”
“I always perform to the fullest of my abilities,” Canton said, and suddenly the door behind him was kicked down and the place was swarming with suits.
It took a bit of fast talking to convince the agent to imprison not kill the Doctor, but he was always good at convincing people to see things his way, and the creeping feeling of deja vu made him think that he’d said those words before. He claims- and seems to believe- he’s from another planet He has plan to spark civil unrest using Americans brainwashed into thinking they’re from the future, or another planet. He knows things. He has information that might be useful. Why don’t we put him in Area 51 with all the other ‘aliens’?
“Do you even know why you’re doing this?” Amy asks, looking scared. “Can you even remember? The warehouse?”
He shoots, and she falls, apparently dead, but according to the writing in his notepad, the bullets in his gun won’t do much harm: he’s got special bullets in it now that will just put her into hibernation. Don’t try to sneak her any food or water. Don’t try to let her out for the bathroom. Just shoot her, put her in the body bag, and find the others within three weeks, or it will have all been for nothing.
He doesn’t know how that could possibly work, but he trusts that it will. It’s in his handwriting, after all.
Nixon put him in charge of tracking down the Doctor’s posse, and suddenly he had his old job back, almost. He stopped short of a full reinstatement, but once again he was addressed as Special Agent Delaware, and had responsibility for operations, agents, contacts, even a prisoner.
He got daily updates on the Doctor: the details of his nearly successful escape attempts were in almost every one, until he finally paid Area 51 a visit himself. They brought the Doctor out in a straight jacket: he’d started growing a beard, Canton noticed. It didn’t suit him at all, but it did make him look even more pathetic then the straight jacket did.
It was with this in mind that he turn the special agent in charge of Area 51.
“Really? You have nothing here that can contain that
?” he asked.
“I don’t want to hear what he’s been doing,” Canton cut him off. “I know what he’s been doing- unless you’ve left something out of your reports?”
“No sir,” the agent replied. Caldwell, his name was: Dr. Augustus Urquhart Caldwell. He’d commiserate, if he weren’t here on business.
“Then why don’t you tell me what you’re not
doing to keep this man contained?” he pressed.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“I’m not an idiot,” Canton said. “I am
a government agent working under the command of the president himself, with a very high security clearance and some time to read on the flight over here. I’ve got a good idea of the kind of artifacts you’re keeping here. Do you honestly expect me to believe you have nothing that can keep him contained?”
“There’s...something. They’re like bricks- but impenetrable. And very heavy, moving them is incredibly difficult.”
“Do you have enough for a prison cell?” Canton asked. “Big enough for four secured prisoners, and an interrogator?”
“Yes,” Caldwell admitted, reluctantly.
“Then build it,” he ordered, and began to walk away.
“But, sir!” Caldwell called after him. “It’ll take at least two weeks to build a cell of that size. How do we keep the prisoner contained until then?”
Canton rolled his eyes as he turned back around to face him. “You keep him here, on that chair, in that straight jacket, under armed guard with the lights on full 24/7 so there’s nowhere for him to hide. And you build that cell around him.”
That had been in his notepad too: they needed a place no one else could get into. He hoped that was what the Doctor was trying to communicate with his multiple escape attempts, rather than something he’d forgotten to write down, before forgetting completely.
He walked out without further comment, until one of the servicemen attached to Area 51 runs up to him with a message: Suspect Amelia Pond had been spotted not ten miles from his current location.
He ran for his car and left tire marks on the dusty parking lot. Two weeks before their safe space was constructed, and if he caught up with Amy now, three before he needed to have Rory and River ready to be placed inside inside it. The clock was ticking and his radio was full of chatter, and he was hyper-aware of the gun pressed snugly against his side.
He smiled. Oh God, how he’d missed this.
The empty office building is full of long shadows thrown by yellow street lights and fluttering tarps: it reminds him of the darker, more pessimistic detective stories he’d been drawn to as a younger man.
They find Dr. Song there. It’s been six days since he shot Amy- he suspects it’ll be easier to find them now, as they know to ask people to look for the tally marks- and he’s right on schedule.
Then she goes off the script.
“There’s always a way out,” she says, and let’s herself fall back into the Hudson. Canton runs for the edge, watching her fall, then he blinks and she’s gone, below the surface.
He lets himself be horrified, for all off about two seconds, before slipping on his bad agent persona.
“Well, that save Uncle Sam the cost of a body bag,” he says. He sounds jarringly cheerful, even to his own ears. “Let’s go back to the hotel, and let the NYPD deal with her suicide.”
That had been a bad night- the kind of night he didn’t miss at all.
He went in the bathroom of his hotel, locked the door behind him, and stood facing the mirror to reread his notepad. He didn’t remember why he did it that way, not anymore. He wondered if that was what it was like for River: the gaps in her memory getting bigger and bigger until she forgot that he was on her side.
He put the notepad back into his breast pocket, and left the bathroom. He considered the minibar for a moment, but he knew he shouldn’t get drunk tonight, so he went for a walk instead.
He didn’t go far, just to the pay phone three blocks away. He put in three quarters out of the roll he had with him, and punched in the familiar number.
It was late, but not so late that he was worried about waking John up. The man wouldn’t know a decent bedtime if it bit him in the ass- which was fortunate for him, because Canton had always thought that bedtimes were things for other people.
“Hey. Guess who?”
“Canton,” John said, startled. He could imagine him clearly: putting his pen down and straightening up in his seat. “Are you okay?”
“As much as I ever am,” he replied, which was very nearly true. Talking to John always helped center him, no matter what else was going on. He could already feel some of the tension draining from his shoulders.
John hummed into the phone, a sign that he didn’t really buy it but was willing to let it pass for now. “Are you still doing that thing for the President?”
And just like that, all the tension returned. He hadn’t told John about Nixon’s call; he’d only spoken with him twice since he’d been fired, and not at all after this whole mess started.
Or, at least, that was what he remembered doing.
“I’m still here,” Canton said. “And I’m still on the President’s... thing. Though it’s gotten a bit out of hand since I took it on.”
“Anything you can talk about on the phone?” John asked quietly.
Canton shook his head, even though John couldn’t see. “Even if I could, I don’t know how I’d ever find the words.”
They were silent for a while, then Canton asked “So, what’s going on in your life?”
John was moving to Philladelphia to take a position at the University of Pennsylvania, apparently. From what he gathered, he’d been told this already, in the phone call he didn’t remember. Canton knew about the offer, but he hadn’t known John had changed his mind and accepted it. He’d been happy with the practice in Jackson, if happy was the right word. He wondered what changed, but John didn’t bring it up, and Canton couldn’t bring himself to explain that he didn’t remember- not over the phone, at any rate.
He hoped no one from the FBI had started spreading rumors about his sexuality, or convieniently leaked what information they had about it. He hoped the KKK, Sov-Com, and all the other pro-segregationist groups hadn’t started targeting him specifically, rather than just as a member of Mississippi’s first all-black bar association.
John talked about the professor housing available at UPenn for a while, as Canton listened, occasionally offering a dry remark and once inserting more quarters in to the phone. Then he seemed to wind down, until there was a pause, and then “Can you tell at least me you’re not involved with what’s going on in New York?”
For a moment, Canton wondered how John had managed to hear about Dr. Song down in Jackson, before his brain caught up with the rest of him. “I can tell you that what I’m doing has nothing to do with what happened at Stonewall.”
Or so he hoped, at any rate.
“Just be careful,” John said.
“I will,” Canton assured him. “I’ll see you when this is over, John.”
“See you then,” John said. “Love you.”
“Love you too,” Canton said, and hung up.
He walked back to the hotel very slowly, dragging his feet. No, he hadn’t missed nights like this at all.
It takes them nine days after they left New York to find Rory. By that time the rumors circulating between his agents have changed, and he’s started to overhear whispers that he wasn’t fired for homosexuality, he was fired for being too trigger happy, too willing to get his hands dirty, too comfortable with killing people. There’s a part of him that he’s buried pretty deeply at the moment that finds the number of people who think the two are mutually exclusive hilarious. But then again, he’s always fit everyone’s expectations of an American James Bond better than he’s fit everyone’s expectation’s of a gay man. The role he’s playing now is just closer to the Bond Ian Flemming wrote about, rather than the one Sean Connery played in the movies, that’s all.
“Looks aren’t everything,” he tells Rory before shooting him. Rory seems relived, and Canton’s pretty relieved himself. Rory remembers, he’s sure of it, and the Doctor’s prison is due to be completed this afternoon.
Then he was finally going to get some answers.
And he did, although they were interrupted by Amy and Rory’s need to get rid of the tally marks, and Dr. Song’s insistence that the Doctor really needed to shave that beard.
“Oh, and you left this here,” the Doctor said, pulling a shoebox from out of nowhere and handing it to Canton with a rattle. “I don’t know if you remember.”
“I don’t,” Canton said, and pulled the lid off it. There were only two things in the box: the cartridge for his gun, with actual bullets inside, and a folded up piece of paper he could tell came from his notepad.
He ignored the bullets for a moment, and opened the note. John moving to Philly for teaching job. Says the FBI knowing about him feels like too much of a risk. Thinks things will be safer in Philly, for both of us. I should move there after the finish. He knows not to expect contact for a long time. He’ll leave his new contact info with Lulu.
And underneath that, written in handwriting so small he had to squint to make it out was: John A. Washington is my fiancee. A lawyer, as smart as I am. He’s worth getting fired from the FBI. I love him.
At least he never forgot that part. He folded the note back up and stuck it in his breast pocket, and set about turning his gun into a lethal weapon again.
Nixon doesn’t reinstate him, let alone change things so he and John can marry, but he expected that. He leaves the White House with a large sum of money deposited in his bank account; he uses some of it to rent an office and an apartment in Philly, and some to move his stuff in storage there. Then he leaves a bit in his checking account, puts some more in his savings account, and all the rest will go into a high-interest trust fund that will mature in five years time, pending John’s approval. His plan goes like this: John will have tenure by then, he’s sure, and between the money and the job security they could risk buying a house somewhere- and probably still have some left over for a honeymoon, or something. As for him, well, he’s spent far too much as his life sticking his nose into other people’s business to give it up now. He likes the sound of ‘private investigator’.
Things are changing, have changed a lot already since he was fired. The Stonewall Riots sparked something bigger than anyone probably thought possible when the first punch was thrown: now they have pride demonstrations, and activist groups that get national attention, some of it positive.
He’s fairly confident that, in five year’s time, it will be legal for he and John to be together, even if it won’t be legal to get married yet. He thinks that the day when it will be legal is coming sooner than he would have thought possible, those four-and-a-half months ago.
Also, the world is no longer controlled by aliens who could never be remembered and could implant post-hypnotic suggestions in any person they chose. There’s progress for you.
Though he’s going to have a hard time convincing John of that one.