AUTHOR: Laura H
FANDOM: Doctor Who
CATEGORY: Angst, Romance, Ten/Rose
SPOILERS: Season 1, TCI, CiN special and kinda sorta Doomsday
DISCLAIMER: Have you written fic in an accident that wasn't your fault??
The attaché case shut with a click.
Lights twinkled on the street below the balcony as the parade made its way through the ancient town and the revellers waved their makeshift lanterns. The sounds of the celebration drifted up to the first floor terrace of the old stucco villa, almost drowning out the crash of the waves on the beach. The sea, however, held its own against the laughter and the singing and Mayor Pallo Ignatia smiled contentedly, filled with love for his people who danced below in the street and pride for this land with its deep waters, the colour of amethyst, which exerted their power not half a mile away.
As he cast his eye over the landscape his heart tightened at the thought that, given the events of three days ago, he should not be sitting where he was right now. Everything he surveyed was destined to be turned into a barren tundra, terraformed and sheathed in ice for habitation by an invading alien horde. His people were not a race of warmongers and had little means of defending themselves. The fate of his town and the thousands like it along the coast of the Guardian Sea - how foolish that name seemed now - had seemed bleak.
Pallo had addressed his people from the balcony on which he now sat, telling them to be strong and take solace with their families, but he had secretly wished that they still believed in the Old Gods so that they may have somewhere to direct their prayers. His Mayoral duty over, Pallo had gone into his children’s bedroom, where his wife lay alongside his two young sons and he had held them and waited for the end.
Then a miracle had occurred.
Pallo turned to look at the stranger who now sat across the table from him, sipping idly from his glass of fine Kethlian wine, which Pallo had selected that morning from the depths of his cellar. It was a wine that he had added to his collection nearly twenty two cycles ago and one that he had intended should never see the light of day again but rather nest peacefully amongst the racks of neighbouring rarities. It seemed fitting, somehow, to drink it with the person to whom he and millions of others owed their lives.
It was impossible for Pallo to articulate the gratitude he felt for this man who had emerged from his little blue box and sent their aggressors fleeing starward with his declaration that this planet was now protected. A glass of ridiculously expensive wine was the least he could do.
Pallo watched as the man gazed absently out to sea and thought how an observer may not believe that this subdued person was the one who had just saved an entire race of people from extinction. In his hands the stranger held the beads that some of the local girls, obviously enamoured of their handsome new hero, had earlier placed around his neck as a mark of friendship. He threaded the colourful glass baubles back and forward through his fingers and for the briefest second Pallo was struck by how lost he seemed, staring at some remote point in the distance. Despite the lingering warmth from the setting sun, Pallo shivered.
“Another glass, Doctor?” he asked, unwilling to let the silence grow any thicker.
“Hmm?” The Doctor turned towards him but still seemed distracted.
“Some more wine? We are only halfway through the bottle and I have many more in my cellar that demand our attention.”
The Doctor frowned and looked down at the beads as he passed them back and forth, back and forth.
“Yes, Pallo, if you’re having some more, thank you.” The Mayor reached forward and poured some of the burgundy liquid into the Doctor’s glass, even though there was barely an inch space at the top, before tipping the rest of the bottle into his own empty one.
“You have done a wonderful thing for us today, Doctor. We owe you a great debt.” Pallo paused, wondering. “Will you ask us to repay you somehow?”
“You don’t have to repay me, Pallo. I haven’t ever asked for reward and I never will.”
“Your work is reward enough perhaps.”
The Doctor smiled slightly, but remained silent.
“Have you travelled for a long time?”
Pallo frowned, not understanding the answer but unwilling to pry any further. He sipped his wine and savoured the rich, smoky flavour, glad that he had chosen to open it rather than be content with the notion of simply owning it. What was the purpose of wine if not for drinking?
“Why do you do what you do, Doctor?”
“Why do you do this? This job…vocation… whatever you wish to call it. I’m curious as to why someone would assume the role of defender of planets for no reward. There must be some reason.”
The Doctor sat forward looking puzzled and shook his head.
“No one has ever asked me that before. I don’t think I’ve ever asked myself that before. Maybe I do it because, without it, I don‘t have anything else.” He frowned and stood up, rubbing his hand over his mouth. “I was in a war once. I fought alongside my people against a powerful, relentless enemy and my civilisation was wiped out. An entire civilisation, just gone in an instant. I’m all that’s left.”
Pallo wasn’t sure whether this was an answer to his question or whether the Doctor was simply thinking out loud, but he listened while his companion continued.
“Maybe you’d tell me that it’s atonement or guilt or maybe that I just think of it as my duty, but I know its more than that. If I think about it, the one thing I keep coming back to is that I’m all that’s left to show that once there was a race of Timelords. All those people, every thought, every idea they ever had is gone and all I know is that it shouldn’t be like that.”
The Doctor turned to face Pallo and for the first time the older man thought he saw a spark of something in his eyes. Perhaps he could even have called it passion.
“Life must continue, Pallo! What would the universe be without it?” His knuckles were white as he gripped the beaded garlands tightly. “It’s too big a space to fill with just gas and rock. It needs thought and reason. It needs people making their mistakes and learning from them and making them again but crashing on anyway.”
Pallo was enthralled by the Doctors sudden vitality. He watched as he paced the veranda and was filled with a great desire to see the universe beyond his tiny province. The Doctor carried on.
“Everything I’ve seen, all the things I’ve experienced yet nothing leaves me more awestruck than when I think of the countless sentient species who’ve battled their way, against the odds, from singled celled organisms to vast civilisations. Do you know how difficult that is? Do you realise how many obstacles the universe throws in the way of evolution? And yet still, life continues. What else can I do but give what little help I can?”
“Your reasons are sound, Doctor and I drink to them!” Pallo raised his glass and took a large swallow in toast. “And without life the universe would be a lonely place.” Immediately Pallo regretted his words. As quickly as the passion had been ignited in the Doctors eyes, it was extinguished and he turned away to face the sea again.
“Yes, it would,” he said, simply.
“Pallo! Pallo!” The shout came from below the balcony and the Mayor walked to the edge, leaning over the wall. Etta stood there with their sons, waving their streamers. The look of joy on their faces was mirrored in the other revellers who surrounded them. Pallo waved back, enthusiastically and blew kisses to his wife, who laughed and took the boys hands, leading them back toward the parade. When he turned back to the Doctor, his breath caught at the expression of sadness on his face. To think that just minutes before he had envied him. Now he realised that despite everything the Doctor had seen and done, he had no one to share it with. No one to whom he could say ‘Look! Look at the places I can take you’. Pallo knew then that would never wish to live the life of the Doctor.
He hesitated, not wanting to pry any further but it wasn’t in his nature to ignore the pain of others and he walked over to place his hand on the Doctor’s shoulder.
“Isn’t there anywhere you can call home now?”
The Doctor looked up at him and for a fleeting moment he looked like he was searching for something, a memory half buried perhaps. Then he shook his head and laughed, but it was a mirthless, empty sound. “You sympathise with me, Pallo, when you almost lost everything today?”
“Yes, but you brought it back, Doctor.” He gestured broadly with his arm, indicating the town and the hills and sea beyond. “All of this exists because of you. The Hour of the Wolf has passed, my friend, and that is why we celebrate today.”
“What?” The Doctors tone was sharp and his gaze suddenly intense.
“We celebrate,” replied Pallo, looking puzzled and then realised. “Oh, the Hour of the Wolf? A silly folk tale from the days of the Old Gods. It says a wolf will come in the final hour at the end of the world and devour the earth and drink the seas. Its little more than an expression nowadays. We tell the tale of the big bad wolf to children when they… Doctor?”
The Doctor had threaded his fingers into his hair and his eyes were closed tight. Pallo would have blamed the wine if it weren’t for the fact that his guest’s glass remained untouched.
“Doctor? Are you unwell?” asked the mayor, worried.
“No.. no, I’m fine… just a… a headache…only….”
“Can I fetch you anything?”
“No, Pallo, thank you….” The Doctor looked up suddenly.
“I have to leave.” He turned and grabbed his jacket from the back of the chair, then grasped his host’s hand in a firm handshake. “Thank you for the wine, Pallo and for the hospitality. Look after Etta. That’s important. Look after her.” He stared intently into Pallo’s eyes.
“Yes. Yes of course, Doctor, but I’m not sure I follow…”
“There’s somewhere I have to go. I think there’s something…I…I’m not sure.” He laughed again, but this time it made Pallo smile in amusement. “I’m not making much sense, am I? Never mind, I‘m sure it‘ll all be clear in time. Goodbye, Pallo.”
“Goodbye, my friend, but at least tell me where you’re going?” But the Doctor was already heading down the stairs to the street, where his little blue ship sat on the corner. He turned once and called out something briefly to his bemused host. Then he was through the narrow doors and the ship was gone.
Pallo Ignatia sat back down at the table, sipping his glass of wine and listening contentedly to the sound of his people laughing and singing. He gazed at the heavens and at the tiny pinpricks of light sprinkled over the now black sky and wondered if any of them was this place the Doctor had called Earth.
The error message blinked determinedly, an angry strip of red, in the otherwise monochrome surroundings. The Administrator punched in sequences of numbers, but still the words glared back. A sensation had arisen in the back of his throat, or rather the idea of a sensation that the Administrator thought might be called panic. He turned to his colleague.
“We have a virus.”