Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

Rose stirred in her sleep but she tried not to move too much. It was too comfortable the way she was lying. She was on her side, curled up slightly, and The Doctor was lying behind her, his body curved around hers, one arm under her shoulder, the other around her waist, his hand over her stomach, through the silk of her nightdress. She moved her hand and put it over his and sighed happily. She loved to be snuggled up in bed with him like this. She felt warm and safe and happy.

And she knew that was a feeling she had to cling onto. Because things had a habit of going wrong around them and that security was something she couldn’t always rely on.

She opened her eyes and looked up at the big viewscreen that looked like a window in their TARDIS bedroom. After taking Grace back to San Francisco The Doctor had taken her to that peaceful, romantic place he had promised. They were in orbit around a very beautiful planet called Thurix IX where they had spent a very pleasant interlude yesterday afternoon, eating exotic fruit and watching exotic birds flying in the clear sky as they walked in an unspoilt landscape. And then they had spent the evening trying to stop an invasion of self-replicating robot spiders with foot long bodies from laying waste to the planet. The sound of them scuttling across the TARDIS was one that she would not forget in a hurry. They were the reason why they were still in orbit as the TARDIS continued to emit an Electro-magnetic pulse that rendered every last one of them in range of the planet completely and utterly dead.

Yes, peaceful happy moments with nothing to worry about were rare. They seemed to run into trouble even in the most innocent places. Her mind wandered over some of the times in their life together when they had been plunged into chaos and fear in a heartsbeat. She recalled with a shudder the time when she and The Doctor and Jack had all been taken from the TARDIS itself and thrown into the midst of the homicidal TV shows of the Gamestation. That was the worst, not just because they all nearly died, and so many people DID die, fighting the Daleks, but because the TARDIS itself had been infiltrated. Their safe place was no longer safe.

She half drifted between sleep and waking and a sort of half dream came to her in which she imagined it happening again, now, as they lay together. She felt The Doctor’s arms dragged from her as he was pulled into the transmat beam, far from their warm bed, from their loving embrace, and dropped into some cruel place where he would have to fight for his life. She could feel the terror, the loneliness, the horror of being so suddenly parted.

“Rose?” She heard him call her name and woke to find herself crying in his arms. “Rose, what’s wrong?”

She clung to him, feeling the warmth of his body, hearing the beat of his two hearts, his kiss on her cheek as he held her close. She slowly told him of her half dream.

“Oh, Rose,” he whispered. “Yes, I understand. I have those nightmares too, sometimes. Losing you is my worst nightmare.” He held her close to him and felt her fear subside. “Too many frightening, ugly things have happened to us,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

“Why should you be sorry?” she asked. “You didn’t do it.”

“It’s my fault. My life. My risks that I brought you into, that you face alongside me. I took you from your safe, ordinary life and plunged you into a life where things are ugly and harsh and terrible. And I worry sometimes that one day it will be too much and you’ll run from me for your own self-preservation.”

“You think I would leave you?” Rose asked. “After I pledged myself to you in our Alliance of Unity?”

“You’re not Gallifreyan born,” he pointed out. “You don’t have to be bound by those vows if you choose not to. If you felt…”

“Don’t be silly. You’re mine. For eternity. Or as near to it as matters. One day you WILL retire, and we’ll have a bit more peace in our lives. But you know I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Any of it. Not even…”

“No,” The Doctor insisted. “There are some memories we can nether of us look back on with fondness. Some things were just TOO terrible. But surely we have had more good times than bad?”

“I think we have, but it’s just that I expect the bad things every time we’re enjoying the good times. Like NOW. I just wish… I wish we could just stop time right now while it’s all quiet and live in this moment.”

“Stop time!” The Doctor laughed softly. “Even a Time Lord can’t just do that, The only thing that would do it is the Key To Time, and you don’t want to know how much trouble it would be to gather the pieces of it scattered across time and space or what nasty side effects there are from putting it together.”

“Why do I get the idea that you’ve done that before?”

“Who do you suppose SCATTERED them in time and space? But I CAN do something close to your wish. Hold on.” He sprang from the bed, grabbing his dressing gown and disappeared out of the room. Rose lay back and looked at the view of the planet, watching the flashes every so often as the dead spiders, breaking away from the great gestalt body they had formed as they travelled through space, became brief meteors falling into the planet’s atmosphere.

Then the view seemed to blur. She rubbed her eyes and looked again and it was, definitely, blurred. The edge of the planet was fuzzy and so were the stars around it.

The Doctor came back into the bedroom while she was trying to work out what was happening.

“What did you do?” she asked him as he slipped into the bed beside her and reached to embrace her.

“I stopped time. Not all time, all over the universe. But locally, around the TARDIS. I’ve frozen us in a fixed moment of time. The TARDIS is re-using that same moment over and over. We’re effectively outside of the time and space the rest of Creation is in. Nothing can reach us. Not EVEN time. We could stay here indefinitely and never grow old.”

“Indefinitely is too long. I’d miss the children,” Rose answered him.

“So would I,” he told her. “But we can have a day or two of absolutely guaranteed peace. What would you like to do with it?”

“Right now,” Rose decided. “I’d like you to make love to me the way you did on our honeymoon night when you turned down the artificial gravity in this room and we flew three feet above the bed. Then I want to sleep in your arms without fear of anything bad happening and decide what else to do when I wake up again.”

“I’ll have to get out of bed again to turn down the gravity,” he told her.

“Well, never mind that, then,” she responded. Just make love to me the way you usually do and it’s like flying anyway.”

He laughed again and his hands caressed her body, and every doubt, every fear was driven from her mind as he roused the same passion and desire in her that he did that first honeymoon night. Six years of marriage, nearly, and their love was as real and intense and physical and wonderful as the first day. Yes, she thought, before he drove all thoughts but one from her mind. The good outweighed the bad by a long, long margin.

When she woke again the clock by the bed told her it should be eight o’clock in the morning. The room was light because the TARDIS lights automatically came on when it should be daytime even though there was only the black of space outside. And even though it was frozen in time it was pretending that time was passing.

The Doctor wasn’t there, but there was a cup of tea and a note. She read it.

“Get dressed and join me in the virtual room.”

She drank the tea and got dressed and made her way through the TARDIS corridors to the room with the double doors by the coke machine. The room that the TARDIS could configure to look like anything and anywhere that she or The Doctor could ask it to create. Anything their imagination could conjure. They didn’t do it often, because it took a lot of energy and refuelling meant spending the weekend in Cardiff with the TARDIS parked over the natural spatial/temporal rift that ran through it, and they quickly ran out of things to do there. Besides, they had a whole universe to explore for real. They didn’t need to imagine it.

She stepped through the door and caught her breath as a cool, sharp breeze caught her. She looked around at the scene. They appeared to be on top of a mountain. A tall mountain, the tallest thing in the landscape that stretched before her.

The Doctor was sitting at the edge of a wide ledge looking out over the landscape. She went to join him, sitting at his side. He was pulling food out of a rucksack he had with him.

“Breakfast,” he said, pouring a mug of coffee from a flask. She took it and drank as she looked around at the landscape below and thought she recognised some of the features.

“Gallifrey?” It was one of the few exception to the rule about not needing to create places out of his imagination. Gallifrey only existed in his imagination. Now and again she knew he did come to this room to spend time in the virtual landscape. He needed to remember his lost home in a more concrete way. Sometimes she came with him, sometimes he was solitary, with only his memories for company.

“This is the top of your mountain, isn’t it?” she said. “Mount Lœng.”

“Not quite the top,” he answered, and she turned and followed his eyes as he looked up to the dizzying heights of the mountain peak. Clinging to the rock, near that peak was the Monastery where the Brotherhood of Mount Lœng lived their lives of contemplation. Between where they were and the monastery was serious climbing territory. Sheer rockfaces, outcrops and overhangs.

“If you wanted to join the Brotherhood you had to prove it by getting up there under your own steam,” The Doctor said. “I got there, but they said I didn’t have enough patience for the contemplative life. But I kept on climbing up and they accepted me as a sort of persistent nuisance who was prepared to learn their disciplines even if they didn’t make me one of them. I never did learn patience.”

He turned and put his arms around her shoulders as he looked out across the landscape. “See, below, the river. That’s the B?rrow. The mountain and the river defined the boundaries of our demesne so that’s where the family name came from. I always thought it was such a proud, strong name. An Oldblood House, sired by Rassilon himself, that had produced great warriors and great academics, explorers and adventurers, philosophers and inventors. Then I learned about Earth culture and thought we sounded like a Hobbit family, named after the landscape around us.”

“Nothing wrong with that, either,” Rose assured him. “Hobbits are good people. I like being a Lœngbærrow. I like it when people call me that. Mrs De Lœngbærrow. Your wife.”

“Lady de Lœngbærrow,” The Doctor corrected her. “After all these years you still have trouble with being an aristocrat.”

“Well, what do you expect when my aristocrat husband still wears the same scruffy old leather jacket he wore when he kidded me he couldn’t afford to buy a bag of chips?”

“I thought you liked the jacket.”

“I do,” she assured him. “I love to hold you when you’re wearing it. It smells like… you. It’s a part of you.”

She hugged him tight, pressing her face against that old leather, the familiar scent that she loved. She cherished the opportunity to do so. And being able to hold him, to kiss him, to love him and be loved by him in such a setting was all the more wonderful.

“I wish I could have brought you here for real,” he sighed as they broke from their embrace and sat very close again, looking out over the view. “I wish… so much… I wish you could have met my father when he was alive. I wish you could have been the Lady de Lœngbærrow here. Our house is down there. See where the river bends around and there are those trees. Behind them, that’s the House of Lœngbærrow. That’s where I was born.”

“I know,” she told him. “You recreated it for us once. Didn’t feel right without people. Empty, lonely.”

“Yes,” he admitted. “That’s why I thought the mountain would be better. People aren’t meant to be here. It doesn’t seem as wrong.”

She looked with him across the great landscape that stretched before them. He pointed out other landmarks on the southern continent and then his eye fixed on the distant horizon. There was a stretch of water, greenish-blue with a yellow tinge, reflecting the yellow sky of this world so very different from Rose’s home world, from the world his mother came from. There was a small city on the edge of the southern continent. A white city. The Doctor said all the buildings were made of a local stone a bit like limestone but much more durable.

“Most of them are tens of thousands of years old,” he added. “It’s an ancient city. The Capitol, on the Northern continent is our great, modern metropolis. You can JUST see it over there. Our Citadel of wisdom, with all of the great Academies of learning within its walls, and the Panopticon, seat of government. Beyond it is the great Red Desert, the wasteland. But within the walls of the Capitol is civilisation, the home of the most powerful beings in the universe.”

He spoke proudly as he said that. His eyes glittered and his face muscles were set.

“One way of looking at it, anyway,” he said with a softer, sadder tone. “It’s how I thought of it when I was young and idealistic and proud of my Gallifreyan heritage. Even when I was an exile, my hearts burned with pride when I thought of home. I thought of my people, guardians of eternity, seated there in splendour and glory. Even when they put me on trial there and then banished me to Earth, I was still proud. Even when I spoke of them disparagingly and resented their interference in my life. But then…”

“Then?” Rose looked at him as he gazed out across those many miles to the great city. Or the recreated image of it, at least. She had to keep reminding herself that this wasn’t REALLY Gallifrey.

“I came back… summoned back. There was a crisis in government. Long, boring story. But I saw for the first time what was probably the truth all along. Our glory was a façade. It was like a layer of wafer thin gold leaf over a wooden throne. It looks splendid for ceremonial occasions. But underneath the wood is riddled with dry rot. Our High Council was made up of old men who hadn’t had an original thought for centuries, who went through the motions of ceremony and rite, who sat in Council and talked and talked and did nothing. Our society was riddled with dry rot. And nobody noticed because it was gilded over. I saw through the façade and saw the corruption and the stagnation and I could have cried. Except I didn’t have time. Too busy stopping The Master from using the impotency and uselessness of our government to take control.”

“Which you did, of course.” Rose said, proudly.

“Yes, and exposing their weaknesses was cathartic. Some of the true glory did start to reassert itself. But still, too many old men held onto power. And we were as arrogant and sure of ourselves as ever. We didn’t think anything could destroy us. There’s a word for it in High Gallifreyan. The Greeks used it too. Hubris.”

Rose nodded in understanding. Once, she wouldn’t have known what the word meant. She vaguely remembered doing a couple of Greek plays in English Lit. class and the word Hubris, meaning a self pride that leads to downfall, must have come up in the lessons, but she wasn’t paying attention. She had learnt all about that sort of thing with The Doctor. He had taken her to ancient Greece and those dull old plays came alive before her, and now she understood.

“It’s all in the past,” he said, breaking into her reflection. “We won’t make the same mistakes again.” He smiled brightly as he pushed the sad memories back down. “I didn’t bring you here to be sad. I wanted to feel a Gallifreyan breeze on my face and look at a burnt yellow-orange sky and snog you in the places I snogged the only other woman I ever loved as much as I love you.”

“You brought Julia here?” Rose asked. He hadn’t mentioned her for a long time, but Rose knew she was always there. She slept in his mind, he said of her. Along with all the other people he had lost along the way. But he didn’t stop loving her just because she died in what, in Earth years, was about when Henry VIII became king.

“This mountain was one of our special places away from it all. When I was tired of work and she had been a society lady for long enough, we would come up here to be ourselves. The world was below us. The monks were above. And here we were free.”

“There’s the cave, too, isn’t there?” Rose said. “Behind the waterfall.”

He smiled as he remembered. She had seen it once in a recreation like this. He had told her it was a very special place where he and Julia spent many nights of marital bliss. He had even mentioned casually that his son was conceived on one of those sultry nights.

But when she was there with him, it was long before they were married. They had never made love there.

“Can if you want,” The Doctor said. “If you’re up to a day’s hike down a mountain.” He looked at her. She was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt and trainers. Not quite right for such a hike, but then neither was a leather jacket. He picked up the rucksack and noted that it still had plenty of food and drink in it for the trek. That was one thing about the TARDIS’s virtual worlds. They never were short of something to eat.

“I’m up to it,” she said, standing up.

And she was. She walked with him, matching his pace. Sometimes they walked side by side. A lot of the time she followed in single file as the path narrowed. Some of it was hair-raising. The drop down was perilous and the ground underfoot was rough. But they took it steadily. He remembered that she was Human and made sure they took regular rests for a drink and something to eat. On his own he would have pressed on without a pause.

In the hottest part of the day, around thirteen o’clock, and for an hour afterwards when the sun blazed down on that side of the mountain they sought a rare shade beneath an overhang and ate lunch. Then they continued on. The path became a little less steep and it was a little easier and by tea time they could hear the waterfall and were soon cooled by the spray as they followed a path close to it.

Finally they reached the path that went behind the waterfall, to the secret cave. Rose smiled as she saw it. The TARDIS created all of this from The Doctor’s imagination, and his imagination was very detailed about this place. At the back of the cave was a bed of soft rugs and furs where two people could sleep comfortably. Near the front, behind the waterfall, but clear of the spray that dampened the entrance, another rug was spread and there was a welcome meal laid on it. Chicken drumsticks and cooked meats, pork pies, her favourite snack food, cheese, pickles, bread rolls and butter, fruit, and a bottle of wine.

They sat and ate with the hunger that comes after a day’s healthy exercise. They drank the wine slowly, savouring the taste as the late afternoon turned to evening and the diffused light through the waterfall faded to night. The Doctor lit candles in the cave that was warm without being stuffy, the waterfall providing a natural air conditioner and a constant sound that was soothing to the ear.

They took hold of each other’s hands and went to the back of the cave. Slowly they undressed each other and lay between the warm, soft furs and reached to touch, to caress, to surrender to the inevitable yearnings of two people who had promised to love each other for an eternity.

Rose slept soundly afterwards. An active day, good food, wine and some vigorous love-making combined to ensure that no bad dreams would disturb her this night.

It was The Doctor who had the disturbed night. He slept for a little while, but woke knowing it was still the middle of the night, and those bad memories he had pushed down were rising up again. In the bright day he could suppress it. But in the night, lying there, as comfortable as he was, warm beneath the furs, his beautiful wife cuddled close to him, giving him every reason to feel perfect content, he was far from content.

Hubris. The pride before the fall. The Greek tragedians could not have envisaged a better definition of Hubris than that which befell the Time Lords. His memory of what happened was more complete now than it used to be. Most of the gaps had been filled. But there was one thing that niggled him like a tooth cavity. One thing that puzzled and worried him.

He thought back to the last day when he had met with his half brother, the Chancellor. The last Chancellor of the High Council of Gallifrey. They had eaten lunch together. The mood had been civil but at least free of the bitterness that had been between them since Garrick was born. A bitterness that was entirely HIS fault, he knew. Garrick had tried to be his friend all his life. He had pushed him away. As a result, neither had said what they really needed to say. Too much was left unsaid.

He had always felt when he thought back on that dinner, that there was something worrying Garrick. Something besides the threat of all out war with the Dalek fleet that was heading towards them, his concern for his children, and his inability to bridge that emotional gap with his brother.

“What was it?” The Doctor whispered. “What was on your mind, Garrick?”

He knew he could find out. His brother’s memories were a part of that new Matrix he had created, along with those of his father, his uncle, and every Time Lord who was alive on that last day. One of their final acts had been to join together in the panopticon to leave the imprint of their minds in the Matrix. The last thing HE had done before he left for his probably suicidal mission was to be a part of that joining. But rather than leaving his own imprint in the Matrix, the Matrix, with those new submissions to it, had been imprinted in him. A condensed, compressed thing that ought to have been too heavy, too great a thing for him to bear, was lodged in his brain and he was thus charged with the duty of living on and carrying with him the wisdom of the Time Lords.

And then they told him he would remember it when the time was right and had wiped his memory of it being done. He only recalled it when he went to the Hill of Tara to create that new Matrix and to be relieved of that burdensome duty.

But the Matrix was there when he needed it. It was there in his head spiritually as it was there at Tara in physical form. And he WAS the President of the new Gallifrey. The Matrix was at his command.

He sat up in the bed and felt for his trousers and jumper. He wasn’t going to do this naked! He pulled the furs around Rose as she slept on, unaware. Then he walked to the front of the cave, standing within the fine spray of the waterfall. He closed his eyes and concentrated.

He opened his eyes again and even though it was as he expected, he did a double take. He turned and looked at Rose, sleeping in the bed, then he turned back and looked at the big double door that now replaced the cave entrance and the waterfall. Doors that opened into the Panopticon.

It was empty, of course. The TARDIS did not people these recreations. It was strange to see it empty. Most of the times he had been there it was full of people. Presidential resignations and inaugurations, some high profile inquiries and committee hearings important naming ceremonies, Transcension days, Alliances. His own Alliance of Unity to Julia had taken place here.

But he didn’t need people for his purpose now. He stepped up to the President’s chair and sat down on it. He had sat on it by right many times before, but never really with any sense of pride or honour. He was always too aware of that dry rot beneath the gilded façade of Gallifrey.

Nor did he feel pride, now.

But he did close his eyes for a moment and remembered some of those occasions when he had sat in Council and tried to do the best for all of Gallifrey.

The coronet of Rassilon was there. Placing it on his head would connect him to the Matrix and allow him to call up the information he needed. He wished it didn’t look quite so much like the Crown of Thorns of Earth biblical reference. As he put it on his head he reflected that it HURT like it, too. But the pain was part of the process. It was why only the most worthy were allowed to access the Matrix.

He half-smiled as he saw the viewscreen above the empty High Council table flicker into life. He recognised the scene it displayed. It was the Chancellor’s chamber here in the Panopticon. He recognised the Chancellor who sat at the desk as his own half-brother, Garrick, who had, after all, achieved his ambition to be as good a Time Lord as his older brother was. As a child, a schoolboy, a student, as an adult, Garrick had tried to live up to him.

The other two people in the room were known to him, too. His father, and his uncle, Remonte, his father’s brother, both retired from the High Council but still honoured Time Lords.

“There is no mistake?” his father was asking Garrick. “This… at our hardest trial, at the last. Treason and betrayal? Somebody has done this?”

“Somebody,” Garrick responded.

“They have taken the encryption code that controls the Transduction Barrier, that would leave Gallifrey exposed to invasion and annihilation?”


“Who?” Remonte asked. “Who would do such a thing? Who would betray us to our greatest enemy?”

Garrick didn’t speak. He stood and went to what seemed to be an ordinary wall of his office. He pressed one of the wooden panels and an unseen door slid open. Nobody was surprised. Almost all the rooms of the High Council had some kind of secret entrance. The one in Garrick’s room was singular only because it was a simple touch sensitive spring-loaded door. There were no clever voice-pattern recognitions or a special tune to be played. Garrick was a plain speaking man who despised frippery. His older half-brother applauded his style.

The three men went down a series of steps and corridors and emerged in what could only be called a dungeon. There was no other word for it unless it was torture chamber. They watched dispassionately as the Castellan gave orders for two of the Chancellery Guard to apply an electronic whip to the shirtless back of the prisoner fixed in the punishment frame.

The Doctor shivered. He’d suffered that punishment himself when accused of a crime he was innocent of. This method of extracting confessions was brutal and at odds with their otherwise enlightened and advanced society. But he felt no sympathy for this prisoner. If he truly was guilty of betraying Gallifrey’s security to the Daleks, then he wasn’t hurting nearly enough.

The Doctor knew that was hardly an enlightened view of it, either, but his anger was as deep as those who were witnessing this first hand, and he could well understand why they had kept their knowledge of this from him when he met them in the Panopticon not long after these events took place.

But treason! For all they had accused him of when they branded him a Renegade, such a charge could never have been made against him. He was loyal to his world. He had never stopped loving it.

Who was this man who hated it so much?

“Yes,” the prisoner admitted. “Yes, I did it. They promised me power under their rule. Power over Gallifrey, over the Time Lords, and over the universe. Power over time and space.”

Power! The Doctor’s anger against this man intensified. If it wasn’t money, it was power. People who didn’t deserve it were ALWAYS trying to take it by force. Power and money had that in common the universe over. And why should Gallifrey be different?

And the shock that engulfed all three of the men who faced the traitor now had nothing to do with his megalomaniac reasons for his crime.

“Gailen Malthis,” his father had gasped, reaching to hold his brother’s shoulder reassuringly.

“My son,” Remonte had whispered.

“Son?” Malthis spat back at him acidly. “The only moment I was your son was when I used your DNA that is in my being to gain access to that part of the Matrix privileged to High Council members. I have never been your son. I don’t even have your name, neither given or family. I am of the House of Malthis. You abandoned my mother before I was born.

Remonte said nothing in reply to that. He didn’t need to. All three of the Lœngbærrow men before him knew the truth. So did The Doctor. Remonte didn’t abandon his wife. She left him. The Doctor remembered hearing of the scandal that had taken place some six months before his own parents had been married. Remonte’s wife had demanded that her unborn son was made heir to the Lœngbærrow estate and title, because she claimed the Human wife of the first born son would never produce a child worthy of the name. But her demand was unheard of. The right of Primogeniture was not set aside so easily. She refused to accept that her child would be the son of a second son of the Oldblood House. Remonte’s wife left him, returning to her family home in Northern Gallifrey and gave the child her family name. Remonte came to terms with having a son he was not allowed to know. The gossips found other things to talk about. And when the Lœngbærrow heir was born he grew up hardly knowing his cousin. Gaelin didn’t even go to the Academy all the Lœngbærrow men had been educated at. He was an Arcalian, not a Prydonian. The Doctor remembered he had a far closer relationship with his more distant cousin who would eventually become The Master. Gaelin, meanwhile, had been an average student and went on to hold an average job in the Civil Service and gain promotion only slowly, held back, perhaps, by people who remembered the scandal and despised him for it.

And that was cruel and harsh and unfair, but it didn’t justify treason. Understanding of his bitterness did not elicit sympathy from The Doctor or from the three who were there. It was Remonte who summed up their feelings.

“You are right,” he said. “You’re not my son. You are a traitor and a criminal, and if we live, despite your treachery, I will gladly see you vapourised.

With that Remonte turned away. His brother and nephew followed him. The Doctor saw the whip applied to the prisoner once more, even though he had confessed. He found himself unable to feel sorry about that cruelty.

The guards reached him too late,” Garrick said. “He had already transmitted the information. The encryption was still in place. The enemy could not use it straight away. But our codes are not so unbreakable. It is only a matter of time. And when the barrier is breached, we are defenceless.”

“There is only one hope,” his father said. “Your brother.”

“My brother,” Garrick echoed. “Rassilon guide him.”

“Rassilon has always guided him,” his father responded. “The Codex comes to fruition.”

“The Codex of Rassilon?” Remonte and Garrick both knew of it. The former and the current Chancellor both had the privilege of knowing of its existence.

“It was written on the day he was born,” the father continued. “When his timeline was read the doom of us all was contained within it. Only he would outlive the holocaust. The knowledge was sealed. Only a few were privileged. Even I didn’t know until much later in his life. He was never told that his destiny was to be the LAST Time Lord of Gallifrey. I wish he had known. He might have understood that the many cruelties inflicted on him by us, by his own people, were a preparation for that destiny. Even his years of exile fitted him for the day when there would be no home world for him to return to.”

“Father,” Garrick said. “Is there no other way? My children, my grandchildren… the little ones… They have no chance of escape?”

“None,” his father replied. “When the Daleks bring down the Transduction Barrier they will lay waste to this planet. None will survive. That fool thought he could bargain with them. But they don’t want to rule us. They want to destroy us.”

“And my brother thinks HE is the one going out on a suicide mission,” Remonte said quietly.

“It might still be,” Garrick said. “His chances of survival are SLIM, no matter what the Codex says about his Destiny.” Garrick sighed. “When we are done with the Marix, I am going to my wife. I will be with her in the last moments.”

“So am I,” his father said. “It is all we have left to do.”

“I wish he would just let me tell him how much I love him,” Garrick added as they reached the Panopticon. “I wish he could unbend enough to tell me…”

“Garrick,” his father told him quietly. “He always loved you. He never could admit it, but he did.”

“Oh yes,” The Doctor whispered with tears in his eyes. “Yes, I did.”

He didn’t need to see any more. He took off the coronet. It hurt nearly as much to do that as putting it on. He looked around and saw the cave through the doors. He walked slowly, across the Panopticon floor and stepped through. When he turned again the curtain of the waterfall glittered with the first weak rays of the rising sun. He felt its cooling spray on his hot skin. He stepped into the dry part and went to the back of the cave. He slipped off his clothes and slid under the covers, reaching to hold his wife in his arms.

It had been traumatic, but he knew a truth now. Two truths. One, the name of the traitor who had ensured his world’s doom no matter what else happened, the other…

They didn’t send him on a suicide mission because he was despised and expendable. They sent him because they knew he was their best hope to have any future at all. There was a slim chance he could stop the Daleks and save them. But if he failed, and survived even so, he would fulfil his Destiny and live to raise their doomed race from the dead.

The difference was a subtle one. The end result was the same. They died and he lived, only just.

But a source of bitterness he had carried with him for so long had been dispelled. His hearts reached out for his father, his uncle, his brother and he blessed their memory as he let them sleep once more in his mind and he brought himself back to the perfect moment of content he knew he deserved. He pressed himself closer to his wife and felt her stir and reach her own arms around him. If he concentrated hard right now, he could change the gravity within this cave and when the warm embraces and soft kisses advanced to lovemaking in the first light of dawn, they could fly again.