This is my first story ever, so I'd love to know what you guys think! I'm sending all my love and many many thanks to my dear friend and beta NoPondInTheForest!
National Gallery, London, 23rd November 2013
If ever there was a day on which the pain and sorrow of his many centuries of existence had meant nothing to him at all, or a day on which everything he had been deprived of and how much he had drooped became a hazy dream, a mirage, unreal and unimportant, it was certainly this.
Gallifrey falls no more.
Those words had been heavenly music to his yearning ears, and they had kept echoing in his head from the moment they came out of the curator's mouth.
Home. He still had a home. Even if it would be utterly impossible for him to ever find it, the single knowledge of its existence and the certainty of its salvation had him dancing inside. Gallifrey was still out there somewhere, all thanks to him.
All thanks to them.
His sparkling eyes saddened at the thought of the tremendous joy Number Ten and Captain Grumpy would have felt had they also had the chance to hear those very words, even if they were hopelessly destined to forget them shortly afterwards. Seeing the surprised looks on his previous selves' faces would have been like seeing the surprised reflection of his own.
The only person he could presently share that knowledge with was Clara — his gentle, marvellous Clara, once a mystery to be solved, now as transparent and beautiful as he had so badly hoped her to be. As he had always known, deep down inside, that she would turn out to be.
"Clara!" his brain screamed. Oh, he wanted so much to tell her! He needed so much to tell her!
And if he had not been so immersed in his own thoughts, he wouldn't have completely forgotten that she was still waiting for him inside the TARDIS.
"Clara!" This time he didn't even notice when her name escaped his lips.
"You okay now?" Clara asked in return. She had left the door ajar and had been peering through it for a few minutes by then, attentively observing him and enjoying the delighted look on his face with a broad smile on her own. It was easy to realise that something really good must have happened, but she didn't feel she had any right to get in the way of a single one of his happy thoughts.
The Doctor jumped from his seat and turned left to the place where the TARDIS had been parked all along. Then he ran to her, beaming.
"Clara, we made it!"
"What?" she asked.
"Gallifrey! We've saved Gallifrey!"
Struck with amazement, Clara could hardly speak. "But how do you know? Are you sure?"
"Absolutely sure! The curator was just here and he told me that the wh…"
"Doctor, listen!" Clara interrupted, turning her head slightly to her left and putting her index finger on the Doctor's pursed lips, something which, judging by the look on his face, he had clearly not been expecting.
With the room now being in absolute silence, it was easy for both of them to hear the quick steps of someone that was getting closer. They could even hear that someone calling for the Doctor breathlessly before they actually entered the room.
It was Kate Lethbridge-Stewart.
"Doctor!" she cried when she set her eyes on him, smiling, and gasping for air.
"You're still here! Thank goodness! I was worried you'd already left!"
"It's practically a miracle that we haven't. No worries! Doctor's still here! Kate! What's wrong? You look terrible!"
"Oh Doctor…" she went on, panting. "I've come running as fast as I could from the other side of the Gallery, and you know it's huge!"
"Well, here I am now, you've found me! Now please, sit down, and when you can breathe normally again, please tell us what can possibly be so urgent", the Doctor added, leading her to the nearest seat in the room and helping her sit down.
"Shall I get you a glass of water?" Clara asked.
"No, no, I'm fine, I just… I just need a moment."
Kate's hand reached for her jacket pocket, out of which she took an envelope. And a very old envelope indeed, the Doctor noticed, since he instantly recognized the wax seal.
For the second time that day, it was a letter from Queen Elizabeth I.
Ms Lethbridge-Stewart went on as she started to recover.
"The curator sent me here. He was afraid he wouldn't make it in time. Someone's just found this letter in the vault the other one came from, and he insisted it should be given to you immediately."
She handed the envelope to the Doctor, who sat down next to her. Clara came closer and kneeled down next to the Doctor, who opened the envelope and unfolded the yellowish piece of paper that had remained inside for so many centuries. Then he proceeded to read it out loud.
17th May 1600
You despicable man. Almost forty years have passed since you made a fool of me when you ran away after our wedding ceremony, never to come back again… Until last year! When I heard about certain events beyond belief that had taken place at The Globe and resolved to visit Master Shakespeare so that he could give me a detailed account of such events, who did I find there with him? I was stupid… I should have known! You, Doctor! Of all people!
After what you did to me, how dare you show your face in my kingdom again?
Since that day last year, Doctor, not a single minute has passed in which I haven't sworn on the blood of my ancestors that, one day, I would eventually have my revenge, and by means of this letter, my beloved husband, I am delighted to inform you that such day has come at last.
This message might never reach you, but I am afraid that the course of events shall not be altered in the slightest if it does not. My only present regret is the thought that, if it should, I shall not have the pleasure of beholding your countenance in learning that I am about to destroy what was once most cherished and precious to you.
I must go now. There is a fine young man waiting for me in St James's Park! Sweet dreams, my Doctor. And don't you ever dare come anywhere near my kingdom again, for if you do, know that I shall eventually have my dear husband's stupid head inside a domed casing as part of the decoration in the banquet room.
Kate, Clara and the Doctor were stupefied, so much so that a few seconds passed before any of them could utter a single word. It was the Doctor who finally broke the silence.
"A fine young man? Ha! You wished!"
"Doctor, what is it? What is she talking about?"
"She's trying to make me jealous! As if she could…"
"I don't mean that! What is it that she's stolen from you?"
"What? Oh! That! Well… I'm afraid I have absolutely no idea."
"But you must! Think!"
"I don't know, Clara…" he replied. "I honestly don't know. I'm as dumbfounded as you are." Leaving his previous remarks aside, his haunted gaze left no doubt that he really meant what he had just said.
"You don't know? Okay then! So what are we waiting for? Let's go!"
"Yes! Let's go! Quick! We don't have time to lose!" the Doctor repeated, jumping out of his chair before stopping dead. "Oh, wait a minute! Where are we supposed to be going?"
"Where do you think we're going? What about May 1600?"
"Yes! May 1600! Of course! You're right! You think I won't show up, don't you, my dear Lizzy? Come on, Clara! Let's hurry!"
"Doctor…" Kate suddenly interrupted, forcing Clara and the Doctor to stop and turn back when they were already rushing inside the TARDIS. "Before you leave, it's just an observation but... Considering the nature of the letter and who the lady involved is… I think it would be wise to turn to a certain gentleman for assistance."
The Doctor remained silent for a few seconds, then he realised who Kate Stewart had meant with those words.
"Oh… Yes. Yes of course. You're absolutely right."
"It shouldn't be too difficult to get to him, I reckon…"
"Oh no, of course it shouldn't."
"Doctor" interrupted Clara, suddenly struck by understanding, "wouldn't it be wrong?"
"Absolutely wrong to be sure, but sometimes something wrong is the right thing to do."
Clara looked at him silently for a moment.
"And how are we going to find him? Who knows where he might be right now…"
"Good luck, Doctor" Kate said, having recognised the resolve in the Doctor's eyes. "And should UNIT's aid be required, you know where to find us."
"Thank you, Kate. I'll see you again soon."
The Doctor turned his back on her and took a few steps towards the TARDIS before he was abruptly stopped by Clara grabbing the crook of his arm.
"But Doctor! Are you really sure there any real chances that we might bump into him again?"
"Yes, of course I am" he answered, his eyes open wide — wider even than hers. "The truth is, Clara, I know exactly where to find him."
Powell Estate, London, 1st January 2005
Aching all over, the Doctor finally dragged himself into the TARDIS.
He closed the door and leaned against it, eyes gazing down, before he raised his head and looked to the left. Taking hold of the handrail so as not to fall down, he headed in the direction of the console, then took off his long brown coat and threw it into the air.
Lifting his right hand, he could see the regeneration energy was starting to sparkle out of it. It was exactly the same thing that had happened the last time his body had undergone a full regeneration, when he had been looking at the console and suddenly realised his hand was shining brightly with a golden glow.
There was no going back now. He knew it was about to come.
Even in his present wretched state, he made an effort to walk around the console. He stopped in front of the computer screen just to say goodbye to his TARDIS while setting off to get as far away from Planet Earth as possible, and with the TARDIS already lost in the time vortex, the Doctor could still hear the chorus singing the melody the Oods had mentioned before he left the Earth. The whole universe would bide him farewell in unison, they had said.
It definitely was one of the most beautiful melodies he had ever heard.
He continued his walk around the console just to stop at the same place where he had been standing only a few seconds earlier. That music sounding in his head seemed now to be intertwining with a different melody, and one as sweet, but also much more powerful. What he couldn't determine was whether it was actually easing his pain or piercing through his very soul. It was a sad song too, but at times he got the impression that it contained a message which his present condition wouldn't allow him to understand.
Or could it possibly be a message of hope?
Because he refused to believe that the last thing this version of him would ever do would just be go insane.
All of a sudden, the beating of his hearts made the pain in his chest unbearable. He looked around, on the verge of tears, and gasped in an attempt to hold them back, but he just couldn't.
Crying and in terrible pain, the Tenth Doctor finally uttered the words that were meant to be his last.
"I don't want to go!"
And then, instead of a whimper, there was a bang.
The regeneration energy emanated from his body, fierce as it had never been before, and it hit the console and the walls and the pillars, setting the TARDIS into fire.
That was when he heard the explosion.
The shake that followed was so violent that he fell on his back. As he raised his head, all the lights in the control room had gone out, and the choir and the music had abruptly come to a halt.
It was only when he got to his feet again that he realised the explosion and the blackout were not the only things he should be worried about — oddly enough, the fire had disappeared as if by magic, and to top it all up there was also the fact that he had not regenerated at all! And yet, there was no more regeneration energy coming out of his body, or accelerated heartbeats in his chest, or pain in any other part of his body. There was nothing, except a dark and non-active console room and a joyful remark coming from the door.
"Well, not exactly his best moment but… Did you hear that? That's what I meant! I told you, didn't I? I told you! I did! I did tell you! He always says that!"