A/N: I admit it, I cried at the end of Gridlock. After the ridiculing by my mates had passed, a plot bunny was planted in my head…
Disclaimer: I own nothing; the BBC and Russell T Davies own Doctor Who. The hymn 'Abide with Me' is composed by Henry Francis Lyte, so not mine either.
Warning: Spoilers for all three seasons of the new series, and whopping massive ones for Gridlock.
'Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell'st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.'
As soon as he sees Martha sitting on the battered plastic chair, he knows he's stuck.
'Oh. Right. You staying?'
'Till you talk to me properly, yes. He said 'the last of your kind'; what does that mean?'
Telling her about his planet…well, that was his first mistake. He never told Rose about it. But then, Rose never asked about it. She seemed to think that his past was off-limits, closed door, only-to-be-opened-in-emergency, stuff like that. She let him hide his demons, his pain, because that was what she thought he wanted.
It was what he thought he wanted, until now.
'It really doesn't matter…'
'You don't talk, you never say! Why not?!'
Martha, she has an almost surgical attitude. She wants honesty, truth and no limits on either. He's not sure if that's her personality or her medical training shining through.
The he hears it. The voices, the chorus.
Martha sits up, tears in her eyes as she hears it as well.
'It's the city…they're singing.'
And then he realises.
He wants to name it again.
He wants to tell her properly of his home, of its beauty and wonders.
And more than anything in the five dimensions, he wants to go back there, to lie back on the lush red grass and stare up into the burnt orange skies. To walk once again through the trees, to see the snow settle upon the grass, to watch as the shadow of the moon fades with coming of the dawn…
All it would take for him to reveal even a fraction of that longing is to name it.
…And then his hearts clench with pain at the memory of the message.
Four simple words.
'You are not alone.'
The Face of Boe has now given him more than just a great secret.
As if the destruction of his world, the deaths of his people, and the loss of Rose was not enough for him, he has been given the latest chance to feel his hearts break all over again.
He felt them start to shred as soon as Martha asked about his home.
Only once in the years after the cessation of the Time War has he been able to name the place where he was born, where he once pledged his allegiance to, from whence he was exiled for daring to concern himself with the affairs of the universe.
The Carrionites named his most recent pain, but did not speak of his most secret wounds. Even they refused to speak the name of the planet both cursed and blessed.
The Empress of the Racnoss – she understood in a primal sense.
He named it then.
Only that one time did he manage to fight back the surge of grief to speak the name of that which he loved more then he could describe.
He had been grateful for the floodwaters of the Thames as they surged and drowned the children of the Empress.
For the floodwaters meant that no-one could see his tears.
He stares at her for a few seconds, judging how much he can tell her, how much she will understand, how deeply the pain will dig itself as it burrows further into his soul.
If he could only name it.
If he could just speak that one word.
The word which exists in his dreams and nightmares, the word he can only speak as he awakes from his dreams, sweat and tears blinding his eyes as he calls out with his voice, mind and soul to those who will never hear him.
But what if they can?
What if they have heard him somehow?
What if the Face is right, and he is not alone?
Could he speak the word then, and not feel his soul howl in agony?
Another glance at Martha, still waiting patiently on an answer.
'I lied to you, 'cos I like to.'
He watches her face as she reacts.
'I could pretend…just for a bit I could imagine they were still alive underneath that burnt orange sky. I'm not just a Time Lord. I'm the last of the Time Lords. The Face of Boe was wrong, there's no one else.'
Tears shine in her eyes.
He retrieves a chair from a pile of rubbish, sets it upright on the grimy cobbles and settles down next to Martha.
She leans forward as he takes a deep breath.
'There was a war. A Time War. The last Great Time War. My people fought a race called the Daleks, for the sake of all creation. And they lost. We lost. Everyone lost.'
He pauses and holds back a shiver as he remembers an echo of those same words…
…'And what of the Time Lords?'
'…Dead. They burned with you. The end of the last Great Time War. Everyone lost.'
'And the coward survived.'
What if that Dalek knew something, even then? What if it hadn't been referring to him?
Is there another out there, another like him?
No, there can't be.
What would a Dalek know?
He drags his mind back to the here and now. Martha's silent as she watches him, not wanting to miss a single word.
'They're all gone now. My family. My friends. Even that sky.'
He smiles at the memory. 'Ohh, you should have seen it, that old planet. The second sun would rise in the south, and the mountains would shine…'
He feels his eyes burn with tears and his throat clench with emotion. And still he makes sure not to let them fall.
'The leaves on the trees were silver, when they caught the light, every morning it looked like a forest on fire. When the autumn came, a brilliant glow though the branches...'
He can't do it.
Much as she wants to understand, he doubts she ever can. How one word can sum up all of his hopes, his fears, and the darkness he carries within.
Many words will do for now.
But the one word stays within his throat and his hearts as he continues to talk, trying to heal his soul without ever naming the cause.
'I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.'
- Abide with Me, Henry Francis Lyte